Local News June 2-9

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Including various election issues, beta-testing Brexit, Fireman Sam in action, Bookstart Week, Hungerford Post Office update, good causes celebrated, library volunteers, local hustings, a printing error in Stratfield Mortimer, planning dilemmas, police news, roadworks, walking sports, grants, consultations, Reading miss out, Peter Pan, Old Sarum, Sgt. Pepper’s missing tracks, Strange Fruit and no sloths.

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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.

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 the A34.

Some specific closures: Click here for details of a closure on the A346/Herd Street in Marlborough on Sunday 11 June. Click here for revised details of road closures in Lambourn over the next two weeks.

Please click here for details of long-term roadworks on the M4 between J13 and J14 from early May to late July which will result in some overnight weekend lane closures and, in July, some complete motorway closures.

Please click here for news of railway work which will affect some services through Swindon in late May and early June.

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.

And so election day is a week away. There are various hustings events, including tonight in Hungerford and on Monday 5 June in Newbury (7pm at St George’s Church in Andover Road, email peternorman@gmail.com by 4pm on the day to submit a question). I have also written something here – Costing the Uncostable – which might be of interest (but which won’t suggest for whom you should vote).

For voters in the Newbury consituency, the Newbury Weekly News has three articles about three of the candidates (Richard Benyon (Conservative), Peter Field (Green) and David Yates (Apolitical)) on page 4 (inthe Hungerford edition – may appear elsewhere in others). Other opinions can be found on the (expanded) letters section on pp18-22 of the same paper.

For voters in the North Hampshire constituency, the same paper has articles on all five candidates on page 34.

If you’re in the Devizes constituency, you can read a report on election debate held in Marlborough on 30 May by clicking here.

Click here for a guide to the candidates standing in every constituency the general election.

Click here for a brief interactive quiz which tests your knowledge of your local constituency (most of the answers for which I got wrong, some quite badly).

Much of the debate, of course, has centred on the still raw and vexed question of Brexit. A friend has recently suggested that a good approach might be one of beta-testing, as happens when a new product (say software) is released to, or inflicted on, a small group so that the results can be measured and something approaching an objective decision taken. What we need is for the PM to say: ‘OK, listen up. I’ve decided that, for two years, Sunderland, Pembrokeshire, Dundee and County Antrim are going to leave the EU. Let’s see how it goes and decide then.’

Finally, a few figures for you. In the Newbury constituency alone there will be 130 polling stations and around 500 people involved in running these and counting the votes of a potential 82,923 electors. Times that by 650 constituencies and you have…er… quite a lot of work.  smoothly:

That’s enough about the election.

Some unwelcome excitement in Great Shefford on Wednesday night when Ray at the shop and Post office had to dial 999 to deal with a small electrical fire. He praised the reponse of the fire service as ‘superb’. This, like insurance and computer backups, is the kind of help one doesn’t need 99.99% of the time and hopes one will never need but which, when one does have to call on it, one needs very badly and very urgently. Changes to the service arrangements in the area have resulted in a demand for more retained firefighters including at Lambourn and the new tri-service centre in Hungerford. What level of service we get from these is to a large extent dependent on how many people they cal call upon. Click here for more information.

As mentioned before, there are several large housing developments being considered at present in the area, all of which, though in different towns, happen to be on their particular Salisbury Road. Click here for news of Marlborough’s one.

And still with planning issues, there is constant debate about how land should be divided between residential and commercial use. If the balance swings too far to the former, fears are expressed that a dormitory town will result; if too far to the latter, the concern is for a housing crisis. One such debate is taking place in Hungerford, with West Berkshire Council and the Town Council having differing views about whether some commercially-designated land near the station, which has not been used for that purpose for some time, should be converted to residential purposes, a course of action favoured by the Town. These are long-term decisions the correctness or otherwise of which might not be apparent for decades. You can click here to read of a similar issue in Newbury.

And sticking with municipal matters, this time in Marlborough, please click here if you’re interested in becoming a town councillor.

Please click here for updated information about the Post Office service in Hungerford

West Berkshire Council is looking for volunteers to help run its ‘At Home’ library service.

From the same council, click here for details of a consultation about minerals and waste development in the area.

And another consultation, this time from the Downland Practice in Chieveley about the proposed plans for a seven-days-a-week service.

Walking sports are becoming increasingly popular: click here for more on these in Wiltshire, here for Hungerford and here for Lambourn.

Residents of Brightwalton can click here to see the May issue of Brickleton News, including an update on the village’s parish plan

As mentioned several times in this column, various parish and town councils (including Brightwalton (see above), Newbury (click here) and Hungerford (see last week’s Local News)) are considering adopting neighbourhood plans. The following websites provide more information on these: My Community; Forum for Neighbourhood Planning; Planning Aid; Locality; The Department for Communities and Local Government; and the appropriate District Council site – West BerkshireVale of the White Horse, Wiltshire, Hampshire or Swindon as the case may be.

Residents of Stratfield Mortimer will be asked to vote in a referendum on 22 June to decide if they wish to adopt their proposed neighbourhood plan. Due to an error by the printers the cards have had to be-done. Residents should note that the new cards are pink and will sent out by first-class post as soon as possible.

A reminder that community groups in East Garston have until 30 June to apply for grants of us to £500 – click here for more.

And click here for details of grants available from Newbury Town Council.

It’s National Bookstart Week from 5 to 11 June, an annual event designed to introduce young children to the immense benefits of books, stories and rhymes. Most libraries in the area will be having various events during this period. Click here fo0r more information.

Looking slightly further ahead, there will be a range of events in Swindon (and doubtless elsewhere) in support of Refugee Week from 19 to 25 June.

If you like in West Berkshire  and been having problems with your water supply recently, here’s why.

A new group has been founded to tackle the worsening problem of homelessness in the area – click here for more.

  Wantage will host a number of Peter Pan-related events in the town over half term.

Residents in the Church Street area of Wantage are a bit miffed about three construction projects having been allowed to take place at the same time.

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

Commiserations to  Reading who missed out on a place in the Premier League as a result of losing the 50/50 lottery of a penalty shootout to Huddersfield. No consolation to your fans, but at least you’ve had a chance to play with the big boys from London, Liverpool and Manchester and now it’s someone else’s turn. Huddersfield are possibly already the bookies’ favourites for relegation next season; but then they were amongst the bookies’ favourites for relegation from the Championship this season so what does anyone know?

If you like the Wantage and Downland Museum, the West Berkshire Museum – or indeed any museum – you can vote for it in the 2017 Family-friendly Museum Award – click here for more. You have until Friday 2 June.

I have written about sloths for the last two weeks but I’m afraid to say that, for the moment, that particular well has run dry.

A number of good causes have received valuable support recently, including: Breast Cancer Care, Ovarian Cancer Action and Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust (thanks to the Women v Cancer cycle ride); a range of local charities (thanks to those who sponsored runners in the Beyer 10k race – see this week’s Newbury Weekly News pp9-11 for report and photos); Newbury Cats’ Protection League (thanks to the recent open day); the National Autistic Society (thanks to Hungerford Primary School pupil Amelia Lo’s fundraising walk); Tadley Calleva FC Youth Section and Helping Hands in the Tadley Community Shop (thanks to the Tadley Tea Party); Ramsbury Pre-school (thanks to all those who took part on the recent Ramsbury Week); Lessie May’s Children’s Hospice (thanks to CALM); Variety (thanks to Gala Bingo); numerous good causes (thanks to the Greenham Common Trust).

The  Song of the Week is with us again. Something political is clearly called for: if it transcends this one election and says something about democracy, social justice and equality generally that would do no harm. In the process it might need to be a bit unsettling. One springs immediately to mind: Billie Holiday’s dark and haunting version of Strange Fruit, a dark and haunting song which certainly ticks all these boxes.

I suppose I should really have picked something from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band which was released fifty years ago today: but, as you can see, I haven’t. It’s hailed as the best Beatles’ record ever (and thus by many good opinions as the best record ever) but in my view that title belongs to Revolver, or perhaps The White Album with half the tracks removed. In the 60s there was a music-industy convention that singles could not be featured on an album released in the same year. Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane were recorded as the first two tracks for what was intended to be an album about their Liverpool childhoods but were demanded by their record company as an unscheduled double-A side single in February. The fact that Sgt Pepper doesn’t therefore contain possibly two of the finest songs ever written impoverishes it. Whatever your views on all this, it was fifty years ago today…

And as usual, the Quiz Question of the Week rounds things up. This week, I have an election-themed question for you. How many electors did the constituency of Old Sarum have on the eve of the Great Reform Act of 1832? Last week’s was: what do Salzgitter in Germany, Torun in Poland, Ocotal in Nicaragua and Walt Disney World all have in common? The answer is that they are all twinned with Swindon. No, I didn’t know that either, certainly not the last one.

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Brian Quinn

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