Including town freedom in Hungerford, bus-rail links in Newbury, social care in Swindon, refillables in Thatcham, a riparian sweepstake in East Garston, volunteers needed in Shefford, A Level 2 in Chaddleworth, eco-bricks in Hampstead Norreys, consultations in Wantage, fundraising in Chilton Foliat, heritage in Aldbourne, a change of use in Bedwyn, yellow lines in Marlborough, the village hall in Englefield, traffic and police updates, community transport, disputed crime figures, David Cameron running away again, naming a Chief Constable, parking revenues, easy money, spooky birthdays, free school milk, man-midwives and the world’s loneliest frog.
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.
Note: astute readers will notice that there’s a new section for Compton & Downlands below which isn’t currently reflected on the map above. This will be fixed soon.
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)
• Of all the astounding statements which have been made during the latest phase of our self-inflicted political crisis, David Cameron’s remark that ‘he didn’t regret calling the referendum’ but ‘did regret that we lost’ rates pretty high. This is a bit like a gambler saying that he wasn’t sorry he went into the casino but was sorry that he put all his money on black and that it came up red. The end of the interview, which you can see here, appropriately enough shows him shows him running away, as he did in 2016.. A more honest appraisal, although one less supportive of the PM, comes from Cameron’s former right-hand man, George Osborne, who in this 2018 Panorama interview, lists half a dozen things that went wrong with the campaign, all of which a competent leader might have have anticipated before agreeing hold a referendum in the first place. For those readers who think these statements are too anti-Brexit, I ask you this: does there seem any chance that whatever eventually comes to pass will bear any relationship to what was promised?
• I’m still trying to find out a few things about the London Road Industrial Estate scheme. In last week’s Local News I suggested that the three important questions were (a) 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; (b) 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 (c) what is going to happen next – will the contract be put out for tender or will WBC decide to manage the project itself?
I have asked West Berkshire Council these questions, in various forms and at various times, over the last month or so. The most recent reply, on 3 January, was from a spokesperson who said: “We’re are in the process of creating an FAQ page for our website which should answer the majority of questions. I’ll let you know when this is published.” When I receive this link, which I haven’t yet, I’ll spread the word.
• West Berkshire Council is conducting a review of its Polling Districts and Places – local council elections are coming up on 2 May; general elections and referendums can, of course, happen at any time…
• West Berkshire’s website is also encouraging people to see the production of Risking it All at Arlington Arts on Thursday 24 Jan – click here for details. The play ‘focusses on raising awareness of child sexual exploitation (CSE), e-safety and social media misuse (such as Snapchat and Facebook) substance and alcohol misuse, grooming and inappropriate relationships.’
• If you see what looks like thin white string wrapped around the branches of your plants then this could be the work of Takahashia Japonica: not a horticultural Banksy or an oriental eco-terrorist group but a recently-arrived pest, the first UK sightings of which have recently been reported in Berkshire. Click here for more.
• A new regional pilot announced to boost mental health support in West Berkshire – click here for details.
• The animal of the week (Is this now a regular feature? Ed. Yes. OK. Ed.) is Romeo the Sehuencas Water Frog who for the decade experts had thought was the last of his species until five others were discovered in Bolivia. One, who has been named Juliet, will now provide a hopefully willing partner for him. I trust that after ten years he still remembers what ‘no’ means, should it come to that.
• The matter of car parking in some of the towns in the area remains a regular topic for debate. In Thatcham, the law of unintended consequences seems recently to have swung into action: as reported in this week’s NWN (p25) residents have long been complaining about overspill parking in the streets around Longbridge Road from the station and elsewhere. West Berkshire’s solution was introduce parking controls which has resulted in residents getting tickets. In Wantage, the situation has seemingly become so anarchic and unenforced that the Town Council is seeing if it can take the responsibility for the patrols. Rarely a month goes past without some tale of gridlock and parking problems in Marlborough. In Bedwyn, parking throughout the town by rail users is causing a noticeable loss of business for local retailers. Hungerford has so far escaped quite lightly but, as this article explains, this may change with the closure of the temporary site near the station and the 100-home development at Salisbury Road.
• Councils obviously earn money from parking and West Berkshire has, as reported in this week’s NWN, recently made a record sum from this source, over £2m after costs. The first part of the article concerns the disagreement between the portfolio holder, Jeanette Clifford, and Lib Dem councillor Alan Macro as to whether this is ‘net income’ or ‘profit’. Councillor Clifford’s argument in favour of the former, less emotive, term was that all the money gets reinvested in traffic-management services . I suppose much the same could be said of any income a council receives. I’m not sure the terms used are as important as whether the council’s parking policies help manage the issue successfully. Many would say that they don’t but, in fairness, this is a very difficult one to solve, particularly in a rural area where there a few towns which attract people from the surrounding area who often have no other way of getting there other than by car. Furthermore, the interests of different groups such as retailers, residents, commuters, schools and emergency services on the matter will often be very different.
• 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.
• On a similar theme, a headline on the BBC regional summary page caught my eye – New Chief Constable named by force. I took this to mean that he had been unwilling to take on the job and had been dragged, kicking and biting, to the podium: not a good start. Clicking on the story here explained my error…
• Click here for more information on the forthcoming West Berkshire Lottery.
• The letters pages of the Newbury Weekly News this week include: a letter explaining the difference between two local crafting groups; sparrowhawks and red kits in the dock; more about Brexit; and a suggestion to bring back free school milk (which cast a cloud over my childhood as I’ve always loathed milk and was made to drink it every day, often missing break in the playground as a result. Most of it I squirted behind the radiator when the teacher wasn’t looking. The stench of sour milk that resulted put me off the stuff even more.)
• A number of good causes have received valuable support recently, including: Naomi House and Jacksplace (thanks to visitors to Santa’s grotto in Parkway); Marlborough British Legion (thanks to Marlborough Rotary Club); Wiltshire Air Ambulance (thanks to Swindon Town FC); numerous local community groups and charities (thanks to the Greenham Trust).
Hungerford & district
• Please click here for the latest news from Hungerford Town Council.
• Nominations can now be made for the 2019 Freedom of the Town award – click here for information.
• This weeks NWN has, on the front page of its Hungerford edition, an article about the seeming variation between the actual crime figures in Hungerford and those reported by the local Thames Valley Police representatives to the monthly Hungerford Town Council meetings. I’ve written to the Police and Crime Commissioner, his deputy and one of the officers involved in policing this area to ask if they have any comments. A reply was received from the Police Commissioner’s office within quarter of an hour: I’ve since heard from them again and been told that the Commissioner will look into this and discuss with the relevant people in the local policing area.
The whole business of reporting and recording crimes is both complex and emotive, as are the various ways in which statistics are used. To give one recent, if not local, example, the West Midlands Police recently admitted that it has failed to record over 16,000 violent crimes each year: while, going back to 2014, it seems that nationally over 800,000 crimes, a fifth of the total, were not being recorded. If a crime is not recorded I suppose that makes it impossible to investigate or resolve. The fact that there was, and perhaps still is, a confusion about what crimes should be recorded is thus a matter of genuine public concern. Also any statistics which are based on figures which omit 20% of the incidents are also effectively meaningless.
• There’s a fundraising drive under way at Chilton Foliat Primary School to build a new classroom and clubhouse. Much of the funding has been secured but government regulations means that building work needs to start by the end of February: this in turn requires as much as possible of the remaining sums to be raised as soon as possible. The best way of making the donation is via The Good Exchange as it will then be match funded.
• This week’s NWN refers on p19 to the matter, raised most recently at the most recent meeting of Hungerford Town Council, of the delayed presentation to the town by CALA and Wates of their plans for the Salisbury Road site. I can add to the article a point I mentioned at the council meeting, that I was recently in touch with CALA about this and was told that the delay was caused by ‘other projects’ taking priority over this one.
• See the paragraphs about parking in the Across the Area section above, which refers to particular issues in Hungerford.
• 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.
Lambourn & Downlands
• The January Valley of the Racehorse newsletter was published last week and provides the best and most varied summary of what’s going on in the area. Please click here to see the newsletter.
• Volunteers are needed to help run Great Shefford’s youth club.
• A reminder about a slightly unusual sweepstake as to your best guess on when the River Lambourn will start flowing again in East Garston this year (if, indeed, it is this year: opinions vary). The other issue concerning the river is the dredging incidents in late November and early December. There’s still no official word from the Environment Agency as to what the next stage is though we understand that an announcement is expected soon. When the river does start flowing again any restitution work will become both more difficult and more urgent.
• The NWN has reported some opposition to plans for a fast-food van in Lambourn on various grounds. If you have an opinion, click here and enter the code18/01313/FUL
• 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
• The Transport Services Team at West Berkshire Council has asked us to highlight the new bus-rail links now available from Newbury station on Monday to Saturday. Journeys on Kennections bus route 4 (Lambourn-Newbury) now extend around to and from Station Road, so providing connections to/from the new electric trains at Newbury Station. Likewise for journeys on Kennections route 6 (the Ilsleys-Compton-Hampstead Norreys-Hermitage-Newbury). Passengers can check their bus and get advance tickets using the free Kennections app: search ‘Kennections’ in app stores. Contactless card and mobile payment is available on the Kennections routes. See also WBC’s Travel guide and journey planner.
• You can read on p12 of this week’s NWN about the approval recently granted, despite opposition from the Town Council, to eight new flats off Bartholomew Street.
• Penny attended (and filmed) the V365 volunteering event in Newbury last weekend, organised by Volunteer Centre West Berkshire – congratulations to all involved for another successful event. You can read a report on this on p10 of this week’s Newbury Weekly News. Click here to visit VCWB’s website. Penny’s video will be available soon, probably on both VCWB’s website and ours.
• There’s a disturbing article in this week’s NWN (p9) about the negative effect that the relocation of the bus station has had on one of Newbury’s true institutions, the Empire Café. I spoke to Wendy today and she told me that, to make matters worse, the work on the new development on the old bus-ststion site is already causing some unexpected inconveniences. At first glance it doesn’t appear that the ‘Considerate Contractor Scheme’ is being in all cases adhered to. We’ll try to dig around a little bit more and report back next week.
• 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 [email protected]. See our Local Volunteering Opportunities post for other volunteer positions that need to be filled.
• 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.
Compton & Downlands
• 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 Compton Parish Council.
• Please click here for the latest news from Ashampstead Parish Council.
• Please click here for the latest news from Chaddleworth Parish Council.
• Please click here for the latest news from Brightwalton Parish Council.
• Please click here for the latest news from West Ilsley Parish Council.
• Please click here for the latest news from East Ilsley Parish Council.
• There’s a new recyling bin in our house which we use to collect plastic bottles which will find their way to the Hampstead Norreys Community Shop for its eco-bricks project. You can read more about this by clicking here.
• We’ve mentioned several times about Chaddleworth Parish Council’s long-running struggle to try to get the whole of the parish recognised as a single unit for the purposes of calculating distances to The Downs at Compton and King Alfred’s at Wantage and thus the availability, or not, of free school transport depending on where in the parish people live. The issue has proved so divisive, and the methods of calculating the milages seemingly so capricious, that the Parish Council has, after writing numerous letters, now elevated the matter to a stage 2 Complaint. More news on this when we have it.
• Click here for details of how to book guided tours at The Living Rainforest in Hampstead Norreys. One of the creatures you may be lucky enough to see is last week’s Penny Post animal of the week, Rio the Green Iguana (who isn’t green).
• The Downs School in Compton recently held an Apprentice Awareness event – you can read a brief report 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 Bucklebury Parish Council.
• Please click here for the latest news from Brimpton Parish Council.
• Please click here for recently-released details of Thatcham’s civic events in 2019.
• See the paragraphs about parking in the Across the Area section above, which refers to particular issues in Thatcham.
• Information can be found here on the activities of Thatcham Refillable, one of an ever-increasing number of groups and retailers which is seeking to wean us off our reliance on one-use plastic bottles; also for details of a pop-up event this weekend.
• As reported here last week, wassailing took place in Thatcham’s Community Orchard last weekend. We understand that any evil spirits that might have been there have been driven away.
• This week’s NWN includes on p24 an interview with the new headmaster of Cold Ash St Mark’s School put to him by some of the pupils.
• Click here to see the latest Cold Ash Community Bulletin. It concludes as ever with a quotation: this week’s seems particularly applicable to our politicians and political commentators at the moment.
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 Englefield Parish Council.
• Please click here for the latest news from Burghfield Parish Council (featuring a new website).
• It’s not just pubs in the area which are failing – village halls are suffering as well. The one at Englefield closed at the end of the last year but the village and the Estate is exploring ways by which it can continue to function. Click for more details and to take part in a survey (which closes on 31 January).
• I noticed a piece on the Stratfield Mortimer Parish Council website about West Berkshire’s Definitive Map which records all public rights of way in the area. The day will come when any such route not marked on this map will lapse. For more information, click here.
• If making do with less plastic is one of your new-year resolutions, have a look at this link to Plastic-free Home which I saw on the Theale FB page.
• 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.
• One retailer in Mortimer clearly feels that the current political crisis could get worse…
• Theale Green School will be hosting its annual pensioners’ event on Wednesday 6 February – click here for more.
• 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.
• See the paragraphs about parking in the Across the Area section above, which refers to particular issues in Markborough and Bedwyn.
• Proposals for yellow lines on Frees Avenue and The Green have been supported by Marlborough Council – Marlborough.News has more here.
• Another village bucking the trend of local pub closures is Winterbourne Monkton, where the local has just re-opened.
• A rather different story in Great Bedwyn where the long-running battle over the future of The Cross Keys seems set to enter a new phase with the news that an application has been submitted by the owners to change the use of the rear part of the building to residential. The campaigners are not giving up, though – click here for more.
• Wiltshire Air Ambulance’s helicopter is back in business after some recent problems – click here for more from Marlborough.News.
• There’ll be a meeting of Aldbourne Community Heritage Group on Monday 28 January – click here for details.
• There’s information here about some local volunteering events organised by Action for the River Kennet in January.
• 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.)
• The Consultation by Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group on the final draft strategy document is open until the end of January. Earlier consultations have identified loneliness and isolation as two of the biggest concerns. It is something that older people worry about and there is evidence that loneliness has the ability to shorten people’s lifespan. The strategy identifies being part of a vibrant, safe community with the ability to easily access services as one of the most important solutions, but does not mention the closure of day centres for the elderly at all by our County Council or make any suggestion about re-opening them. To give your comments on the strategy, please visit the Wantage and Grove Campaign Group’s website and follow the link or phone for a paper copy.
• The next meeting of the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) takes place on Thursday 7 February from 10am to discuss the long-running issue of Wantage Hospital and should give an update on any action soon thereafter. The Wantage and Grove Campaign Group ‘doesn’t believe that any action has been taken’ so far.
• There are also concerns that the delays to the new Wantage Leisure Centre will result in some developer contributions previously earmarked for this project not going towards it: these need to be spent by the end of 2019, by which time work might not have started.
• I’ve not received any further news about the situation with regard to Grove Post Office (see last week’s Local News). If you have any news, let me know. If I get any, I’ll let you know.
• See the paragraphs about parking in the Across the Area section above, which refers to particular issues in Wantage.
• Click here for information about a virtual-reality project set in Wantage from a local film-maker.
• A recent 18th-century study day at the Vale and Downland Museum involving children from local schools looked at, amongst other things, grand tours, contemporary design styles and ‘the rise of the man-midwife.’ I know something of the first two: the third is not a phrase I’ve seen before, particularly not referring to the 18th century.
• If you saw an elderly lady whizzing around Wantage on a bright green motor-trike recently, this is why…
• 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 [email protected] or call 01235 765 620.
• Click here for the latest from the Wantage and Grove Campaign Group.
• You have until Friday 18 January (that’s pretty soon) 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 considers local health spending: Oxfordshire, it seems, has ‘one of the lowest levels of mental-health funding’ in the country.
• And, on p4 of the same paper, Abingdon’s MP Layla Moran argues that the sums planned on the so-called Oxbridge expressway would be better spent on public transport. Ed Vaizey, meanwhile, in his column on p10, is keen to stress the benefits of the road option, though he points out that he’ll be ‘lobbying Highways England’ to make sure that the new route doesn’t connect to the A34 at Chilton. A final decision on the preferred route is expected from the DoT in late 2020.
• 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.
• What the EU ever do for Swindon, then? This article from Swindon Link suggests a few things.
• Business owners in Swindon have been invited to a special meeting on Tuesday 22 January 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.
• Swindon’s care services have been strongly criticised by Ofsted and the CQC for failing the people they are meant to be helping. In response to this, Swindon Council will be drawing up an action plan for an improvement programme.
• Members of the public are being encouraged to give their views on Swindon Borough Council’s ‘ambitious plans’ to tackle rough sleeping. You have until the end of January to make your views known.
• Swindon JobFest will return to the STEAM Museum on Thursday, 14 February. Click here for more.
• Click here for details of the many volunteering opportunities at Great Western Hospital.
The song and the quiz
• The Song of the Week this week is the wonderful Easy Money by Rickie Lee Jones.
• Which brings slap-bang up to the Quiz Question of the Week. This week’s question is: Who is the only person to have won the Nobel Prize for two different sciences? Last week’s was What do the actors Christopher Lee and Vincent Price (and nearly Peter Cushing) have in common? The answer is that they were born on 27 May. Peter Cushing’s birthday was the day before. Spooky or what?
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