Local News June 22-29

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Including Hungerford opts for a judicial review, matters arising from (and preceding) the Queen’s Speech, high-rise safety, police news, good causes celebrated, roadworks, planning opposition in Crookham, Any Questions?,  canal volunteers needed, have-a-go day for campanologists, hidden books, the rotation of the earth and some ’70s superstition.

If you would like to add your thoughts to anything in this post, please use the ‘Comments’ box at the foot of the page. Once moderated, your comment will be visible to other users.

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 closures, partial closures and delays on the A34; and here for the same on the M4 (including closures over the weekend on Friday 23 to Sunday 25 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.

If you think it was hot in southern England this week, click here to see what they’ve been having to put up with in Kuwait.

An Extraordinary Full Council Meeting was held in Hungerford on 19 June to determine whether or not to request a judicial review of West Berkshire Council’s Development Plan Document (DPD) which will have an impact on the decision to build 100 homes off Salisbury Road. The unanimous decision was to proceed with this course of action. You can read more here.

One item dominating the news has been the appalling fire at Greenfell Tower in London. A number of questions will hopefully be answered about the safety aspects of high-rise buildings and steps taken to improve these throughout the country. It’s recently been announced that at least 600 such buildings use a similar kind of combustible cladding to Greenfell’s. There’s an article on page 5 of this week’s Newbury Weekly News about the policies of West Berkshire Council and some of the major developers and property companies in the area. One comment, from Councillor Paul Bryant, seems to bring up yet again the question of whether developers always put in place every aspect of the work that has been specified and also whether West Berkshire (or any other) council is always able to enforce this. There’s plenty of evidence from around the country that the answer to both of these is ‘no’.

In recent times there has been much debate on how much social- and health-care provision should be combined; also on which authorities are best suited to take on these (or a number of other) services such as libraries, leading to a number of Community Asset Transfers (CATs). Click here for a radical suggestion from the leader of Wiltshire Council concerning changes to the NHS services in the county.

Still in the Marlborough area, news here about the ministerial appointment for Devizes MP Clare Perry.

More parliamentary news, this time involving Newbury MP Richard Benyon who was given the job of Moving the Loyal Address (introducing the Queen’s Speech) earlier this week which was followed by what might be described as a spat with the Leader of the Opposition

After this mildly knockabout introductory turn, the business of the Queen’s Speech got under way and revealed the government’s plans as being rather watered down from what they might have imagined a month or so ago. One proposal that caught my eye was the Draft Tenants’ Fees Bill, a proposal to prevent landlords and  agencies from charging fees to tenants. This seems to have cross-party support and so may get passed. On the face of it this may seem fair  but I suspect that the law of unintended consequences may swing into effect. It’s true that some lettings agencies are rapacious and charge, for instance, huge up-front sums or a fee per renewal of the tenancy but limit this to six months to maximise the revenues. Reputable ones, however, charge a fixed fee for the duration of the tenancy which might be in the £200 to £300 area and which probably covers a number of time-consuming though necessary involvements in the process of the occupancy.

All seem to agree that there is a housing crisis in Britain (plenty of homes overall but not in the right places, of the right kind or available on the right terms). This seems to exist in this part of the country as much as anywhere else.Will this do anything to help it?

I’m no expert but two unwelcome things (for tenants, who this is designed to protect) might follow from this. The first is that letting agents will seek to charge more from landlords which will have the inevitable effect of increasing rents. The second is that if potential landlords perceive this change they may be more reluctant to allow their properties to be rented, which will have the same result. If I were renting, I would rather pay a fee for specified services from the letting agent rather than see my rent go up. One solution would be to cap any fees at, say, two months’ rent. This would also give lettings agents the opportunity of competing by charging less than this. The country urgently needs is more landlords prepared to rent out properties. I’m not convinced this legislation will produce this result unless it also seeks to follow through to its logical conclusion and cap rents, which would never work. One can legislate for water to run uphill or the sun to rise in the west, but will it do it? If there’s a shortage of something – as there is with property – people will always find ways round these regulations. The law of supply and demand and its effects are more powerful than any legislation.

Speaking about the sun rising in the west – but in all other respects changing the subject completely – I was wondering the other day what the effect on our planet would be if the earth suddenly started rotating the other way round. The sun would then rise in the west but I couldn’t be sure about anything else. Seasons? Tides? Gravitational field? What else would happen? (I appreciate this is neither ‘local’ nor ‘news’ but you might be used to these digressions by now.) Let me know what you think would happen – reply to the post in the box below. I don’t want you to think that (a) I’m obsessed by this or (b) I think it’s likely to happen. I’m just curious.

The answer to this question is doubtless in a book somewhere, probably written by Brian Cox. If so, Independent Bookshop Week which runs from from the Saturday 24 June would be as good a time as any to unearth it. The ever-innovative Hungerford Bookshop will be organising a Secret Book Drop during this period, so look out for brown paper packages in unlikely places around the town. If you find one, it’s yours. If you’ve read it or don’t fancy it, pass it on to someone who might enjoy it. If you want to pretend that your a Cold-War spy hunting for a dead-letter drop from one of your agents then I guess that will add to the fun. There might even be a Le Carré or similar amongst the selected titles. Only one way to find out…

Residents of Shaw can click here to read about the plans for the proposed re-development at Hutton Close.

And moving north, click here for the latest thoughts from Julie Mabberley from the Wantage & Grove Campaign Group about the Crab Hill development.

There is opposition to the proposal to the proposal to extract sand and gravel from the Waterside Farm site in Crookhamclick here for more.

Work is nearly finished on the new fire station at Hungerfordclick here for a sneak preview. There will be an open day to celebrate its re-opening on Saturday 8 July.

BBC R4’s Any Questions? will be broadcast live from the Corn Exchange in Hungerford on Friday 7 July. Click here for more information on how to attend (act fast as it’s likely to be popular).

Last call for any community groups in East Garston which have until Friday 30 June to apply for grants of up to £500 from the Parish Council.

Volunteers are needed by Kintbury Parish Council to continue the work to improve the area of the canal. The next volunteer day is Saturday 1 July from 11am to 3pm. No prior experience needed. Contact Chris Trigwell on 01488 683 170.

There are currently three seats on Ramsbury & Axford Parish Council which need to be filled by co-option. Applicants must be over 18 and live or work in the parish. If you are interested please contact the Parish Clerk at parishcouncil@ramsbury.org.

There will be a range of events in Swindon (and doubtless elsewhere) in support of Refugee Week from 19 to 25 June.

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

Tireless Wantage fundraiser Ray Collins has recently had his Charitable Trust officially recognised by the Charity Commission.

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.

A reminder that applications are now open for the 2017 Pitch to the Panel organised by Greenham Trust (formerly Greenham Common Trust).

Anyone who likes incredibly large ships will go slack-jawed at this video of what docked in the UK today.

A number of good causes have received valuable support recently, including: Cancer Research UK and The Brain Tumour Charity (thanks to the charity football match at Newbury FC in memory of Laura Freemantle); the Richard Iain Jauncey Sunflower Tribute Fund (thanks to Ben and Willaim Howells’ 200-mile cycle ride); charities who will benefit from donations made by the Hungerford Rotary Club (thanks to those who attended the recent barn dance); The Lambourn RDA and the MS Trust (thanks to Jo Fielder’s Ridgeway walk).

The  Song of the Week is with us once more. heard Superstition by Stevie Wonder on the radio earlier this week. I’d forgotten how good it was.

And as usual, the Quiz Question of the Week finishes things off. Last week I asked What’s the name for a baby porcupine? It’s a porcupette, an answer revealed in a porcupine-related paragraph earlier in the section.  For this week, there’s still time to enter the Penny Post June Quiz. Alternatively you can have a look at the question above about the rotation of the earth. I have no idea what the answer to that is (or would be).

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Brian Quinn

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