Local News Mar 23-30

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Including pub news, libraries, town meeting in Hungerford, consultations in Wantage, trees in Marlborough, Council Tax in Thatcham, proposed homes in Donnington, schools in Swindon, a first birthday in Newbury, good causes celebrated, civic awards, traffic and fire-service news, roadworks, police updates for March, Thames Water, litter (again), the A34 (again), Yellow Fish, incinerators, stepping up to the plate, boys and girls, just a minute and five million elephants.

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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 and which will result in some overnight closures. In Newbury, the new road connecting the A339 with the London Road development is expected to open later this month.

Expect some disruption on the main rail line into Paddington this weekend due to the continuing electrification works.

Click on the following links for neighbourhood police updates in West Berkshire (March’s updates  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 Hungerford Town Council Annual Meeting takes place at 7pm on Thursday 23 March at the Town Hall – all are welcome. A report on the discussions will be added as soon as possible. You can have a look at the agenda here.

An item that is sure to be mentioned is the future of the Hungerford Post Office. So far, no definite interest has been received from any retailers in town. Moving it into the Library is one solution being looked at though it’s unclear whether this can be a permanent one, certainly not until the future of the Library itself is confirmed (see below). Any interested retailer should contact [email protected] or call 01488 686 195.

One post office definitely on the move is the one in Newbury which will be relocating to WH Smith in Northbrook Street on 20 April.

Click here for the latest on the libraries in West Berkshire. This includes the summary of a newsletter sent by West Berkshire Council on 20 March concerning the various recent developments and changes to the services. Discussions are progressing well between the Friends of Hungerford Library, Hungerford Town Council and West Berkshire Council about the future status of Hungerford Library.

The Equinox has been and gone so British Summer Time cannot be far off. On Sunday 26 March 1am will become 2am as the clocks leap forward (so making 26 March the shortest day of the year). In our house and perhaps others the process of adjusting the various timepieces takes place over several days, often awaiting the availability of teenagers who have a better grasp of how digital devices are altered. Some of these devices know for themselves (which is in a way quite alarming); others don’t. A few years ago I put a clock forward not noticing that Penny had already done it. In fact, for about a week we don’t really know what time it is at all. If we’ve arranged a meeting with you next week and we’re an hour late (or early) then I’m getting our excuses in in advance.

Congratulations to The Three Swans in Hungerford which recently won two first prizes at The Publican’s 2017 Awards.

Congratulations also to all those nominated for the 2107 Newbury Civic Awardsclick here for more including interviews with the two winners.

And more congratulations, this time for Hungerford Town FCtwo more 2-1 wins this week.

Residents of Thatcham may soon find that the town’s CCTV cameras will be reactivated.

Still in Thatcham, click here to see the Town Council’s 2017-18 Council Tax newsletter, summarising income and expenditure for the coming financial year.

Happy first birthday to Newbury Talks.

Thames Water has this week been fined £20,361,140 for allowing nearly 1,500,000,000 litres of contaminated sewage to be pumped into the Thames in 2013 and 2014. Maths isn’t my best subject, but I think that this about 3,750 pools the size of the the 25m one at Hungerford. This is the same Thames Water that tells residents of East Garston (and doubtless other villages) that its sewage pipes are satisfactory, despite regular evidence to the contrary. Possibly Thames Water has different definitions of ‘sewage’ and ‘satisfactory’ than do the rest of us. If so, this judgement suggests they might have to revise these.

One campaign Thames Water might like to support is the Yellow Fish campaign to help mark storm drains that discharge directly into the River Lambourn.

There’s a detailed article in this week’s Newbury Weekly News (page 5 of the Hungerford edition) about one result of the delays that have haunted the Sandleford development and, as a result, undermined the Council’s ability to meet its housing target. The Planning Inspector has recently given approval for about 400 properties to be built either side of the A339 in Shaw-cum-Donnington. Given the views of many local residents this one may be subject to delays and disputes as well.

Also in the Newbury Weekly News (this time on page 7), another story of a driver on the A34 killed as a result of someone using a mobile phone and not noticing that the vehicle in front had been forced to stop. The lack of hard shoulders on a road with motorway speeds is part of the problem, but even so…This happened to me on the southern bit of the A34 a couple of years ago: fortunately the driver behind me was not on the phone and the accident resulted in nothing worse than a written-off car and a bit of whiplash for my son. Another 20mph on his part and I probably wouldn’t be writing this, or anything else.

Educational standards in Swindon recently came in for a a strong criticism from Ofsted and a new scheme has been launched to help improve the situation – further coverage here.

Still in Swindon, there are fears that the area’s Mental Health Unit may be closed – click here for more.

Another reminder also about the annual litter pick in Hungerford on Sunday 2 April (meet at the Town Hall steps at 10am). If you are thinking of coming along – particularly if there’s a group of you – the Town Clerk Claire Barnes has asked that you let her know in advance so she can try to ensure there’s enough equipment. Contact her at [email protected] or on 01488 686 195.

Meanwhile, Newbury residents are being asked to join Newbury Town Councillors in the Annual Community Clean, sponsored by McDonalds, on Saturday 25 March 2017.  Starting at 1pm, groups of residents will meet at the following locations to complete a two-hour Community litter pick: Falkland Memorial, Wash Common; car park at the corner of Waller Drive and Stoney Lane; Northcroft Park; Digby Road Park; and the Retail Park  outside McDonalds.

A few rubbish statistics, if you see what I mean,  from Newbury Council’s press release about the above event. UK Council-tax payers contribute £1bn each year for street cleaning, over 30m tonnes of litter being collected in the process (that’s the same as about five million elephants). Due in part to the increasing amount of dropped food, there are an estimated 60m rats in the UK – we’re about to be outnumbered by them, in other words. Thank goodness they don’t have the vote.

And sticking with rubbish, click here for a story about keeping Lambourn litter-free (for a while, at any rate).

Pub news. A number of pubs in the area are in a state of flux, or of crisis, or of development opportunity, depending on your point of view. A recurring pattern seems to be: (1) a change of ownership followed by stagnation; (2) a few years later, the announcement that the pub is no longer viable and the appearance of an application to convert it into dwellings: (3) opposition from local residents, with varying results. The Red Lion in Baydon has recently entered stage 3, the campaign group, Save Baydon Lion, having been set up last month. The White Hart in Hampstead Marshall, is also at 3, indeed seems rather to be stuck there. The Tally Ho in Hungerford Newtown is one that has passed through the process and emerged victorious: so to, by a slightly different route, has The Wheatsheaf in Chilton Foliat.  The Fox and Hounds in Donnington went into a decline following its isolation as a result of the Newbury by-pass, but was then rescued by new owners. However, the recent withdrawal of an application to add a seven-bedroom accommodation block may cast doubts over its long-term future. At stage 2 we find the Malt Shovel in Upper Lambourn, the owner of which has recently submitted plans to convert it into six dwellings as the pub is no longer viable (when Olly and Caroline were running it I often remember hardly being able to get to the bar).  The Swan in Great Shefford – which closed seemingly overnight a few weeks ago – may well be about to start this journey: it’s never recovered from a long period of closure following the floods about eight years ago and several subsequent changes of managers. A similar problem seems to be affecting The Crown in Marlborough – click here for more.

Meanwhile, the recently reopened Ibex in Chaddleworth is faced with an unexpected problem. Applications had been made to put up a number of small direction signs at nearby junctions. An objection was received but this was to do with a location never intended for a sign, the notice having been put up in the wrong place by the Council (proof, perhaps of how confusing the roads are round there). There is also some dispute as to whether or not any advertisement boards should be permitted. The result is that the whole matter is one ice and may need to go to Full Council.

Many other pubs in the area, including The Queens Arms in East Garston, The George in Lambourn and The Pheasant in Shefford Woodlands have survived and thrived thanks to shrewd investment, innovative management and dynamic event organisation. For instance, The Queens is having a steak night this evening, Thursday 23 March: so, after finishing this post and covering the Hungerford Town Council meeting, and picking up my youngest son from a rehearsal at The Watermill, I’ll be going along for a bit of filet and a glass or two of red. See you there.

Residents of Great Shefford will need no reminding about the recent proposal to build an incinerator on the outskirts of the village. Perhaps their experiencing in combatting this might be of use to the residents of Manton who are facing a similar problem.

As mentioned here last week, the chancesof the Wantage Road Station at Grove re-opening took a turn for the better earlier this month as the Vale of White Horse Council’s latest Local Plan has ringfenced land around the old station site. There will be a drop-in information session at Wantage Museum between 10am and 2pm on Saturday 25 March concerning both this and the related matter of the proposed new homes in Grove.

And still on transport issues in this area, the consultation on the future of the X30 and 31 bus routes has been extended until  Friday 31 March.

The annual meeting of Wantage Town Council will take place at 7.30pm on Monday 10 April.

Businesses in the Vale of White Horse can take advantage of free workshops on digital marketing starting later this month.

Residents of Marlborough probably know this already, but apparently it’s one of the best 100 places to live in Britain.

Maybe the fact that it now has more trees has something to do with this?

A number of good causes have received valuable support recently, including: The Rosemary Appeal (thanks to the English Provender Company); Thames Valley Air Ambulance (thanks to Fixtra); Bobby Van trust (thanks to Marlborough Town Council); Dingley’s Promise (thanks to Brockhurst and Marlston House Schools).

And the Song of the Week is with us once more (as it always is). During the 90s Britpop years there was a media-created rivalry between Blur and Oasis, people being encouraged to adore one and hate the other as if they were rival football teams rather than groups of musicians. Falling into that trap, I preferred Blur: the choice was made easier because Oasis, Liam Gallagher in particular, were very easy to dislike, particularly with me being a softie southerner. Oasis are often compared to The Beatles but the person who draws most of the comparisons is Noel Gallagher himself. What influence there is seems to come more from the Lennon end of things and is at least as much to do with attitude as with the music. Blur, on the other hand, seem to have spent more time listening to McCartney’s stuff (and writing far better lyrics than either of them, or Oasis, ever did). Where, I hear you ask, is all this leading? Well, today, 23 March, is Damon Albarn’s birthday so I think we’ll have a quick burst of Boys and Girls from Blur’s 1994 album Parklife.

And as usual, the Quiz Question of the Week brings this post to an end. This week’s comes, once again, from the regular quiz held at The Wheatsheaf in Chilton Foliat: thanks as ever to its resident tie-breaker maker Nic Coome for slipping me one of the questions, which is: From which sport does the phrase ‘step up to the plate’ originate? The next quiz at the Wheatsheaf will be on Tuesday 18 April. Last week’s St Patrick’s Day themed question was: By what name is Graham William Walker better known? GWW is known to me and you as that chirpy, ever-cheerful, excellent Just a Minute competitor, all-purpose chat-show host and part-time professional Irishman Graham Norton. Just a Minute is one of the most wonderful radio shows that has ever been invented. Anything which can engage and delight teenagers as much as adults has got to have something good about it. As anyone who knows me will attest, I have no trouble speaking for just a minute, indeeds for a lot longer, on a range of subjects, with or without any knowledge of what I’m talking about (admittedly with some hesitation and repetition and quite a lot of deviation). Put me in front of a microphone, though, and all I could say would be “testing, testing – one, two, three…”

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Brian Quinn


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