Including fly tipping, GDPR, Hungerford’s railway station plans, Newbury’s Sandleford response, voter ID in Swindon, a peek in Wiltshire Council’s in-tray and NWN’s postbag, Grove’s diggers, East Garston’s grants, Chaddleworth’s iron curtain, open studios, parking, police and roadwork updates, a facelift at the racecourse, two first-half Wembley penalties, the brief love life of a lemur, Dracula day, Belikin beer, scarecrows, Tech Nation, four seasons, vertical bank notes, shaking homes and a villainous crossword clue.
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).
• 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.
• 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)
• The question of fly tipping has come up again, most recently at several parish meetings and in this week’s Newbury Weekly News: their article (p25) refers to North Hampshire but it’s certainly not unique to there. It’s been suggested that the so-called ‘waste wars’ and the increases in the charges for various rubbish services, including the so-called ‘green bin tax, have been responsible. Councils in general seem to deny that there has been an increase or that, if there has, that it is due to these factors.
• The statistics are complicated by the fact that some incidents are reported to the police but not the council and some vice versa; which the government’s own statistics for 2016-17 exclude ‘incidents involving the Environment Agency or cleared by private landowners’. I suspect many of the latter are not even reported. With this exclusion in mind, the Gov.uk figures show that there were 284,000 cases in 2007-08. These fell to 711,000 in 2012-13 but have been rising steadily ever since with just over one million cases in 2016-17. Only about 47% of these resulted in enforcement notices, down 4% from the year before. The costs of clearing this up were £58m in 2016-17, up 16% from the year before. By its nature it’s a difficult crime to prevent as it can happen anywhere, is over very quickly and rarely takes place in front of witnesses. I imagine that many piles of rubbish would involve items that could be traced back to their original owners (who are as liable in law as the person who does the dumping) but I seriously doubt whether councils or the police have the time or the will to sift through all the junk. Information on how to report an incident can be found here if it takes place in West Berkshire, here if in Basingstoke and Deane, here if in the Vale of the White Horse, here if in Wiltshire and here if in Swindon.
• In last week’s Penny Post we had a joke about GDPR. No jokes this week: it’s coming tomorrow, whatever ‘it’ is exactly (the Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham has described it as ‘an evolutionary process for organisations’, which I suppose is one way of putting it). Many businesses have been confused and distracted beyond endurance by the demands of the various regulations which are in many cases open to a variety of interpretations. Some have perhaps done too much; others too little; some nothing at all. Each of these, or some other reaction altogether, may prove to be the appropriate one in each case. Some may have followed Whetherspoon’s lead last year in deleting their entire email database (over 650,000 addresses). Many others perhaps might in the future wish they had. A survey by PwC in March suggested that only about half the businesses contacted felt there would be any benefits. The main benefit seems to me to make businesses think for a moment about the issue of data privacy which is becoming ever-more important and emotive.
• Anyway, for better or for worse, it will soon be a part of our life. As I understand it, this is an EU regulation and so will need to be re-constituted as UK legislation in due course, probably with further amendments and consultations. In the mean time, just to mess your head up still further if you think you’ve got things sorted for your company, here’s a quick GDPR quiz from the BBC website, which includes in its preamble the fact that ‘it looks like many firms are still struggling to understand what it means for them, even at this late stage’.
• Bank notes have to be designed in landscape format, right? Wrong…
• Hampshire and Thames Valley Police have released a video highlighting the four main driving risks.
• West Berkshire Council has appointed Councillor Richard Somner as its Mental Health Champion – click here for more.
• Click here for information of the West Berkshire and North Hampshire Open Studios which runs until Sunday 3 June.
• There are a number of awareness days which might be global, continental, national, local or existing only in the minds of their creators. A few upcoming ones – note that I’m giving them all equal dignity through the use of capital letters – are World Brother Day (24 May); Escargot Day (24 May); Greek Pride Day (25 May); World MS Day (25 May); World Dracula Day (26 May); National Doughnut Day (in the USA, where else? 1 June); World Bicycle Day (3 June); National Hug Your Cat Day (4 June). Take your pick.
• The letters pages of the Newbury Weekly News this week includes a lament as to the state of the gardens at Greenham House; a thanks to the people of Newbury from the recently-departed Mayor; support for Newbury Town FC; some fiscal observations from West Berkshire’s financial portfolio holder; and a plea on behalf on Newbury’s homeless.
• A number of good causes have received valuable support recently, including: 1st Wash Common Scouts (thanks to the Berkshire Freemasons); the Boxford History Project (thanks to the Headley Trust); Be Free Young Carers (thanks to Maymessy Cookery School) The Marlborough Dyslexia Association (thanks to Marlborough Town Council); the British Heart Foundation and Prostate Cancer UK (thanks James and Daniel Kingsbeer and Everton FC).
Hungerford & district
• Please click here for the latest news from Hungerford Town Council.
• The question of the planning permission (or not) for the proposed development at the railway station has reared its head again as a result of a planning meeting at Hungerford Town Council which was reported in NWN. This raises an old issue which we and others have mentioned several times. A few years ago a temporary agreement between Oakes Bros, the owners of the site, and West Berkshire Council allowed for about 95 car-parking spaces near the station. This agreement expired in 2016 but the parking spaces have remained. However, the intention was always that this site would eventually be developed and the car-parking was just a short-term measure.
• Several things follow from this. The first is that to refuse permission on grounds of losing parking spaces is specious as technically there are no such spaces. Secondly, the arrangement was always temporary and thus not part of any long-term plan for parking in the town. Thirdly, as the the site is part of an area designated for development (currently commercial rather than residential, a separate issue) then it’s to be assumed that the site will be built on one day, at which point this issue will re-appear.
• The question of parking at Hungerford station, already difficult enough, is one that has been building up for some time. The permission for 100 new homes at Salisbury Road will further add to the pressure. It also seems unfair on Oakes Bros – who were, I imagine, under no obligation to make this empty land available – if they won’t be able to see the site developed because of this resulting in the loss of amenity that was only ever intended to be temporary. In a way, this temporary use has done Hungerford a dis-service as it’s created the illusion that the problem of parking has been solved and that, when this changes, that it’s the result of rapacious developers or uncaring councils. It’s not going to be an easy problem to solve: but Hungerford Town Council has solved a few difficult issues recently (see below for two), one with West Berkshire’s help, so nothing’s impossible.
• One of the first ribbon-cutting jobs for new Hungerford Mayor Helen Simpson is likely to be the formal handing over of the Library from West Berkshire to Hungerford Councils on Saturday 16 June. The event has provisionally been fixed for 10am – details to be confirmed. For anyone unaware of the background, this will be a good deal more than a piece of municipal glad-handing. In 2016 there was, as a result of cuts in council funding, a real risk that all bar one of the libraries in West Berkshire. including Hungerford’s, would close. The solution of a community asset transfer (a complex process which is about to reach a conclusion) was suggested by the current mayor and her predecessor. West Berkshire Council was at first sceptical and then – to its great credit – enthusiastic about the idea. As a result of the actions of the town council, Hungerford has saved its library. (HTC’s efforts have also resulted in the Post Office service being saved but that’s a separate story.)
• As a result of the works being carried out as a result of this, the whole library building – including the council offices – will be closed from Tuesday 29 May to Monday 4 June. The council can still be contacted by email and the website will work as usual – see link above – but there will be an ansafone service only for telephone calls.
• Congratulations again to Catherine Wooliston, Chris Scorey and Norman Barr who were recently given the Freedom of the Town, the ceremony for which took place on 22 May. A fuller report will follow in the forthcoming Penny Post Hungerford.
• Two potential safety issues in the town are being discussed, both of which were raised at the last Hungerford Town Council meeting. One concerns whether there should be an additional pedestrian crossing in Charnham Street, the town council believing that there should and the district councillors feeling otherwise. The other concerns whether there should be safety railings at the foot of the slope where the west side of the High Street pavement joins the canal towpath, the site of an alarming accident involving a buggy earlier this month which thankfully did not result in a tragedy. This is another issue where more than one organisation is involved and also where a number of competing safety concerns need to be taken into account.
• Applications are welcomed by East Garston Parish Council for community grants – click here for more information. You have until 30 June to get your bid in.
• Further news relevant to the village will be available in the forthcoming East Garston News which will be emailed by the end of the week.
• And, next week, look out for the June issue of the Valley of the Racehorse e-newsletter which will cover the area from Shefford Woodlands to East Shefford and from Upper Lambourn to Membury.
• A settlement is divided into two parts, a western and and eastern. Different regulations apply in each. Does this sound familiar? You’d be wrong – this isn’t the start of a delayed cold-war rant about the horrors of the Berlin Wall but something that’s happening at the moment in Chaddleworth, a place whose only connection with the iron curtain is its proximity to RAF Welford. The reason it’s divided in two is because of the cost of school travel, with those in the western part – dare I use the word ‘sector’? – having to pay for school transport if they go to any but the closest school (which happens to be King Alfred’s) from year seven whereas those in the east get this free until the end of year 11. The Chairman of the Parish Council has written to various people including the CEO of West Berkshire Council and Richard Benyon MP concerning this ‘iniquity’ which has heaped costs ‘onto those unable to fund them.’ A local charitable trust set up for the relief of poverty is being swamped by applications and has not enough funds to meet the demand. I’m not sure what decision-making led to this issue but it seems pretty bonkers at first glance. I’m aware that it’s also to be found elsewhere in this district and, I’ve no doubt, others as well. More news on any developments as we get them.
• 4 Legs Community Radio Station will on Friday have its seventh day of broadcasting – click here for more.
Newbury & district
• And so, once again, I find myself typing the word Sandleford. On 14 May, Newbury Town Council considered its response to the two revised applications for this problematic development. The council objected to both proposals, citing a total of 21 different reasons and related points. You can read these in full here: the post also has a link to the part of the West Berkshire Council where the planning documents can be seen.
• 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.
• Newbury’s annual 10k race will take place this Sunday, starting at the Market Place at 10am.
• Good news for users of Newbury Racecourse Station – and there were 102,302 of you in 2016-17 – with the announcement that improvements are planned as a result of GWR’s Customer and Communities Improvement Fund.
• There’s a slightly longer deadline – until Saturday 30 June – for applications for the 2018 Newbury in Bloom campaign.
• The recently-published 2018 Tech Nation Report places Newbury’s digital density far outstrips most other towns in the UK, including Reading and Basingstoke. I’ve had a quick look at the report (which you can see here) which shows that the town is also rated second in the UK in terms of ‘productivity of local tech ecosystems’ (whatever exactly that means) and fifth in the UK for ‘largest increase in digital startups 2006-16’. West Berkshire Council’s comment on the report can be read here.
Thatcham & district
• Please click here for the latest news from Thatcham Town Council.
• A Wembley final was decided this month by a team from the south, in blue, defeating a team from the north, the only goal being a penalty scored mid-way through the first half by the centre forward. I’m talking, of course, about Thatcham Town’s victory over Stockton Town last weekend. This was the 62nd goal this season for Shame Cooper-Clark, a staggering achievement. Congratulations to all involved. This week’s NWN has devoted several pages to reports, interviews and photographs. There was also another Wembley cup final the day before which followed the same pattern as described above, contested between the two most boring and uninspiring teams in this year’s Premier League. Offhand I can’t recall the name of either club and, even if I could, I certainly won’t give them any extra publicity here except to say that the slightly less dreary of the two won.
• If you want to know what a garage looks like after it’s been struck by lightning, have a look at page 3 of this week’s Newbury Weekly News.
• Thatcham’s Station Road will be closed from 11pm on Sunday 3 June to 10pm on Tuesday 5 June.
• 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.
• We mentioned a story in the last two weeks about the controversy surrounding the proposed closures of the Braeside and Oxenwood outdoor education centres. This article from Marlborough News reports how a petition signed by over 16,000 people has been received by Wiltshire Council on the subject.
• Another item in Wiltshire Council’s post box this week has been this open letter on the subject of the proposed increases in parking charges.
• The meeting of the Marlborough Fair Trade evening – postponed because of the snow earlier this year – took place earlier this month. Read more here.
• I mentioned above about a couple of the things Hungerford Town Council has achieved in the last year or so. Click here for a summary of some of the accomplishments of three retiring members of Mildenhall Parish Council.
• Author Chris Cleeve’s Everyone Brave is Forgiven has been chosen as Marlborough’s Big Town Read for 2018.
• Click here for more on the Aldbourne Scarecrow Trail last weekend.
• 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.
• Public hearing sessions of Vale of White Horse District Council’s Local Plan 2031 (Part 2) will begin in July.
• Click here for details of the 2018 Vale4Business Awards.
• It’s the last week or so to apply for community grants from the Vale of White Horse Council – applications must be in by Wednesday 6 June.
• The diggers (machines that dig, not 17th-century socialists) have moved in at Grove Airfield, the first stage of a 2,500-home development on the site.
Swindon & district
• Click here for the latest news and information from Swindon Borough Council.
• A slightly odd headline in the Swindon Advertiser caught my eye: End in sight for shaking homes in Old Walcot.’ If your home shakes, or you live in Old Walcot, or particularly if both apply, click here.
• Wiltshire Police has launched its ‘Who you Gonna Call’ campaign to raise awareness of the correct use of 999 and 101.
• Swindon was one of five council which piloted a new system of voter ID at the recent council elections. Of the five, there were fewer people who were not able to vote as a result of not having the correct ID than anywhere else. Opinion is still divided as to whether turning people away for this reason who should be able to vote is a greater evil than having some people fraudulently voting more than once.
• It’s Lemur Week at the Cotswold Wildlife park (ends Sunday 3 June). Click here for more. Apparently female lemurs are only sexually active for two or three days a year. I never know that.
The song and the quiz
• The Song of the Week is back. As today is World Brother Day (see above, ‘Across the Area’), let’s have something written by Neil and Tim Finn from Crowded House’s wonderful album Woodface – Four Seasons in One Day.
• Which leads us to the Quiz Question of the Week. This week I’ve hand-picked a question from our latest quiz which has a pair of tickets to the Garstonbury Festival in (where else) East Garston on 14 July as the prize. The question, one of nine you’ll need to have a stab at, is as follows: What cost £1 in 1970, £21 in 1997, £112 in 2004 and £238 in 2017? As I won’t be giving the answer to this next week as the quiz won’t have closed, you can have this crossword clue as a bonus (many thanks to Brian Barram): Villain heading off for part of church. The answer’s four letters, the last one being E. Last week’s was 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? The answer is Belize.
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