Local News Jan 10-17 2019

Including newsletters in Hungerford and the Lambourn Valley, speeding in Newbury, wassailing in Thatcham, slimming in Mortimer, raising the precept in Marlborough, saving the PO in Grove, selling the PO in East Hendred, squeezing in in Swindon, planning in Theale, parking in Bedwyn, a non-green green iguana in Hampstead Norreys, traffic and police updates, community transport, London Road again,  broadband and water tanks, plastic problems, village agents, Darlington’s chairs, Woolies remembered, a 1902 pub fire, finding my way home, horror films, improving life on earth and when not to dial 999.

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).

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.

• For information on flood warnings and alerts, click here.

• 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. Click here for services in Wantage.

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)

• This week’s Newbury Weekly News continues to look at the unraveling saga of London Road Industrial Estate scheme. This week’s coverage concentrates on the some internal discussions concerning the internal costs WBC has incurred and how far these can be estimated; and whether the minutes of WBC’s meeting with St Modwens can be published (‘no’ according to the Council).

The expenditure figures that NWN quotes, be they £6.1m or £363,000, are obviously important and eye-catching but it seems to me that the details of internal costs are less important than why the current impasse has happened in the first place. After all, if the development were under way according to the plans then no one would be asking how much had been spent on staff or contracts.

It seems to me three more important questions are, firstly, what led to WBC’s decision to change the ‘vision’ for this site in about 2014 and what consultation took place in order to ensure that this was acceptable and viable; secondly, why, as the previous developer had agreed to fund the access road, was this aspect of the work excluded from the later development agreement with St Modwens; and thirdly, what is going to happen next – will the contract be put out for tender or will WBC decide to manage the project itself?

The matter will at some point be coming before WBC’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee and I imagine that these and other questions will be asked then. We understand this process will start next week although this may only be to agree the terms of reference and it may be some time before the matter will be fully considered and this may not happen before the elections in early May. It could also be argued that true scrutiny is not possible if the committee’s members include people who were involved in making the decisions that are being scrutinised. This not a personal criticism of any individuals involved but a simple statement of fact.

Two letters in this week’s NWN also raise this issue and tend to confirm the increasing view that there are serious questions that need to be answered about the whole London Road process (which stretches back over a decade). One of the letters also suggests that both Market Street and Sandleford are similarly flawed.

• This edition of Private Eye contains its 2018 Rotten Boroughs awards which reminds us all of the ghastly depths to which some councils and councillors sometimes sink. I can reassure local readers that none of the councils covering the Penny Post area are featured. Two stand out for me. Cheshire East was the subject of an amazing seven separate police investigations in 2018, including for dodgy land deals. Meanwhile, Darlington sold 60 vintage chairs for £100 each in a cost-cutting measure before discovering that they were fetching up to £4,500 each online. Then, realising they needed to replace the chairs, they bought some more which cost over twice as much as the amount they’d realised from the original sale. There’s also an alarmingly long list of councils which have placed serious obstacles in the way of local journalists being able to cover their activities.

• This week’s NWN has on p7 an article relatingWest Berkshire’s Executive Council meeting on 20 December at which representatives of the West Berkshire Green Party pressed the Council to collect more different types of plastic and to provide more public recycling bins. Councillor Hilary Cole, the portfoilo holder for waste, said that West Berkshire would consider recycling more plastic if there was the ‘market demand’ for the plastic. The article went on to say that West Berkshire ‘falls under 99% of local authorities’ that collect plastic bottles, which I imagine means that it is one of the 99% that does collect bottles (a point West Berkshire confirmed for me) rather than that it was in the bottom 1% by collection rates. It’s also mentioned that over three-quarters of local councils collect plastic pots, trays and tubs but that West Berkshire is not one of them.

As with broadband speeds (see next para) there is a bewildering range of statistics about the recycling performance of local councils. LetsRecycle is one provider of these figures. If you click here, their 2016-17 Overall Performance table shows West Berkshire at a respectable 65th out of 350 for overall recycling, better than Wiltshire (180th) but some way behind the Vale of White Horse in fifth. For information on what West Berkshire can and cannot currently recycle, please click here. Finally, West Berkshire has asked me to point out that photo of the full recycling bag (which it did not supply) is misleading – bottle tops need to be removed first.

• There’s a post on West Berkshire’s site from December referring to government proposals which would guarantee gigabit-capable broadband connections in all new build homes and which have been welcomed by the Council. The article ends with two comments from Council Leader Graham Jones which confuse me. Firstly, he refers to the fact that the company ThinkBroadband has recognised that West Berkshire has the best rural-broadband speeds in the country. There’s no reference given but the only survey from the company I could find (which covers the whole country, not just rural areas) is here. This places the Newbury constituency at 170 out of 650. He goes on to say that this is something WBC has been looking at ‘for some time.’ If so, and if it’s such a great idea, why has it not been implemented in West Berkshire already? Surely a council can insist on such a condition in its own manor without needing to await government sanction?

• A similar but less ambitious suggestion is made in the letters page of this week’s Wantage and Grove Herald: could not all new-builds also be fitted with tanks to collect rainwater from roofs?

• A new regional pilot announced to boost mental health support in West Berkshire – click here for details.

• The Old Memories Revived section in this week’s NWN (p24) reminded me that it’s been 10 years – yes, 10 years – since Woolworths shut its Newbury store as part of a nationwide closedown caused partly by the financial crisis and partly by the general and increasing challenges facing high-street retailers. Many would feel that both these problems remain much as they were then.

• As mentioned last week, the Police Commissioner, Anthony Stansfeld, will need to decide soon is how much to ask Council Tax payers in their area (which includes West Berkshire and Vale of White Horse) to contribute to additional policing costs. This is expected to be about £24 per household per year. Click here to read the Police and Crime Plan for the Thames Valley 2017-21 which the PCC’s office has prepared.

• And still with the Thames Valley Police, a campaign has recently been launched to make people aware of what is and what is not an emergency callclick here for more. Examples of subjects that certainly don’t merit dialling 999, taken from various websites, include discovering that your kebab is cold, believing clowns over-charging for balloons at a fête, being kept awake by mating foxes, calling 999 because you didn’t know the number to dial for 111, realising that your guinea pig has gone into labour, ordering a takeaway meal which is late arriving, not being able to find your trousers, wanting to know what the temperature was outside, discovering that someone has stolen the snowman from your garden and needing help with cancelling a hairdressers’ appointment.

• Click here for more information on the forthcoming West Berkshire Lottery.

• The letters pages of the Newbury Weekly News this week include: criticism of the ‘appalling’ dog mess on Greenham Common; praise for the Eight Bells for Mental Health charity; an appeal for vounteer drivers (see the ‘Newbury section below for more); and a letter criticising the local Green party which conflates two issues, carbon emissions and immigration, in a way I rather hard to follow.

• A number of good causes have received valuable support recently, including: Headley playground (thanks to Basingstoke and Deane Council); numerous local charities and community groups (thanks to Greenham Trust);Emmaus (thanks to the Wantage and Grove Archaeological Society); Oxford Children’s Hospital (thanks to the family of Skye Hall); Oxfordshire Air Ambulance (thanks to Ray and Janet Dawson, who have raised a staggering £54,000 for this cause since 2011); Two Saints hostel (thanks to Newbury Bridge Club).

Hungerford & district

• Please click here for the latest news from Hungerford Town Council.

• As ever, Penny Post Hungerford is published at the start of each month and contains the best and most varied round-up of what’s been going on and will be going in and around the town. Please click here to see the newsletter. If you’d like to receive this directly each month, please email me on brian@pennypost.org.uk and I’ll make sure you’re added to the list. This month’s edition includes, as well as the usual summary of the Town Council’s recent work and news from local retailers, details of a one-day pop-up shop, the Town & Manor’s Hungerford Community Award, reviews of Hungerford Town FC’s last two matches (both 2-1 victories), the latest on the campaign to ensure the survival of Hungerford Nursery School, a recommendation from the Bookshop, a survival guide to dry January, offers from Fare Wise Travel and details of the meetings of local clubs and societies.

Lambourn & Downlands

• Please click here to visit the village websites or Facebook pages for Lambourn, East Garston and Great Shefford.

• The January Valley of the Racehorse newsletter was published this morning, 10 January, and provides the best and most varied summary of what’s going on in the area. Please click here to see the newsletter. If you’d like to receive this directly each month, please email me on brian@pennypost.org.uk and I’ll make sure you’re added to the list. This month’s edition includes news of a new (ex Radio 1) presenter on 4 Legs Radio, a sweepstake for the return of the Lambourn, racing news, an open day at the Lambourn Centre this Saturday, news from The Swan, a seasonal offer from the Queens Arms,  volunteers needed at Shefford’s youth club, local events and Trindledown’s web-friendly parrot.

Click here for information on free English courses offered to ESOL students in Lambourn (also Newbury, Calcot and Thatcham) by the Berkshire School of English.

4 Legs Community Radio Station will on Friday have its 40th day of broadcasting (and with an ex-Radio 1 DJ) – click here for more.

Newbury & district

• Please click here for the latest news from Newbury Town Council: and here to see NTC’s archive of monthly newsletters.

• A major road improvement project for Newbury is expected to continue until the autumn – click here for details.

Newbury Cancer Care needs volunteer drivers mostly to take people to and from local hospitals. Contact Sylvia Fones or Helen Milroy on 01635 31542 or office@newburycancercare.org.uk. See our Local Volunteering Opportunities post for other volunteer positions that need to be filled.

• This week’s NWN reports on p9 how an appeal for a 20mph limit in Andover Road has not been supported by West Berkshire Council, this despite the claims by campaigners that the proximity of schools and several near misses in recent years make a compelling case. Jeanette Clifford, the portfolio holder for transport, did admit that the outcome might be different in future if new data can be provided. A similar campaign in Eastbury has also been knocked back but I understand that the community there – which voted unanimously for the scheme – will keep on pressing.

Newbury Library has re-opened following a refurbishment – click here for more.

Click here for information on free English courses offered to ESOL students in Newbury (also Thatcham, Calcot and Lambourn) by the Berkshire School of English.

• You can keep up to date with the progress of work at Market Street and The Wharf by clicking here.

Thatcham and district

• Please click here for the latest news from Thatcham Town Council.

• Please click here for the latest news from Cold Ash Parish Council.

• Please click here for the latest news from Hampstead Norreys Parish Council (where there are currently two councillor vacancies).

• Please click here for the latest news from Bucklebury Parish Council.

• Please click here for recently-released details of Thatcham’s civic events in 2019.

• Thatcham’s orchard will be blessed and wassailed on Saturday 13 January between 2pm and 3pm. Meet at the Discovery Centre from 1.30pm. The idea is to make as much noise as possible with musical instruments and objects like pots and pans to drive away any evil spirits: which all sounds like a very good idea.

• This week’s NWN reports (on p19) on the refusal by West Berkshire for plans for a new car dealership in Thatcham. The £8m project, which would see BMW dealers Dick Lovett relocate from Hungerford, was rejected on a number of grounds including the fact that it was contrary to policy, flooding concerns and doubts about the validity of a traffic-impact survey.

• This week’s animal of the week (since when did we have an animal of the week? Ed.) comes from the Living Rainforest at Hampstead Norreys and is Rio the green iguana. I think he’s a wonderful looking beast – my only slight criticism with the name is it seems that green iguanas are not always green, and Rio is one of the ones who isn’t. Who decides these names? Someone who’s colour blind?

• Click here to see the latest Cold Ash Community Bulletin. Included this week is information about a number of scams doing the rounds (which are not, of course, restricted to Cold Ash).

Theale and district

• Please click here for the latest news from Theale Parish Council.

• Please click here for the latest news from Aldermaston Parish Council.

• Please click here for the latest news from Stratfield Mortimer Parish Council.

• Please click here for the latest news from Brimpton Parish Council.

• Please click here for the latest news from Englefield Parish Council.

• Please click here for the latest news from Burghfield Parish Council (featuring a new website).

• Free board game sessions for children aged 8+ are available at Mortimer Library. Click here for details.

• Click here for the latest newsletter from the West Berkshire Councillor for Theale, Alan Macro. Topics covered include the HTA planning application in Theale High Street and his views on the London Road impasse in Newbury.

• A message here on the Stratfield Mortimer PC site – though it applies equally well throughout West Berkshire – about the help and support offered by West Berkshire village agents.

• An encouraging thought from Mortimer for anyone who’s on a diet can be found here…while there’s a slightly less encouraging one here.

Click here for the December 2018/January 2019 Parish Magazine from Englefield Parish Council.

Click here for information on free English courses offered to ESOL students in Thatcham (also Newbury, Calcot and Lambourn) by the Berkshire School of English.

Marlborough & district

• Please click here for the latest news from Marlborough Town Council.

• The building that used to be home to St Peter’s School in Marlborough has been put on the market by Wiltshire Council and will probably end up as a residential development, Marlborough.news reveals.

• Marlborough Town Council raised its precept by 3.81% at a meeting last week. This equates to a rise of about 60p a month fora band D property.

• A story from the same source here that caught my eye on the BBC website earlier this week: a ski party from St John’s in Marlborough returned to the UK with an extra passenger on the coach…

• There’s information here about some local volunteering events organised by Action for the River Kennet in January.

• A reminder of a point made in a recent Bedwyn Train Passenger Group newsletter – if you park in Bedywn to use the station, please do your best to do a bit of shopping at the shops in the town as it’s claimed that the lack of parking spaces for shoppers has damaged their trade.

• 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. (Be prepared for a long wait for it to load.)

• It seems that the Post Office in Grove closed in late December as a result of the lease of the lease expiring on the McColl’s store. Exactly this happened in Hungerford in 2016-17 and the whole saga is chronicled here. There’s been a lot of social-media comment about this, some of it hitting at the wrong targets, so I thought it worth summarising Hungerford’s experience in the hope this might be of use to efforts to retain the service in Grove (or. indeed, wherever else this is happening).

Several Hungerford town councillors met PO representatives before McColls closed and were told that the PO would not open a branch in Hungerford but would be happy if a retailer such as WHS stepped forward to host the service. As there was no immediate prospect of that, the council then put time and effort into getting the PO to agree to a temporary outreach service, finding the premises, sorting the internet connection and publicising it. When WHS moved in to the old McColls premises eight months later it resumed the full PO service: however, if the service hadn’t been continued in the meantime it’s doubtful this would have happened. These PO services don’t generally make money and require a good deal of compliance but retailers will run them if they feel that the extra footfall will justify it. If the town has been without a PO service for some time, the view might be taken that it won’t.

The PO only has an obligation to retain about 11,500 counters across the whole country but no requirement to site these in a particular place. The presence of a PO in a town, no matter for how long, is no guarantee that it will remain there. Concerted action by the local council or a dedicated group will have vastly more effect than social-media exchanges which it’s doubtful the PO will even see, still less act upon. The MP has no responsibility or power in this matter. In Hungerford, if the town council had taken no action there would have been no outreach service and so probably no PO in the town now. Indeed, in April 2017, a Post Office spokesman conceded that it was very rare for a  council to act as quickly and successfully as Hungerford’s had done.

• There’s a similar story, potentially, in East Hendred, with news that the Hendred Stores (which includes a Post Office) is up for sale. You can find out more by contact the estate agency Humbertstones or by having a look at p5 of this week’s Wantage and Grove Herald.

• A reminder that Wantage’s Twinning Association has fixed 7 to 13 July as the dates of its trip to Mably in the Loire this year. For more information on how to join the Association, contact Simon Weston on westonsl@virginmedia.com or call 01235 765 620.

Click here for information on the consultation for the final draft of Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group’s Older People’s Strategy. You need to have made your views known by the end of January.

Click here for the latest from the Wantage and Grove Campaign Group.

• There will be roadworks in Grove near the Williams F1 roundabout which are likely to continue until Friday January 18.

• You have until Friday 18 January for nominations and applications in for this year’s South and Vale Business Awards.

• Julie Mabberley’s regular column on p8 0f The Wantage and Grove Herald looks askance at the role of the Oxfordshire Growth Board in allocating funds for road projects in the local area.

• Meanwhile, the Oxfordshire Growth Board itself has issued a press release entitled Oxfordshire organisations provide exciting visions for county’s future. Click here for more. Julie may have something to say about this in future columns.

• The same newspaper’s Heralding the Past section on p14 has a strange tale from 1902 about the night the Lord Nelson pub in Wantage was destroyed in a fire. It seemed that some of the firemen, having thrown a couple of buckets of water on the thatched roof, then went into the pub for a few beers. That couldn’t happen now – could it?

• A reminder that if you’ve lost (or found) something in and around Wantage, this Facebook post is one place you can refer to.

• Click here for details of some forthcoming events in Wantage.

• Click here for the January edition of  the West Ilsley News.

Swindon & district

• Click here for the latest news and information from Swindon Borough Council.

• Swindon-based UK Space Agency is offering young people expert advice and a share of £50,000 for their ideas of how satellites could improve life on Earth.

Two new homes on a site that can only be accessed by a very narrow path between existing houses in Stratton were approved by Swindon Borough Council‘s planing committee despite the objections of the man who owns that driveway. Click here for more.

• Business owners in Swindon have been invited to a special meeting to discuss Swindon Borough Council’s budget proposals for the 2019/20 financial year.

• The Wyvern Theatre has teamed up with Swindon Borough Council to encourage more people in the town to consider becoming a foster carer.

• Parents have until midnight on Tuesday 15 January to get their applications in for a primary school place in this September’s intake – click here for details.

• Swindon Railway Village has been named by Civic Voice as England’s favourite conservation area.

• Click here for details of the many volunteering opportunities at Great Western Hospital.

The song and the quiz

• The Song of the Week is here again. Steve Winwood and Eric Clapton are two the best musicians the world of British guitar music has produced. They briefly played together in the ill-fated so-called super-group Blind Faith in the late ’60s: but here they are, many years later, performing Winwood’s Can’t Find My Way Home.

• Which brings us to the Quiz Question of the Week. For this week’s question, as it was last week, it’s the last chance to have a pop  at at the Penny Post Christmas 2018 quiz which can win you a meal for two, a bottle of wine, a room for the night and breakfast the next day at Donnington Grove in Newbury. For those of you who feel cheated by there being no specific question this week, here’s a bonus one: What do the actors Christopher Lee and Vincent Price (and nearly Peter Cushing) have in common? That’s aside from all having been horror-film actors, of course – it’s something much more basic than that.

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Brian Quinn

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Covering: Newbury, Thatcham, Hungerford, Marlborough, Wantage, Lambourn, Compton, Swindon & Theale