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Local News March 14-21 2019

Including Wantage’s new sewers, Thatcham’s new blue plaques, Theale’s new school, Hungerford’s new-style annual meeting, East Garston’s new riverbed, Padworth’s new opening hours, Grove’s new post office, Brighwalton’s new trees, Swindon’s new approach, the Vale’s new plan, Hamstead Marshall’s new (old) pub, Marlborough’s new (old) pie, police and travel updates, Brexit woes, railway-station complexities, the web’s 30th, a U-turn on the New Road, London Road letters, social-care budgets, annual meetings, fly-tipping, flood forum, alarms at AWE, the bathroom window and a channel billed toucan. 

Police, transport and weather

Transport

• 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 SwindonPlease 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).

• A number of community minibus and car schemes provide transport services for (but not exclusively) older and disabled people in West Berkshire,  Wiltshire & Swindon and Wantage.

Police

• Neighbourhood policing updates. For the Thames Valley Police’s ‘Your Local Area’ page generally, click here. For specific areas, see Hungerford and LambournNewbury Town Centre ; Newbury Outer;  Bucklebury and DownlandsThatcham, Aldermaston and Brimpton;  Wantage and Grove;  Wiltshire East (inc Marlborough);  Swindon and other parts of Wiltshire hereHampshire

• Tri-service Station in Hungerford and general policing in the area.

• Latest Neighbourhood Watch information.

• A Thames Valley Police Facebook page has recently been launched.

Weather Alerts

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

Council Contacts

• District, town or parish council contacts. Hungerford TCNewburyThatchamVale of the White Horse area ,WantageWiltshireMarlboroughSwindon.

• Useful West Berkshire information: School ClosuresCar Parks (and any problems), Rubbish & Recycling (and any changes in collection). 

• Contacts for selected town and parish councils are provided at the head of the respective sections below.

Across the area (and further afield)

• With the council elections now little more than two months away, here’s some information about the arrangements for these. Click here for information from West Berkshire and here for Vale of White Horse. Wiltshire and Swindon will not be holding elections this year. (If you want to know which councils hold elections when – it’s not straightforward – click here.)

• So it seems that the web is 30 years old and its creator, Tim Berners-Lee has in this article claims that it is on a “downward plunge to a dysfunctional future,” not on the face of it a ringing endorsement. He suggests three main problems that are infesting it – in brief, malice, greed and intolerance – which, he claims, can be solved by the right kind of action. I’m less sure. Some humans have none of these characteristics but many exhibit some of them some of the time and a few appear to live by them. The web is surely too vast, complex and all-pervasive to be controlled to the exclusion of all evils. It’s a bit like the market economy: you can put some safeguards and regulations in place but, by definition, it has to be its own thing.

• The uncertainty over Brexit reached a new high, or low, on Wednesday night. One thing that might now happen (or might not) is that Article 50 will be extended, perhaps until the end of June. Does that mean that the UK will need to vote for MEPs in the elections which will happen in late May?

• All five of our local MPs voted in favour of the PM’s second unsuccessful attempt to get her Brexit deal through the Commons on 12 March. 75 of their Conservative colleagues, however, did not. I think even the experts are unable to comprehend, still less describe, the various fault lines this issue has exposed in that party. 16 ministers have already resigned because of it. 13 others declined to back the PM on Wednesday night. David Cameron’s aim of using the referendum to heal internal party wounds is backfiring more and more each day.

The fate of one political party is, however, unimportant compared to the fact that the issue is causing a breakdown in the trust between parliament and the electorate, from which far worse evils might follow. The problem started with having a referendum at all, which reduced a very complex issue to a debate that involved, on both sides, some startling falsehoods. Governments are elected to make these decisions, not to pass back unwelcome questions (as happened with the equally divisive grammar-school issue, which was handed back to local councils to sort out). As so much of what was promised by the Leave campaign was impossible to fulfil and as those who voted leave did so for so many different reasons it’s not surprising that we are where we are.

There’s also another issue. Parliament has, quite rightly, asserted itself in the matter of deciding what happens. However, the House of Commons is elected on the first-past-the-post system whereas the referendum was a popular vote. I’ve tried, and failed, to find online if anyone has compiled figures to show what the referendum result would have been were it to have been elected in the same way as MPs are. As the two elections were not conducted on the same basis it’s even more likely that there is a disconnect between the two different expressions of will. The Newbury constituency, for instance, voted by 52 to 48 to remain, as did local MP Richard Benyon. He, and many other MPs, have since been faced with the problem of supporting something which goes against both his own wishes and those who elected him. Technically they voted for him, remember, not for his party.

As matters now stand, parliament is trying to decide something which seems impossible to decide: Richard Benyon MP was quoted in this week’s NWN as describing parliament as ‘a dysfunctional place at the moment.’ The PM in her remarks in the Commons on 13 March described the relationship between the electors and elected as being ‘a fragile trust’. The fact that any public anger is directed against parliament as a whole, rather than the ruling party (as often happens) or individual members (as happened during the expenses scandal), is worrying.

• Meanwhile, democracy on a more local level swings into action soon with the council elections now only six weeks away: click here for information from West Berkshire and here for Vale of White Horse on how these will be conducted. Wiltshire and Swindon will not be holding elections this year. (If you want to know which councils hold elections when – it’s not straightforward – click here.)

• One of the letters in this week’s NWN is from Councillor Anthony Pick in response to Peter Norman’s the week before on the subject of the London Road Industrial Estate. Councillor Pick quotes some sections from the judgement; but further down, the judge’s remarks (after having decided that it was indeed a public works contract) paint a rather different picture. The VEAT notice is described, in section 89, as being ‘incorrect or at best misleading’; and in section 90 as leaving ‘too much unclear’ and giving ‘no picture of the contract as it truly is.’ The observations conclude, in section 91, that ‘the sum effect is a failure to give an adequate justification for the council’s decision to proceed as it did.’

Councillor Pick also refers to three ‘undesirable results’ of the arrangement mentioned in Mr Norman’s letter, for none of which he says there is any evidence. The first, the departure of Bayer, was in fairness probably due to a number of reasons although many still wonder whether more could have been done to keep the firm in Newbury. Councillor Pick says that the offices they might have moved into ‘do not currently exist’, but my understanding is that they would have done by now if the original development plan had been followed. His second point, ‘the failure to obtain from Faraday Development the cost of the A339/Faraday Road junction’ I don’t understand at all. The point, which Peter Norman made, is completely otherwise: Faraday had offered to pay for the junction itself under the original plans but this was not demanded of St Modwens. As for the third point, the loss of the football ground, the new redevelopment plans require the re-use of the land on which the pitch is situated. As one of Councillor Pick’s colleagues, Councillor James Fredrickson, said in July 2018, ‘whilst we would have liked to allow the football club to stay at the pitch, we now need the site to be available for redevelopment to commence.’

• Meanwhile, an article on p7 of the same newspaper reports how the Council’s CEO is keen to continue the project ‘in its original form.’ Which original form is that? I wonder.

• The Newbury Weekly News also has an article on the ‘£2m adult social care error‘ which was recently discussed at West Berkshire’s Overview and Scrutiny Management Commission (OSMC). The report the meeting discussed describes this rather as being a ‘budget deficit’ as the problem was caused by too low a figure having been specified in the budget. The article quotes some trenchant remarks from the CEO Nick Carter about the failures of the systems and some varying opinions from councillors as how matters could be improved. Councillor Graham Bridgman, West Berkshire’s portfolio holder for adult social care, described the article as ‘selective’, the report as ‘thorough and robust’ and that ‘in essence there is complete agreement about the way forward.’  The above-mentioned report also states that adult social care has overspent for the last three years and the scale of the overspend is increasing. Unless something is done – and it will need to be done by the government in the form of its long-promised green paper – this drift will surely continue. The demand for and the costs of adult social care are rising far faster than extra money is coming into the system and these are services that all councils are legally obliged to provide. It’s therefore perhaps surprising that West Berkshire did not choose to take advantage of the extra 2% by which it could have raised its 2019-20 council tax without going to referendum.

• Wildlife verges are to be created one two stretches of the A4 in West Berkshire – click here for details.

Click here if you run a business and are interested in being involved in West Berkshire Council’s Small Business Saturday event which will take place later this year. 

• The animal of the week is a channel billed toucan from the menagerie at The Living Rainforest. With a beak that size I’m surprised it isn’t always topping forwards. Perhaps it is (but not in this photograph).

• And speaking of animals, I read in this week’s NWN that Basingstoke and Deane Council is reminding people that it is against the law to allow dogs to be dangerously out of control. A person or another animal doesn’t have to be attacked it’s enough that someone feels this is likely to happen. The council’s message is that if you’re around other people or wildlife then use a lead. 

• More information here on West Berkshire’s plan to spend £750,000 on solar panels.

• 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 is mostly taken up with criticisms of the recent announcement by West Berks CEO Nick Carter that more roads need to be built in the area. There are also two about London Road (one referred to in more detail above) and one which warns of the imminent collapse of democracy and the return of medieval tyranny. Given what’s going on in Westminster, he could be right.

• A number of good causes have received valuable support recently, including: Thrive in Beech Hill (thanks to staff at AWE); the Alex Cripps Fund (thanks to many local donors); Swindon and District Samaritans (thanks to Nationwide; Comic Relief (thanks to Sainsbury’s).

Hungerford area

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

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

• As is always the case each month, the Penny Post Hungerford e-newsletter provides the best and most varied coverage of life in and around the town: Click here to read it

• A particular reminder that the Hungerford Town Council Annual Meeting will take place on Wednesday 20 March. Click here for more information. This will follow a different format from perviously, more in the style of an exhibition than a formal meeting which should allow people more opportunity to discuss matters that are of particular concern or interest to them. There will be representatives from many of the groups in and and around the town.

• This week’s NWN reports on cars driving at alarmingly high speeds through Hungerford Common which is causing problems for, amongst others, the owners and patrons of The Down Gate pub. I called the pub to ask if they felt the problem was one that was getting worse: he thought it was, though neither of us could think why this might be. His only thought was that people are perhaps more inclined to put their foot down when the cattle aren’t there. If so, be warned no that they’ll be returning within the next few weeks. Hitting a cow at high speed, or any speed, is no joke for anyone. 

• We mentioned here last week some good news in the long-running campaign to save the Hungerford Nursery School and the many others like it across the country which have been threatened by closure as a result in changes to government funding.  Please click here to see our post on the subject which has been updated to reflect this.

Lambourn Valley

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

• The Environment Agency has now completed its restoration work on the River Lambourn in East Garston, finishing literally hours before the river itself returned. Click here to read more on this issue.

Click here for details of how can volunteer at Lambourn Library.

• Congratulations to John O’Gaunt pupil and East Garston resident Phoebe Digweed was, as reported in this week’s NWN, has recently come third in the Scottish Open Judo Competition.

• Both Thames Water and Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks have Priority Schemes for those who might need extra support during water or power cuts. If you or a neighbour think this would be useful then you can get further information on eligibility and how to register from: Thames Water: 0800 009 3652; and Scottish & Southern Electricity: 0800 294 3259. (Thanks to the Eastbury Village Wardens for this information – if you’d like to subscribe to their newsletters, please contact villagewardens@eastbury.org).

• Eastbury’s village spring clean will take place from 9.30am on Sunday 24 March: meet at the church. More details can be found here.

• 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.

• It’s been three years since the Queens Arms in East Garston was rescued from impending oblivion by Sue and Freddie Tulloch, since when the place has been completely revitalised. Running a busy pub takes time, however, and they have many other commitments. They have therefore decided to go into partnership with The Barkby Group which specialises in the day-to-day running of pubs. Sue and Freddie would like to reassure everyone that they remain the owners and the pub has not been leased: it’s merely an arrangement with ‘a like-minded group’. There will be no changes to the staff, the menus or the range of events as a result of this (television coverage of the the forthcoming Cheltenham Festival, for instance, will as usual be available there). We wish them well with this new partnership.

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.

• The Great Shefford annual Parish Assembly will take place on Thursday 4 April. If any local community groups would like to attend this and have a stand, please email greatsheffordpc@hotmail.com.

• The East Garston annual Parish Meeting will take place on Tuesday 16 April, 7.30 in the Village Hall.

• The Lambourn Parish Council Annual Assembly will take place in the Memorial Hall at 7.30 on Wednesday 24 April.

4 Legs Community Radio Station will on Friday have its 48th day of broadcasting – click here for more

Newbury area

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

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

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

• The annual Newbury Town Meeting will take place at the Town Hall at 7pm on Monday 18 March. You can see the agenda here. The event will include a presentation by West Berkshire Council and GWR about the plans to upgrade Newbury’s railway stations. 

• The latest pupil protest on climate change will take place in Newbury on Friday 15 March from 11am with a demonstration shortly afterwards outside West Berkshire Council’s offices. Speaking to penny Post after the first such demonstration last month, local MP Richard Benyon said: ‘I enjoyed meeting the 30 or so young people who share my passion for tackling climate change. I was able to give them information about what the Government is doing and what I personally have done both as an Environment Minister and as a back bencher. We in the UK should never be complacent with an issue that is way more important than Brexit. It is an existential matter about whether we are going to survive on this planet. It is not and will never be just politicians who will solve this. I look forward to more passion from these very impressive young people.’

• Two events recently took place at Newbury College, its annual Apprenticeship Awards and a celebration International’s Women’s Day. Congratulations to all those who took part and, in the former case, who won awards.  

• This week’s NWN has, on pp24-29 a large number of photos from local schools in which the pupils dressed up in a variety of costumes to celebrate World Book Day.

• A Visitor Information Point has been installed at Newbury Library. This easy-to-access device has a large touch-screen with information about places to stay and eat locally, together with links to travel websites for bus, coach and train companies and local events. 

• A reminder about two contrasting stories about two local pubs: Hamstead Marshall’s The White Hart will shortly be re-opening.; while the Winterbourne Arms in Winterbourne is threatened with permanent closure. New news has been announced on both of these on 14 March and these posts have been updated to reflect this.

• 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 clerk@speenpc.org.uk

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

• If you want to get involved in helping to plant some shrubs in Victoria Park then Newbury Town Council could do with your help. The planting day itself will be Saturday 16 March from 10.30am. Please contact James Heasman on 01635 35486 or email james.heasman@newbury.gov.uk if you’d be interested in lending a hand.

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.

• As mentioned last week, Grahame Murphy, the chairman of Chaddleworth Parish Council, is on West Berkshire’s case for its alleged failures   to address local flooding problems caused by blocked drains and gullies, which is one of West Berks’ obligations under section 41 of the 1980 Highways Act. I can confirm that a response has been received from West Berkshire which includes a map of recent roadworks but it’s unclear at the time of writing if this addresses all the concerns raised.

• The March newsletter from West Ilsley Parish Council can be found here.

Compton’s Annual Parish Meeting will take place on Monday 18 March. Click here for details.

• 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

• Stallholders are wanted for Brightwalton’s Fete on 5 May.

• The Woodland Trust has donated 135 tree and hedge saplings to Brightwalton Parish Council. The next stage, obviously, is to plant them: volunteers are needed for this which will take place on Saturday 23 March at 10am. Click here for more.

• 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.

• The latest Pang Valley Flood Forum will take place from 10.30am to 3.30pm in Pangbourne Village Hall on Saturday 16 March.

• If you want to subscribe to Chaddleworth News, please contact chaddnews@gmail.com.

• Please click here for dates and venues for the PCSO Have your Say meetings in the Thacham, Theale and Compton & Downlands areas.

Thatcham area

• 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.

• Suggestions for Thatcham’s next blue plaque are being sought. Led by the heritage working party, Thatcham Town Council welcomes submissions from the public proposing people, places or significant events to be commemorated by a blue plaque.

• The charity Response’s new mental health service based at the Priory was formally opened at the end of last month. It provides space for 10 residents who have been unable to leave hospital because there was nowhere suitable for them to move to and so makes a small contribution to the problem of ‘deb blocking’ which is causing such a strain for the NHS. The Priory itself has had a troubled decade since it was bought by the Town Council from West Berkshire in 2009 with various plans for re-use or sale not reaching fruition.

• Cold Ash’s neighbourhood development plan is seeking volunteers to assist with the work involved. If you’re interested in helping, please contact bernard.clark@tvt.biz.

• A one-bed flat is currently available through the Thatcham Parochial Almshouse Charity: see our property Available post for more details.

• A new support group that has been set up in Thatcham to help cancer sufferers. Contact Aileen Blackley on 07702 289473 for more information on Thatcham Support Group 2019.

• The next meeting of Thatcham Community Forum takes place at 7.15 on Thursday 21 March at St Mary’s Church Hall.

• An opportunity to pit your wits against those of a local quizmaster presents itself on Saturday 23 March at the Acland Hall, Cold Ash. See the latest Cold Ash Community Bulletin (link below) for details of this and other local events.

• 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

Theale area

• 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. (This includes an appeal for more people to step forward in the forthcoming elections, together with some brief and useful advice as to what being a councillor involves. This applies to all parishes, not just Stratfield Mortimer.)

• 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.

• Work will start soon on building the new primary school in Theale. This follows a long-running dispute between Theale and West Berkshire Councils which resulted in Theale agreeing to relinquish the lease on land in the parish which was required for the work. It’s expected that the contractors will take possession of the site within the next few days and that the school will be completed within a year.

• The Padworth recycling centre has announced that its opening ours will be extended from next month. In his latest newsletter, Councillor Graham Bridgman has stressed that this is a trial: ‘if you weren’t using Padworth before because it wasn’t open when you needed it to be,” he says “it will be from April – so use it, or the hours will go back to what they are currently.”

• West Berkshire is holding a consultation on the subject of the repairs and maintenance required at Aldermaston Wharf Bridgeclick here for details. You have until 19 March (not long now)  to have your say.

• The AWE Local Liaison Committee met on 13 March. One of the issues highlighted was that the Detailed Emergency Planning Zones for both sites will soon be revised and may become larger. This has implications for the Grazeley Garden Settlement project, currently awaiting the submission of a detailed Housing Infrastructure Funding bid.

• AWE is interested in hearing about local projects it can get involved in, preferably during the working week and needing between 15 and 60 volunteers.  For more information please email communityandschools@awe.co.uk.

• And still with AWE, if you hear alarms going off at either of the sites on Wednesday 3 April, this is part of a planned exercise.

• There have been reports of fly tipping in the area, particularly in Burghfield and Beech Hill. Fly tipping can be reported to West Berkshire Council by clicking here.

• The latest Pang Valley Flood Forum will take place from 10.30am to 3.30pm in Pangbourne Village Hall on Saturday 16 March.

• Click here for information about Burghfield’s plans to create a community hub.

Click here for the February/March 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.

Marlborough area

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

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

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

• Click here for details of The Sustainable Living event to be held on March 23 from 10 am to 4pm in Shrivenham Memorial Hall.

Marlborough News reports that Wiltshire Council has performed a U-turn over its previous plans to cut funding for twelve friendship centres for vulnerable adults across the county, including the New Road Centre in Marlborough – click here for more.

• The Marlborough in Bloom team is aiming to take the ‘Champion of Champions Cup’ in this year’s South West in Bloom competition.

• St John’s Principal Ian Tucker had an interesting first day when a returning ski party inadvertently transported a Calais refugee to Marlborough. In this interview with Marlborough News he looks back on his first couple of months in charge and outlines his plans for the future.

• Wiltshire Council is one of the 40 or so in the UK to have declared a climate emergency. Marlborough News columnist Dave Waltham, a geophysicist at Royal Hollow College, was involved in the campaign that led to this decision. In this article he reflects on the debate at the council meeting and identifies some powerful reasons why more councils need to follow suit.  

• A 17th-century pudding recipe for Marlborough pie has been re-discovered and is currently on the menu at Rick Stein’s. 50p from each pie ordered goes to the food bank in Devizes.

 • Well done to Sue Challen and her team for organising the monthly meals in Great Bedwyn for socially isolated people. The next one will take place on Thursday 21 March. For more information, contact Sue on 01672 870 202.

• The battle goes on to prevent the Cross Keys pub in Great Bedwyn from being converted to accommodation. The most recent planning appeal has recently finished its consultation and Penny Post understands that there were around 110 comments, all but one opposing the scheme. Whatever decision Wiltshire Council takes this is unlikely to be the end of the matter. The decision has been called in to the planning committee which is expected to discuss the matter before the end of March. More news will be added to the post here as we get it. 

• If you’re in Great Bedwyn, keep your eye on the Village Hall Facebook page here for details of what’s going on there, including films (featuring new state-of-the-art equipment).

• Click here for information on what’s on in and around Ramsbury.

Wantage area

• 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.

• Click here for information the Didcot, Abingdon and Wantage Talking Newspaper (DAWN) for the blind and partially sighted.

• Wantage residents will be given a free trial to reinvigorate a bus service launched to help the elderly and less mobile.

• Following the recent comments from local MP Ed Vaizey about the possibility of re-opening Wantage Road station, you might want to have a look at the statement here from the Vale Council (last updated in August 2018) which makes some very optimistic noises. A look at the Statement of Opinion, however, paints a far more complex picture which doesn’t seem to hold out much hope for anything to change, certainly not without a vast amount of work. The very last main paragraph of the document (point 5 in ‘Next Steps’) on its own would leave no one in any doubt as to the obstacles. 

• As well as the need for rail transport, the rapid population growth in the Wantage and Grove area is having an effect of the capacity of the sewerage system. Click here for more on how Thames Water is planning to deal with it. I note that the company encouragingly said that it would ‘avoid digging up the town centre’. I might be being cynical or suspicious but that sounds to me not quite so solid an assurance as ‘we will not dig up the town centre.’

• As mentioned previously, good news for residents of Grove as it seems that the Post Office there, closed since December, will be reopening at the Co-op in Savile Way on Friday 12 April.

• Julie Mabberley’s regular column on p8 of the Wantage & Grove Herald looks at the revised Vale Local Plan and tries to make sense of the slightly confusing figures as to how many new homes are likely to be built in the area.

• South Oxfordshire and the The Vale of White Horse Councils have announced that over £210m of funding has been made available by the Chancellor for transport infrastructure in the area. Rather depressingly, all of these seem to be road schemes, not rail.

• If you have split or damaged garden canes that aren’t any use to you, The Mix can give them a new life in bug boxes, a simple way to help an unspectacular but important and threatened part of our eco-system. Click here for details.

• 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 as a result of which 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). 

• Meanwhile, the Vale Council is offering children a chance to get involved in the plan by holding a drawing competition for what they would like Oxfordshire to look like in 2050: the winning entry will be featured in the final Plan. Click here for details.

• Anyone thinking of doing any fly tipping in the Vale area, or considering giving rubbish to someone who may not be properly registered to dispose of, may want to have a quick glance at this article.

• A reminder that the Grove Airfield forum focused on accidents caused by mud on the road from the development. The Wantage and Grove Campaign Group has be asked to pass any problems on to the site managers so let them know any details.

• Click here for the latest edition of the Letcome Register, providing information about events and activities in and around Letcombe Regis.

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

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

Swindon area

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

• A Taskforce has been set up to help minimise the impacts of the closure of the Honda plant on the the town and the Honda staff. Click here for details.

• It appears that Swindon Town’s County Ground will soon have new owners – the club itself and the Supporters’ Trust. Click here for more from Swindon Link.

• Click here for information on a Sustainable Living Event in Shrivenham on Saturday 23 March.

• A new bus interchange will be used as a catalyst for rejuvenating Swindon town centre, under plans to be discussed by councillors on 20 March.

• This year’s council tax information booklet, which tells people exactly how their council tax is spent, has already started hitting doormats, and residents are being encouraged to look out for it when it is delivered with their annual council tax bill.

• A free scheme has been relaunched in a bid to boost revenue in the town centre and encourage residents to shop locally.

• At this month’s Cabinet meeting, councillors will be asked to approve a new approach which will see Swindon’s valuable art collections and artefacts given a secure and permanent future. The story ism also covered by Swindon Link here.

• Swindon’s community art hub, Artsite, has launched a new creative initiative to paint a mural in the town centre.

• The campaign to bring a controversial science park to Swindon has taken another step forward as developers working on the project have published images of what the park could look like.

• A roundabout in Highworth, which a campaign group has described as ‘boring’ (I suppose there are worse things for a roundabout to be accused of) is now less so with the addition of a statue of a fox. It’s called the Fox Roundabout so I think I see what they were doing there.  

• 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 we’ll go for a piece of straight down the line classic old-school top-notch golden-age English rock (and which also recently sustained me, thanks to 6 Music, on a car journey from East Garston to Shefford earlier today – hardly the most exacting road trip in the world but one which has been dulled by repetition): Strange Brew by Cream.

• Which brings leads, as it does tend to, to the Quiz Question of the Week. This week’s question is (and the answer is to be found elsewhere in this post), is: Roughly how many local councils in the UK have declared a state of climate emergency? Last week’s question was Which was the last song The Beatles recorded which had all four of them playing live at the same time? Some songs were recorded later (including I Me Mine) these didn’t have all four Beatles playing on them; others, including most of the Let it Be album, was released later but recorded earlier; while Free as a Bird and Real Love, although featuring all four, were recorded long after Lennon’s death using as their starting point a cassette demo he’d made. The last song on which all four played at the same time was She Came in Through the Bathroom Window, in late July 1969, which appeared on the album Abbey Road

For more news follow Penny Post on Facebook and Twitter

Brian Quinn

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