Hungerford Town Council News – September/October Update

This notes incorporate some but not all of the matters discussed at the Full Hungerford Town Council (HTC) Meeting on 2 October, 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 a link and for more information.

Salisbury Road Judicial Appeal

It was announced by Councillor Hudson at the meeting that the judicial review had failed to pass the permissions stage, the arguments put forward not being, in the view of the judge, sufficiently strong. The judge was only able to look at breaches of policy or procedure and could not revisit any planning-specific factors which WBC had considered when reaching its decision. This appears to have excluded any consideration of the ‘exceptional circumstances or public interest’ test with regard to building on an AONB which formed one of the planks of WBC’s argument, even though these have not been demonstrated by WBC. There has yet to be any planning decision where these conditions have been defined or any useful precedents established.

The HTC home page contains a summary of the situation and a link to the judge’s ruling.

The meeting discussed three likely options. The first, an appeal, was likely to cost between £10,000 and £30,000 and would, according to advice received by HTC, be unlikely to succeed. The second was to agree not to challenge the decision but to leave all options open when it came to its scrutiny of the final planning application, when this was eventually approved by WBC. The third was to regard the whole matter as a fait accompli.

It was pointed out by more than one councillor that the decision should not be taken based on financial considerations alone, considerable though these were in respect of the first option.  The costs incurred to date are about £12,500, around £7,500 of which has been covered by the crowdfunding appeal. Most of the remainder was covered by HTC’s budget for such matters.

After some discussion the second option was the one proposed and it was voted to accept this.

For more on the background to this step and for a link to the crowdfunding campaign which has been set up to help cover these fees, please click here.

For an article (written by Penny Post, not HTC) about the wider issues opened up by judicial reviews and why it’s so important that they exist, regardless of their outcome, please click here.

Library Update

Work continues on finalising the new arrangements for the Library. One issue that has recently arisen concerns the likely maintenance and repair costs over the next ten years. Once West Berkshire Council (WBC) has approved the transfer of the library building to HTC, subject to final contract, HTC will ensure that a full survey is performed. The subsequent division and allocation of any maintenance and repair costs will then be negotiated. It now seems unlikely that the transfer will be completed until early 2018.

The building, which will be known as the Hungerford Hub, will thereafter be run on behalf of HTC by the newly formed Hungerford Library & Community Trust. This has nine trustees, most of whom are Hungerford residents. As well as housing the library and council offices, the Hub will also be available for use by charities and other local organisations. The library service will continue to be provided and fully staffed by WBC. More information will be provided as soon as it’s available.

Post Office Update

It’s recently (10 October) been re-confirmed that the new WHS will be opening on the old Martins’ site on Tuesday 17 October. The Post Office will be re-opened there at the same time. You can read more about the changes to the services, the consultation process that is now open, the outreach service and the work that HTC and others have done to help secure the future of a Post Office service in the town here.

In the meantime the outreach Post Office is operating in the library building. It’s open Tuesdays and Fridays from 9.45am to 1.45pm and Wednesdays from 9.30am to 1.30pm. This service will cease on Wednesday 11 October.

HTC voted its thanks to Sue Rendell for having run the outreach service for the last few months, so helping ensure that the service was taken up by WHS.

West Berkshire Council and Hungerford Town Council

It was reported at the meeting that a number of long-running issues were recently raised at a meeting between these two bodies, HTC being represented by the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor. The topics included a bus shelter in Church Street, the issue of school transport for over 16s, the split ownership of the town’s streetlights, parking charges, parking spaces at the library and an officially designated coach parking space or drop-off bay. It was reported that, save on the fairly uncontroversial matters of the neighbourhood Watch and the bus shelter, no agreement was reached.

The Mayor and Deputy Mayor then requested that District Councillors Paul Hewer and James Podger request a meeting with WBC’s leader Graham Jones to re-address these and other matters of direct interest to Hungerford. This was agreed to and a date for a meeting between all five will be agreed as soon as possible. The over-16 transport and the issue of coach parking are regarded by HTC as being the most urgent.

Neighbourhood Plan

At the HTC meeting it was pointed out that only one parish in West Berkshire, Stratfield Mortimer, has so far adopted a neighbourhood plan as opposed to our area such as West Sussex where the majority had done so. It was suggested that WBC was not supportive of these. Certainly there remain some doubts as to what level of protection these can afford, particularly on planning issues. None the less, there do appear to be advantages (and also a good deal of work). Hungerford would benefit from the work done on its town plan a few years ago, much of which would still be relevant.

It was agreed that further consideration would need to await the final conclusion of the judicial review process, the Mayor’s forthcoming visit to Stratfield Mortimer and a town-wide consultation before a final decision could be taken.

If you are interested in finding out more about neighbourhood plans, 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.

The Hungerford Trade Showcase

This event will be taking place on 13 October at John O’Gaunt and will be an opportunity for businesses and potential employees in the town to meet find out more about what they can offer each other. For more information, please click here.

Christmas Lights

All the contracts for the Christmas lights have now been awarded. The switch-on ceremony will be on Sunday 3 December, with local resident and renowned TV journalist Jon Snow pressing the button.

At the meeting, Councillor Brookman said that volunteers would be needed both before and at this event. Anyone interested in helping should contact him at rnp.denford@gmail.com.

(An interview with Councillor Brookman can be found here.)

Police Update

Members of the Thames Valley Police had been invited to address the meeting but were unable to attend. A brief note was, however, provided which included information about some recent crime-prevention events as well as police attendance at an incident at the skate park in September.

Information about the police presence in the area, including about the nature of the new tri-service station in Hungerford, can be found here.

Neighbourhood Watch Meeting

There was a Neighbourhood Watch meeting at Hungerford Town Hall on 19 September attended by members of the public, current NW members, town councillors and Newbury MP Richard Benyon. Since then several more representatives have joined the scheme and others have expressed an interest. Hungerford Town Council has stressed its support for the Neighbourhood Watch and would like to thank local co-ordinator Angela Money for her hard work.

You can find out more about the Neighbourhood Watch scheme by clicking here. This includes a video of part of the above-mentioned meeting.

West Berkshire Council Consultation on Litter and Street-cleaning Services

This is now under way and more information can be found by clicking here.  HTC has been asked by WBC to encourage members of the public to respond to this. The consultation period runs until 31 October 2017.

Public Toilets

After a tendering process, HTC appointed healthmatic from Calne to maintain the town’s public toilets. The savings are expected to be about £3,000pa.

Community Grants

HTC’s 2017-18 grants to local community groups have totalled just under £17,300. The following organisations have benefitted:

Age UK Berkshire, Arts for Hungerford, Berkhire Blind Society (Hungerford), CHAIN, Citizens Advice West Berkshire, Eight Bells for Mental Health, HADCAF, Headway Thames Valley, Home-Start West Berkshire, Hungerford and Camburn Edu, Hungerford Cancer Support Group, Hungerford Cricket Club, the Hungerford Town Band, the Hungerford Youth & Community Centre, John O Gaunt PSA, the Newbury Over 80s Parcel Fund, Parkinson’s UK, Newbury, The Rosemary Appeal, Sport In Mind, the Tuesday Burchett Club, the Wessex Rangers, The Community of Hungerford Theatre Company, the Christmas Extravaganza, Hungerford Town Football Club and the Rotary Club Santa Run.

 

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 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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