Including bowling in Newbury, coffee in Hungerford, speeding in East Garston, flood funds in Shefford, CATs in Thatcham, a hare in Hendred, a toucan in Swindon, a twin in Wantage, a better station in Mortimer, Santas in Burghfield, meals in Marlborough and Bedwyn, an award in Hampstead Norreys, traffic and police updates, community transport, London Road, project fear, another way to spend £80bn, a local dart master, Peyton Place, siblings and non-siblings, writing to Tesco, 26,954 avocados, Christmas trees, a half Norwegian forest and the dark side of the moon.
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 returns to the question of the costs of the London Road Industrial Estate scheme, a project which ten years on has produced nothing except the A339 access road. The quoted financial impact of about £500,000 (resulting from the recent appeal, which WBC lost, and from the change of developers prior to that) seems likely not to be the full amount: it does not, for instance, include the costs of the appeal by the previous developers, FIL, in 2016 to get its plans renewed, nor FIL’s legal costs in the recent appeal. I’m also unsure if it includes any estimate of the internal staff costs that both tasks must have entailed. As for the cost of the access road – which the NWN’s figures suggest are more than I’d previously understood them to be – FIL had agreed to build this as part of its contribution to the original plan. That being the case, all the £5.1m that was spent on it (whether by WBC or from other sources) could have been used for projects elsewhere in the area where no such developer contributions were available. I’m also still unclear, but am trying to find out, whether there was any consultation for the change of plans for the area: there would seem to have been a good case for one as the new ‘holistic’ approach (which included the demise of the football ground) went some way beyond what was originally envisaged.
There’s also the question of whether there should be an inquiry into the entire process that has led to where we are now. A request, made by the opposition Lib Dems in December, was rejected by the Council, partly on the grounds that the matter had already been looked into, twice, by the courts. This is, however, a quite separate scrutiny of the matter: such contested procedings consider the legality of a contract rather than the processes and commercial decisions that led to its being entered into in the first place. However, it has been agreed that the matter will be referred to WBC’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee. One question this might want to look at is why, FIL having agreed to fund the access road, this aspect of the work was excluded from the later development agreement with St Modwens.
• Along with many other councils, West Berkshire will be holding elections in May. One person who will not be standing – after 21 years as a councillor – is the current Leader Graham Jones who will henceforth be concentrating, amongst other things, on running his excellent pharmacy in Lambourn. You can read a statement from him here.
• This week’s NWN reports (on p20) on a ‘heated’ exchange at a recent meeting of West Berkshire Council’s executive over whether the process of devolving services from WBC to town and parish councils was being done in the right way and in the right cases. The opposition Lib Dems claiming that the decisions were being taken purely for financial reasons rather than reflecting the desire, or ability, of the lower-level councils to assume these responsibilities. The transfer of some play areas to Thatcham Town Council was the casus belli on this occasion. Council Leader Graham Jones is quoted in the report as saying that the criticisms were ‘needless negative’ and cited the example of the volunteers stepping in to save the Lambourn Library as a positive aspect of such devolution. Well, yes and no. A local group came forward in 2016 to campaign to prevent West Berkshire from closing it or having it run entirely by volunteers, the only two solutions the council seemed able to imagine at the time, neither of which were acceptable locally. The business of persuading West Berkshire that another solution was possible took some considerable time and effort and was not helped by figures for costs and other responsibilities not being made immediately available. The Library is currently still run by West Berkshire and is part of its Library Service – although now much more actively supported by volunteers and the Parish Council than was the case before – and so doesn’t seem to me to be an example of devolution, as Councillor Jones implies.
• The same newspaper reports, on p6, that West Berkshire Council is preparing a ‘no-Brexit’ plan, having a few months ago rejected calls for a no-Brexit risk assessment. ‘The Council Leader Graham Jones admitted, however, that ‘given the fluidity of the situation’ – a masterly understatement – it was ‘impossible to create a firm plan.’ Despite this rather serious obstacle, this seems like a pruduent thing to be doing. Local MP Richard Benyon, quoted in the same article, appears to disagree, claiming that ‘it’s hard to see’ how the Council’s services ‘will be impacted by any sort of Brexit other than a wider economic impact.’ I’m unclear from this if he feels that nothing bad will happen or that it might but that there’s nothing West Berkshire can do about it. His closing comment, ‘that he’s getting ‘quite bored’ with people talking of a ‘great looming crisis’ seems in part to be aimed at this announcement. The real architect of the so-called ‘project fear’ was, of course, his former leader David Cameron who, having allowed the vote to take place at all, presided over a Remain campaign which painted a picture of widespread financial and political disaster in the event of a leave vote that was designed to be nothing if not fearful. It didn’t work, of course: but if these concerns were judged reasonable when the situation was hypothetical it seems odd that they’re unreasonable now that it’s really happening. So hats off to West Berkshire for Council for, belatedly, seeking to look at the possible impact.
• I received Richard Benyon’s Christmas 2018 newsletter on 18 December. The subjects he covers include Brexit, including his work as a Vice-President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly; the passing of the second reading of the important Agriculture Bill which will, post-Brexit, ‘provide farmers with a new platform to modernise agriculture’; the failure of his 10-minute rule bill to introduce a statute of limitations for members of the armed forces (though he plans to continue the campaign); his involvement in measures against illegal traveller encampments; and his support for various social issues including loneliness and social isolation. If you want to be added to his mailing list, or to contact him on any constituency matter, please email [email protected].
• The electrification of the stretch of line between Paddington and Newbury has been completed although, as this article on the BBC website explains, the whole electrification project has been greatly reduced compared to what was originally envisaged or, as many believe, required. The cost of electrifying one kilometre of track is estimated as being about £4m. The UK has about 15,800 km of track, about 10,400km of which is unelectrified. To do the whole lot would thus cost about £42bn: a vast sum, certainly, but only just over half the of the cost of the idiotic HS2, according to some reports. In other words, we could connect the whole network up to the mains and still have about £38bn left over.
• If you want to know more about the role of the Police Commissioner, click here to listen to an interview just before Christmas on 4 Legs Radio with Matthew Barber, the Deputy Commissioner.
• One of the tasks that Matthew Barber and the 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.
• Click here for a guide to the January night sky from the Newbury Astronomical Society. One thing you won’t, of course, see in the night sky during this or any other month is the dark side of the moon. For more information on this, either listen to Pink Floyd’s album or contact China’s space agency which has just landed a robotic spacecraft there, the first mission to do do.
• Here’s some information from West Berkshire Council about disposing of Christmas trees come 6 January.
• Click here for more information on the forthcoming West Berkshire Lottery.
• The letters pages of the Newbury Weekly News this week include: a question about the £88,000 being spent by West Berkshire Council on making the Faraday Roard football ground a ‘turn up and play’ venue; the problems of parking at Tesco; more on Brexit; various suggestions about how to deal with (and, indeed, accurately count) West Berkshire’s homeless people; and a photograph of a cat which is described as ‘half Norwegian Forest’.
• A number of good causes have received valuable support recently, including: Prior’s Court Family Fund (thanks to numerous local donations); the NWN Over 80s Parcel Fund (thanks to Falkland Cricket Club); Guide Dogs for the Blind (thanks to the carol service at St Mary’s Church in Shaw); Ark Cancer Charity Appeal (thanks to the Highclere Christmas Walk); patients at Basingstoke and North Hampshire Hospital (thanks to Harrison and Marlow Sargeant); End Youth Homelessness (thanks to staff at the Newbury Building Society); the Make a Wish Foundation and Loose Ends (thanks to pupils from The Castle School in Donnington); the West Berkshire Community Hospital (thanks to the Newbury Round Table); The Trussell Trust and FareShare (thanks to shoppers at Tescos in Newbury); the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal (thanks to residents of Kingsclere); Home and Hopes for Children (thanks to the carol concert at Marlborough College); Cancer Research (thanks to Diana Yeoell from Marlborough); Thames Valley Air Ambulance (thanks to the Burghfield Santas); Wantage October Club (thanks to the staff at the local Specsavers); Charlton Acorns pre-school (thanks to Santander).
Hungerford & district
• Please click here for the latest news from Hungerford Town Council.
• The next meeting of the Town Council will take place on Monday 7 January, the agenda for which can be seen here. There will be, as usual, a report on this meeting and other matters relating to the work of Hungerford Town Council in the January Penny Post Hungerford, which will be published and emailed on Tuesday 8 January. To see the most recent such report, click here.
• See p18 of this week’s NWN for a repost on and photos of the Mayor’s annual Christmas concert last month.
• The same paper reports on the continuing impasse between local residents and Tesco about the problem of delivery lorries arriving the Onestop in Fairview Road during school hours. As there’s nothing other than indirect pressure that either Hungerford or West Berkshire Council, or even the manager of Onestop, can do about this, I suggest that anyone concerned by the risk should contact Tesco directly. Penny Post did this on 4 December by calling 0800 50 5555: after a short wait, I was connected to a human being: he was very polite and helpful, listened to my summary of the problem, logged the complaint and offered the email address [email protected] as another method of contacting them. You can also write to Tesco Customer Service Centre, Baird Avenue, Dundee, DD1 9NF.
• It seems as if there will soon be a new coffee shop in Hungerford on the old From the Heart site on the corner of the High Street and Everland Road.
• After their recent spectacular rise, Hungerford Town FC have been flirting with relegation this season, though a recent victory against Oxford City has lifted them out of the drop zone.
• There’s information here about some local volunteering events organised by Action for the River Kennet in January.
• Hungerford Town Councillor has a vacancy for a councillor. For more information please contact [email protected].
Lambourn & Downlands
• The Great Shefford Flood Alleviation Association is now over 75% of the way to achieving its target of £80,000. Click here for more information on the organisation.
• This month’s Great Shefford Parish News includes a news from the ever-successful Under Fives pre-school, an article about the uniqueness of snowflakes, notes of the last Parish Council meeting and the winners of the 2017-18 local lottery. There’s also a short questionnaire from the editors inviting your feedback about the publication.
• This month’s Village Views includes a poetic exchange about the retirement of Dr Jones from the Lambourn Surgery, a review of the most recent Library Reading Group book choice, some thoughts about Britain’s sugar harvests and local racing news.
• Speeding in East Garston continues to be a problem with the volunteer groups reporting that over a third of the vehicles on the bottom road just south of the village are travelling at more than 35mph, and some at considerably more than this. West Berkshire Council has said it plans to install white gates at the village boundaries and additional ‘slow’ markings on the road before the end of March.
• 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 39th day of broadcasting – click here for more.
Newbury & district
• A major road improvement project for Newbury will start on 7 January 2019 and is expected to continue until the autumn – click here for details.
• Congratulations to Newbury’s Luke Humphries who recently reached the quarter finals of the World Darts Championships.
• Plans for a bowling alley and laser tag at Newbury’s Kennet Centre have received approval from Newbury Town Council – click here for more.
• Something rather more traditional and long-established in the town is the excellent Empire Café. Click here for a video of the indefatigable Wendy at work…
• 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.
• See above (Across the Area…) for news of a municipal spat involving the proposed community asset transfers or CATs (playgrounds in this case) from West Berkshire to Thatcham Councils.
• Congrats again to Hampstead Norreys Community Shop which has won a prestigious national award organised by The Plunkett Foundation.
• Click here to see the latest Cold Ash Community Bulletin.
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.
• Jeanette Clifford, the WBC Portfolio Holder for Highways and Transport, Environment and Countryside, has written to Great Western Railway to support a bid for Access for All Funding for Mortimer station. Mortimer has been short-listed for funding because only one of its platforms is currently accessible.
• Congratulations to the Burghfield Santas, joint winners of West Berkshire Council’s Community Group of the Year for 2018.
• Click here for the December 2018/January 2019 Parish Magazine from Englefield Parish Council.
• A meeting of
• 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.
• Congratulations to all those who organised the Marlborough Christmas Day Lunch – click here for a report and photos from marlborough.news.
• And ditto to those who organised a similar event in Great Bedwyn.
• There’s information here about some local volunteering events organised by Action for the River Kennet in January.
• Inadequate care and abuse of vulnerable adults in Wiltshire care homes highlighted in two reports – marlborough.news has the details here.
• The same source reports that improvements are also needed at the Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership.
• 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.)
• There’s information here from the Vale of White Horse about rubbish and recycling collections over the Christmas period and afterwards (including Christmas trees).
• 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.
• Congratulations, as ever at this time of the year (and many other times), to the Ray Collins Charitable Trust, which last month organised a lunch for around 50 socially isolated people from the Wantage area. Click here for more.
• 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.
• One local pub bucking the trend of closures is The Hare in West Hendred which is set to re-open in the next few months after a major renovation project by the new owners. Click here for more.
• There are just a couple more weeks to get 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 takes a break from her regular (though necessary) observations about problems with the local planning and healthcare systems and looks instead at the history of the markets in Wantage,
• The newspaper doesn’t abandon the campaigning theme, however, with the Editorial on p10 looking at the problem of affordable homes (or lack of) in the area. (An article elsewhere in the paper suggests that a typical cash deposit costs the same as buying 26,954 avocados at today’s prices; but I confess I’m unable to visualise that number of avocados.)
• 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 to read the 2018 report from the Leader of the Vale of White Horse Council.
• 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.
• It’s hoped that a new centre in Swindon will transform the lives of 12 homeless people, as well as offering long-term provision for the town’s rough sleepers.
• An expert in elderly care at the Great Western Hospital in Swindon is warning people to be on the lookout for the effects of winter cold on elderly relatives and neighbours.
• This article from Swindon Link looks at possible new housing developments in and around Swindon, with more sites to the west and northwest of the town, first identified a decade ago, likely to be considered in the future.
• Major works on Wellington Street, which connects Swindon railway station to the Tri Centre on Manchester Road and Milford Street, will start from Monday 7 January and will see a segregated pedestrian and cycle path created along with a new pedestrian crossing – a toucan crossing, no less. I always get mixed up with all these different black and white animals crossing roads so I had to look this up. Click here for more – it’s actually a pun on the name.
• Click here for details of changes to local waste and recycling arrangements over the holiday period.
• Click here for details of the many volunteering opportunities at Great Western Hospital.
The song and the quiz
• The Song of the Week is back. Not one of their best-known songs but one of their cleverest in terms of structure – try Peyton Place by the great Squeeze.
• Which brings us to the Quiz Question of the Week. For this week’s question, I suggest you click here to visit 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. Last week’s question was: What do the bands Kings of Leon and Duran Duran appear to have in common but don’t? The answer is that the Kings of Leon comprise three brothers called Followill (and a cousin of the same name name). Duran Duran, on the other hand, have three Taylors but none of them are related.
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