Our round-up of local news across the area this week including Hungerford’s newsletter, Newbury’s houses (going up and coming down), Theale’s school, Wantage’s festival, Grove’s circus, East Garson and Eastbury’s eggs, Lambourn’s carnival, Thatcham’s fun day, Highworth’s pause, Marlborough’s re-enactment, Swindon’s green spaces, Aldbourne’s pond, Denford’s closure, Shefford’s youth club, police and travel updates, Fogg’s Bog, municipal gender balance, Post Office closures, climate debates, a note on a windscreen, Cinnamon the sloth, Zfvd, Qzpff, Iqouobee, the sun, the moon, the tube and the morning of the carnival.
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)
• There are several things about life in a town or a village which for generations seemed to be immutable, including the pub and the Post Office. Pubs – as I’ve mentioned several times – are disappearing fast and those that remain are forced to re-invent themselves. Much the same can be said of other retailers, including book shops. The local Post Office is perhaps a more complex thing than any of these as it is, particularly in rural communities, a vital human alternative to the facelessness of call centres and online services but also ultimately run by Post Office, which is owned by the government and which is also seeking to re-invent itself in the face of competition and changing patterns of use. The current problems it faces include a decline in income for many branches, declining demand for some services, a reluctance for new people to take on the responsibility, the uncertainty about the government’s long-term aims for the service and the simmering problems caused by the Horizon IT system which has resulted in the Post Office launching what a judge termed ‘aggressive and dismissive’ court proceedings against sub-postmasters for alleged financial malpractice which, it is claimed, were the fault of the system. The upshot, according to this article in The Guardian, is that up to 2,500 of the country’s 11,500 Post Offices might close this year or early next. This does not seem like scare-mongering. Hungerford nearly lost its Post Office a couple of years ago when Martin’s closed, a threat that was – as this much-viewed post testifies – averted by the prompt and effective action of the Town Council. Many people believe, quite incorrectly, that the Post Office has an obligation to maintain a Post office in a particular place or in a town of a particular size. It doesn’t.
My question to you is therefore this. If you run a Post Office in the area, or have done so, or are thinking of doing so, or if you use one, then please get in touch to let me know what you feel about any of the things I’ve said and also what you feel that this service adds to your community. You can add a comment at the foot of this post or, if you prefer, email me at email@example.com. Penny Post will be happy to give further coverage to your views and to do what it can – as was the case with Hungerford – to help provide information about any projected closures and spread the word about any campaigns to retain them. Remember the local libraries? Three years ago, every one in West Berkshire apart from Newbury’s was under threat of closure. All have survived, thanks to public campaigns. If you value the service provided by your local Post Office, the time to act is now. Once a service has disappeared it becomes vastly harder to re-instate it.
• This week’s NWN has an article on p3 referring to a Fawcett Society report on the state of gender representation on local councils, West Berkshire appears to be doing particularly badly with only 14% of the councillors being female. (In Wiltshire the figure is 24% and in the Vale of White Horse 47%). However, figures expressed as percentages when dealing with low totals are almost meaningless (the same can be said for some local crime statistics): each extra woman elected would increase the female representation by over two percentage points. Before 2 May, 10 out of 52 councillors (c 20%) were female and it would only have needed three more women to have been elected this time (which could easily have happened, for reasons unconnected to sexism) for this to have been exceeded.
More meaningful, it seems to me, is the percentage of female candidates, as the reasons why people are elected or not has little to do with their sex. For West Berkshire, 27% of the candidates were female: in other words, a female candidate was half as likely to get elected as a male one: however, this says more about the party they were standing for and the ward they were standing in than it does about their sex.
None the less, it’s clear there are fewer women in public life than there could and should be. Why do fewer women want to stand for such offices? Council Leader Lynne Doherty suggests that it has a lot to do with ‘the image of local government and politicians.’ It’s probably also true that being a councillor might be consistent with a part-time or flexible job but probably isn’t with the more immutable responsibilities of childcare, which is still largely done by women. The Leader of the Greens, Carolyne Culver, goes further and says that to be effective the council needs to ‘reflect the community’, which would need to include people from different ethnic groups and people with disabilities. She also suggests that technology might be used to help councillors participate in discussions remotely. All are valid points. It’s very hard to see what any one council can do if it is not to introduce all-woman shortlists, which many oppose. West Berkshire’s low figure Lynne Doherty also questions ‘how representative some selection procedures are.’ This is the crux of it as such groups are a reflection of views held by society at large which will take a long time to change. Only if women feel that municipal work is practicable and attractive for them will more wish to become candidates. Clearly, at present, not enough do.
• As predicted, earlier this week West Berkshire Council unanimously passed a motion, which had been agreed beforehand by all three parties, to declare a state of climate emergency. You can see Penny Post’s video of the debate here and there’s a report on this in this week’s Newbury Weekly News. The question of what happens next now becomes important: before that, though, is the question of who decides what happens; which is where the politics risks re-intruding itself into what many feel should be a non-political matter.
The current plan in West Berkshire appears to be for an Environmental Board to be set up. This will, contrary to the original suggestion, comprise only Executive members (drawn from the ruling Conservative group) and officers, rather than being cross-party. It is also proposed that a cross-party advisory board be established to provide recommendations to the Board. If this is to follow the precedent of the advisory body on planning it will all be conducted under Part 2 regulations, meaning that the press and public will be excluded and its deliberations will not be published. This risks a number of things, not least a lack of transparency.
The majority of people in England now live in a council area which has passed such a declaration, although the the nature of these vary from district to district. The time has surely come for the government – once we have one again – to show a bit of leadership and commitment in this matter and to help join up and co-ordinate the work that needs to be done. It will also have to allocate some serious funding. Doing anything meaningful will not be cheap and local councils are already very over-stretched, mainly due to recent financial cuts and the ever-increasing cost of adult social care.
• Residents of West Berkshire have until the end of July to make their comments on the Draft Economic Development Strategy 2019-36 which ‘takes a long term view of the district’s economic needs and looks at how the council and its partners might meet the challenges likely to emerge in the coming years.’
• This year’s summer reading challenge from West Berkshire Libraries is now open with children aged 4-11 being invited to sign up to the annual Challenge to borrow and read any six library books between by the end of September. This year’s theme is ‘Space Chase’, inspired by the first moon landing 50 years ago.
• So, another English national team has fallen at the semi-final stage of a major competition, the latest version of what is turning into a national football curse being visited on the women’s team in their 2-1 defeat to the USA in the World Cup. A great game, though (and a lot better than the Sweden v The Netherlands one). One of these days this will change, perhaps. Now the focus turns to England’s male cricketers who have stumbled through to their semi-final.
• There’s a letter in this week’s NWN about some incidents of parking rage and car damage in public car parks, including one case where the guilty party had followed the etiquette and left their details. Years ago I heard a story (which may not be true, but I’ll tell you anyway) about a man who came back to his car to find that it had been damaged. To his relief he saw a note folded under the windscreen wiper. ‘Anyone seeing me writing this,’ the note said ‘will think that, after having reversed into your car, I’m giving you my personal details and so won’t bother to report it themselves. However, I’m not.’
• The animal of the week is Cinnamon, the two-toed sloth at the Living Rainforest, an animal with a metabolism so slow that it takes a month to digest his food.
• The letters pages of the Newbury Weekly News this week include: a renewal of the debate about climate-change science; a message from Bear Grylls to all those taking part in the 24th World Scout Jamboree; a plea for better public transport in the villages; and a diatribe against rudeness which seems also to extend to many other aspects of modern life.
• A number of good causes have received valuable support recently, including: Newbury Nomads (thanks to the Waitrose Community Matters scheme); The Corn exchange in Newbury (thanks to all those who donated); The St Joseph’s School PTA (thanks to the recent fête); Cancer Research UK (thanks to race for Life); Daisy’s Dream and Young People and Children First (thanks to the Thatcham charity dog show); The Brain Tumour Charity (thanks to shoppers in Wantage).
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 start of each month sees the arrival of Penny Post Hungerford into your inbox and this month is no exception. You can read it here if you haven’t got it. As well as the usual round-up of the work of the Town Council and the Town and Manor and news and offers from the town’s retailers, there’s also news of local javelin champion, interviews with REME’s CO, a Conservative Councillor and a Lib Den MEP, news (and a competition) from the football club and the primary school, a special offer from Honesty, the book of the month from the Hungerford Bookshop, a sailing adventure from one of our Town Councillors, racing news, tips about how to do gardening without knackering your back and a review of a Manet masterpiece from our occasional (and, frankly, unreliable) art critic.
• The three councillors representing the town will soon be meeting with West Berkshire planning officers to discuss their inclination to call in the that the reserved matters application for Salisbury Road from Bewley Homes (see this month’s HTC update for more), a move that would result in the revised plans being decided by councillors rather than by officers. An article in this week’s Newbury Weekly News includes a series of remarks about Hungerford from the MD of Bewley, most of which would not be out of place in a tourism brochure. He prefaces his remarks by saying that Bewley is ‘looking forward to developing a long-standing relationship’ with the town. I’m not sure that many towns welcome ‘long-standing’ relationships with developers: ‘build as quickly as you can, following all the agreed plans, and move on’ is probably more the sentiment. The remark suggests either that the relationship will of necessity be long-standing because of delays (like Sandleford, this project will have two developers involved); or that there will be a further development hot on the heels of the first one in the portion of the land which, under the proposed plans, is not immediately required for the more condensed housing now envisaged. A more constructive relationship with the Town Council would also have been created by putting in the most recent (reserved matters) application after meeting the town’s planning committee and not, as happened, just before.
• The Hungerford Summer Festival got going on Friday 28 June and runs until 14 July.
• Hungerford Town FC has recently announced its shirt sponsors for the next three years. The latest Penny Post competition gives you the chance to see these shirts in action by winning a pair of season tickets (worth nearly £400) for all of the 2019-20 home fixtures. These have recently been announced: The Crusaders’ first match is away to Hemel Hempstead on Sat 3 Aug, followed by two home games against Slough (Tues 6 Aug) and Maidstone (Sat 10 Aug).
• 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). Lower Denford Road will be fully closed to through traffic and non-motorised users, including pedestrians, cyclists and equestrians, at Denford Mill Bridge from Monday 15 July. The 24-hours-a day, seven-days-a-week road closure will last approximately nine weeks to carry out bridge deck replacement works. 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).
• 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.
• For those of you used to getting your eggs from the egg shed at Coldborough Farm between Eastbury and East Garston, owners Ivor and Glenys Denton have decided that they need to retire from this aspect of their business. Lots of tributes on the Lambourn Facebook page here. We’ll miss it: we have our own chickens but their egg-laying doesn’t always overlap with our demand.
• …however, eggs are now sold at Priscilla’s Kitchen in East Garston.
• There will be an open garden day in Great Shefford and Shefford Woodlands on Sunday 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.
• 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Click here for details of how can volunteer at Lambourn Library.
• Volunteers are still needed to help run Great Shefford’s youth club.
• 4 Legs Community Radio Station will on Friday have its 63rd 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.
• Please click here for Hamstead Marshall.net, which provides an excellent round-up of what’s going on in and around the village. It also publishes the Hamstead Hornet – if you’d like subscribe, contact Penny Stokes at email@example.com.
• The Corn Exchange Theatre, which had all its council funding removed from this April, has raised (so far) £154,539.80, exceeding its target of £150,000 towards this year’s running costs. This is an ongoing fund-raising programme.
• This week’s Newbury Weekly News reports on 80 buildings that are going up (in Hutton Close) and on one that might be falling down (in Bartholomew Street) unless remedial action is taken.
• The same paper also has a report on photos (pp8-9) on the recent Race for Life event at the Racecourse in aid of Cancer Research UK.
• 80 students and volunteers from the University of Reading are halfway through a four-week dig at the Roman town of Silchester.
• Click here for the latest information from Growing Newbury Green.
• 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.
• A reminder about the shophop’s eco-bricks project which re-purposes your one-use plastic. You can read more about this by clicking here.
• West Isley’s village fete takes place on Sunday 7 July: click here for the Facebook page. For those of you who like Spitfires, there’s a video of a fly-past by one at last year’s event.
• See p12 of this week’s NWN for a report and photos of the Classic Vehicle Day in Yattendon last weekend.
• The July issue of West Ilsley Parish News can be found 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.
• See p29 of this week’s NWN for a report and photos of the recent Thatcham Rotary Charity Classic Car Show.
• Visit the Thatcham Family Fun Day’s FB page for chat and photos about last week’s successful event.
• 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.
• See this week’s NWN (p13) for a report and photos covering Brimpton’s recent fete.
• Just came across this on the Thatcham and Newbury FB page: a grid of letters asking me to pick the first three words I could see which would, I think, define what kind of person I was. The first I saw were Zfvd, Qzpff and Iqouobee which are (I think) a village outside Gdansk, a Serbian insult and a tribe of native Americans. Oh, I see – English words…I’ll try again.
• Cold Ash’s neighbourhood development plan is seeking volunteers to assist with the work involved and is also requesting comments from residents. For more information, visit the NDP section of the parish council’s website.
• 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.
• See this week’s NWN (p13) for a report and photos covering Brimpton’s recent fete.
• The unaudited version of the 2018-19 Annual Governance and Accountability Report (AGAR) was published by Theale Parish Council on 14 June 2019 and is available for inspection.
• Kier is issuing roughly monthly updates about the building progress at the new primary school is Theale – here’s the latest one. And, according to the NWN (see p13), the work is on target for completion by September 2020.
• The Stratfield Mortimer council is searching for a new parish councillor – click here for details.
• Burghfield’s Community Sports Day will take place on Sunday 7 July.
• Click here for information about Burghfield’s plans to create a community hub.
• Click here for the June/July 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.
• Information here on Marlborough’s LitFest (26-29 September).
• Marlborough new public toilets – knows as ‘Fogg’s Bogs’ after former Mayor Edwina Fogg, whose idea these were – have been opened by the current Mayor.
• The Battle of Marlborough of 1642 will be being re-enacted on the weekend of 27 and 28 July: Marlborough News reports on a taster session of life in the lines in the 17th century given to some Year 8 St John’s pupils.
• The same source describes the problems that some schoolchildren will face following the new timetable of the route 80 from Swindon to Marlborough which comes into effect early next month.
• It appears that Marlborough’s new cinema will be opening some time in the new year.
• Registration is open for the fourth annual Savernake Forest 10k and 3K fun run on Saturday 13 July.
• There will be three guided walks in Aldbourne on Saturday 6 July designed to explore part of the village’s history and heritage – including, according to this poster, where John of Gaunt once took a bath.
• The Aldbourne Brass Band will be performing on The Green on Sunday 7 July as part of its Pond Concert season.
• Action for the River Kennet is looking for volunteers in July to help build a rain garden at St Michael’s School.
• 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).
• And in the same village, click here to keep up to date with what’s going on at the Youth Club.
• 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.
• Please click here for the latest news from Letcombe Regis Parish Council.
• This week’s Wantage & Grove Review reports (p4) on the varying points of view of South Oxfordshire District Council, Oxford City Council and the Campaign to Protect Rural England regarding what the housing overspill of the city of Oxford are and what the housing allocation should be for South Oxfordshire.
• Still a few spaces left for the Curry Night Quiz on Saturday 20 July in aid of the Save Wantage Hospital Campaign.
• Sweatbox’s ‘What the Fest’ youth music festival is returning to Wantage after the success of its first year
• 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.
• A RAF veteran recently gave an inspiring talk to school pupils near Wantage in an effort to get more children into sport.
• The circus is coming to Grove Rugby Club on Saturday 13 July.
• Click here to help the fundraising and donation-sourcing efforts of the Wantage branch of the homelessness charity, The Porch.
• A sneak preview of the new website for The Beacon which will be launching next week.
• Click here for information the Didcot, Abingdon and Wantage Talking Newspaper (DAWN) for the blind and partially sighted.
• Grove Parish Council has need of three more councillors: email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
• Julie Mabberley’s regular column on p8 of the Wantage & Grove Herald looks at the development of ‘West Wantage’ between the town and East Challow and explains why this might all happen without any residents of Wantage being consulted on it.
• Click here for the latest from the Wantage and Grove Campaign Group. This includes a look at the developments at Grove Wick and Monk’s Farm.
• 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.
• No further news since last week from Democracy for Highworth the group set up in Highworth where 10 Conservative councillors were each handed an extra votes in the May local elections as a result of an error in calculating the bloc votes. The result has been a fairly complex and expensive judicial appeal.
• Swindon Council’s hunt for new foster carers continues, with a new campaign being launched this week.
• Voicemail and email reminders are the latest measures being introduced by Swindon Borough Council to help people keep on top of their council tax payments.
• Plans to consult residents on where to build an extra 1,000 homes in the borough by 2036 will be discussed by councillors at next Wednesday’s (10 July) Cabinet meeting.
• Swindon Council is asking people if they think rules which ensure dog owners act responsibly at Lydiard Park should be kept in place.
• Major highway improvements designed to facilitate the construction of new housing communities will begin in earnest over the next few months.
• People are being encouraged to make the most of Swindon’s green spaces as part of Green Spaces and Wellbeing Week from 8 to 14 July 2019.
• A free gaming event, Brunel Knights, takes place in The Crossing, Swindon Town Centre on the first Wednesday of the month, from 6pm onwards.
• Families in Swindon are being asked to complete a survey to help the council understand their childcare needs.
• Swindon is seeking to encourage the number of car-charging points through a new policy for new-build homes that will go out for consultation in July and August.
• Swindon Council is introducing a trial collection (from September) of separate food waste recycling.
• Click here for details of the many volunteering opportunities at Great Western Hospital.
The song and the quiz
• The Song of the Week is something I’d never heard before yesterday evening and I’m very glad to have put that right – thank you, Harriet. It’s Manha de Carnaval (this version in English by Anna Salleh – as lovely a piece of slinky Latin music as I’ve heard for some time.
• Which brings us to the Quiz Question of the Week. This week’s question comes from the recent quiz at the White Hart in Hamstead Marshall (they take place on the first Thursday of the month, which means the next is on Thursday 1 August) which was in aid of Citizens’ Advice West BerkshireThe question was a follows: To the nearest 5%, what percentage of the London Underground is in fact overground? Last week’s question was: What is remarkable about the respective sizes of the sun and the moon? What is remarkable is that their respective distances from us are almost the same as their difference in circumferences (the sun is about 400 times larger and about 400 times further away) which means that, atmospheric distortions aside, the appear almost exactly the same size in the sky. Without this, the perfect beauty of solar eclipses would be impossible.