Local News July 18-25 2019

Our round-up of local news across the area this week including Hungerford’s taps, verges and coffee, Newbury’s waterfront, Marlborough’s battles, Chiseldon’s bus service, Wantage’s fest, Grove’s 220 homes, Thatcham’s parking, East Ilsley’s traffic, Aldermaston’s Manor, Woolhampton’s woodpeckers, Swindon’s foster carers, East Garston’s music, Inkpen’sclosure, police and travel updates, narcissist alert, a vacuum magnate, charging for libraries, charging for schools, Tasmanian tax evasion, voter mass, Merlin the cat, green bins, Green Gartside, Nan Winton and one run too many.

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)

• So it seems that the President of the USA has been condemned for his racist remarks, just as one of the contenders for the Conservative party leadership is the subject of a series of newspaper articles covering his various ‘flirtations with dishonesty’. Both of these accusations are slightly beside the point. Both men are raging narcissists for whom everything is secondary to the need of getting people to notice them. The more outrageous the remark the better this goal is accomplished. In this they are imitated each day by the legion of social-media ‘influencers’, Twitter trolls and reality-show contestants whose opinions seem increasingly inescapable. We all get the leaders we deserve.   

• A nerve-shredding Men’s Cricket World Cup Final on Sunday, and one which England actually won. However, we shouldn’t have done, as there was an error in the way the overthrows were calculated following a freak incident in the last over involving Ben Stokes for which England should have been awarded five runs and not six. It seems amazing to me that, given the tens of thousands of people who claim an encyclopaedic knowledge of the laws (not the rules, note – the laws) of cricket, not one of them seemed to be in involved in checking the scoring. For me, it’s slightly taken the gloss off it. Also, if the teams are still level after a super over, why not have another one, rather than go to the slightly facile measurement of boundaries scored? If I were a Kiwi, I’d be feeling a bit cheated. A great tournament, though, with several cracking matches.

• The question of the contribution made by parish councils to help fund the West Berkshire Library Service has come up again, this time because Thatcham Town Council has asked West Berkshire for further details of how its proposed contribution of nearly £25,000pa will be spent. The matter is covered on p21 of this week’s Newbury Weekly News. Two other points come from this. The first is, if WBC is going to ask for extra funds in this way, why stop with libraries? Adult social care and children’s services are both in need of extra funds: both are also statutory responsibilities. The second, wider, point is whether these voluntary contributions (with or without any stick or carrot attached) are a good way of raising money. The problem with such payments is that they can’t be relied upon, so making budgeting impossible.

On the positive side, it does mean that Paul James, the Head of the Libraries Service, needs to show parish councils what the Service is accomplishing as the contributions will largely be based on these results. Last year, about £95,000 of the £150,000 shortfall was covered in this way. There are many signs that the Service has made a good deal of progress since the dark days of 2016 when it was suggested all but one of there libraries might close. Hungerford’s re-invention is the most spectacular but all the libraries – all of which have survived – now offer a wider range of services and activities. As Paul James told Penny Post, “the Library Service works best when the local communities are involved.” This may, in 2019, seem like an obvious remark but it’s one which probably did not describe the situation a few years ago. 

• The idea of contributions being made to top up financial  deficiencies was also reported in the same paper (on p6) with regard to the local schools. The article looks at how over £200,000 was contributed by parents towards the costs of a number of primary schools in the area. This seems like a more serious problem than the above-mentioned library funding as this is from individuals, not parish councils, and is directed to a particular school, not to the service as a whole. This might work well where there are enough mums and dads willing to chip in but I suspect that the schools most in need of extra funds are probably the ones where there are fewer such parents. The government’s own funding arrangements do take deprivation into account but, like any centrally-administered measure, this is a fairly blunt instrument which doesn’t always hit its intended target.

I understand that the sums raised from parents are mainly for, to quote the the Chancellor’s unhappy phrase oe earlier this year, the ‘little extras’ such as outdoor equipment and music stands, often via the school’s PTA, though there are cases where non-core staff such as family support workers may see some of their funding coming from this source. (Elsewhere, matters seem otherwise: the Wantage and Grove Herald reports this week that some schools in The Vale of White Horse area have asked parents to make ‘donations towards basic running costs.) Asking parents to contribute to school costs, or parish councils to contribute to libraries, are two further examples of services that were once wholly free now needing to find other sources of revenue. This has also led to the increased importance of volunteers.

• If you’ve ever thought about trying to get away with paying your taxes because it goes against God’s law then the example of this family (admittedly from far away in Tasmania) suggests that you might not get away with it.

• 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.’

• Residents of West Berkshire can now subscribe to the garden-waste collection service: more details can be found here. The cost is £50 for the first bin and there will, this year, be no part-year reductions. Many claimed that there effectively weren’t any last year as the option was so poorly publicised. The matter was referred by Trading Standards by Lib Den Councillor Alan Macro, but Trading Standards referred the matter back to the very department which had drafted the material in the first place, a good example of a system not working properly.

• The West Berkshire Lottery is currently supporting 97 local good causes.

• 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.

• Last week, a letter in the NWN criticised the paper for referring to James Dyson as a ‘hoover designer’ as ‘hoover’ was a proprietary term (which, as the word is now often used without the capital letter, I disagreed with). The editor has clearly sided with the correspondent rather than with me and passed it on to his staff: for this week, Dyson is referred to as a ‘vacuum magnate’, a surreal phrase which I rather like.

• The animal of the week is Merlin the cat, who’s looking for a new home through the National Animal Welfare Trust at Trindledown near Great Shefford.

• The letters pages of the Newbury Weekly News this week include: an impassioned defence of the absurd, unsightly and bridge-damaging love locks at Park Way Bridge (including a FoI request); more on climate change; confirmation from the Newbury Mayor that her new ceremonial robe will contain no ermine fur; and a letter criticising the ‘conformist product’ of our education system which produces a ‘voter mass’ and ‘rosette-stalk’ politicians.

• A number of good causes have received valuable support recently, including: Welford & Wickham Primary School (thanks to Wickfest); Helen and Douglas House (thanks to Thorngrove School); the British heart Foundation (thanks to Darren Portsmouth); Sweatbox (thanks to What the Fest); many local good causes (thanks to green ham Trust and the West Berkshire Lottery).

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). 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.

• Contrary to recent rumours, it appears that the Coffee#1 shop will be opening in the old From the Heart unit on the corner of High Street and Everland Road. Work is expected to being quite soon: shop-fitters working for chain stores can move pretty fast when they need to (and once they start), as was the case with the transformation of the old Martin’s store into a WHS last year. It remains to be seen when this will open, and whether it will open before the new Costa Coffee shop a few doors down in old NatWest Building.

• The Town Council will be installing a new drinking-water tap at the Bulpit Lane playground. This is in addition to the current one near the Library. If you want to suggest any other locations for water taps, please contact the HTC office.

• In another move which jives with the mood and needs of the time, the Town Council has decided to allow the meadows in the churchyard to be given over to grasses and wildflowers, rather than regularly mowed. Many other councils are taking the approach, Rotherham’s ‘river of flowers’ being one spectacular example. This not only provides a habitat for bees, on which we rely for a vast amount of pollination, but also cuts down on mowing costs (particularly important now many councils have identified this as an area for saving money) and the pollution that mowers can cause. As with the taps, if you want to suggest any other areas of the town that might benefit for this approach, contact Hungerford Town Council.

• Church Way will be closed on Monday 5 August between Homefield Way and The A338 – diversion via Atherton Road and the A338 to allow for cable installation by Gigaclear. Click here for details.

• The unnamed road from Bell Lane to Lower Green in Inkpen will, for the same reason, be closed on Monday 5 and Tuesday 6 August – diversion via Spray lane and the unnamed road to Upper Green. Click here for more details.

• I didn’t know that local District Councillor Dennis Benneyworth used to be a jockey and that he won both his first and his last race (and others in between). These and other facts about on of the ward’s three elected councilors will be revealed next week in our interview with him.

Hungerford Town FC  played a friendly against 1969 League Cup winners Swindon Town (they will forever be remembered for that distant but remarkable achievement) and lost 4-1 at a full Bulpit Lane. The new season kicks off next month. 

Lower Denford Road by Denford Mill Bridge will be fully closed to through traffic and non-motorised users, including pedestrians, cyclists and equestrians, at Denford Mill Bridge until early September 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).

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.

• As mentioned last week, 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 tried to contact her again today for any update on the opening but was told by one of the staff in Abingdon that ‘she’s very busy with opening the new pub’, which I took to be a sign that things were on track for an opening in, as she told me last week, about six weeks time.

• Keep up-to-date here and also here with all the events at this summer’s Lambourn Carnival.

• Click here for the July report from Downlands councillor Clive Hooker.

• …and click here for the report from Lambourn Councillor Howard Woolaston

• All Saints’ Church in East Garston will be hosting a  seasonal concert by the Wantage Academy Brass Band on Saturday 27 July. Full details here.

• 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 [email protected]

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 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.

• 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 protected].

• Newbury Town Council has supported plans to refurbish the Waterside Centre – see p6 of this week’s NWN for more.

• On the following spread, the same paper has a report and photos of the recent Jazz and Blues Festival in the Market Square.

• 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 mentioned last week about the knacker’s yard which is being built on the site of the former Wessex Saw Mills between Chaddleworth and Great Shefford. There are two issues here: whether the incinerator which has been installed is in accordance with the planning permission; and the owners’ desire to modify five of the conditions which were agreed at the same time. I’ve seen a number of emails between various people on the subject and it appears that West Berkshire Council’s Planning Enforcement Department intends to make a decision on these matters by 22 August.

• The NWN reports on planning development in Compton (it’s actually in East Ilsley) for a ‘leisure centre’ (it’s in fact for 15 light industrial units). This has, I understand, been discussed at two previous parish council meetings with no members of the public attending and no objections so I’m a bit unclear why it’s suddenly become an issue now. As is often the case in a rural area, the narrow road access has been cited as a problem. The parish council has asked West Berkshire to move a 30mph sign on the main road so that the junction will be subject to this low speed. 

• 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. If you want to subscribe or contribute, email [email protected]

• 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 above (Across the Area) for Thatcham Town Council’s reaction to the request for contributions towards the area’s library service.

• The Newbury Weekly News reports this week on p22 that West Berkshire Council is considering introducing parking charges at the Kennet Centre car park to discourage long-term parking for other purposes. Thank goodness this isn’t an issue at Hungerford Leisure Centre, which I go to about four times a 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.

• It seems that Woolhampton’s church needs to raise funds for a rather unusual reason: it’s spire has been damaged by woodpeckers. I presume the spire is made of wood. You can find out more here.

• 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. which includes a quotation from Albert Camus. (I prefer his more famous remark:  “All that I know most surely about morality and obligations I owe to football.”)

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.

• This week’s NWN has, on p10, an article concerning the development at Aldermaston Manor, which has yet to find its new role in life since it ceased to be a hotel in 2012 and was purchased by Praxis Estate Management two years later. Various attempts have been made to market it, so far without success: the latest plan, the application for which was submitted earlier this year, include plans for over 200 flats, although with no provision for affordable housing. A further potential objection is that Aldermaston has been designated as a service village and so subject to only minor infill: however, this proposal would more than double its size. For both these reasons, the plans as they stand would appear to be contrary to West Berkshire’s policy. The Parish Council, as a statutory consult, is now in a position to make its comments but a spokesman I talked to was concerned that not enough time had been provided, in this holiday season, for the ‘enormous volume of documentation’ to be considered or for a well-attended public meeting to be held: the proposal is certainly large enough to merit one. A further complicating factor is that the Manor is within the AWE’s menacingly-named Detailed Emergency Planning Zone which makes it a less than ideal site – in the view of West Berkshire Council and perhaps of prospective purchasers – for further housing development. 

• Also in Aldermaston, the Parish Council has agreed a contract for the refurbishment of the play equipment at the Recreation Ground. This will largely be funded by developer contributions from the Rosebourne Garden Centre.

• Kier is issuing roughly monthly updates about the building progress at the new primary school is Thealehere’s July’s. And, according to last week’s NWN, the work is on target for completion by September 2020.

• The Stratfield Mortimer council is searching for a new parish councillorclick here for details.

Click here and here for the latest from Highways England about the progress of the work to turn the M4 from J3 to J12 into a smart motorway.

• 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 the Marlborough Area Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group is holding a consultation survey and drop-in sessions with exhibits to update people on the latest moves towards the formulation of a final, approved plan.

• The same source has published a joint open letter from the local Police and Crime Commissioner and the Chief Constable of Wiltshire.

• 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.

• It appears that a solution has been found to the problems faced by schoolchildren who had previously used the service from Chiseldon to St Johns School in Marlborough.

• 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.

• 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.

• The leader of the Vale of White Horse Council, Emily Smith, made her first leader’s report on 17 July and you can read the text in full here.

•This week’s Wantage & Grove Herald has a report on the recent What the Fest music festival at Sweatbox’s new site at KAs.

• A planned development at Grove Wick Farm will provide 220 new homes, a quarter of them proposed as being ‘social’ and 23 ‘intermediate’.

• 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.

• Click here to help the fundraising and donation-sourcing efforts of the Wantage branch of the homelessness charity, The Porch.

• Sir Frank Williams, the co-founder of Grove-based Williams Grand Prix Engineering, celebrates 50 years in Formula One this weekend.

• 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 protected] to find out more.

• Julie Mabberley’s regular column on p8 of the Wantage & Grove Herald compares the statements made by the two candidates for the Conservative leadership election on housing matters. She suggested that, whoever wins, it probably won’t affect the plans for up to a million homes in the Oxford-Cambridge Arc.

• On this last subject, the Vale Council has resolved to oppose the building of the proposed Oxford to Cambridge Expressway.

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.

• Swindon Council’s hunt for new foster carers continues, with a new campaign being launched this week.

• What causes potholes? How are they fixed? These might be two of the questions that flash through your mind  when, as a cyclist, you find yourself thrown off your bike by one or, as a motorist, you find that one has given you yet another puncture. To answer these and other questions, Swindon Borough Council is running a two week campaign explaining how potholes are fixed and motorists, cyclists and pedestrians are being encouraged to join the hundreds of people already reporting them.

• A broken water pipe left unnoticed for months at Lydiard Park led to a water bill of nearly £200,000.

• 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.

• A strategy to reduce the numbers of rough sleepers in Swindon has been approved by members of the Health and Wellbeing Board

• 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 yet another piece of solid gold from the 80s, Lover to Fall by Scritti Politti, which had by then become the kind of trading name of frontman Green Gartside. When I first bought the album from which this came, Cupid & Psyche 85, I played it several times a day for several weeks, annoying the neighbours but pleasing myself. Still sounds pretty good to me.

• Which brings us to the Quiz Question of the Week. This week’s question comes from the most recent Monthly Mindbender quiz at The White Hart in Hamstead Marshall (the next is on Thursday 1 August) in aid of Citizens Advice West Berkshire and is: Nan Winton died last month aged 93 – she was the first woman to do what?  Last week’s question was: Who, or what, is Carcaixent? It is a town in Spain, the latest one with which Newbury has been twinned. You get an extra point if you can pronounce it correctly.

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Brian Quinn

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Covering: Newbury, Thatcham, Hungerford, Marlborough, Wantage, Lambourn, Compton, Swindon & Theale