Local News Apr 21 – 28

Local News

Including various parking issues, youth clubs, libraries, nappies, new cows on the common, birthday beacons, the bard, by-elections, blood pressure, Crafty Craft, a quiz question and a wonderful comic song.

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There are currently plans to impose parking restrictions in two places near the Great Shefford shop , a proposal which has alarmed the owners and customers as there are fears that this might undermine its viability. Over 1,000 people have currently signed a petition in the shop.  I contacted West Berkshire Council and was told that the cost of this measure would be £56.90 although this didn’t take into account the considerable amount of time that was being spent answering objections. It was also pointed out that this was one of 53 plans to combat ‘inconsiderate parking’ within the Amendment 23 Parking Scheme which is currently out for consultation until Thursday 28 April.  It’s not clear to me if the parking near the shop is inconsiderate (which is a subjective term anyway: the parking isn’t illegal and, based on the lack of any resulting accidents clearly isn’t dangerous) nor whether the yellow lines will have any positive effect. More useful might be some way of slowing traffic on the A338 onto which people must turn when leaving the shop. Another fear is that once yellow lines are introduced in a small way it will be easier later to extend them. Having lost our shop in East Garston I and many others are protective of the local shops that remain, so perhaps the council shouldn’t be surprised at the volume of correspondence they’ve received. You can see the plans here or at the shop and also write to Alex.Drysdale@westberks.gov.uk with your own views.

This issue is not restricted to West Berkshire: free parking in Marlborough’s Frees Avenue (which I suppose now needs to be renamed) will end this summer and replaced by double yellows.

Also in Marlborough, a local councillor recently made an impassioned plea to help save what is now known as ‘the former youth centre’.

Better news for the Thatcham Detached Youth Centre which has, despite the withdrawal of support from the Districy Council, managed to secure funding to remain operational for at least another year.

A reminder about the music-themed youth club and music tuition at the Hungerford Youth Club on Wednesdays between 3.15pm and 8pm. Contact Hogan Music for more details and to book tuition.

It’s always good to hear of the refurbishment and renewal of libraries rather than curtailment and closure. The latest is the that at the Millbrook  School in Grove after a £6,000 facelift.

At a meeting of East Garston Parish Council this week there was some discussion about localism. Depending on your point of view, this is either a genuine attempt at ‘Big Society’ (oh, lordy, I said I’d never mention that terrible phrase again) devolution and to empower local communities or an attempt by district councils to offload services which they no longer wish to, or are able to, pay for. Either way, there are some challenges. To avoid duplication, a district council can only sensibly delegate services such as road gritting, verge cutting and local planning issues if all the parishes are willing and able to take these on. It’s also hard to see any economies of scale. In order to get anything accomplished a semi-formal and so perhaps unstable network of joint ventures and agreements with neighbouring parishes will need to be maintained. A more insidious problem is that the more powers are given to an organisation the more politicised it’s likely to become: the currently apolitical nature of parish councils is one of the reasons they’re able to function at all. In many areas it’s hard enough to find parish councillors, apolitical or otherwise, a problem that would increase were the workload to rise. Would they thus need to be paid?  Finally, the ability of one small village to organise and execute  services will vary greatly over time and one or two retirements or departures could remove all the expertise in a particular area. At the same time an opposite force is at work, with many district councils realising that their own economies of scale are inadequate and so are looking to join forces with neighbouring authorities for certain purposes. Most people agree that almost every aspect of local government is in a complete muddle but there’s no obvious way of solving it. The larger the authority the better the economies of scale but the greater the risks of corruption and of a perception of distance and insensitivity in decision-making. Agreeing any new divisions would be difficult as most people’s definition of a viable and sensible local area normally has themselves more or less in the centre of it. There will be an increasing amount of debate on this as we approach the current 2019-20 deadline for the full reform of local-government financing. Whether the ‘localism’ issue is fully resolved by then is another matter.

Residents of Wantage will shortly be able to learn details of the proposed 1,500-home development at Crab Hill. I wonder if this will provide an impetus for re-opening the Wantage Road railway station on the main line between Swindon and Didcot?

Congratulations again to Newbury Town Council for re-opening the toilets at The Wharf in Newbury pending a review into their long-term funding.

Newbury Town Council has also recently installed new toddler play equipment in the Cromwell Road Play Park.

My children are fortunately past this stage, but if yours aren’t then you might like to click here to find out about West Berkshire’s Real Nappy Week and an alternative to expensive and landfill-clogging disposables.

Nominations for the West Berkshire Learner Achievement Awards close on Friday 29 April – click here for more information.

Free blood pressure tests organised by The Stroke Association and Rotary International are available at Newbury Town Hall on Saturday 23 April from 10am and 1.30pm.

In another recent initiative by the council, West Berkshire Libraries has launched a scheme to help the estimated 10% of young people who have a diagnosable mental-health issue by providing books recommended by experts.

In order to make such plans work, the libraries obviously need to be kept open. You can keep up to date with developments at Hungerford and Lambourn libraries through their ‘Friends of…’ pages. There will be meeting about the future of Lambourn Library at 7.30 on Wednesday 27 April in the Memorial Hall.  You can read more here about the latest discussions concerning the future of Thatcham library.

Also from West Berkshire Council is a plan whereby residents can use collective bargaining to get a better energy deal.

Newbury Town Council in association with the Greenham Common Trust welcomes Grand Aid applications for projects that will provide benefit to the community. Applications need to me made by 20 May.

If you’re driving near Park Way Bridge in Newbury you need to pay careful attention to whether you’re driving on a bus lane: a recent court appeal against a fine was upheld on the grounds that the signage was ‘poor and misleading’ but this is neither a quick nor a certain way of resolving any dispute. Nor, from the end of June, will it be local, as the Newbury Court will then be closing.

Another driving hazard of a different kind: a new herd of cattle has arrived in Hungerford Common and it will take some time to teach them basic road-safety skills. Please be particularly alert.

If you live in Newbury’s Victoria Ward there will be seven candidates to choose from in the council by-election on Thursday 5 May. See page 6 of this week’s Newbury Weekly News for more on their respective policies. Given the recent funding crisis (which will continue for the ne3xt few years at least) the role and public profile of district councillors is more significant than in the past.

Residents will on the same day also be able to choose the Police and Crime Commissioner for the Thames Valley. More details on the role of PCCs and on the election may be found here and also here

Are you inclined to be Brexity or do you favour Britstay? (I think you’ve just made these words up – Ed). Either way, Newbury MP Richard Benyon would like to know your views.

Another initiative from West Berkshire Council: Fit for Life, a programme of events aimed at older people. Click here for more.

A last chance to sample cider from the Lambourn Valley Cider Company at, amongst other places, The Swan in Great Shefford: proprietor Roy Bailey is retiring.

The new Newbury Car Club is now operational – click here for more information.

The Spring/Summer edition of the latest free In Newbury magazine is now available online here or at various outlets in and around Newbury.

The Brightwalton fete will take place on Sunday 1 May.

On Thursday 21 April, a beacon will be lit at 7.30 in the Triangle Field in Hungerford to celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday. The Rugby Club bar will be open and food will be available. Click here for more information about this and other similar events in the area.

Please click here for more information on the various reactions to the cuts in West Berkshire, including links to some of the organisations which have been set up to oppose or mitigate these.

What do Shakespeare, Ingrid Bergman, the painter Raphael and Machine-Gun Kelly have in common? No idea? They all died on their birthdays, 23 April in Shakespeare’s case. Well, Shakespeare probably died on his birthday but there’s some dispute about this, as with almost every other aspect of his life including whether he actually wrote any plays at all. Regardless of this, there are several events celebrating what will this year be the 400th anniversary of his death. These include a month-long season of Shakespeare-related events and activities at the recently renovated Shaw House in Newbury during April. See also here for more on local writer Deborah Patterson’s Shakespearean writings and projects aimed at children. Penny Post is also running a Shakespeare quiz.  Finally, click here for an extract from a play Shakespeare might have written set in West Berkshire.

And speaking of quizzes, a few spaces are still available for the East Garston Quiz in the Village Hall on Friday 29 April. Contact EdJames@sportingagenda.co.uk  . (To help get the trivia part of your  brain engaged, have a look at the last paragraph below.)

Click for this month’s neighbourhood police updates in West Berkshire (April update here) & North Hampshire  and police advice for South Oxfordshire & Wiltshire.

The annual Crafty Craft Race takes place on Monday 2 May on the theme of ‘Rio Sporting Carnival’. Visit the organisers’ website for more details and entry forms.

Anyone who lives in or near Lambourn will know that there is a constant problem of sewer flooding. Thames Water will be closing various streets overnight between Monday 25 April and Thursday 28 April. For more information, call 0800 316 9800.

The Song of the Week this week has to commemorate another untimely death, this time the outstandingly talented Victoria Wood. Although mainly known for her stand-up and writing work it was as a singer of wryly comic songs that she first made her breakthrough, initially on New Faces and later on That’s Life. Based on her sharp eye for detail and the absurdities of the commonplace and performed with a genuine but knowing warmth they are amongst the finest examples of their kind. If Alan Bennett could play the piano or if Squeeze’s Chris Difford had a better sense of humour they may well have written something like these. To my knowledge, nobody else did, or not to the same standard. Comedic songs are not to everyone’s taste (perhaps because many are not actually that funny), but I defy anyone not to crack several smiles while listening to Let’s Do It (The Ballard of Barry and Freda). If nothing else, you’ll never think of of Women’s Weekly in quite the same way again. (This was written a few hours before the news of Prince’s death. Something from him next week. This section is turning into a musical obituary column, not at all the intention at the outset.)

And finally to a new feature,  the Quiz Question of the Week. This one comes from the quiz on Tuesday 19 April at The Wheatsheaf in Chilton Foliat. Many thanks to Ollie, Lauren and quizmaster Nic Coome for supplying the question. All set? Pencil ready? Internet devices switched off? OK – ‘Sunderland did it in 1979 and Villa did it in 1981 – who did it in 1980?’ The answer will be revealed next week. If you have organised or taken part in a quiz and want to submit a sample question, please do so by posting a comment just below. The next quiz at The Wheatsheaf, by the way, will be on Tuesday 17 May.

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Brian Quinn

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