These notes incorporate some but not all of the matters discussed at the Full Hungerford Town Council (HTC) Meeting on 5 February, the agenda for which can be found here. Any references below to ‘the meeting’ refer to this event unless specified otherwise. The official minutes of the meeting will in due course be found on the HTC site. See the foot of this post for more information.
Note: this now includes a brief summary of a meeting between representatives of CALA Homes and members of the HTC Environment and Planning Committee which took place on 6 February, after this article was first published.
Hungerford Nursery School
At the start of the meeting there was a brief presentation by Suzanne Taylor, the Head of Hungerford Nursery School Centre for Children and Families. There are three separate but connected branches to this – the Nursery School, the Family Centre and the Teaching Centre – and each has been thriving under the leadership of Suzanne and her team, an achievement recently reflected in her award of an MBE in the latest new Year’s Honours List . The Centre has received its fourth ‘Outstanding’ Ofsted report and is now a National Support School meaning that it has an official role in helping other schools to achieve the same high standards.
The main problem the Centre faces is, as is common these days, a financial one. Grants and lump-sum support have been or will be being cut which will require some financial economies. It’s also likely that some courses and services which had previously been provided free will need to be charged for. More governors are also required: if anyone is interested in finding out more about this, and for more information on the Centre generally, please visit the website.
Salisbury Road Judicial Review
Back in April the outline planning for a housing development at Salisbury Road was passed by WBC. Strong public feeling against this was expressed at Town Council meetings. Alternative options had been suggested by the Town Council that had less impact on the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. HTC felt compelled to act.
A call in to the Secretary of State about the application resulted in a delay to the period to challenge the application. Meanwhile WBC obtained official approval of its Development Plan Document, containing many of the issues that apply to the Salisbury road site and HTC responded by challenging this as to not do so would have seriously compromised any case against Salisbury Road.
Having raised money through crowd funding and by contributing themselves HTC got as far as the permission stage of a Judicial Review but then the case was dismissed by the judge as not strong enough.
The only possibly left was to challenge the planning application decision. However, after considerable thought HTC decided it couldn’t afford to go down the Judicial review process again. Professional advice obtained also advised against this. The failure of the JR against the DPD would harm a challenge against the planning application and our chances of success were much lower than before. HTC would be up against an adopted DPD and the support of the town was waning.
(Note: the issue was covered in Penny Post on many occasions in 2017. Articles and these and other subjects relating to the activities of HTC can be seen here.)
Meeting with CALA Homes
Representatives of CALA Homes and Wates developments, the developers involved in the Salisbury Road site, attended a meeting of the HTC Environment and Planning Committee on 6 February. The meeting was described as being very constructive. CALA said that it would be submitting its detailed plans in the next few months and would be consulting further with HTC in the meantime, whereafter there would be a public presentation which would give residents the chance to ask questions about the development. CALA also confirmed that there would be 40 affordable homes (out of a total of 100) and that the site would include two play areas. If all goes according to plan, the development should be complete by late 2020.
An application has been received for the vacant town councillor position and this will be considered at the next Full Council Meeting on Monday 5 March. Other applications can be accepted in the meantime. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
As reported last month, discussions continue between HTC and WBC about various aspects of the Library building, in particular certain aspects of the repairs and maintenance that will need to be done, or at least agreed, before the formal assignment to HTC can take place.
The draft lease from WBC will be completed on 9 February (This will include a schedule of agreed works which WBC will undertake to complete at its expense. The works will not necessary be completed by 3 April, the official handover date of the building to HTC.) HTC then needs to vote on the lease: this will take place either at an Extra Full Council Meeting on 26 Feb or the next Full Council Meeting on 5 March. Thereafter, it’s planned that there will be an official opening on Saturday 7 April.
A considerable number of issues have cropped up, all of which have to be discussed and all of which are in addition to everyone’s normal workload. There’s nothing to suggest that this welcome solution to what a year ago seemed an insoluble problem won’t be arrived following the above timetable and that the future of this valuable local resource will as a result be secured.
This occupied the majority of the meeting. Gary Lugg (Head of Development and Planning) and Councillor Hilary Cole (Executive Portfolio holder for Planning) attended and answered questions put by Hungerford councillors and members of the public. Several references were made to the meeting on 22 January, a report on which can be found here.
Echoing the points made in the above-mentioned meeting, both Gary Lugg and Hilary Cole were keen to point out (a) that although WBC would support any Neighbourhood Plan (NP) – indeed is obliged to do so – the impetus for this must come from the local community; and (b) that the NP must be aligned with WBCs Development Plan (just as this must be aligned with national policy). These points were made several times in different ways and their importance to the success of the project cannot be stressed too strongly.
In many ways, the questions to these WBC representatives and their answers were as illuminating about the planning process as about the pros and cons of an NP for Hungerford. It was clear that any sense of frustration or disappointment that a parish council may feel about the decisions and policies of WBC are minor compared to those that WBC itself may experience about those imposed from Whitehall or Westminster. A change of government or government policy can result in a previously-adopted plan needing to be amended and, with it, any NPs that had been adopted. Some resulting amendments to the NP would be regarded as ‘minor’ and so could be incorporated by mutual agreement: others would be ‘major’ and would require a separate referendum.
As regards the funding, WBC is unsure what help it can itself receive. It’s estimated that the Stratfield Mortimer NP cost WBC about £30,000 (round about double what the parish itself cost) although some central-government grants are currently available. However, these are only for the first five NPs and with Burghfield, Tilehurst, Compton and Cold Ash already embarked upon this journey, Hungerford’s may well cost WBC more. None the less, both Hilary Cole and Gary Lugg were clear that they would support whatever decision HTC took. Hilary Cole explicitly advised the council to follow this course, even though she added that the workload should not be under-estimated.
Following a question by Councillor James Podger, the WBC representatives also agreed that aggressive developers might challenge any planning decision, the recent case of the knacker’s yard near Great Shefford being a case in point. An NP would offer no protection against such decisions from HM Planning Inspectorate or any legal action. Gary Lugg made clear that the Development Plan is prepared with this in mind and that, at its formal examination, legal teams from developers have the opportunity to challenge details of the proposed policy. WBC thus needs to ensure that its plan is as watertight as possible, although it can never be guaranteed that a decision based upon it would not be overturned by a higher authority given the specifics of individual cases.
All district councils also have to contend with other uncertainties in government policy, including shifting housing allocations and the need to have a rolling five-year land-supply plan in place to cope with the vagaries of housing supply by developers.
It was always likely that the Salisbury Road application would get a mention and it duly did, reference being made to the protection afforded to the AONB and the way this had seemingly been ignored by WBC in this case. As with all planning decisions, this one was based on a complex assessment of a number of competing and sometimes incompatible considerations. Gary Lugg agreed that ‘considerable weight’ must be given to the AONB in both the creation of the Development Plan and with individual applications. However, the latter are subject to shifting considerations of government policy which demand that more weight in any application is given to, say, job creation, the environment or the need for housing, depending on the prevailing political exigencies. At present, housing is paramount and therefore to some extent trumps any other factors which conflict with this. It’s easy to see how this pressure on WBC can lead to its making decisions which appear perverse or which leave it open to judicial reviews and other disputes. It might assist the planning process if these factors were better understood.
In short, there are some aspects of an NP that cannot be guaranteed. However, with WBC just starting start work on its own own Development Plan (which will have its first major consultations in late 2018, be submitted in September 2019, be examined in April 2020 and be adopted in July 2020) the timing is ideal for Hungerford to launch its own NP as this would enable the two documents to be dovetailed. It was also stressed by WBC’s representatives that dealing with Stratfield Mortimer’s NP – the first WBC had been involved with – had produced some useful lessons which should be to the benefit of future parishes.
It was reported that various people had already indicated that, were HTC to agree to proceed, they would be happy to assist with the work of preparing the NP. If anyone else would like to get involved, please contact email@example.com
After some discussion as to how the question should be put – during which Gary Lugg and Hilary Coles again stressed that they would be supportive of an NP and that they would work closely with and listen to, though not necessarily always be able to agree with, HTC – it was eventually proposed that HTC would in principle decide to develop an NP. This was passed unanimously.
If you are interested in finding out more about the subject, the following websites provide more information: My Community; Forum for Neighbourhood Planning; Planning Aid; Locality; The Department for Communities and Local Government; and West Berkshire’s own site.
Hungerford Town Council Annual Grant Scheme
Hungerford Town Council’s grants are awarded annually to any charity or organisation whose good work benefit the residents of Hungerford. The grants are administered through The Good Exchange who match fund any monies donated. Applications are now welcomed for the grant scheme for 2018/19. The grants will be allocated in June/July and the deadline for applications is 1 May 2018. Applicants should visit www.thegoodexchange.com or complete and return this application form.
Award of Freedom of the Town 2018
Hungerford Town Council welcomes nominations for the Award of Freedom of the Town 2018. Please see the attached document for information and a nomination form. Nominations for this year’s award should be received by the Town Clerk no later than 1 March 2018. Forms are available from the Council office in the Library building or at www.hungerford-tc.gov.uk. The Awards will be announced at the Town’s Public Meeting on Wednesday 21 March 2018.
The Mayor’s Activities
During January, the Mayor attended a number of meetings in and around Hungerford including various council and committee meetings, discussions with the Town and Manor, iWeb and the Youth and Community Centre and three separate meetings connected with the Library.
It was reported at the meeting that various meetings had taken place. There were no matters arising from these that occasioned any significant discussion at the meeting. For more information on the work of these committees, please click here.
All HTC committee meetings now take place in the Library. Full Council meetings will continue to be held in the the Corn Exchange complex.
Various matters of internal financial housekeeping and administration were proposed with a view to making HTC’s procedures more flexible and efficient. These were all agreed.
The Railway Station
As reported last month, HTC is condsidering adopting Hungerford station. One representative from GWR and one from ACoRP (the Association of Community Rail Partnerships) attended the H&T meeting on 29 January to provide more details of the scheme. If proceded with, this will enable the various communities and groups in Hungerford to provide various cosmetic but beneficial improvements to the station, such as hanging baskets and additional tidying, and also possibly to be used to showcase some of the activities and organisations in the town.
Members of the H&T Committee will be discussing the opportunities presented by this with various groups in and around the town and will aim to provide a more detailed report in March.
A representative from the Thames Valley Police, PCSO Lee Bremner, was present at the meeting and made a brief report.
Over the last five weeks there had been a few thefts reported from vans and houses. People were reminded not to leave valuables in their vehicles and to ensure that all doors and windows were securely locked.
There had also been some reports of youths playing ‘chicken’ with cars. Some of those involved had been identified and spoken to and it’s hoped that there will be no repeats.
The police will continue to be in attendance in the car park behind the PO sorting office at the entrance to the Tesco car park between 10am and 1pm on the third Wednesday of every month. This is an opportunity for members of the public to discuss any concerns they have and to ask questions about the policing in the area.
Contacting the Police
The Neighbourhood Policing Team can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The email box is checked daily so even if the local team are off, colleagues can review messages in case a prompt response is required.
There will also be representatives of the Thames Valley Police in a mobile booth near the entrance to the Tesco car park between 10am and 1pm on the third Wednesday of the month.
You can report incidents to TVP on line via their website www.thamesvalley.police.uk.
There is a letterbox on the wall to the right of the front door at the station. This will not be checked daily but can receive written correspondence. Found property should not be left here. Found property can be notified to the police via 101 and details recorded. If the police need to take possession of the items arrangements can be made.
(Please also click here for a general article created by Penny Post about the current policing arrangements in and around Hungerford.)
The sections above cover some of the issues with which Hungerford Town Council has recently been involved or concerned: it by no means describes all of the Council’s activities.
For more information on Hungerford Town Council, please click here.
If there’s anything that you’d like to see addressed by Hungerford Town Council, and perhaps also covered in this way in future editions of Penny Post Hungerford, please email email@example.com. Any such suggestions should be received at least four working days before the end of the month (and preferably sooner) if they are to be included in the corresponding post for the following month. That is not, of course, to say that the Council will not in any case give the matter its attention and respond personally if appropriate.
This information has been compiled by Penny Post from information supplied by Hungerford Town Council and others. Every reasonable effort has been made to provide a clear and dispassionate summary of the points covered but these may contain expressions of opinion which may not accord with Hungerford Town Council’s official view on the particular matter. Links have been provided to other posts, on the Penny Post site or elsewhere, to provide additional information where this has been judged useful or necessary. The presence of such a link should not be taken to imply that Hungerford Town Council necessarily agrees with, endorses or supports any of the material contained therein.