Including Sandleford delay, council budgets, some good news for Hungerford’s Post Office and Library, good causes celebrated, traffic and fire-service news, police updates for February, council contacts, the return of the River Lambourn, C, D and U roads unmasked, the team that keeps on winning, village bulletins, a possible casino, a possible council merger, time, twinned toilets and falling asleep at the dentist’s.
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• Click on the following links for details of planned roadworks in West Berkshire, the Wantage area, Wiltshire, Hampshire and Swindon. Click here for news of lane closures on the A339 roadworks in Newbury over the next nine weeks or so. Roadworks at the Greenbridge Roundabout in Swindon have reached their ‘final stages’. Please click here for details of long-term roadworks that will be affecting the M4 between J12 and J13 from mid-February. Please click here for details of some exit slip closures at M4 J16 in February.
• Click on the following links for neighbourhood police updates in West Berkshire (February’s update here for Hungerford and Lambourn; here for Newbury Town Centre; here for Newbury Outer; here for Thatcham and area; here for Bucklebury & Downlands) & North Hampshire and police advice for South Oxfordshire & Wiltshire (Marlborough‘s page here).
• The above West Berkshire neighbourhood links each contain information about nominations for the Thames Valley Community Policing Awards.
• Our condolences to Roger Croft, Leader of West Berkshire Council, after his wife was killed and he seriously injured in a car accident in France earlier this week. We wish him a speedy recovery. Graham Jones will be standing in as Leader of the Council for the time being. Click here for a statement from West Berkshire Council.
• A number of the sections in Local News – and, indeed, other articles in Penny Post – encourage you to contact your district, town or parish council. Links are usually provided in these cases but for general reference here are some you might find useful. 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.
• Further developments in the issue of the future of the libraries in the area, summarised here, including an encouraging and positive response from West Berkshire Council about the Hungerford Library being converted to a CIC. Further news about the progress of this as we get it. You can keep up to date at the FoHL’s Facebook page.
• The latest news about the future of Hungerford’s Post Office can be read here and includes a brief report of a meeting held between a Post Office representative and Hungerford Town Council on 13 February as well as the text of the latest email I received as part of my research into the procedures and processes for relocating a post office.
• Still in Hungerford, a further reminder here about a brief but important message from the Hungerford Chamber of Commerce. This includes a link to an on-line survey which takes about five minutes to complete. If you run a business in or near the town, please use this to make your views known.
• The village of Uffington has announced that it has submitted its Neighbourhood Plan to Vale of the White Horse council. There are currently plans to build 44 homes on the edge of the village.
• If you live or work in or near Cold Ash and want to know more about life there, you can do no better than ensure you subscribe to the Cold Ash Community Bulletin’s weekly e-newsletter. Contact email@example.com if you want to subscribe (for free).
• Much the same message for residents of Brightwalton and environs – click here for the latest edition of the Brickleton News.
• Click here for the latest edition of the New Greyhound produced for Marlborough Town Council.
• Click here for news about some of the recent issues which are currently on Hungerford Town Council’s radar – ranging from the Freedom of the Town to zebra crossings and from business rates to the Great West Way.
• Living as we do in East Garston on the upper reaches of the River Lambourn (that phrase makes it sound like some mountain stream high in the Himalayas) the early weeks of the year are spent waiting for its return – it’s usually dry between September and January. Entirely fed by groundwater, it begins its rebirth by first forming small pools in the deeper areas which eventually grow, join and start flowing down towards Shefford and, eventually, the North Sea. The first pools have finally started appearing near our house. I’m told that at Shefford the groundwater levels are at their lowest for 40 years which seems odd as I don’t recall last spring to have been particularly dry. Opinion is divided as to how much effect water extraction from the aquifers has on the river flow. Many people who experienced terrible flooding a few years ago will welcome lower water levels. What the ducks think about it is another matter.
• The deadline for a decision on the controversial Sandleford development in Newbury has been extended: click here for a statement from West Berkshire Council in which the sense of frustration is all too evident.
• It’s no great surprise that West Berkshire Council will probably be raising its Council Tax bills by 4.99% in the forthcoming year (this being the most they cian increase the charge without holding a referendum).
• It’s also looking like 4.99% more for residents of Hampshire with the Council set to confirm its budget this week. As reported last week, some of this will need to be spent on permits to use West Berkshire’s recycling centre in Newbury.
• Meanwhile, Vale of the White Horse Council has set its 2017/18 budget which includes raising Council Tax by 4.3%.
• Wantage Town Council has set up a health sub-committee in response to the temporary closure of Wantage Community Hospital and the extensive changes that are planned for NHS services in the area. You can learn more, and take part in a survey if you wish, by clicking here.
• Residents of the Vale of the White Horse, and indeed other areas of Oxfordshire, may want to have a look at this report issued after a joint meeting of the councils concerned about establishing a single unitary council for Oxfordshire.
• Welcome to the occasional ‘You Learn Something Every Day‘ section of this post. I read in the excellent Marlborough News Online that the C75 road running through East Kennet will be shut for a couple of days later this month. I know about M, A and B roads but had never heard of C ones. Looking it up, I discovered that C is only the tip of the iceberg: there are also D and U roads (these three between them account for well over half the roads in England and Wales) but that these are only designated as such by local councils for their own administrative purposes and the numbers aren’t generally displayed. Now I know.
• From the same source, a report here on the recent visit by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to Marlborough but not to the Great Western Hospital.
• And staying in hospital for a moment, click here to vote for any staff member at the Great Western who has gone above and beyond the call of duty.
• Click here for the latest edition of the New Greyhound produced for Marlborough Town Council.
• If you fancy running a café, click here to read about the opportunity to manage the proposed new food and beverage outlet in Newbury’s Victoria Park.
• Click here for more on the consultation for the ward boundary changes in West Berkshire.
• There will be changes (mainly increases) to the business rates from 1 April. Anyone in West Berkshire who needs more information or wants to discuss aspects of their own company’s assessment should contact Jane Knight or Claire Stewart at West Berkshire Council. See also this page of WBC’s website.
• While on the subject of increased charges, nearly 600 people have signed a petition regarding the hike in school bus fares between The Downs School and parts of Chieveley.
• The mention of another victory by Hungerford Town FC is becoming an increasingly common feature of this post. Their latest victims were Bishops Stortford on 11 February by two goals to nil. Hungerford currently sit fourth in the table but, as mentioned before, staying in the National League South requires more than points on the board – funds are also required to bring the ground’s facilities up the the requisite standards. You can click here to read more.
• I visited the dental hygienist at the Lambourn Valley Dental Practice this week. Not a particularly newsworthy story, perhaps, except that I managed to fall asleep during the treatment. I think I’m also the only person in the history of the world who has nodded off during root-canal drilling. Whether it’s just me or something about the atmosphere there or, in the latter case, the anaesthetic they use, I couldn’t say. I’m certainly not complaining.
• Residents of or visitors to Swindon have their chance here to influence plans for a town-centre bus corridor.
• There’s also the question as to whether or not there should be a casino in Swindon – click here for more.
• A number of good causes have received valuable support recently, including: the John Radcliffe Hospital (thanks to the raffle at St Francis’ School in Marlborough); Prospect Hospice (thanks to Swindon’s all-day netball competition); West Berkshire Council’s White Ribbon Giving Tree appeal in support of children who are the victims of domestic abuse (thanks to local residents); an electrocuted swan in Thatcham (thanks to Laurence Wright and the local RSPCA); Volunteer Centre West Berkshire (thanks to Bluebird Care); The Rosemary Appeal (thanks to the recent concert at St Nicolas Church and the Greenham Common Trust)
• And time once again for the Song of the Week. I recently exchanged emails with James from Butler Toll about a post they’d written a week or so ago (and which is now available on our site). The headline referred to Christmas being long past and the end of the financial year fast approaching. As I posted it, I realised that we were now closer to the latter event then the former. I mentioned to James that I’d therefore changed this: fair enough he said – where had all the time gone? he wondered. Indeed. It slips past. I read recently that there is probably a parallel universe where time works backwards but I can’t see that they’d be any better off than us. Quite a few songs have been written about the passage of time, few better than Pink Floyd’s appropriately named Time from Dark Side of the Moon.
• And finally, the Quiz Question of the Week appears once more. This week’s question is: What links Wednesbury, St Albans and Newbury (as well as a depressingly large number of places in North-eastern France and Flanders)? Last week I directed you to this post for a slightly unusual poser and I would like to do that again. For reasons that will be clear when you click on the link, it’s not a question I can directly answer myself: indeed, 49.1% of you will be in the same boat. In fact, let’s have a bonus ball this week: click here for one of the wonderful, well observed and squirmingly amusing tales of social ineptitude from Wantage resident Nick Ball, then work out what the connection is between this and the song mentioned above.