Including Hungerford’s new Mayor’s first week, Newbury and West Berkshire Councils in various planning debates, parking costs in Marlborough, Ramsbury’s royal connections, Cold Ash’s NDP, another burst pipe in the Lambourn Valley, new council leaders, police and roadwork updates, the darker side of the Vale, scarecrows, Belikin beer, trains, the colour mile, the widest high street, four out of five, fake fifties, 25 seconds and 25 gagging orders.
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.
Police, transport and council contacts
• Roadworks updates. Click on the links for news regarding West Berkshire, the Wantage area, Wiltshire, Hampshire and Swindon. Please click here to visit Traffic England’s site for information on motorways and major strategic roads (which include at A34 and the A419). The ‘Map Layers’ toggle can be used to display different levels of information.
• You can also visit Roadworks.org for similar information: this also provides the ability to toggle layers and select dates (it defaults to today’s date but you can adjust this) and other preferences. (It seems that West Berkshire at least – see link above – gets its feed from this source).
• The A338 will be closed between the Tally Ho in Hungerford Newtown and the M4 between 8pm and 5am on 18 May.
• There will be a number of closures on the main railway line between Pewsey and Theale in 2018 as a result of the electrification project.
• A reminder again that to sign up to receive the information provided by the Bedwyn Rail Passengers Group is a very good way of keeping abreast with (and having a way of making your complaints known about) the ever-changing railway arrangements and closures during the electrification process (and at other times, come to that). Please contact Steve at email@example.com.
• 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.
• Please click here for more about the tri-service station in Hungerford and policing in the area generally.
• A number of community minibus and car schemes provide transport services for – but not exclusively for – older and disabled people. You can click here to find more about the range of services (and volunteering opportunities) in West Berkshire. Click here for services in Wiltshire and Swindon.
• 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.
Across the area (and further afield)
• Once again, the railways are back in the public eye. Last week it was the announcement that the 55.000.000+ fares available on the network are to be simplified. This week comes the news that the troubled East Coast franchise is to be taken back into public control. (Today’s FT has a front-page article with the headline ‘LNER Reborn’, which might be a little premature.) There’s obviously something fundamentally wrong with the way the current system works. The horrible fear, certainly in the Conservative party, is the return to a state monopoly. This makes sense with most sectors such as energy, telecoms and manufacturing where the barriers to new companies entering the market are not impossibly high and where, as a result, people can ditch providers which offer a poor service. I don’t see how this execution of free-market choice exists with the railways. Some rail companies are better than others – I’d guess, without looking any figures up, that Southern are at the very bottom of any performance or satisfaction list list and GWR in the lower mid-table area – but there is only one way of travelling from Hungerford to London by train. I’m not going to say, ‘I want to go to London but the GWR service isn’t very good: so, instead, I’ll drive to Bristol and get a Cross Country train to Derby. That’ll show ’em.” Maybe I’m missing something.
• Meanwhile, in a story that could have come from another planet, a Japanese train company has offered a fulsome apology to its passengers after a train departed 25 seconds early.
• And still with trains, plans were announced earlier this week for the new Heathrow rail link which will enable trains from the west to go directly to Terminal 5 (though, not far as I undersand, to any of the other ones). West Berkshire Council has voiced its support for this and the article also links to a consultation on the subject by Network Rail which runs until 22 June. It’s too much to hope that there will be direct trains from Bedwyn, Hungerford, Kintbury or even Newbury: but being able to get to and from the airport changing at Reading but without having to go via Paddington will be a great improvement.
• I’m a little bit uneasy about the recent announcement from the Prime Minster that the government is going to double its investment into brain cancer research in memory of the Labour politician Tessa Jowell who succumbed to the disease this week. Other people in the public eye, and many more who are not, have died of this many possibly preventable conditions and I can’t recall such a gesture. Surely it can’t have been done for political motives?
• West Berkshire Council has elected Carol Jackson-Doerge as its new Chairman. You can read more here.
• West Berkshire Health and Wellbeing Board (HWBB) has said it has made mental health a priority for next year and will be focusing on coping with stress during Mental Health Awareness Week (which runs until 20 May).
Click here for information of the West Berkshire and North Hampshire Open Studios which runs until Sunday 3 June.
• The letters pages of the Newbury Weekly News this week includes a re-iteration of West Berkshire Council’s ambition to banish potholes; further criticism of the role of the local Police Commissioner; further criticism of West Berkshire’s so-called green bin tax; a letter (echoing a suggestion I made in this column a couple of weeks ago) suggesting that a recent article in NWN about broadband speeds had a decimal point in the wrong place; a suggestion that the natural population balance between rats and buzzards has been affected by the introduction of red kites; and a photo of a dog which hates delivery drivers (I thought all dogs hated delivery drivers).
• A number of good causes have received valuable support recently, including: John O’Gaunt School’s Music Department (thanks to all those who took part in the Colour Mile run); the 401 Foundation (thanks to students at Park House School); Eight Bells for Mental health (thanks to shoppers in Newbury); The Rosemary Appeal (thanks to 2nd Thatcham Guides); MIND and the Mental Health Foundation (thanks to Emily Clark); Gloucester House rehabilitation centre (thanks to Georgina Kemnitz-Prior); The Caring Cancer Trust (thanks to friends of Maisie Norton).
Hungerford & district
• Please click here for the latest news from Hungerford Town Council.
• As is the case every month, the best and most varied round-up of events in and around the town can be found in May’s Penny Post Hungerford. This month’s issue includes a report on the recent Town Council meeting (including the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor swapping roles), the launch of the Hungerford 2036 neighbourhood plan, news from the High Sreet, Barrs Yard and the Chamber of Commerce, a look ahead to forthcoming events, a feature on local cricketer Lauren Bell, book reviews, gardening tips and advice on GCSE revision and planning an outdoor event.
• For any of you who missed the John O’Gaunt Colour Mile run last weekend, click here to see a video of the event.
• One of the shots in this video seemed at first glance to show new Hungerford mayor Helen Simpson placing her chain of office round the neck of a small child after one of the races (which would have meant a mayoral abdication, not a story I wanted to miss): closer examination, however, revealed it was in fact a ribbon with a medal. I thought I’d give her a ring and find out what she’s really been up to during her first week or so in office. First of all, she’d like to thank all the many people who’ve congratulated her on her new appointment. She’s already attended two events, including the colour mile, with many more to come. Other ideas she has include a summer-holiday event for parents, grandparents, carers and children; a skate-park day with a professional coach; a Christmas market; a junior council; and more councillor surgeries. ‘Bigger, longer-term goals,’ she concludes, ‘are more affordable housing and a more community-inclusive high street.’ The first of these is a challenge faced by more or less every council in the land. If you want to contact Helen about these or any other ideas or issues, or if you want to contact any other councillor or the officers, details can be found here.
• There was another burst water pipe in the valley this week, on this occasion at Great Shefford on Monday. Thames Water explained matters thus in an email sent to Great Shefford Parish Council: “You may be aware we are looking to proactively replace a section of the specialised pressurised sewer, from Bockhampton Sewage Pumping Station to the sewage treatment works, in Great Shefford, work on this has just started. The section we are replacing is in the fields at the rear of Great Shefford. In clearing the area yesterday in preparation for the replacement, we removed some trees close to the sewer and these unfortunately disturbed the pipe and caused it to break last night. We have already completed a repair, however to allow us to do this we did need to use tankers at Bockhampton to manage the flow. Residents may have seen us in the area and noticed these tankers and we are sorry for any disturbance which may have been caused while we completed this essential work.” Fair enough. However, I have two questions. First, surely Thames Water knows exactly where the pipes are: this seems like a minimum requirement for going to fix them. Secondly, was this the same team that caused the burst pipe at Bockhampton (presumably as part of the same project) which cut off all the water in Eastbury and East Garston for most of bank holiday Monday? If they are, residents of Weston be warned: you’re next in line.
• The long-running saga of the Chaddleworth road signs, which we’ve mentioned several times, appears to have been resolved: they have all now been relocated in a way that causes West Berkshire Council no further displeasure. It’s quite a complicated story and I don’t feel up to trying to summarise it. There’s been quite enough confusion and misunderstanding already. The signs are now in place. Let the matter rest there.
• 4 Legs Community Radio Station will on Friday have its sixth day of broadcasting – click here for more.
Newbury & district
• Following the meeting on 3 May to discuss its response to the most recent Sandleford Park proposals, Newbury Town Council held a further meeting, with public participation, on 14 May. There’s a report on this in this week’s NWN (p6). I summary, the Council voted to object to the schemes as they stood, mainly due to various traffic-related concerns (both during and after construction). A disagreement with the developers over the number of access roads was one of the reasons why West Berkshire Council rejected the first applications.
• Also in NWN (p7) is a report on another planning application, which the Town Council also rejected, this time concerning the redevelopment of Newbury FC’s Faraday Road ground.
• The deadline for applications for Newbury Town Council’s Grant Aid applications is Thursday 31 May. A total of £25,000 is available. Click here for more information.
• There’s a slightly longer deadline – until Saturday 30 June – for applications for the 2018 Newbury in Bloom campaign.
• One more planning issue covered in NWN – see p9 for another debate between Newbury and West Berkshire Councils, on this occasion concerning the proposed conversion of an office block at Newbury Business Park into flats. This story raises several issues: whether a council’s core strategy should be respected, even if it contains ‘oversights’; the basis on which changes of use should be permitted; and whether residential and commercial areas should be zoned or integrated and, if the latter, whether the area in question is suitable in terms of infrastructure, amenities and other considerations. Above all of this is the urgent need, passed down from Whitehall, for local councils to build more homes, something that planning departments have to be constantly aware of when making such decisions.
Thatcham & district
• Please click here for the latest news from Thatcham Town Council.
• As previously reported here, Thatcham Town FC’s progress to the FA Vase Final has resulted in Mayor Ellen Crumly getting an extra day of power as this weekend’s Wembley final clashed with the Mayor Making (or, in her case, Unmaking) ceremony, which has now been postponed by 24 hours with full municipal consent. Their opponents in the final will be Stockton Town. All I can tell you about Stockton-upon-Tees is that is the widest high street in the UK (Marlborough’s is the second widest).
• Neighbourhood Development Plans are happening in many places at the moment, including Marlborough, Hungerford and (possibly) Lambourn. To this list must be added Cold Ash. The Parish Council has organised a weekend of drop-in events on Friday 1 June (2pm to 7pm), Saturday 2 June (10am to 5pm) and Sunday 3 June (10am to 4pm) at the Acland Memorial Hall to give local residents the opportunity to discover more about what’s involved. You can also visit the Cold Ash NDP’s website by clicking here.
• A reminder that Thatcham Market takes place every Friday from 9am on The Broadway.
Marlborough & district
• Please click here for the latest news from Marlborough Town Council.
• Click here for details of the rather brief (ends 21 May) consultation about car-parking charges.
• As we mentioned last week, Marlborough has a new Mayor. Click here to read her inaugural speech at the Mayor Making ceremony on Monday.
• The mayor may have changed but some things in Marlborough carry on as before. Many of these are agitated around the theme of parking, traffic and roadworks. This story from Marlborough News touches on the first of these, about the Londonesque residents’ parking charges.
• We mentioned a story last week, from the same source, about the controversy surrounding the proposed closures of the Braeside and Oxenwood outdoor education centres. The opposition continues, as this article explains.
• Congratulations to Richard Saxby of Brendoncare who did a skydive to raise money for the Brendoncare charity (which runs various retirement homes, including at Froxfield) at the weekend.
• The Gazette and Herald reports here that faster train replacement bus services have been laid on by GWR during the current spate of engineering works. You can click here for more details. I think that the Bedwyn Train Passenger Group (see top section) had a lot to do with lobbying for the improvement although the article doesn’t mention this.
• The same paper also reports that a fake £50 note was used in a pub. I’ve always assumed that £50 notes were fake.
• The village of Aldbourne is going to be filled with scarecrows this weekend. For more information, click here.
• This seems an appropriate week to draw your attention to the Ramsbury’s royal connections, brought to you by the Ramsbury Raven.
• Click here for information on what’s on in and around Ramsbury.
Wantage & district
• Please click here for the latest news from Wantage Town Council.
• Please click here for the latest news from Grove Parish Council.
• The Vale of the White Horse Council has elected a new leader and chairman. Click here for more.
• An interesting-looking art exhibition intended to ‘challenge the chocolate box image of the famous Vale of the White Horse and just occasionally bring out a darker side’ takes place at Wantage’s Vale and Downland Museum until Saturday 2 June. Click here for more information.
• Another event worth investigating is the Maymessy Family Festival which takes place on Sunday 20 May.
Swindon & district
• Click here for the latest news and information from Swindon Borough Council.
• Swindon South MP Robert Buckland has given his support to Royal Mail’s ‘Because Healthy Minds Matter‘ campaign.
• There have been several portfolio changes at Swindon Council following the recent elections – click here for more.
• It appears from this story in the Swindon Advertiser that Wiltshire Council spent over £275,000 between 2014 and 2017 on so-called ‘gagging orders‘ relating to 25 fer members of staff. These measures could be described in a number of ways: one might that they are legally enforceable bribes to prevent ex-employees discussing the circumstances in which their employment ended, so creating a veil of silence that can conceal various malpractices that ought to be more widely known. “In all cases,’ a council spokesperson said, ‘the statutory code of practice has been taken into account.’ I don’t know whether the fact that these things are regulated, and thus accepted, by local councils makes the situation worse or better.
The song and the quiz
• The Song of the Week is with us once again. This week I’m going to propose Four Out of Five from the recently-released Arctic Monkeys album Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino. Alex Turner is one of the best songwriters, and certainly the best lyricist, currently using his plectrum and pen. Very well worth a listen. A change also from the usual 60s, 70s and 80s stuff I suggest.
• Which leads us headlong into the Quiz Question of the Week. This week’s is from the recent quiz held at the Hungerford British legion in aid of Libby and Molly’s fundraising for their forthcoming trip to Ghana with Ventureforce and was as follows: From which country does Belikin beer come? Last week’s was more of a cryptic crossword clue and was HIJKLMNO (five letters long). The letters, as letters, mean nothing: as with all of these clever clues you need to look at it a different way – it’s a list of the letters from H to O = H2O = water = as we suggested, one of the subjects in last week’s post (and, as it happens, in this one as well).
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