Local News July 25 to August 1 2019

Our round-up of local news across the area this week including Hungerford’s objections, Newbury’s coffee, Marlborough’s battles, Wantage’s health services, Thatcham’s bridge, East Ilsley’s survey, Aldermaston’s naughty step, Lambourn’s missing bench, Woolhampton’s fete, Swindon’s young wardens, Ramsbury’s awards, Cold Ash’s thought, East Garston’s grants, police and travel updates, LRIE, Larry the cat, female candidates, snapping the students, a new paywall, carbon policies, an 80th birthday, Joseph Conrad, the first female newsreader and the wrong shoes.

Click on any highlighted and underlined text for more information on the subject. Some will link to other pages on this site, others to pages elsewhere.

Police, transport and council contacts

Information on police, transport (including roadworks) and district councils can now be found on a separate page here.

Links to the websites for town and parish councils can still be found in the appropriate sections below.

Across the area (and further afield)

• The student climate-change strikers were in Newbury last Thursday: but the incident came to my attention as a result of a slightly odd coda. The Newbury Weekly News had taken photos of the students in the Parkway Shopping Centre, a fact which came to the management’s attention: the centre contacted NWN to request that the pictures not be used, a matter which then became public through social media. There are regulations about taking photos on private property (which a shopping centre is, even though the public has access to it) and these vary from one centre to another. Some centres have or had a blanket ban on all photography but in some cases these have been dropped following PR disasters, for instance when the management tried to stop people taking pictures of their friends and family.

I asked a representative from Parkway why the request had been made. I was told that this was because permission had not been sought: this needs to be requested ideally beforehand but certainly before re-use for pictures taken by ‘professional photographers’. I asked if permission had ever been refused by Parkway and was told that it hadn’t been. I pointed out that one reading of the situation was that the centre is run by climate-change deniers who wish to censor all coverage of such activity on their premises. I was assured this was not the case and that the student marchers had been through the centre several times, and been photographed, with no problem. The issue was simply the principle of asking permission.

This is a grey area for many people. For one thing, it’s not always clear who owns the land on which an event is taking place, nor what the restrictions might be, nor whom to contact. Many might say that issues of public interest could trump such regulations, if not in all circumstances then certainly in some. There’s also the question of what constitutes ‘professional’. The simple definition of this is that one’s being paid but, these days, anyone with a smartphone can take a high-quality picture and, if they have a social-media page, this could be seen by a large number of people within minutes. Above all, how are such regulations enforced and can they be enforced sensibly and consistently? In this case there doesn’t seem to have been anything particularly sinister going on in the way of censorship. Assuming the NWN knew what the deal was, the problem could have been solved by asking. Whether such restrictions ought to exist is a separate issue.

• The same paper has announced that it is about to introduce a paywall for ‘premium articles’ on its website. Penny Post has no such plans to introduce one of its own (though we welcome donations to help us cover the costs of running the site and adding the 20 or so new articles a week on a wide range of subjects).

• With the passing of the Climate Emergency motion earlier this month, the question now turns to what West Berkshire Council will do. As previously mentioned, the Environmental Board is a sub-set of the Executive and so will be drawn only from officers and councillors from the ruling Conservatives. The advisory group, however, is cross-party. How much influence this will have and whether its discussions will be conducted in public remains to be seen. The two minority parties have been quick to make their own statements about what steps might be taken in the area. You can see the suggestions from the Liberal Democrats here and from the Green Party here.

Each takes a different approach. The Lib Dems is mainly about things that people and businesses can do to make changes, often quite small, which will if replicated on a large enough scale make an impact on the area’s carbon footprint (and save money). The Greens, on the other hand, are painting on a broader canvas and are recommending a series of policies, some minor others less so, which the council should adopt. Both these approaches are equally valid and I imagine that each party will in due course also be penning something concerning the area previously covered by the other. There’s also the question as to whether, whatever the Council decides, will take the form of the carrot of encouraging changing habits and money saving, the stick of policy decisions which will be mandatory or the example of setting its own house in order first. A mixture of all three, perhaps.  

• Our new Prime Minister has mentioned social care as one of the things that he feels needs fixing in the country. Many would say that, with the green paper on the subject now 25 months overdue, he’s not wrong. Councillor Graham Bridgman, the portfolio holder for Adult Social Care at West Berkshire, told Penny Post that ”I was very pleased to see the issue recognised and given prominence and wait to see what financial flesh is to be put on the bones. I hope that the national debate on how we pay for adult social care is commenced sooner rather than later.” 

I also read somewhere that he’s no great fan of HS2 and feels that the money would be better spent on a larger number of rail projects on a human scale. I very much hope that he will support my expectations on both these points, the first of which involves not enough money being spent on something that’s very important and the second of which involves spending a great deal of money of something that is almost completely useless. 

• The same Councillor wrote to me last week correcting my figures for the percentage of female candidates that stood for each party in the 2019 local elections. My figures (and his in brackets) were Greens had 44% (44%), Labour 40% (33%), the Lib Dems 33% (17%) the Conservatives 30% (26%) and UKIP 20% (0%). We were both right, though I was guilty of being unclear: his figures were for West Berkshire but mine were the whole country. Apologies for any confusion. It’s clear from the comparison these statistics provide that, the Greens aside, every party in West Berkshire is doing less well than the national average; which is itself doing less well than it ought to be.

• This week’s NWN reports, on p10, into the long-awaited start into an examination of the tangled history of the London Road Industrial Estate (LRIE), the various plans – or, in modern parlance, ‘visions’ – for which have, over the last 16 years, produced little more than several large legal bills. There have been calls for an enquiry in the decision-making processes, but this the Council has rejected as unnecessary. The matter is, however, to be looked at by West Berkshire’s Scrutiny Commission (WBSC). As a prelude to that, a five-person Oversight and Scrutiny Management Commission (OSMC) Task Group: London Road Industrial Estate, or LRIE Task Group for short, has been set up. It comprises two Conservative Councillors and two Lib Den councillors (Jeff Brooks and Lee Dillon) and three Conservative ones (Andrew Williamson, Claire Rowles and James Cole, the latter being the chair). Its intention is, in the words of a council officer quoted in this week’s NWN, to ‘get some background’ to the whole saga. It will have its first session this week. These meetings will not be conducted in public and its findings will be reported to OSMC.

Several groups, in particular the Newbury Community Football Group (NCFG) which has long been campaigning against the closure of the Faraday Road football ground for reasons that it feels have nothing to do with the wider needs of the area, claim that these measures do not go far enough. A spokesperson said that that the group was “surprised and disappointed” about the task group meeting in private, which was missing a ‘good opportunity’ to involve all the local groups. They also questioned whether WBC’s ‘vision’, which started life in 2003, was capable of providing what the businesses, residents and sports communities of the Estate “actually want or need”. The lack of consultation was also criticised: WBC is “still not in a position to submit even outline planning permission on the wider scheme. Without detailed plans, how can robust and meaningful public consultation take place?” There is also the question of to what extent the Council has re-evaluated its own view of the LRIE in the light of last year’s Appeal Court ruling which ruled the WBC’s developer agreement with St Modwens was not lawful.

• What a storm the other night. I went to bed early but was disturbed by distant rumblings that made my half-awake brain a confused place. When it finally arrived it seemed to be five minutes on followed by five minutes off which somehow created the impression that I was at sea. I also developed a fear, incompatible with this aquatic delusion, that the damson tree by our bedroom window was going to get blown over and crash into the house, ripping down the balcony. Once these ideas get fixed in your mind it’s hard to shake them unless you’re fully conscious. These rambling thoughts and occasional outbursts of thunder and lightning made me feel that I was trapped in a Joseph Conrad novel. Not a great night.

• I was talking too one of the staff at Citizens Advice West Berkshire this week who told me something I didn’t know: the service opened, with 200 bureaux, on 4 September 1939, the day after the start of WWII (what a time to launch a new service). This means the national organisation has its 80th birthday coming up. They must have been seen as lifesavers then: for the people who need them, there are just as much so today. We live in an increasingly complicated world. Failure to comply with the demands of whatever system you’re caught up in can be just as serious, and the whole experience just as daunting, in today’s digital age as it was in the ’30s. Also, now and then, many of the users (customers? clients? victims?) of these organisations’ systems, governmental or private, are often grappling with them for the first time: they may need help with no other aspect of their lives but are unable to solve a problem that they’re suddenly faced with, perhaps due to change of circumstances in their own lives or of a family member. It’s good to know that free, confidential, informed and dispassionate help is available. In 2003, an independently commissioned review of the service by the Office for Public Management concludes that “the service provides excellent value in return for the public funding it receives. It makes a significant contribution to individuals and communities, as well as to the process of policy-making and service delivery. Its holistic approach, national coverage and independence are to be cherished.”

• 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. 

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

• Advice here from Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue about keeping safe in open water during the hot weather.

• 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.

• The animal of the week is Larry the cat, Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office who is at the centre of the burning issue of the day: will he stay on at 10 Downing Street or has he, like so many others, been axed in the new PM’s reshuffle?

• The letters pages of the Newbury Weekly News this week include, as well as the two mentioned above, a number of opinions about behaviour in graveyards; criticism of West Berkshire’s handling of and reaction to the recent school-funding shortfall; criticism of the new road layout near the Sainsbury’s roundabout; and more climate-science exchanges.

• A number of good causes have received valuable support recently, including: Guide Dogs for the Blind (thanks to David Wilson Homes); Hungerford Primary School (thanks to the recent fete); Cancer Research UK (thanks to Salon 20); Friends of Bucklebury School’s defibrillator appeal (thanks to pupils at the school); the Alzheimer’s Society and Prostate Cancer UK (thanks to the Steve Holland memorial football match); several local charities (thanks to the Fête on the Green at Tadley); the Wantage Independent Advice Centre (thanks to Richmond Letcombe Regis Wellness Spa).

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.

• There was an extraordinary meeting of the Hungerford Town Council’s Planning Committee earlier this week to consider its response to the revised plans 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 (probably in September). Bizarrely, one of the objections came from CALA Homes, one of the original applicants which has since transferred its interests to Bewley. In a statement which borders on the surreal, CALA criticises the ‘resulting impact on the AONB’, a ‘sensitive location’ which the previous application had made ‘great efforts’ to protect. Perhaps CALA is annoyed that it didn’t propose this alternative itself, or because the price it agreed with Bewley was based on a smaller number of homes than Bewley now intends to build.

It may be that the greater housing density will create more damage but it could also be argued, as Bewley rather half-heartedly tried to do at an earlier meeting, that this is offset by a smaller portion of the site being developed under the proposed condensed and doubtless more profitable, scheme (though this is likely to be only a temporary respite). I contacted CALA but was told that the company had no wish to comment further.

• There are two adjacent letters in the NWN this week on the subject of Salisbury Road. One, from Mr and Mrs Orme, points out that once a planning application has been approved ‘that is not necessarily the end of the story,’ going on to refer to an application in Newbury where the developer was seeking to vary the terms. Numerous other examples could be found of this, including Salisbury Road and the knacker’s yard in Great Shefford. The only way of stopping this that I can see is to permit only one amendment to an application: after that, the applicant has to go back and start from scratch which would ensure that the original application bears a closer relation to what the developer actually intends to do. The other letter, from Doris Colloff, points out something that many others feel, that the amendment on Salisbury Road constitutes such a major deviation from the original that it should be the subject of a new application. 

• The same paper has, on p17, a review of the recent performance of The Lion King by pupils at John O’Gaunt.

• 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.

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. It seems that it will be opening in late August.

• If someone offers to sell you some farrier’s tools or a wrought-iron bench, then they may well be the ones that were stolen from two locations in Lambourn recently. Please see the Community Facebook Group for more.

• 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.

• Save the date: East Garson’s fête will be held on Saturday 31 August.

• The deadline for applications for Community Grants from East Garston Parish Council has been extended to 31 July 2019. An application form and full details may be downloaded 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.  

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 65th 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 admin@hamsteadmarshall.net.

Victoria Park has been recognised by the Green Flag Award Scheme as one of the best in the world.

• Newbury recently celebrated the most recent addition to its list of twin towns – Carcaixent in Spain – with a ceremony in the Corn Exchange.

• If you want to know which coffee shops in Newbury will offer the best discount (if any) for bringing your own cup, then Lib Dem Councillor Adrian Abbs has done a survey of 14 outlets in the town centre. The best discounts (0.50 off a standard latte costing between £2.40 and £2.55) are at Pret à Manger, Paul and Waterstones. The worst (no discount at all) are at McDonalds, Caffè Nero and Costa. 

Newbury Fire Station will be hosting an oped day on Saturday 27 July.

• The South Central Ambulance Service is hosting a Governors’ Workshop in Newbury on Monday 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.

• 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 chaddnews@gmail.com

• The July issue of West Ilsley Parish News can be found here.

• The results of the survey conducted among East Ilsley‘s residents in late 2018 have noe been analysed and collated and the results can be seen here.

• Please click here for dates and venues for the PCSO Have your Say meetings in the Thacham, Theale and Compton & Downlands areas.

Thatcham and district

• Please click here for the latest news from Thatcham Town Council.

• Please click here for the latest news from Cold Ash Parish Council.

• Please click here for the latest news from Bucklebury Parish Council.

• Please click here for the latest news from Brimpton Parish Council.

• Please click here for the latest news from Woolhampton Parish Council.

• Please click here for details of Thatcham’s civic events in 2019.

• The Newbury Weekly News reports on p21 the views off several Thatcham Town Councillors to West Berkshire’s Draft Economic Strategy, the consultation for which closes at the end of the month. The general feeling appears to be that it is too general – I suppose such documents often are – and that there was a ‘lack of clarity on the vision for the future of Thatcham.’ I spoke to one of the councillors mentioned oil the article who said that the Town Council would be making its response before the deadline.

• One of matters with has long been on Thatcham’s wish list is a bridge crossing over the railway line rather than the current level crossing which leads to long tailbacks. A proposals made in 2018 to site a 950-home development to the south of the railway lines, the developer contributions from which would be enough to pay for the bridge (which would probably then be essential). However, there are doubts that the town needs extra dwellings on that scale and in that location.

• The same paper also reports, on p20, on the unveiling of two interpretation panels providing information about aspects of the town’s history.

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 a fund- and awareness-raising quiz night on 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.

• The Woolhampton Show takes place on Saturday 10 August: more information 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 Terry Pratchett which contains advice I don’t think is meant to be taken literally.

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.

• The Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE)  in Aldermaston is back on the nuclear naughty step again after having had Improvement Notices served on it by the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR). These relate to ‘the way the company undertakes risk assessments for organisational change which may affect safety.’ The ONR’s statement goes on to say that ‘the independent nuclear regulator does not consider that the issue poses an immediate risk to nuclear safe’ – which is encouraging – and that ‘despite a previous enforcement letter…ONR judges that AWE has failed to adequately address shortfalls.’ AWE’s response can be seen here

• 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.

• Someone in the same village doesn’t seem to rate Love Island very highly – can’t think why…

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. Comments must be made by Friday 2 August.

The same source confirms that local MP Claire Perry has lost her ministerial role in Boris Johnson’s new government but has instead been appointed President of next year’s United Nations climate change conference which Britain will co-host with Italy

• Three grant award cheques were handed over to successful Marlborough area groups this week by Mayor Mervyn Hall.

• 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.

• 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.

Ramsbury Primary School has won the award of top-performing primary school in sport in Swindon and Wiltshire for the fifth year in a row.

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.

• If you were on a train between Swindon and Didcot on Tuesday, your journey may have been interrupted by cows on the line. If you thought the the train announcer was suffering from heatstroke or election fever, this is really what happened. What seems odd is that, according to the Wantage & Grove Herald, the cows were reported as being there at 9am but that the line wasn’t cleared for five hours. Surely GWR employs a cow herder? I bet they used to. If it doesn’t, now would be a good time to advertise for the position. Either that or put a fence up.

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

• Congratulations to the Richmond Letcombe Regis Wellness Spa for raising over £250 for The Wantage Independent Advice Centre at their summer event last Thursday, which also offered health checks, taster treatments, personal training and a smoothie bike.

• Many years ago, Penny and I briefly toyed with the idea of moving to southern Oxfordshire. One of the things we noticed when checking out the area was that we almost always seemed to be driving towards the cooling towers at Didcot Power Station, the geo-industrial equivalent of finding the eyes in a portrait following you around the room. This will soon be a thing of the past as the three remaining towers are set to be demolished some time in August.

• Congratulations to pupils from the Fitzwaryn School for completing their DofE awards.  

• We have had a student from King Alfred’s doing work experience with us for the last week. Eda was an intelligent, focussed and literate young lady who had expressed an interest in working in journalism. I hope the slightly chaotic schedule here didn’t put her off. You can read her summary of her week here

• Eda also helped Penny make a video about the surprising amount of stuff that kids can do at the Vale & Downland Museum (plus all the creative fun during their summer Lego Expo starting this Saturday)

• Congratulations to King Alfred’s Academy for their innovative collaboration with Betjeman Park where sixth formers become student trustees and Year 10s do research in the park on work experience – see our video interviewing trustees and students

• Just over 100 years ago, Wantage was celebrating the end of WWI. As this article reports, this included dumping a 196mm howitzer into the brook near the mill.

• 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 parishcouncil@grove-oxon.org.uk to find out more.

• Julie Mabberley’s regular column on p8 of the Wantage & Grove Herald looks at the rather depressing (so far) recent history of health provision in the area, in particular the seemingly permanent ‘temporary’ closure of almost every aspect of the Wantage Community Hospital. 

• This week’s Wantage & Grove Herald has a report on the investigation into the fatal accident caused by a car towing a caravan being driven the wrong way down the M40 last October. The report concluded that there was ‘no way to predict’ what was going to happen, despite the 80-year-old driver having been caused another crash five days before, the enquiry into that incident having been handled ‘appropriately.’ Whether one is fit to continue to drive after one is 70 seems largely to be a matter of self-certification – see more here – and in this case in retrospect it’s clear this person wasn’t. However it’s hard to see what could have been done in the short space of time between the two accidents. More worrying is how someone could get onto the M40 going the wrong way in the first place. Where there’s a roundabout – which I think most motorway junctions have, or ought to – the way the sliproads are angled makes this error all but impossible. Was the driver confused by a poorly designed junction, or by roadworks?

• Both South Oxfordshire and The Vale Councils have registered their opposition to the building of the proposed Oxford to Cambridge Expressway. In her occasional column in the Wantage & Grover Herald, Oxford West and Abingdon MP Layla Moran suggests some other uses to which the funding could be put.

• A matter on which both councils are less decided is how to deal with their Local Plans, which in both cases were drawn up by the previous Conservative administrations and which were criticised by the opposition parties which have since assumed power. The problem, as the editorial in herald points out, is that the councils need to choose between reducing the number of houses that are built (all seems to depend on what the city of Oxford’s real overflow needs are) and retaining the Housing Infrastructure Funds that have already been received by the government. Many critics say that, if there has been money allocated to infrastructure to match the new developments – built, in progress or planned – then there’s not much to show for it. 

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

• Click here for details of some forthcoming events in Wantage.

Swindon & district

• Click here for the latest news and information from Swindon Borough Council.

• A taskforce has been set up to help minimise the impacts of the closure of the Honda plant on the the town and the Honda staff. Click here for details.

• Around 80 children will be putting their summer holidays to good use when they take part in a free Young Warden scheme from next 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).

Swindon Borough Council is working with a range of partners to host a various events and activities in the town centre over the summer.

People living in Swindon will get the chance to have their say on the town’s future transport needs, including options to improve traffic movements in the town centre and a new policy which sets out how new developments should make appropriate provision for the parking of cars, motorcycles and bikes.

• Major highway improvements designed to facilitate the construction of new housing communities have recently begun.

• 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 from the late, great Kirsy McColl, one of the few songwriters who could write a genuinely funny lyric (not an easy thing to do). This is as good an example as any – In These Shoes? 

• Which brings us to the Quiz Question of the Week. This week’s question is: We’ve had some hot weather recently in the UK. What is the highest temperature ever recorded on the earth’s surface (in Death Valley, California, in 1913)?Last week’s question came 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 was: Nan Winton died last month aged 93 – she was the first woman to do what?  She was the first woman to read the news on the national BBC service (in June 1960). 

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Brian Quinn

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