Local News Aug 17-24

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Including A-level results, Hungerford Post Office back online, first aid in action, filling the Greenham Gap, Neighbourhood Watch, roadworks, council contacts, tidying the Kennet, Wiltshire Council’s surprising planning priorities, best-kept villages, Pavlov’s Dog in a glass, a logo on a stick, a violin with a past, a steam engine in a museum, a song with a soul and a couple of ten-year delays

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.

Roadworks updates. Click on the links for news regarding West Berkshire, the Wantage area, Wiltshire, Hampshire and Swindon.

• The recent announcement that £3m of extra funding has been secured to repair the rural roads in West Berkshire means that there are likely to be some delays over the next six to eight months, particularly on the B4000 and the A338 between Newtown and J14.

• Click here for information on forthcoming closures on closures, partial closures and delays on the A34; and here for the same on the M4.

• Resurfacing work is likely to start soon on the A419 near Swindon which will inevitably lead to some delays.

• A reminder that it’s Reading Festival next week so the roads in and around the town are likely to be even busier than usual.

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.

• 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.

• An extraordinary story in the Newbury Weekly News and the Newbury and Thatcham Observer about a certain Swedish flat-packed furniture store’s plans to build a 187-foot tower near its store in Calcot which, from the artist’s impression, looks like a huge knitting needle with the company’s logo on the top. This is advertising, right? No apparently it isn’t. The tower would be ‘a directional aid’ to help with ‘customer orientation,’ and to enable ‘earlier decision-making’: all of which sounds very much like advertising to me. Then there is an even more baffling observation, that ‘an awareness of the store’s location on the journey to the store will further improve the customer experience’ once at the store. I hope West Berkshire Council’s planning department will immediately see this for the utter drivel that it is. In fact, it’s rare to see any sentence containing the phrase ‘customer experience’ which makes much sense. Is it possible to object to an application on the grounds of abuse of language in the paperwork? Why can they not say ‘We want to put a huge logo on a stick so we can get more customers’?

• A reminder that from 4 September, new charges will apply at the Padworth and Newtown Road recycling centres. Click here for details.

• Please click here for the latest news from Hungerford Town Council.

• 19 August sees the 30th anniversary of the Hungerford Tragedy. There will be a memorial service at 10am on Sunday 20 August at St Lawrence’s Church.

• Due to an IT issue, the outreach Post Office service in Hungerford was closed recently but it seems that, thanks to Penny Post reader Andrew Lo who helped identify the problem, normal service has again been resumed. Click here for more on this service and on the longer-term solution offered by the arrival of WHS.

• What do Pavlov’s Dog, a Cornish Trawler and a Long Blonde have in common? OK, I’ll tell you. They’re just three of the beers on offer at the Hungerford Club Real Ale Festival which takes place over the bank-holiday weekend, 26-28 August. Click here for more information.

• Also on the bank holiday weekend is the Summer Party at The Pheasant in Shefford Woodlandsclick here for more.

• Please click here for the latest news from Newbury Town Council: and here to see NTC’s archive of monthly newsletters.

• An interesting and moving story in this week’s Newbury Weekly News about how local violin-maker Philip Brown came across a violin with a poignant history.

• Click here if you need convincing how worthwhile first-aid courses and adverts are, particularly if you have young children.

• The next Newbury and Thatcham Neighbourhood Watch meeting will be at 7.30pm on Monday 21 August at the West Berkshire Council offices in Market Street, Newbury.

• A reminder that Stockfest runs until Friday 25 August with the usual wide range of events. Click here for more information.

• It’s A-level results day. Click here for the latest on the results in West Berkshire, here for those in Wiltshire and Swindon, here for Oxfordshire and here for Hampshire. GCSEs – for which we are waiting – are next week.

• As mentioned here last week, despite various objections, West Berkshire Council on 9 August approved plans for 157 homes in the so-called ‘Greenham Gap.’ You can read more on page 9 of this week’s Newbury Weekly News, including the despondent reaction of a Greenham parish councillor who is aware of the pressure from central government to build new homes but who fears that ‘every bit of land’ in the area will eventually be developed.

• Please click here for the latest news from Marlborough Town Council.

• A reminder for bus users in and around Marlborough that several services have been cut or curtailed recently.  Please Click here for the new timetables from the Town Council’s website. The X20 from Marlborough to Newbury via Hungerford will now run on Fridays rather than Tuesdays. Click here for the  new timetable.

• The River Kennet is a bit cleaner and tidier thanks to the efforts of these teenagers working with Action for the River Kennet.

• Not a week goes by without some dispute, comment or problem with a planning application for a large number of homes. Local councils, developers and residents seem permanently locked in antagonistic positions about these. In most cases, all have genuine concerns. In the case of Hungerford’s judicial review, for instance, the issue is a perfectly valid one about West Berkshire Council’s own policies and processes, particularly with regard to the AONB and the fact that the site in question was expanded in size after many of the technical reports were produced; although many have chosen to see the town council’s objections as unprincipled and self-interested. There’s a good article here from Marlborough New Online which exposes another aspect of these tensions. It refers to Wiltshire Council’s strategic housing target and how the recent 175-home development at Salisbury Road – not to be confused with Hungerford’s above-mentioned proposed development of the same name – has to some extent removed the pressure off Marlborough to provide further houses. But – and it’s a big but – the document goes on to say to say that the council doesn’t regard the development of the other necessary infrastructure and services such as schools and healthcare, all required as a results of the developments so-far approved, as being particularly urgent. I imagine that the problem here is that the local council has an obligation to build a certain number of homes by 2026 but not the same obligation to build schools and surgeries to match. If so, this is unlikely to be a issue only in Wiltshire – residents of other areas take note.

• On a related matter, news here of a major development, from slightly outside the PP area, which has been thrown into doubt by an unexpected discovery.

• If you fancy a walk in and around Ramsbury, click here for a few ideas. When the walk is done, you could do a lot worse that dropping into The Bell for some refreshment.

• Congratulations to Great Bedwyn, Mildenhall and Aldbourne which won various awards in the recent Wiltshire’s Best-kept Villages Awards.

• A new steam locomotive is soon to arrive at the STEAM Museum in Swindon.

• Have a look at The Ocelot by clicking here for information about theatre, music and art in the area.

• Please click here for the latest news from Thatcham Town Council.

• Newbury MP Richard Benyon got his wellies on last week to visit the flood alleviation project at Tull Way. The serious floods in Thatcham were 10 years ago: the article stresses that much has been done since then to alleviate the problem, Tull Way being merely perhaps the most visible of these measures.

• Going off-topic for a moment (Oh no, not again – Ed.) but still on the subject of ten-year waits, I had a phone conversation with my bank last week after they’d written to say they were changing all the account numbers. Why? I asked. It was, I was told, because, as a result of the banking crisis, they’d been ordered to split the bank in two and this was one of the results. “But the banking crisis was nearly ten years ago!” I said. “You’ve taken your time.” There was a short silence. “Gosh,” he said reflectively, “was it really ten years?” It was if we were recalling, and trying to date, some pleasant social event. It’s been suggested that banks are in some ways disconnected from reality. This exchange proved to me that they suffer from temporal confusions as well. On the one hand, vast sums of money are spent to make financial transactions fractionally faster to give them the edge over their rivals; on the other, they take the best part of a decade to respond to a crisis that nearly reduced the global economy to its knees. What’s needed, perhaps, is  some of those Victorian engineers who built the railways to take the system over. They’d have it sorted in a few weeks. Or William the Conqueror, who organised the vast survey or England that became the Domesday Book, in a mere 13 months – a staggering achievement. Where is a time machine when you need one? (If anyone reading this works in the banking sector and feels this is an unfair diagnosis, please let me know and I’ll be happy to publish your take on it all.)

• Also from West Berkshire Council, news here about the local Children and Family Services.

• Please click here for the latest news from Wantage Town Council.

• A number of good causes have received valuable support recently, including: Epilepsy Action and Epilepsy Research (thanks to Francesca Turauskis’ walk along the Camino de Santiago); The Rosemary Appeal (thanks to Jones Robinson); Parkinsons UK (thanks to Melody Barker); Wiltshire Air Ambulance (thanks to the Great Wall of China walk); Bloodwise (thanks to the West Berkshire Classic Vehicle Club – for photos see this week’s Newbury Weekly News).

• And so it’s time once again to flick the play button for the Song of the Week. I want most sincerely to point you towards a wonderful, spellbinding performance of My Tears Dry on Their Own by Amy Winehouse, recorded for Later with Jools Holland in 2006. Utterly brilliant. Hadn’t heard it for ages then up in popped on BBC Radio 6 Music this morning. And to think they were thinking of closing that radio station down a few years ago…

• And so we conclude with the Quiz Question of the Week. You can have a look at our regular monthly quiz with the prize as a meal for two at the newly-renovated Three Swans in Hungerford. The railway quiz is now over and done and won – click on the link to see the answers.  Last week I asked which country in the world drinks the most tea per capita. The answer , as as earlier paragraph in the post revealed, is Turkey. This week’s – in addition to all those in the above-mentioned August Quiz – is If all the UK’s paved roads were straightened out and joined end to end, how many times around the equator would they go? (Don’t try this at home, kids.)

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Brian Quinn

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