Local News June 23 – 30

Local News

Including police and roadwork updates, towns in bloom, a possible station for Wantage (eventually), Swindon wi-fi, planning links, Come Dine, Emotional Academy, Family Fun, breakfast with the Trading Standards, resident permit plans, the River Lambourn, library events, two pairs of nearly similar words and a song for Europe.

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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 here and here for updates on the delay to the major roadworks planned for Akers Way in Swindon. There seem to be a particularly large number of road closures in and around Hungerford and the Lambourn Valley at present for various reasons.

Click on the following links for neighbourhood police updates in West Berkshire (June 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.

West Berkshire Libraries will be launching its Roald Dahl-themed ‘Big Friendly Read‘ Summer Reading Challenge on 1 July

A reminder the revitalised Hungerford Youth and Community Centre is an excellent facility which is once again available for hire. There are two open days planned (Friday 24 June and Saturday 25 June, both from 10am to 1pm). You’ll be able to meet some of the other groups which currently use the centre and get advice and information about starting up your own club or society. For more information and to make bookings contact 01488 685 363 or click here to visit the website.

Channel 4 is looking for couples to take part in an episode of Come Dine with Me, to be filmed in the Newbury area from 3 October. For more information, phone 08712 003939 or email comedinewithme@shiver.tv

You can keep up to date with the large development planned for Monks Lane in Wantage by clicking here.

And the official line from West Berkshire Council about Sandleford Park can be found by clicking here.

Many residents of Wantage must often be annoyed at having to get to Didcot or Swindon to catch a train when the line passes just north of their town. There used to be a station (Wantage Road in Grove) but plans to re-open it on that site seem to have been scuppered by the recent A338 realignment. Oxfordshire Council is, however, looking at alternative sites and hopes to be able to persuade Network Rail to have a station open to serve this fast-growing community by 2023. A local expert I’ve discussed this with rates the chances of this happening as ‘not great’, one problem being how in integrate stopping services there without disrupting the current regular patterns. There would also have to be a compelling cost-benefit case made. Other stations, and lines, have re-opened so if Wantage and Grove continue to grow the case will become stronger. We’re meant to be getting out of our cars, after all. Re-opening the line from Bedwyn to Marlborough is another possible local option. Anyone out there got any news or thoughts on that one?

A defibrillator has recently been installed outside the Great Shefford Village Hall, with two others planned for Spring Meadows and Shefford Woodlands. Well done to all concerned with raising the money for these.

West Berkshire Council has organised drop-in sessions to canvas views on the library service which, as is widely known, under threat. Click here for details.

More drop-in events, this time organised by Swindon Borough Council, to explain details of the M4 Junction 16 improvement works.

Sadly, the issue of domestic abuse often rears its head (and, perhaps even more frequently, keeps its head down, which is perhaps part of the problem). Thames Valley Police is seeking nominationsfor the John Latham Award to recognise people in the area who’ve made a contribution to helping victims.

On a somewhat related matter, click here for more on the Emotional Academy, a recent West Berkshire Council initiative to improve young people’s access to mental-health support.

If you live in or near Swindon and need to keep up to date with the wider world when using public transport, thanks to additional funding from the Council more bus routes are now wi-fi enabled.

Rubbish update: as reported in this section a few weeks ago, one result of the council budget cuts has been the partial breakdown of the system by which neighbouring councils helped to fund the cost of recycling centres where these were near the county boundary. This risks the economies of scale that recycling centres can provide if they are able to serve a wide area (irrespective of how many counties this might involve). It also leads to to the need for resident permits so that only local residents can use the facilities (this seems horribly similar to what the Brexiteers’ vision of the UK is, but we’ll let that thought pass). Such a scheme is being planned by West Berkshire Council and you can read more about it here. Other councils will doubtless have similar schemes of their own. (Years ago in the poll tax days  I lived right on the edge of the borough of Wandsworth, near the border with Lambeth. Lambeth had the highest poll tax rate in the country; in Wandsworth, for reasons I could never understand, the rate was several years fixed at £0. Obviously, we in Wandsworth tended to use facilities in Lambeth because they were both closer and cheaper. No one ever asked me whether I lived in the borough: in any case Lambeth Council was then so systemically disorganised that I doubt it would have been able to design, implement and enforce a resident-permit system. There was a huge piece of graffiti on a wall by Clapham South tube, just in Lambeth, saying ‘Don’t pay the poll tax!’, a fairly useless exhortation to all the Wandsworth residents who were walking down Nightingale Lane to the station.) The more authorities there are, the more likely these various frontier nonsenses are to happen. There are perhaps too many local authorities in the country (and too many MPs). Less might be more.

There’s a similar story here from Oxfordshire, this time on the question of verge cutting.

Applications for grants from the Vale of White Horse Council’s Cash for Communities initiative need to be in by 29 July – click here for more information.

West Berkshire and Wokingham Trading Standards is hosting a free business breakfast on Tuesday 5 July aimed at small- and medium-sized businesses which wish to protect themselves against the many and varied kinds of fraud.

The Canal and River Trust is looking for volunteers to help improve the bank of the Kennet & Avon Canal in and around Kintbury. Click here for more information on the organisation or email max.ward@canalrivertrust.org.uk if you want to help with this specific project. The work will take place on Monday 18 July and Wednesday 17 August.

Thatcham’s annual Family Fun Day takes place on Sunday 26 June at Henwick.

Entries for this year’s Newbury in Bloom can be made up to Thursday 30 June – click here for more information.

And click here for information on Hungerford in Bloom.

And here for information on Marlborough in Bloom . (Apologies to any readers who suffer from hay fever).

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.

If you’re lucky enough to live on the beautiful River Lambourn (as we are) or if you just want to find out more about how you can help sustain and preserve this almost unique chalk stream, click here for more on the various events, activities and initiatives throughout the summer organised by the RENEWAL Project and ARK (Action for the River Kennet) .

A number of good causes have received valuable financial support this week, including: The Brain Tumour Charity (thanks to The Big Match fundraising event in Newbury); various local youth groups (thanks to Greenham Common Trust); CLIC Sargent (thanks to the organisers and participants at the recent Bullfest at The Bull in Stanford Dingley); Loose Ends (thanks to pupils at Brockhurst and Marlston House Schools);  Cats Protection Newbury (thanks the recent official re-opening day)

The letters pages of this week’s Newbury Weekly News is, as ever, full of a wide range of opinions on the referendum and related matters. One points out something that has struck me before: for all its faults, the EU has a more democratic system of electing its MPs than does Britain. The illusion at a general election is that we’re voting for an individual representative whereas in fact the MP returned will be just a number on one side of the board or the other in the race to 326 seats, no heed being taken of how many people actually wanted that party to be in power. With the election process itself  predicated on a lie, or at least on a misleading assumption, it’s perhaps unsurprising that other lies follow. And then there’s the House of Lords, whose composition is based almost entirely on political favouritism. For us to pretend that this system is somehow better suited to electing our rulers is specious. Many of our conventions and institutions have been forced to grow around this peculiar arrangement. A good deal of the Brexit polemic has been based on the assumption – sometimes tacit, at other times less so – that we’re better than anyone else. In this respect we clearly are not.

Sticking with week’s Newbury Weekly News, there’s an article this week about buskers in Newbury and the impact of the latest permit system introduced by Newbury BID. I can see that your attitude to someone’s performance might differ depending on whether you’re walking past or working in the shop opposite where they’re playing.

Lousiana blues legend L’il Jimmy Reed, amongst many other artists, will be performing at next month’s Marlborough Jazz Festival.

And on the subject of Marlborough and music (and money), click here for more on how some additional funding has been approved for the Marlborough Youth Festival.

All of which leads rather neatly, I flatter myself, to this week’s Song of the Week.  I’ve never quite been sure whether I like Roxy Music or not: but whatever my views they were a certainly a jolt of something different at the time and became a major influence on a number of later bands. Bryan Ferry’s vocal delivery and dress sense must have been closely studied by a number of new romantics ten years later, Tony Hadley of Spandau Ballet not least. And then there was Eno – still a bit of an oddity today, completely extraordinary then. So what the referendum and all I’m going to ask you to wind yourself back to 1973 (which is what some people hope will happen if we vote Brexit) and have a listen to the multi-lingual sentimental crooning that is A Song for Europe. If anyone else is aware of another song whose third verse is in Latin, please let me know.

This week’s Quiz Questions of the Week (note the plural – it’s BOGOF week at Penny Post) comes from the recent monthly quiz held at The Wheatsheaf in Chilton Foliat: many thanks to conundrum supremo Nic Coome for supplying these. The answer is a pair of words that differ by only one letter: for example, ‘annoy a close relative’ is ‘bother/brother’. So, here we go – A seafood favourite to put a light in your eye. Enjoy that? Want another? OK – A modern musician who used to hunt for a living. Answers next week. Last week’s came from the quiz at the Tally Ho in Hungerford Newtown and was What colour is a mole’s snout? A mole’s snout, I can reveal, is pink. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a mole’s snout (and the illustrations in my childhood copy of The Wind in the Willows, my main source of information about moles, were all in black and white) but I know how to spot one now.

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Brian Quinn
Local News June


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