Including Newbury’s toilet reprieve, Hungerford’s new musical youth club, Swindon’s libraries, Shefford’s shop, Marlborough’s fairtrade status, Hamstead Marshall’s pub, West Berkshire’s potholes and a 45-year old musical squabble.
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• It appears that the disagreement between West Berkshire Council and Hungerford Town Council over future housing development in the town (WBC favouring one site and HTC several) is going the way of the former. Planning permission is expected to be presented in June for around 100 homes off Salisbury Road. About 40 of these will be as the developers put it ‘affordable’ which might make one think that the other 60 will be unaffordable. There will also be a ‘significant’ contribution to local services and facilities although these have yet to be agreed. There will be a consultation event between 2pm and 8pm in the Magistrate’s Room at Hungerford Town Hall on Thuesday 21 April. This is unlikely to be the last we hear of this dispute.
• Also in Hungerford on Thursday 21 April, a beacon will be lit at 7.30 in the Triangle Field to celebrate the Queen’s 90th birthday. The Rugby Club bar will be open and food will be available.
• And still in Hungerford, great news for school children who want to take advantage of some top-notch music tuition and band coaching. Hogan Music of Newbury will be running two-part sessions in the Hungerford Youth Club every Wednesday starting on 20 April. The first part, from 3.30pm to 5pm, will be an open session with instruments and expert advice available for anyone who wants to drop in and try out an instrument or perhaps meet others with a view to forming a band. The second, from 5pm to 8pm, will be one-to-one lessons by Hogan Academy staff on guitar, bass, drums and vocals. The first session is free: lessons for the second need to be pre-booked through Hogan Academy – click here for more details.
• The annual Newbury in Bloom 2016 has been launched: click here for more on this.
• Another brief mention of the Panama papers. This week’s Private Eye has pointed out that virtually all the newspapers which have fulminating about this are owned by people or companies which are for tax reasons registered offshore. We’d like to take this opportunity to point out that Penny Post is not. Local MP Richard Benyon has recently defended the Prime Minister’s probity in this matter. I’m not enough of an expert to know whether what he or his father did was illegal or even immoral: however, if people think this way then he has only himself to blame: the way in which Downing Street released its statements last week gave the very strong impression of evasiveness. Perhaps that’s just the way politicians always deal with questions which is generally to answer a slightly different one and, if at all possible, have a quick swipe at the opposition. It also seems clear to me that the current system of MPs registering their interests in the House of Commons is not adequate; were it to be so, this would have all been a matter of record and the Prime Minister would have spared himself a week of squirming embarrassment. Our cat Nimbus has even weighed into the debate: an appropriate term, as you can see by clicking here.
• As mentioned before, we’re always happy to support ventures which go against the prevailing current of cuts and closures. So, best wishes to Debbie and Jacqueline Cox who have recently taken over The Volunteer in Grove.
• And in the same area, click here to visit the Wantage and Grove Campaign Group which exists to lobby for proportionate and sustainable development in the area. The site also contains information about local planning applications and road closures.
• And going back to pubs, the long-running saga of the White Hart in Hamstead Marshall took another twist recently after West Berkshire Council announced that they’d be recommending the planning application to convert the property into housing be refused so opening the door for some form of community ownership along the lines of the excellent Tally Ho in Hungerford Newtown. The matter will be decided at a meeting on Wednesday 20 April..
• The public toilets at The Wharf in Newbury will be re-opening on Friday 15 April and will remain open from 9am to 5pm every day thereafter ‘while (Newbury) Council continues to explore options for a longer term solution.’ Newbury grew as a result of being a convenient staging point roughly half way between London and Bristol and, according to an article in this week’s Newbury Weekly News, this still continues with many coaches making a stop-off there to allow people to use toilets and also perhaps spend more than a penny in the town. Some coach companies have said they’d think twice about stopping in Newbury if the toilets close, something which for the time being seems to have been averted.
• Anyone who uses the Great Shefford shop (as we do) will be interested and perhaps alarmed to learn that a proposal has been made that parking restrictions be imposed in the vicinity, a move which would undermine the viability of this important local business. There is a petition in the shop which can be signed. The matter will be being discussed at the Great Shefford Parish Council meeting on Thursday 21 April in the Village Hall. Public contributions are welcomed from 7.40pm to 8.00pm after which people may remain to hear the council’s deliberations.
• It was announced a few weeks ago that Marlborough has been awarded Fairtrade status. Click here for details of an event on Wednesday 20 April AT Marlborough Golf Club to explain how local businesses can benefit from this accreditation.
• Confusion still continues about how much some of these axed WBC services cost when split down into their individual parts. This applies particularly to the libraries. You can keep up to date with developments at Hungerford and Lambourn libraries through their ‘Friends of…’ pages. You can read more here about the latest discussions concerning the future of Thatcham library.
• The library crisis is not restricted to West Berkshire: in Swindon, a 3,000-signature petition protesting against the planned closures is to be delivered to the Council this week.
• A warning here from local head teacher Peter Shelton about the dangers of further education budget cuts.
• A reminder about the Build Community Together (BGT) fund which is designed ‘to strengthen communities across the district and to help them do more for themselves as austerity measures have an increasing impact on services.’ A range of grants and other assistance will be available for local projects. Click here for more information.
• Another initiative from West Berkshire Council: Fit for Life, a programme of events aimed at older people. Click here for more.
• Residents of Great Bedwyn and the surrounding villages can click here to have their say on how their communities might change and develop over the coming years.
• Following the good turnout at a recent defibrillator training session in Brightwalton by the Oxfordshire Ambulance Team, there are plans for another one. If you’re interested, please contact Sarah at [email protected] or 01488 639 487. A defibrillator has recently been installed in Bucklebury.
• The new Newbury Car Club is now operational – click here for more information.
• 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.
• Advance notice of Lis Allen‘s forthcoming Talking Bollocks event (not to be confused with her recent successful Vagina Dialogues) at Hungerford’s Herongate Leisure Centre on Thursday 28 April.
• The recently renovated Shaw House in Newbury is hosting a month-long season of Shakespeare-related events and activities during April.
• As mentioned previously, we’re well aware that West Berkshire is not the only council in the area which is facing Westminster’s demands for draconian cuts. Click here to find out more about similar issues in the Unitary Authorities of Wiltshire, Swindon, Hampshire and Oxfordshire, the District Council of Vale of White Horse, and the Town Councils of Newbury, Marlborough, Hungerford and Thatcham.
• West Berkshire’s Library Fest continues and there will be a wide range of activities in most of the libraries in the area until late April.
• Congratulations to all those who won awards in the West Berkshire Young Photographer Competition organised by the Newbury Rotary Club. Click here to see the winners’ photos.
• West Berkshire Council has formally submitted its Housing Site Allocations Development Plan to the government: subject to approval this will be adopted later this year. For more information, including links to the full document and the consultation responses, click here.
• We mentioned last week about how the number of potholes in West Berkshire were too numerous to count. Perhaps stung by this implied rebuke, someone has been out and done this: it seems there are 4,094. An extra £217,000 has been allocated by the government to pay for filling them in.
• 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.
• Also in May is the Beyer Newbury 10k race, on Sunday 29 May. Click here for more information.
• Volunteers are needed for the Swindon & Cricklade heritage railway – click here for more.
• Due to cabling work, there will be road closures in and around Ickleton Road in Wantage for at least the next ten days.
• Several good causes have received valuable financial support recently, including: The NSPCC (thanks to shoppers in Wantage); Oxfordshire Animal Sanctuary (thanks to Beerhounds Motorcycle Club); Newbury and Thatcham Hospital Building Trust (thanks to the Newbury Soroptomists); Naomi House (thanks to Bayer); the Great Western Hospital Radiotherapy Appeal (thanks to all those who donated); Achievement for All (thanks to the Education Endowment Foundation)
• The Song of the Week is with us once again. An extraordinary story in the press this week that Jimmy Page and Robert Plant are being sued for stealing the opening chord progression for Stairway to Heaven from the rock band Spirit. I’ve listened to the rather dreary song Taurus they say was the inspiration and, yes, it is similar: but the descending chromatic line is pretty standard part of western music in general and rock music in particular and one might as well try copyrighting the blues scale or Am-G-F-E7. In any case, why has this taken so long? Stairway to Heaven was written in 1971: it’s now 2016. Surely they aren’t going to claim that they’ve only now, for the first time, heard the song? I believe there was a radio station in the USA that played nothing but Stairway to Heaven for several years. Anyway, I’m not going to suggest either of these songs, one of which we’ve all heard a thousand times while the other isn’t in my view worth listening to except for purposes of comparison. Instead, though not a huge Led Zep fan, I’m going to invite you to crank up the volume and listen to Kashmir with its guitar riff that, were the word not been turned into a general term of agreement by anyone under 30, I wouldn’t hesitate to call ‘awesome.’ They were an odd lot, what with Page’s black-magic obsessions, Plant’s fey Tolkienism and Bonham’s five-day parties. Their first US tour became, by all accounts, the standard by which rock’n’roll excesses on the road would long be judged. It was then that the habit of throwing TVs out of hotel windows became established as a must-do for any rock legend worth his salt. The story goes that one morning Led Zep’s formidable manager Peter Grant was cheerfully settling yet another bill for this kind of damage, no doubt reflecting that this was a very cheap way of buying publicity. After this had been sorted the slightly shell-shocked clerk asked ‘what’s it like, throwing a TV out of a window?’ ‘It’s great,’ Grant replied, peeling off a few more notes from the vast bundle in his hand and handing them over. ‘Here you go, son – have one on us.’
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