Hungerford Town Council Update February/March 2020

These notes incorporate some but not all of the matters discussed at the Full Hungerford Town Council (HTC) Meeting on 2 March 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.

Public forum

About eight residents, mainly from The Croft area, attended the meeting and had a number of questions about policing in the area and, in particular, their perception of the recent increase in anti-social behaviour (ASB). The questions are below: these were answered by variously Thames Valley Police (TVP) representatives, by the Mayor or by District Councillor James Cole.

Q: Does Hungerford have a crime problem since the closure of the police station?
A: As regards the police presence, the tri-station now exists as a base for local policing as well as Have Your Say meetings twice a month. The recent spate of burglaries and ASB has been area-wide. Local resources are moved around the area according to need. Hungerford has one of the lowest crime rates in the area. Where there is a problem this must be reported as otherwise it will have no impact on statistics (mentioning something on social media does not constitute a report).
Q: What is WBC’s policy on policing and CCTV?
A: WBC has no policy: policing is a matter for TVP and the CCTV cameras have, since the funding cuts, been taken over by HTC. CCTV does not solve every problem. Thatcham’s Broadway has excellent CCTV but a high level of ASB.
Q: What steps can be taken to liaise between TVP and the local community?
A: This already happens. As well as the Have Your Say meetings, TVP representatives attend or send a report to every HTC Full Council meeting. The forthcoming councillors’ surgeries (see below) will add another opportunity to raise matters to Town or District Councillors which can then be passed on. The 101 system is now performing better than in the past. Incidents (and concerns) can also be reported online or by email. Please see this post for more information.
Q: What new resources will be available as a result of the recent central-government announcements about police funding?
A: A number of local TVP positions, which had been vacant for a number of reasons, are now being filled. It was to hoped that the much publicised extra funding promised to the police would have beneficial results.
Q: Will the Hungerford tribute-station ever be permanently staffed?
A: This is not envisaged. It’s purpose is to provide a logistical base for the police, not a point of access. The current policy is that the TVP’s time in Hungerford is best spent out on the streets rather than reactively waiting for incidents to be reported.
Q: Will CCTV in Hungerford be extended?
A: This is a matter that HTC will have to decide based on its budget and perceived needs. The system has already been extended since it was inherited from WBC. It was also suggested that CCTV is a mixed blessing: as well as being reasonably expensive to install and run it also offers no certainty of identification (see the above point regarding Thatcham Broadway).

There was subsequently a discussion regarding the recent spate of arson attacks on cars in The Croft area. TVP said it was not expert in diagnosing the cause of a fire and could only act on the advice of the Fire Service, which had suggested that only two of the eight of these were due to arson. It was pointed out by residents that the sudden increase in such a small area was suggestive; also that in at least two cases the same person had reported the incidents to local householders, which also seemed suspicious.

The question of private CCTV cameras, which some residents have installed, was also raised. One resident pointed out that this opened up a large grey area in terms of privacy, GDPR, the uncertainty of when or to whom and footage should be released and the risk of reprisals if the owners were known about.

The TVP also pointed out that much of its work couldn’t be made public as it involved ongoing operations (in some cases ones which the local force was not informed about). There was also a good deal of work with core offenders and early intervention schemes which made no direct on local crime figures but which was felt to be beneficial.

The residents and the TVP representatives agreed to continue discussions outside the meeting.

Police report

Following the above discussion, the TVP representatives provided some figures about crimes in Hungerford in February:

Vehicle crimes: 2
• Burglaries: 1
• Shoplifting: 0
• ASB: ‘down on last month.’

The team has recently carried out a successful (despite the appalling weather) tool-marking event at Howden’s in Charnham Park. The next one will take place at Fort Builders’ Merchants in Membury (RG17 7TJ) from 10am to 1pm on Thursday 12 March.

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.”

VE, VJ and Armed Forces Days 2020

The 75th anniversaries of VE Day (8 May) and VJ Day (15 August) will be celebrated in Hungerford, as will Armed Forces Day (27 June).

The current plan is that VE Day will be mainly organised by HTC (with involvement from the Town Band and St Lawrence’s Church amongst others), with support from the Town and Manor, and VJ day the reverse. Armed Forces Day will involve as many organisations as possible (including both of these, REME, the Summer Festival (HADCAF), the Rugby Club and would comprise more extensive multi-location day, free to all, which would be a celebration of the town’s long relationship with REME as well as a series of public events for all to enjoy.

The cost to HTC was estimated at about £5,000, this depending on the availability of grants and match funding. It was agreed that any expenditure in excess of this would be discussed at Full Council.

District Councillors’ reports

District Councillor James Cole attended part of the meeting, apologies being received from Claire Rowles and Dennis Benneyworth. Some of his comments have been covered elsewhere: specific points he mentioned included:

• A4 drains blockage. He reported that this continuing problem was a surprise to an officer who recently visited the area and thought that the problem had been fixed.
• Flooding. WBC is currently about half-way through a two-month review in updating its review of flood-related infrastructure, m including culverts and ditches (some of which may be the responsibility of landowners to maintain). When completed, this should provide some useful clarity.
• Salisbury Road.  The application to have the plans called in by the Secretary of State has failed. Construction will thus commence according to the the permission granted by the Western Area Planning Committee in November 2019.
• The Co-op building in Hungerford High Street. The deteriorating condition of this historic property, next to the current Co-op shop, has been as contentious and unresolved issue between Co-op and HTC for several years. District Councillor Cole suggested after a recent site visit that the metal gutters were in such a bad an overgrown state of repair that they could be mistaken for window boxes. He and Councillor Martin Crane agreed that yet another attempt would me made to draw Co-op HQ’s attention to this worsening problem, mentioning on this occasion the threat off litigation if the gutters were to collapse onto the street.

WBC’s HELAA report

The Housing and Economic Land Availability Assessment (HELAA) was published in late January 2020 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.

A very important element within the plan will be determining preferences on potential sites for development within and around the town. Given the level of local interest and the external scrutiny decisions on this will receive, the H2036 Project Team agreed on 20 February 2020 that it wishes to engage an experienced planning consultant with extensive NDP knowledge to help them. It was agreed at the meeting that Navigus Consulting would be appointed at a cost of £2,950 to provide this advice.

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.

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. A task force has since been set up to address the problem.

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.

Hungerford Town Council’s 2019-20 finances

With the end-of-year (31 March) fast approaching, HTC was showing a surplus of about £40,000. However phasing issues, particularly involving the contribution to the Leisure centre which falls due in March, distorted this. None the less, it was felt that a small surplus would remain at the year end, a commendable achievement as the year had been filed with some unexpected challenges and expenses.

It was agreed that the spending of Community Infrastructure levies of about £12,000 and Section 106 payments of about £5,500 (both of these in respect of planning consents) would be devolved to the the Finance and General Purposes Committee to discuss, its recommendations then returning to Full Council in due course. It was recognised that these needed to be devoted to capital expenditure rather than ongoing expenses.

The Mayor’s activities

The Mayor’s activities in February 2020 included, as well various HTC meetings, attending an environmental strategy session hosted by WBC, attending a WBC planning policies meeting, attending a REME meeting regarding Armed Forces Day, attending a meeting at the Hungerford Hub and attending a meeting of the local Cancer Support Group (and presenting a cheque for £302, the public donations to the charity from the Mayor’s Carol Concert in December).

Freedom of the Town awards 2020

Nominations have now closed 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.The recipients of the awards will be announced at the 2020 Town Meeting on Wednesday 18 March.

Village Agents

During the meeting it was announced, to the consternation of many and the surprise of all, that the Village Agent scheme in West Berkshire was to be discontinued from the end of that month. It was initially unclear why this had happened and what if anything it would be replaced by. No one at the meeting knew anything about this beyond what they’d very recently been told by third parties. No web searches afterwards revealed any further information. Penny Post therefore did a bit of digging around over the next few days and contacted a number of people, including representatives of the three main organisations involved.

The situation seems now to be less the tale of sudden and stealthy service cutting that many first feared, but more one of shifting priorities for West Berkshire Council (in part informed by the requirements of other organisations), poor communication and the problems posed by administrative handovers. For more information on this, please see the separate post here.

2020 Hungerford Town Meeting

This will take place on Wednesday 18 March and will follow last year’s successful format. All residents are urged to attend as this will provide an opportunity to learn more about not only HTC and the H2036 neighbourhood development plan but also about the many community and voluntary organisations in and around the town. The agenda for the meeting can be see here.

2020 Hungerford litter pick

This will take place on Sunday 19 April in conjunction with Smarten Up Hungerford – meet at 10am at the Town Hall steps. Bring suitable clothes and gloves: other equipment and refreshments afterwards will be provided.

Councillors’ surgeries

The first of these will take place on Saturday 14 March from 10 am to noon in (TBC) the foyer of Tescos. The intention is that these will take place every month (not necessarily in the same venue) with two Town Councillors and one District Councillor and will give local residents an opportunity to express any concern they have.

Hungerford in Bloom 2020

Councillor Sally Hawkins outlined various changes that were proposed for this year’s event, many of which were as a result of its increasing popularity. After some discussion, it was agreed that entrants would be restricted to locations within the parish of Hungerford, that with some other minor changes the 2020 entry form would be accepted, that the current arrangement of having local companies providing individual prizes would be continued (and that there was no objection to having one overall sponsor in the future) and that the judging day would be Saturday 4 July. It was also agreed that due to the extra workload help would be required from other council members: this was offered and accepted.

The former Barclays Bank building

An application (19/03157/FUL) has been submitted to convert this from A2 use to residential C3 use. HTC’s Environment and Planning Committee supported this application. The final decision now lies with WBC.

2020 Christmas lights switch-on

It was agreed at the meeting that this would take place on Sunday 29 November 2020.

It was also reported at the meeting that the first pledges had already been received for contributions to Hungerford’s famous (but expensive) Christmas lights. Others are welcomed: please contact claire.barnes@hungerford-tc.gov.uk if you would like to find out more.

WBC’s review of conservation areas

The Conservation Areas in West Berkshire are being 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.

Volunteers are needed to help with the work involved. For more information, please contact James.Cole@westberks.gov.uk.

HTC’s Committees

As ever, much of the work done at HTC’s committees produced results that fed into points covered above. Some of the other matters discussed or performed by the committees during the month included:

• Play parks. The wet-pour surfaces have received a deep clean and this will happen regularly from now on. A wet-pour surface will also be installed under the zip wire.
• War memorial. A working party has been set upnto discuss the improvement works at the war memorial gardens.
• Allotments. Some fencing and tree boundary work has been agreed.
• Environmental consultation. HTC’s Environment & Planning Committee produced a response on behalf of HTC

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

The unplanned and unavoidable period of staff absence which resulted in HTC needing to curtail its opening hours has now, forunately for all concerned, come to an end. With immediate effect, the HTC office at The Hub (tel 01488 686 195) will be open on Monday to Friday between 10am and 2pm. 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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