Our round-up of local news across the area this week including Hungerford’s plans, Newbury’s bus station, Thatcham’s hall, Theale’s clerk, Burghfield’s skate park, Marlborough’s axed bus, Wantage’s talking paper, Grove’s circus, Chaddleworth’s incinerator enquiries, Shefford’s pub, Kingston Lyle’s redevelopment, Hampstead Norreys’ greenfest, Lambourn’s carnival, Swindon’s roads, police and travel updates, municipal social-media etiquette, the Queen’s decision, a hungry wreck fish, a final at last, an underground misnomer, Angie, dirty tricks, hoovers and a Spanish sextuplet.
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 social-care crisis – the term is not over-used – continues to be acutely felt by all those who provide or receive these services, though not not, it would seem, by those in Whitehall and Westminster who are responsible for the Green Paper on the subject, which is now 25 months overdue. One recent report branded this as ‘national scandal’. It came not from a Labour Party think tank or a trades union conference but the cross-bench Economic Affairs Committee of the House of Lords, not a group of people who tend to be given to wild pronouncements. The problem is that the demand (in volume and cost) is increasing while the funding is falling.
Many insiders have spoken of severe problems for several years. The matter is compounded by much of the care being provided by private firms which, unlike councils, can (and do) go bust. Aside from the power vacuum in Westminster, it’s impossible to escape the conclusion that the people responsible for sorting this out do not yet require social care and, when they do, will be able to afford to pay for it themselves. Meanwhile there are millions of people who dutifully paid their taxes and their NI with the implicit promise that they would be looked after when they needed help. The money has run out because every government since the late 1970s has effectively bought its way to power by promising lower taxes. Lest national poverty be used as an excuse, we are, by this estimate at least, the fourth richest country in the world: these three rate the UK at 8th, 9th and 9th. Something has gone terribly wrong.
• Politically, we are still fond of lecturing other states about the merits of democracy – although we have at least put the gun down – but the reality is that we’re about to have a PM who will have been elected by 0.2% of the population. If it’s Boris Johnson, he hasn’t ruled out proroguing parliament in order to get a no-deal Brexit implemented. Former PM John Major has said he’d mount a legal challenge if this happens. Many commentators have said that though the Queen could refuse such a request, tradition dictates that she always does what the elected government requests: but surely this is just the kind of abuse that the Queen’s extensive though rarely used powers are designed to prevent? It makes no difference what view one has of Brexit: the referendum was in favour of leaving the EU but was silent on the method. Parliament has already voted against a no-deal. The last person to try to rule without parliament was Charles I: look what happened to him.
• I mentioned last week about a report highlighting the fact that only 14% of West Berkshire’s recently-elected Councillors were female but suggested that, with a total of only 43 councillors, percentages were misleading as people tended to vote on party lines regardless of the candidate’s sex. The number of female candidates seemed more relevant: and thanks to a very helpful woman at WBC I established that 27% of the candidates had been female in May 2019. An equally helpful person (a man this time) from the Fawcett Society, which produced the report, confirmed recently that, nationwide, 34% of the candidates had been female. West Berkshire’s alleged relegation-zone ranking of only 14% of councillors should be replaced with the milder accusation that it’s about 20% below mid-table as regards the number of female candidates.
It’s hard to see what the council itself can do about this. Clearly there’s something less attractive about being a councillor in West Berkshire to the average female (or that the local selection systems are more sexistly flawed) than would be the case nationally: but the bigger question is why only a third of the candidates nationwide are female. Assuming, as I do, that moral and intellectual excellence is evenly distributed between the sexes, this must mean that we are, because of our fondness for male representatives, getting less good representation than we deserve. What party a woman wants to stand for has a lot to do with how likely she is to be selected (or how willing she is to stand). In 2019, the Greens had 44% female candidates, Labour 40%, the Lib Dems 33% the Conservatives 30% and UKIP 20%. For the three main parties, the change compared to 2015 was either a slight increase (Lab and Cons) or no change (Lib Dems).
• Many industry professionals agree that the housing market is in a rather static mood at present and, as with so much else, Brexit is being blamed for the uncertainty. House prices in the South East have fallen over the last 12 months – good news for some, less good for others – and in most other regions have been unchanged. On the rental side, the biggest change has been the outlawing, as of June, of fees charged by letting agents to tenants. These used to vary, where they were charged at all, and covered the cost of things such as references and inventories and other one-off costs associated with the start of a tenancy.
I spoke to Nina Clark, a long-established lettings agent in Hungerford about this change. “It’s not hit us too hard because the fees we charged were quite low,” she explained. “However, there are costs that are incurred in this process. We are offering a service which many people choose to use as it gives them the benefit of our contacts and experience. I think the problem, certainly with some agencies, mainly in cities and with larger companies, was that the fees charged were unitemised and sometimes very high. Therefore the fee ban has ultimately penalised the smaller agents whose fees were fair. Also, the reform may not save money for clients in the long run as, instead of paying a one-off fee for a service that’s specific to them, agents may be forced to increase what they charge landlords which will, in turn, be passed on to tenants over the length of their lease in the form of higher rent.” I’m no expert but it seems to me that capping any such fees at, say, two week’s rent would be fair: some agencies could, if they wished, choose to charge less or nothing and use this as a marketing advantage. If I needed to rent a property I’d certainly consider using an agent and would be happy to pay reasonable charges for a good service.
• If there was a prize for the Best Newsletter from a West Berkshire Councillor then I would vote (if I have a vote) for Graham Bridgman. Several of the points in the following paragraphs were brought to my attention in his latest communication.
• In it, he refers to the appointment of Joseph Holmes as the new WBC Executive Director for Resources from September. He will lead a gradual slimming down of the next layer of management, replacing 13 Heads of Service with seven Service Directors ‘on an evolutionary rather than revolutionary basis’ with (at least initially) changes being made as opportunities arise as a result of retirement and departure.
• He then mentions the West Berkshire Adult Placement Scheme which has received a Care Quality Commission rating of ‘Good’. As Graham is the portfolio holder for Adult Social Care, I’ll quote his remarks in full: ‘APSL is a shared-lives service which supports carers to provide a home for people who are unable, or choose not, to live on their own:- they live as part of the carer’s family. Shared-lives carers are not directly employed by the scheme but are paid a fee which is dependent on the amount and type of support they provide for individuals. People using the service and their carers enjoy shared activities and life experiences. Frequently, the people who use the service have a learning difficulty and/or associated disabilities.’
• He also refers to a plan to create a standard template for the code of conduct of parish councils. He cites three examples: gifts, hospitality and social-media protocol. Any standardisation of ethical standards is in general a good idea but I find it very hard to believe that parish or town councillors have any problems with the first two. Social media is another matter. In the course of writing this section each week I speak to a number of parish councils, each of whom has a different policy for how to handle the online firestorms that periodically erupt. Do you engage or do you ignore? Do you encourage communication with councillors on social media or do you ban it?
The stakes are sometimes quite high. One council had to cancel a meeting last year due to the volume of threatening posts which were directed at some councillors over a particular issue. In another, more farcical, example, a Facebook crusade was launched in another parish about an alleged property company called ‘NDP’ which was, it was claimed, about to build on the local allotments. Two minutes’ research would have revealed that ‘NDP’ is ‘neighbourhood development plan’ and that the enquiry was merely from the working party enquiring if it was felt this was the best part of the village for growing veg. The parish council needed to spend time defusing this pointless row. I’m not sure that it’s up to the district council to judge how each parish ought to handle things. Newbury and East Garston, for instance, are on the same tier of government but few would say that their social-media dealings present the same problems. The amount of control required depends on how active individual councillors are on social media. I also wonder how much hard-pressed parish and town clerks, on whose over-burdened shoulders this compliance would fall, would welcome this reform.
Perhaps the first step might be for West Berkshire Council to look at the way by which it reaches its decisions and ensures that they are fully transparent and seen to be so. Questions still remain, for instance, about London Road. This will be looked into by the WBC Scrutiny Commission: however one of its members will be Councillor Alan Laws who was involved in the original discussions. My point is not a political one but merely that it doesn’t look very objective (and, incidentally, places him in an impossibly compromised position). There was another case last year when Lib Den Councillor Alan Macro referred the wording of the discount scheme for the green-bin charge to the local Trading Standards, which immediately referred the matter back to the very person in Legal Services who had been responsible for the wording in the first place. Again I must stress that I’m not judging the rights and wrongs of either of these issues, merely that the way of handling them seemed, at best, inelegant and open to criticism.
• The meeting of West Berkshire Council declared a state of climate emergency: you can see the agenda here (at the time of writing the minutes had not been published): go to item 16 for the motion, which had been agreed in advance and was passed unanimously. You can see Penny Post’s video of the debate here. I’m still trying to establish from WBC’s press department whether there is a constitutional requirement for (a) the Environmental Board to be drawn only from members of the Executive and officers and (b) whether the cross-party advisory group will be conducting its meetings in public or in camera.
• I spoke to one Councillor who suggested that however the longer-term strategic plan evolved, there was much that could be done immediately. Many of these things – he cited a voluntary speed reduction on motorways of 60mph – are things that people can do themselves and which cost nothing to them or the council. One fairly easy target for West Berkshire would be to see what it can do about its annual £2m energy bill. Small changes in usage or behaviour would make some savings but to do something spectacular – like halving it – would involve capital expenditure for things such as insulation, new lights and solar panels. CapEx money can, I understand, be borrowed quite easily and cheaply from the government. Politicians are often looking for legacies – a £1m pa saving on energy bills would be a fine one to have.
• 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.
• I told you that the USA would win the Women’s World Cup (can’t remember when, but I did). Attention now switches to the cricket, the more so as England has just won a cricket or football semi-final for the first time since what feels like 1738. Apparently there’s some tennis tournament going on in London which takes up most of the radio sport bandwidth at present, which is a bit of a pain but apparently it finishes quite soon. (Well done, Brian: that’s 700 unsubscribes you’ve just been responsible for – Ed.)
• One of the letters in this week’s NWN takes issue with the description of James Dyson as the ‘hoover designer‘, ”hoover’ being a brand name. I think not. Like ‘sellotape’, ‘hoover’ has now lost its proprietary meaning and been re-defined as a common, rather than proper, noun. The key test is whether it’s often seen without its initial capital letter.
• The animal of the week is different from usual. Out go the cute kittens, the dancing dogs and the unlikely beasts from the Living Rainforest and elsewhere: in some a wreckfish, which eats sharks.
• The letters pages of the Newbury Weekly News this week include: a number of questions about the London Road Industrial estate ‘debacle’; the suggestion that Jeremy Corbyn and Sir Kim Darroch have both been victims of dirty tricks; a question as to whether scooters should be allowed onto the A34; further exchanges in the climate-science debate; and an appeal for ‘bog-standard Britons’ to find an alternative to Westminster’s ‘puerile game of charades.’
• A number of good causes have received valuable support recently, including: Hearing Dogs for the Deaf (thanks to nine-year-old Josh Carter); Hungerford Nursery School (thanks to the Town and Manor of Hungerford); The Alzheimer’s Society (thanks to Forget Me Not’s gig at The Bear in Wantage); Manton Community Outdoors (thanks to the Waitrose green-token scheme); Sue Ryder (thanks to Sophie Lightowlers); the Down’s syndrome Association (thanks to Joe Butler); Swings & Smiles (thanks to Gardner. Leader); The Downs School (thanks to the Downlands Dash race); the MS Therapy Centre (thanks to shoppers in Newbury).
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.
• The three councillors representing the town met West Berkshire planning officers last week to discuss the reserved matters application for Salisbury Road from Bewley Homes (see this month’s HTC update for more), a meeting that was described in this week’s NWN, and confirmed to Penny Post as being ‘encouraging’. A statement from WBC in the same newspaper article confirmed that the developer would have to ‘explain why they cannot build on the eastern part of the site.’ One answer might perhaps be that Bewley intends to in the future – indeed a representative admitted as such on being pressed by Councillor James Cole at the HTC planning meeting earlier this month – but that it perhaps currently lacks the funding or wishes for some other reason to do the development in two stages. A glance at Bewley’s current plans show two roads on the eastern edge which stop at the boundary which, in both cases, could have had an extra house at their end point. It’s therefore obvious that a stage 2 is planned, in which case WBC’s planning officers and councillors will doubtless have to asses the likely impact of the entire probable development in terms of density, access and infrastructure, not merely the part which has currently been applied for. It’s possible that Bewley might be thinking that they might have handled all this a little better. One thing that would stop this attrition of planning consent would be if only two amendments were permitted to any application: after that, you had to start again (and pay the fees again).
The application has now been called in, meaning it will come before WBC’s planning committee for a decision. Before then, there will a meeting of HTC’s own Planning Committee at the Town Hall at 7pm on Tuesday 23 July which is open to members of the public. This will be an opportunity to view the plans and to discuss any concerns with HTC’s councillors. HTC’s views will then be sent to West Berkshire. Due process is thus being followed as quickly as it can be.
• Another aspect of Hungerford which made the front page of the NWN this week is the application to turn the old NatWest building into a Costa Coffee shop. Some comments from residents suggested that having two coffee shops close to each other (another is shortly to open on the corner of Everland Road) is a bad idea, particularly as the town is not short of places where coffee can be bought, and that either West Berkshire or Hungerford Councils should have a policy to attract a wider range of outlets. As the planning authority, West Berkshire can grant or not changes of use and can refuse things such as drinks licences but the decision as to what business will survive is ultimately one for the market. If there is not room for two coffee shops in the High Street then two will not survive. Hungerford Council can, as a consultee, oppose any particular plan (which West Berkshire may or may not agree with) and can do its best to encourage any willing tenants to come forward but they can’t impose any particular policy. Nor can either council do anything about the lease terms, unless they own the site, although it is true that West Berkshire can do something about the business rates to encourage occupancy. Both councils probably believes that an occupied site is better than an unoccupied one. Whether these, or any other outlets, survive and thrive is then largely down to them.
• As most of you will be aware, Hungerford and Kintbury now has three WBC Councillors. We interviewed one of them, James Cole, last month and you can read it here. I think you’ll agree that he has an impressive list of previous (and current) jobs.
• This week’s NWN reported that some of the cows on Hungerford Common have been affected with New Forest Eye. I spoke to Jed Ramsay, the CEO of the Town and Manor which owns the cattle and the Common, and he confirmed that it’s not transmittable to humans (although is between cows) and is a form of bovine conjunctivitis. The cows are being checked daily. If you see any cows which look as though they might be infected (symptoms include eyes that are runny, red or inflamed) please contact Jed on firstname.lastname@example.org.
• The Hungerford Summer Festival runs until 14 July.
• The Hungerford in Bloom judging has taken place and the winners will be announced shortly.
• See p20 of this week’s NWN for a report and pictures of the Hungerford Allotment Holders’ Association‘s recent 10th anniversary party.
• Hungerford Town FC’s fixtures for 2019-20 have recently been announced. The 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) 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 (closing date 15 July).
• 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-hour seven-days 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.
• The Swan in Great Shefford, which has been closed since earlier this year, has a new manager, Georgiana Caras who also runs Broad Face in Abingdon. I managed to have a quick chat with her today and she said that she was hoping to be open by the August bank holiday. The lease will not include tied-house restrictions which means that it will be able to source its own supplies: six real ales, including local ones, are planned. She said that the aim was to (re-)create a local village pub selling traditional English food. We wish her all the best and will bring you further news as we get it.
• And still in Shefford, the Flood Alleviation Association has now almost reached its total of £80,000 (plus about £4,000 of costs, mainly connected with the match funding from the Good Exchange). Huge hats off to all those involved in raining this money. Our post about the Association has now been updated and includes the the summary of a slightly underwhelming statement made by an Environment Agency representative at the Great Shefford Annual Parish meeting in April about when the work might start.
• Moving up the valley, but still sticking with flood defences and the EA, a similar scheme was implemented in Eastbury about five years ago, following similar fund-raising work the Eastbury Flood Prevention Association. The defences there haven’t yet been tested; but one part of having a flood defence system is that it reduces insurance premiums. However, for reasons which are very hard to understand, the Eastbury scheme has not yet been recorded on any official maps which means that at first glance no insurance company will accept that it exists. However, thanks to the efforts of the Eastbury Village Wardens – hats off once again, if you will – a temporary solution has been found until the EA remedies this oversight later this year. If you live in Eastbury and need to renew your home insurance but your company does not accept that a flood defence is in place, email email@example.com and they will provide you with the details of how you can obtain the necessary proof. You should also ask to subscribe to their occasional newsletters if you aren’t already on the list.
• 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 64th 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.
• Anyone interested in what might be going up, building-wise, in Newbury, can see two stories on p2 and p4 of this week’s Newbury Weekly News about plans for, respectively, the Waterside Centre and the Racecourse.
• What do Braunfels in Germany, Bagnols-sur-Cèze in France, Eeklo in Belgium, Feltre in Italy and Carcaixent in Spain have in common? The answer is, of course, that they are all twinned (or sextupletted) with Newbury. The Spanish town is the latest addition and the relationship will be officially inaugurated at a Twinning Ceremony to be held at 10.30 am, this Saturday, 13 July, in the Corn Exchange – so, if you see Spanish flags flying over the town and hear the dulcet twang of guitars, that’s why. Members of the public are welcome to attend and support the event. Carcaixent is famous for its orange groves; also for its eye-catching Fallas festival every march involving giant sculptures made of wood, plaster and piper-maché. For more information, contact the Newbury Twin Town Association.
• I was driving past what used to be the Newbury Bus Station today and reflected on how permanent buildings seem when they’re there and how completely forgotten they are as soon as they’ve gone. Not a particularly original sentiment, I admit, and I wouldn’t have bothered to share had I not a few hours later seen this post on the Newbury Facebook page. The picture create was from Tony Vickers, presumably the Councillor, and the shot was probably taken from the WBC offices. It’s not often that a client gets literally the overlook the work it has commissioned and therefore check just when people knock off for lunch or whether a joist has been put in straight. The question ‘will you miss the bus station?’ provoked a number of comments, as might be expected.
• The South Central Ambulance Service is hosting a Governors’ Workshop in Newbury on Thursday 29 July in order to encourage people to come forward to work as governor for the service. More information can be found here.
• 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.
• We’ve mentioned before about the knacker’s yard which is being built on the site of the former Wessex Saw Mills between Chaddleworth and Great Shefford. The former parish council discussed the matter at its recent meeting as follows: “Cllr. Murphy reported there was a new [West Berkshire Council] Case Officer for The Wessex Saw Mill (WSM) and was informed the Enforcement Officer is making enquiries about the WSM. The Case Officer had been informed over concerns of the Valcon incinerator that has been installed is the 2000 Model and not the one for which permission has been granted (Valcon 1000). There is a difference of over three tonnes in weight between them and the one that was ‘craned’ off the delivery vehicle weighed in the order of 6-7 tonnes. The Case Officer said any information that was allowed to be given would be passed onto Cllr Murphy. There is a meeting that is going to take place to discuss the findings from the Enforcement Officer’s investigation.” You can read the full minutes of the meeting by clicking here.
• A reminder about the Hampstead Norreys Community Shop’s eco-bricks project which re-purposes your one-use plastic. You can read more about this by clicking here.
• Hampstead Norreys will be hosting a GreenFest sustainable living event on Saturday 7 September.
• The July Chaddleworth News is available here. I thought I had seen all the the Parish Council Chairman had in the way of brightly coloured clothes but, as one of the pictures in this edition demonstrates, I was wrong. If you want to subscribe or contribute, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
• 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.
• This week’s Newbury Weekly News reports (on p 24) on the plans to build 17 flats in Chapel Street, which has led to some opposition from local residents.
• The same paper also reports that a number of blue plaques commemorating people of local historical significance will be unveiled in Thatcham next week.
• 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. The organisation is hosting two fund- and awareness-raising events, on Saturday 20 July and Saturday 27 July – see here for more details.
• 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.
• 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.
• The same council is looking for an Assistant Clerk.
• 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 last week’s NWN, the work is on target for completion by September 2020.
• If you want to know what a recently renovated skate park looks like, all you need to do is click here to see some pictures of Burghfield‘s.
• The Stratfield Mortimer council is searching for a new parish councillor – click here for details.
• 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 News reports that George Lane car park’s Corner House has been confirmed as new Police ‘touch-down point’ for Marlborough
• 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 (with an update this week).
• 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.
• 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 (p14) on the rise of hate crime in the Thames Valley Police area and how Brexit is, once again, the culprit. There are two opinions about these that the article explores: that the rise is the sign of a growing malaise in the society; or, which paints a more optimistic picture, that it’s merely due to more reporting of such incidents as they are now seen by both the police and the public as being crimes. I’m unsure which is the truth. Most of the evidence cited is personal and anecdotal: however, as by their very nature unreported crimes are neither reported nor, therefore, officially crimes, it’s hard to be sure what is going on. I suspect that similar trends could have been seen in the past when matters such as domestic violence, child abuse and rape became accepted as crimes rather than something not to be talked about.
• The same paper also has an article (on p8) about the plans for more safety features on the A34, a road which isn’t a motorway but which is treated by many users as if it is. The article points out that the DfT announced last year that it would fund ‘almost all’ of the safety features following a safety review ‘backed by Oxfordshire’s MPs’ (and, I think, Newbury MP Richard Benyon).
• 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.
• The poster for the Festival on the Farm (Saturday 13 July in Grove) caught my eye as it seems that The Beatles are playing there – the typeface was right and everything. Then I saw it was ‘With The Beatles’, not Ringo and Sir Macca at all but a tribute band.
• Busy day in Grove – the circus is also coming to town (at the 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.
• And, the next day, there’s a Cricket Community Fun Day at Wantage and Grove CC.
• Click here for information the Didcot, Abingdon and Wantage Talking Newspaper (DAWN) for the blind and partially sighted. The organisers are currently appealing for help to keep the service going – click here for details.
• 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 compares the response rates to two local consultations concerning health and planning and explains by the 2050 Plan (which had the lower response) is in its own way just as important.
• 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.
• Further planning news here, of a rather different kind (and not at all to do with increasing the Vale’s stock of affordable housing): a ‘massive renovation’ is planned for Kingston Lyle Park near Wantage, which recently changed hands for £18m.
• 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.
• Swindon Council’s hunt for new foster carers continues, with a new campaign being launched this week.
• Details have been released of the next batch of homes to come onto the market at Wichelstowe.
• 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 (the consultation closes on 30 July).
• Work is under way to turn to turn Swindon’s historic railway works into a Cultural Heritage Institute.
• 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 set of public engagement events are due to take place during July to give people the chance to look at Swindon Borough Council’s plans for major road improvements.
• Families in Swindon are being asked to complete a survey to help the council understand their childcare needs (survey closes on 31 August).
• 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 a song I’ve always loved and I hope you do do: Angie by the Rolling Stones. Generally, the more mellow and acoustic a Jagger/Richards song the more likely it is to have been written mainly or entirely by Sir Keef (the reverse doesn’t apply) and this one is no exception. In the video, Charlie Watts seems at one point as if he’s about to fall asleep and Bill Wyman appears to be impersonating Satan in a 70s horror movie; but I think that’s just the way they look.
• Which brings us to the Quiz Question of the Week. This week’s question is one that’s already been answered in this post and is: Who, or what, is Carcaixent? Last week’s question came 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 Berkshire. The question was a follows: To the nearest 5%, what percentage of the London Underground is in fact overground? The answer is 55% (so the name is wrong).