Local News July 28 – August 4

Local News

Including planning issues in East Garston, Thatcham and Marlborough, new community bus service from Wantage, summer-holiday suggestions, police and roadwork updates, Parkway homes, High Court ruling on respite care, good causes celebrated, library consultations in West Berkshire and Swindon, The Colour of Time, town twinning news, free bags, misbehaving cows, Ernie Wise, four casualties at the Somme, Cocktails at Eight and a testing sequence of numbers.

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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 details of the proposed ten-week closure of Blenheim Hill in Harwell.

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.

To the East Garston Village Hall on Wednesday evening to see Hunter Page’s ‘Exhibition of Emerging Proposals’  regarding the proposed construction of about 20 homes on the triangular patch of land on the corner of Roger’s Lane and the bottom road. It’s well known that West Berkshire along with every other council has an obligation to build more houses. It’s also well known that more affordable (a rather subjective term) housing is also needed. I understand that most if not all of West Berkshire’s obligations have been or will be fulfilled by large developments such as Sandleford (although in this case the disputes or differences of opinion or what you will between the two developers are contributing to delays which give other developers an opportunity to say that the obligation hasn’t been fulfilled and that their scheme should therefore be adopted to help fill the gap). I think that some more houses in East Garston would be a good thing, and would help both the social and professional life of the village. I’m not sure that having them all here is the solution. The fact that the site is outside the settlement boundary (though ‘adjacent to’ it as the display hopefully suggested) would on its own form grounds for objection (and one that’s resulted in a refusal of permission on this site before). This aside, the real risk seems to be from run-off water, deprived of its natural soakaway into the earth and flowing into the houses downhill. Despite promises from Thames Water, the problem of flooding, in particular of overflowing sewers, in the village has never been properly addressed and it’s hard to think of anything that’s likely to make this situation worse, particularly as the River Lambourn is both in an AONB and an SSSI. There’s also a smaller triangle of land to the west of the proposed development which, the the precedent for building outside the settlement boundary having been established, looks very much like the site for Phase 2. I believe there are several infill sites in the village which could be used. A fair argument here is that these are less likely to provide affordable housing. Developers of any size have, however, been known to find ways of diluting such obligations. A house that sells for £600,000 costs a lot less than three times as much to build as one costing £200,000. Given the choice, which would you rather build to sell?

A more general point is the wonderful abuse of language that these kind of presentations provide. I’m don’t mean to pick on Hunter Page but it’s worth pointing out that Capitalising Phrases For No Reason does not make them more important and that ‘putting phrases in italics’ does not invest them with more meaning.

Speaking of affordable housing, it appears that a social-housing provider has been appointed to manage the 37 homes on the Parkway site, so ending a much publicised three-year delay.

And speaking of water ending up where it shouldn’t, news here of a planning decision in Marlborough which turns on different opinions as to the causes and likely incidence of flooding.

Still on the planning theme and staying in Marlborough, a story here about a possible development on the Plume of Feathers Gardens that seems to involve some unclear municipal interests.

And still water and with planning, which seem to be much on everyone’s minds at present, there are fears that the expansion of quarrying activities to the south of Thatcham will cause serious environmental problems to a town which has already suffered badly from floodwater in recent years. Click here for more.

Congratulations to West Berkshire Council, one of only 12 in the UK to achieve the Silver Standard for its homelessness services.

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.

Some wonderful photos here and also in this week’s Newbury Weekly News of The Colour of Time festival in Newbury last Saturday.

Two Newbury families with disabled children recently took legal action to prevent West Berkshire Council from curtailing the respite care they received. The High Court has found in favour of the families although this judgement was due to technical faults in the process rather than because the policy itself was illegal. With more funding cuts expected next year we should all brace ourselves for further cuts in services.

These cuts don’t of course just affect West Berkshire. Click here to read the thoughts on Swindon Council’s Deputy Leader on the subject.

On still on municipal finances, or lack of them, click here for details of the petition about the full discussion of the proposed library closures in West Berkshire.

And click here for information about consultation events which will be taking place to help decide the future of Swindon’s libraries over the next few months.

Click here for the latest reports from Marlborough’s Dr Nick Maurice from the so-called Calais Jungle, the  misery and desperation of which I can barely imagine.

Newbury Market will be giving away a free jute shopping bag with every purchase from the market on Thursdays and Saturdays (one per customer whilst stocks last). Bags were given away earlier in the year and proved so popular they were all gone in one morning alone.

Younger readers may believe that mobile phones have been around forever but the first mobile call in the UK was made on 1 January 1985 in the offices of a company called Vodafone (whatever happened to them?) in The broadway, Newbury. Newbury Town Council will be unveiling a blue plaque to commemorate this event at 11am on Thursday 4 August. I think that the first official call was made by the comedian Ernie Wise, although the first actual one may have taken place shortly before when the son of Vodafone’s chairman called his father to wish him a happy new year. Doubtless this will be all be confirmed on the plaque. 93% of the adults in Britain now have a mobile phone.

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

If you have a washing machine and a cat, click here for a cautionary and unusual tale of 60º survival.

A number of bus services have recently been curtailed or cut, including the 90 which provided the only public-transport link between the upper Lambourn valley and Hungerford. Good news for residents in the Wantage area, with news here of a community village bus service linking Wantage with Uffington, Kingston Lisle, Westcot, Sparsholt and Childrey.

Residents of Wantage are awaiting the results of a hearing into the town’s proposed Neighbourhood Plan.

And still in Wantage, the latest news on the battle to save the Wantage Community Hospital, including an online petition, can be found here.

I’ve heard of bears in North America breaking into the places where there is food and, closer to home, urban foxes doing the same thing with dustbins. It seems that cows are starting to behave the same way, with rubbish bins on Down View which adjoins Hungerford Common being raided by cattle. It’s either down to the residents to put their rubbish out as late as possible, to the Town and Manor to provide cattle-proof enclosures for the bins, or for Veolia to pick up rubbish which has spilled out – no one seems to agree which. Last time I checked cows were herbivores but I guess every species has to evolve to take advantage of new environmental opportunities. I presume that some of these bins contain meat. Cows are large enough and, at close quarters, alarming enough animals as they are. The thought of Hungerford, and eventually the whole world, being over-run by carnivorous cattle is not a pleasant one. Makes me feel a bit better about eating a steak – it’s us or them.

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

Anyone with photos of East Garston which could be featured on the village’s website with the theme of ‘The Village in Summer’ is invited to contact the Parish Council.

A number of good causes have received valuable financial support this week, including: Boys Beating Cancer (thanks to all those who took part in the 5K run at Newbury Showground); Thames Valley Air Ambulance (thanks to Firstxtra); Together for Short Lives (thanks to cyclists from Beyer); Spinal Research and the Motor Neurone Disease Association (thanks to the recent charity auction organised by Peter Stirland and Marian Hall; Little Princess Trust (thanks to Georgina Price and Brooke Gibbard of John O’Gaunt School); Alexander Devine Hospice (thanks to pupils at Kennet School); numerous local charities and organisations (thanks to the 2016 Newbury Town Council Grant Aid, Thatcham Town Council and Greenham Common Trust’s Find Me a Grant); Cancer Research UK (thanks to pupils at Whitelands Park primary School); Macmillan Cancer Care (thanks to the Darkroom Expresso Coffee Shop riders in Swindon)

So to this week’s Song of the Week. There have been so many of these that I can’t remember if we’ve had any Deaf School. If not, high time this was rectified. They were a truly original band whose heyday was the late 70s, punk rock rather eclipsing their bizarre blend of cocktail jazz, doo-wop and guitar pop all adorned with wonderfully world-weary, funny and intelligent lyrics. Rather like 10cc, their songs sometimes had more ideas than could be constrained within one arrangement or time signature; unlike 10cc (who were, one sometimes felt, showing off their virtuosity), Deaf School wore their musical erudition more lightly. Of all their wonderful songs, Cocktails at Eight is the one I’m going for. The main man in the band, Clive Langer, later wrote the music (and Elvis Costello the words) for Shipbuilding which I’ve certainly mentioned in this post before – one of  the greatest anti-war songs  I’ve ever heard. Cocktails at Eight ploughs a less ambitious furrow but is delightful all the same.

This week’s Quiz Question of the Week  is quite simply this: What is the next number in this sequence, and why – 364, 365, 375, 380…?  Last week’s was What do Adolf Hitler, Harold Macmillan, JRR Tolkien and  Siegfried Sassoon have in common? The answer is that they (and quite a few others) were all wounded at the Battle of the Somme, which was taking place exactly 100 years ago. By some estimates it will take another 500 years to clear all the unexploded ordnance from the vast battlefield.

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Brian Quinn
Local News July/August

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Covering: Newbury, Thatcham, Hungerford, Marlborough, Wantage, Lambourn, Compton, Swindon & Theale