Including Newbury’s planning problem, Hungerford’s parking, Kintbury’s stolen defibs, Theale’s cancelled parish meeting, Marlborough’s development debate, Thatcham’s Lower Way reaction, Lambourn’s NDP consultations, Cold Ash’s bulletin, Swindon’s reading challenge, West Berkshire business-rates record, rail-closure survival guide, police updates, to legislate or not to legislate, a tax or not a tax, to merge or not to merge, a lost sewage worker, ash trees, ice-cream vans and the letter ‘A’ .
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 for all bar three days between Monday 9 July and Sunday 5 August). Click here for our guide to surviving this.
• 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.
• For information on flood warnings and alerts, click here.
• 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)
• Football? The World Cup? Never heard of them…
• There’s an ice-cream van that does the rounds in East Garston on these hot afternoons. Like some threatened species of bird, they aren’t so often seen these days (there are fewer than 5,000 in the UK as opposed to 30,000 in the 1960s) but their distinctive mating call doesn’t seem to have changed one bit and it’s as much as I can do not to start reaching in my pockets for a sixpence. According to legislation introduced in 2013 – yes, there’s a law for everything – the vans can now play their jingle for up to 12 continuous seconds rather than, as was the case from 1982, for four. Bet you didn’t know that.
• Turning to legislation of a different kind, there’s a letter in the NWN on the subject of travellers and the suggestion that trespass be made a criminal, rather than a civil, offence to help combat this. As well as making some fair points about the risks of this, both in terms of possible discrimination and the implications for others such as rough sleepers, the writer says that to do this would add to pressure on the police’s time (which may or may not be something parliament considers when enacting legislation). Passing a law against something, of course, often doesn’t stop it happening. As a general rule, the more often legislation on a particular matter is passed or amended, the less effective it is. The issue of trespass has recently returned to the news because of another incident involving travellers in Theale.
• There’s been some debate recently about Network Rail’s policies, and in particular the timing, regarding tree-felling near railway lines. This is their view of the matter of vegetation management.
• There are currently 5,704 ‘business-rated properties‘ in West Berkshire, a record number. I’m unsure from this report whether that’s the same as there being 5,704 businesses which are paying business rates. Either way, councils will be counting their business rate-payers all the more carefully as, from 2020, this will form an increasingly important part of a council’s revenue (under the new scheme all business rates will be retained by councils, although with re-distribution from the richer to the poorer: individual councils will be able to retain any increase which they have raised over the previous year.) West Berkshire, along with our neighbouring councils, is currently participating in a one-year pilot project for this policy.
• The report by Ofsted and the CQC into West Berkshire’s children’s SEND services has, following the inspections in May, recently been released. The main findings appear to be pretty positive although in some areas there are several areas for ‘development’ or ‘improvement’. Click here for West Berkshire’s statement: and click here for a summary of reports into West Berkshire’s SEND performance, with the most recent report at the top.
• The Newbury Weekly News (p3) sheds as much light as the known facts appear to permit on why the so-called ‘green bin tax‘ has been delayed. It appears that this delay will cost West Berkshire about £150,000 in lost revenue. Councillor Hilary Cole was quoted in the article as saying ‘it’s not a tax but a discretionary charge for an opt-in service.’ (A ‘charge’, in other words.) She’s right, but some names stick and some don’t. Who remembers the ‘community charge’? No? How about its nickname of the ‘poll tax’?
• The letters pages of the Newbury Weekly News this week includes some comments about how uncut grass verges are a valuable wildlife haven; more on the green bins (see also above); support for the Wash Common Library; and several more letters on the subject of the B-word.
• A number of good causes have received valuable support recently, including: Christian Aid (thanks to various fundraising efforts); the Ufton Court Educational trust (thanks to the Newbury Building Society); Falkland primary School (thanks to the recent summer fête); Newbury and District Cancer and Care Trust (thanks to Belinda Mizen and Nicola McDuff); Parkinson’s UK (thanks to Leanne Owen).
Hungerford & district
• Please click here for the latest news from Hungerford Town Council.
• A reminder that for the best round-up of Hungerfordian matters, click here to see July’s Penny Post Hungerford e-newsletter.
• This year’s Hungerford in Bloom is currently being judged and the winners will be announced soon. There’ll be a ceremony for the winners on Saturday 21 July in the Croft Hall.
• The front page of the Hungerford edition of Newbury Weekly News covers the increasing problem of vast lorries making deliveries to the One Stop in Fairview Road. It’s alleged that, since Tesco took over the deliveries, the problem has got worse and a code of conduct which agreed the times that deliveries would be made is being ignored. (There’s also a similar problem in Lambourn whenever the Co-op delivery lorry has to reverse into the car park behind the store. This can take five minutes if the driver is inexperienced.)
• In the same paper, you can also read about the various views as to whether or not some planned works at the Town Hall represent a good opportunity to install disabled access at the front of the building.
• The application for the development at Station Road was passed by West Berkshire’s Full Planning Committee on 11 July. This makes all the more real the fact that Hungerford will, when this happens, have a shortage of car-parking spaces. The three Network Rail spaces that are being lost as a result of this are unimportant: less so are the 96 that will go, these having been temporarily made available by the site owners pending the development. A report from West Berkshire’s Transport Team Leader Jenny Graham (one of the documents attached to the application) points out that passenger usage at Hungerford station has grown from about 210,000 in 2006/07 to about 390,000 in 2016/17 and is expected to grow further to close to 500,000 by 2026/27. By an irony, the development will co-incide with an improvement in the service from next year due to the arrival of the new bi-mode trains. Unless more spaces can be found near the station (and the only viable option seems to be to add another level onto the existing West Berkshire car park between the station and the High Street) the report suggests that some combination of on-street parking, the use of other stations or a greater use of cars will result, none of which will make life easier for commuters or residents.
• Hungerford currently has three vacancies for town councillors and it’s intended that these will be filled by co-option at the the Full Council meeting in September. If you are interested in contributing to municipal and public life in the town in this way, please contact The Town Clerk, Claire Barnes, on firstname.lastname@example.org
• Click here for news of how Kintbury councillor Jon Hemphill is seeking to get 25% of the village’s population trained in the use of defibrillators.
• While talking to Jon about this, he told me of a rare and particularly unpleasant crime: one of Kintbury’s three defibrillators (the one in the old phone box in Craven Way) was stolen some time before Sunday 8 July. If you know anything about this, please contact the police. If there’s a market for stolen defibrillators, as this crime suggests there is, there must be a market for everything.
• A reminder that the best source of news, views and information about the upper part of the Lambourn Valley is to be found in this month’s recently-published Valley of the Racehorse e-newsletter.
• The marquees are going up, the stage is being assembled, the beer is being delivered, the bands are finalising their set lists, the sun is shining – that’s right, folks, Garstonbury is now only a few days off.
* I was in Shefford Shop earlier today and I think that there are still a few places left for the golf day – which shopkeeper Ray Plowman is organising – in aid of the Great Shefford Flood Aleviation Association. Click here for more details.
• Local MP Richard Benyon will be a guest on the Forrester & Allen show on the Lambourn Valley’s 4Legs Radio station on Friday 3 August. If you have a question that you’d like to ask him, please contact 4 Legs through any of the methods mentioned on the website. (If you want to ask him about matters such as his personal hero, favourite book, favourite song or what he would most like to change about British politics then you can click here to read his answers to these and other questions, and those from the rest of the candidates in the 2015 General Election (and what a long time ago that seems). He may have changed his mind since then, of course, so no harm in asking again.)
• Lambourn Parish Council is considering whether or not to adopt a neighbourhood development plan. As part of this process, it is holding a series of information events in the parish in late July and August – click here for details.
• 4 Legs Community Radio Station will on Friday have its fourteenth day of broadcasting – click here for more.
Newbury & district
• More problems for the troubled Sandleford development with reports the plans to build a new primary school in Newbury and a crucial access road from the A339 into Sandleford Park, are both at risk of being lost after talks between West Berkshire Council and Newbury College stalled. Read more here.
• See p4 of this week’s NWN for photos and a report on last weekend’s Waterways Festival in Newbury.
• And see p13 of the same paper for photos and a report of the recent Mayor of Newbury’s annual drive and tea party last week.
• You can keep up to date with the progress of work at Market Street and The Wharf by clicking here.
• A reminder that a proposal has been made to secure the future of the library in Wash Common. If you have any views on the matter, email email@example.com, write to Newbury Town Council, Town Hall, Market Place, Newbury, RG14 5AA or take part in the online consultation.
Thatcham & district
• Please click here for the latest news from Thatcham Town Council.
• Click here for the latest on the plans for the 97 homes in Lower Way and the local reaction to this.
• The annual Thatcham Festival Poetry Competition is now open for entries – click here for details.
• Free first-aid and defibrillator training is available through a course organised by the Community Council for Berkshire on Thursday 19 July at Woolhampton Village Hall (7pm til 9.30pm). Places must be pre-reserved. Click here for details.
• A reminder that if you want to find out more about smart motorways, Highways England is holding a drop-in event for local residents and businesses at Theale Parish Hall from 3-m to 8pm on Friday 13 July. Plans will be available to view and members of the design and construction teams will be available to discuss the scheme and answer your questions.
• The North Street playing fields in Theale are doubly in the news at present. The long-term future of these is tied up with the question of the proposed new school which was, and is, the subject of some disagreement between Theale and West Berkshire councils. Theale has recently published a public notice regarding the possible sale which invites any comments or objections by Monday 30 July. In relation to this issue, the Parish Council was forced to cancel a parish meeting earlier this week due to ‘malicious and personal attacks on Theale parish councillors and staff, all arising from the issue of the proposed new primary school.’ There is, however, a more immediate issue regarding the playing fields as there has recently been a further arrival of travellers, despite the digging of some ditches a few weeks ago to discourage this. Information on all these points – which is updated as necessary – can be found by visiting the Theale Parish Council website.
• One parish council meeting that is going ahead is that at Burghfield, on Thursday 12 July. The agenda can be seen here. One of the items up for discussion (number 17 but likely to be the first one addressed) concerns the request by the NDP to investigate the potential use of the Reading Road allotment site for a village centre. The word ‘potential’ is important here. As mentioned here last week, any NDP needs to look at all possible sites for possible development, regardless of ownership or current usage, receive opinions from residents and other interested parties and seek to enshrine this in the final document which, once adopted will become as much a part of West Berkshire’s own planning policy as if they had come up with it themselves. Not to discuss something now because it might be contentious largely defeats the entire purpose of doing an NDP at all. NDPs cannot stop development in a parish but they can influence where such development will be and what form it will take. As residents of Theale have recently realised, the fact that the parish council owns land (as is the case with the allotments) does not of itself guarantee that the land will not be developed. For more on the Burghfield NDP, please click here.
• Click here to see the latest Cold Ash Community Bulletin.
Marlborough & district
• Please click here for the latest news from Marlborough Town Council.
• After birches and oaks, ashes are the most abundant trees in Britain – but perhaps not for much longer. The disease known as ‘ash dieback‘ is affecting many trees in Savernake Forest. This report from Marlborough News explains more.
• From the same source, the complaint by a mother about highly inappropriate changes made by Wiltshire Council’s adult care services to her adult son’s care has been upheld by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman.
• There appear to have been some problems with the Marlborough Litfest website regarding bookings for the two David Walliams events. The organisers are aware of these and are doing what they can to resolve any problems.
• There are various opinions as to what the site of the former Skurrays car dealership on George Lane should be used for (or not). You can read some of there here.
• Click here for details of the Marlborough Rising festival from 7 to 9 September.
• 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.
• A reminder that the Wantage Community Hospital is threatened with closure. You can read here an open letter by Julie Mabberley about the campaign. There will be a march in support of the hospital at 2pm on Saturday 22 July (meet at The Green near Foliat Drive).
• Some people think that we have too few district councils, others that we have too many. One approach has been for neighbouring councils to work together in certain areas in order to increase economies of scale and so to get the best of both worlds. One such is the Five Councils Partnership in Oxfordshire which claimed to be a ‘ground-breaking’ save costs in municipal areas such as finance, HR, IT and facilities management. However, a report on p7 of this week’s Wantage & Grove Herald suggests that all has not gone according to plan. Once councillor has claimed, following a FoI request, that not only have the promised £9m-worth of savings not materialised but that the scheme might actually be costing more, as well as providing a less good service. It also appears that the IT implementation of a major part of the project was over a year late. If true this adds further to the depressing national tradition of delays, extra costs and general confusion in any large-scale public IT project. Similar mutual arrangements are in place or are being considered by other councils.
• For information on the following ongoing planning applications in the Wantage area, click here and enter the code in the search box. Leisure Centre (amendments regarding footpaths and roads) –P18/V0760/FUL. King Alfred’s East Site (application to discharge the boundary condition on the permission) –P17/V2479/RM. Grove Airfield (new plans for the second stage) –P18/V0399/RM. Park Far East, Challow (despite reports that the application had been withdrawn) –P18/V1113/DIS.
• There’s further planning news, potentially on a very large scale, which could set an important precedent. Dandara (the developers which obtained initial consent for the developments at the end of Denchworth Road near the Airplane roundabout) is seeking to work with the community on a plan for a development which could pay for a West Wantage Link Road. Dandara has said that it can build the Western Relief Road (estimated to cost about £8m) if it is allowed to build up to 800 new homes between East Challow and the new development and along Woodhill Brook. The development will join up with the Grove Business Park to the north, the Grove airfield development to the north west and Crown Packaging to the east. The Wantage and Grove Campaign Group has pointed out that will effectively merge Wantage, Grove and East Challow as one community which is against the Vale Council’s policy in its local plan. (Local plans can, of course, be changed.) Aa consultation event took place in East Challow last month: if you couldn’t make it, there’s information on Dandara’s website for this development.
Residents in South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse areas are being strongly reminded not to put medical waste in their recycling bins after syringes were discovered in recycling.
• You have until 18 July to apply for this year’s Oxfordshire LEADER’s remaining £500,000 to help support rural businesses.
Swindon & district
• Click here for the latest news and information from Swindon Borough Council.
• If you were standing in your garden and suddenly the manhole to your drain pops upon and a man appears asking for directions you’d probably think it was time to cut back on the absinthe. That is exactly what happened in South Swindon today Why? All is revealed here…
• Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service is looking for young people from the Swindon area to join its Fire Cadet programme.
• Swindon Library’s Summer Reading Challenge returns for another year, and this time it has a comical theme to coincide with The Beano’s 80th birthday.
• Swindon’s residents are being asked to give their views on proposed changes to the way that people can contact Swindon Borough Council. A seven-week consultation on the Council’s draft Customer Access Strategy will run until Monday 30 July.
• Click here for details of the many volunteering opportunities at Great Western Hospital.
The song and the quiz
• The Song of the Week is here again. If there was a song just called ‘A‘ and a band called the Bare Naked Ladies it would be worth investigating, right? Well, I’m pleased to say that this combination does exist in this particular universe and very lucky we are that it does. Like all their songs it’s tuneful, witty and generally delightful. Click here to find out for yourself if you don’t know it to to enjoy it again if you do.
• Which brings us to the Quiz Question of the Week. I think we’ll drop the World Cup as a theme, don’t you? This week’s question checks whether or not you’ve been paying attention so far as is: For how many seconds are ice-cream vans in the UK allowed continuously to play their jingles? Last week’s was: There are currently eight countries left in the competition. What percentage of the previous World Cups have these countries won between them? Well, we’re obviously way past that stage now but there were four past winners in the quarter finals – France, England, Brazil and Uruguay – who had between them won nine out the previous 20 World Cups: so the answer is 45%.
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