Our round-up of local news across the area this week including Hungerford’s newsletter, Lambourn’s speed patrols, Newbury’s boats, Winterbourne’s arms, East Garston’s Clerk, Chaddleworth’s meeting, Highworth’s fiasco, Swindon’s clean streets, Thatcham’s hall, Wantage’s parking, Marlborough’s cinema, police and travel updates, road closures, local election round-up, voting for NOC, 426 news-less days, 26,000 candidates, stickleback glue, taking the train, Scrabble marketing, remote fly-tipping, eco-bricking and pre-loved prom gear.
Police, transport and council contacts
Information on police, transport (including roadworks) and district councils can now be found on a separate page here.
Links to the websites for town and parish councils can still be found in the appropriate sections below.
Across the area (and further afield)
• The people have spoken in the local elections although not everyone agrees about what they have said. The national leaders of the two main parties were quick to say that it was a clear message to get on with Brexit (each using the opportunity to have a swipe at the other for holding the process up). If so, it’s odd that the only parties that gained seats were the ones opposed to Brexit at all. A reaction against council cuts probably played its part, as did a general apathy with the political process. The main reason was probably that people wanted a change, as they do. In areas where the ruling party is perceived to have not done very well the result is likely to be more emphatic.
Change was certainly what they got in the Vale of White Horse, where the Conservatives suffered one of their heaviest defeats, losing 23 of their 29 seats (22 to the Lib Dems and one to the Greens). In West Berkshire, the Tories retained control but with a much smaller majority, the Lib Dems gaining 11 seats and the Greens three. In South Oxfordshire the picture is more complicated, with six parties or groupings represented, none of which has more than a third of the seats. The Herald predicts a ‘colourful coalition’ of Lib Dems, Greens and Independents. In Swindon, the Tories gained a seat from Labour and retained their majority. Wiltshire didn’t have an election this year.
• On the parish and town councils, the picture was much the same. In Newbury, the Lib Dems took 19 out of 23 seats, in Thatcham 15 out of 18 and in Wantage 14 out of 16. In West Berkshire, all the other parishes either had uncontested elections (where the number of candidates standing was less than or equal to the number of seats) or contested ones which were apolitical. With over 50 uncontested elections, it seems likely that most parishes have fewer councillors than they could have (each has a maximum number, depending on the population) and in some cases not enough to be quorate. It’s therefore likely that if you live in a rural area, in West Berkshire or the Vale, that your parish council could do with some extra help. Contact them directly if you can help fill the gap.
• All these elections seemed to pass off without any hitches apart from the one for Highworth Town Council – see the Swindon Area section below for more on this strange counting error.
• The Lib Dems claimed that they were the big victors on 2 May and, in number of seats won, it’s hard to argue. However, in terms of councils won, by far the biggest success was scored by a group which spans a wider political spectrum, which relies on partnership and co-operation to get things done and which now presides over more councils than any party save the Tories – No Overall Control. The implication is that in other cases, one party has Overall Control, a slightly menacing idea and one that is, fortunately, not true. Councils are severely constrained in how they can act and have less power than they did 40 years ago to introduce political policies. More than half of their expenditure goes on social care, not a political matter, and much else such as education, libraries and transport shouldn’t be either (though they sometimes are). NOC seems a good way of deciding what else happens without the groupthink that often attends councils with traditionally large majorities for any one party. Unfortunately, you can’t vote for No Overall Control – it just happens.
• If you are thinking of putting your name forward for co-option, or off standing for election next time round, you might want to have a look at this article from the BBC website. It considers, amongst other thing, why there are so few councillors who are young and why the number of female councillors (currently about a third) has not risen much over the last 15 years. The typical councillor, the article tells us, is a 59-year-old white male called John or David.
• Both the Newbury Weekly News and the Wantage & Grove Herald devote several pages to coverage of the district and parish elections in their areas.
• The election results in the Vale and South Oxfordshire sparked a particularly patronising editorial in the normally uncontroversial Wantage & Grove Herald. In so far as I can understand it, it seems to be saying that the results in these authorities are likely to be damaging because ‘far more experienced’ councillors than those who are set to replace them have been voted out as a result of ‘protest votes’. If you’re going to base qualification for office on length of service then nothing is ever going to change, regardless of in which political direction this change happens.
• If anyone is any doubt as to what is the best sport in the world (yes, Americans, I’m talking to you as well), then this week’s European Cup (as I insist on still calling the Champions League) semi-finals should have dispelled that. Two 0-3 deficits turned into victories is quite something. If you do like football then you’ll know all about this: if you don’t, then nothing I say is going to make any difference. Drama of the highest order. I was at a party a couple of weeks ago and holding my corner (with a Spurs fan) about the merits of football as opposed to, say, Shakespeare. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking the bard. He had a better grasp of narrative than Harry Kane and could turn a phrase better than I ever heard Stephen Gerard manage to do. However, our point was that, every time you see it, you know Othello’s going to kill Desdemona. With sport you can never tell. A bit like elections, perhaps.
• D0n’t believe what you read online (part 94): an online retailer sent out a message congratulating lucky winners that they’d won a trip to the Champions League final: unfortunately, due to a glitch, this seems to have been sent out to their entire mailing list. So if you got one of these yourself, you’re not going to Madrid on 1 June. I won’t mention the company’s name because they’ve had quite enough exposure (perhaps, by some perverse interpretation of marketing wisdom, this was a deliberate ploy) but I’ll only say that you’d get quite a lot of points for it in Scrabble.
• A reminder that if you own a cat or a dog and live near, or take your dog near, a river, particularly at this time of year, you might want to read this brief message on behalf of the local ducks and moorhens.
• The animal of the week is any male stickleback with their magic glue-producing kidneys. If you want to know what I’m talking about, have a look at the Marlborough Area section below.
• The letters pages of the Newbury Weekly News this week include several reflections on the recent elections; criticism of West Berkshire Council for the way it handled the recent closure in Mill Lane; two points of view about the London Road Industrial Estate; some thoughts from a retired civil engineer about the plans for a bridge at Thatcham; and a diatribe against corruption.
• A number of good causes have received valuable support recently, including: Charlton Acorns preschool (thanks to the Big Wantage Easter Treasure Hunt); Newbury Cancer Care (thanks to the friends and family of Kim Jones); Speakability (thanks to Jennie Rushford and Hannah Warner); the Alexander Devine Hospice (thanks to pupils at Bradfield College); Daisy’s Dream (thanks to pupils at Curridge Primary School).
Hungerford & district
• Please click here for the latest news from Hungerford Town Council.
• Please click here for the latest news from Shalbourne Parish Council.
• Please click here for the latest news from Inkpen parish Council.
• The May edition of Penny Post Hungerford has just been published which, as ever, provides the most varied and comprehensive round-up of things that have happened and that will be happening in the town. You can click here to read it. It’s quite a bumper issue this month, with news from the Town Council, the Town and Manor, the High Street retailers, Barr’s Yard, the Nursery School, the Smarten Up Hungerford and Hungerford 2036 teams, the Primary School, the Youth and Community Centre and the Chamber of Commerce. There’s also the nail-biting drama of Hungerford Town FC’s final match of the season, an interview with a former Radio One DJ who now lives in the area, an appeal on behalf of hedgehogs, a cautionary tale for students about remembering to turn over their exam papers, gardening tips, a guide to the night sky and information on a wide range of events and activities.
• Hungerford Town Council needs one more councillor to make up its full complement. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Advance warning of a road closure at Lower Denford Road by Denford Mill Bridge (some of you may better know this as the rat run from the Common to the A4). This will take place between 8am and 5pm on Monday to Friday 9.30am to 4pm on Saturdays between Monday 17 June and Friday 23 August to allow for deck replacement work.
• Please click here for the latest news from Lambourn Parish Council.
• Please click here for the latest news from East Garston Parish Council.
• Please click here for the latest news from Great Shefford Parish Council.
• The latest East Garston News has dropped into my inbox. You can read it here if you haven’t received it. This issue includes news of a road closure on Sunday 19 May, the return of the Watermill’s touring productions to the Village Hall on Wednesday 19 June, details of the safari supper on Saturday 8 June, information on a talk by 4LEGS founder Chris Capel in Lambourn Library on Wednesday 22 May, a warning about thefts and an appeal not to use the book exchange in the phone box in Hunphreys Lane for anything except books.
• The bit of the B4001 (the road between the B4000 and Chilton Foliat) under the motorway bridge between the junction with the B4000 and the turning towards Membury) will be closed for 13 weeks from 20 May (ie until 19 August). Diversions will be in place directing you through Membury. This is to enable repairs to be carried out to the bridge.
• A reminder that the parish councils in the area periodically organise speed patrols in conjunction with West Berkshire Council and the Thames Valley Police. These will in future use the Automatic Number-plate Recognition system (ANPR). The first time ANPR was used in the area, earlier this year, 17 motorists were caught exceeding the speed limit in just one hour on the stretch of road in East Garston between the top of Rogers Lane and the Queens Arms. Anyone detected using this system will face police action.
• The Lambourn Surgery Patient Participation Group performs a vital function in the life of the surgery and more people are encouraged to get involved. For more information click here or contact the Practice Manager at email@example.com.
• Click here for details of how can volunteer at Lambourn Library.
• East Garston Amenities is organising a theatre trip to the Watermill on Thursday 20th June to see The Importance of Being Earnest. Full details here.
• East Garston Parish Council still has need of a Clerk – click here for details.
• Volunteers are still needed to help run Great Shefford’s youth club.
• 4 Legs Community Radio Station will on Friday have its 56th day of broadcasting – click here for more.
Newbury & district
• Please click here for the latest news from Chieveley Parish Council.
• Please click here for the latest news from Hamstead Marshall Parish Council.
• Click here for the latest information from Growing Newbury Green.
• The plans for the proposed University Centre Newbury took a step forward this week with the announcement of £1.75m funding from the Local Growth Board. A further £5.5 will be provided by the College itself and from partners to create ‘a digitally integrated, zero carbon, higher education facility for West Berkshire.’
• Congratulations to all those who took part in the Crafty Craft Race on bank holiday Monday. I was there at the start as one of my sons was taking part. The first hurdle the vessels had to cross was getting into the canal: there’s quite a drop from the towpath down to the water level and there were a couple of near disasters. You can watch a video of the event here. There’s also a report with lots of photos in this week’s NWN.
• A pub which has been in the news recently for the familiar reason that it’s under threat of permanent closure is the Winterbourne Arms, the background to which you can read here. Planning permission to turn the pub into housing was refused on 27 April and the campaign group would like to thank the 230 people who wrote to West Berkshire Council objecting to the change of use. The group has contacted the owner, Nick Roffe, in order to establish what the next steps might be and awaits his response. However, uncertainty remains over the pub’s hoped-for status as an asset of community value (which, if granted, offers additional protection against changes of use). The application has been rejected by West Berkshire Council, but the campaigners believe that the two reasons for refusal are based on incorrect information or procedure and are taking legal advice.
• If you are involved with an organisation or charity that benefits the residents of Newbury, don’t miss your chance to apply for grant funding for a special project or core costs. You must have registered with The Good Exchange by the end of May. All applications that are on the Good Exchange website by this date, and posted since 22 October 2018, will be considered if they fulfil the Town Council’s criteria. In 2018 Newbury Town Council gave grants totalling £25,000 to 33 organisations (scroll down to see the full list).
• You can still enter Newbury in Bloom 2019 until 30 June – click here for details and the entry form.
• A major road improvement project for Newbury is expected to continue until the autumn – click here for details.
• 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 May newsletter from West Ilsley Parish Council can be found here.
• The Chaddleworth Parish Council Annual Meeting will take place at 7.30pm on Tuesday 14 May in the Village Hall. Click here for more information and the agenda
• The Hampstead Norreys annual parish meeting took place on 29 April. The minutes will appear here in due course.
• 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. Making these things involves some technique and it may at first seem impossible that one get the required weight of plastic into the bottles. However, it can be done, and has been done many hundreds of times. To complete one is also very satisfying, slightly like completing a jigsaw puzzle.
• Please click here for dates and venues for the PCSO Have your Say meetings in the Thacham, Theale and Compton & Downlands areas.
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 the latest news from Woolhampton Parish Council.
• Please click here for details of Thatcham’s civic events in 2019.
• A reminder of something we mentioned last week: village and parish halls are under threat throughout the area and for a variety of reasons, including reduced funding from councils and the ever-increasing costs of repairs and compliance. The Thatcham Parish Hall recently also lost its main hirer, reducing its already knife-edge income by about 50%. Both the hall and the thriving table tennis club which has long been based there are under threat as a result. One option open to the trustees is to sell the building, but as this is owned by the people of Thatcham a public meeting would be needed. Some of the trustees have also said they wish to step down. What the hall therefore needs is new trustees to come forward, more groups and societies to hire it and fundraising ideas. See the Facebook page for the latest news and to get in touch.
• Information here for information on Dementia Action Week (20-26 May) events in Thatcham.
• Cold Ash’s neighbourhood development plan is seeking volunteers to assist with the work involved. If you’re interested in helping, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
• A one-bed flat is currently available through the Thatcham Parochial Almshouse Charity: see our Property Available post for more 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.
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.
• The Stratfield Mortimer Annual Parish Meeting took place on 29 April. The minutes will appear here in due course.
• Burghfield Parish Council has developed a questionnaire to help determine ‘its vision and strategy for the future of Burghfield.’ You have until Monday 20 May to make your views known.
• There’s a free family event at Paice’s Wood Country Park at Aldermaston on Saturday 18 May: click here for details.
• The Padworth recycling centre now has longer opening hours. This is for a trial period only so, if usage in the new times doesn’t take place over then following six months, the hours will revert.
• Click here for information about Burghfield’s plans to create a community hub.
• Click here for the April/May 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 & district
• Please click here for the latest news from Marlborough Town Council (featuring a new-look website).
• Please click here for the latest news from Aldbourne Parish Council.
• Please click here for the latest news from Great Bedwyn Parish Council.
• You can read the latest Community Policing Team report for Marlborough and Pewsey here.
• This article in Marlborough News suggests that the plans for the cinema at The Parade have taken ‘a great leap forward’ and that films might be being shown there this year.
• The same source has this news of a performance on Friday 7 June of Eglantyne, to celebrate the centenary of the foundation of Save the Children.
• Congratulations to Marlborough photographer Trevor Pinchen whose photo of a greylag gosling has won him a national photography competition.
• It’s now been exactly 14 months, 426 days, since anyone at Wilshire Council last updated the ‘News: Marlborough‘ section on its website.
• 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).
• The Ramsbury Run takes place on Sunday 12 May.
• Click here for information on what’s on in and around Ramsbury.
• Did you know that sticklebacks, the fierce little fish that are commonly found in our local streams and rivers, make nests which the male sticks together using glue from his kidneys? No, I didn’t either: but someone at the above-mentioned Ramsbury Raven did. Read more here.
Wantage & district
• Please click here for the latest news from Wantage Town Council.
• Please click here for the latest news from Grove Parish Council. (Now working at normal speed after migration to a new server.)
• 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.
• See the ‘Across the area’ above regarding the recent elections on 2 May.
• Grove Parish Council has need of three more councillors: email email@example.com to find out more.
• Julie Mabberley’s regular column on p8 of the Wantage & Grove Herald looks at the regulations concerning the provision of allocated and unallocated parking spaces in developments which can sometimes provide good examples of the law of unintended consequences.
• An adoption drop-in clinic is being held in Wantage Library on Monday May 13 from 6pm to 7pm for anyone thinking of adopting a child.
• Wantage Carnival takes place on Sunday 9 June.
• Some of the participants have been announced for this year’s Wantage Literary Festival which runs from 26 October to 2 November.
• A woman has been fined over £200 for allowing her rubbish to be fly-tipped on land near Shrivenham, this as a result of a prosecution brought by the Vale Council. The odd thing about this story is that she’s from Tilbury in Essex, over 100 miles away. She was clearing her property and two men offered to take 10 bags of rubbish away. She has since learned that the owner of the the materials being imposed of has a responsibility to ensure they’re disposed of properly and legally.
• Click here for the latest from the Wantage and Grove Campaign Group.
• This group is holding its AGM in the Wantage Methodist Hall off Newbury Street on 15 May at 7.30pm. Everyone is welcome. The speaker will be Quintin Bradley, Senior Lecturer in Planning & Housing at Leeds Beckett University, who is carrying out national research with groups objecting to housing development.
• Congratulations to Wantage-based SUDEP Action which was judged Education Team of the Year at the 2019 British Medical Journal (BMJ) Awards.
• Also this Saturday is the Charlton Primary School PTA’s May Fayre.
• With the school prom season looming up, many parent might reasonably recoil from the prospect of lashing out money on clothes which might not be worn many times again, if at all. If so, Sweatbox’s Preloved Prom Wantage Shop at KAA this Saturday could be just what you’re looking for.
• Click here for details of some forthcoming events in Wantage.
Swindon & district
• 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.
• Red faces in Highworth last week where 10 Conservative councillors were each handed an extra 2,650 votes as a result of an error in calculating the bloc votes (by which a person votes with one tick for all the representatives of a particular party). The Chief Executive of Swindon Borough Council, who was also the returning officer, initially said that this error would have made no difference to the result but later confirmed to the Swindon Advertiser that she ‘cannot be certain’ about this. A number of local residents and councillors have voiced their concerns about the mistake. By a vagary of British law, the returning officer can’t issue a recount on their own initiative, even in such an obvious case: the matter can only be revisited with a costly and cumbersome legal appeal, which needs to have been mounted by 24 May. If this does happen – and it seems unlikely that matters can be left as they are – then the question arises as to who will pay for it.
• This month Swindon’s town centre will be unveiling a new new monthly street market. As part of a collaborative scheme between inSwindon BID and The Anonymous Travelling Market, the Sunday Street Market will launch on Sunday 26 May in Havelock Square.
• A reminder about an initiative by which difficult-to-recycle plastics can now be dropped off at Tesco supermarkets, thanks to a partnership with Swindon based Recycling Technologies.
• Details here on the plan by Swindon Council an inSwindon BID to try to keep the town’s streets clean and tidy.
• Click here for information about this year’s Swindon Spring Festival which runs from 8 to 19 May.
• Swindon Borough Council’s Public Health Team has been working with several local organisations to encourage residents to be more open about how they’re feeling and talk about their mental health.
• Click here for details of the many volunteering opportunities at Great Western Hospital.
The song and the quiz
• The Song of the Week is the very Lennon-like The Day we Caught the Train by Ocean Colour Scene, a quirky, poppy band who formed in 1990 and, thanks in part to the support and encouragement of Paul Weller, thrived in the 90s and are still going strong today. Apparently this song is based on the the film Quadrophenia.
• Which takes us to the Quiz Question of the Week. This week’s question, inspired by the recent dramatic football results to which I’ve already referred, is: Before this season, how many all-English European finals have there been? Last week, I asked: To the nearest thousand, how many candidates are standing in today’s local elections? The answer is (or was) about 26,000 (unless you’re counting in Highworth – see above, Swindon Area – in which case the answer would be about 260.000).