Hungerford Town Council – March Update

This month’s news from Hungerford Town Council includes a welcome announcement from Great Western Railway, some dates for the diary (Town Council meeting, Commonwealth Day, litter picking and a business rates rebate information evening), progress on the Great West Way, street furniture updates, the latest on the Library, Police Station and Post Office and a reminder about funding applications through The Good Exchange.

Hungerford Town Council Annual Meeting

This will take place in the Corn Exchange on Thursday 23 March. Members of the public are welcome. Doors open at 6.30 (refreshments available) and the meeting itself will begin at 7pm. Updates will be provided about the progress with the issues such as the proposed planning development, the Library and the Post Office and (if available) more on some of the other points listed below. The recipient of the Freedom of the Town will also be announced. Alan Henderson, the Head Teacher at John O’Gaunt, will address the meeting.

Railway news

We’re delighted to announce the excellent news that, the direct GWR rail service from Bedwyn, Hungerford and Kintbury through to Paddington will now be retailed after electrification: previously it has been feared that there would only be a diesel shuttle between Bedwyn and Newbury. Please click here for more details. As well as Hungerford Town Council, a number of organisations, including the Bedwyn Train Passengers’ Group and local MPs Claire Perry and Richard Benyon have lobbied hard for this  result which is splendid news for everyone in the town and those who visit it.

It’s to be hoped that this will also result in an improvement to the westbound service beyond Bedwyn which is currently virtually non-existent.

The station itself could do with some improvements and the Town Council has been pressing GWR and Network Rail (who are responsible for the station and the bridge respectively) to address this. The eastbound waiting area in particular is inadequate for the increasing number of people who use the station. A £6m grant was recently awarded to Newbury station and the Town Council is making the case that some of this should be spent at Hungerford.

GWR will be sending some people to help tidy the station area on the litter picking day on 2 April – see below for more on this.

Planning

We understand that West Berkshire Council will defer any decision on the application for the proposed 119 homes off Salisbury Road until after the Planning Inspector’s report, which is now expected at the end of March. West Berkshire’s Planning Committee would then consider the matter in April.

The Great West Way

This project – a proposed tourist route from London to Bristol which will be marketed to travel agents overseas – is progressing well and the Town Council, as well as the Chamber of Commerce and the Town and Manor, are actively involved. From an initial idea of basing the route on the A4, the proposal has  expanded into a wider corridor of places of interest that would attract tourists who were ‘time-rich and with curious minds.’ The project is being co-ordinated by the Visit Wiltshire team (supported by Visit Britain) and has already secured an initial grant of £250,000. There are high hopes of testing some sample itineraries with agents in Germany and USA next year.

To move this forward, a conference on the Great West Way is being held in Chippenham on Thursday 30 March and representatives from all these bodies will be participating. If you would like to attend, please click here for more information and to book tickets. We’ll provide a report on the progress and how this exciting development is likely to benefit the town in our April Update.

The Good Exchange grants for local good causes

A reminder that Hungerford Town Council now administers its grants through The Good Exchange which has replaced findmeagrant. The registration process does take a certain amount of time but it will be worth it – all money granted by Hungerford Town Council will be match-funded and, as many found last year, there is also the possibility of benefitting from other grant funders.

Please submit your application to The Good Exchange website by 1 May 2017. Any queries you may have please email support@goodexchange.com – the support staff, we have been assured, respond promptly and will be happy to guide you through the application. Hungerford Town Council will be allocating its grants in May 2017.

Any queries, please contact the Hungerford Town Council office on 01488 686195 or email claire.barnes@hungerford-tc.gov.uk

Freedom of the Town

Hungerford Town Council welcomes nominations for the Award of Freedom of the Town 2017. The Award is intended to promote good citizenship by recognising as role models those in our midst who by their actions and demeanour have demonstrated exceptionally loyal service to the benefit of the town. Nominations close at 3pm on Wednesday 1 March. For more information, please click here.

Hungerford Police Station

The police station is now on the market for sale. The agents acting for the sale have told Hungerford Town Council that there will be two further viewings, between 9.30am to 10.30am on Wednesday 8 March and between 11am and 12.30 pm on Tuesday 14 March. Pre-registration is essential for either of these visits: please contact Charlotte Reaney at CReaney@lsh.co.uk. Thereafter, offers must be submitted (to the same email address) by 5pm on Tuesday 23 March.

Hungerford Post Office

As has been widely reported, Martin’s in the High Street will be closing on Friday 21 April. A recent meeting between Hungerford Town Council and the Post Office – click here for more – sought to find a solution to this problem and discussions continue. The Council’s suggestion that the Post Office be housed in the Library has received the support of West Berkshire Council but the Post Office needs to find a suitable candidate to operate an outreach facility. Any retailer interested in taking on the running of the Post Office in the long term will find more information on the above-mentioned link. More news as soon as more is known.

Hungerford Library

As most of you will be aware, it has been proposed by the Friends of Hungerford Library and the Town Council, and agreed in principle by West Berkshire, that the Library reconsistute itself as a Community Interest Company (CIC) or similar. This would, amongst other advantages, enable it to have access to various grants and sources of funding for which it currently can’t apply. A working party, involving members of the Friends, the Town Council and West Berkshire Council, has been set up to investigate this in more detail. More information will be available here and on the Friends’ FB page as soon as possible.

If this plan goes ahead, the Library will be looking for trustees and in any case will also need volunteers. If you’re interested helping fulfilling either (or both) of these roles, please contact the Friends of Hungerford Library.

Street furniture

As reported last month, the Victorian post box outside the police station was been removed after being hit by a lorry and deemed too dangerous to remain where it was. The Town Council has established from the Post Office that the repair costs are likely to be £2,000, a sum the Post Office is probably unwilling to pay. To have someone local to fix it is, however, a possibility: so if anyone has the skills and equipment to repair a 19th-century cast-iron post box, please let the Hungerford Town Council know. The Council is also in touch with the police to see if the accident was reported and, if so, if a claim can be made from the driver’s insurance.

Problems were reported last month with the zebra crossing at Charnham Street as a result of two street lights and one Belisha beacon being out of action. It seems that the Belisha is now working but that the street lights may not be. If you see a problem with these or any other lights or street furniture, members of the public can report faults to WBC by visiting this page.

Business rates revaluation

As mentioned last month, the government periodically adjusts the value of business rates to reflect changes in the property market. The last revaluation took effect in 2010 and another one is due to come into force from 1 April 2017. More information can be found by visiting the Gov.uk site here . Note that you may need to be registered with Gov.uk in order to obtain all the information you might require.

From a quick review of some of the smaller retailers in the town, it appears that the changes are likely to range from small decreases for some to large increases for others. The Town Council welcomes feedback from any retailers on this subject.

In some cases it is possible for small businesses to receive Business Rates Relief.  The Hungerford Chamber of Commerce has organised for an expert in this matter, Ian Sloan FRICS of Bankier Sloan, to explain more about this. He will be making a presentation in the Three Swans in Hungerford on Thursday 6 April, 6.30pm for 7.00pm. Anyone involved in running a business in and around the town is welcome to attend and admission is free.  The following links will be helpful for anyone wanting to find out more about the scheme before the meeting: click here for a quick guide to business rates payable in 2017/18; click here for a similar table for 2016/17; and click here for a report by Bankier Sloan on the implementation of the Small Business Rates Relief Scheme. Ian will be discussing these in more detail and will be able to answer questions.

For more information, please contact Nigel Perrin at chairman@hungerfordchamberofcommerce.co.uk or 07867 896 855.

Possible traffic delays

There is still no date fixed for erecting the scaffolding outside Furr’s in Bridge Street. The Town Council has done all it can and the matter now lies with West Berkshire Council to decide between what hours and on what days any traffic restrictions will come into effect and when the works can start. Be prepared for traffic delays when this happens.

Commonwealth Day

This takes place on Monday 13 March. Members of the Council will be gathering in the Magistrates’ Room at 9.40am ahead of a short ceremony and the raising of the flag at 10am. Members of the public are welcome to attend.

Annual litter pick

This will take place on Sunday 2 April – meet on the Town Hall steps at 10am to help give the town a quick spring clean. Equipment will be provided and refreshments will be available afterwards. GWR will be sending some people to help tidy the station area.

Any other business…

If you’d like to comment on any aspects of this post you can do so in the box below. Comments are moderated before they’re published and will thereafter be visible to everyone who then visits the page. If your comment is for a specific person or organisation we recommend you contact them directly as well.

For more information about Hungerford Town Council please visit www.hungerford-tc.gov.uk or contact Town Clerk Claire Barnes on 01488 686195 (office) or claire.barnes@hungerford-tc.gov.uk

For an insight into the work Claire does for Hungerford on a weekly basis please click here.

 

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 activities.

If there’s anything that you’d like to see covered in this way in future editions of Penny Post Hungerford, please email claire.barnes@hungerford-tc.gov.uk. 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. Links have been provided to other posts, on the Penny Post site or elsewhere, to provide additional information where this has been judged 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.

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