Including the green bin charge, Newbury’s Brexit verdict, Hungerford’s banking crisis, Thatcham’s planning approval, Wash Common’s library, clear water in the Valley, no kebabs in Marlborough, Facebook truths in Wantage, a consultation in Swindon, D-Day in Theale, police and roadwork updates, community bus services, good news for badgers, the EU’s GDPR muddle, solstice scenes, the A4, a housing JV, Grove back in Berkshire, Japan’s fans clean up, a 16th-century heretic, a 17th-century battle, all the world’s rivers and a sunny afternoon.
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.
• 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)
• Today is the summer solstice in case you didn’t know (actually, I didn’t – I thought it was tomorrow) and there was the traditional gatherings at Stonehenge and at Avebury earlier this morning. For another way of celebrating it (if you’re in Antarctica), click here.
• West Berkshire Council and Sovereign Housing have taken a ‘major step towards creating a new formal partnership, which would help them build the homes the area needs more quickly.’ You can read more here.
• GDPR, the EU’s intended cure-all for data breaches, has now been with us for a month and is still causing confusion and uncertainty for those trying to comply with it. One organisation that seems to having a particular trouble is the EU itself: according to Private Eye, a fairly simple search of its europa.eu website revealed large amounts of personal information relating to conference attendees and interview candidates. Presumably they’ll be fining themselves £12m. If you’re worried that you might have done not enough (or too much) with your own GDPR arrangements, have a look at this article from local expert Nick Richards.
• I’m still sticking with my prediction that Belgium will win the World Cup, though with rather less confidence after their first match. If you drew Morocco, Egypt or Saudi Arabia in the office sweepstake you can throw your tickets away.
• The question of the so-called green bin tax seems, on reflection, to have more aspects to it than I’d first thought. Aside from the divisive, inefficient and environmentally damaging aspects of this charge, there seem to be (at least) two other issues. One is that councils should be collecting more and not less from people’s homes and businesses. This in turn leads to how this should be paid for. Plastic has recently been made a major public enemy. The fact is that it’s become an essential part of the way we live. In time this will need to change: but right now it’s everywhere. For decades we’ve been using it for every conceivable purpose and making our lives easier as a result. Now, the time of reckoning has arrived, like the huge bill at the end of a dissipated evening in a night club. Who’s going to pay it?
• There are two kinds of charges: those the government decides we must all pay on whatever basis whether we like it or not (such as for the NHS and education); and those that we can pay or not as we choose (such as for topping up our pensions and baked beans). The problem of recycling is now so big and likely to get worse that to put any aspect of this – even something quite benign like garden waste – into the second pot is to suggest that it’s not important and that, by opting out of paying, we’re somehow assuming the problem isn’t anything to do with us. It’s true that not everyone has need of a green bin and others could do with three and therefore the charges should be made accordingly: but the same argument could be used that people with no children should pay less tax than those with four as they won’t be benefitting from the education services. This is an issue that can only be tackled with national standards of recycling, mandatory recycling information on packaging and proper central funding. The current system of allowing each council to make its own arrangements (or, as in the case of the recent ‘waste wars’, not) is inadequate. The trouble is that Brexit continues to dominate governmental and parliamentary life to the seeming exclusion of everything else.
• It now seems that the introduction of the tax (which was due to come into force on 1 July) in West Berkshire has been delayed until ‘later this summer’ thought it’s not clear why. Perhaps the necessary consultations haven’t happened; or perhaps the problem of printing the paperwork has proved problematic (as was the case with the ill-fated ‘North North Hampshire’ recycling permits last year). Another possibility is that the technology for Veolia to know which property to collect from (this will change every week as people opt in or decide not to renew) hasn’t been tested. Yet another is that their staff have decided that they don’t want to check the content of every green bin without a sticker to see if it contains kitchen waste (which non-payers can still re-cycle) or garden waste (which they can’t). West Berkshire has estimated an opt-in rate of 45% which many feel is optimistic and which certainly can’t be predicted with certainty. £22.50 on the precept would create the same return but one that could be guaranteed, universal and with no administration costs.
• Another option is that the whole matter be handed over to the Japan football fans who seem to understand what’s involved in clearing up mess.
• And speaking of Brexit, as I was, this week’s NWN reports (p6) that 91% of people questioned in Newbury last week felt that the negotiations were not going well. I don’t know how they can tell. There might be some people who really know how it’s all going but I’ve never met one. At present, the discussion seems mired in political debates about the passages of various bills. This morning I caught a bit of BBC R4’s Today programme. A politician – who may have been Mr Rees-Mogg and certainly sounded like him – was explaining about the significance of a particular parliamentary standing order which determined whether the Speaker could at some future date accept an amendment that wasn’t ‘neutral’. It seemed to me as abstruse as a theological discussion in a seminary. I suppose it will all work out all right. For now, we have the promise of vast extra sums being spent on the NHS, partly funded by the ‘Brexit dividend’, which I seem to remember last being plastered over the side of a bus. Opinion seems very divided as to how much this ‘dividend’ will be, how it will be measured and, indeed, whether it will even be positive.
• Good news (perhaps) for badgers: according to the NWN, nearly 10,000 people have signed a petition to oppose the badger cull. More on p3 of this week’s paper.
• The letters pages of the Newbury Weekly News this week includes some comments about recycling problems (we aren’t the only people concerned about this – see above); worries about Sandleford; a toast to a local 16th-century heretic; comments about Vodafone’s service, and a reply from the company; and a question about missing house martins.
• A number of good causes have received valuable support recently, including: Living Paintings (thanks to the Endure 24 children’s race); Thames Valley Air Ambulance (thanks to the gig at the Shaw Social Club); The Castle School (thanks to the recent school fête); The Child Brain Injury Trust (thanks to James Halls); Heartstart Thatcham and Recovery in Mind (thanks to Lorraine Broadhurst); the Mayor of Thatcham’s charities (thanks to Thatcham Tornadoes FC) Swindon 105.5 (thanks to the Joffe Trust); the NSPCC (thanks to students at Meadowpark Primary School); Brighter Futures (thanks to Julie Hennessy and Intel); Little Heart Matters (thanks to the family and friends of Jack Line); Little Princess Trust and Macmillian Cancer Care (thanks to Poppy Caplin).
Hungerford & district
• Please click here for the latest news from Hungerford Town Council.
• As many of you will know, Hungerford’s branch of Barclays Bank will be closing on Friday 7 September (the NatWest has already gone). Representatives of Hungerford Town Council recently had a meeting with the bank to establish what help would be available to customers and what other banking arrangements could be made after the closure – click here for details.
• I was at the Hungerford Library last Friday to witness the formal handing over the of the Library building from West Berkshire Council to Hungerford. This is the culmination of over two years’ work by many people to accomplish what, in 2016, seemed an impossible task, that of saving the library from closure. This model is now being used elsewhere. Congratulations to all concerned – you know who you are. You can read West Berkshire’s report on the event here.
• The Hungerford 2036 team, which has been set up to create the town’s Neighbourhood Development Plan, has reached the stage of its work where it needs to conduct a public consultation. All residents of the parish of Hungerfgord are invited to complete a questionnaire (on-line ideally but printed copies are being distributed). These opinions will be vital in shaping the content of the Plan which will in turn determine how Hungerford grows and develops over the next two decades. More information on this and the work of the 2036 team so far can be found by clicking here.
• The Hungerford Town Band is on tour this weekend – only as far as Newbury, I admit – to perform a concert at St George’s Church in Wash Common to raise funds for the West Berkshire Citizens Advice. Details can be found here.
• Click here for information on a photography exhibition which will be held in Lambourn in August. This page also includes details of whom to contact if you have any old protographs of the village you would like to have included.
• Congratulations to the Great Shefford Flood Alleviation Association, which continues to advance towards its £80,000 target, thanks to various recent fundraising efforts and the news that Greenham Trust will provide matched funding for future sums raised. For more details, click here.
• See the June/July Great Shefford Parish News for a round-up of local events, including the Shefford Young Farmers’ successful day at the Country Fayre, polecats on the downs, bees in the hive and the report of the latest parish council meeting.
• The water problem (see last week’s Local News) seem to have cleared up round here but it’s been replaced by an ever-shifting number of road works which are causing some minor delays. In East Garston at least, the ‘road closure’ signs don’t seem to be describing the reality.
• 4 Legs Community Radio Station will on Friday have its eleventh day of broadcasting – click here for more.
Newbury & district
• In the NWN’s letterbox this week (see above from reference to some others) was a despairing one from a user of the Kennet Centre who wonders how much longer the current decline will continue. Every time I go there I ask myself the same thing. Is the problem the extra competition from Parkway, high rents or something else?
• It seems that the library in Wash Common, as previously reported, will be saved. However, I understand that this will be run on a volunteer-only basis with no direct support from the West Berkshire Library Service. The current proposal is that the library will be leased from West Berks to Newbury Council for a nominal rent for five years, with the library itself then run by the Friends of Wash Common Library who will need to raise the funds (believed to be about £8,000pa) necessary to keep it running. This is a less elegant and smooth solution than that recently followed by Hungerford but it’s to be hoped that it will be workable and sustainable. The Town Council would like to hear the views of the people of Newbury regarding the proposal. Responses can also be made by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org, in writing to Newbury Town Council, Town Hall, Market Place, Newbury, RG14 5AA or through its online consultation.
• West Berkshire Council will resume responsibility for the Faraday Road sports pitch in Newbury later this month and will operate it so that it remains available for community use until the redevelopment of the site begins. Click here for details.
• If you see or hear what seems to be a 17th-century battle taking place in or around the western part of Newbury this weekend, then this is what is going on…
• You have until Saturday 30 June for applications for the 2018 Newbury in Bloom campaign.
• There’s a four-day beer festival taking place from Thursday 21 to Sunday 24 June at The White Hart in Hampstead Norreys (not to be confused with the pub of the same name in Hamstead Marshall which, due to the ongoing struggle to save it, is currently in no condition to host a beer festival). Every time I type these place names I have to look up to check which one has the ‘p and which one doesn’t, like to two detectives Thomson and Thompson in the Tintin books.
• And, if you’re there on the Sunday, you can also take in some of the open gardens in the village.
Thatcham & district
• Please click here for the latest news from Thatcham Town Council.
• A group of Thatcham residents has launched a campaign to reduce traffic speeds on a stretch of the A4 in a bid to reduce the number of accidents.
• The annual Thatcham Festival Poetry Competition is now open for entries again – click here for details.
• The annual Thatcham Family Fun Day will take place on Sunday 24 June from 11am to 4pm at Henwick Worthy Sports Field.
• An article on p27 of this week’s Newbury Weekly News covers the approval given to the 75-home development at Tull Way, saying that ‘the final hurdle has been cleared.’
• 22 June is decision day for Theale Parish Council in the matter of the proposed allocation of land for the proposed new primary school. More news on this when matters are confirmed.
• Sunday 24 June will see the village of Burghfield turned into a cross between a funfair and a race track with the return of the Burghfield Box Kart Bash, from 11am. Click here for more details.
• Work started earlier this week on building a mound to protect Woodfield Way in Theale from traveller encampments. For more on this and other aspects of life in and around the village, click here.
• The proposed 227-home development at Aldermaston Manor has been rejected by West Berkshire Council – see this week’s NWN (p13) for more.
• The season of summer school fêtes is now upon us: one coming up this weekend is at Grazeley Primary School, 12 noon to 3pm on Saturday 23 June.
• And here’s another, at St Mark’s Primary School in Cold Ash, 1pm to 4pm on Saturday 30 June.
• A reminder that Thatcham Market takes place every Friday from 9am on The Broadway.
Marlborough & district
• Please click here for the latest news from Marlborough Town Council.
• If you live in Marlborough and visit the leisure centre and fancy a kebab or burger after your work-out then your hopes may have been dashed by a recent discussion at Marlborough Council.
• Closures are not restricted to pubs. Banks are vanishing as fast as the dinosaurs did after that naughty meteor 65 million years ago (and perhaps for much the same reason). See above for the Barclays in Hungerford: meanwhile, help is at hand for NatWest customers in Marlborough through a weekly community banker service in the Library.
• There may be changes to the A4 between Marlborough and Hungerford with three lanes possibly being reduced to two near the Savernake Hospital following a fatal accident.
• I recall mentioning this a few months ago, but it’s back on the Marlborough News site again – another tale of a pub applying for a change of use for conversion to dwellings and being met by a wave of protest from local residents. This one concerns The Three Horseshoes in Burbage.
• 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.
• As has been mentioned here and elsewhere before, the Wantage Community Hospital is threatened with closure. You can read here an open letter by Julie Mabberley about the campaign. The date for the march on the poster at the foot of this has now passed but it seems from this Facebook post that this will be taking place at 2pm on Saturday 22 July (meet at The Green near Foliat Drive).
• Grove Rangers FC may not be able to field a team next season as a result of a dispute with the North Berkshire League about a registration deadline. Grove hasn’t been in Berkshire for some time, of course, but I don’t think that technicality is the cause of the problem.
• A lot has been written about Facebook recently. Among other paradoxes and problems, it’s very good at rapidly sharing information (including, perhaps, your personal data) but less good at providing any verification. This at least was the view of the Oxfordshire Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Barber when he joined the ‘Stop the Wantage and local area robberies’ Facebook group and felt that it contained a mixture of ‘justifiable concerns’ and ‘misinformation.’ He then convened a public meeting to explain the Police’s point of view. You can read more here.
• Plans for an 88-home development in East Challow were unexpectedly withdrawn last week though it’s not currently clear why, nor whether the application will re-surface in a different form.
• The Wantage Summer Arts Festival is now under way – click here for details.
• A chance to have your say on a government proposal to give Oxfordshire councils greater protection from speculative housing development.
Swindon & district
• Click here for the latest news and information from Swindon Borough Council.
• A series of free events will be taking place in Swindon to provide support and advice for local businesses – click here for more.
• Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service is looking for young people from the Swindon area to join its Fire Cadet programme.
• Families in Wiltshire are being asked to look out for one of the UK’s most striking butterflies this summer. The Red Admiral had one of its best ever years in 2017, seeing its numbers rise across the UK by 75% compared to 2016 and with more being seen in Wiltshire last year than ever before.
• 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 started on Monday 11 June and will run until Monday 30 July.
• A crumbling road base at Upham Road will undergo major reconstruction work this summer as part of Swindon Borough Council’s highway improvement programme. Click here for more.
• A Government-appointed planning inspector has dismissed an appeal against Swindon Borough Council’s refusal of a major town expansion application at Lotmead Farm, east of the A419.
• Click here for details of the many volunteering opportunities at Great Western Hospital.
The song and the quiz
• The Song of the Week returns, as it does. What better for the summer solstice than the sublime Sunny Afternoon by The Kinks, this version being played over some footage of the 2009 movie The Boat that Rocked.
• Which brings us to the Quiz Question of the Week. This week’s is Which was the first country to have been eliminated from this year’s World Cup? Last week’s was Roughly what percentage of the world’s fresh water is held in Russia’s Lake Baikal? The answer is a staggering 23%. Apparently, if the lake were emptied and all the rivers in the world were diverted to drain into it, it would take over a year to re-fill. Get your head around that – I can’t.
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