Local News June 2–9

Local News

Including police and roadwork updates, LEDs, CCTVs, NFC, RNLI, LXX for LHR, council initiatives, solar bonds, Brexit debates, social care and Hungerford lottery surveys, a new Hungerford charity, a new Swindon childminding agency, libraries, a collapsing tower, a funk-punk brass band and an infinite number of monkeys.

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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 the planned road closures in Marlborough during next month’s jazz festival.

Click on the following links for neighbourhood police updates in West Berkshire (May 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. See also here for specific advice on what’s known as courier fraud.

If you or someone you know is struggling with some financial difficulty which a grant of up to £200 would help then help may be at hand. Circle of Strength is a fund where residents of Hungerford and surrounding villages can apply for support. You can apply for yourself or on behalf of someone else – and you can choose to remain anonymous. Click here for more information.

Differing opinions about the new LED street lights which have been installed throughout the district at a cost of £7 million. On the one hand, these will save nearly £300,000 a year and reduce the council’s energy bills by 50%, be easier to switch on and off  and (I presume) will last longer than the old ones. On the other hand, a recent investigation prompted by comments by some residents suggests that the lights can be dazzling and harmful to human health. It all seems to turn, according to the report by Public Health England, on the brightness and colour of the lights: these ones (at 5,000K) might be set too high, PHE claims, although all their conclusions are then rather undermined by their admitting that ‘the science is not yet mature enough to state a threshold’. Another issue, which the council is addressing, is the issue of light from some of the lamps  ‘spilling into people’s homes’. I think this is a delightful image, if not a delightful reality for those experiencing it. (When my parents lived in France, they used an electrician who for some reason carried his tools around in a bucket. Aged seven, I asked my father what the bucket was for. He told me that it was to catch the electricity lest it spill onto the floor when he cut a wire. I continued to have this image of electricity in my head for many years. Clearly I still do. Perhaps it’s correct after all.) Anyway, for better of for worse, spilled light or not, they seem to be here to stay. The savings will be welcome, providing they really are as stated: such reductions have a way of vanishing in a cloud of unforeseen costs. Let’s remember to check the WBC accounts next year.

One of the problems it’s claimed that these LED lights cause is sleep-deprivation. This is something that residents near Boundary Road have been experiencing recently without any assistance from street lights during the demolition of the old bridge over the railway, much of the work on which has had to take place at night as the railway is still operational. This phase of the work should be finished by the end of June with the project as a whole completed, and the road re-opened, by early 2017.

Also being switched on, or back on, are the CCTV cameras in Newbury as funding has been obtained from various sources co-ordinated by Newbury Business Improvement District (BID).

Uncertainty continues over the long-term fate of Newbury FC which may, or may not, need to vacate its Faraday Road ground in the next year or so to make way fro the promposed London Road development. I’m unaware of what other suggestions the council has made for a new home for a club which has been playing at that site or nearby since the Victorian era. Many thanks, by the way, to the two delightfully helpful people from NFC who helped me load a post-Crafty-Craft raft onto the roof of a car there last week.

If you want to get involved with helping the Newbury Branch of the RNLI (which is seeking new committee members), contact Mick Foster on 01635 867 736.

Local poet, stand-up comedian and Penny Post contributor Toni Kent was full of praise this week for the Kingsclere Community Library, which may well the model that other libraries need to follow. You can keep up to date with events at the Hungerford and Lambourn libraries through their ‘Friends of…’ pages. You can also click here for an interview with Hungerford Liibrary friends Helen Simpson and Andrea Mulholland about the issue.

A reminder about the competition organised by Friends of Hungerford Library on the theme of We Love our Library – Do You?. It’s open to anyone under 16 with four age groups (three to five, six to eight, nine to 12 and 13 to 16). Entrants simply need to write or draw something about their local library on a sheet of paper no bigger than A5 and hand it in to the Hungerford Library by Friday 17 June (being sure to provide your name, age group and contact details). There are prizes for the winners and runners-up and an exhibition of all entries is planned.

A review into the usage of the library service in West Berkshire is under way and the results are expected later in the summer.

There has been a lot of publicity about the closure and the re-opening of the public toilets at The Wharf in Newbury over the last few weeks. This problem is not restricted to West Berkshire, as you can see by clicking here.

Tickets are still available for Garstonbury on Saturday 11 June, East Garston’s answer to…well I think you can work the rest out for yourself. Click here for more details. Note that tickets will not be available on the day.

A publicity campaign highlighting all the different kinds of abuse that can and sadly do take place will be being publicised by West Berkshire Council over the coming months.

There will be free parking through the Vale of White Horse area on Saturday 11 June to mark the Queen’s 90th birthday.

The Vale of White Horse and South Oxfordshire Councils have jointly launched an initiative to improve online services for the vexed and nationwide problem of affordable housing.

The first childminder agency in the south-west has been launched in Swindon – click here for more and for details of an information evening on Tuesday 21 June.

An interesting initiative from Swindon Council which has recently launched (and sold out of) investment bonds to help fund the Swindon Community Solar Farm.

West Berkshire Council has recently updated its 2015-19 Strategyto reflect achievements and the challenging financial outlook‘.

You can make your views known to West Berkshire Council about your experience of adult social care here.

Tickets still left for the Hungerford Theatre Company‘s performances of Peter Pan  Jr (Saturday 11 and Sunday 12 June) and Blood Brothers (Thursday 9 and Friday 10 June). Tickets from Crown Needlework in the High Street or from the theatre company’s website

There’s a rather important referendum coming up on 23 June. As mentioned last week, Newbury MP Richard Benyon is organising two public events in Thatcham and Newbury. Others will be taking place in Faringdon and Wantage. Opinions can also be heard in most pubs, parties, social-media sites and letters pages. You can click here to see what has been and will be happening in the Marlborough area.

Still in Marlborough, click here for details of the Community Action Days leading up to the Marlborough in Bloom judging (19 July).

I happened to read that Marlborough’s High Street is the second widest in Britain. Which town has the widest, do you think? Yes, I was surprised as well…

If you have any memories of St Peter’s School in Marlborough (which is about to amalgamate with St Mary’s), the school and the Marlborough History Society would welcome hearing from you.

There are plans to set up a Hungerford Town Lottery. Visit the Hungerford CHAIN website to answer a brief questionnaire.

Please click here for more information on the various reactions to the cuts in West Berkshire, including links to some of the organisations which have been set up to oppose or mitigate these.

Heathrow Airport turned 70 years old the other day. No sign yet that it’s about to retire. You can read here about rather underhand way it came into existence just after WWII.

A number of good causes have received valuable financial support this week, including: various charities (thanks to those who took part in the recent Beyer 10K race); Swings and Smiles (thanks to Dane Reeves); UNICEF (thanks to shoppers in Newbury); the National Anti-Vivisection Society (thanks, yet again, to shoppers in Newbury); Ashford Hill School (thanks to Helping Hands)

This week’s Song of the Week came at me from a completely unexpected direction. On Saturday and Sunday we visited Newbury to witness and participate in the building and (as we expected) the subsequent demolition of an only slightly down-scaled model of Donnington Castle built from cardboard boxes, part of an ongoing public-arts project by the French artist Olivier Grossetête. You can see the last moment of a similar tower he built at Glastonbury in 2013 here, while the Newbury event was covered by the Newbury Weekly News, whose photo record can be seen here and also on page 39 of this week’s paper.  Even though the weather demolished the structure before the scheduled moment, the whole thing was impressive and was certainly a superb way of mobilising large-scale community enterprise. I guess there was also a Gallic point being made about the ephemeral nature of life. Anyway, on the Sunday, what struck me more than the castle was the band that was playing in the square. Their name, Perhaps Contraption, is as odd as their music. I bought a CD, visited their site and read some reviews. Everyone else seems to find classification equally difficult. To me they were a kind of funk-punk brass outfit, but even that doesn’t come close. They reminded my sometimes of The Divine Comedy, sometimes of Rip, Rig & Panic and at other times of a marching band that had been hijacked by jazz musicians masquerading as extras from Sgt. Pepper. I found their music astoundingly and oddly wonderful. I haven’t had time to be able to recommend any one song, so here’s a link to their website for you to have a prowl around in.

This week’s Quiz Question of the Week comes from the BBC’s entertaining, witty and informative science programme on R4, The Infinite Monkey Cage. This isn’t a quiz question as such but it was posed by Brian Cox to summarise a discussion about infinity: If you have an infinite number of monkeys in an infinitely large cage, do you still have room for one more monkey? I think there are four possible answers: (1) Yes; (2) No; (3) Maybe; (4) my brain’s just exploded. Last week’s question from a recent quiz at The George in Lambourn has a rather stronger grip on reality: In what year was Google founded? The answer, as all of you with access to Google would have discovered, is 1998 (4 September if we’re being exact). My guess was 1991. It certainly seems to have been around for ever, as ubiquitous and as infinite as that damned monkey cage – although like everything else it will, of course,  eventually prove as ephemeral as Olivier Grossetête’s model of Donnington Castle. All a bit too much philosophy for a Thursday afternoon. Think I’ll go and have a lie down.

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Brian Quinn
Local News June


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