Local News May 23-30 2019

Our round-up of local news across the area this week including Hungerford’s elections, Newbury’s mayor, East Garston’s metal detectors, Shefford’s parakeets, Hamstead Marshall’s ice creams, Highworth’s recount, Woolhampton’s lost pub, Manton’s lost lorry, Theale’s clean up, Marlborough’s vets, Ashampstead’s jazz, Thatcham’s dementia café, Cold Ash’s hedges, Wantage and Grove’s AGM, Aldbourne’s scarecrows, Swindon’s photographs, Letcombe Regis’ gardens and skeletons, police and travel updates, Brexit boredom, Alice Through the Looking Glass, Sandleford and LRIE again, beavers at work, pigeons, Austin 1100s, Thomas the Tank Engine, rugby barriers, the first flushing toilet and the perfect children’s story.

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

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 European elections take place today, 23 May, and you can vote in your local polling station until 10pm.

• These close of these elections will mark the end of the period of political purdah which has, since 15 March, prevented councils or the government from making announcements which could be construed as giving an advantage to any one party during in the run up to the local council elections on 2 May and the European ones today. It’s therefore to be expected that the next few weeks will see a slew of announcements, particularly as many councils have changed administrations. Perhaps this extra three-week break has been a blessing as it would have provided an opportunity for these to be considered, and perhaps even costed correctly, before being made public.

• Newbury MP Richard Benyon makes the fair point that he is ‘bored with Brexit’. We all are, Richard. The tone of his speech, as reported in this week’s Newbury Weekly News, suggested that it was somehow being kept alive as an issue by people with nothing better to do. The reality, lest we forget, is that the whole business was caused by the hapless David Cameron allowing the referendum to happen in order to try to heal a rift in his party; and has been perpetuated by the inability of the House of Commons, which Mr Benyon himself described earlier this year as ‘dysfunctional’, to agree on anything at all. He is also quoted as saying that Brexit ‘is not going to change anyone’s life in the way like a health condition does.’ On one level that’s obviously true but it’s hardly comparing apples with apples. If it were not seen as life-changing, or nation-changing, why was it necessary to have a referendum costing about £135m and why has it occupied over one-sixth of parliament’s time since 2016?  As for trying to combat the so-called ‘project fear’ we’re now way past that point. The impact of Brexit, if any when it happens, was recently estimated by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research to be likely to cost £4bn over the next decade to the county of Oxfordshire alone. I’m sure that other figures – some higher, some lower – are available. However, it’s rare to come across any that speak of a positive effect.

• Mr Benyon was visiting Bradfield Primary School to discuss the campaign to enable Orkambi, a ‘life-changing wonder drug’ for cystic fibrosis, to be made available on the NHS. The problem, as this article from The Guardian explains, is the cost. meanwhile, this article on the BBC website looks into the claim that pharmaceutical companies are colluding, OPEC-style, to reduce supply and increases costs of some of their drugs.

• The question of the London Road Industrial Estate has received another airing in the letters pages of this week’s NWN, in which Ian Hall also makes the point that the Conservatives can’t blame all their election woes on Brexit. Any readers of Private Eye will already have seen their take on this very point in the form  of an excellent all-purpose post-election statement from any political party.

• Another letter, from the three newly-elected Wash Common Councillors, also touches on a divisive planning matter, the beleaguered Sandleford project. On reading the letter and speaking to one of its authors, there are several issues here. The first is that it appears from documents that are in the public domain but which were not the result of a debate that West Berkshire has given into pressure from the two developers – who have a long history of not being able to co-operate – to de-couple the applications. This is contrary to West Berkshire’s own policy which is that the whole site must be governed by one application; and opens up, as does the above-mentioned LRIE question, the way that planning decisions have been arrived at. 

The second point concerns how this will affect the development itself (if it happens). The question of how many access roads there should be and who should pay for them has been the subject of disagreement between the parties before and it seems unlikely that decoupling the applications are going to make this easier to resolve. There are also a host of other infrastructure issues which a development of this scale throws up. None of these are likely to be resolved to best advantage with two developers at work, with all the possibilities for unsatisfactory compromises, time-consuming disputes and the temptation for each to blame the other for anything that goes wrong. If too many of one thing or not enough of something else are built these will probably be impossible to put right.

The third point concerns the general question of the power that developers have in these situations. The government has effectively outsourced its entire home-building policy to the private sector and has left local councils with the task of trying to align the interests and demands of Whitehall, the local residents, the council’s own Local Plan and the understandable commercial ambitions of the developers. (In this they aren’t helped by wild cards like Permitted Development Rights which can result in homes being converted from commercial units over which the council has no control and which often do not satisfy the long-term housing needs of the area). However, by putting so many of its eggs in the Sandleford basket, West Berkshire has made this problem even worse. If the plan does not go ahead it will leave a massive hole in the council’s house-building targets. Is it therefore any wonder that, as appears to be the case, the developers are asking for aspects of the council’s own policy to be set aside and that the council is agreeing? This in turn establishes a dangerous precedent. There will be more on this, and LRIE, as further facts emerge. 

• Reading the Thomas the Tank Engine books as a child – and then having to endure the sic transit gloria mundi of listening to Ringo Starr narrating the stories on the videos when I had sons of my own – instilled in me the idea that diesel locomotives were the bad guys, causing further havoc and disruption on Sodor’s railway network which already seemed to have about two accidents a day. Compared to steam engines there seems nothing romantic or aesthetic about them so I was all the more surprised at the interest in the withdrawal of the high-speed trains from the West Coast mainline last weekend. You can read an article about the final journey here and another one here by local rail expert and photographer Tony Bartlett with his impressions of the new trains that have now replaced them: or see the long and informative letter in this week’s NWN from another local expert, David Canning. 

• Former West Berkshire Councillor Marcus Franks, who died last month, has been posthumously created an Honorary Alderman.

• West Berkshire’s new Council Leader was elected earlier this week, with Lynne Doherty replacing Graham Jones (who did not stand for re-election): a new executive line-up has also been appointed. Further details here.

• The animal of the week are 25 beavers: not really animals at all but members of the Hungerford Beaver Scouts who recently helped the Smarten Up Hungerford team collect discarded rubbish from various sites in the town.

• The letters pages of the Newbury Weekly News this week include, aside from the ones mentioned above, questions about the timing and impact of recent roadworks in Newbury, an attempt to close the recent climate-change debate which has been raging in this section for some weeks and praise for the current Open Studios season in the area.

• A number of good causes have received valuable support recently, including: PALS (thanks to recent clay-pigeon event); Grove Primary School (thanks to Persimmon); several Wiltshire charities (thanks to the Pewsey Vale Running Club); the Newbury Soup Kitchen (thanks to the recent quiz evenings at The Red House in marsh Benham and The Castle in Donnington).

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 was published earlier this month and, 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. The next issue, which will be published on Tuesday 4 June, will include an interview with one of the local councillors, Dennis Benneyworth. If you would like to submit any article for this publication, please email penny@pennypost.org.uk by the end of May.

• The Town and Manor of Hungerford is seeking nominations for trustees (ten are required) to manage the valuable local work of this unique charity. Nominations must be in by Saturday 1 June: if necessary, elections will take place on Thursday 20 June. More information can be found here.

• Ever since the plans for the Salisbury Road development were approved, the developers – CALA and Wates – have promised that a public meeting will be held in the town to apprise residents of the progress and the detailed plans and to listen to any comments. For various reasons, including work on other projects, this was delayed several times but it’s recently been confirmed that a representative of CALA will be attending the Hungerford Town Council Environment & Planning Committee meeting at 7pm on Monday 10 June at 7pm to give a brief update. This will be held upstairs in the Town Hall. He will answer questions but the Town Council requests these to be submitted in advance, preferably the day before but by 2pm on the day at the latest. Please contact claire.barnes@hungerford-tc.gov.uk. I’ve contacted CALA to see if there will also be another exhibition-style event at a later date and was assured that I’d receive an answer: will let you know as soon as I hear more.

• This week’s Newbury Weekly News returns to a familiar Hungerford riff, the question of pigeons. As well as the long-standing problem of their sheer numbers and persistence there’s now the additional claim that cleaners working for or on behalf of West Berkshire Council are flushing their droppings down the public drains which the Environment Agency claims can contaminate the local watercourse. As regards the pigeons themselves, the article summarises some of the previous attempts to reduce their numbers, none of which has worked. At least some of these depend on the co-operation of all the high-street property owners, which is not forthcoming in every case. The article also refers to the number of diseases which pigeons can spread. It’s worth pointing out that this is also a result of the problem of dog mess: unlike pigeons, which do not respect human authority, dogs and their actions are, or should be, under the control of their owners. 

• The same newspaper also covers, on p20, the application by Hungerford Rugby Club to install barriers in order to keep the spectators a few yards back from the touchline. The Town Council has, I understand, approved the scheme in principle but has yet to make its formal response to the specific application. As with all planning decisions, West Berkshire will have the final say. I spoke to Tracy Cox, the Club’s Junior Safeguarding Officer, about this. She confirmed that the main motivation was the reducing the risk of accidental collisions between players and spectators or officials, two such cases (one resulting in an injury to an elderly man and one to a child) having taken place during the past season. Another issue, which I’ve seen happen in junior football matches, and of which there was a case at a local ground (though not Hungerford’s) recently, is that of spectators deciding that referee needs to have something explained to him or her at very close quarters and running onto the pitch to deliver this advice. Tracy stressed that these problems, in particular the safety aspect, were the most important reasons for the proposal, but also pointed out that such barriers are required by the RFU if any county-level matches are to be hosted, something Hungerford RFC has aspirations to be able to do. If planning is granted, RFU-approved barriers would be installed. Fundraising would, of course, then be the next hurdle.

• 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). Note that this has been delayed by a bout a month. This will take place between 8am and 5pm on Monday to Friday 9.30am to 4pm on Saturdays between Monday 15 July and Friday 20 September to allow for deck replacement work. There will access-only traffic between the junction on the Common by the railway line and Mill Bridge, and from the A4 to Denford Mill: but the Bridge itself will be closed to traffic and pedestrians during this time. Diversions will be marked via Park Street, the High Street (A338) and the Bath Road (A4).

Lambourn Valley

• 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 recent metal-detecting day in East Garston raised over £1,800 for the Great Shefford Flood Alleviation Association which, with match funding from Greenham Trust, will double. The GSFAA is thus only a few thousand short of its target (although due to various costs associated with the match funding it may need to overshoot a bit). Once this target’s been reached, the ball is back in the court of the Environment Agency to agree the programme of works. As the presentation at last month’s Great Shefford Annual Parish Meeting revealed, further delays can be expected before anything is put in place. Thanks for the metal-detecting event are due to Matthew Webb for organising this, Peter Turrell and all at Leisure Promotions for promoting it and Freddie Tulloch for making the land available. As the above figures show, such events can be very effective ways for charities to raise funds: if you would like to discuss this further, contact leisure Promotions on info@leisure-promotions.co.uk.

• The Nature Notes in the May/June Great Shefford Parish News discussed the sighting of several ring-necked parakeets in the village, brightly coloured birds with a flight call that is described as ‘the shriek of a throttled muppet.’ The author wonders how these non-native birds ended up in Southern England. The version I heard, and which seems probable, is that they escaped during the filming of The African Queen at Isleworth Studios in West London in 1951. There are certainly a lot of them in Richmond Park. So, if you a see a ring-necked parakeet in the wild, it’s probably a direct descendant of one that pooed on Katherine Hepburn or Humphrey Bogart. Whether this strengthens the case for their protection I’ll leave for others to decide.

• There will be an open garden day in Great Shefford and Shefford Woodlands on 7 July and the organisers hope to have as many gardens as possible featured. Please contact Linda Forrester on 01488 648140 for more information.

• 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 until 19 August. Diversions will be in place directing you through Membury. This is to enable repairs to be carried out to the bridge.  

• If you missed the latest e-edition of East Garston News, you can click here to read it

• One of the items in this concerns the Watermill Theatre’s summer touring production which this year is Our Church, a most interesting-looking piece about a very modern moral dilemma in a traditional parochial church council. In its infinite wisdom, the Watermill always kicks off its tour in East Garston and tickets for this show are selling fast. This year’s performance in the Village Hall is on Wednesday 19 June – click here for details and to order your tickets.

• 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 louise.murray-clarke@nhs.net

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 Clerkclick 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 57th day of broadcasting – click here for more.

Newbury & district

• 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.

• Click here for the latest information from Growing Newbury Green.

• Newbury’s Family Fun Day takes place in Victoria Park on Sunday 23 June.

• This week’s NWN reports on p9 on the mayor-making ceremony which saw Margo Payne hands over the ermine and chain to Elizabeth O’Keefe, with Billy Drummond replacing Kuldip Singh Kang as her deputy. The new Mayor has chosen Time to Talk as her chosen charity. You can read an interview with the outgoing Mayor here

• Proper, old-school, home-made, mouth-watering, nothing-out-of-a-packet ice cream cones are available free for children who turn up with their parents to eat or drink at the White Hart in Hamstead Marshall over the bank holiday weekend.

• As mentioned in Penny Post last week, Newbury College has announced plans to create a university centre in Newbury – click here to read the statement.

• 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.

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.

• There’s a pop-up pub – the Ashampstead Arms – which magically appears in the Ashampstead Village hall on the first Saturday of every month from 7.30pm. For more information on the goal, click here.

• Click here for photos of the recent Jazz in the Garden event in Ashampstead.

• The Yattendon and Frilsham Village Fête will take place on Bank Holiday Monday, 27 May.

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

• 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

• 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.

• The Newbury Weekly News reports on p13 on the final approval given by West Berkshire Council to convert the former Rising Sun pub in Woolhampton into private dwellings. 

• This week’s NWN has, on p26, a report on the successful dementia café events.

• On the same these, there’s information here for information on Dementia Action Week (20-26 May) events in Thatcham.

• I found this leaflet on the Cold Ash parish website: it applies equally to anywhere in West Berkshire, or probably the country, but I’ll give them the credit for having posted it. It concerns the responsibilities incumbent on hedge owners to maintain them properly. I don’t know if this is a particular problem in Cold Ash. I’d add that district councils should be following their own advice: twice in the last month, once in West Berkshire and once in the Vale, I took a wrong turning because part of a tree was obscuring a roadsigns near a junction on an A road. Plus the signs never get cleaned any more (except by volunteers), which doesn’t make them any easier to read.

Thatcham Parish Hall needs new trustees, more groups and societies to hire it and fundraising ideas. See the Facebook page for the latest news and to get in touch.

• 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.

• 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. This has as its thought for the week a remark made by CS Lewis that ‘A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.’ I’ve been pondering the truth of this. His Narnia books pass this test, I think, if you can ignore the allegorical messages. The stories of Roald Dahl I hated both as a child and as an adult so I’m not the right person to comment. If he’s referring to stories for very young children, however, he’s certainly wrong. The only two criteria for these are that they should be very short and capable of almost infinite retelling. Busy Babies Go Swimming, which I read to my youngest son Toby every night for about two months, in each case with the same pauses and inflexion so as to induce in him a sense of soporific familiarity, satisfies both these conditions perfectly. However, I don’t think CS Lewis had this kind of book in mind.

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.

• See p14 of this week’s NWN for a report and photos of the the Mayfayre at Bradfield earlier this month.

• The Stratfield Mortimer Annual Parish Meeting took place on 29 April. The minutes will appear here in due course.

Click here and 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.

• Councillor Alan Macro’s e-newsletter has just been delivered to my inbox and you can read it in full here. Topics covered include the local election results, the progress on the new school, the related issue of hedge-netting and the refusal of planning permission for the proposed redevelopment of the Theale Motors showroom.

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.

• 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.

• 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.

• Many years ago I did something I’m not very proud of even though I don’t think it was then an offence – there, that got your attention, didn’t it? I was then the owner of an Austin 1100, one of the worst cars ever made by that most awful of car makers, British Leyland. The one I bought was without doubt the runt of the litter. It never worked properly. Things repeatedly broke off or jammed. It often made alarming growling noises or belched evil-smelling clouds of black smoke. Once the dashboard caught fire. On the final occasion I used it I slammed the door but it wouldn’t close. I’d had enough. Leaving the keys in the ignition I abandoned this ghastly vehicle to its fate, went to meet my friend in the pub and caught the bus home. Why am I mentioning this? because in the 1980s you could get away with this kind of behaviour. The council, or someone, would come and take it away and the effort of tracking you down would be too much. Things are different now, as a local man recently discovered after leaving his car in a car park in Ramsbury with no tax or MOT. The result was a £2,600 fine after a successful prosecution from Wiltshire Council. The other reason for mentioning this is that, for 441 consecutive days, the ‘News: Marlborough‘ section on Wiltshire Council’s website had not been updated but this is the story that they chose to break this news drought with. Keep it coming! 

• Local MP Claire Perry who has recently been embroiled in a dispute about expenses claims, has taken temporary leave of absence from her role as Minister of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy as a result of a family illness.

• I don’t know what it is about Marlborough but the poor town and its surrounding area seem, from news reports, to be never more than 20 minutes away from another contraflow, road closure, traffic jam, parking dispute or jackknifed lorry. The latest, as reported by Marlborough News, took place yesterday in Manton as a result of a large lorry relying on a satnav rather than official diversion signs during the current closure of the A4.

• The same source reports on the imminent closure of the Vets4Pets clinic in Marlborough, despite much local objection. The story is chiefly notable for the wonderfully opaque series of Dilbert-like pronouncements from a V4P spokesperson.

• And still with the excellent Marlborough News, a brief interview here with Chris Smith, Marlborough’s newly appointed Rector.

Marlborough News also has a report here on the recent Extinction Rebellion march in the town.

• The Aldbourne Scarecrow Trail took place last weekend: click here for photos and a report.

• 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 & 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.

• Councillor Emily Smith, the new Leader of the Vale of White Horse Council, delivered her first report on 15 May. You can also see here the details of the various appointments that have been made since the election.

• The Grove Volunteer Litter-picking Group meets at Old Mill Hall in School Lane at 9am on the second Friday of every month. Equipment is supplied by Grove Parish Council. More details here.

• Congratulations to the Wantage Silver Band which won the silver medal at the British Open Spring Festival in Blackpool. Perhaps they should consider calling themselves the Wantage Gold Band for next year’s event?

• Congratulations also to Stockham Primary School in Wantage whose pupils ‘fizz with excitement’ according to its recent ‘outstanding’ Ofsted report.

Otmoor, the nature reserve between Oxford and Bicester, is by all accounts a strange and wonderful wet grassland area that was Lewis Carrol’s inspiration for the chessboard landscape in Alice Through the Looking Glass. An exhibition of paintings of the area by Wantage artist William North is taking place at the Vale and Downland Museum until 13 July.

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

• Wantage & District Chamber of Commerce is supporting the OVO Energy Women’s Tour, with the cyclists visiting Wantage on Wednesday 12 June.

• The village of Letcombe Basset has a number of unique waterside and chalk-stream gardens and many of these will be open to the public on Sunday 26 May.

• In the same village and on the same day there’ll be a chance to find out more about the neolithic skeletons that were recently unearthed there.

Grove Parish Council has need of three more councillors: email parishcouncil@grove-oxon.org.uk to find out more.

Wantage Camera Club will be holding an exhibition on Tuesday 18 June – more details here.

• Julie Mabberley’s regular column on p8 of the Wantage & Grove Herald reflects on the Wantage and Grove Campaign Group’s recent AGM at which Dr Quintin Bradley asked some searching questions of the current planning system whichis weighted in favour of developers and which regularly fails to provide the number or kind of of houses that are required.

• The editorial column in this week’s Wantage & Grove Herald reflects on the content of what it called ‘something of a climate-change special’ issue of the paper, which includes interviews will all the local MPs about their attitudes to the threat. The results, as the editorial points out, were varied: you can read the full report on pp4-5 . The column goes on to make the reasonable point that backbench MPs have a certain amount of ‘soft power but not a lot of real control’, in contrast to district councillors who have a range of practical local duties which directly affect people’s lives, including in this area. The editorial concludes with what appears to be a rather strange swipe at Dr Sue Roberts who has been appointed the cabinet minister for climate emergency in the coalition administration in South Oxfordshire Council and the subject of a front-page article in the paper. The editorial says that her job title ‘might seem a little silly and pompous.’ Might seem to whom, I wonder? The electorate, there or in the Vale, would not have voted the way they did on 2 May if they had not wanted something of this kind to happen. The Editor might be a little out of strep with public opinion on this one.

• If you find yourself in Saxton Road in Abingdon, a letter in this week’s Wantage and Grove Herald includes an open invitation to check out Mr Fred Evans’ front garden which has 35 home-made windmills made out of old milk bottles, bike wheels and other bits and pieces. he doesn’t say what they’re powering, if anything.

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.

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

• 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.

• We mentioned last week and the week before about the odd situation in Highworth where 10 Conservative councillors were each handed an extra votes in the local elections as a result of an error in calculating the bloc votes. The only way that the result can be challenged is by a petition to the High Court within three weeks of the vote and a group, Democracy for Highworth, was set up to decide whether residents have the appetite (and the purse) for such a move. It seems that they do: On 21 May, a representative announced on the group’s Facebook page that ‘I have this afternoon signed the petition to be presented to the High Court. I have spent £528 issue fee for the petition, £255 for the security for costs and lodged £1500 with the solicitor to cover High Court costs. I have visited a second solicitor to swear an affidavit for the security of costs.’ 

• 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 month-long campaign to help Swindon Borough Council’s recycling crews sort residents’ waste quickly and more efficiently has just been launched.

• 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.

• An interesting example of the law of unintended consequences, or perhaps a lack of co-ordination: a letter warning residents about the penalties for fly tipping was sent to residents in Broadgreen. Nothing odd so far, except that it was in English and Konkani, a language mainly used in the Indian state of Goa. It’s easy to imagine what the Goan community in the area felt about that. In fact, you don’t have to imagine it as you can read their comments, and Swindon Council’s rather convoluted explanation, in this article in the Swindon Advertiser.

• Details here on the plan by Swindon Council an inSwindon BID to try to keep the town’s streets clean and tidy.

• An encyclopaedia of local photographers dating as far back as the 1850s will be presented at a special book launch on Saturday 25 May.

• A new community network is launching to bring the town’s creatives together in a bid to throw Swindon’s cultural scene into the spotlight.

• 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 follows advice which, I believe, is often given to people testing or demonstraing high-end sound systems: if you want something that’s been perfectly played, recorded and mixed, that has a wide pitch range, good dynamic variation and has generally been put together with considerable care, put on a Steely Dan record. I’ve yet to hear a track of theirs that doesn’t satisfy all these conditions. Forget all the stories of seasoned session musicians and sound engineers having minor nervous breakdowns at having to play or listen to the same passage 43 times before Becker and Fagen judged it perfect – just check out the results. Too smooth and perfect for some people’s taste (though not mine), all their songs have a musical and lyrical intelligence that has rarely been bettered, and certainly not in the demanding rock/jazz/soul area that they made their own. So many to choose from but I happen to have Hey Nineteen in my head at the moment, so why not join me there. (Awful video, though.)

• Which takes us to the Quiz Question of the Week. This week’s question comes from the recent quizzes held at the Red House in Marsh Benham and The Castle in Donnington in aid of the Newbury Soup Kitchen and was: Which was the first American film to feature a flushing toilet? Last week’s question was: How many mayors has Marlborough had?The answer is not as one person guessed, suspecting a trick question at work, none, but 709. That’s a lot of chains and even more ermine.

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Brian Quinn

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