Local News July 6-13

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Including an open letter from Hungerford’s Mayor, West Berkshire checks its cladding, Hungerford’s fire station opens, Marlborough in Bloom, good news for Hungerford and Lambourn Libraries, ditto for Newbury’s cyclists, poetry in Thatcham, grants from the Vale of the White Horse, a slight setback for Grove Business Park, a major development in Swindon, police news, good causes celebrated, roadworks, tesco’s bags, Einstein on the beach, 72 hot dogs and how a few redistributed votes could have made all the difference.

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Roadworks updates. Click on the links for news regarding West Berkshire, the Wantage area, Wiltshire, Hampshire and Swindon.

• Click here for information on forthcoming closures on closures, partial closures and delays on the A34; and here for the same on the M4.

• Due to electrification work, the main railway line between Swindon and Chippenham will be closed from Friday 7 July to Sunday 16 July.

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.

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.

• If you live or work in or visit Hungerford and missed the July Penny Post Hungerford, you can view a copy by clicking here. This includes news from the High Street, a report on the Town Council’s activities, some thoughts on the wider implications of judicial reviews, gardening tips, the book of the month, the answers to the June quiz and the questions for the July one. If you currently don’t receive Penny Post Hungerford but would like to in the future, please email penny@pennypost.org.uk.

• The matter of the judicial review launched by Hungerford Town Council last month has been much discussed, not least in the Newbury Weekly News. Several letters last week (referred to in this column) were strongly critical of the decision, though it’s not clear to me whether these were completely disinterested. The Mayor has written an open letter in response to these which was published in this week’s Newbury Weekly News and which can be read here. Meanwhile, an article I wrote attempts to look at the matter in a national context.

• Please click here for the latest news from Hungerford Town Council.

• One of the issues discussed at the Hungerford Town Council Meeting on 3 July was the problem of anti-social behaviour in the skate park in Bulpit Lane. Some local residents attended the meeting and described some the disquieting things they’s seen and heard there, often late at night. Representatives of the Thames Valley Police were also present and noted the comments. The police encouraged members of the public to report any incident as soon as possible, using 999 for emergency matters, otherwise 101. There will also be a meeting at the Football Club at 7.30pm on Monday 17 July to which town councillors, the police, Richard Benyon MP will be invited: members of the public are also invited to attend. You can read more about the Town Council’s recent activities by clicking here.

• Next time you are in Tesco and are charged 5p for a carrier bag, this is one of the causes that the money could be going to.

• There’s a  report in this week’s Newbury Weekly News (page 3 of the Hungerford edition) about the steps being taken by West Berkshire Council to check the cladding on council-owned buildings. Rather bizarrely, the council says it’s doing this to ‘reassure itself’ on the point: I’d have thought it’s the residents who would be more in need of this. You can read the Council’s reponse in detail here. Regarding Grenfell Tower,  it’s recently been revealed that aluminium rather than the more retardant zinc cladding was used, saving RBK&C £300,000. The cost of replacing cladding on defective buildings is clearly going to be a massive one for cash-strapped local councils everywhere in the country. The law of political expediency – and human nature – says that the immediate problem is generally the most important so it’s to be expected that this task will get done but possibly at the expense of other things whose non-performance will be less eye-catching and less dangerous. This isn’t intended as a criticism of any council, merely an observation on how shortage of money tends to lead to short-term solutions which, in the long run, cost far more. Nothing probably illustrates this better than the cuts to children’s services: but here we’re getting into a different area so I think I’ll stop.

• Good news for Lambourn Library: thanks to the work of the friends of LL group, the future of the library appears to have been secured. Volunteer staff will still be required: if you’d like to help, please drop into the library or contact Gemma Taylor at volunteerinyourlibrary@westberks.gov.uk.

• And similar glad tidings for Hungerford Library, with the announcement this week that one uncertainty has been removed by West Berkshire Council’s decision to offer a 99-year lease to the charity which will be running the building.

• A major stage in Action for the River Kennet’s long-running campaign to protect the Kennet and the Og was reached this week with the opening of Thames Water’s £30m pipeline project which should greatly reduce the need for water abstraction from these rivers.

• Volunteers are needed in Marlborough to help with this year’s Marlborough in Bloom.

• Please click here for the latest news from Marlborough Town Council.

• West Berkshire Council has once again announced a series of its popular Bikeability cycling classes for children over the summer.

• And another council initiative: Brush 4 Life, aimed at encouraging good oral hygiene habits amongst the under 5s.

• If you or anyone in your family is, or thinks they are, a poet, then click here for more on the 2017 Thatcham Festival Poetry Competition.

• Please click here for the latest news from Thatcham Town Council.

• Anyone who wants to park their bike at Newbury Station will welcome this announcement of a major upgrade to the facilities there.

• Around 2,000 Berkshire schoolchildren recently spent two days at the Countryside Days for Schools at the Englefield Estate, a rural education programme now in its 20th year.

• Please click here for the latest news from Newbury Town Council.

• An unusual offer, from the Lambourn Festival Committee, which has been given some outdoor games including hooplah, deck quoits and wooden nine pins, which can be loaned to any community group holding a fund raising event. Click here for more.

• Work is finished on the new tri-service station at Hungerford and there will be an open day to celebrate its re-opening on Saturday 8 July from 10am to 4pm.

• Please click here for the latest news from Wantage Town Council.

• If you’ve ever fancied having a go at ringing a church bell, Ss Peter and Paul in Wantage is the place to be between 2pm and 4pm on Saturday 8 July.

• Grants of up to £75,000 are available from the Vale of the White Horse Council to boost the rural economy in Oxfordshire.

• As residents of Wantage and grove will probably be aware, there are plans for a £40m expansion of Grove Business Park. The plans have recently run into some objections from the council’s experts concerning drainage but the owner claims that the issue is ‘not a major bump in the road.’ You can read more here.

• Meanwhile, news of an even bigger development, on the North Star site in Swindon.

• Ten areas of the country, including Swindon, have been selected by the Alzheimer’s Society to take part in an initiative aimed at building and shaping more dementia-friendly communities – you can read more here.

• The Crime Commissioner for Swindon and Wiltshire Angus Macpherson has launched a Community Action Fund to benefit local groups created to engender community safety or crime reduction.

• A number of good causes have received valuable support recently, including: Brighter Futures Radiotherapy Appeal (thanks to the Hungerford Rotary Club); West Berkshire Mencap (thanks to the golf day at Sandford Springs); The Rosemary Appeal (thanks to the English Provender Company); Cancer Research UK (thanks to the Race for Life and also the pupils at Francis Baily School); Kingsclere Primary School (thanks to its fete); Chilton Foliat Primary School (thanks to its Festival of Colour); over 50 charities in and around Swindon (thanks to the annual Charity Ball).

• Have you ever tried to eat 72 hot dogs in ten minutes? Nor have I. I don’t need to name the country where there’s a competition for this kind of thing, Joey ‘Jaws’ Chestnut being the recently crowned champion. Twenty seconds or so is enough to catch the flavour of this rather disturbing event. Anyone organising a fete this summer may want to add the activity to the day’s festivities. Or not.

• The  Song of the Week is with us once more. Last week I found myself listening in the car to a long programme on Radio 4 Extra about an American composer who was never referred to by name: after about half an hour I worked our it must be Philip Glass, about whom I knew virtually nothing (but now know a bit more). Once back home, I looked him up. I’d remembered the name of the piece that had made his reputation, the opera Einstein on the Beach (a title which conjures up a strange image even before the first note is played), written with Robert Wilson. I listened to a clip of it, which you can do here. The whole thing is about five hours long and I’m not sure I could sit through all that: but I found this passage interesting and rather haunting, in a sinister and rather mechanised kind of way which I’m sure is entirely intentional. Worth spending a couple of minutes checking out.

• And as usual, the Quiz Question of the Week brings the post to a conclusion. Last month, you might remember, there was a general election at which the government lost its overall majority: were it to have won eight more seats than it did, this majority would have been maintained. The question is this: How many extra votes would the Conservatives have needed in the eight most marginal constituencies in which they lost to have retained its majority? I’ll give you a clue: the figure is amazingly low and seems to call into question whether the first past the post system is the fairest way of electing our representatives. It’s an issue that won’t come up again too soon as there won’t be another election for five years – or will there?

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Brian Quinn

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