Including HM Planning Inspectorate at work in Upper Eddington and Marlborough, summer-holiday suggestions, police and roadwork updates, Newbury Talks, Thatcham councillors listen, library needs to be published, appeals for volunteers, good causes celebrated, a tumble-dryer disaster, public bullies, town twinning, broadband adjectives, a progressive cricket record, the surviving reservoir dog and A Minor bit of Bach.
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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 (July’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 announcement was made this week from HM Planning Inspectorate that a house in Upper Eddington, which was built to a different specification from that specified in the planning permission, can stay as it is, overturning West Berkshire Council’s enforcement notice which, quite reasonably, had insisted that the building comply with the application. This seems baffling and raises the question of why we have planning laws at all if people can decide to flout them. A nasty precedent has been set. If you want to read about HM Inspectorate’s Complaints procedure you can do so here. West Berkshires Panning portfoilio holder Alan Law observed that “residents look to us to ensure planning legislation is always followed…the stance taken by the council was appropriate in this case and sends a clear message that we will enforce where necessary to offer local people a measure of protection.” That isn’t the conclusion I draw from this: quite the reverse. What it tells me is that if you’re a brass-necked developer then you can probably get what you want enough times to make it worth it overall. Meanwhile, home owners and small businesses about to embark on an application for a small extension or a garage conversion are probably thinking ‘why should I bother?’
• HM Planning Inspectorate has also been at work in Marlborough, refusing permission for an in-fill development in Newby Acre. Two of the three reasons given in the article seem to be identical to the ones that the residents of Upper Eddington and West Berkshire Council would have advanced regarding the house there, ones that HMPI obviously thought weren’t of sufficient importance in that case.
• Meanwhile, the beleaguered (I think that’s an appropriate word) legal team at West Berkshire Council is urgently discussing how to head off possible legal challenges caused by its not being able to fulfill its statutory requirements for providing temporary accommodation for homeless people. One solution may be some, presumably unbudgetted, capital expenditure to purchase more housing stock. This comes only a week or so after a judgement, reported in last week’s Penny Post and elsewhere including the Newbury Weekly News, that its decision to curtail respite care for two local families with disabled children was not procedurally correct.
• These stories are quite encouraging, however perverse the individual decisions might be, for two reasons. The first is that we are in this country able to write and talk about them freely, something we should not take for granted and which is denied to the majority of the world’s population. Such discussion often results in bad decisions being overturned or not taken in the first place. The second is that they happen a lot less than they used to. Forty or fifty years ago people we being almost constantly bullied by large organisations against whose decisions there was little appeal. The Gas Board, The Water Board, British Telecom, British Rail, the local council, the trade unions, the social services, GPs, schools – all of these and many more conducted themselves with a mixture of pomposity, arrogance, secrecy and often no small amount of incompetence and we just had to put up with it. ‘We Know Best’ and ‘Do What You’re Told’ might as well have been written above the entrance to every public building. To a large extent, that’s changed (and some think the pendulum has swung too far the other way). It wasn’t only in England, either: my parents moved to France in the 70s and they were bullied by the French authorities as well.
• Marlborough Rugby Club is looking for physios and first aiders – click here for more information.
• Volunteers of a different kind are needed in Wantage where help is needed maintaining a park commemorating Sir John Betjeman.
• A letter from Hilary Cole (Executive Member, Culture at WBC) in this week’s Newbury Weekly News appears to confirm two assurances that were sought in the petition regarding the library needs assessment: that the report conducted by Red Quadrant will be published in full; and that the results will be debated in full council after the six-week consultation process that will follow the publication of the report.
• It seems that everywhere in West Berkshire will have access to superfast broadband by the end of next year. We’ve got it here and I’m slightly underwhelmed. The speed doesn’t seem to be that much quicker and the router restarts itself at least once a day for no obvious reason. It does work 99.5% of the time so I guess that’s not bad. There’s also ultrafast broadband coming to some parts of the areal (resulting in some short-term traffic disruption as roads are dug up). There are more to follow: hyperfast is the next one. Where will the adjectives end? Click here for a summary of the various levels of service.
• We have a tumble dryer but they are fairly wasteful of electricity so we use it as seldom as possible. Click here for the story of a far worse outcome
• Residents of Thatcham will have a chance to discuss any relevant local issues with some of the town councillors who will be in Broadway Green from 10 am to 12 noon on Saturday 6 August.
• If you want to start your own business or grow and existing one then PopUp Business School may be able to provide some ideas at this free event in Newbury on Tues 23 and Wed 24 August.
• And still in Newbury, you can have a free check of your child car seats, which could be a life-saver, on Saturday 3 September.
• There was an excellent turn out for the latest Newbury Talks at the Corn Exchange last Sunday to learn something of the world of superforecasting, a word I had never heard of before. We are constantly assailed by forecasts and predictions from so-called experts: so too are government departments and other decision-makers, about which Michael Story’s talk highlighted a number of unexpected and at times alarming points. Two stick in my mind. The first is that detailed tests have proved that forecasting is a skill in itself and a good forecaster will tend to out-perform a less good one even if that person is an expert of the particular subject. The second is that there are several reasons why forecasters tend to become more respected and revered but the accuracy of their past predictions is by no means the most important: novelty of opinion, accordance with the pre-existing views of the people paying for their views and media skills all tend to be more highly important in enhancing the forecaster’s reputation. The result an inverse relationship between the esteem in which a forecaster is held and the accuracy of the predictions they are paid to make. The results of political forecasters, probably the most high-profile members of this species, has been particularly dire in recent years. If you feel you have the necessary skills to become a superforecaster (currently the world’s most accurate one is the coach of the Canadian women’s water-polo team, so you never know), have a look at https://www.gjopen.com/. I’m going to forecast now that Leicester City will not win the Premier League in 2016-17 – what could be safer than that? The next Newbury Talks will be at the Corn Exchange at 3pm on Sunday 11 September when Emily Smith-Woolley of St Thomas’ Hospital will give some insights into the world of identical twins and related genetic research. Entrance is free.
• If you need some ideas as to how to entertain your family (and yourself) over the summer holidays, 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. If you have any suggestions as to things that should be added or any corrections to any information we’ve provided, please add a comment at the foot of the relevant post.
• The 2016 Lambourn Carnival takes place on Sunday 28 August – click here for more information about this year’s event.
• Click here for information about the Lambourn Valley Railway exhibition in Lambourn later this month.
The Hungerford Horticultural and Handicraft Show takes place on Saturday 20 August at the Royal British Legion. For more information email [email protected]
• The wheelchair swing has now re-opened in Newbury’s Victoria Park.
• A reminder about the summer activities of the town-twinning associations of Newbury and Hungerford. The Hungerford association is still looking for some extra hosts for the visit of the Ligueil association over the bank holiday weekend.
• A number of good causes have received valuable financial support this week, including: Muscular Dystrophy UK (thanks to the family and friends of Harrison Loosen); Dreams Come true (thanks to Bella Italia); Rainbow Trust (thanks to the National Citizen Service dance-a-thon in Swindon); Threshold (thanks to the knitters of Swindon)
• So to this week’s Song of the Week. I have something a bit different for you, in fact not a song at all – the first movement of Bach’s Violin Concerto in A Minor. Utterly beautiful and with a bit of bounce to it as well (I don’t think that’s a widely accepted technical term of musical criticism but it works for me.)
• This week’s Quiz Question of the Week is Who is the only major character still alive at the end of the film Reservoir Dogs? (Pick a colour, any colour…) Last week’s question was What is the next number in this sequence, and why – 364, 365, 375, 380…? The answer, as any cricket-lovers will probably have spotted at once, is 400. The sequence is the progression of the record for the world’s highest individual test-match score, set respectively by Len Hutton, Gary Sobers, Brian Lara, Matthew Hayden and Brian Lara again. I predict that the record will be broken by Joe Root (see the Newbury Talks paragraph above for some reasons why shouldn’t believe everything, or perhaps anything, that is forecasted by me or anyone else).
Local News July/August