Including talking in Hungerford, school plans in Wantage, a re-opening in Hamstead Marshall, a campaign in Winterbourne, volunteering in Shefford, tree felling in Cold Ash, tree planting in Marlborough, tree vandalism in Newbury, patient participation in Downlands, a basketball victory in Thatcham, cautious optimism in Swindon, a bridge consultation in Aldermaston, police and travel updates, 80s time-warp alert, commercial councils, climate change, the London Road letterbox, Pete Tong politics, apiphobia, Lagerfeld’s cat, yellow fish, Stormy Weather and Shakespeare’s first line.
Police, transport and weather
• For disruptions in public transport see Reading Bus service updates which cover West Berkshire and Reading areas, Thames Travel Snow updates for South Oxfordshire and Berkshire, National Rail disruptions
• 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, see Hungerford and Lambourn; Newbury Town Centre ; Newbury Outer; Bucklebury and Downlands; Thatcham, Aldermaston and Brimpton; Wantage and Grove; Wiltshire East (inc Marlborough); Swindon and other parts of Wiltshire here; Hampshire
• Latest Neighbourhood Watch information
• For information on flood warnings and alerts, click here.
• Contacts for selected town and parish councils are provided at the head of the respective sections below.
Across the area (and further afield)
• For anyone who remembers the 1980s, the last week or so has created the impression of a time warp. The country is being led by a slightly wild-eyed woman who is, supported by a group of believers, trying to force through controversial legislation. Both parties, Labour in particular, is in the hands of the extreme wings to the extent that several MPs have resigned the party whip. Students are demonstrating. A large local car factory has announced its closure. Spandau Ballet have announced tour details. Liverpool are top of the league. The West Indies are setting batting records against England. The final touch to the sense of dislocation was a headline from the BBC website: ‘Derek Hatton Expelled from Labour Party.’ That’s it, I thought – it’s 1986 again. Then I read more closely and discovered that he’d rejoined the party this week after 32 years and, within two days, had been expelled again.
• Ex-PM David Cameron must be replaying in his mind the series of events that led to his being bullied by Nigel Farage into holding the referendum. The obvious intention of this, regardless of what he or anyone else may say to the contrary, was to close a festering sore in the Conservative party. Labour seems equally incapable of healing it equally old wounds. The Lib Dems are, despite their share of the vote in 2017, marginalised by their numbers and almost outnumbered by disaffected rebels. Meanwhile, the official balance of power is held by a sectarian party for whom most of us never got the opportunity to vote for (or not). Something’s gone a bit Pete Tong, hasn’t it?
• As to whether these Labour and Tory defectors should stand for re-election, as some (generally from their former parties) have suggested: no, they shouldn’t. The way elections work is that we vote for someone to represent us. The fact that they have a party under their name is neither here nor there. We elect the people, not the party: were the latter to be the case then there would have to be some more equitable way of selecting how many MPs resulted from the vote. If one changes their allegiance then that’s just the way it is. The two big parties can’t have it both ways.
• With the exception of modern art, few aspects of life achieve self-parody as frequently as does the world (or alternative reality) of fashion. For anyone interested in this, Karl Lagerfeld has recently left part of his his £150m fortune to his cat.
• The latest Private Eye reports that, according to the Local Government Information Unit, 82% of councils are considering commercialising their services and that 57% are keen to sell assets to help balance their books. What Lord Gnome fails to mention is that this survey was only based on 123 out of 353 councils responding and so these precise percentages are only indicative.
I won’t, however, dispute the statement following this, that ‘local authorities rarely have the expertise or experience to make a success of such ventures.’ Looking at the survey itself, some of the answers are perplexing: for example, only 20% of the responding councils said they were ‘quite confident’ about future local-government funding (none said they were ‘very confident’), over 70% said that residents would still be able to access the ‘same level of front-line services’ as previously. Every single council that replied said that investigating other sources of income was at least a ‘moderate priority’ and over half said that investing in property was one of the options being considered.
I’m not sure that this makes comfortable reading. Even if local councils are experts in the investment and property markets, which I rather doubt, is this what they ought to be doing to balance their books? Might this not be one aspect of public life which provides services which are properly funded? The image I get from all of this is of someone sloping off to a betting shop to rectify his finances and getting sucked into a world of chance and deception of which he has no experience and which fatally distracts him from his main responsibilities.
• As mentioned last week, all questions previous posed in previous editions of this column concerning the London Road Industrial Estate remain unanswered. Nor does anything in Councillor Anthony Pick’s letter in this week’s NWN shed any further light on the matter. He said he was writing in response to Peter Norman’s letter the previous week but it reads more as if he hadn’t actually seen Mr Norman’s communication, merely been told about it by someone else. He repeats the trope about the £1 civic penalty fine (it was fixed at this sum but not for the reasons he or any other councillors have suggested) and appears to have confused matters still further by calling this ‘damages’ claimed by FDL. You can compare the two letters and decide for yourself. The one point Councillor Pick does address is the question of a review, the need for which he refutes. The only examination of this matter that’s planned will be at a meeting of WBC’s Scrutiny Commission although as this will not take place until after May’s election, by which time many of the councillors involved will be councillors no more, it’s unclear how useful this will be.
Councillor Pick also suggested that a legal analysis can be found here. Other commentaries (both of which, unlike this one, appear to have been proof-read) can be found here, and here. Each offers a slightly different interpretation.
• The Greenham Trust has announced that a total of £330,000 will be available for reactive grants in 2019. Click here for more.
• If you have an overdue library book, a final reminder from us that the library service is having a two-day amnesty on Friday 22 and Saturday 23 February.
• The animal of the week is a giant bee, long thought to be extinct but recently re-discovered in Indonesia. If you suffer from apiphobia you might not want to look at this post about it on the Bee Bee See website.
• West Berkshire Council has announced its support for a new government adult social care recruitment campaign. There’re currently a staggering 110,000 vacancies in this sector nationwide. In 2017-18, local authorities spent nearly £18bn on adult social care and over 5,000 new requests for support were received each day.
• West Berkshire has launched a consultation (which runs until 24 March) into its latest four-year strategy.
• The letters pages of the Newbury Weekly News this week include, aside from the above-mentioned letter about London Road, curter doubts about the proposed A34 cycleway, some thoughts about the new sports pavilion in Newbury and a rebuttal to climate-change sceptics .
• A number of good causes have received valuable support recently, including: Loose Ends (thanks to the many donors over the Christmas and new year period); John O’Gaunt School (thanks to the Newbury Building Society); Lambourn Silver Circle and Newbury Soup Kitchen (thanks to shoppers using local Co-op stores); Jessie May in Swindon (thanks to the event organised by Briony May and Chelsie Bailey); Brighter Futures (thanks to the cake sale at Rick Stein’s restaurant in Marlborough); the Princess Trust (thanks to Macie Campbell); Marlborough FC (thanks to Tesco’s Bags of Help scheme).
• 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.
• The Hungerford Town Council Annual Meeting will take place on Wednesday 20 March. Click here for more information.
• The Hungerford 2036 Team has completed the latest phase of its work with the publication of the project’s aims and objectives: any resident of the town is strongly advised to click on this link and have a look at the document.
• The local charity Time to Talk West Berkshire – an independent charity providing free and confidential counselling services to young people (11 to 25) in need – has recently announced as reported in this week’s NWN, that it will be expanding its services in Hungerford in a pilot project operating from the surgery. I spoke to Georgina Punter who confirmed that the waiting list is currently closer to 90 people: moreover, the charity has seen nearly 500 your people in the period January 2018 to January 2019, up from about 300 in the previous period. For more information on the charity’s activities, please visit the website.
• All village halls need to raise money to keep the roof over their heads (sometime literally) and Inkpen’s is no exception. Click here for details of a fundraising quiz night on 23 March
• We contacted the Environment Agency today to see if there was an update of the mysterious material (believed to be asbestos) discovered as a result of the restitution work following the unauthorised dredging work in the River Lambourn at East Garston late last year. It appears that an update on this will be available soon.Click here to read more on this issue.
• East Garston Amenities is organising a theatre trip to the Watermill on Thursday 20th June to see their production of The Importance of Being Earnest. Full details here.
• Volunteers are still needed to help run Great Shefford’s youth club. The organisers say that they’re ‘just about managing’ at present but that more help is certainly needed.
• This week’s Newbury Weekly News reports (on p5) on a spate of vehicle thefts in and around Great Shefford. The article includes details of crime reference numbers in case you have any information on these.
• The Cheltenham Festival is now only weeks away, as ever, the East Garston Village Hall will host a panel of local experts in the annual Cheltenham Preview. This year’s event is on Friday 8 March from 7pm – click here for details. Book now the avoid disappointment as the event is usually a sell-out.
• 4 Legs Community Radio Station will on Friday have its 45th day of broadcasting – click here for more.
• Please click here for the latest news from Chieveley Parish Council.
• Please click here for the latest news from Hamstead Marshall Parish Council.
• Anyone in Newbury Town Centre last Friday will have noticed a large number of students taking part in a demonstration about climate change, the latest event in what is fast turning onto a global movement. Penny, still hobbling from her snowdrift accident a few weeks ago, and with a microphone in one hand and a camera in the other, tracked them down and talked to some of the speakers. Then they all went to pay a brief call on Mr Benyon. You can read, and watch, the results of trip here.
• Something else you might have seen more of than usual recently in Newbury are yellow fish. What? Why? Where? All is revealed here…
• Hamstead Marshall’s pub, The White Hart, has been closed for some time but will shortly be re-opening – you can read more here. I imagine that all those involved in the ‘Save The White Hart’ campaign will, now that the group’s aims appear to have been achieved, be delighted by this development and will be looking forward to checking out what the pub has to offer.
• Less good news, meanwhile from the other side of the area at Winterbourne, where it’s been necessary for another campaign to come into being to try to ensure the future of the Winterbourne Arms. More details here.
• More councillors are required in Speen. If you’d like to make a positive, practical and important commitment to the life of the area, please contact Jean Lindsell at email@example.com.
• This week’s NWN reports on the particularly mindless vandalism of some of the fruit trees planted last week in Gaywood Drive by Newbury and West Berkshire Councils. If you have any information, call 101 and quote 3416 19 4343 00.
• A major road improvement project for Newbury is expected to continue until the autumn – click here for details.
• Click here to take part in Newbury Town Council’s consultation into the future of the City Recreation Ground. This closes at the end of February.
• Details here of the Cook and Eat workshops run by Newbury College.
• Click here for information on free English courses offered to ESOL students in Newbury (also Thatcham and Calcot) by the Berkshire School of English.
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.
• The January newsletter from West Ilsley Parish Council can be found here.
• A 20mph speed limit in the area of School Road in Compton has been proposed and West Berkshire has written to all local residents in terms that appear to suggest it supports the idea. There is a consultation on the matter which will run until 15 February (so hardly any time left). More information can be found here.
• The Downland Practice, which has surgeries in Compton and Chieveley, holds regular Patient Participation Groups. More information on this and other matters can be found here. The most recent meeting took place on 11 February and the minutes will be added to this site in due course. Matters discussed included: a welcome to the new Practice Manager, David Weir; an announcement that new GP contracts from April should result in more funding for staff, including pharmacists and paramedics; news of a forthcoming CQC patient survey; and the confirmation that a new pharmacist will start work from early April.
• Stallholders are wanted for Brightwalton’s Fete on 5 May.
• A reminder about Hampstead Norreys Community Shop’s eco-bricks project which re-purposes your one-use plastic. You can read more about this by clicking here.
• If you want to subscribe to Chaddleworth News, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Please click here for dates and venues for the PCSO Have your Say meetings in the Thacham, Theale and Compton & Downlands areas.
• 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 details of Thatcham’s civic events in 2019.
• There have been 1,355 recipients of the Victoria Cross since the award was introduced in 1856 and three of these were from Thatcham. Click here to read more about the recipients and how the town council will be commemorating them.
• Cold Ash’s neighbourhood development plan is seeking volunteers to assist with the work involved. If you’re interested in helping, please contact email@example.com.
• This week’s NWN reports on some wholesale tree-felling which has taken place near Colloroy Road in Cold Ash. The site is the subject of a planning application (which one councillor described as ‘contentious’) which has been rejected by West Berkshire but which has been appealed. The immediate point at issue is whether the felling of the trees is legal or not. One Cold Ash councillor suggested that this would only be the case if the land was woodland (the status of the site is unclear). However, my understanding is that any felling on this scale requires permission. Doubtless this aspect will be considered by West Berkshire when it looks at the appeal early next month.
• A one-bed flat is currently available through the Thatcham Parochial Almshouse Charity: see our property Available post for more details.
• A reminder about the Thatcham Mayor’s Charity Quiz on Thursday 7 March. Click here for details.
• Congratulations to the Thames Valley Kings Wheelchair Basketball team which recently recorded a 58-54 victory over the London Titans.
• Volunteers are need by Thatcham Council to help support children ‘in and on the edge of care.’ Click here for details.
• Please click here for dates and venues for the PCSO Have your Say meetings in the Thatcham, Theale and Compton & Downlands areas.
• Click here to see the latest Cold Ash Community Bulletin.
• 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).
• Click here for the latest from Highways England about the progress of the work to tuen the M4 from J3 to J12 into a smart motorway.
• West Berkshire is holding a consultation on the subject of the repairs and maintenance required at Aldermaston Wharf Bridge – click here for details. You have until 19 March to have your say.
• This week’s Newbury Weekly News reports (on p13) about West Berkshire Council’s refusal for a proposed development of ro homes in Burghfield.
• Applications are now open (and will remain so until 7 March 2019) for nominations for the Stratfield Mortimer Community Award 2019. Click here for more.
• Click here for the December 2018/January 2019 Parish Magazine from Englefield Parish Council.
• Please click here for dates and venues for the PCSO Have your Say meetings in the Thacham, Theale and Compton & Downlands areas.
• Please click here for the latest news from Marlborough Town Council.
• Please click here for the latest news from Aldbourne Parish Council.
• This report from Marlborough News describes the current plans, as recently revealed by the developer, for the development at Rabley Wood.
• The town didn’t experience any the student protests regarding climate change that took place elsewhere, though a banner did briefly appear on the Town Hall.
• Click here for details of the recent tree-planting event in Marlborough. (Hopefully these will last longer than some of the ones in Newbury did – see above.)
• The pre-school held in the village hall in Great Bedwyn is seeking more children so as to keep the facility going.
• The ‘News’ section on Wilshire Council’s website remains as hopeless as ever with the most recent entry for the Marlborough tab being nearly a year old.
• Click here for information on what’s on in and around Ramsbury.
• 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.)
• Please click here for the latest news from Letcombe Regis Parish Council.
• If you were hoping to go to the Superhero Storytime at Wantage Library on Friday 22 Feb, unless you’ve got tickets you’re too late as it’s sold out. Click here to visit the FB page for more information on other events.
• The Wantage & Grove Campaign Group has announced that the Vale Council is about to approve the plans for a new primary school on Crab Hill. It appears that this will meet County Council standards which seem to provide for little more than the bare minimum. Concerns have been expressed about the small size of the hall and the recreation areas and the fact that there’s no dedicated sick room.
• The latest meeting of the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) took place on Thursday 7 February to discuss the long-running issue of Wantage Hospital. It was announced that physiotherapy Services would be returning there as soon as possible. The long-running campaign is by no means over, however, as the long-term future of the hospital is still to be decided. A letter in this week’s Wantage and Grove Herald refers to many past decisions to improve local health provisions, ‘some of which happened, some of which got quite forgotten.’ His advice to local residents is not to give up the fight until the physio services have been restored.
• Julie Mabberley’s regular column on p8 of this paper describes her attempts to discover why street-light repairs in the area seem to take so long to do.
• Click here for a picture of local charity champ Ray Collins next to the poster for this summer’s Wantage Carnival. How clever of him to have worn a shirt which harmonised with the colours in the poster. I wouldn’t have thought of that. (No, you wouldn’t – Ed.)
• The Vale of White Horse District Council has published the proposed modifications to part 2 of its Local Plan following recommendations from the inspector examining the plan.
• In 2018, the Oxfordshire authorities signed the Oxfordshire Housing and Growth Deal with the government, securing guaranteed funding for affordable housing, infrastructure and economic growth in Oxfordshire. As part of this deal, the Oxfordshire authorities have agreed to produce a plan for the whole of the county, which will guide development in the area up to the year 2050. Please click here to read more about this on the Wantage & Grove Campaign Group’s website, which includes an onward link to the consultation (which runs until 25 March).
• Another fine has been handed out to a company found guilty of fly-tipping in the area.
• South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse district councils have installed a number of collection boxes in council buildings as part of a new national campaign to recycle crisp packets. Click here for more.
• A reminder that the Grove Airfield forum focused on the several accidents caused by mud on the road from the Persimmon development. The Wantage and Grove Campaign Group has been asked to pass any problems on to the site managers so let them know any details.
• Click here for the latest edition of the Letcombe Register, providing information about events and activities in and around Letcombe Regis.
• Wantage’s Beer and Cider Festival will be back again on Friday 15 and Saturday 16 March, at The Beacon.
• Click here for the latest from the Wantage and Grove Campaign Group.
• Click here for details of some forthcoming events in Wantage.
• Click here for the latest news and information from Swindon Borough Council.
• It’s been announced that Honda will be closing its factory in Swindon in 2022 with the loss of around 3,500 jobs. At first glance this obviously seems like bad news for the town and the Honda employees but we thought we’d have a quick look around and see what the impacts of similar closures have been on other communities. One fairly comparable case took place in late 2015 when the Thai-owned SSI decided to close its steel mill in Redcar which employed about 1,700 people. I spoke to someone from the local paper, the Evening Gazette, about what had happened since.
The good news, she told me, is that most of the workforce have since on to other jobs, though most less well-paid than those they’d had at SSI. The problem is what to do with such a large and specialised site. Three and a half years on, discussions are still between the owners and the South Tees Development Corporation as to its future and it seems the latest deadline for a decision in a couple of weeks is unlikely to be met by SSI. It was always feared this would be a long process, she told me, and so it has proved. Whether the Honda plant can be resurrected more quickly remains to be seen. At least the workers, and the town, have a couple of years to prepare itself for the change.
Swindon is also in a much better position than were some of the towns which suffered so horribly from the closures of the 1980s as its economy is more diverse and its location more favourable. ‘Swindon is a resilient town,’ the Mayor reminded us all today. A local marketing group has also claimed that the town is still ‘thriving place to do business.’
• A free scheme has been relaunched in a bid to boost revenue in the town centre and encourage residents to shop locally.
• An updated list of sites which have the potential for development within Swindon has just been published.
• People are being urged to report suspected child abuse and exploitation following a fortnight of activity by Wiltshire Police to disrupt county lines activity in Swindon.
• Site clearance work which will pave the way for major improvements to Mead Way will start in early March.
• From April, the Council’s town centre car parks will be free on Sundays. 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 particular seven-day goes back even more decades than usually: the wonderful Ain’t Misbehavin by Fats Waller, this version from the 1943 movie Stormy Weather.
• Which leads, as it does, to the Quiz Question of the Week. This week’s is: Which local school is named in the very first line of one of Shakespeare’s plays? Last week’s question was inspired by an article in last week’s Wantage and Grove Herald and is as follows: What do the villages of Nuneham Courtenay in Oxfordshire and Milton Abbas in Dorset have in common (aside from both seeming to be the names of characters from a Charles Dickens novel)? The answer is that they’re the only villages in the country in which every single house is a listed building.