Local News May 18-25

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Including neighbourhood plans, good causes celebrated, libraries, general election candidates, police news, John O’Gaunt’s shrinking playing fields, an open meeting in Hungerford, roadworks, election hustings, more new mayors, Wantage youth club reprieve, roads and planning criticism, a waste warning, recycling packaging, energy advice, endangered voles, free hedgehogs and underwater sloths.

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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.

Roadworks updates. Click on the links for news regarding West Berkshire, the Wantage area, Wiltshire, Hampshire and Swindon. There will be road closures in and around Lambourn on Good Friday due to the Lambourn Open Day. Click here for details of roadworks in Ackers Way in Swindon which are set to continue until late May. Click here for information on forthcoming closures on the A34.

The carriageway resurfacing at Croft Road and Parsonage Lane, Hungerford. will start on Wednesday 17 May 2017 be completed within five working days. Please note that if it is raining or the road surface is damp then the works may be postponed until the next dry day. There will be no parking allowed in the road during working hours ( week days 7.00 am to 7.00 pm) to allow access for machinery and for the works to go ahead safely and efficiently. If you need further information regarding this project then please do not hesitate to contact Trevor Gibbs on 01635 519 765.

Still in Hungerford, Station Road will be closed from 10pm on Thursday 25 May to 6am Friday 26 May for level-crossing repairs.

Please click here for details of long-term roadworks on the M4 between J13 and J14 from early May to late July which will result in some overnight weekend lane closures and, in July, some complete motorway closures.

Please click here for news of railway work which will affect some services through Swindon in late May and early June.

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.

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.

There’s an article in this week’s Newbury Weekly News about some land at John O’Gaunt which was transfered to West Berkshire Council when the school became an academy and which has recently been fenced off, so depriving the school of part of its playing fields. This matter was recently discussed at a Hungerford Town Council meeting (at which I was present). As I understand it, land which has not been used for sporting purposes for five years can be developed with little formality. On the face of it this seems like an asinine rule. The intention is surely, or should surely have been, to apply this to land which could have been used for sport but was not, due to choice or lack of demand rather than it having been fenced off. There must surely be a way round this to enable the school to use the land for the time being. The suggestion, made by one resident, is that the land will eventually be used by West Berkshire as an alternative access route for the controversial development at Salisbury Road. A council spokesman pointed out that this help the council recover the ‘significant funds’ it has invested in schools, including John O’Gaunt, throughout the area. He may well have a point as this school, and some others, have been running at a deficit for some time. John O’Gaunt’s change to an academy will doubtless bring benefits, further investment and financial stability. The loss of some land may me part of the price it has to pay.

The same paper highlights a disagreement between a report by the Campaign to Protect Rural England (which claims that West Berkshire’s roads policy since the by-pass was completed in 1998 has been a failure and is likely to lead to ever-increasing congestion) and West Berkshire Council (which asserts that its policy was ‘independently examined and approved by government planning inspectors’). I don’t know where the truth lies in all this although, as the article points out, the various development plans are unlikely to make the situation better. I’ve always felt that the A339 is on a bit of a knife edge, congestion-wise. The weak point seems to be that, without a big detour (such as Love Lane or via Enborne), it’s impossible to get from one side of town to the other without using the Robin Hood roundabout. If something happens to that the whole of Newbury will grind to a halt, as it did when the by-pass was being built. There are also a number of letters in the NWN on traffic-related matters.

And still looking at the Newbury Weekly News, an article this week about how West Berkshire’s admission earlier this year that it can no longer afford to enforce every alleged planning breach is having  its ‘predicted effect.’ I wrote several times last year about the development in Upper Eddington which was permitted by HM Planning Inspectorate even though it was larger than the approved plans. A local resident has recently claimed that the developer has not returned some aspects of his property which border the new houses to their pre-works condition but West Berkshire has said that it has no current plans to start an enforcement investigation. Property developers up and down the land will be rubbing their hands with glee at the news. To pick just one example, the proposed 100-home development in Hungerford will doubtless come with a raft of Section 106 conditions. How will these be enforced? Human nature being what it is, laws or rules are pointless unless there is someone to police them.

It’s been suggested that a Neighbourhood Plan will provide Hungerford Town Council with greater control in this and other matters (bear in mind that the plan would not be restricted to planning). The Council is holding an open meeting at 7.30pm on Tuesday 23 May in the Hungerford Corn Exchange complex to consider further whether it will adopt one. Please click here for the agenda. Members of the public are welcome to attend.

A town plan is also being considered in Newbury and residents have until the end of May to reply to an initial consultation on this.

Meanwhile, residents of Stratfield Mortimer will be asked to approve their proposed neighbourhood plan in a referendum on 22 June.

Click here for a guide to the candidates standing in every constituency in next month’s general election.

A reminder that four of the candidates for the Newbury constituency will be going head to head on Thursday 1 June at the Hungerford Town Hall in a pre-election question time organised by the Hungerford Chamber of Commerce.

Library news: click here for information about the proposed friends of Thatcham Library group. It’s to be hoped that this achieves as much success as had the corresponding organisation in Hungerford. (A reminder, by the way, that trustees are still needed for the new incarnation of the Hungerford Library – click here for details.)

There are ambitious and laudable plans to raise money for a pre-school in Ramsbury, to which end Ramsbury Week will be taking place from 18 to 29 May. Walking the Ridgeway, clay pigeon shooting, dancing, eating, drinking, pig racing, music, magic, bouncy castles, treasure hunts, cycle rides – if any of these things appeal, have a click here for more information.

There’s a Family Day in Victoria Park on Saturday 27 May – click here for more.

West Berkshire Council and The Carbon Trust have joined forces to help businesses become more energy-efficient. One event arising from this is a workshop at the council offices on Wednesday 31 May.

If you’re in need of something to help keep down the slugs in your garden and fancy at the same time helping Britain’s wildlife then you might consider adopting a hedgehog from the Wiltshire Wildlife Hospital. Click here or email enquiries@wildthingsres-q.org.uk or call 01980 629470

If you employ a person or company to dispose of waste for you then you are, according to a recent judgement in Oxfordshire, legally obliged to check that this is being done legally. The issue was highlighted by a recent case where an unlicensed Newbury man dumped household rubbish in Harwell.

No British mammal has suffered as steep a fall in population over the last century than the water vole, mainly as a result of loss of habitat and the introduction of the non-native American mink. The People’s Trust for Endangered Species is looking for volunteers to help with a national survey. For more information on water voles, click here.

And sticking wild wildlife, if you fancy a free and fully eco-friendly slug-killing device  then you might consider adopting a hedgehog from the Wiltshire Wildlife Hospital. Click here or email enquiries@wildthingsres-q.org.uk or call 01980 629470

Good news from Wantage with the announcement that the youth club Sweatbox, which had been under threat of closure due to the redevelopment of its current home at King Alfred’s east site, has found a new location at the school’s centre site. It will move there in January.

Less certain is the future of the proposed new care home in Grove Road the plans for which are opposed by local residents and the town council.

The Nature Memories Café at the Thatcham Discovery Centre, created to help people with dementia, is urgently seeking additional funds to enable it to continue its work. Click here for more.

The new St Mary’s School in Marlborough is on track for opening in September.

Marlborough has a new mayor, Mervyn Hall, and a Deputy, Lisa Farrell. Click here for more.

In Thatcham meanwhile, the current mayor Ellen Crumly was re-elected and will be joined by the new deputy mayor, Jan Cover.

Lovers of Italian food will be able to sample some wines and seasonal deli products at a series of pop-up run by Gastro Nicks in the Hungerford Town Hall on 19 and 20 May. Click here for more.

A reminder that community groups in East Garston have until 30 June to apply for grants of us to £500 – click here for more.

If what you buy is in any way influenced by how easily the packaging can be recycled then you may want to have a look at this.

I was reading Focus magazine the other day (part of a long-overdue policy of improving my sketchy knowledge of science). One piece was about which animals can hold their breath for the longest. All the usual suspects like whales, seals and dolphins were there but also, oddly, sloths. Apparently they can survive without oxygen for 40 minutes. Why should they want to do that? I thought they lived in trees, not lakes. Perhaps they’re so lazy that they just forget to breathe or can’t be bothered to. The other question is how the scientists discover these facts. Is there a lab somewhere into which animals are led and then held underwater until they’re about to expire by white-coated boffins with stopwatches? You might well ask what the local connection is. I don’t know: except that, if there were such a place, it could quite possibly be round here. It’s just the sort of thing that might go on at Aldermaston or RAF Welford, for instance – all the atomic research and fighter planes could just be a cover for the far more serious business of water-testing mammals. I’m reminded of one of Peter Cook’s creations, Sir Arthur Streeb-Greebling, who spent his life trying to teach ravens to fly under water.

A number of good causes have received valuable support recently, including: The Wantage and Grove NSPCC (thanks to shoppers in Wantage); the Caring Cancer Trust (thanks to friends of Masie Norton); Helen and Douglas House (thanks to Notcutts Garden Centre); Friends of Marlborough St Marys (thanks to the recent curry and quiz evening); Brighter Futures Radiotherapy Appeal, St Mary’s Primary School and Arts Together (thanks to Friends of Savernake); the Park House School Association and Daisy’s Dream (thanks to the fun run at the school); Hungerford Rotary Club (thanks to its plant sale); the Duchess of Kent Hospice (thanks to the Forget-me-not walk at Englefield); Fanconi Hope (thanks to Thatcham Tornadoes); Stirlings Care Home (thanks to the Ray Collins Charitable Trust); Wiltshire Air Ambulance (thanks to staff at Mercedes-Benz in Swindon)

The  Song of the Week is back again. I offered a Gerry Rafferty song a few weeks back, the lovely Mattie’s Rag, and I’m going to do for another one, Get it Right Next Time. I urge you also to have a look at the comments and read Tom Ripley’s story of why the song has such strong associations for him.

And as usual, we finish with the Quiz Question of the Week. For this week’s question I once again direct you to the Penny Post May quiz which closes on 29 May. Last week’s was: Only two clubs have played in two European Cup/Champions’ League Finals and won both of them. Name the clubs. They are Porto (1987 and 2004) and Nottingham Forest (1979 and 1980). Forest is also the only club to have won the European Cup more often than their national league championship. There’s little chance of their winning another title, of any kind, in the foreseeable future. Sic transit gloria Europa…

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Brian Quinn

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