Our round-up of local news across the area this week including Hungerford’s white-themed triumph, Newbury’s sable, Marlborough’s consultants, Wantage’s supermarket, Thatcham’s retail spaces, Lambourn’s café, Swindon’s recycling, Hampstead Norreys’ bricks, Shrivenham’s pop-up, Drayton’s rainbows, Boxford’s plans, East Garston’s fête, Shefford’s knacker’s yard, Woolhampton’s show, Kintbury’s parking, police and travel updates, vegetation management, permitted development, library funding, tardigrades, Abbey Road, a cautionary driving moment, lifestyle stats, the Oxbridge Expressway, mapping the defibs and no days off school.
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 26 July to 8 August edition of Private Eye has, in its Housing News section on p13, a trenchant attack on Permitted Development Rights (PDR), a loophole in the planning system the size of an office block, which since 2013 has enabled commercial units to be converted into residential ones without the local planning authority being able to do anything about it. Although this certainly produces more homes they are often very small studio flats located in the most inappropriate locations with no easy access to local amenities. Converting an existing block into flats can most profitably be done by maximising the number of units, whereas on a new-build the reverse is the case. What are needed are homes in between these sizes, suitable for couples or young families. It’s impossible to understand how a planning authority can frame and implement a Local Plan with these two pressures at each end of the scale. There are several cases of PDRs, accomplished or proposed, in this area, including at the former Beyer offices in Newbury’s Strawberry Hill.
• The question of the lack of female politicians was mentioned again in this week’s Newbury Weekly News (p2). I referred to this in the Local news sections of 4-11 July and on 11-18 July suggesting that there were more useful ways of looking at the figures than the way they were presented in the paper on 4 July. I spoke to Olivia Lewis, Newbury Town Council’s Deputy Leader who was quoted in the more recent NWN article. She pointed out that research has suggested that both men and women tend to show more hostility to female politicians as their role offends deep-seated ideas of sexual stereotyping. There’s also the increasing incidence of online abuse, which tends to take a more personal and alarming tone when directed at women. I presume this would also apply to other positions of power or influence: if so, equality will indeed be an uphill struggle. For the same reason, it’s also very important that the issue be aired and Penny Post fully supports anyone who does this.
• Network Rail will be carrying out what it calls vegetation management and others call tree felling in the Hungerford and Bedwyn area on Sunday 11 and Sunday 18 August. The reasons for doing this are perfectly obvious to anyone whose journey has been disrupted by a fallen branch. In the past, criticism has been made of the timing (during the nesting season) and the extent (sometimes, for a time at least, giving the verges a #1 haircut). You can read Network Rail’s letter in full here. It’s likely that other similar work will be carried out on other stretches of this and the Didcot to Swindon line.
• A few weeks ago in this column I mentioned about West Berkshire again asking parish councils for contributions towards the Library Service. I suggested that there were a number of factors in favour of and against this method of raising funds for the libraries and quoted a comment from Paul James, the head of the Library Service, whom many would agree has done an excellent job since he took over three years ago. All the area’s libraries are still open – albeit on a different basis from before – which, given the initial pessimism is a major achievement in itself.
West Berkshire initially requested, from 2017, a contribution of roughly £1 a head per year from each parish, which raised nearly £90,000. This was despite initial advice form the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) that it might be wrong for parishes to make such donations; this year has revised its advice and said that this can be done under Section 137 payments. (According to legislation.gov,uk, these can be made by councils if ‘in their opinion is in the interests of, and will bring direct benefit to, their area or any part of it or all or some of its inhabitants’, providing that they are not ‘authorised or required to make’ them: which presumably explains why West Berkshire has made this a voluntary matter.) This voluntary contribution may be requested again from 2020-21: the original scheme was not limited to three years, as has been suggested elsewhere, although this was, as a spokesperson for West Berkshire said, as far ahead as they could see at that time. The combination of changing patterns of use, the growth of alternative ways of getting reading materials and fiscal pressures has led to the current funding situation which is to some extent an experiment on both sides. Much depends on how well the Library Service can continue to convince the parishes that it’s providing what they need. The better it can do this, the more money it will receive.
There are two downsides to this. The first is that parish councils (not just in West Berkshire) are having a number of responsibilities devolved downwards from the tier above them, which means that their cake has to be sliced in more ways. The second is that, by its nature, voluntary contributions cannot be relied upon which makes budgeting difficult. A quick survey of minutes from some parish councils over the last couple of months revealed five which have discussed the contribution for 2019-20. The figures of what was asked for (and what was agreed) was as follows: Great Shefford: £900 (£200) • Chaddleworth; £500 (£250) • Compton; £1,560 (£0) • Aldermaston: £1,020 (£1,020) • Chieveley: not specified but, based on its population, £280 (£0). A response rate ranging from 0% to 100% clearly contains some uncertainties.
See the Newbury and Thatcham sections below for more on the the reaction of the two largest contributors to this.
• I had to drive to Newbury on the B4000 today to meet one of my sons and was mildly irritated by the car in front of me that seemed to be driving very slowly when it wasn’t possible to overtake and speeding up in places where it was. I was about to pass them when I felt it to be safe but as I flicked the indicator my eye was caught by a car in the ditch that had obviously recently driven off the road and was equally obviously a write-off. What’s the point? I thought: will my being five minutes late make a difference? (None at all as it turned out, as Dom was an hour late.) Perhaps smashed-up cars should permanently be left on dangerous stretches of roads to have this effect on others?
• District Councillor Adrian Abbs is clearly the man to go to if you need a survey done on a particular aspect of local life (I’m not sure if he takes private commissions, but probably not). Coffee prices, discounts available for bringing re-usable cups and the availability of free drinking water in cafés (all in Newbury) have all been examined and reported on, in past versions of Local News and elsewhere. He’s now cast his net wider and turned to defibrillators. This map (which he aims to update quarterly) shows all defibs in West Berkshire. The NHS will not direct you to one if you’re more than 400m from it (the area covered by the circles). The green ones are available 24/7; the red ones are not, generally because they’re on private property. The ambition is thus to have as much of the area as possible within a green circle. He points out that the map will be of use, as well as to members of the public, also to councils and other bodies who are looking to plug gaps. If you have any comments on this or know of any omissions, please contact him on Adrian.Abbs1@westberks.gov.uk.
• 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.
• The animal of the week is the tardigrade, or water bear, which can withstand massive doses of radiation and temperatures from almost absolute zero to 150º, do without water for indefinite periods and survive (and breed) in outer space. They have eight legs with hideously sharp claws and teeth like razors. Fortunately they only grow to about 1mm long – at the moment. None the less, I think we should keep an eye on them. They seem a lot more resourceful than we are.
• The letters pages of the Newbury Weekly News this week include, as well as a couple mentioned elsewhere here: a reaction, even more trenchant than the one I expressed last week, about rallying behind BJ; criticisms of both the new Bear Lane traffic system and the schedule of planned roadworks in the town; and curter exchanges about climate-chage science.
• A number of good causes have received valuable support recently, including: the Cystic Fibrosis trust (thanks to the Tour de Berkshire); The Armed Forces Charity (thanks to the Battle Proms at Highclere Castle); Greehham Control Tower (thanks to Newbury British Legion); Swings & Smiles (thanks to Mia and Jayden Mirchandani’s busking); West Berkshire Homeless (thanks to The Red House in Marsh Benham); The Welsh Guards’ Charity (thanks to The Harrow at Little Bedwyn).
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.
• It’s the start of the month, which can only mean one thing: Penny Post Hungerford will have dropped into the inboxes of our subscribers (click here if you would like to join them, being sure to tick the ‘Hungerford’ box). You can also click here to read this month’s packed issue.
• For reasons too complicated to describe, I wanted to take some take some white-themed gifts to friends we’re seeing this weekend. So, hats off to Darren at the Wednesday plant stand for finding me a Penstimon and a Lucanthum; to Emma (not the appropriately-named Emma Milne-White; it seems they have several Emmas) at the Hungerford Bookshop for recommending White Houses by Amy Bloom; and Warren at The Naked Grape for recommending a bottle of The Landings Chardonnay. Three cheers for the High Street. (Were these to have been for people I didn’t like I could have got them a subscription to a white supremacist magazine, a pair of albino rats and a copy of The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, one of the most tedious books I’ve ever finished. Of course, I now realise, if I didn’t like them I wouldn’t be buying them presents at all.)
• After discussions with Kintbury Parish Council, West Berks Council is undertaking a consultation exercise with residents who live near to the proposed parking restrictions in various places in the village. You can find out more here.
• Click here for interview with West Berkshire Councillor Dennis Benneyworth.
• 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).
• 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.
• If you feel that more litter needs to picked up in Lambourn, here’s your chance…
• The August Valley of the Racehorse e-newslatter was published last week and you can read it here. It includes a report on the then about-to-open (and now opened) Goodies café; Pat Murphy’s racing news; an interview with new Vicar Julie Mintern; news of a few places left for next week’s Holiday at Home; a report on speeding in the Valley; news from various local groups and charities; and some wise words from Woody Allen. What more could one want?
• The matter of Lambourn’s alleged binge-drinking problem has featured again in the letters’ pages of this week’s NWN, the writer questioning the source and presentation of some of the stats on which the article was partly based. I looked into this in last week’s column and wondered at the provenance of some of the startlingly precise figures (the source notes seemed to be incomplete) as well as the fact that there is a difference between ‘Lambourn’ and ‘The Lambourn Valley.’
• Save the date: East Garson’s fête will be held on Saturday 31 August.
• 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 67th 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.
• Victoria Park has been recognised by the Green Flag Award Scheme as one of the best in the world.
• Continuing the theme of the Library Service (see Across the Area aboove), both Newbury and Thatcham, by far the biggest donors to West Berkshire’s request for a three-year £1/head/year contribution to the Service, have asked West Berkshire for further information on how the money is used. Newbury (which was asked for £31,000) has for the last two and a half years been having quarterly meetings with West Berkshire to monitor the progress. If it were minded to take this view, Newbury is in a strong position as it may feel that, whatever threats may hang over the other libraries, it would be very hard for West Berkshire to close this main one. However, the service could be curtailed: the council is obliged to offer a library service but what form this must take is less clear.
There might be three reasons for the reluctance of these councils to contribute without knowing more. The first is financial pressure to spend the money elsewhere. The second is that, post-election, the issue has become more politicised. The third, most positive one and one I’m going to say I believe until someone tells me otherwise, is that there a lot of new members on both councils who quite properly want to understand how this arrangement works. I understand that meetings will be held in the early autumn with both councils. By this time the Annual Library Report will have been published which should provide answers to a number of questions about how the service is performing. You can see last year’s report here.
• The NWN, the paper is running a poll with the question ‘Should West Berkshire Council buy the Kennet Centre?’
• The same paper also reports, on p4, on some of the new attractions planned for the Newbury Show in September.
• If you’re attending a quiz in a pub or similar and you get asked ‘From what year does the canal-side part of the Old Wagon and Horses date?’ I can exclusively reveal that the correct answer is 1744. This has been established, Newbury Town Council tells me, by using tree-ring dating, a technique which enables the accurate dating of the wooden beam of the building from its growth rings, which form a unique pattern.
• Should Newbury’s Mayor replace the sable in her robe with something not made from animal fur? This was her decision, announced a few weeks ago, and seemed uncontroversial. Recent letters in the NWN suggest, however, that it is anything but.
• The same paper has, on p21, coverage of the new plans to re-develop part of The Bell at Boxford by adding a house and flats and redeveloping what the application claims is currently ‘not a viable’ pub (a claim is often made in such documents, with a greater or lesser degree of justification). The original plans were objected to by the Parish Council and rejected by West Berkshire last year. These ones are from a different applicant and the Parish Council will be considering them at its next planning meeting later this month.
• 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.
• The Chairman of Chaddleworth Parish Council has recently reminded West Berkshire Council about its promise to look into various concerns which exist about the equipment used at and the conditions which apply to the knacker’s yard between Chaddleworth and Great Shefford.
• 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. You can also click here to see the start of the work for which these were designed at the school playground. Some of those eco-bricks were stuffed by me, penny and others at the friends’ Meeting House in East Garston.
• Hampstead Norreys will be hosting a GreenFest sustainable living event on Saturday 7 September.
• The August 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.
• See The Newbury section above for some thoughts about the contributions requested of Thatcham and Newbury councils to the budget of the West Berkshire Library Service.
• This week’s Newbury Weekly News refers on p24 to a 2017 report into the provision of retail space in Thatcham, a document which the article says has recently been cited as a result of a proposed development in Station Road. the article contains comments by two of the area’s councillors, Jeff Brooks and Steve Ardagh-Walker on the report’s conclusion that Thatcham has an over-provision of retail space.
• We now buy our washing-up liquid, and other things, from Thatcham Refillable. Click here for details of their opening hours and presence at two pop-up events in Thatcham (Friday 9 August) and Tadley (Saturday 17 August).
• 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.
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.
• Kier is issuing roughly monthly updates about the building progress at the new primary school is Theale – here’s July’s.
• The Stratfield Mortimer council is searching for a new parish councillor – click here for details.
• A number of events have been cancelled this weekend in the light of the near-apocalyptic weather forcasts for the weekend. One such is the Thames Valley Police Force Open Day which was due to take place on Saturday 10 August in Sulhamstead.
• Click here for information about Burghfield’s plans to create a community hub.
• Click here for the August/September 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 Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group spent £500,000 on consultants between December 2018 and June 2019 as a result of the establishment of the new Primary Care Networks. That’s good, right? Consultants are specialised, high-level doctors, aren’t they? No, it’s not those kind of consultants but the management kind. Read more in Marlborough News’ article here.
• The Marlborough Rising festival gets under way on Friday 9 August – see some previews here.
• How many days off did your kids miss at primary school? I should think about one a term was about average for our lot. So, hats off to Joey Doughty of the Preshute School in Marlborough who didn’t miss a single day between September 2012 and July 2019. Not one. Here’s the proof…
• 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 new leisure centre for Wantage and Grove, as reported here and elsewhere last week, seems ever-further away from being built. A latter in this week’s Wantage and Grove Herald suggests that this is no bad thing.
• Wantage’s LEGO Expo attracted 7,000 visitors in its first week, after returning for a fourth year with a theme of ‘past, present, and future’ (which seems to cover just about everything).
• Aside from clips of cats stuck inside wellington boots or small children falling into paddling pools, few kinds of internet video can generate as many views as ones featuring large structures being demolished. Later this month it’s the turn of Didcot Power Station’s remaining cooling towers to have their shot at this form of immortality when, between 6am and 8pm on Sunday 18 August, they will be reduced to rubble. The early start has been to ‘actively discourage all forms of public participation,’ which I guess is a polite way to say ‘people getting in the way.’ The image on this FB post suggests what else they are worried might happen.
• Plans for for a new Lidl supermarket near Wantage have been updated following residents’ concerns about congestion.
• The Vale District Council has written to local MPs and the Minister for Transport outlining its opposition to the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway. It has also written to the MPs and Minister for Housing outlining its views on the Local Plan. The Wantage & Grove Campaign Group echoes these sentiments, saying it was ‘disappointed by the lack of consultation and engagement with affected communities relating to the Expressway’ and urging that the plan be abandoned and replaced with the ‘completion and enhancement of the East/West rail link.’
• Residents in South Oxfordshire and the Vale of White Horse are urged to respond to a yellow letter which will arrive through their letter boxes in the coming days. The annual Household Enquiry Form requires people to confirm everyone over the age of 16 who currently lives in their property.
• Organisers of community events in the Vale are invited to apply for some of the £10,000 worth of festival and events grants on offer from Vale of White Horse District Council.
• It’s hoped that Drayton Rainbows will re-start in September but it needs more girls if this is to happen – click here if you’re interested.
• The Oxfordshire Historic Churches Trust annual Ride and Stride takes place on Saturday 14 September from 10 til 6. It’s your chance to get the bike out, or your walking shoes (and dog or buggy), and visit some lovely old churches in the area (and raise some money for charity).
• 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 for information on this year’s Wantage Literary Festival which runs from Saturday 26 October to Saturday 2 November.
• 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 firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
• Julie Mabberley’s regular column on p8 of the Wantage & Grove Herald looks at the county’s ambitions to cut its CO2 emissions to 50% of its 2008 figure by 2030 and explains why this makes it all the more important that planning and transport policies be scrutinised carefully.
• 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.
• Around 80 children will be putting their summer holidays to good use when they take part in a free Young Warden scheme.
• Swindon Councillor Gary Sumner, cabinet member for strategic planning, has said that he wants to the site of the Honda factory in Swindon “to be used to bring jobs for the people of Swindon” rather than used for housing. That’s fine unless the site has Permitted Development Rights (see Across the Area above), in which case there’s be nothing he or any of his colleagues can do about it.
• This autumn, the South and Vale Business Support Team will bring the free five-day Pop-up Business School to Shrivenham for people looking to start and/or expand their own business without using any money. More details here.
• The Old Town Business Association’s annual Sausage & Ale Festival will take place on Sunday 1 September.
• Doubtless to the delight of many, Wiltshire’s Chief Constable got a parking ticket in Swindon this week.
• Recycling is now compulsory in Swindon as part of a drive to increase the amount of household waste that is reused.
• 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.
• Beat the Street, the walking and cycling initiative that saw people in Swindon travel more than 300,000 miles last year, is set to return this September.
• 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 goes back 50 years to the day. The zebra crossing near Abbey Road studios must the most photographed one of its kind in the world: and never more so than today, 8 August marking 50 years since photographer Iain MacMillian took half a dozen snaps off the Fabs crossing the road after what was (probably) another ill-tempered recoding session. We therefore need to have song from that, don’t you think? In my view the two best tracks on this, if we’re honest, rather patchy album were both written by George Harrison: Something and Here Comes the Sun. I prefer the latter, so here it is.
• Which brings us to the Quiz Question of the Week. This week’s question has already been answered elsewhere and is: What is the common name for a tardigrade?Last week’s question came from the recent quiz at Thatcham Parish Hall to raise funds for its upkeep and was as follows: With which product might you associate the phrase ‘Strewth! theres a bloke down there with no strides! The answer is Fosters lager, this being one of the strap lines on their rather good (if un-PC) TV ads back in the day. I don’t think you’re allowed to advertise alcohol on TV any more, are you? I’m probably breaking the law merely by referring to it.