Local News June 9-16

Local News

Including police and roadwork updates, planning disputes, the EU referendum debate, HMQ’s 90th, a royal seal of approval, a pyromaniac cat, libraries (again), social-care funding problems, a bike initiative in Swindon, the Flying Scotsman, Norwich’s link with the Stones and one of the Fabs being fab.

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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.

On the same theme, Hungerford has recently experienced a spate of distraction burglaries, so called because two or more people give a householder some story about a lost ball or similar: while that’s being looked into the others slip into the house and start helping themselves. If you have any details or concerns, call 101.

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.

An extraordinary story this week from the Newbury & Thatcham Chronicle about a cat which started a small house fire by knocking a plastic bag onto a hob and then happening to press the button which switched the hob on. It doesn’t on the face of it seem a very plausible chain of events. For one thing, cats are rarely that clumsy. I’m  impressed by the deductive work involved.

Another story, this time from the Newbury Weekly News, is its own way equally baffling. This concerns the latest developments in the dispute over the house in Upper Eddington that was built, so far with impunity, in clear breach of several aspects of the planning permission. This disagreement has been rumbling on for some time and the appeal from the developers is now due to be heard later this month. I’m sure there are many issues at work here which I don’t know about and which makes the story not the tale of commercial arrogance and municipal inactivity that it appears to be. There’s certainly an important basic point. If laws or regulations are flouted or not enforced, or even if there’s just the perception that this is happening, it undermines everything. Laws are obeyed for a range of reasons but one of them is that although a restriction might be personally irksome you can see that it’s necessary and that at least the same constraints will be placed on everyone else. Once this is seen not to be the case the temptation is to look for opportunities to give you an advantage over everyone else in order to compensate. There are numerous present-day examples from a depressingly large number of countries about the misery and chaos this breakdown of trust can lead to. I’m not suggesting that this one infraction is going to lead to the collapse of society but, if companies or individuals are allowed to do exactly what they please in this way, the effect is rather like removing a brick at a time from the wall of a house – which may well be the fate of the property in Upper Eddington if the developer’s appeal is unsuccessful.

A canal-boat fire-safety campaign has recently been launched by Dorset & Wiltshire Fire & Rescue following two fatal fires this year.

After a Freedom of Information request, some material has been made available by West Berkshire Council concerning the legal advice it received over the proposed library closures. The costs and other issues related to running these services have still not been made clear either making it hard for other groups to consider if they can take them over if the situation gets to that point. You can read West Berkshire Council’s report on recent meetings and on the progress of the needs assessment by clicking here.

More news from West Berkshire Council, which suggests that energy bills could fall by nearly £300pa for those who have registered for the Council’s energy-switching scheme.

Congratulations to the Clay Hill Residents Association which has recently received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service following their successful five-year management of the Riverside Community Centre.

Congratulations also to Kennet Radio which has recently been granted a licence to broadcast on FM, rather than merely on the internet. This should be operational later this year. Click here to visit their site.

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.

Residents of Marlborough (or anyone else, come to that) can click here to see the Marlborough Town Council’s 2015-16 Annual Report.

One of the consequences of the funding crisis is a reduction in the social care provision. Click here for the story of one woman’s problems after having been a patient at the Great Western Hospital.

If you have a bike that’s surplus to requirements or that would like to ride but aren’t sure if it’s roadworthy, click here for details of a scheme that can help solve both these problems.

The Flying Scotsman has recently been in the area: you can see some photos and follow some video links here, and here.

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

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, various public events have been and will be being organised in the area. 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. The debate has not in general showed politicians or, in particular, our national newspapersin the best possible light. You can read a report on the contrasting views of local MPs Richard Benyon (stay) and John Redwood (leave) in this week’s Newbury Weekly News.

There are various events in and around the area this weekend to celebrate the Queen’s official 90th birthday, including a street party in Lambourn, a children’s fancy-dress competition and party in Thatcham, a hog roast in Bucklebury, a picnic in the park in Newbury and a party in the park in Wantage.

A lively debate continues, reported in this week’s Newbury Weekly News, as to the wisdom or otherwise of relocating the bus station to the Wharf. One argument put forward by those who oppose the idea is that this will leave fewer parking and waiting spaces for coaches. If fewer coaches visit Newbury then I suppose this might provide a pretext for re-closing the public toilets near the car park: the stay of execution last month was, I understand, largely because of complaints from coach operators.

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.

I mentioned last week that Marlborough’s High Street is the second widest in Britain. Some people have been wondering which town has the widest. The answer, I can exclusively reveal, is Stockton-on-Tees. Store this information away – you never know when it will crop up in a pub quiz.

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.

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.

A number of good causes have received valuable financial support this week, including: the Cats Protection League (thanks to Abi Hamblin of the Wash Common Brownies); The North Wessex Downs AONB (thanks to the heritage Lottery Fund); The Community Furniture Project (thanks to House of Fisher); the NSPCC (thanks to the recent garden fair at Aldermaston); Cancer Research (thanks to the continuing non-shaving by local postman Gary Waterman).

This week’s Song of the Week Is inspired by a story of how Ed Sheeran is being sued for $20m, a sum which seems excessive even by the standards of American litigation, for allegedly stealing, borrowing or what you will the melody and chord structure of his song Photograph. George Harrison, amongst many others,  had a similar spot of bother, with My Sweet Lord, a song I’ve never particularly liked (Ringo Starr disparagingly said once that all of George Harrison’s songs had a ‘god verse’: My Sweet Lord is pretty much nothing but.) Then I was reminded of something he did that was far better, his reflection on his life in the 1960s, When We Was Fab. It does sound very Beatlesy: hardly surprising in the circumstances. I think he’s entitled.

This week’s Quiz Question of the Week comes from my head, I’m afraid, as I couldn’t locate a question from a local quiz in time. It is, quite simply, this: What person links Norwich City FC and the Rolling Stones’ album Let it Bleed? Last week’s was from Radio 4’s, The Infinite Monkey Cage – not a quiz question as such but remark made by one of the presenters: If you have an infinite number of monkeys in an infinitely large cage, do you still have room for one more monkey? I haven’t a clue. If you want to know the answer to this, you’ll have to ask Professor Brian Cox (and I’m far from certain he knows, either).

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Brian Quinn
Local News June


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