Local News Apr 6-13

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Including planning decision in Hungerford, grants for local services, good causes celebrated, roadworks, police news, Swindon’s town centre, Wantage’s health-service survey, M4 closures, £1 million, a vanishing post box, AONB news, too many road signs (or not enough), another pub on the ropes, coffee companions, the Penny Post April Quiz, Fergie time in Wiltshire, not doing it without your pheasant and three Salisbury Roads.

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Click on any highlighted and underlined text for more information on the subject. Some will link to other pages on this site, others to pages elsewhere.

Click on the following links for details of planned roadworks in West Berkshire, the Wantage area, Wiltshire, Hampshire and Swindon. There will be road closures in and around Lambourn on Good Friday due to the Lambourn Open Day.

Please click here for details of long-term roadworks on the M4 between J12 and J13 and which will result in some overnight closures between 31 March and 22 May.

As mentioned last week, Thames Valley Police appears to have changed the web information it displays about neighbourhood policing so any old links you might have bookmarked will probably not work. The new ones are as follows: for the TVP ‘Your Local Area’ page generally, click here. For specific areas, click here for Hungerford and Lambourn; click here for Newbury Town Centre; click here for Newbury Outer; click here for Bucklebury and Downlands; click here for Thatcham, Aldermaston and Brimpton; click here for Wantage and Grove; click here for Wiltshire East (including Marlborough); click here for Swindon and other parts of Wiltshire; click here for Hampshire.

A number of the sections in Local News – and, indeed, other articles in Penny Post – encourage you to contact your district, town or parish council. Links are usually provided in these cases but for general reference here are some you might find useful. To view the contacts page for Hungerford TC, click here; for Newbury, click here; for Thatcham, click here. If you live in the Vale of White Horse area, click here (and here for Wantage); if you live in Wiltshire, click here (and here for Marlborough). For Swindon, click here.

On 5 April, West Berkshire Council’s Western Area Planning Committee voted to approve the plans for 100 homes in off Salisbury Road in Hungerford. There is an appeal process but it’s uncertain at the moment this will be pursued.

CALA Homes, one of the two developers, issued a press release the following day. In this, it said that 40% would be affordable , ‘helping those with the greatest housing need in Hungerford and West Berkshire.’ Well, hardly. Those with the ‘greatest’ housing need can barely afford to rent a flat and can only dream of owning a house. It said that the plan had been modified after ‘feedback from local residents and Hungerford Town Council’, including reducing the number from 119 to 100 (which is what it should have been anyway and probably all they were expecting to get so I don’t think this is a huge concession).

The announcement also pointed out that the revised application also ‘included the results’ of additional investigations into traffic issues but I’m not quite sure what this means. Whatever your views of the merits of this or any other application, there are only two ways of getting from Salisbury Road to the A4: down the High Street or the rat/cow run across the Common and through Lower Denford, which ends up with a terrifying turn into the A4 east of the town. Any development is going to cause more traffic on both these routes. Whether this if offset by advantages is another matter.

The release went on to mention that through the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) ‘up to £1 million’ would be contributed from this development for local infrastructure and projects. Of course, all that the phrase ‘up to £1 million’ tells us for certain is that it won’t be more than £1 million. I know nothing of either of these two developers and am sure they operate to highest ethical standards. However, there are numerous examples of such funds or works being promised and then for 101 different reasons not paid or built in full, or at all. I’m sure someone at West Berkshire Council will be responsible for agreeing the final sum and ensuring it’s paid.

There are advantages (and disadvantages) to this housing scheme. I imagine that many people, including the local schools and local retailers, will welcome more people in the town, a decent percentage of which can be expected to use the facilities and shops the town offers. How many actually do so depends, in my view, at least as much on how good these facilities and shops are as on the precise location of the development.

Perhaps West Berkshire Council (and other district councils) will be adding a measure of the success of the various Community Infrastructure Levies on a ‘one-page infographic’ such as they are now using for displaying other information?

The phrases ‘Salisbury Road’ and ‘new development’ have a separate but similar meaning for residents of Marlboroughclick here for more.

Meanwhile, in an irony that the Newbury Weekly News was quick to point out in their coverage of this story, the next port of call for members of West Berkshire Council’s WAPC after their site visit to Hungerford was to another part of the AONB area, Chaddleworth, where the parish council and the local pub, the Ibex, had put up some signs which risked ‘spoiling the appearance of the open countryside.’ Every time I go to Chaddleworth. or Brightwalton (which seem to merge into each other and move about when I’m not looking, rather like Kintbury and Inkpen do), I get lost. So, a few more signs, please, would be great.

In a separate development, Hungerford Town Council voted this week to proceed with creating a Neighbourhood Plan. This can be an expensive and time-consuming process but is intended to give communities more of an influence over issues such as planning and development. You can read more about Neighbourhood Plans here. The job certainly needs doing correctly: Wantage’s was rejected earlier this year by Vale of the White Horse Council and needed to be re-done. The process also needs to be inclusive and Hungerford Town Council will in due course be publicising the ways by which people can contribute to this. If in the meantime you have any questions or would like to get involved, please contact Claire Barnes  on claire.barnes@hungerford-tc.gov.uk or on 01488 686 195.

A new website giving communities across West Berkshire the chance to become more involved in providing local services has been launched. West Berkshire Council has developed the new site to support town and parish councils wanting to do more to look after their community or take on playgrounds, woodlands and community buildings (Community Asset Transfers). The website provides all the information councils need to decide what additional services – such as grass cutting or path maintenance – they want to provide for their communities and the next steps to take. A new Community Solutions Fund has also been created by the Council and Greenham Common Trust with grants of up to £12,000 per project available for town and parish councils to help them get started. A total of £400,000 is available to local communities available until 2019/20. For more information, click here.

And still with local democracy, some areas are electing new councillors on 4 May. Swindon is one and you can read more about what some of the candidates are proposing here. Click here for a list of all the candidates.

Meanwhile, plans have been announced to rejuvenate Swindon’s town centre.

A final reminder about the Hungerford Town Council Annual Meeting last month which covered a wide range of local issues. A report on the discussions can be found here.

One matter arising worth highlighting: Hungerford Library will be needing trustees if, as expected, it converts itself into a CIC or CIO. Click here for details.

A very strange story from Hungerford which we have been covering intermittently but which, as reported by Newbury Weekly News, has just taken a new and faintly sinister twist. This is The Case of the Vanishing Post Box, which could easily be part of an Ealing comedy, a whodunit or even a cold-war thriller. First it seemed the Victorian box had been damaged in a vehicle accident: now it seems it wasn’t. Something approaching a ransom demand of £2,000 for repairs was quoted. Was there even an accident at all? It’s since been removed, but why? To be repaired? To be sold? Hungerford Mayor Martin Crane has been in touch with Royal Mail to try to reconcile these conflicting reports. A Royal Mail spokesperson replied this week, saying: ‘I have recently taken over the role and am finding out information second-hand and in some cases people have left the business so I can’t verify if the information is correct.’ Well, that’s cleared that up, then.

For a less underhand way in which street furniture can be re-purposed, click here to see Pewsey’s new Tourist Information Kiosk. Bizarrely, this is on a  Salisbury Road as well (see above). What’s going on? If anyone else out there lives on a Salisbury Road, keep your ears and eyes open – something is about to happen there.

And going back to postal matters for a moment: when Martin’s closes later this month, the Hungerford Post Office will be temporarily relocating to the Library. It will be open Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 9.30am to 2.00pm. A permanent home is still be sought – click here for more information.

Click here for our local AONB‘s April e-Bulletin (scroll down to the bottom for events)

In recent weeks we’ve been highlighting the threats of closure faced by a number of local pubs. Here’s another, this time from Childrey.

The proposed changes to the organisation and provision of local NHS services is another recurring local issue. Click here for results of a survey conducted in Wantage.

A reminder that there will be a some local road closures in and around Lambourn on Good Friday because of the Lambourn Open Day.

Congratulations to all those who took part in the litter pick in Hungerford last Sunday.

Football news: Hungerford Town FC from being the team that couldn’t stop winning earlier this season is now the team that can’t stop drawing, which might or might not be good enough for the play offs. You can read more here. Reading have picked up six points our of six so far in April. Unless they self-destruct a play-off place seems nailed on. Even Swindon have started winning again, developing a taste for Fergie-time winners.

If you run, work in or regularly use a café or similar, you might like to have a look at the Coffee Companions site, an interesting initiative which aims to enhance and promote the value of conversation, particularly with those who are socially isolated. You can also find information on which cafés and coffee shops in the area are holding ‘Companion Hours’, and when.

A number of good causes have received valuable support recently, including: Newbury Samaritans (thanks to local shoppers and residents); Friends of Laura Freemantle (thanks to those who attended the recent coffee morning); Comic Relief (thanks to staff and residents at Audley Inglewood); Many local good causes (thanks to Greenham Common Trust)

And the Song of the Week is with us once more. Let’s give The Fez by Steely Dan a spin. No particular reason: I just like it, that’s all. Hopefully you will too. First time I heard it, I thought the chorus was ‘Ain’t never going to do it without your pheasant’. The meanings of their songs are constantly debated  (unlike with so many songwriters, their lyrics – though often obscure – do mean something. Click here for what one forum says about this one.

And as usual, we finish with the Quiz Question of the Week. Last week I directed you to the Penny Post April Quiz for a chance to win a meal for two and a bottle of house wine at the Hungerford Arms. I do so again. As this hasn’t closed there are no answers to give out. So, that’s your lot for this week.

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Brian Quinn


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