Including newsletters for Hungerford and the Valley of the Racehorse, a Master with a difference for Marlborough, differing allocations in Wantage and Grove, Kingston Bagpuize’s dressing table, Thatcham’s forum, Newbury’s plans, Childrey’s Batman, Eastbury’s free-range Christmas trees, one less affordable home in Lambourn, two refusals in Cold Ash, phone problems in Swindon, traffic and police updates, community transport, ‘useless’ councils compared, two views of the budget, two views of poppies, more street art, English courses, cows on the common, the donkey and the slide-guitar, the definitive map, rickshaws and 35 million invoices
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).
• 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. Click here for services in Wantage.
• 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)
• No official updates in the saga of the green-bin charge but I understand that there may be some further news in a week or so.
• If you don’t want to use the green-bin service, West Berkshire Council can, if you wish, arrange for your bin to be collected from your home. (I don’t think there’s a charge for this but I haven’t had time to read the small print.) Please click here for more information on this as well as some suggestions as to what other purposes you you can use the green bin for. Some of these, such as a conversion to a water butt, would involve doing things like drilling holes in it which would make it then unsuitable for anything else. I suppose this post is therefore saying that the green bin belongs to you, not to West Berkshire. If that’s the case then if they’re collecting it from you then you’re giving it back to them. I don’t suppose this all matters very much but I thought I’d mention it as the green-bin affair hasn’t exactly been simple or obvious so far.
• See the Penny Post website calendar for a list of bonfire night and Remembrance Day events. This week’s NWN has a list of the former on pages 6 and 7.
• On which subject, the question of whether people should or shouldn’t wear poppies and, if not, why not and, if they do, what colour they should be continues to divide opinions. Two professional footballers, James McLean of Stoke City and Nemanja Matic of Manchester United have recently explained, the former against a barrage of hate mail, why they choose not to wear them.
• I asked last week if some pavement decorations in Devizes inspired by Remembrance Day were art, an insult or something in-between. This week I’ve come across some more, which seem to have been inspired by nothing in particular. They affect street signs in Edinburgh: the kind of prank that I imagine is probably OK there during the festival in August when the whole place goes a bit bonkers but perhaps not at other times. The last-but-one image would be a good one for Hungerford to use in light of its current and seemingly eternal pigeon problem.
• West Berkshire Council will soon be starting the public consultation on its Local Plan. I understand that one of issues up for discussion will be the criteria for reviewing settlement boundaries.
• If you feel that there are footpaths or bridleways which exist but are not marked then have a click here to read about how you can ensure that these are marked on the Definitive Map of West Berkshire (similar arrangements apply in other council areas).
•I mentioned a few things last week about the budget. Since then we’ve had a couple of articles from people who know far more about these matters than I do: this one from local financial consultants Butler Toll as to whether this does mean the ‘end of austerity’; and this one from John O’Gaunt’s headteacher Alan Henderson about another phrase of Mr Hammond’s that caught the public imagination – though not for the reasons he hoped – the ‘little extras’ for schools.
• The so-called ‘care crisis‘ seems to have taken a turn for the worse with the news from the BBC website that Allied Healthcare, one of the country’s major providers of home care, is at risk of bankruptcy. An industry expert suggested that Allied’s plight is not surprising as the current owners not only paid too much for the business but have also since failed to react quickly enough to the changing financial realities of the industry. Allied is continuing to lose money: meanwhile, there is a further storm looming in the form a 40p per hour increase in the minimum wage next April and no certainty of any commensurate increase from their local-authority rates. The BBC article looks at some of the pressures facing other care companies and speculates on what might be included in the long-awaited Green Paper on the reform of care funding, something that almost everyone agrees is long overdue.
• Congratulations to all those who entered, were nominated and won awards at the 2018 NWN Best in Business Awards. Detailed coverage is provided on pp12-19 of this week’s paper.
• The letters pages of the Newbury Weekly News this week including: more on Jack of Newbury; criticism of West Berkshire Council’s handling of the homeless people near the football ground; a formal demand for a £25 green-bin-charge refund; and two opposing views about bowling alleys.
• One of the letter writers on the subject of West Berkshire’s handling of the homeless people suggests that the ‘useless’ council be replaced with charities. In many ways, his wish is already coming true. District councils are increasingly reducing, or cutting altogether, their expenditure on things such as street and sign cleaning, verge cutting, drain clearance and grass cutting and leaving these tasks either undone or to be performed by the parish councils (with grants sometimes available for capital expenditure such as mowers but not for ongoing costs). This is known as ‘devolution’, a term which implies a mutual benefit and empowerment which may or may not exist. As parish and town councils are in almost all cases staffed by people who are unpaid, they could be regarded as charities.
As to how ‘useless’ West Berkshire Council is, each person will have their on views on that. However, the correspondent should take heart that he is not living in Newham. According to Private Eye, the council there is currently under investigation for a range of malpractices at the highest level involving racketeering, bribery, procurement of prostitutes and drugs, involvement in organised crime, relationships with corrupt police officers and the wholesale destruction of incriminating emails: or, indeed, in Norfolk where the council has told its staff that talking to the media is a sackable offence. There are plenty of other such stories. By these admittedly low standards of municipal conduct, West Berkshire seems to be doing pretty well. No room for complacency, mind…
• A number of good causes have received valuable support recently, including: The North Hampshire Medical Fund (thanks to the Cycle Sportive event); Newbury Cancer Care (thanks to the Rotary Club of Thatcham); Kingsclere Riding for the Disabled (thanks to the Autumn Sprinkles concert); Wiltshire Air Ambulance (thanks to the ‘Devizes in Christmas’ cards).
Hungerford & district
• Please click here for the latest news from Hungerford Town Council.
• The best coverage of events in and around the town can, as ever, be found in the November edition of Penny Post Hungerford – click here to read it (and do let us know if you don’t currently received it hot off the Mac and would like to). So, what do we have for you this month? Aside from the usual round-up of news from the High Street, Barrs Yard and the Town Council, there are updates on the Smarten up Hungerford campaign and the Hungerford 2036 NDP team; information about the proposed community shop and the arrival of the Children in Need Rickshaw Challenge; an explanation about what all those cranes and other machines were doing on the Common last month; a dress made from 500 poppies, thanks to some creative John O’Gaunt students; forthcoming local events; Christmas get-away advice from Fare Wise Travel; the book of the month; and a particularly stunning seasonal photo of the canal. So, tuck in…
• One item that we apologise for having missed but which is in this week’s Newbury Weekly News is the story of a former Hungerford Town Councillor whose car was in collision with a cow on the Common last week. (The article doesn’t speculate if former councillors are less, or more, likely to collide with cows than the rest of us – now there’s a bit of statistical research just begging to be done.) Thankfully, both parties escaped without injury (unlike the car). You don’t need to be driving very fast for this to happen and there is no evidence to suggest this was the case here, despite what was suggested on social media. I nearly hit one a few weeks ago and I certainly wasn’t going fast. When you embark on a car journey its with the (normally correct) assumption that a large, solid object about the size of…well, a cow, isn’t suddenly going to amble across the road in front of you: but that’s exactly what cows tend to do; and, on this occasion, did do.
I discussed this with the Town & Manor’s CEO, Jed Ramsey. “I ask that motorists using Hungerford Common take particular care, ” he said, “the more so now the nights are drawing in.” He also pointed out that the cows on the Common have right of way (which might , I suppose,have insurance consequences). I asked what the speed limit was there. “Currently 40mph,” he told me, “but we’re campaigning to have this lowered to 30.” He asked that anyone who sees or thinks they’ve been involved with an accident with a cow ring 01488 686 555 (the call will be diverted out of hours). Within the next week or so, this problem will disappear until the spring as the cattle are about to moved to their winter quarters. Then we must guard against slipping into a permanent state of cow-unawareness: for one day, when the leaves are budding and the grass is fresh, The Cows Will Be Back.
• The Town and Manor will be hosting an open forum evening on Thursday 29 November which will be an opportunity to find out what this unique organisation does in and around the town – a lot more than dealing with cows, as the event will doubtless reveal.
Lambourn & Downlands
• As with Hungerford (see above), fora topical and varied summary of what’s going on in and around the upper Lambourn Valley, look no further than the Novemeber Valley of the Racehorse e-newsletter which you can read by clicking here (let us know if you don’t currently get this and would like to). Matters covered include the recent Lambourn NDP meeting, over 5,000 years of local history, racing news, a radio interview with Lambourn Councillor and library campaigner Sue Cocker, festive offerings at The Spice Valley, The Queens Arms and The Swan, a beef tagine recipe from Rooksnest, a local Christmas tree farm and details of forthcoming local events.
• This week’s Newbury Weekly News carried, on p30, the not entirely unsurprising news that the development of the former Malt Shovel pub in Upper Lambourn will not now include an affordable flat, contrary to what was originally promised. An undisclosed sum in lieu of this obligation has been agreed with West Berkshire Council. I’m not sure if this money, assuming that this is not in turn negotiated away at a later date, will remain in the Housing Department’s coffers or whether it will be used for any purpose the Council sees fit. In either case, as the Council doesn’t build any homes, unless I’m missing something then I can’t see how this is directly improving the specific problem of affordable housing that this deal has made a little bit worse.
• If you fancy a local and pesticide-free Christmas tree this year then click here for two opportunities to get your hands on one in Eastbury in December. For reasons the post will explain, the owners have classed them as ‘free range’.
• 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 31st day of broadcasting – click here for more.
Newbury & district
• Newbury’s war memorial has had a deep clean in readiness for this year’s Remembrance Day parade – click here for more.
• The developers of the Market Square project, work on which will start in earnest early next year, have announced further details of the plans including the proposed schedule. You can see more, including some artist’s impressions, by clicking here.
• There are a number of other events in the town to commemorate the centenary of the end of WW1. More information can be found here.
• A major road improvement project for Newbury will start on 7 January 2019 and is expected to continue until the autumn – click here for details.
• 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 and district
• Please click here for the latest news from Thatcham Town Council.
• Please click here for the latest news from Cold Ash Parish Council.
• Please click here for the latest news from Hampstead Norreys Parish Council.
• Please click here for the latest news from Bucklebury Parish Council.
• There’s a report on p31 of this week’s NWN about the Thatcham Community Forum, which is intended to be ‘a way for residents to alert the police to problems in the community’ according to a representative from the Newbury and Thatcham Neighbourhood Team. Click here for more information on the TCF.
• Click here for information on the fireworks display on Friday 9 November organised by Kennet and Francis Baily Schools.
• Click here for details of the Remembrance Day events in Thatcham.
• The NWN reports this week on p33 that a two developments, at Summerfield and Greenbanks, both of which Cold Ash Parish Council has previously objected to, has been refused by West Berkshire, the latter ‘for a host of reasons’.
• Click here to see the latest Cold Ash Community Bulletin.
Theale and district
• 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.
• Please click here for the latest news from Brimpton Parish Council.
• Please click here for the latest news from Englefield Parish Council.
• Please click here for the latest news from Burghfield Parish Council (though the website is currently ‘under construction’).
• Click here for the November Aldermaston Parish Council News. This includes information about the need for the council to co-opt a new member.
• Some information here about road closures in Theale on Remembrance Day.
• Click here for the latest from Plastic-free Mortimer, a local group which is highlighting the problems caused by plastics, particularly single-use ones (many of which will banned throughout the EU from 2021).
• Residents of Brimpton have until 14 November to make their views known about the proposed updates to the parish plan. Click here for details.
• Click here for the October/November Englefield Parish News.
• There’s currently a vacancy for a parish councillor in Englefield – click here for more information.
• 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.
Marlborough & district
• Please click here for the latest news from Marlborough Town Council.
• The Children in Need Rickshaw Challenge is, after passing through Kintbury and Hungerford, expected to arrive in Marlborough at about 3pm on Monday 12 November – click here for details.
• The long-awaited children’s play area in Coopers Meadow was finally opened last week – Marlborough.news has a report and photos here.
• If you would like to have a stall at the Savernake View Care Home’s Christmas Fair on Wednesday 5 December (2pm to 4pm) please contact Sharon on 01672 555 200. All proceeds will be in aid of the Alzheimer’s Society.
• The same care home will, on Saturday 10 November, be organising a guided historical walk around Marlborough in aid of the Royal British Legion. Meet at the Town Hall at 10am. The walk is expected to last about two hours.
• Marlborough College has a new Master, the first female one in the school’s 175-year history. Marlborough.news caught up with her recently and you can read the interview here.
• 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.
• This Natural England ecologist Anthony Blunden must be sick of those ‘batman‘ jokes, but I’m afraid they rather write themselves. Here’s why he’s going to be spending some time in Childrey.
• I was in shop at Great Shefford the other day and caught the final item on a local radio station. “…and finally, a dressing table started a fire in a house in Kingston Bagpuize today. The family returned home to find the top floor full of smoke and all their alarms going. And now the traffic news…” I think I’ve filled in the likely explanation for myself – low, bright sunshine on a mirror on the table which reflected onto something flammable – but I was amazed this was missed out. ‘That dressing-table story,” I imagined the producer saying, “do we need to explain what started the fire?” “Don’t think so,” his colleague answered, “Doesn’t seem very important or interesting. Cut that bit out and we can squeeze in another advert.”
• Julie Mabberley’s regular column on p8 of this week’s Wantage & Grove Herald questions what the actual housing allocation is, or should be, or will be (possibly three quite different figures) given the various government directives and the reviews on the current Vale Local Plan.
• Groups in the Vale of White Horse looking to hold an event in the run-up to Christmas (and beyond) are being encouraged to apply for grant funding from the district council.
• A wide range of seasonal gifts will be available at the King Alfred District Scouts and Explorers Christmas Market on Saturday 10 November. More details can be found here.
• Click here for details of some other forthcoming events in Wantage.
• Click here for the October edition of the West Ilsley News.
Swindon & district
• Click here for the latest news and information from Swindon Borough Council.
• Something seems to have gone wrong with the new telephone booking system introduced in the Swindon area by ‘GP super-group‘ Integral Medical Holdings – click here for details.
• Click here for details of the various Christmas-lights switch-ons in and around Swindon.
• Swindon Council claims that it’s well-prepared for the arrival of winter weather.
• Swindon Borough Council has launched a new online repairs system for its tenants which it claims will make the process for reporting problems ‘more efficient and convenient’.
• The disused area of gravel opposite the Wyvern Theatre is currently being turned into a temporary car park to increase capacity in the town centre and to help facilitate the Council’s regeneration plans for a new bus boulevard along Fleming Way. Click here for more.
• Swindon’s Railway Village has been selected as one of Historic England’s special Heritage Action Zones, and only the second in the South West.
• Click here for details of the many volunteering opportunities at Great Western Hospital.
The song and the quiz
• The Song of the Week is here once more. The band Little Feat were a wonderful mixture of rock, funk, soul, country and blues. This two-and-a-half minute gem is one of main man Lowell George’s finest songs and was, I think, the piece of music that prompted one critic to write that ‘his slide-guitar playing could cut a donkey in half from twenty paces.” With that image in mind (or perhaps not), cue up Long Distance Love.
• Which leads to the Quiz Question of the Week. This week’s is on a rather bleakly topical theme and is: What is special about Henry Nicholas John Gunther? Last week’s question referred to something I caught at the tail-end of a R4 programme about late payments by councils. The question was: How many invoices do councils in England and Wales receive each year? The answer is 35 million. I thought this quite impressive but, when I asked Chris on our 4 Legs Radio show last week, he suggested 200 million. Anyway, it’s a lot.
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