Local News May 5 – 12

Local News

Including compost, the EU vote, TTIP, bees, Crafty Craft winners, police and roadwork updates, parking restrictions, planning debates, rogue traders, courier scams, help for first-time buyers, three long-lived kings and a song in two parts from ’73

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Click on the following links for details of planned roadworks in West Berkshire, the Wantage area, Wiltshire, Hampshire and Swindon.

Click on the following links for neighbourhood police updates in West Berkshire (April update here) & North Hampshire  and police advice for South Oxfordshire & Wiltshire. See also here for specific advice on what’s known as courier fraud.

Congratulations to all those brave and strong enough to participate in the annual Crafty Craft Race on Monday 2 May organised by Newbury Round Table. Penny’s team won their class (Fastest Junior Team) and she spent the next hour at the event in Victoria Park still in her flamingo costume, much to the embarrassment of our sons.

Particular congratulations to the three boats supporting the James Ballantyne Memorial Trust each of which won a trophy – Fastest Adult Team, Fastest Female Team and Spirit of Crafty Craft. James, who had been a regular CCR participant until his untimely death last summer, would have been very proud of them. For more information on the Trust, click here.

The Trust will also be one of the beneficiaries of the proceeds of a barn dance in Hungerford Newtown on Saturday 14 May. For more information, call 07917 883 173.

And still more congratulations, this time to Hungerford Town FC who, by winning their play off against Leamington on Easter Monday, earned promotion to the National League South (only six tiers below the Premier League).

As the EU Referendum looms ever closer, a number of events will seek to inform and convince voters one way or another. Two such were held in Marlborough and in Newbury on 29 April – click on the links for more. My own view is that there is enough uncertainty at present without adding to it, as Brexit will certainly do regardless of what its supporters claim. I also am far from convinced that government from Westminster has been or would be be any better than that from Brussels. Finally – and this is, to me, the clincher – anything that Boris Johnson, George Galloway and Nigel Farage all want, I instinctively want the opposite. There’s a letter in this week’s Newbury Weekly News which makes an eloquent case for voting ‘out’, or would have done were we all living in the 1930s.

Whilst on the subject, Newbury MP Richard Benyon would like to know the views of local businesses on the forthcoming European Referendum. (This survey will be ‘confidential’ – he may later contact you if you respond – rather than ‘anonymous’.)

I have to concede, though, that one concern is that voting ‘stay’ may speed the progress of the TTIP deal, one of the most insidious, undemocratic and dangerous trade agreements ever devised and which risks giving large corporations even more power than they have already. There are many places one can read about this (although, it not being a particularly sexy news topic, our national newspapers are not generally amongst them), and one can be found here. This is critical of TTIP: for views in favour you can write to most MPs or government departments. The negotiations seem to be being conducted with a secrecy extreme even by Whitehall’s standards. Given how in awe we remain of the USA and how powerful international organisations have become, it’s unlikely that a vote either way in June will change this government’s position. More influential might be events such as the recent leak of 13 of the 17 chapters of the proposed deal. Democracy at times seems to be no more than a thin veneer to legitimise the continued activity of vested interests.

Another piece of proposed government legislation which has been shrouded in secrecy and which seems to confer no benefits other than to the corporations which have been lobbying for its introduction concerns our friends – and they are our friends – the bees. The plan is is to introduce more widely neonic fertilisers which are believed to be harmful to bees: there has been an unexplained and alarming fall in bee numbers in recent years which, given their importance to the pollination process, is not something we can afford to be indifferent to. It now appears that the decision-makers have ignored or dismissed a report which suggests that the use of these pesticides had no effect on crop yields in test areas last year: in other words, that the whole thing is a dangerous ploy to enrich fertiliser manufacturers. You can read more, find out about a 235,000-strong petition and see how to contact ministers and your MP by clicking here.

Today, Thursday 5 May, 2,743 seats are being contested in 124 local councils (though not West Berkshire) and for local Police and Crime Commissioners. Polling stations close at 10pm. You can find out more by visiting the Electoral Commission’s website here.

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.

Click here for more information about an event featuring several of Swindon’s artists and writers as part of the Swindon Festival of Literature on Saturday 7 May.

There used to be a railway between Newbury and Lambourn and evidence of it is still plentiful in parts of the valley. There will be an exhibition on the subject in Lambourn during July. If you have anything that might be of interest for this or would like to contribute in any way, contact details can be found here.

And talking of railways as they used to be, a steam-hauled train featuring the 60163 Tornado is expected to visit the area on Wednesday 11 May. It will pass westbound through Newbury Racecourse (11.02 to 11.20, presumably stopping for a drink of water), Newbury (11.24), Hungerford (11.30) and Bedwyn (11.38); and returning via Bedwyn (18.04), Hungerford (18.10) and Newbury (18.18). All timings are approximate (trains can run early as well as late). You can read more about local heritage railways and rail services here.

We mentioned the new cows on Hungerford Common last week: a sadder story from Ham where ten pregnant cows were poisoned last week, the motive for which must make sense to the perpetrator if to no one else. Click on this link for more and for what to do if you have any information.

A view from Marlborough as to the possible consequences of the new double yellows in Frees Avenue. There are many issues where the interests of the local council, local residents and local businesses refuse to co-incide: parking is certainly one of them.

And news of proposed new parking restrictions in Thatcham can be found here.

Not just parking divides opinion – add traffic generally as well. See here for fears about the possible impact on Wantage of a large development which has recently been approved in Didcot.

Did I mention planning? A lot of opinions on that as well. Click here for more on the proposed development at Lower Way in Thatcham.

And click here for more on the huge Sandleford Park development, a decision on which has been deferred partly due to a number of objections received about road access.

More information can be found here about the recent work done to combat rogue traders (a euphemism for con artists) by West Berkshire & Wokingham Trading Standards and the Thames Valley Police during April. You can also click here for some good advice on the subject from the local Neighbourhood Watch.

There are several circles of hell according to Dante and others. Perhaps one is reserved for fraudsters who con vulnerable people out of their savings and, according to some reports, use the proceeds to fund terrorism or other crimes. There has been a spate of what’s know as courier scam or courier fraud in the area recently. You can read some specific advice from the Thames Valley Police here.

In a recent initiative, 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.

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.

On a similar theme, 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. The opposition to the council cuts in the area continues with news this week that two families with disabled children are taking legal action against West Berkshire Council.

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

We’ve got a compost heap. Yes, I know, so do a lot of people, but I’m particularly proud of this one because several years ago I made the frame for it and it’s still standing up, unlike so many things I’ve made out of wood. If you grow even a small number of fruit, vegetables or flowers and if you ever throw any organic matter away and if you have a square metre or so in your garden it’s a worthwhile thing to have. 1 to 7 May is International Compost Awareness Week: West Berkshire Council and Veolia have a special offer and some information to help you get started with decomposing.

And in another joint initiative, this time with Newbury Building Society, West Berkshire Council has news here of a scheme to help first-time buyers in the area.

There will be a concert at Kintbury’s St Cassian’s Centre at 7pm on Friday 6 May to raise money for the centre. For more information, call 01488 658 267.

There was an understandably sarcastic letter in the Newbury Weekly News this week ‘thanking’ someone for smashing into the writer’s parked car without leaving a note, an event somehow made worse by happening on the Queen’s 90th birthday. This reminds me of a story I heard some years ago on Radio 4 (so it must be true). A man returned to his car and found the front bashed in and a note under the windscreen. He unfolded it. The note read: ‘Anyone seeing me writing this note after reversing into your car will think that I’m leaving you my address and phone number – but I’m not.’

A number of good causes have received valuable financial support recently, including: Fair Close Day Centre (thanks to its own annual Spring sale); New Life (thanks to runners in the recent Reading Half Marathon); the Berkshire MS Therapy Centre (thanks to staff and customers at Sainsburys in Newbury); Donna’s Dream Team (thanks to the Kennet School disco night).

The Song of the Week this week has managed to avoid the Grim Reaper for a change and so gives a chance for a quite different theme. Unless you’ve been on Mars for the last few days and even if you are indifferent to football, you’ll be aware that Leicester City won the Premier League earlier this week. As every media outlet has rightly said this a truly staggering achievement and one that, in Europe at least, only Montpellier’s 2011-12 triumph in France (albeit in a weaker league) comes close to matching. There are several bands who’ve come from Leicester, including Kasabian: but, as regular readers will know, we try to explore the less frequented wings of the great sprawling mansion of rock and pop music for this weekly selection. So, I’m going for a band from the city from an earlier period, Family, and their song Boots ‘n’ Roots from their final album It’s Only a Movie, released in 1973. It’s a song in two parts: it kicks off with a loose, bar-room horns and piano run through slightly reminiscent of The Band; then it starts again, nailing down the rhythm and adding whiplash-tight guitars from the superb Charlie Whitney, all topped off with Roger Chapman’s gravelly but expressive and melodic vocals. Other songs on the album repay a listen as well. (A little known piece of trivia about Family is that, in 1968, The Beatles were planning to call their soon-to-be-released double album A Doll’s House but changed the name when Family’s first LP, Music from a Doll’s House, came out a few weeks before. Stuck for a new title, or perhaps just sulking a bit, the Fabs decided to call their own album just The Beatles, though it’s been known as The White Album ever since. Given its wild mixture of styles and moods, which span farce, guitar thrash, sound collages, political anger, emotional melancholy and sinister introspection, A Dolls House would have been a perfect title for The White Album: but Family got there first, so that’s that.)

And finally, the Quiz Question of the Week comes round once more. This one comes from the quiz on Friday 29 April at the East Garston Social Club, ably hosted once again by quiz-master, compère and auctioneer Ed James. My selected question is: ‘The three main ingredients of the cocktail White Russian are vodka, milk and what else?’  (Julie Clayton will remember why I picked this one.) 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. Last week’s question (John O’Gaunt School in aid of the school’s PSA)  was: ‘It’s well known that Elizabeth II and Victoria both reigned for over 50 years (and counting, in the former case). Which three other English monarchs achieved this distinction?’  The answers are Henry III (1216-72), Edward III (1327-77) and George III (1760-1820). If you think being number III equals a long reign, ask Richard III: he reigned for only two years. He can be found in Leicester Cathedral where he was recently re-buried after his remains were discovered under city car park in 2012. It’s all happening in Leicester at the moment, isn’t it?

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