Hungerford Town Council Update December 2019/January 2020

These notes incorporate some but not all of the matters discussed at the Full Hungerford Town Council (HTC) Meeting on 6 January 2020, the agenda for which can be found here. Any references below to ‘the meeting’ refer to this event unless specified otherwise. Any such issues are not necessarily covered here in the order in which they were discussed. The official minutes of the meeting will in due course be found on the HTC site. This report also includes information about HTC’s activities which were not discussed at the meeting. See the foot of this post for more information. WBC = West Berkshire Council

Full Council Meetings take place in the Corn Exchange complex, generally at 7.00pm on the first working Monday of every month except August (when there is no meeting). The agenda for the next one will be provided in this section of the HTC website in due course.

For HTC updates from previous months, please visit the archives here.

WBC = West Berkshire Council.

The Hungerford Twinning Association

A presentation was made before the meeting by representatives of the Hungerford Twinning Association (HTA), which will this year be celebrating its 40th anniversary: many such groups don’t last nearly this long.

The issue at hand was a sundial which had been presented to the town by Ligueil in 1990 and which had for many years been mounted on the old fire station. When the building was redeveloped in 2018 this was removed, the intention and understanding always being that it would be re-installed once the works were completed. It was, however, recently announced by the Fire Service that this would not be possible as this would conflict with the new corporate branding. The HTA was therefore asking HTC if the sundial could instead be mounted on the wall of The Hub.

An additional problem is that the sundial was broken during the renovation works. The estimated repair costs are about £3,500. The Fire Service has said that it is not liable and has so far been reluctant to pass the claim on to its contractors. It’s unclear what actions and responsibilities regarding the sundial were written into any works contracts. The HTA was asking for HTC’s help in resolving this matter by contacting the Fire Service.

The possibility was also raised that the sundial be replaced by another item which could perhaps as effectively commemorate the relationship between the two towns. It was pointed out by the HTA that this or any other solution would need to be arrived at quickly as extra fundraising might be required and the 40th anniversary celebrations – which the HTA intended to make as large and as inclusive as possible – would be taking place during the summer.

After some discussion, it was decided that HTC would have no objection to the sundial being positioned on The Hub but pointed out that there would be costs for planning permission and installation (for which grants might be available). Regarding the discussions with the Fire Service, HTC felt it was inappropriate that it get involved. Fortunately, District Councillor Dennis Benneyworth said that he was involved with the Fire Service in a different capacity and would raise the matter with them and report back to HTA. It was also agreed that the question of whether the sundial would be repaired or replaced with something else was a matter for the HTA to decide.

Police report

Representatives from the local neighbourhood team were unable to attend the meeting but provided the following report about incidents in Hungerford in December.

• Burglaries. A spike in burglaries throughout West Berkshire, including Hungerford, in the autumn of 2019 was acknowledged by the TVP’s management team in Newbury and extra resources were allocated to policing in the town. As a result, officers from the ICRT (Incident Crime & Response Teams) patrolled the Hungerford area and their activity was recorded on a tasking document which is reviewed by an Inspector or above every day to ensure compliance. Possibly as a consequence of this, there was only one burglary Hungerford last month: this was on 10 December, the same evening that an attempt was made to break in to one of the antique shops.
• 101 calls. There has recently been much adverse publicity about the wait times. The report said that these had ‘massively improved’ recently, the average waiting time in December now being slightly over six minutes. (The service was introduced in 2012 and has long suffered from accusations of being under-resourced, leading in extreme cases to waiting times over over three hours in some areas. Over 22 million 101 calls were made in the UK in 2018.)
• Recent public events. As a team we thoroughly enjoyed policing the Christmas light switch on and the Extravaganza, both of which passed without incident.
• Vehicle crime. Overnight 20- 21 December there were several reported incidents of vehicle crime in the town with several break ins, including to one works van. These incidents occurred in Moores Place, Chilton Way, Westbrook Close and Cherry Grove. A shed was also broken into in Cherry Grove and a bike was stolen. If anyone has any information regarding this recent spate of vehicle crime please contact the local police team (see below).
• Tool-marking. The team has recently carried out two successful tool-marking events in the last month, one in Lambourn and one recently at John O Gaunt school. In total we’ve marked approximately 100 tools. We are currently planning future dates to offer bike and tack marking as well as tools. These will be advertised and also posted on our social media platforms in due course.
• Shoplifting. There was one shoplifting for December in the town.
• New police vehicle. At the beginning of December we finally took delivery of our new marked 4×4 vehicle. This will allow us to patrol the rural areas we have been struggling to reach and better serve our most rural communities with a visible presence.
• Officer recruitment. A new officer has been recruited to join the Hungerford and Downlands police team and they are expected to start within the next month or so. Thereafter, two part-time positions will be merged and the team hopes to recruit another full-time officer for Hungerford within the next few months. As a result there should then be greater police presence in the town.

Please keep reporting incidents to the police: they sometimes find that news travels fast round a community, especially via various social media channels but if no one tells them, they don’t know about it and the incident cannot be recorded as such. This will be likely to lead to a reduction of funding.

The team

PS Andrew Murray joined the team at the start of October as the NHPT’s Sergeant. He has worked previously as a Response Sergeant for West Berkshire.

The team is contactable by email but this should not be used in an emergency or for crimes in progress as it is not monitored 24/7. The email is address is below HungerfordandDownlandsNHPT@thamesvalley.pnn.police.uk

Other messages

• Please encourage local people to sign up for Thames Valley Alerts. As well as local crime information, you can receive details of the latest scams.
• You can report incidents online but if it is urgent please continue to call on 101 (non-emergency) and 999 in an emergency.
• Our team email address is hungerfordanddownlandsnhpt@thamesvalley.pnn.police.uk. This is not monitored 24/7 and should not be used to report a crime.
• The Herbert Protocol. We are keen to promote the Herbert Protocol initiative which helps us all to try to keep vulnerable members of our community safe.
• Please report incidents via 101 or 999. “We sometimes find that news travels fast round a community,” a TVP representative said at a recent meeting,  “but if no one tells us, we don’t know about it.”

District Councillors’ reports

All three District Councillors attended the meeting. Some of their contributions to the meeting are mentioned elsewhere, but the points they themselves raised included:

WBC budget. It seems that, unlike in previous years, there will be no need for WBC to consult externally about any possible service cuts as these are expected to be very minor (if any).
Environmental consultation. WBC’s strategy would be out for consultation between 9 January and 21 February. The District Councillors urger HTC and members of the public to make their comments about this.
Recycling. It was hoped that the on-street recycling project (currently being trialled in Newbury) would be extended to Hungerford.
Conservation. WBC is intending to manage a programme of assessment of existing conservation areas over the next few years and Hungerford’s Conservation area is very much a priority for appraisal. Assistance is being sought from qualified local residents interested in helping with this.

Bin collections

It was pointed out by The Mayor that rubbish and recycling is currently collected from Hungerford on Wednesdays, market day. Not only does the town need to be looking at its best then but also there were safety and road-traffic concerns due to market and refuse lorries being on the streets at the same time. District Councillor Rowles agreed to raise the matter at WBC: Tuesdays and Fridays were suggested as the best alternatives.

The plane tree and the war memorial

A site meeting recently took place involving HTC and WBC councillors and one of WBC’s tree experts in order to discuss what problems might be caused by the plane tree near the memorial if it is allowed to get well-established. The solution will be discussed and agreed at the next meeting of the Recreation and Amenities Committee.

Hungerford Town Council’s 2020-21 budget

It was proposed, and agreed at the meeting that HTC’s budget would be £293,912 for the financial year 2010-21. This represented an increase in the precept of 3.9%. For a band D Council Tax payer, this would result in an increase of about £4 a year (from about £118 to about £122).

This small increase should be seen in the context of the recent trend, impelled by the financial cutbacks, for district councils to devolve responsibilities down to town or parish councils without any compensating ongoing funding. These include matters ranging from grass cutting and street and road-sign cleaning to the management and maintenance of public buildings such as youth clubs and libraries. In these cases, the parish or town must either organise for these services to be provided by volunteers, find ways of raising money to pay for them or do without them altogether. HTC has generally adopted a policy of maintaining these by any any reasonable means, of which the continued existence of the the Library (now The Hub) and the Youth and Community Centre are two examples.

HTC has also ensured that it is able to make donations to help support the many voluntary groups in the town, which it sees as being an essential part of its role. For information on the grant awards that were made in 2019, please click here. About £1,200 still remains in the budget for grants for 2019-20: please contact townclerk@hungerford-tc.gov.uk for further information.

Hungerford 2036 (Neighbourhood Development Plan) update

As mentioned in the last report, the H2036 team has completed its work on its housing site assessment criteria and now needs to apply these to WBC’s long-delayed own list of possible sites for development (known as the HELAA). Publication of the HELAA has, however, been delayed. Until this happens, H2036’s work has reached a definite pause.

For more information on this, a link to Hungerford’s criteria and the background to the H2036 project, please see the separate post here.

You can click here to visit the main H2036 page on the Town Council’s website (the most recent additions are at the bottom). The aims and objectives can be found here. If you want to make a comment on this or any other aspect of the work, you can comment online by clicking here. There is also a general comment form for those who prefer to work offline which you can print, complete and return it to the town office. You can also email any comments to townclerk@hungerford-tc.gov.uk.

To be kept informed please click on this link and scroll down to the foot of the page to sign up to the Hungerford 2036 mailing list.

The Mayor’s activities

The Mayor’s activities in December 2019 included, as well various HTC meetings, attending Christmas events at the Tuesday Club, the Youth and Community Centre, the Blind Club, the Hungerford Care Home and the JOG Senior Citizens; meeting the Twinning Association; taking part in a site visit relating to tree management at the war memorial; and attending the Extravaganza and the Community Carol Service.

Freedom of the Town awards 2020

HTC confirmed that plans were well in hand for the nominations for the 2020 award. Further information concerning how and by when nominations can be made will be made available soon. The recipients of the awards will be announced at the 2020 Town Meeting (see below).

2020 Hungerford Town Meeting

It is currently envisaged that this will take place on Wednesday 18 March (to be confirmed soon) and it’s expected that this will follow last year’s successful format.

Marsh Lane Allotments lease

After several years of delays and discussion, HTC was at the meeting finally able to sign the lease for this land, under which the developers have made the site available until 31 December 2022. This secures the immediate future of the Hungerford Allotment Holders Association (HAHA) which at one time was in doubt.

Changes at the Station Road car park

It was reported at the meeting that concerns had been expressed by some residents about possible changes to the parking charges at the WBC car park near the station, in particular whether in future this would only accept payment by phone and whether it would be necessary to pay in order to use the recycling bins. HTC agreed to contact WBC to establish what, if any, changes might be envisaged. These enquiries revealed that the following changes are planned:

• New barriers with electronic number-plate recognition cameras will be installed.
• New payment machines will be installed which will accept cards and cash.
• Payment can also be made on exit.
• The first 15 minutes will be free.
• The recycling bins will be repositioned (and emptied more frequently) and, although the barriers will need to be passed, can be used without payment.
• All these new arrangements are expected to be in place some time in February.

The issue of the parking at the station is part of a wider challenge involving the temporary car park due south of the station and the impending development of this site which will, in time, result in this car park being closed. HTC has been active in finding a solution to this. You can read more about this issue here.

The Christmas lights

While these were, once again, a superb adornment to the town over the festive period, HTC regognised that the organisation of these was a considerable undertaking and one that for various reasons proved particularly problematic in 2019. It was agreed at the meeting that, for the 2020 display, preparations would begin earlier in order to ensure that issues were dealt with at the realist opportunity. One immediate issue is the replacement of some of the lights and brackets to support the trees.

Parking in Priory Road and temporary closure of the footpath across the Salisbury Road site

Although it was stressed, by District Councillor James Cole and others, that these were separate issues they are to some extent connected and we discussed together at the meeting.

The issue of vans inconsiderately, perhaps even dangerously, parked on the bend of Priory Road between de Montfort Grove and Ligueil Close was an issue during the autumn when there was surveying work being done on the Salisbury Road site. Although this seems to have stopped such practices may re-commence. If any parking is noticed there which is felt to be dangerous, please take a photograph and then contact one of the District Councillors (see the right-hand panel of this page of the HTC website for their contact details).

The separate issue of the closure of the footpath (which starts near where these vehicles have been parked and thus gives access to the site) was also discussed. A number of residents had contacted HTC residents to express their displeasure at what seemed to be an unnecessary closure. National legislation permits footpaths to be closed during development work for up to six months and the Mayor pointed out that that the only way of overturning this in this case would be an appeal to the Secretary of State which stood a minimal chance of success. It was also pointed out that at such times there was a legitimate health and safety issue in a temporary closure; also that it would be problematic to establish a temporary replacement.

The main concern was that the closure did not become permanent and it was agreed that both HTC and the District Councillors would ensure that HTC’s objection to any closure of longer than six months was made known to WBC.

Street-naming at Salisbury Road

HTC, at the request of WBC, will be submitting some idea for street names for the new Salisbury Road Development. West Berkshire Council will also consider street name suggestions from residents. If residents wish to submit their suggestions for the new street names please visit WBC’s online application page.

Committee meetings

There was little to report about HTC’s various committees in December, partly because not every committee now meets every month. For more information on the work of HTC’s committees, please click here. For a full calendar of committee meetings, please click here. Monthly summaries of the committees’ work are added as appendices to the official minutes of the meeting (see top of post).

Hungerford Town Council opening hours

A reminder that due to an unplanned and unavoidable period of staff absence, HTC has taken the decision to close the council office on Mondays and Thursdays for the foreseeable future. It will be open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays between 10am and 2pm. They have deliberately chosen to close on the same days as the library, when footfall tends to be lower.

If you need to contact HTC urgently on Mondays or Thursdays, please telephone the office on 01488 686 195 to speak with a member of staff. You can also email admin@hungerford-tc.gov.uk at any time.

Contacting WBC in an emergency

You can also contact West Berkshire Council out of office hours for emergencies. These are considered to include:

  • Major incidents such as major accidents or significant flooding.
  • Fallen trees and other debris blocking or restricting roads or causing potential danger to road users.
  • Traffic lights not working (West Berkshire Council only manages fixed traffic lights, not temporary ones).
  • Emergency repairs to council-owned temporary accommodation (tenants of properties should contact their housing association, landlord or agent).

 

The sections above cover the main issues with which HTC has recently been involved or concerned: it by no means describes all of HTC’s activities. Nor is this an official record of the meeting referred to above, nor any other aspect of HTC’s activities. Links to the official minutes of this and other meetings are provided in this post.

For more information on HTC, please click here.

If there’s anything that you’d like to see addressed by HTC, and perhaps also covered in this way in future editions of Penny Post Hungerford, please email claire.barnes@hungerford-tc.gov.uk. Any such suggestions should be received at least four working days before the end of the month (and preferably sooner) if they are to be included in the corresponding post for the following month. That is not, of course, to say that HTC will not in any case give the matter its attention and respond personally if appropriate.

This information has been compiled by Penny Post from information supplied by HTC and others. Every reasonable effort has been made to provide a clear and dispassionate summary of the points covered but these may contain expressions of opinion which may not accord with HTC’s official view on the particular matter. Links have been provided to other posts, on the Penny Post site or elsewhere, to provide additional information where this has been judged useful or necessary. The presence of such a link should not be taken to imply that HTC necessarily agrees with, endorses or supports any of the material contained therein.

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