Local News Mar 2-9

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Including a pause for discussion in Hungerford, bowling and football clubs, rail reprieve, differing views of the A34, happy birthday to the Ramblers, flag raising, good causes celebrated, traffic and fire-service news, roadworks, police updates, the cost of potholes, the first NHS patient, Wold Book Day, 1436 and all that, 459 tonnes of luggage, 52 countries, seven maids with seven mops and an Einstein look-alike at the mic.

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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.

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 lane closures on the A339 roadworks in Newbury over the next nine weeks or so. Roadworks at the Greenbridge Roundabout in Swindon have reached their ‘final stages’. Please click here for details of long-term roadworks that will be affecting the M4 between J12 and J13 from mid-February.

Click on the following links for neighbourhood police updates in West Berkshire (February’s updates – March’s should be available soon –  here for Hungerford and Lambourn; here for Newbury Town Centre; here for Newbury Outer; here for Thatcham and area; here for Bucklebury & Downlands) & North Hampshire  and police advice for South Oxfordshire & Wiltshire (Marlborough‘s page here).

A number of the sections in Local News – and, indeed, other articles in Penny Post – encourage you to contact your district, town or parish council. Links are usually provided in these cases but for general reference here are some you might find useful. 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.

The A34 is seldom out of the news, usually for the wrong reasons. This short report from BBC Berkshire suggests that statistically it isn’t as dangerous as we might think. Of course, for anyone who’s been affected by an accident this is rather harder to accept. Click here to see a clip of the  rather harrowing meeting between a texting driver and the partner of the man he killed.

Residents of Hungerford will be well aware that there are a number of things in a state of flux in the town at present including concerning the Library, the Post Office and the planned development off Salisbury Road, as well as other matters such as the sale of the police station and the Great West Way initiative. At present, all of these matters happen to have reached the stage where discussions are taking place and decisions or further announcements are expected soon: so, just because there’s nothing dramatic to report that’s not say that Hungerford Town Council, the Friends of Hungerford Library, the Post Office, West Berkshire Council or anyone else involved are sitting on their hands. A summary of these and other Hungerford-related matters can be found here. As ever, more news when it’s available. Some of these points will be being discussed at the Annual Town Council Meeting on Thursday 23 March which members of the public are invited to attend. Further details of this on the above-mentioned post.

One thing affecting Hungerford (and Bedwyn and Kintbury) that can be confirmed is the excellent news that direct rail services to London Paddington will continue after electrification rather than, as long feared, having a Thomas the Tank Engine shuttle service between Bedwyn and Newbury. Click here for more. Hungerford Town Council is also pressing GWR to upgrade the current shelter at Hungerford station and also provide a more regular westbound service beyond Bedwyn, something that seems logical now that the bi-mode trains are set to be deployed.

Just doubling back to the issue of the Post Office in Hungerford for a moment, as you can see from reading this post there will at some point be a public consultation. Public consultations can, of course, sometimes produce results which are (or seem to be) perverse; and there is (or seems to be) an example of that here concerning the relocation of the Post Office in Kingsclere.

Sorry, I am jumping about a bit here, but just going back to the Town Council for a moment – do you know what a Clerk does? Exactly. Nor do I. Well, I didn’t until I read this and found out what a typical week is like for Hungerford’s own Claire Barnes.

West Berkshire Council is set to vote through a 4.99% Council Tax increase on Thursday 2 March – click here for more.

Thursday 2 March is (or was, as the case may be) also World Book Day. If your school or nursery is taking part in these events, click here to visit the website of Newbury Weekly News which is inviting photos to be submitted for publication next week. If anyone is in the slightest bit interested, I’m reading – and can hugely recommend – The Nice and the Good by Iris Murdoch. If that doesn’t inspire you then try clicking here to have a look at some recommendations from Emma and Alex at the Hungerford Bookshop. The Madhatter Bookshop in Wantage and the White Horse Bookshop in Marlborough will also have something to recommend, I’m sure (and not just on World Book Day).

Thanks to all who completed the survey for the Hungerford Chamber of Commerce. The results of this, and information about forthcoming activities (including an information evening about Business Rate Relief on Thursday 6 April), can be read here.

Happy 50th birthday to the West Berkshire Ramblers, whose first meeting was on 2 March 1967. Recently the group has been working with West Berkshire Council to help maintain paths and replace stiles with gates (which are easier to use).

As residents of East Garston will be well aware, there were plans to build 16 homes on land at the west of the village between Roger’s Lane and the bottom road. It’s recently been confirmed that the plans have been withdrawn after the Planning Department had told the developers that they were going to recommend refusal for various reasons. The plans may be resubmitted in the future but will probably need to be significantly altered.

The sails will be returning to Wilton Windmill on 15 March – click here for more.

News here of the plans for the 2017 Marlborough Jazz Festival. This will be a smaller and more tightly concentrated event than previously with none of the ‘stroller’ element due to problems with getting approval for road closures. I guess that a town which has grown up on either side of a main road like the A4 derives a lot of advantages from its location: this is an example of one of the drawbacks.

A strange story here from Marlborough New Online. Local councils are often given grants from Whitehall for pothole repairs. Wiltshire received£1.3m for this purpose as a result of last year’s Autumn Statement. However, it appears that this has more than been eaten up by the cost of compensating motorists for damage or injury caused by a vehicle hitting a pot hole over the last four years. I’m not sure whether this is just the payments made to the victims or whether it also takes into account the administrative and legal costs involved in processing and defending the claims. There’s no reason to suppose, as the article suggests, that the situation is that different in any other council areas. Wiltshire’s population is roughly 1% of the UK’s. £1.3m over four years is £325,000 a year in compensation payouts for for Wiltshire alone and so £32.5m for the whole country. In today’s money, that’s about half a top Premiership striker. Put like that it perhaps doesn’t seem so much: but imagine the payout if Zlatan Ibrahimović‘s Ferrari got knackered by a pot hole…

And while on the subject of strange stories, two here from outside the area, indeed outside the UK, which example two quite different aspects of human behaviour. The first concerns the King of Saudi Arabia who as part of a six-day visit to Bali has brought with him a retinue of 1,500 and 459 tonnes of equipment including, for some reason perhaps only he can explain, an electric lift. The second concerns the multi-award-winning Copenhagen restaurant Noma which has made its long-serving kitchen porter a partner in the business. No further comment needed.

There are numerous examples of situational irony: being run over by an ambulance is one; a marriage guidance counsellor getting divorced is another. Here’s a recent real-life example from Oxfordshire. I’m unclear whether the journalist filed either the story she was sent to cover or the one that she became. As she now knows, the penalty for using a phone while driving has now been increased to six points.

Click here for the March update from Wantage Town Council.

Newbury Town Council, meanwhile, has just announced that the oldest building in Newbury dates from about 1436, beating the current holder of this title by some 40 years.

Monday 13 March is Commonwealth Day and various councils will be conducting short ceremonies and raising the Commonwealth flag. These include Newbury and Hungerford.  The Commonwealth is an odd institution, an anachronism in many ways, but probably more of a force for good in the word than otherwise. It has member countries (52) in all in every continent apart from Antarctica with a total of over two billion people.

A number of communities, including Hungerford and Swindon, are participating in the Great British Spring Clean, the aim of which is to get half a million people out and about cleaning their local areas. The amount of rubbish that gets tossed away, something like that number is needed, I’d say, probably about twice a week. I’m reminded of the lines from Lewis Carroll’s The Walrus and the Carpenter: ‘If seven maids with seven mops swept it for half a year, do you suppose,’ the Walrus asked, ‘that they could get it clear?’ ‘I doubt it,’ said the Carpenter, and shed a bitter tear.

Nearly 600 people have signed a petition regarding the hike in school bus fares between The Downs School and parts of Chieveley. There is now a similar campaign in Aldermaston.

Click here for the latest news from Hungerford Town FC, including a brief report on their eventful 1-1 draw with Maidenhead last weekend. Manager Bobby Wilkinson said that goalkeeper George Legg will one day play in the Premier League. After watching the saves he made in that match, one from a well-struck penalty and one full-length worldie from a diving header, it’s hard to disagree with him. The post contains a video Penny made which includes some of the incidents in the match, including Hungerford’s slightly bizarre equaliser.

News here of another sport in Hungerford: the Bowling Club, soon to celebrate its centenary, is looking to recruit new members ahead of the start of the season.

West Berkshire Council has announced that it’s received nearly £73,000 from the DCLC to help fund special support to children who have experienced domestic abuse.

Over 90% of pupils in West Berkshire have been offered a place at their first choice of secondary school, down slightly from last year.

A number of good causes have received valuable support recently, including: Newbury Swimming Club (thanks to John Lewis’ Community Matters scheme); West Berkshire Mencap (thanks to Irwin Mitchell); Cancer Research UK (thanks to Managementors); Royal British Legion, Thatcham (thanks to people in the area); the Lewis Moody Foundation (thanks to staff and customers at The Crown in Kingsclere – see also Quiz Question of the Week below); the Vale and Downland Museum (thanks to shoppers at Waitrose in Wantage); elderly people in Swindon (thanks to Bluebird Care)

And so we arrive once again at the Song of the Week. I’ve recently become a huge fan of BBC Radio 6 Music, a station which was nearly axed a few years ago. You never know what they’re going to play next (unlike Radio One, when you know pretty much exactly what they’re going to play next) or Radio Three (which on the rare occasions when I switch it on seems to be broadcasting either respectful silence or applause). One thing I was utterly unprepared for the other day was Cool in the Pool by Holger Czukay, whom I’d never heard of. From the video he looks pretty well round the twist. He could be (and perhaps is) the result of a genetic experiment involving the DNA codes of Viv Stanshall, Captain Beefheart and Albert Einstein. Being round the twist and resembling any of these three people is, of course, no barrier to making extraordinary music: and ‘extraordinary’ is about the only word I can think of to describe this song. Give it a listen and suggest a better one…

And as usual, the Quiz Question of the Week brings this post to a brain-teasing conclusion. This week’s comes from a quiz held at The Crown in Kingsclere (thanks to Les for remembering this question) which raised over £450 for the Lewis Moody Foundation: In what year was the first patient treated by the National Health Service? Last week’s came from the most recent quiz held at The Wheatsheaf in Chilton Foiliat (next one is on 21 March): thanks once again to local conundrum king Nic Coome for supplying it. The question was Which is the only muscle in the human body that is only attached at one end? The answer – unless you’ve just had a very nasty accident or unless, as one of sons did some years ago, you’ve just tried licking a deep-freeze drawer to see what it tastes like – is the tongue.

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Brian Quinn


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