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Local News Sept 13-20 2018

Including Jack of Newbury, Theale’s school,  CALA in Hungerford, the Great West Way in Marlborough, Bedwyn’s organ, The Vale’s arrears, East Garston’s confused ducks, Swindon’s blood pressure, the Valley’s Quakers, Thatcham’s bowling, Berkshire’s boas, Denford’s closure, police updates, community liaison in action, zebra delivery, the laughing Ethiopian, 101 calls, 65,534 rows, the A338 derby, rescuing the fish, Ronnie’s SG, Penny’s busy camera, rail journeys in 1848, 11 lost days in 1752 and the most common bird. 

Click on any highlighted and underlined text for more information on the subject. Some will link to other pages on this site, others to pages elsewhere.

Police, transport and council contacts

Roadworks updates. Click on the links for news regarding West Berkshire, the Wantage area, Wiltshire, Hampshire and Swindon. Please click here to visit Traffic England’s site for information on motorways and major strategic roads (which include at A34 and the A419). The ‘Map Layers’ toggle can be used to display different levels of information.

• You can also visit Roadworks.org for similar information: this also provides the ability to toggle layers and select dates (it defaults to today’s date but you can adjust this) and other preferences. (It seems that West Berkshire at least – see link above – gets its feed from this source). See the Hungerford & district section below for details of the imminent road closure in Lower Denford.

Railway closures: the next stage of Newbury electrification work runs from Monday 8 to Thursday 11 October. Services will be affected between Theale and Pewsey. For more information, click here. The good news is that four-day closure planned for November will now not necessitate the closure of the line during the day as the work can be done overnight. If that changes, the above-mentioned website will have details and we’ll mention it here.

Neighbourhood policing updates. For the Thames Valley Police’s ‘Your Local Area’ page generally, click here. For specific areas, click here for Hungerford and Lambourn; click here for Newbury Town Centre; click here for Newbury Outer; click here for Bucklebury and Downlands; click here for Thatcham, Aldermaston and Brimpton; click here for Wantage and Grove; click here for Wiltshire East (including Marlborough); click here for Swindon and other parts of Wiltshire; click here for Hampshire.

• Please click here for more about the tri-service station in Hungerford and policing in the area generally.

• For information on flood warnings and alerts, click here.

• A number of community minibus and car schemes provide transport services for – but not exclusively for – older and disabled people. You can click here to find more about the range of services (and volunteering opportunities) in West Berkshire. Click here for services in Wiltshire and Swindon.

District, town or parish council contacts. To view the contacts page for Hungerford TC, click here; for Newbury, click here; for Thatcham, click here. If you live in the Vale of White Horse area, click here (and here for Wantage); if you live in Wiltshire, click here (and here for Marlborough). For Swindon, click here.

Across the area (and further afield)

• This Thursday there will be a meeting at The Document House in Newbury (presentations at 6pm and 7pm) at which theNewbury Community Football Group will outline its plans, which have been passed  by Newbury Town Council, for retaining a sports facility at the current Faraday Road site. West Berkshire’s preferred option, as part of its ‘vision’ for the area is that this be developed. NCFG’s aim is to retain and indeed expand the facilities at this well-established site for the benefit not only of Newbury FC but also for the community as a whole. If you can’t make the meeting the above link will take you to the NCFG website where there’s also an online petition. The debate opens up a number of questions about planning, consultation and local democracy. These are the ones that strike me.

• Firstly, local councils do not seem to be very good at engaging with community groups at the appropriate time. Critics have argued that as a result the ‘vision’ for the Faraday Road site was ill-conceived and incomplete as regards the facts. Secondly, my understanding is that the site has been designated an Asset of Community Value: if so, it’s hard to see how part of the stand is being sold off, as this week’s Newbury Weekly News reports is being considered. (Perhaps the intention is that, by slowly dismantling the infrastructure, the case for retaining facilities there will also diminish). Thirdly, I also understand that the council has an obligation to replace such facilities but I’m unsure if they’ve recognised this nor what other sites if any have been suggested, nor if these are suitable. Fourthly, the question of whether Faraday Road is an appropriate site for residential development on the scale envisaged when it has no amenities or facilities (potentially not even a playing field) and given its location is debatable. Fifthly, it seems equally unlikely that this development will provide the number of social or affordable homes (for instance suitable for families) on which the future health and vibrancy of the town depends. Sixthly – I think that’s the right number but I’m losing count –  there’s a wealth of evidence to support the claim that there’s a dearth of sporting facilities in the town. The only 3G pitch is, I believe, at Park House which is being forced to turn teams away. I’m not sure what obligations – legal or ethical – a district council has for maintaining and encouraging such activities. All in all, it appears to provide another example of a decision (as with the libraries) which the council is now slightly amazed to see being challenged and disagreed with.

• It’s been announced that West Berkshire has the highest percentage of care homes in England which are rated as ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by the Care Quality Commission – 61 out of 62. I went to CQC website to see if I could find out how our neighbouring authorities compared – Wiltshire in particular seems to be faring a lot less well – but somewhat to my surprise the site has no figures which show the percentage of homes in each of the four categories arranged by local authority. I then downloaded a spreadsheet which had 65,534 rows of data and so, regretfully, had to leave it at that. The BBC, which produced this report, has more resources to plough through this than does Penny Post.

• Meanwhile, West Berkshire Council has also announced that it has recently been able to ‘deliver two new zebra crossings.’ How were those delivered, then – rolled up or flat packed? I think they mean ‘provided’. (I know I’m fighting a losing battle against this particular abuse of language.)

• You have until Friday 26 October to make your nominations for the 2018 West Berkshire Community Champion Awardclick here for more.

• A Thames Valley Police spokesman has suggested that the system of having 101 calls answered by humans, rather than online, is ‘expensive, inefficient and not sustainable.’ It’s certainly not ideal for users either with waiting times of over half an hour not uncommon. There’s also a lot of uncertainty as to what kind of things should be reported this way, what to 999 and what to local councils or other agencies. This section provides information about other ways to report crimes, suspected crimes or other problems (the title mentions ‘Hungerford’ but most of it is relevant to the whole TVP area).

• We’re always told that laughter is the best medicine, that a smile costs nothing and so on. This guy from Ethiopia has taken the matter perhaps a bit far and has trained himself to laugh ‘for hours at a time’. Though I’m sure he’s a lovely bloke he seems a touch deranged to me. I’m certainly glad I don’t have to share a house with him. Another aspect to the story is that the background image shows there’s nothing we can teach Addis Ababa about traffic jams.

• The letters pages of the Newbury Weekly News this week includes: a warning about the decline in the number of insects this summer with a knock-on effect on birds; more on B****t; a rather hectoring missive about over-eating; and criticism of the Macmillan’s ‘Brave the Shave’ campaign.

• A number of good causes have received valuable support recently, including: Sanitation First (thanks to Ripples); Thriving Through Venture (thanks to schoolchildren from Marlborough as part of the town’s tinning arrangements); Kerala Flood relief (thanks to the Newbury Malayalee Cultural Association); The West Berkshire Community Hospital (thanks to the The Rosemary Appeal and many local donors).

Hungerford & district

• Please click here for the latest news from Hungerford Town Council.

• There’s a report in this week’s Newbury Weekly News about the discussions between CALA Homes and Wates Development and Hungerford Town Council regarding the 100-home site at Salisbury Road. The article refers to the ‘silence’ on the part of CALA concerning this project and the fact that promised meetings did not take place. I can’t comment on what has passed between CALA and/or Wates and Hugerford Council but, having spoken to a CALA representative today, it appears that the  number of developments it is dealing with has resulted on work on this project (which includes considering views already expressed by Hungerford Town Council) taking longer than expected. It was hoped that a public exhibition,  originally planned for July, would take place in Hungerford ‘during the autumn’. The representative also confirmed a point made in the article, that CALA welcomes any meetings between CAL/Wates and the Town Council being open to the public. More news on all this as we have it.

• Last Saturday was hub-opening day at Hungerford and Penny and I were there at the Library to celebrate the official launch of this as a town asset, she with a video camera. You can click here to see a few minutes of footage about the event. The cake was very good, by the way: I had almost the last slice (they always taste the best). You can read more about Hungerford Hub on its website here. Remember that the venue will now be available for hire for community groups. Additional interest has already been expressed in this by several groups since the event.

• And after that, on Penny went the following day to the Hungerford Carnival.. Click here for her short video of the event.

• A further reminder that you can click here to read the September Penny Post Hungerford which contains the usual wide-ranging round up of what happened in the town in August and what’s coming up in September.

• One matter that is covered in the above newsletter but which merits a special extra mention is the threat of closure which is hanging over the consistently outstanding Hungerford Nursery School (and every other maintained nursery school in the country) as a result of funding changes. You can click here for more information and for how you can get involved to help avert this risk. Look out for an appeal that will shortly be being made inviting anyone who has attended the school to share their experiences.

• The road from the Common through Lower Denford to the A4 will be closed for bridge repairs from Thursday 27 September (not 17 September as one part of the message at Roadworks.org currently says) to Wednesday 10 October. Click here for more.

• Also on the Common, the footpath under the cow bridge will be closed until November due to works being carried out by Network Rail (which will be required to fully reinstate and restore the area of their works upon completion).

Hungerford Town FC have been handed a local, albeit cross-county, fixture in the FA Cup second qualifying round when they host Wantage on Saturday 22 September in what I suppose we have to call the A338 derby.

Lambourn & Downlands

• Please click here to visit the village websites or Facebook pages for Lambourn, East Garston and Great Shefford.

• The idea of needing to rescue fish from rivers may seem counter-intuitive but when the river in question is the mighty River Lambourn, the upper reaches of which sink into the ground most autumns, then that’s exactly what needs to happen. Chris Capel of 4 legs Radio and Penny had a chat with some people from the Environment Agency last week who were salvaging some trout from Eastbury and Penny filmed the results. Humane considerations aside, if the fish are stranded and die as the water recedes the pong can be truly frightful.

• And talking of animals that seem to be in the wrong place, there’s a family of hybrid Mallard/Muscovy ducks (a mother and about half a dozen adolescents) that have taken up residence in East Garston, where the water levels are also dropping. They seem very tame which is, of course, not always a good thing. Maybe this tameness is contributing to the fact that they don’t seem to have a clue what they’re meant to be doing. The other day they were all sitting rather hopelessly in the middle of Front Street staring despondently at what was once a fast-flowing river but is now little more than a series of river-weed covered pools, wondering where the water has gone.. They might be being re-homed further downstream. Please drive carefully and keep your dogs on a lead (for this and other reasons).

• Click here for more information about the forthcoming Quaker weekend on Saturday 29 and Sunday 30 September.

• Lambourn Parish Council has now concluded its parish-wide events providing information about the neighbourhood development plan it is considering adopting. If any of their finds are released we’ll mention them here. The next planned event on this matter will be a public meeting on Tuesday 30 October in the Memorial Hall. Click here for more information on this, and on NDPs generally.

Click here for information on free English courses offered to ESOL students in Lambourn (also Newbury, Calcot and Thatcham) by the Berkshire School of English.

4 Legs Community Radio Station will on Friday have its 2erd day of broadcasting – click here for more.

Newbury & district

• Please click here for the latest news from Newbury Town Council: and here to see NTC’s archive of monthly newsletters.

• See above (‘Around the area’) (and also here) for information about the various plans for the football ground at Faraday Road.

• Newbury residents are being asked to donate money to enable a bronze statue of one of Jack of Newbury, one of the town’s most iconic figures.

• As well as being at the Hungerford Carnival and the official opening of the Hungerford hub (see above), Penny, and her camera, were also at the launch of the Greenham Control Tower last week. Click here for some photos. For more information about events and activities at this restored cold-war landmark, click here.

• This week’s Newbury Weekly News has reports and photos on two recent local events in the town: the Taste of the ’40s (p3); and the Real Ale Festival (pp6-7).

• A reminder that this weekend (Saturday 15 and Sunday 16 September) will see the Royal County of Berkshire Show. Click here for a quick preview.

• Click here for information about Newbury’s consultation on its 2019-20 budget.

Click here for information on free English courses offered to ESOL students in Newbury (also Thatcham, Calcot and Lambourn) by the Berkshire School of English.

• You can keep up to date with the progress of work at Market Street and The Wharf by clicking here.

Thatcham to Theale

• Please click here for the latest news from Thatcham Town Council.

• Please click here for the latest news from Theale Parish Council.

• Please click here for the latest news from Aldermaston Parish Council.

• Please click here for the latest news from Stratfield Mortimer Parish Council.

• Good news for residents of Calcot with the announcement that the number 15 bus service will be extended into Calcot Estate.

The Rosemary Appeals’s mammoth fundraising efforts, which have been helped by many local donors, have now reached fruition with the new CT scanner now installed at West Berkshire Community Hospital. Congratulations to all concerned.

• The long-running saga of the new school in Theale reached some kind of conclusion this week with the announcement by the Parish Council that it has agreed (by six votes to five, mirroring the split of the population as a whole in the recent referendum on the subject) to relinquish its lease on the North Street Playing Fields, so enabling the project to go ahead. This will not be the end of the matter, however, as there will be many more hurdles to cross as regards the detail and timing of the development: indeed the approval is subject to contract.. You can see the latest views of Theale Parish Council, which includes links to the recent correspondence, by clicking here.

Councillor Alan Macro refers to this in his latest newsletter, which you can read here. He’s also quoted, in this article on the BBC website, that “a lot of people are concerned a bigger school will mean more housing, but this will fit with what is being built already.” One one level that’s true as the new school will, initially at least, have the same intake as the old one, albeit with less overcrowding. However, the new school has the capacity to be expanded – which is one of the reasons why the playing fields were needed – whereas West Berkshire claimed that the old one did not. Theale certainly has an enviable rural location on the M4 and near London and Heathrow. This attractiveness is set to be boosted when the Elizabeth Line trains start arriving in Reading next year. It appears inevitable that the expansion of the school will happen at some point. Indeed, this might be sooner than later; for on the very day when the lease was relinquished was made by Theale PC, it was announced that revised plans were being submitted for a development in nearby Calcot.

Development is by no means always a disaster, much as it might sometimes appear to be so. The question is whether the infrastructure and facilities match the number of new homes and also whether the type of homes accords with the needs of the local community. As mentioned elsewhere here and in past posts, the central problem here is that the kind of homes that emerge from a final planning application reflect the wishes of the developer at least as much as those of the council. If councils built their own affordable homes this problem would disappear.

Finally, it’s worth making the point that in Wantage and Grove there have been many accusations that the infrastructure plans are lagging far behind the number of planning permissions. In Theale it seems that this is happening the other way round which could be construed as prudent pre-planning. A further concern is, of course, the loss of part of one of the two open spaces in the village. If the population increases, as seems likely, then this will become even more of an issue than now.

• To return to the question of the tension between developers and councils as to what kind of properties are build, the dispute over a five-home development in Cold Ash, as reported on p21 of this week’s NWN, provides a good example of this.

• And on the next page of the same paper there’s an article in praise of local RSPCA officer Phil Hamilton who has been involved in rescuing and caring for a wide range of animals including many such as bearded dragons. pygmy hedgehogs and boa constrictors that are not, I think, native to West Berkshire. The things people keep as pets…

• Plans have been submitted to build more homes on the site of the former Pound Lane depot in Thatcham – click here for details.

• It’s also been announced that Thatcham’s bowling alley is due for a major facelift following its sale to a local company.

• Thatcham Town Council and the Thatcham Photographic Club have launched a photography competition for students living or studying within 10 miles of Thatcham. Click here for details. The deadline is fast approaching – 21 September.

Click here for information on free English courses offered to ESOL students in Thatcham (also Newbury, Calcot and Lambourn) by the Berkshire School of English.

• Thatcham Town Council is exploring the feasibility of introducing a Changing Places facility to Thatcham Town Centre. Click here for details and a link to the consultation.

Cold Ash Brass is recruiting for cornet, euphonium and bass players. Rehearsals are on Thursdays 7:30pm at Cold Ash St Mark’s School. For more information, contact ColdAshBrass.org.uk

• Click here to see the latest Cold Ash Community Bulletin.

Marlborough & district

• Please click here for the latest news from Marlborough Town Council.

• There’ll be free parking in Marlborough High Street on every Friday in September and on 19 and 26 October.

Rowdeford, a specialist SEND school near Devizes which receives pupils from Marlborough, is under threat of closure in favour of a dedicated larger school further west. Click here for more.

• Ten pupils from Marlborough have returned home after two weeks spent working alongside local partners in Marlborough’s twin town of Gunjur in The Gambia.

• The Great West Way is a major new touring route between London and Bristol, which goes live later this year and presents an exciting opportunity for businesses, destinations and visitor attractions along its route to reach more visitors. There’ll be a free event in Marlborough Town Hall at 6pm on Wednesday 19 September where there’ll be an opportunity to learn more about this project. Click here for more about the event and here for more about the Great West Way in general.

• The organ in St Mary’s Church in Great Bedwyn has completed its £35,000 resortation – see p19 of this week’s NWN for more.

• Great Western Hospital’s board was told this week about preparations being made by its staff to cope with the pressures that are bound to hit them this winter. Click here to read more from Marlborough.news.

• Click here for information on what’s on in and around Ramsbury.

Wantage & district

• Please click here for the latest news from Wantage Town Council.

• Please click here for the latest news from Grove Parish Council.

• Congratulations to Wantage-based Wessex Flour Mill which recently won the accolade of Great Taste producer of the Year at Guild of Fine Foods Awards.

• Click here for the latest e-newsletter from the Wantage and Grove Campaign Group which includes new planning applications, the latest on the Vale’s Local Plan, local roadworks and news about the Save Wantage Hospital campaign.

• Residents of the Vale who haven’t responded to their Household Enquiry letter are being urged to do so as soon as possible.

• It’s often said , correctly or not, that average traffic speeds in London are no faster than they were just before WWI. According to Ann Middleton in the Wantage and Grove Herald this week, much the same can be said for train journeys. The present-day trip from Didcot to Paddington takes 44 minutes but in 1848 it took only four minutes more.

• Julie Mabberley’s column in the same newspaper highlights a point that has been made here and elsewhere on several occasions – the disparity between the number of affordable homes that government and municipal targets demand and the number that are actually built. She looks at the Vale of White Horse’s own targets and estimates that by 2031 around 8,000 affordable homes will need to be built. I’m not sure what the chaces are of this happening.

• South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Councils recovered over £1.2 million in council tax arrears last year. According to Private Eye, none of the people who needed to be taken to court were councillors. This may seem normal and obvious but, as a glance at this map will show, a number of local authorities have to drag their own elected representatives through the legal system to get them to pay the charges that they themselves have set.

• I thought that the letters section of the Newbury Weekly News was dominated by B****t. In the Wantage and Grove Herald it’s even worse, with over half the space being devoted to this.

• A trial section of 38 bus service via Charlton has been introduced on Mondays to Fridays. There will be a new loop in the service from Seesen Way via Charlton Road, Charlton Village Road, Harcourt Road, Grove Street, back to Seesen Way and then on to Wantage Market Place.

• For up to date information on the campaign to save the Wantage Hospital, click here. This includes addresses for people to whom it’s worth writing on the matter.

• A reminder that representatives of the Save Wantage Hospital group will be attending two meetings with local health bosses on Thursday 20 Sept and Thursday 27 Sept. The more people who attend the better. If you need a lift, and for more information, please email info@savewantagehospital.org.

Swindon & district

• Click here for the latest news and information from Swindon Borough Council.

• In May, Swindon Borough Council launched a massive drive to encourage more people to sign up to become foster carers. After receiving almost 150 enquiries since May, this month the Council is pushing ahead with the next stage of the campaign.

• Applications may now be made for participation at Swindon’s 2019 Fringe Festival.

• The Swindon Radical Bookfair returns Sunday 15 September to highlight concerns over austerity, unscrupulous landlords and far-right politics. Click here for more.

• Plans for the refurbishment of the unoccupied 13-storey office building above Swindon railway station have been submitted to Swindon Borough Council.

• Click here for a report on the voter ID experiment which was trialled in the local elections earlier this year in Swindon and a few other places nationwide.

• Swindon Borough Council is urging local residents to get their blood pressure checked for free as part of national Know Your Numbers Week.

• Click here for details of the many volunteering opportunities at Great Western Hospital.

The song and the quiz

• The Song of the Week steps forward once again. . I see from this week’s NWN that Ronnie Wood’s Gibson SG is being auctioned locally. Before the Stones he was in The Faces, a band for which most of the best songs were written by Ronnie Lane. Here’s my favourite, You’re So Rude from 1971, in which Mr Wood plays a great solo at the end (whether on the SG or not I’m not certain but it sounds more like a Strat to me).

• Which brings us to the Quiz Question of the Week. This week’s question is taken from the recent quiz organised by the Valley Film Society at the East Garston Social Club last weekend and is as follows:what’s the most common wild bird in the UK? Many thanks to quizmasters-in-chief Richard Breeze and Stephen Holmes for setting this and about 99 other brain-tinglers and to all who organised a great evening. The Valley Film Society’s next season kicks off on Tuesday 2 October – click here for details.  Last week’s question was: What was odd about the month of September in 1752? The answer is that it was 11 days short due to all that fiddling around with the calendars. If you were born between 3 and 13 September 1752 you therefore weren’t, if you see what I mean. Sorry about that.

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Brian Quinn

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