Including the return of Sandleford, neighbourhood plans, sand and gravel, RAF Welford, parish meetings, railway closures, police and roadwork updates, Marlborough’s railway station (or not), West Berkshire’s Barcelona, Wiltshire’s bees, Bucklebury’s new bus, Grove’s new houses, Swindon’s elections, Shefford’s flood quiz, primary school places, pot-holing badgers, Billy goes to the bank, missing toilet signs and LMW 281 F.
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.
Police, transport and council contacts
• Roadworks updates. Click on the links for news regarding West Berkshire, the Wantage area, Wiltshire, Hampshire and Swindon. Please click here to visit Traffic England’s site for information on motorways and major strategic roads (which include at A34 and the A419). The ‘Map Layers’ toggle can be used to display different levels of information.
• You can also visit Roadworks.org for similar information: this also provides the ability to toggle layers and select dates (it defaults to today’s date but you can adjust this) and other preferences. (It seems that West Berkshire at least – see link above – gets its feed from this source).
• There will be a number of closures on the main railway line between Pewsey and Theale in 2018 as a result of the electrification project (including between Monday 23 and Thursday 26 April).
• On this subject, I’ve just received an email from Steve Smith of the Bedwyn Rail Passengers Group . I’ll reproduce this pretty much in full. Following yesterday’s announcement (about the line closures), and our response, we have got a very positive response from GWR. There will now be an additional bus service from Bedwyn at 0625, calling at Hungerford at 0640 and then running straight through to Reading arriving at 0735. That will shave an hour off the journey time to Paddington. GWR has asked us to monitor usage of the buses. Please can you send us feedback. This is really important – the buses are contracted so it’s not possible for GWR staff to monitor how much they are used. GWR has also asked what the optimum bus timings will be. Jane Jones (GWR) stated: “It would help when reviewing for next time if I can give an indication of where it is most needed, with some rough numbers if you have them. I can’t promise anything, and I will understand if this is too big an ask, but if it is something you can do, I will pass on the information.” Please contact Steve at email@example.com with any comments you may have which he can in turn pass on to GWR. If you use the stations between Bedwyn and Newbury I also recommend that you ask to be included on the BTPG mailing list as the emails provide a good deal of useful information.
• Neighbourhood policing updates. For the Thames Valley Police’s ‘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.
• Please click here for more about the tri-service station in Hungerford and policing in the area generally.
• A number of community minibus and car schemes provide transport services for – but not exclusively for – older and disabled people. You can click here to find more about the range of services (and volunteering opportunities) in West Berkshire. Click here for services in Wiltshire and Swindon.
• District, town or parish council contacts. 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.
Across the area (and further afield)
• I was in RAF Welford on Wednesday evening: not in my capacity as fearless investigative journalist with a fake ID or hooded peace campaigner daubing slogans on the walls of the silos but as a result of a visit organised by the Great Shefford Young Farmers. Contrary to how my imagination had built it up over the years into a combination of Greenham in the ’80s and something out of Edge of Darkness, it was a mild-looking place. There were no runways and thus no planes, kind of surprising for an RAF base. There was a baseball field (despite the prefix it’s essentially an American base) and some low-level buildings. Elsewhere, out of sight, is its real purpose – the second largest stockpile of munitions in Western Europe which we weren’t allowed anywhere near. Most of our time was spent in the on-site museum run by the Friends, Family and Veterans of Welford and the Ridgeway Military and Aviation Research Group (FFVW & RMARG) which includes a huge number of items, documents and photos relating to the history of the base. We also heard a talk on the history of the base given by Alan Bovingdon-Cox, the Chairman of FFVW. The museum’s exhibits include the front section of a Dakota troop carrier, the fuselage of a glider of the kind used during D-Day and a 1940s flight simulator. One of the history-society members who was there told me he was seven at the time of D-Day and living in Reading. He described how the sky had turned black as there were so many planes flying over. Not for the first time I reflected on how lucky I was to have been born when I was and not 40 years earlier.
• Page 16 of the Newbury Weekly News reports on the latest stage of the decision-making regarding the proposed sites for gravel and sand extraction in the area as part of the Council’s Minerals and Waste Location Plan. The first consultation stage has closed – you can see the reports on the various sites by clicking here – with the next round planned to take place in about a year’s time.
• Only 2% of children failed to get accepted into one of their first, second or third choice of primary schools from next September: 93% (1,670 pupils) were granted their fist choice. Click here for more. If you are thinking of appealing the decision (in West Berkshire or any other authority) you might want to have a glance at this article on the BBC website.
• Those who, as I do, find unlikely combinations of interest may like to know that Billy Bragg, the left-wing songwriter and activist, will today be addressing the grandees of the Bank of England on the subject of ‘The Struggle for Accountability in the Digital Age’. It’s about time we had one of his songs as the Song of the Week (see below). Maybe next time.
• You might have noticed it’s quite warm at present but, according to this report, the fine weather isn’t expected to last. The best way of telling what’s about to happen is to keep your eye on the headlines in the Daily Express (you don’t need to buy it, of course). As soon as it announces ‘Six-week Saharan Scorcher to Sweep Britain’, start looking for your coat and wellies.
• It’s a tough time to be a badger. As well being under a threat of death by culling for causing bovine TB, one Wiltshire resident has now blamed them for causing pot holes. What’s going to be next on the charge sheet?
• A slightly harrowing interview here with a man convicted of causing death by dangerous driving in 2015, released as part of Hampshire and Thames Valley Police’s campaign against speeding.
• The letters pages of the Newbury Weekly News this week includes further exchanges about the badger cull; further comments about the the democratic issues surrounding multi-member wards; a suggestion that there should be a Thatcham in Bloom; the introduction by proxy of a Nobel prize-winning economist into the long-running debate as to which party was responsible for the post-crash economic problems; and a picture of a dog that likes hard-boiled eggs.
• A number of good causes have received valuable support recently, including: Newbury Samaritans (thanks to local shoppers); The National Anti-Vivisection Society (ditto); The British Heart Foundation (thanks to Joanne Smith); all those who have or will be raising money for local causes by taking part in this weekend’s London Marathon; Julia’s House and Home Start Kennet (thanks to forty soldiers from the Fourth Military Intelligence Battalion); great Westerns Baby Unit (thanks to Marlborough Golf Club); Digital Writes and Breaking Free (thanks to The Midcounties Co-operative’s Community Fund); Swindon Helping Hands (thanks to Persimmon Homes).
Hungerford & district
• Please click here for the latest news from Hungerford Town Council.
• The Neighbourhood Area for the parish of Hungerford has been agreed and designated for the forthcoming Neighbourhood Plan – you can read the official statement and see the documents on West Berkshire’s site by clicking here.
• On which subject, if you visit the Hungerford Town Council website you’ll see a new tab called ‘Neighbourhood Plan’. Click on their for up-to-date news about ‘Hungerford 2036‘. (The date doesn’t refer to the length of time the plan is expected to take to create but to the the period in which it’s expected to remain in force).
For reasons which are currently obscure, West Berkshire Council has removed the ‘Toilet’ signs from outside the toilets behind the library. Not major news in itself, except that the council offices had half a dozen people come in the following morning to ask where the toilets were. Proof if nothing else that they’re well used (at least when people can find them).
• Very good news has recently been reported with regard to the Great Shefford Flood Alleviation Association with the news that a donation of £10,000 has been received. This brings the GSFAA’s funds to about £20,000, about a quarter of the way towards the target it needs to achieve. The message from the donor (who wishes to remain anonymous) is that she spent her childhood and teenage years in the village and wants to see the scheme become a reality as soon as possible. This will enable others to enjoy life in the village as she has done, and does during her visits there. She hopes this will encourage others to make donations. For more information on the GSFAA, please click here.
• A reminder about the annual meeting of East Garston Parish Council which will take place on Tuesday 24 April and will include a talk from Henry Oliver, Director of the North Wessex Downs AONB.
• East Garston currently has two vacancies for parish councillors – please click here for more information.
• 4 Legs Community Radio Station will on Friday have its second day of broadcasting – click here for more. Among other attractions you’ll get to hear Penny and me discussing some of the items in this article and other local matters between 11am and noon.
• What a great movie Paddington 2 is – it was shown by the Valley Film Society at the East Garston Village Hall last Sunday with one of the actors, local resident Nick Lumley, giving a brief introduction.
• A reminder about the quiz to raise funds for Great Shefford Flood Alleviation Association at The Swan on Friday 20 April.
Newbury & district
• It’s either a sprawling, badly-situated and ill-considered blot on the local landscape or a necessary, equitable and timely solution to the area’s housing crisis. Whatever your view, Sandleford is back in the news with two slightly slimmed-down applications being re-submitted by the two developers involved. Despite a very matey-sounding rapprochement between them, doubts still exist as to whether they can indeed work together. It’s also not clear whether these new applications will address the council’s various concerns which resulted in the last application being refused. To see these application, click here to visit the Planning Application section of West Berkshire’s website: at the bottom of the screen you’re invited to ‘Enter a keyword, reference number, postcode or single line of an address.’ The enter 18/00828/OUTMAJ for the Donnington New Homes application or 18/00764/OUTMAJ for the Bloor Homes one and hit ‘search’.
• There are now four fewer reasons to drop rubbish on Newbury’s streets as four new litter bins have been installed, about 40% of the costs having been covered by McDonalds.
• Newbury Town Council has launched its Newbury in Bloom 2018 campaign which aims to create an attractive and sustainable environment making Newbury a greener, cleaner and more pleasant place to live together with promoting horticultural excellence, improving the appearance of our town and environment. For more information, visit the Newbury Town Council website. Applications close on Saturday 30 June.
Thatcham & district
• Please click here for the latest news from Thatcham Town Council.
• There will be some level-crossing closures in the area later this month – click here for details.
• It’s also recently been announced that Harts Hill Road, the main route from Thatcham to Bucklebury, will be closed for up to five months from Monday 30 April to allow for a replacement of a water main.
• Click here to read Thatcham Town Council‘s 2017-18 Annual Report.
• Thanks to a grant for the Community Solutions fund, a new minibus has been procured to provide transport for schoolchildren between Bucklebury and Thatcham. Click here for more.
• Congratulations once again to the Barcelona of West Berkshire, Thatcham Town FC, who this week secured promotion to the Southern league. As mentioned here last week, they also have a trip to Wembley to look forward to on 20 May in the final of the FA Vase. I’ve just learned that Lawrie Sanchez, who scored the winning goal for Wimbledon in the 1988 FA Cup Final, used to play for Thatcham. Another former player, Charlie Austin, may be able to add his name to this short list if Southampton can win their FA Cup semi final this weekend against some team from southwest London whose exact name has slipped my mind.
• It’s election day today for the vacant seats on the Thatcham Town Council and West Berkshire Council. You can see these by clicking on the links (note you’ll have to click on the very fuzzy images to be able to read them). Click here to listen to Kennet Radio’s Election Special (from 8 April) if you need help deciding who to vote for or what the main issues are.
Marlborough & district
• Please click here for the latest news from Marlborough Town Council.
• This week’s Newbury Weekly News reports on what might be termed a lively Parish Council meeting in Baydon earlier this month at which the issue of the proposed traffic-calming measures was once again raised. The minutes of the meeting – always a good place to go for any complete and official report – can be seen here. These include the details of the proceedings after the meeting was re-commenced.
• We mentioned about bees last week – here’s a report from Marlborough News on the recently-launched Bee Roadzz campaign, a collaborative project between Transition Marlborough and the Marlborough Downs Space for Nature.
• And, from the same source, an article here about a rather sinister-looking piece of land in Marlborough which the town council is trying to persuade Wiltshire Council to transfer so it can be used as a car park.
Last week we referred to the seemingly unpromising discussions that had taken place about the possible re-introduction of a rail service to Marlborough. This piece from the Gazette and Herald says that campaigners feel that ‘ridiculous’ barriers are being put in the way of the proposal by Wiltshire Council, while others (including Wiltshire’s transport spokesman and the Bedwyn Train Passengers Group) feel that the project is not likely to happen. It does seem odd to me that there’s not a connecting bus service between Marlbrough and Bedwyn, timetabled to match the departure and arrival times of the trains. This is probably the main reason people want to travel between the two places.
• Baydon Parish Council currently has vacancies for three councillors. If you’re interested please contact the Parish Clerk Oliver Armstrong at firstname.lastname@example.org or on 07729 225 344.
• Click here for information on what’s on in and around Ramsbury.
Wantage & district
• Please click here for the latest news from Wantage Town Council.
• Residents of Grove have been invited to a presentation on the village’s 2,500-home airfield development at the annual parish meeting at 7.30pm at the Old Mill Hall on Friday 20 April.
• Wantage’s Annual Town Meeting will take place at The Beacon on Monday 23 April.
• It’s been the litter-picking season in several towns, including Wantage. The Mayor, Steve Trinder, has urged residents to make sure that keeping the town tody is not just a once-a-year affair.
• Planning approval has been submitted for the proposed new leisure centre in Grove.
• Click here for a look at the plans for the Kingsgrove estate in Wantage.
Swindon & district
• Click here for the latest news and information from Swindon Borough Council.
• The second phase of a scheme to alleviate congestion at the busy Mannington Roundabout has started and will continue during off-peak hours until about the end of June.
• With many councils set to elect new members on Thursday 3 May In the Penny Post area only Swindon and Basingstoke and Deane will be doing so), the Swindon Advertiser takes a look at the candidates standing in Haydon Wick.
• The town of Royal Wooton Bassett is the latest in the area to have its neighbourhood plan reach the final hurdle of a public referendum.
The song and the quiz
• The Song of the Week is with us again. What better at any time, and particularly given the weather, than Here Comes the Sun by The Beatles.
• Which leads us headlong to the Quiz Question of the Week. This week’s question is as follows: what is or was LMW 281F? (There is a very direct connection between this and something mentioned elsewhere in this post.) Last week’s question came from the recent quiz held at The Swan in Thatcham in aid of the Thatcham Memorial Foundation and was as follows: Viagra is now available over the counter but only from one chain of shops – which one? Boots is the store you need to visit.
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