Local News 2 to 9 Jan 2020

Our round-up of local news across the area (and a bit beyond) this week including local council contacts, parish magazines, editors and contributors needed, police and travel updates, good causes celebrated, rumble strips, watermelons, affordable homes, the reek of privilege, iambic pentameters, festive pets, award, consultation and grant deadlines, London Road, Alabama Rot, foster care, new train arrangements, green bonds, unsung heroes, 25 December’s other events, a decade in the Vale, blond or blonde, the House of Lords, tree mulching, Eleanor Roosevelt and Sweet Virginia.

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)

• Hope you all had a jolly festive period. It’s a bit like going into a tunnel for two weeks and emerging, slightly bleary-eyed, into a landscape that is in many ways depressingly similar to the previous one; despite the hope, never fulfilled, that the turn of the new year will have performed some magic of renewal or improvement. 

• The Newbury Weekly News has, on page 4, an article about the ‘new masterplan to redevelop the London Road Industrial Estate‘. Councillor Hilary Cole, the portfolio holder for Planning. said that this was ‘a big project which will take some time to deliver’. Given how much time (and, as the article points out, money) has been spent already, no one would disagree with that. New consultants have been appointed and it’s expected that work will start on the new plan, which will include discussions with ‘key stakeholders’ (howsoever defined) in the next few weeks.

There are several aspects of this that confuse me. Firstly, if new advice is being sought, this surely casts doubt over some or all of the previous advice (aspects of which the Council relied upon in court). What aspects of this earlier opinion is now felt to be suspect and why? This leads to the question is what the new consultant’s terms of reference are. More fundamentally, as the work of the Scrutiny Commission, assisted by the LRIE Task Force, in examining the history of this tangled issue is not complete, it seems odd that new consultants are being appointed now. To do so appears to to be premature and risks pre-judging (and thus potentially undermining) the results of West Berkshire’s own enquiry. Finally, there’s the question of how much this new advice will cost. You can read West Berkshire Council’s statement on the matter here.

• The same paper reports, on p9, on a meeting of West Berkshire’s Executive on 19 December at which Councillor Hilary Cole defended West Berkshire Council’s record on homebuilding, claiming that it was ‘probably one of the few planning authorities in the country’ which demanded that 40% of Greenfield and 30% of brownfield homes be affordable. However, according to this article (July 2017) in The New Statesman, written by the then Head of Campaigns at Shelter, ‘most authorities demand between 30 and 50%’. Also, as a question at the meeting pointed out, there is often a disparity between what is demanded of developers and what they provide: the ongoing Market Street development in Newbury, for instance, will have about 6% of its homes affordable. The lack of willingness by private developers to build such properties is part of the reason why the planning system is, according to the National Audit Office (as quoted in The Guardian), ‘not working well’. Councillor Cole announced at this meeting that West Berkshire was looking at setting up its own housing company to help address this. It used to be common for councils to build their own homes, though this is no longer the case. From the mid ’50s to the mid ’70s, in most years councils built more homes than were constructed in total in 2018.  

• Strong words in a letter from Councillor Alan Laws in this week’s NWN about the ‘holier than thou’ Greens. A number of his points need some correction. He first took issue with the Green’s claim that they had failed to make an impact because of our voting system. With 2.6% of the vote and only one seat, this is less a political opinion than a self-evident statement of fact and one that many others would agree with. He then suggested that the Greens wanted to ‘overturn’ the referendum of 2011 concerning the UK’s voting arrangement, adding that such a wish was ‘not very democratic’. By that logic, no act of parliament could ever be amended or repealed and the the 2016 referendum would need to be branded undemocratic as it overturned the result of the one in 1975. Any party is surely entitled to lobby that our electoral arrangements (or anything else) be looked at again. He also claims that the 2011 referendum rejected ‘any form of PR’: this is not true, as it was only the AV system that was offered as an alternative.

He turned next to the reaction to the victory speech by Newbury’s new MP Laura Farris (whom he calls Laura Parris). There are certainly different views about what should and should not be said on these occasions, just as there are about whether any party is wise to adopt what critics might call a holier-than-thou attitude about discrimination against religious groups. He suggests that her critical comments about ‘Corbynistra’ politics ‘struck a raw nerve’. The remark certainly did with me: supporters of Jeremy Corbyn are known as ‘Corbynistas’ (though this is not a word we’ll be hearing a lot of in the future, I suspect). He also referred to the Greens as ‘the Melon Party’ (green on the outside but red underneath). I think he meant to say ‘watermelon’: most melons aren’t these colours. Political insults don’t need to be original but they do need to be accurate.

His judgement on the overall results of the election is obviously one point of view but I remain confused by what he means by a ‘people’s government’. To many this might seem a radical, almost Corbynista, idea that he is propounding. I presume he refers to a government formed as a result of the will of the people as expressed by our voting system. If so, this is a statement that could equally be applied to any general election result and so is fairly meaningless. He also suggests that the election provides a ‘one-nation opportunity for all’, another phrase that means less than might, but then contradicts this by saying that politics should be ‘left to the grown ups’. Which grown ups are those, I wonder? Before 1918 this group would have included only men; before 1832, only male property owners; and, before, 1829, not Catholics. 

• Another letter in the same paper attacks the local Conservative Party’s ‘reek of privilege’. The writer may well have a point in general but I’m not sure how many of his specific accusations against West Berkshire’s party are fair. He says, for instance, that 10 out of 11 of Laura Farris’ predecessors attended one of four schools, all fee-paying. I suspect that the same could be said of many other seats: the reverse of the coin is that many traditional Labour seats have for a similar period been held by trades union officials, a group which could be accused of being in their own way just as conservative as the products of our public-school system. (One national statistic I can offer which makes a similar point about a ‘political class’ is that of the 15 Prime Ministers since 1940 from both parties, only four did not go to Oxford.)

The writer then criticises West Berkshire Councillor Claire Rowles’ decision to stand for the Conservatives in Birkenhead and to ‘help out’ in Reading East (both of which seats were won by Labour). I can’t quite see how this relates to the question of privilege. Claire Rowles is entitled to offer to stand wherever she chooses and wherever the local party will accept her. I’m sure she would have preferred a seat which she had a realistic chance of winning, and perhaps also closer to home, but six weeks campaigning in an area where the support for her party is likely to be lukewarm at best is doubtless a valuable political experience. I admire anyone who puts themselves through this.

The letter also touches on the old trope of whether candidates should be local or not, in whatever way this definition can be applied. Although many candidates tie themselves in knots about this, I think it’s unimportant. It’s often distasteful and irritating to see candidates parachuted in from the party HQs (they all do it) but just because you was born in or has lived in an area for a long time doesn’t make you a better candidate. To believe this is to assume that an MP’s sole role is to represent their constituents. This is certainly what it says on the label but they are also foot soldiers of a party machine which exists with the sole aim of achieving political power; just as a football club will hire whoever from whatever in order to win trophies.  

• And on the subject of our political class and electoral reform, a campaign to do something about the House of Lords has attracted over 100,000 signatures.

• West Berkshire Council has produced a directory listing many of the Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) services available in the area – you can see the Autumn 2019 edition here.

• West Berkshire is set to be part of a pilot scheme that would enable communities to invest in green projects in the district.

• West Berkshire Council is actively encouraging more people to offer themselves as foster carers. This represents one of the most tangible and effective ways by which you can help change someone’s life, and thus the community as a whole, for the better. More information on the Council’s Fostering Service can be found here

• The Council has activated its Severe Weather Emergency Protocol (SWEP).

• Information here about the changes to West Berkshire Council’s rubbish and recycling collections (including for Christmas trees) which will remain in force until 14 January when the dates will return to normal.

• A reminder about an update regarding the new rail fares and timetable which came into force on 15 December and will affect local GWR services. 

• The animal of the week is whichever one you want to select from the ‘Festive Pets’ collage in this week’s NWN. If nothing else, they prove that dogs are happier at being dressed up in Christmas gear than are cats; but I think we knew that anyway.

• The letters section of the Newbury Weekly News this week has, as well as the ones mentioned above, a cautionary tale about Newbury’s parking enforcement; an appeal not to use disabled parking bays; the need for more electric vehicle charging points; and a a diatribe against our political system composed in iambic pentameters. 

• A number of good causes have received valuable support recently, including The Marlborough and Devizes Foodbank (thanks to Kennet School); Wiltshire Air Ambulance (thanks to shoppers at Waitrose in Marlborough); several local charities (thanks to Newbury Town Council); Prior’s Court (thanks to the Newbury Rotary Club); Naomi House and Jacksplace (thanks to the Christmas walk in Highclere); The Stroke Association (thanks to the carol service at Marlborough College).

• Most of the sections below are a bit thinner than usual as a result of the recent festive information hibernation. Normal service should be resumed next week. Remember, if you want to point out anything you think should be covered, or if you want to agree (or disagree) with anything in this column, you can either post a comment in the box at the foot of the post or email brian@pennypost.org.uk.

Hungerford & district

• Latest news from Hungerford Town Council, Shalbourne Parish Council and Inkpen Parish Council

• There are currently three vacancies on Hungerford Town Councilsee here for the official notice

• There are currently three vacancies on Hungerford Town Councilsee here for the official notice

• The next meeting of Hungerford Town Council will take place at 7pm on Monday 6 January and you can see the agenda here. Members of the public are as ever welcome to attend the main part of the meeting. There’ll be the usual report on this and the Council’s other activities in the January 2020 Penny Post Hungerford which will be published the following day. Click here for the most recent (November/December 2019) Town Council Update. 

• The day before then, on Sunday 5 January, you can get your Christmas trees mulched outside the Town Hall between 10am and 1pm in exchange for a donation which will go to local charities.

• There will be an open day at the Hungerford Leisure Centre on Saturday 11 January which will provide an opportunity to see the facilities that are available and to take advantage of membership deals.

• A reminder that two cases of Alabama Rot, which can be fatal to dogs, were reported in Hungerford in mid-December. Visit the Vets4Pets site for more information.

• There’s some further news here about the new rail fares and timetable which came into force on 15 December and affect services to and from Bedwyn, Hungerford, Kintbury and Newbury. 

Lambourn Valley

Latest news from Lambourn Parish CouncilEast Garston Parish CouncilWelford Parish Council and Great Shefford Parish Council.

• Anyone who using or passing the A339/B4000 junctions near the M4 will have noticed that it’s something of an accident zone with the large traffic slugs frequently bashed, twisted or missing a panel. Great Shefford Parish Council has been in touch with West Berkshire about the possibility on rumble strips on the eastbound approach of the B4000 (which is the more problematic of the two). West Berkshire has replied saying that these are generally only employed at high-speed intersections: it has, however, admitted that a scrim test has shown that the final 40 metres is ‘slightly below standard’ although below the normal intervention level (in other words, there is a stage in a road’s disintegration when it not good enough to pass a test but not bad enough be fixed). However ‘in view of the concern’ (presumably the fact the the parish council took the matter up) it will be dealt with some time after April. Other possible solutions include tree and hedge work and replacing (or, but this is more complex, moving) signs. Another quick-fix solution is to make sure that the signs that are already there are cleaned. This is one of the many things that district councils now tend not to do and which have thus fallen to parishes or volunteers to carry out. Some of the signs in the area are so dirty (and at times also overgrown) that they can barely be read and reflect headlights only with a dull greeny-grey haze.

• I am indebted to the editor of the Great Shefford Parish News for pointing out a few other events which took place on 25 December. These included the coronation of William the Conqueror in 1066 (remarkably, the only part of the Bayeux Tapestry that’s missing is the one describing this); the births of Isaac Newton in 1642, Humphrey Bogart in 1899 and Kenny Everett in 1944; the deaths of Charlie Chaplin in 1977, Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989 and of the Beagle 2 spaceship which crashed on Mars in 2003; and Ringo Starr’s receipt of his first drum kit in 1959. He could also have added the capture of Jerusalem by the armies of the First Crusade in 1100, although this was an event which, even more so than some of the others he mentions, did not show human nature at its finest. Some might say that the harvest of that particularly murderous incident is still being reaped to this day.

• The same magazine needs extra help to replace the long-time Editor, Richard Allen, who is hoping to retire in 2020. If you’d like to contribute to the publication (of which there are 10 a year) in this or any way, please contact Virginia Parkes on 01488 649 908: further details can be found in the magazine itself. 

• A reminder of the 4LEGS Radio for its 2019 Unsung Hero award, nominations for which are still open. The award is kindly sponsored by Sovereign Housing and The Great Shefford.

• There will be an open day at the Lambourn Centre on Saturday 11 January which will provide an opportunity to see the facilities that are available and to take advantage of membership deals.

• A reminder also that if you haven’t returned your questionnaire about Lambourn’s neighbourhood development plan, you need to do this by Monday 13 January 2020.

• The Friends of Lambourn Library has three vacancies on its committee and welcomes hearing from anyone, of any age, who would be happy to join what is by all measures and estimations a successful organisation. Please contact suecocker@hotmail.com.  

4 Legs Community Radio Station will on Friday have its 83rd day of broadcasting – click here for more

Newbury & district

Latest news from Newbury Town Council, Chieveley Parish Council and Hamstead Marshall Parish Council.

• This week’s NWN has on p7 a report and photos of the Newbury Festival of Light.

• As mentioned recently, the Town Council is looking into the possibility of having some free car parking on market days (Thursdays). The Town Council will be considering the matter and its costs with an announcement expected in the next month or so.

• 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.

• Click here for the latest news from the development of the University Centre at Newbury College.

• There’s some further news here about the new rail fares and timetable which came into force on 15 December and affect services to and from Bedwyn, Hungerford, Kintbury and Newbury. 

• Click here for the latest NTC News from Newbury Council.

• 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

Latest news from Hampstead Norreys Parish Council, Compton parish Council, Ashampstead Parish Council, Chaddleworth Parish Council, Brightwalton Parish Council, West Ilsley Parish Council and East Ilsley Parish Council.

• The December issue of Chaddleworth News has can be seen here. There will be no January issue so the next one will be in February. If you want to subscribe or contribute, contact chaddnews@gmail.com.

• If you fancy becoming a Compton Parish Councillor, now’s your chance…

• The December 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

Latest news from Thatcham Town Council, Cold Ash Parish Council, Bucklebury Parish Council, Brimpton Parish Council and Woolhampton Parish Council.

• This week’s NWN reports on p21 that the Thatcham Community Forum is going through the process of setting out its priorities for 2020, with speeding and anti-social behaviour already confirmed as two of these. You can keep up to date with its work and activities through its Facebook page

• There’s a 16-seater bus that goes from Brimpton to the Kennet School every day and at present there are several spaces available on it. Click here for more information

Refill Thatcham is a free campaign to reduce the amount of plastic waste in the town. More details here.

• The Nature Discovery Centre is looking for volunteers to work with the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust to provide a series on nature therapy sessions at the Centre. Click here for more information.

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

• The December Parishes Magazine covering Aldermaston, Beenham, Brimpton, Midgham, Wasing and Woolhampton: click here to see it. This covers secular as well as religious matters.

• There’s some further news here about the new rail fares and timetable which came into force on 15 December and affect services to and from Bedwyn, Hungerford, Kintbury and Newbury. 

Click here for the latest news about Cold Ash’s neighbourhood development plan, including the results of the recent survey.

• Click here to see the latest Cold Ash Community Bulletin. This week’s issue includes an appeal for further contributors and news of a swap shop, a restaurant launch and a film showing. On, and some wise words from Eleanor Roosevelt as well.

Theale and district

Latest news from Theale Parish Council, Aldermaston Parish Council, Stratfield Mortimer Parish Council, Englefield Parish Council and Burghfield Parish Council.

• Plans for a new tri-service fire station in Theale, have been approved by members of the Royal Berkshire Fire Authority’s (RBFA) Management Committee.

• Click here for details of forthcoming events in Burghfield.

Click here and here for the latest updates from Highways England about the progress of the work to turn the M4 from J3 to J12 into a smart motorway. (It was announced in October that theses were being reviewed, though whether this will continue now we have a new government remains to be seen.)

• Click here for information about Burghfield’s plans to create a community hub.

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

• The November Parishes Magazine covering Aldermaston, Beenham, Brimpton, Midgham, Wasing and Woolhampton: click here to see it. This covers secular as well as religious matters.

Marlborough & district

Latest news from Marlborough Town CouncilAldbourne Parish Council and Great Bedwyn Parish Council.

• Congratulations to all those who organised the Christmas Day lunch at Marlborough Town Hall – I’ll stand aside and let Marlborough News take over the account of the event from here.

• Information here from Aldbourne Parish Council about what to do in case of flooding.

• The Marlborough Area Neighbourhood Plan Consultation results have been released – click here for details.

• There’s some further news here about the new rail fares and timetable which came into force on 15 December and affect services to and from Bedwyn, Hungerford, Kintbury and Newbury. 

• 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.

Wantage & district

Latest news from Wantage Town Council, Grove Parish Council and Letcombe Regis Parish Council.

• People have been warned to be on the lookout Nottingham knockers – door-to-door traders selling cheap goods who often claim to be part of a rehabilitation programme – Wantage is the latest town where residents have been warned to be on the lookout. The Thames Valley Police has confirmed that no such programme exists, certainly not in its area.

• The Leader of the Vale Council, Emily Smith, issued her Leader’s Report on 18 December, which you can read here

• The same council has set out  its vision for a carbon-neutral council and district.

• The South and Vale Business Support team at South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Councils is celebrating after winning the Institute of Economic Development’s 2019 Greatest Economic Impact Award.

• Five Oxfordshire councils have been awarded more than £92,000 in government funding to support homeless people this winter.

• The Grove Volunteer Litter-picking Group meets on the second Friday of every month.

• A scheme to give vulnerable people a place to go for help in the Vale of the White Horse has been launched.

• The Wantage and Grove Foodbank is a practical, community based project, organised by local churches, which provides food parcels to those in the immediate area who find themselves temporarily in difficult circumstances. It is dependent on donations of food and is staffed by volunteers. For more information, click here.

Click here for the latest from the Wantage and Grove Campaign Group. This includes a review of the various planning issues that have affected, benefitted or blighted (delete as appropriate) the area over the last decade as well as others (such as the leisure centre and Wantage Road station) with remain in a kind of planning limbo.

• 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. You have until February 2020 to apply.

• 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.

Swindon & district

Latest news from Swindon Borough Council.

• The annual search for Swindon’s unsung heroes has begun following the launch of the latest Pride of Swindon Awards. Nominations close on 24 January 2020.

• Public Health officials are urging parents to take up the free child flu vaccine in Swindon as data shows take-up across the town is low.

• An important consultation into Swindon’s updated local plan which will shape and guide future housebuilding and development in Swindon over the next 20 years has just opened and will remain so until the end of January.

• Click here for details of the many volunteering opportunities at Great Western Hospital.

The song and the quiz

• I saw two really, really good films over Christmas: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Knives Out. The  Song of the Week is taken from the latter and was the song playing over the final credits (given its release date it would have been more appropriate for Once Upon... but I’m not going to argue with Mr Tarantino’s choice in these matters). The song was Sweet Virginia from the Stones’ masterpiece, Exile on Main Street – seriously recommended (like the films).

• Which leads, as happens, to the Quiz Question of the Week. This week’s question is one answered elsewhere in this column and is: What do Isaac Newton, Humphrey Bogart and Kenny Everett have in common? Last week’s (or fortnight’s) was: What is the only English adjective to change its spelling depending on whether it’s masculine or feminine? The answer is blond/e (if you know of any others, let me know).

Brian Quinn

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If you would prefer to contact me directly and privately about anything which was, or you think should have been, in this post, please email brian@pennypost.org.uk.

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