Hungerford Town Council Update January/February 2020

These notes incorporate some but not all of the matters discussed at the Full Hungerford Town Council (HTC) Meeting on 3 February 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 may also include 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.

Police report

Representatives from the local neighbourhood team attended the meeting and provided a brief report about incidents in Hungerford in January.

• Car fires. There were four in the town in January, one of which is suspected of being arson. Another one was at one time thought to have been arson but it seems there is now no evidence to support this.
• Burglaries. There were six burglaries in Hungerford in January.
• Officer recruitment. A new officer has been recruited to join the Hungerford and Downlands police team and they are expected to start within days. 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.
• Tool-marking. The team has recently carried out a successful tool-marking event at John O Gaunt school with over 100 tools being marked. There will be another such event from 11am to 2pm at Howden’s in Charnham Park.

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

For more information on the local police team, please click here.

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.

When to do what

999: Emergency Assistance. Threat to life, burglary in progress.
101: Report a crime, van broken into, criminal damage, shop lifting.
Email neighbourhood police team: to feed in local information that may be really important to the local police team.

Other messages

• Please are encouraged to sign up for Thames Valley Alerts. As well as local crime information, you can receive details of the latest scams.
• The local policing team also wants to draw attention to the ‘what 3 words’ app which is used to help with the prevention of rural crime by locating people. The app provides a three-word code for each grid which is mapped over the world. By ringing 999 and quoting it the police can locate you.
• You can report incidents online but if it is urgent please continue to call on 101 (non-emergency) and 999 in an emergency.
• The team’s 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. The local police team is 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.”

Meeting between HTC and the local police team

On 30 January, the Mayor and Councillor Fyfe met Inspector Alan Hawkett to discuss crime figures in the local area. The meeting was reassuring, with news of two new full-time recruits for the local Neighbourhood Police Team. We also have a full-time Sergeant.

He also shared details of how crimes figures are recorded. For example, the figures may show on the crime map as having multiple reported crimes in one location. If police were called to a brawl in a pub, each individual would count as an individual crime figure, as would each part of their crime.

Although crimes rates are still low, we need to report all crime in the right way. Other advice included: looking out for neighbours and those more vulnerable within our community; not making criminal activity easy by leaving valuables in cars or not securing your home; joining the neighbourhood watch team; and investing in your own security (such as installing secure locks).

VE and VJ Days 2020

Derek Loft from the Hungerford Royal British Legion (RBL) addressed the meeting. He pointed out that this year’s VE Day (8 May) and VJ Day (15 August) would be the 75th anniversaries and that both – or perhaps one as a combined event – would therefore be particularly suitable times both to celebrate and commemorate the and of the Second World War. It was up to HTC to decide what it as a town wished to do and when but he reminded the meeting that the deadline for getting WBC’s approval for road closures for VE Day was 13 March.

He also said that in the 12 months to 30 September 2019, the Hungerford RBL’s poppy appeal had raised over £32,000. So far this year the total is £26,000, much higher per capita than those of many other towns in the district. He thanked HTC for its continued support.

The RBL held its 98th County Conference for Berkshire and Vale of the White Horse (which was, traditionally, a part of Berkshire) in January. Hungerford’s Mayor was invited to inspect the County’s Standard Bearers and to make a welcome speech to delegates.

District Councillors’ reports

District Councillors Claire Rowles and James Cole attended the meeting. Some of their contributions to the meeting are mentioned elsewhere, but the points they themselves raised included:

• A4 drains blockage. Councillor Crane had pointed out that repeated problems near the roundabout between the A4 and Charnham Park had not been solved because, in his view, the clearing had only been on the vertical section of the pipe. This would solve the problem for a short time but did nothing to remove obstructions on the longer horizontal section that follows this. It seems that WBC has, finally, agreed with this diagnosis: District Councillor Cole reported that suitable equipment would soon be hired and used to address this, and hopefully other similar blockages elsewhere in the area.
• Co-Wheels. WBC is keen to support this car-sharing scheme which would involve the purchase of an electric car. District Councillor Cole advised that HTC should consider joining WBC’s scheme as economies of scale would result. The car would need to be used 20% of the time (about five hours a day) for the scheme to be economically viable, though it was agreed it was unlikely this would happen immediately.
• Problems with online access to Plan Apps. District Councillor Rowles said she had raised this and asked if the situation had improved: the Mayor said the service was sometimes slow but that it was better.
• The A338 near the Tally Ho in Newtown. A recent serious accident has once again prompted calls for some kind of safety improvements on this dangerous stretch of road. It was announced that the local MP Laura Farris would be taking an interest in the matter and that a meeting between interested parties would be arranged.

WBC’s HELAA report

The Housing and Economic Land Availability Assessment (HELAA) was published this week and more details can be found here. As the preamble makes clear, it is ‘a technical assessment, not a policy-making document. It will not make recommendations on which sites should be developed but will make a preliminary assessment of their suitability and potential.’

The day after the HELAA’s publication, HTC issued a statement with its initial reaction to the report, which can be read here.

In many ways Hungerford is better prepared for this than are many parishes as its neighbourhood development plan (NDP) has created a set of criteria against which Hungerford’s HELAA sites could be measured, these results then forming part of WBC’s Local Plan which will guide future development across the region. Indeed, Hungerford’s NDP has been paused for some months whilst waiting for the HELAA to be published. Now that this has happened, the H2036 NDP team will be able to re-start its work. Although interim reports will be issued, it’s likely that the process of  examining the HELAA in detail and applying all the criteria to each site is unlikely to be completed before the middle of 2020.

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 has since been awaiting the publication of WBC’s Housing and Economic Land Availability Assessment (HELAA). This has now happened: see section above.

For more information, 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.

Bin collections

It was pointed out by The Mayor at the meeting in January 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.

At the February meeting it was announced that this is being looked into at WBC. The District Councillors agreed to check that all residents would be suitably notified of any change of date in good time.

The plane tree and the war memorial

As reported last month, a site meeting involving HTC and WBC councillors and one of WBC’s tree experts discussed what problems might be caused by the plane tree near the memorial if it is allowed to get well-established.

HTC recognised that environmental concerns, sentiment, maintenance costs, potential damage to pavements or buildings and risks to the public all needed to be balanced. The conclusion was that although the tree was healthy, it had probably been planted in the wrong place and was already starting to cause problems. The decision was to pollard it in the hope that this would slow down its growth and buy some time to explore other options.

Hungerford’s pigeons

This perennial problem, which was recently the subject of a survey by the local Public Protection Partnership (PPP), refuses to go away. Councillor Chicken announced at the meeting that a working group has been set up to look at the PPP’s recommendations and report back with some suggestions for future action.

Hungerford Town Council’s 2020-21 budget

A reminder that the meeting in January agreed 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).

For more information see the December 2019/January 2020 HTC Update.

The Mayor’s activities

The Mayor’s activities in January 2019 included, as well various HTC meetings, meeting with the local police Inspector (see section above); addressing the Royal British Legion’s Annual County Conference (see section above); discussing WBC conservation review with town and district councillors; attending site meetings at the Triangle Field and Croft Field; and attending an HTC team-building evening.

Freedom of the Town awards 2020

Nominations are now open for the 2020 Freedom of the Town awards which ‘promote good citizenship by recognising as role models those in our midst who by their actions and demeanour have demonstrated exceptionally loyal service to the benefit of the town.’ More information can be found here. Nominations need to have been received by Sunday 1 March. The recipients of the awards will be announced at the 2020 Town Meeting on Wednesday 18 March.

2020 Hungerford Town Meeting

This will take place on Wednesday 18 March and will follow last year’s successful format.

Councillors’ Surgeries

The Mayor said that she wished to introduce these as soon as possible. The proposed plan was to have these once a month, perhaps on Saturdays in The Hub between 10am and noon, perhaps with extra days being added during the week. The intention was for two councillors to attend each, with a district councillor also being present if possible. The first one (to be confirmed) was planned for Saturday 29 February.

Changes at the Station Road car park

As reported last month, changes are about to be introduced to the Station Road car park (between the station and the High Street). This will result in barriers being installed, 15 minutes of free parking and the repositioning of the recycling bins (people using these will need to pass through the entry and exit gates but will not need to pay if they spend less than 15 minutes in doing so).

One advantage of this is that people will be able to stay overnight if they wish (previously impossible without risking fines) and paying whatever is due on exit. It also reduces WBC’s obligation to enforce parking restrictions and all the consequent arguments about the legality of any fines.

Recently, an unexpected (to HTC, at least) problem emerged with WBC insisting that there be a height restriction in place,  This would probably not have been a problem were it not that the businesses in The Cuttings, such as M&P Hardware, have for many years had their deliveries made via the car park. WBC’s point is that there has been damage, the repair costs for which it has to pay, done by large vehicles hitting walls, the belief being that the car park has been used by vehicles that may well have nothing to do with deliveries.

This has led to HTC lobbying WBC to (a) turn the taxi spaces on the High Street into spaces for deliveries only; and (b) create new taxi spaces near the corner of the High Street and Church Street. District Councillor Cole said that he was initially advised by WBC’s officers that such changes could take ‘about a year’, a timescale that he said he would hope could be at least halved. To assist with this, Councillor Rob Chicken is talking to local businesses and residents and has organised an informal petition to support HTC’s desire to support its local businesses in this way.

The changes to the car parking have also caused a separate problem for The Three Swans. This is a legal issue with which HTC cannot get involved. As soon as this is clarified, and if the clarification requires action as a result, HTC and ward councillor James Cole will act to ensure that WBC does not impede the operation of the Three Swans.

WBC’s review of Conservation Areas

The Conservation Areas in West Berkshire need to be re-assessed: all but a handful of the 50-odd Conservation Areas in West Berkshire, including Hungerford’s, date back to the 1970s and – as happens after such a period of time and after an administrative change – some of the records appear to have been mislaid. To refresh the definition will benefit to the neighbourhood development plan that Hungerford is in the process of creating. Hungerford is fortunate in that District Councillor James Cole is WBC’s Heritage Champion and so well-placed to assist with this work.

Electric Vehicle (EV) car-charging points

These are in the process of being installed in the High Street, Park Street and Charnham Street (in locations chosen by WBC, not HTC, and with none of the spaces being reserved for EVs).

The question of whether the timing was right for this (given that there are still a fairly small number of electric cars and that many of their owners have off-street parking and EV charging points) was discussed at the meeting. Councillor Downe pointed out that the cycle had to start somewhere, the alternative being that the lack of charging points would disincentive people switching from fossil-fuel vehicles. He also confirmed that the largest chunk of the funds came from central government.

Relations between HTC and WBC

It was pointed out at the meeting that a number of the matters raised at the meeting suggested a lack of communication and consultation from WBC to HTC which had resulted in time needing to spend in lobbying to have decisions reversed or in dealing with their consequences. The Mayor pointed out that the relationship, though capable of improvement, was far better than had been the case a few years ago. She particularly singled out the energetic district councillors who had done so much since May 2019 to represent the town’s interests to WBC and to mitigate, or at least explain, problems and delays that were inherent in the system. She also suggested that HTC was itself pretty proactive and that it saw part of its role as being to ‘snap at the heels’ of WBC in order to achieve the best results for the town.

It was suggested that the Leader or the Chief Executive of WBC might be invited to an HTC meeting at which any specific issues could be discussed.

HTC’s grants

The main round of HTC’s grants to local organisations took place in the summer of 2109: you can see a full account of this here. As usual, however, a small pot (about £1,240) was left over for applications later in the financial year. Aside from a re-stating of a previously-agreed grant to The Hub, three new grants were recently submitted, all of which were discussed at the meeting.

• Garden project for Chilton Foliat School (up to £500). After discussion it was agreed to grant £200. Although not in West Berkshire, the school has pupils from Hungerford and HTC supported any projects designed to enhance children’s appreciation of the environment, the successful sensory garden at Hungerford Nursery School being cited. However, it was felt that, though close to the town, its location in another authority enabled it to seek additional sources of funding.
• Contribution to the cost of a Youth Project Worker for St Lawrence’s Church (£600). The discussion here considered (a) how many local children directly benefitted from the project and how the funds were used and (b) whether it was appropriate for HTC to fund a religious organisational all  (some councillors who expressed such doubts professed themselves to be church-goers). The first issue was felt to be the more immediate and it was resolved to ask a representative from St Lawrence’s to explain in more detail how the money would be spent.
• A grant towards flower displays from Smarten Up Hungerford (amount unspecified). It was agreed that this issue had come to HTC slightly too early as discussions were taking place between Smarten Up Hungerford and the HTC office as to the details. The decision was therefore deferred until more information had been provided.

Committee meetings

As ever, much of the work done at HTC’s committees produced results that fed into points covered above. A few specific issues were, however raised at the meeting.

• Hungerford in Bloom. Councillor Hawkins said that as the whole national event gets more popular, the work involved gets more complicated. Following her report in the spring on Hungerford’s involvement, a working party would be needed to help her and the office staff with the arrangements.
• Planning matters. Councillor Gaines reported on various issues that had come, or soon would come, before the Environment and Planning Committee. One in the former category was that Costa Coffee had, finally, applied for retrospective planning permission for the tables and chairs in the High Street.
• Christmas lights. Councillor Chicken said that a working party had been set up to help with the 2020 Christmas lights. Issues include the replacement of some light strings and tree brackets.
• Great West Way. Councillor Crane said that contributions for the recent advertisement in the GWW magazine (soon to be published) had been received; also that a partnership was being discussed with the Chamber of Commerce to promote tourism in the town.
• Accounts. Councillor Winser discussed the main variations between the reality and the budget: as usual, most were due to phasing issues or unexpected capital expenditure.

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 of 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 matter. Links have been provided to other posts, on the Penny Post site or elsewhere, to give 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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