Local News Aug 18-25

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Including the waste wars (again), the ideal council size (if there is one), summer activities, September classes and courses, dodgy Olympic predictions, exam results, the A34 under the spotlight, good causes celebrated, police and roadwork updates, Thatcham market, Wantage Community Plan, well-kept villages, Hungerford march up the table, something 191 miles long, some 80s cheekbones and the volume of an old brewer’s barrel.

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Click on the following links for details of planned roadworks in West Berkshire, the Wantage area, Wiltshire, Hampshire and Swindon. I’ve noticed recently that some road-side signs referring to rad closures are a good deal less specific than they might be. The A338 is closed just south of Wantage for sewer repairs but judging by the signs near the motorway you might believe that the whole road was shut north of Shefford Woodlands.

Click on the following links for neighbourhood police updates in West Berkshire (August’s update here for Hungerford and Lambourn; here for Newbury; here for Newbury Outer; here for Thatcham and area; here for Bucklebury & Downlands) & North Hampshire  and police advice for South Oxfordshire & Wiltshire.

The letters pages of this week’s Newbury Weekly News have many comments from understandably disgruntled local residents about the inter-council waste disputes (as a result of which you can only now take rubbish to a recycling centre if this is in the same county you live in). One correspondent suggested, correctly in my view, that this is something that should be organised centrally: because of their need to represent only their area, local councils are clearly not able to co-operate to the extent required. This poses a further question as to whether we have too many unitary authorities and whether things could bedone more efficiently with a smaller number of larger ones.

That said, this report from The Herald suggests that attempts to address this very issue in Oxfordshire have so far not met with success.

I don’t follow the Olympics that closely but it’s clear that the GB team (I refuse to reverse the words) is doing very well. I saw an article on the BBC website referring to a prediction made by a company called Gracenote Sports as to how many medals Britain would win. (Gracenote recently updated its forecast on day 11 to 68 – an impressive haul if realised). This in turn reminded me of the recent Newbury Talks (a review of which, from Buzz Magazine, you can read here) at which superforecaster Michael Story explained how recent research has shown that forecasting is an art (or science) unto itself and that accuracy is unrelated to specialist knowledge of the subject. More alarmingly, the level of respect accorded to a forecaster owes less to the accuracy of their predictions than to their media profile and the extent to which they support the opinions of whichever organisation has requested their services. We are, in short, deluged with predictions, some of which are used to make quite important decisions, a good number of which are wrong. So, my challenge to Penny Post readers is this: how many medals do you think Britain will win? I’m going to say 956, just to make me seem like an original and dynamic forecaster: then, once I’ve got your attention, I’ll revise it to something a bit more sensible like 64. I think that’s how it works. Now – whom do I invoice for this prediction?

And continuing the Olympic theme, congratulations to the various villages, including Great Bedwyn, which won gold, silver or bronze in the recent Wiltshire best-kept Village Competition.

The proposed Wantage Community Plan has been rejected by the Government Planning Inspectorate as ‘not meeting the basic conditions’ demanded by the 2011 Localism Act but it’s hoped that a revised plan will be submitted in the near future.

And still in Wantage, advance notice of the Wantage Standing up to Cancer event on Sunday 25 September, organised – as so many such events in and around Wantage are – by the Ray Collins Charitable Trust. For more information and for entry forms for the wide range of events, visit Peter B Ledbury Ltd or KA Fitness, or email info@raycollinstrust.org

Whenever I’m driving, the traffic news always seems to mention some problem on the A34. A recent shockingly tragic fatal accident on that road has redoubled calls for some additional safety measures. ‘A’ roads are particularly dangerous because traffic tends to reach motorway speeds without any of the motorway safety features like crumpling barriers, no oncoming traffic and no unexpected side roads. This accident has also prompted the Newbury Weekly News to publish a special Spotlight on the A34 feature this week (pp4-8 in the Hungerford edition; pagination may vary in others). An action group has also been set up by local residents to draw attention to some notorious blackspots on this busy arterial road and you can read about their first meeting here.

It’s A-level results day (GCSEs following next week). A bit pointless to wish all the candidates ‘good luck’ at this late stage but you know what I mean. On my last school report before my A-levels, my English master laconically wrote ‘he will get what he deserves and deserve what he gets.’ Nearly 40 years on, I’m still trying to work out if this was clever or not.

Last week I listed Britain’s largest landowners – in a spirit of information-sharing, you understand, rather than in an attempt to ferment class war. It seems that the story about being able to walk from Cambridge to London without leaving land owned by Trinity College is rubbish, but it certainly owns a lot, including Felixstowe Docks and a certain amount of property in Berkshire.

News here on further discussions about the future of Thatcham Priory which has been empty for seven years.

Click here to read the latest edition of East Garston News, which includes an explanation as to why our former shopkeeper has recently been spotted crouching by the side of the road holding a strange piece of equipment.

A reminder about last week’s piece in Newbury Weekly News concerning Hunter Page’s proposed plans for 20 houses in East Garston (as mentioned in this column three weeks ago), a formal proposal for which is to be expected soon. In the meantime you can view and comment on the current proposals by clicking here.

And news of a development that’s been completed, the new Sovereign Housing properties in Thatcham will be named Munro House after the local suffragette Anna Munro (1881-1962). The name was chosen after inviting residents to make suggestions, with a more sensible result than the recent Boaty McBoatface fiasco.

If you’re involved in a community project in need of funding, the Active Communities funding programme may be able to help. Visit their website here for more information.

Phoenix Enterprises in Swindon helps people with mental illness or learning difficulties gain experience and confidence and helps them find employment. The organisation is urgently looking for new trustees and local business support. For more information, click here.

If you need some ideas as to how to entertain your family over the rest of the summer holidays (still three weeks left), have a look at the What’s On section of the Penny Post website and, in particular, at this special section, What to do in the Summer Holidays.

And, looking slightly further ahead, the start of the academic year in September can also provide the opportunity to start that course or class you’ve always promised yourself. Penny Post has published a Guide to Local Courses which you can see by clicking here. The subjects range from music production to maths tutoring, from bridge to badminton, from nordic walking to nutrition and Spanish conversation to cookery. Something for everyone? Well, we hope so: but if you offer courses yourself or know of someone who does and you feel these should be included, let Penny know at penny@pennypost.org.uk and we’ll discuss including this in future editions.

The 2016 Lambourn Carnival takes place on Sunday 28 August – click here for more information about this year’s event.

The Hungerford Horticultural and Handicraft Show takes place on Saturday 20 August at the Royal British Legion. For more information email belinda@haha-hungerford.org.uk

If you’re interested in being part of the Boxford History Project please contact joy@appleton.uk.net for more information.

A reminder about the summer activities of the town-twinning associations of Newbury and Hungerford.

Congratulations to Hungerford Town FC who, after four matches, are second, and only on goal difference, in the National League (South), the sixth tier of the English football structure. The only points they’ve dropped so far were when drawing with last season’s runners up and this season’s favourites, Ebbsfleet Utd. For a town the size of Hungerford this is an impressive statistic. Tell you what – if they win the league I’ll write the first Local News next season wearing just my underpants.

If you’ve got 150 empty Fosters cans, a steady hand, a sharp knife and a unicorn to act as a model, you too could create something like this

A number of good causes have received valuable financial support this week, including: Cancer Research (thanks to the previously shaven, now hirsute and soon-to-be re-shaven local postman Gary Waterman); Macmillan Cancer Care (thanks to the now-shaven Renate Hughes); Younger People with Dementia (thanks to the Berkshire cyclists who recently pedaled to Paris); Prospect Hospice (thanks to the Wacky Racers from Swindon); various local causes (thanks to the Ermin Street WI)

The Song of the Week, as usual, presents its usual dilemma: so many songs, only one to go for. This week, personal connections swayed me. I had my old friend Reid, a top-notch guitarist and all-round good egg, down to stay last weekend. He was in a number of bands in the ’80s including Way of the West. Don’t Say That’s Just for White Boys was probably their best-known song but I prefer Drum because it seems a bit more – well, a bit more 80s, to me at any rate. Those jangly guitars, those clothes – and, my word, those cheekbones. A period piece and good stuff. Takes me back…

And so the Quiz Question of the Week looms up once more to wrap up this post. We’ve asked this one before, so if you’ve been paying attention at the back there you should know it: if you don’t, the answer is still on this site (you’ll have to search for it). It is What is 191 miles long and between 22 and 54 years old? Last week’s was from the Blue Ball in Kintbury from their most recent quiz (these happen from 8pm on the last Sunday of the month) and was How many gallons are there in an old Brewer’s Barrel? The answer is 36 (and not, as I guessed, 48). Rock up there and tell Stuart that you got the answer right and see if he buys you a pint, or not (He might not – Ed.).

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Brian Quinn
Local News August


2 Responses

  1. On the Waste Wars, you say: “This poses a further question as to whether we have too many unitary authorities and whether things could be done more efficiently with a smaller number of larger ones.” Well, Hampshire is not a unitary authority. But the main point is that size is not the problem; boundaries are. Hants has no business including the outskirts of Newbury and Reading. In the reforms of the ’70s (I think) those rich and influential counties of Oxon and Hants came off great; Berkshire lost Old West Berks, gained Slough, and was given up on as a county not too many years later. Hence today’s nonsense, for which I can’t honestly blame West Berks.

    1. Mike – Thanks for your comment. First of all, yes, you’re quite right in that Hants isn’t a UA. Like West Berks, though, the authority is responsible for waste disposal. You’re also correct in that boundaries are the problem here. Clearly, the more authorities there are, the more boundaries there are going to be. Having recycling centres managed nationally would seem to make sense: if you break your leg in Corrnwall you’re aren’t turned away from a local hospital. This fiasco proves that local councils cannot always make the necessary arrangements between themselves. My more general point was that some UAs are probably not large enough to enjoy the economies of scale that the current financial climate demands. As for Berkshire, it has indeed been hacked up, along with many other parts of Britain, Successive reforms of our administrative geography, mainly in the 1880s, 1970s and 1990s, have grappled with the problem of changing demographics but all have proved to be unsatisfactory in some way; as any solution would be. (One huge confusion was caused by the reformers retaining the use of the word ‘county’ and often the previous county names to describe the new administrative bodies that they’d created. ‘Berkshire’ therefore still exists: never having been created by act of parliament – all the counties being far older than that – it proved too complicated to abolish them that way. People’s reaction to reforms are also coloured by emotional connections with a particularly county which leads to public opposition to changes on emotive rather than rational grounds.) The whole situation is an inelegant muddle. The waste wars are one of many results of this. And we haven’t even talked of the looming and still alarmingly vague funding changes that will take effect from 2019-20…

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