Including NWN on the move in Newbury, a sense of arrival in Hungerford, victors and vanquished in Thatcham, footfall in Marlborough, a war on two fronts in Chaddleworth, flood relief in Shefford, a possible neighbourhood plan in Lambourn, fixperts in Swindon, police and roadwork updates, town and parish meeting reports, Sandleford again, Best in Business, seven years in the saddle, comparing Gainsborough, an obese typo, Alison, a long piece of sporting equipment, 250 bags of rubbish, a missing sign, a railway enigma, a famous number plate and self-raising daleks.
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).
• A reminder again that to sign up to receive the information provided by the Bedwyn Rail Passengers Group is a very good way of keeping abreast with (and having a way of making your complaints known about) the ever-changing railway arrangements and closures during the electrification process (and at other times, come to that). Please contact Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org.
• 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)
• Last year we were gratified and honoured to win the Digital and Social Media Award at the Newbury Weekly News’ Best in Business Awards. This will take place again this year and, as you’ll see from this link, you have until Friday 22 June to get your application in. There are nine categories for you to choose from. If for no other reason, I’d advise that entering is particularly useful because it makes you think about – and write down – what your business is really trying to do. I would lay even money that if all the directors or partners of a firm went into separate rooms for half an hour and answered these questions they’d come up with quite different answers.That was certainly the case with us. Having a statement on which you can all agree is profoundly useful and not something you can take for granted, particularly in these times when people increasingly work remotely from each other and so are more likely to diverge from a common goal. At the other end of the process is a slap-up dinner at Newbury Racecourse (which this year will take place on Friday 2 November). Photos of me at last year’s presentation ceremony showed a man who resembled, as I always do on the rare occasions when I wear evening dress, a cross between Count Dracula and a zebra crossing. You may look better in formal attire (or indeed any attire) than I do. Anyway, it’s an excellent initiative and one which celebrates the diversity of life in West Berkshire. This year’s event is sponsored by West Berkshire Brewery, with individual awards being sponsored by a range of companies including LAUDIS Business Advisors, Greenham Trust, Parkway Newbury and Jones Robinson. You’ve got to be in to win – and even if you don’t win it’s a worthwhile experience and a good evening out at the end of it.
• My eye was caught by a remarkable story on the BBC webisite about a football club, Gainsborough Trinity in Lincolnshire, which – before its relegation from the National league North last weekend – had never been promoted or relegated in its entire 125-year history. I checked out this tale of consistent mediocrity and it’s true: the only changes of status came from league re-organisations and one failure to be re-elected to a league back in the early 1900s. Then I spotted something else: “We’re a small market town with a population of less than 20,000,” the Chairman had said to explain this sudden reverse, “playing teams like York, which has a population of 200,000.” On the face of it, this seemed a reasonable complaint. I did another check. Gainsborough’s population is in fact 22,117, which very slightly undermined his point (and is only a few thousand less than that of Thatcham, whose team is playing in a Wembley cup final next month). Then I reflected that Hungerford – which currently plays at the same league level as Gainsborough, albeit in the Southern division – has a population of only about 6,000 and has to face teams from places of the size of Gloucester, Oxford, Braintree, Dartford and Bath. The club has also been promoted several times (although it’s in serious danger of being relegated this season). This seems a far superior achievement. Moral one: football chairmen sometimes don’t know how big their towns are. Moral two: statistics can make whatever point you want them to.
• While reflecting on this, I was then seduced by another BBC link. This asked a very direct question: Where are you on the UK fat scale? Where indeed? I wondered. I filled in my details and was shocked and surprised to see that I was ‘very obese‘. I know the official definitions of these things had changed recently but this seemed a bit harsh. I then went back and checked my figures and saw that, rather than 13 stone, I’d put myself as 33 stone. This obviously made quite a difference. I now know that I’m not obese but that I do need typing lessons.
• The Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) is urging people to respond to government consultations on planning and farming.
• Penny Post’s unofficial heritage railway correspondent has altered us to an enigma, news of what appears to be a special steam train passing westbound through Hungerford at lunchtime on Friday 27 April and returning east on Sunday evening but about which there is no information in ‘the usual sources’. If you have any knowledge of or theories about this, contact Tony Bartlett at email@example.com.
• The letters pages of the Newbury Weekly News this week includes a trenchant criticism of the handling of the Market Street redevelopment; more on the badger cull; a correction about the date of the first mobile phone call in the UK; criticism of the plan to close the road from Thatham to Bucklebury for five weeks; and a further warning about over-hasty re-tweeting.
• A number of good causes have received valuable support recently, including: Scope (thanks to residents of Great Shefford); Action Through Enterprise (thanks to pupils at John O’Gaunt School); numerous local good causes (thanks to all those who beaved the sweltering conditions in last weekend’s London Marathon); Sue Ryder (thanks to Hannah Richards of Thatcham); The British Heart Foundation (thanks to Sheila Page of Newbury).
Hungerford & district
• Please click here for the latest news from Hungerford Town Council.
• The butcher’s shop in the High Street will re-open on Tuesday 1 May as Christian Alba’s Traditional Butchers. Christian has won awards for his shop in Cirencester. He apologises to all customers for recent long closure since it changed hands but the has told me that the place required an entire re-fit. (At the time of writing, he’s still looking for some counter hands – please click here for details.)
• 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; and can see the information that Hungerford itself produces by clicking here.
• The Newbury Weekly News this week reports on the re-submission of the plans for a 30-home development near Hungerford Station. I can’t immediately see how many of these are affordable: at least 10 would need to be if West Berkshire’s current 30% target for the ratio on brownfield developments is to be met. The artist’s impression looks perfectly acceptable – mind you, almost anything would be more attractive than the current vista. However unappealing the prospect is when people experience, as the application puts it, ‘a sense of arrival’ at the station, it does at least offer car-parking spaces. Currently, a good number of these are available on the Oakes Brothers’ site exactly because it’s empty. On weekdays all the car parks are normally full. Where these cars will go if a development is built isn’t clear, the more so as Salisbury Road’s new homes will not be within easy walking distance of the station. Another issue, which has contributed to previous rejections, is that the site is designated for commercial use. Even though no one has wanted to use it for that purpose, that’s what it is. If this were going to be changed it would need to be flipped (by which another site of the same size elsewhere in the town can be found to replace it). Finally, I understand there are several different landowners involved and it may or may not be possible for them all to agree on everything (though I imagine the plans have already anticipated this). The matter will be considered by Hungerford’s Planning Committee in mid-May after which it will be back to West Berkshire with a decision expected a month or so later. For a closer look, click here to visit West Berkshire’s Planning pages and, in the searchbox at the foot, enter the code 18/00837/FULEXT. (You need to keep moving on this site as I’ve noticed that pages seem to expire if left inactive for more than a minute or so.)
• The next Full Meeting of Hungerford Town Council will take place on Tuesday 8 May at the Corn Exchange complex. The agenda will be published here when it’s available. One of the items will be the resignation and (if they stand again and are re-elected) the re-appointment of the Mayor, the Deputy Mayor and the Chairman of the Finance and General Purposes Committee.
• Another pub in the area is set to close, or at least change hands: Mary and Bernard Harris have decided to put the award-winning The Swan Inn in Inkpen up for sale in the hope of finding ‘a like-minded buyer.’ You can read more on page 19 of this week’s NWN.
• West Berkshire Council still hasn’t returned the ‘Toilet’ signs from outside the toilets behind the library although there’s now a temporary sign on the library (put up by the Town Council) returns box. Perhaps, following my diatribe about dirty signs a few weeks ago, they took it away to be cleaned and it’s got lost, or shrunk in the wash. People are still going into the council offices asking where the toilets are – go round the left (car-park) side of the building and you’ll come to them.
• You can click here to read a report of the recent East Garston Annual Parish Meeting.
• The Lambourn Annual Parish Meeting will take place on Wednesday 9 May at 7.30pm in the Memorial Hall. The agenda will be published here when available. One of the main items up for discussion will be the proposal for Lambourn to adopt a Neighbourhood Plan (NP), which will provide “a community-led framework for guiding the future development, regeneration and conservation of an area.” Anyone who has any interest in this important matter is urged to attend this meeting. Note that the public will not be called upon to vote at this meeting, which is mainly to provide information about NPs. A public meeting (see below for information on the ones that took place in Hungerford) is planned for later in the year.
• Penny Post has given considerable coverage to Hungerford’s eventual and carefully considered decision to adopt its own NP. The following articles might be of interest to anyone who wants to know more about what’s involved and, in particular, what NPs can do and what they cannot. This one was written in June 2017 following an initial public meeting to discuss the proposal. (This also contains a number of links to sources of further advice on the matter.) This one was written in January 2018 following a second public meeting – which was addressed by Pat Wingfield of Stratfield Mortimer which had recently had its own NP adopted – after which Hungerford took the decision to proceed. (This also includes a video of the entire event.)
• Congratulations to all those who organised (Martin Smith and Chandra Veer in particular) and attended the recent quiz at The Swan in aid of the Great Shefford Flood Alleviation Association which raised £570 For more information on the GSFAA, please click here.
• There’s another event in support of the GSFAA on the calendar: a golf day on Friday 17 August. Click here (or see this month’s Great Shefford Parish News) for more information.
• 4 Legs Community Radio Station will on Friday have its third 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.
• Chaddleworth Parish Council is currently fighting a war on two fronts. One arises from a request, which has been escalated to prime-ministerial level, for a response to questions about the proposed knacker’s yard in neighbouring Great Shefford and the role and function of HM Planning Inspectorate in this. The other dispute is a more local, though no less protracted, one and is with West Berkshire Council over whether five tourist road signs have been approved or not approved and whether they can be left, or need to be moved, or must be taken down. The story here seems to involve contradictory planning decisions and lost documents. I’m far from clear exactly what the problem is. As I’ve mentioned before, every time I go to Chaddleworth (or Brightwalton) I get hopelessly lost, so increasing my carbon footprint driving around in circles. More signs rather than fewer seems to be the answer. The ones that have been put up (at some expense) are in the correct style: more than can be said about the many signs all over the place round here that seem to have been subjected to no kind of permission and which are often ugly and occasionally illegible and thus both useless and dangerous.
Newbury & district
• The Town Council has received 108 responses to its public consultation on its draft Town Plan for Newbury. The responses will be considered at the next meeting of the Town Plan Steering Group, for possible inclusion in the final version of the Plan, due to be submitted for approval by the Full Town Council in June.
• The Town Council has unveiled commemorative signage on the community rose beds to acknowledge the generous contribution made by the sponsors, without whom they would not have been able to complete this project.
• New proposals have been announced for the temporary usage of the Faraday Road football pitch as a recreational space until its finally needed for the London Road development, whenever that proves to be.
• According to the NWN, Newbury Racecourse is to remove the rising bollards that have risen up in the road like daleks to damage (and at times exterminate) cars trying to pass over them.
• Newbury Town Council has given its backing to the Newbury Weekly News’ plans to sell its existing building for conversion to flats (now that it no longer prints its own papers) and re-locate to a nearby site.
• The long-running dispute about the future of the White Hart in Hamstead Marshall went before West Berkshire Council this week. You can read more visiting the campaign group’s website or by looking at page 4 of this week’s NWN.
Thatcham & district
• Please click here for the latest news from Thatcham Town Council.
• 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.
• Last Thursday was election day in Thatcham, with the Lib Dems winning both the district council and the town council seats that were up for grabs. You can read a full report, including the various positives that the defeated candidates are seeking to find in the results, on pp21-22 of this week’s Newbury Weekly News.
• Click here to read Thatcham Town Council‘s 2017-18 Annual Report.
• Followers of events at Theale School can read West Berkshire Council’s letter to the parish council here.
Marlborough & district
• Please click here for the latest news from Marlborough Town Council.
• Marlborough’s Annual Town Meeting took place on 23 April and you can click here to read Marlborough News’ report on what was discussed.
• Local residents and Marlborough Town Council hope to be able to do a deal with Wiltshire Council to use of the currently unused land in Kelham Gardens for car parking.
• News here from Marlborough High Street – some shops are closing, others say they definitely aren’t. Not surprisingly, traffic congestion, roadworks and parking issues find their way into this story as well.
• Some good news for bees (in Marlborough at least).
• More names have been added to the line-up for this year’s Marlborough Litfest.
• 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.
• Please click here for the latest news from Grove Parish Council.
• House fires can start in very unusual ways – this is one of them…
The Wantage Carnival will take place on Sunday 10 June and last week local fundraising champion Ray Collins officially launched the build-up to the event.
• Wantage’s Annual Town Meeting took place on 23 April. The minutes will appear here in due course.
• Grove’s Annual Parish Meeting took place on 18 April. You can click here to see the minutes.
• Vale of the White Horse Council Leader Matthew Barber is stepping down after seven years in the hot seat (or saddle, I suppose it should be). You can read his valedictory statement here.
• 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.
• The Repair Café is a truly wonderful thing: a mobile team of of fixperts (if that’s not a word it is now) who visit various locations to repair items that would otherwise be left to rot in the landfill. Many things these days are not designed to be repaired (although they often can be by people who know what they’re doing); fewer and fewer shops offer this kind of service; and, the cynic in me argues, the manufacturers themselves have no interest in making things either durable or repairable. Our insatiable taste for novelty doubtless has something to do with this as well. Anyway, they’ll be working their mechanical magic at the Savernake Street Social Hall in Swindon between 2pm and 5pm on the following Sundays: 6 May, 22 July, 2 September and 4 November. Click here for more information.
• Swindon Mayor Maureen Penny unveiled a plaque at Swindon Central Library earlier this week to commemorate the 2018 Pride of Swindon award winners.
• Many councils are set to elect new members on Thursday 3 May (in the Penny Post area only Swindon and Basingstoke and Deane will be doing so). Remember that Swindon is taking part in a voter identification pilot scheme at these elections so you’ll need to bring along some ID if you want to be able to vote. Read more here. You can also learn more about what the various candidates are promising by clicking here.
• Plans have been announced to build around 300 new homes near the Great Western Hospital. As with the smaller development in Hungerord (see above) one obstacle is that the land is currently designated for commercial use, which will either need to be changed or flipped.
• The developer’s desire to build these homes will have intensified in the light of a recent survey conduced by an online property company which claims that Swindon is the UK’s ‘property hotspot‘, by which it means that demand exceeds supply more than it does anywhere else. Good news if you’ve got a property in Swindon and want to move out; less good if you want to go the other way.
• Congratulations to all those who cleared up 250 bags of litter in a recent clean-up day in the Old Town.
The song and the quiz
• The Song of the Week has swung back into our sights. High time for a bit of the great Elvis – no, not the fat one who’s apparently still alive and regularly sighted in twenty places a day but Mr Costello. Let’s have Alison – from his stunning debut album, My Aim is True – one of the most gorgeous songs ever written.
• Which leads us tumbling into the Quiz Question of the Week. This week’s comes from the recent very successful quiz night at The Swan in Great Shefford which raised £570 for the Great Shefford Flood Alleviation Association. Many thanks to local quizmaster-in-chief Marin Smith for setting and supplying the question. It is as follows: What item of sporting equipment in 1.5 inches wide and 110 feel long? Last week’s was: What is or was LMW 281F? This is the number plate on the VW Beetle on the cover of The Beatle’s Abbey Road album, which would have a good claim to be the most famous album cover of all time. The number plate itself gave added fuel to the then-popular ‘Paul is dead’ rumour (proof that widely-circulated paranoid drivel existed before Facebook and Twitter), the claim being that the last part of the number referred to the fact that he would have been 28 if he’d lived (in fact, he was 27). What the LMW meant I don’t think the theory was able explain. I don’t know who owns the number plate now but I bet it would be worth a few bob.
If you would like to add your thoughts to anything in this post, please use the ‘Comments’ box at the foot of the page. Once moderated, your comment will be visible to other users.