Local News 23-30 April 2020

Our round-up of local news across the area (and a bit beyond) this week including a briefer than usual survey of the news around the towns and parishes, Hungerford’s marina, Lambourn’s NDP, East Garston’s newsletter, Newbury’s blooms, Thatcham’s quiz, Marlborough’s sky, Cadley’s masks, Cold Ash’s ants, Compton and Brightwalton’s celebrations, Wantage’s hospital, Steventon’s bridge, Swindon’s art, two Nick Carters, Project Cygnus, the continuous manipulative tense in action, the army’s role, sport and the virus, following Germany, somewhere in Sheffield, Ramadan, life in lockdown, life in the Kruger, the new normal, leaving home, in praise of the press, unfinished business in the Valley, lots of insects and the organist’s feet.

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)

• The latest government CV-19 briefing included Nick Carter – not West Berkshire Council’s CEO but Chief of Defence Staff General Sir Nick Carter, who gave a crisp and lucid  summary of the military’s role to date. It was refreshing to see politicians outnumbered by experts (the Chief Medical Officer was also present) but there are still a number of things that confuse me.

Firstly, Sir Nick was careful to point out that the army had been involved for 25 days, in other words since 28 March. This was over a week after the PM announced the start of the widespread social-distancing measures and at least two and a half months after the government must, or should, have realised that it was likely to have a major logistical problem on its hands. He was also keen to stress that the military’s role had been to support the from-line staff: although he made reference to several major initiatives it had been involved with, including involvement with the delegated response networks which had been called into action several times before with things such as foot and mouth and floods. The impression was that much of the work has been reactive. It also seemed significant that he mentioned by name one military logistics expert who had drawn on his experience working at Google and developed a purchasing system in conjunction with E-Bay. 

Secondly, he referred to the fact the the delivery of PPE now needs to be made not to 250-odd trusts as previously but to over 50,000 individual recipients. This suggests that the existing NHS supply chains have completely broken down. The supermarkets seem to be keeping theirs going. There must be a reason for this sudden need for direct supply but it’s not clear why this is.

Thirdly, he stressed the importance of delegated responses which are more flexible to local demand. (That is certainly my impression from having seen how local volunteer groups and parish or town councils have reacted, setting up volunteer groups within days). 

I appreciate that there are many constructions that could be put on this address. This is mine. The government should, he might have said, involved us earlier and in more of a decision-making role. Other experts, ranging from big tech companies to parish councils, should have had their skills, networks and resources harnessed sooner. The whole thing could and should have been better prepared for.

• All this has happened before. In October 2016, an H2N2 virus swept the country, overwhelming the health service and killing tens of thousands of people. Remember that? No, we don’t because it was only a three-day exercise, codenamed Cygnus. It seems this revealed some glaring gaps in the level of investment and resilience. The results were never publicised, being described as ‘too terrifying’ by one senior person involved in the drill. The lessons certainly do not seem to have been acted upon. The Daily Telegraph quotes a senior academic involved in Cygnus, speaking about the current pandemic: “These exercises are supposed to prepare government – but it appears they were aware of the problem but didn’t do much about it. We’ve been quite surprised at the lack of coherent planning for a pandemic on this scale. It’s basically a lack of attention to what would be needed to prevent a disease like this from overwhelming the system. All the flexibility has been pared away so it’s difficult to react quickly. Nothing is ready to go.”

• One doesn’t have to look far to see other evidence of a lack of preparedness. I mentioned before about the emails that were sent to universities and institutes in January asking how many testing kits each could provide, most of which were replied to but none of which were followed up. There are also stories of suppliers who offered to produce equipment for local markets being shunned, this one involving face masks from as recently as 21 April.

Of course, the whole thing might be the fault of the NHS staff themselves or those reporting on the matter. This is certainly what the Home Secretary suggested on 11 April when she said that she was ‘sorry if people feel’ that there has been a failure to provide NHS staff with PPE. There’s a strange disjunctive verb form that politicians seem wedded to which I can best describe as the continuous manipulative. Phrases like ‘I regret’ or “I’m sorry if you think’ bounce the responsibility for the problem straight back in your face – it’s just an issue of perception, yours having been defective on this occasion. She went on to say “I will be very, very clear about that.” This is another example: the politician is providing clarity to a deluded questioner, the inference being that the next thing the politician says is going to be a model of clarity (even when it isn’t). Ms Patel needs to be kept as far away from a microphone as possible in the coming months. This will probably suit her as her personal in-box includes an imminent unfair dismissal claim from her former senior civil servant.

There have been plenty of other criticisms of the government’s reaction. One example comes from The Society of Radiographers which on 25 March expressed its ‘grave disappointment that poor planning has evidently contributed to increased risk for staff. It isn’t reasonable that at the start of this week government was still saying there was an adequate supply of the right PPE, but that it was just not in the right places. The crisis has been looming since the start of the year and there is no justifiable reason why these supplies shouldn’t be where they need to be now.’ Perhaps even more alarmingly, it appears from this article in the Telegraph that at the end of March the government’s intervention in the business of sourcing PPE made a bad situation even worse. 

• There need to be some serious changes made to the way that public life is organised from now on. Government – not just this government, but any government – might currently be ‘working with the best minds in the country’ as Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on 22 April, but the processes for acting on it seem to be defective. The regulatory processes seem to be lagging well behind the technological developments (particularly at present, when some risks might be regarded as acceptable). There seems to have been inadequate relaxation of procurement processes. Decision-making seems paralysed by red tape (or black tape). Requests for expert advice and assistance seems to have made too late. The funding cuts as a result of the banking crisis of 2008 have fallen disproportionately on public bodies rather than the private sector. The highly effective role played by local organisations during the Covid crisis has been accepted but not adequately praised. All in all, we need to spend some time considering what we demand from the power structure for which we pay. This is a discussion for another day but the current emergency should not stop us from reflecting on these matters now.

• It has been suggested to me that the UK’s policy all along has been to do what Germany has done but two weeks later (and probably less efficiently). This might make some sense: there are worse role models to follow. If so, compulsory face masks might be one thing we need to put up with – if we can order enough and have them delivered, of course. 

• April is normally the best month for sport with the start of the cricket season and the end of the football one. The latter is in a state of acute turmoil at the moment, the season having gone on too long for it to be easily abandoned but with a sufficient number of matches left to cause a real problem if they’re all going to be completed. Football, and horse racing, are also on the back foot as it’s recently been suggested that the Cheltenham Festival and the Champions league match between Liverpool and Atletico Madrid in early March were both instrumental in spreading the virus. Earlier this week, the Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden defended his decision to permit these and other similar events to take place. “The scientific evidence we were being given,” he told the BBC, “was that, at a mass gathering, the threat at a mass gathering relates to the people who immediately surround you – the people in front of you and behind you. The risk at mass gatherings was no greater or less than it would have been in pubs or restaurants, and the advice at that point was that we did not need to ban mass gatherings.” If this was the advice then it would seem to have been flawed, though it’s easy to say that in hindsight. It also overlooks the fact that at race meetings and football matches, even more than in pubs and considerably more so than in restaurants, please move around, are often packed close together and tend to shout and wave their arms around, all of which the virus loves. It also loves the international nature of these large gatherings.

• I was talking to a friend on the phone this morning who said how bored he was getting with the negative coverage and criticism of the government’s actions and suggested that this was due to an anti-Tory bias. The fact that we’ve had the same party in power, on its own or in coalition, for ten years makes the two hard to separate. I concede that it’s often easier, and more eye-catching, to attack than to defend. However, the gap between what should have happened, regardless of the politics, and what has it at times alarmingly wide. Anyone writing about it who doesn’t draw attention to these is being deficient in their duty. It’s interesting that the normally loyal Daily Telegraph has been one of the government’s most vocal critics. He also pointed out that the government was acting on scientific advice and that this was often flawed. I agree that the advice has not been perfect. However, the main scientific and medical issues had been simulated by Cygnus (see above) and, it seems, ignored. The relationship between the empiricism of science and opportunism of politics is an uneasy one. I think that the last PM to have had a science degree was Margaret Thatcher.

He also suggested that there should be more of the good news spread. We have been doing this and will continue to do so. The dedication of the NHS staff, in the most demanding circumstances and with a creaking and under-funded structure, is beyond amazing. Both the NHS’s importance and its problems have been demonstrated to all: one result should be that the former will be reinforced and the latter fixed. The brake on human activity has also shown in countless different ways what our influence on the environment has been and, perhaps, how this might be mitigated (climate change remains an equally serious battle, as yet largely un-fought). Another welcome development has been the remarkable reaction of volunteer groups and parish and town councils which have in general acted swiftly and effectively. Hopefully these local connections will survive and be extended to other issues in the future. As our post on companies offering delivery and takeaway services shows, it’s encouraging how many businesses have rapidly re-invented themselves to serve local needs. For many, this might be an aspect of their businesses that remain in post-Covid times. A lot of organisations have also applied themselves to making PPE equipment for local health and care workers. Care homes are, for obvious reasons, particularly vulnerable at present, but we also want to mention the heartening story St Katharine’s in Wantage whose manager acquired PPE and put the place into lockdown two weeks before the official announcement: it has had no CV-19 cases at all so far. Most of these things have come from bottom-up initiatives. 

So, yes, there is much to celebrate about the reaction. Many things will be different in the future. Some might even  be better. This is also a uniquely good time to question how everything, from our national government to the way we purchase food, is organised so as to make sure we’re better prepared next time. As Einstein is credited as having observed, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

• For the first time I can remember, this week’s Newbury Weekly News has an opinion column. I hope this will continue as it’s interesting to know, whether or not one agrees with it, what the Editor happens to think is important that week. This column is concerned with the threat to local newspapers. Though obviously self-interested, it’s also incredibly important and I thoroughly support the sentiments. Having an independent and professionally written local printed paper is vital. I hope that the NWN and all other newspapers will survive this and take on more journalists to ask more questions of the organisations that have power and influence in the area. Subscribe today; and to your local village magazines, which most parishes have; and to Penny Post, of course.

• The paper itself is, as one might expect, dominated by the lockdown. On page 2 (actually the fifth page because of the wrap-around CV message) there’s a list of the advice the Thames Valley Police has given as to what is and what isn’t a reasonable cause to leave home. Differing views on Section 6 of the CV Emergency Bill, which is where the law is laid out, have caused a lot of heated debate in recent weeks, including in the paper’s letters section. You can read the guidance in full here. For example, driving to take exercise (providing that the exercise is longer than the drive) is permitted, contrary to what some people, including some police forces, had previously stated. (That being the case, it seems odd that some rural car parks remain closed, as reported elsewhere in the NWN). The TVP’s own website has slightly different guidance but it’s to be assumed that this is just a delay in updating the information. 

• On p4, the paper reports that West Berkshire Council has enough PPE for the organisations for which it’s responsible ‘for about a week’ and that it did not anticipate this worsening or being a concern. However, CEO Nick Carter admitted that there ‘has been an issue with the government’s new supply chain’, something on which many would agree. On Wednesday, his namesake the Chief of Defence Staff (see first paragraphs above) spoke of PPE deliveries needing to made to ‘over 50,000 organisations’ rather than the 250-odd trusts as previously. However, WBC’s Nick Carter said that the council ‘collects its supply from a depot in Oxford’ which suggests that the bulk delivery to the trusts is still being followed. I’m confused. Perhaps the next time the two men meet up at a Nick Carter convention they could clarify this.

• On the same page, the paper reports that the government grants, which are being made via the district councils, have started to arrive. This squares with information received from some of the businesses affected.

• Any organisation involved in health, well-being or social care has been issuing its own advice during the pandemic. One such is the Berkshire West Safeguarding Children partnership, whose #Coping advice can be seen here.

• One of the services that’s still functioning more or less as normal is the Royal Mail. One postman in Sheffield recently had to do some serious detective work to deliver a parcel that had been sent from Sweden. The envelope was addressed to ‘David Easton, somewhere in Sheffield’ and added the helpful information that his wife was probably called Helen, that he’d covered several Olympic Games for The BBC and that ‘he had a child or a dog or both.’ With the help of some research and social media, the package was delivered correctly. 

• Much of the rest of the paper, and the Wantage and Grove Herald, is concerned with highlighting a number of stories about life in lockdown, ranging from the problems faced by animal shelters to the gestures local businesses have made to support the vulnerable and health workers. Pp20-22 are entirely devoted to headshots of how people have coped with cutting their own hair or getting a family member to do it. The results can best be described as mixed. All the photos are of males: I don’t know whether females will be getting their section next week or whether they want to wait for a professional or whether they’ve gone DIY and judge the results too awful to share. At the foot of the page there’s an advert for a local hairdressers showing how it should be done.

• Anyone who cannot leave home may be able to ask a trusted friend or volunteer to withdraw cash at any Post Office using a single-use voucher. The Post Office scheme is being extended and offered to all banks, building societies and credit unions. The Post Office has also redesigned its overnight travel money delivery service to get cash to the most vulnerable people in England.

• To repeat what I’ve said before, our parish and town councils are assuming an important role in fighting this war. Your district council is doing what it can and should but the parishes are in this emergency of particular importance. A number of ad hoc and often informal volunteer organisations are being set up all across the country. In general, parish and town councils cannot run these but they can help co-ordinate activities. The Councillors and the Clerks will also probably know more about what is going on in their area than any other group and will probably also have contact details of people who either need help or are able to provide it. If you’re thinking of setting up a voluntary scheme for, for instance, arranging shopping deliveries or merely checking in on people, then I’d advise that your PC or TC should be your first port of call. it will be able to advise what local services are available and may be able to contact these on your behalf. We have a list of some of these organisation here.

This article suggests some things that might form part of the new normal for such bodies.

West Berkshire, Vale of White Horse, Wiltshire and Swindon Councils have, of course, set up their own web pages relating to the outbreak. It seems pointless to summarise what advice each is giving or to provide more than the highest-level links, so click here depending on what area you’re in: West Berkshire, Vale of White Horse, Wiltshire and Swindon.

• West Berkshire Council set up a Community Support Hub. Like so many things in these times this is constantly evolving but its main aim at the moment is to provide support and information for people who need advice. Click here to visit the website. You can also call 01635 503 579 to speak to the the Building Communities Together team. Much of the information may be available elsewhere: this service is helping to pull this together and provide a single point of contact. The Hub has also set up two FAQ pages, for residents and for businesses. You can also click here to sign up to receive the Hub’s e-bulletins and click here to see the weekly updates.

• In addition, a large number of volunteer organisations, are springing up to address the particular needs. See this article on the Penny Post website which provides information about local volunteer groups. If you know of any others that should be added, please let us know.

• The National Association of Local Councils has published some case studies showing how local councils at all levels have responded to the crisis.

• We also have a post about the financial support available to businesses as a result of the virus, which is amended as necessary – click here to see it. Many thinks to Charlotte and Tim from Monty Accounting in Hungerford for helping to keep this up to date. 

• And click here for a post listing the various places which are offering a takeaway and/or delivery service. As with the volunteers’ post above,  if you are aware of any others, let us know.

Click here for information about refuse and recycling collections during CV-19 in West Berkshire.

• The Muslim Council of Britain has released advice and information on how to continue the traditions and community spirit of Ramadan without breaching the government regulations.

• Away from Coronavirus, West Berkshire Council is consulting on its Housing Allocations Policy, which details how it will allocate social and affordable rental properties in its area. Click here to take part. Comments must be made by 3 May 2020.

• West Berkshire Council has suspended parking charges ‘until further notice.’

• The animals of the week are these ones in the Kruger National Park which have been making their own entertainment in the absence of humans.

• The letters section of the Newbury Weekly News this week includes support for the proposed Sungrove Farm in East Woodhay, criticism of exercise behaviour in Aldermaston, a question to West Berkshire Council about the closure of the recycling centres and a plea that the animal markets like the one in Wuhan where CV-19 probably started (other explanations also exist) should not be re-opened.. 

• A number of good causes have received valuable support. Yet again we’re not going to single anyone out – there are too many to name at present – but, once again, instead just give a general shout-out for all the volunteer groups in the area which have sprung up like the daffodils to provide assistance to those in most need of it. We’ve listed some of these here. This also seems like a good place to mention Greenham Trust which has set up a Coronavirus Emergency Fund for donations to local groups with full 1:1 match funding for all sums received.

Hungerford & district

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

• Hungerford Town Council is gathering a list of people who would be willing to offer their services in any future emergency, whatever form it might take  If you live in or near the town and would like to put yourself forward as a volunteer in such a situation, please email please email townclerk@hungerford-tc.gov.uk with your contact details and any information about any special skills, experience or equipment you have and any restrictions, such as circumstance in which you would not be willing to help. Your details will, with all due security, be kept on file and you’ll be contacted as necessary. Hopefully your services will not be called upon but, if they are needed, CV-19 has proved that a well co-ordinated local response is vital. The better prepared a community its, the faster this can happen.

• Once again, great to see that the Wednesday market in Hungerford is continuing, expertly marshalled once again by the Town and Manor’s Constable Nick Lumley. A reminder that you can  generally get fruit, veg, bread, cakes, meat, cheese, olives and (until noon) fish, the market being open from earlier than most of you would probably want to go shopping until about 2pm. Be prepared for a short queue and please follow the one-way system that’s been set up. 

• As mentioned last week, the cows are back on the Common. Please drive carefully and keep dogs on a lead.

• This week’s NWN covers, on p31, the controversial alterations which have been made to a home in Upper Edington for which retrospective planning permission has been lodged. The Town Council’s recent Planning Committee meeting expressed its objections in the strongest possible terms and, sufficient objections having been received, the matter Weill noe be called in for the Western Area Planning Committee to decide. As the NWN article points out, the residents of Upper Edington are no strangers to planning disputes: five years ago, retrospective planning permission was granted (on appeal to HM Planning Inspectorate) for two homes which bore virtually no relation to the ones for which permission had been granted, a decision which must have reduced West Berkshire’s planners to apoplexy. About 40 retrospective planning permissions are lodged every day and only about 12% of these get refused. The odds of 8/1 on are quite attractive for anyone seeking to avoid the inconvenience of obtaining permission. Whether one likes or dislikes this particularly set of alterations is beside the point. There is a system and everyone needs to follow it. 

• The same paper reports on the much-delayed Hungerford Marina project, the plans for which have been once again ‘downsized’. Permission was granted in 2016: the significance of the ‘groundbreaking’ that the article refers to is that permission lapses after two years if work hasn’t started. ‘Starting work’ doesn’t have to involve very much – perhaps widening a track starting levelling the site – but once this has happened the rest of the work can then be done pretty much when the developer decides. 

• Hungerford Town Council has announced that Hungerford in Bloom is open for (slightly different) business this year and hopes that more residents then ever will support this competition in the current circumstances. A children’s competition had also been added.

• If you in self-isolation as a result of being identified as ‘shielded’ then you may have received a food box from the government containing essential supplies. This might be very welcome and necessary; but if  you feel it would be better used by someone less fortunate than yourself in this crisis, call Geordie of the Hungerford Self-isolation Network on 07836 330815. He can have it collected from and ensure that its contents are distributed where they are most needed. You can also call this number if CV-19 has changed your circumstances and you’re in need of a weekly food delivery yourself. 

• There are currently three vacancies on Hungerford Town Councilsee here for the official notice. However, these will probably not be filled until it’s possible to hold public meetings again.

• We’ve published our monthly Penny Post Hungerford as usual and you can click here to read it if you didn’t receive it. The next one will be published on Tuesday 5 May – if there’s anything you want to see included, email penny@pennypost.org.uk.

Lambourn Valley

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

• Water is never far from people’s thoughts in the Lambourn Valley, whether it’s falling from the air, flowing gracefully down the river, gushing up from the underground springs (sometimes into homes) or flooding the sewage system. I was reminded today of another water-, or at least river-bed-, related incident: the strange case of the unauthorised dredging the East Garston in the winter of 2018. I need to check with the Environment Agency to see if the matter has been resolved: last time I did so, on the anniversary of the event, the matter was still being investigated. If an environmental undertaking has been made (an alternative to prosecution) then at least one local environmental charity will be the beneficiary of a donation from the offender and will be interesting to see what they plan to spend the money on. Watch this space.

• We’ve recently published East Garston’s 2020 Annual Parish Newsletter which has information about all the village’s groups and societies. Copies have been delivered to every household in the village. You can also click here to see it.

• A  reminder that Lambourn Parish Council is seeking input from residents about its neighbourhood development plan. For more information on how you can participate in this once-in-a-generation exercise, please click here.

Click here for the latest news from Lambourn Surgery

4 Legs Community Radio Station will on continue broadcasting during the CV crisis – click here for more

Newbury & district

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

Click here for a recent statement from Newbury Town Council in light of the Secretary of State’s announcement that parks should remain open during the pandemic.

Newbury Town Council has allocated £8,000 from its grant fund to assist projects and proposals helping the elderly, vulnerable and at-risk communities in Newbury in response to Covid-19.

• Newbury Town Council is running a consultation on the Skyllings Playground: click here for details.

•  A reminder that Newbury’s Mayor, Elizabeth O’Keefe, is making herself available to chat to local residents who are self-isolating. Click here for more information.

• The Newbury in Bloom 2020 campaign has been cancelled due to Covid-19

• Please click here for Hamstead Marshall.net, which provides an excellent round-up of what’s going on in and around the villag (including recently-updated information about the village’s new volunteer group). It also publishes the quarterly Hamstead Hornet – if you’d like subscribe (which is free), contact Penny Stokes at admin@hamsteadmarshall.net

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

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.

• Among the the many results of Covid-19 will be the word ‘cancelled’ next to event listings for VE Day parties on 8 May. Many villages, including Compton, will be holding ‘stay at home’ parties or similar instead. It’s hoped that restrictions might be lifted to enable some celebrations of VJ Day in august to take place.

• A similar approach is being taken in Brightwaltonclick here for more.

Click here to see the April Chaddleworth News. It was published a few weeks ago but I draw your attention to the useful information on the first page about volunteer groups in and around the village.

Thatcham and district

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

• Thatcham Town Council is looking for ambassadors, aged 16 and above, to help in a number of ways, promoting events, assisting with welcoming artists, suppliers and audiences and assisting with stewarding. Click here for details.

The Friends of Thatcham Parish Hall, which had to cancel a fundraising quiz last month, have organised a replacement version which can be done remotely. For details, email epanting2006@yahoo.co.uk. The quiz closes on 30 April.

• One Thatcham family’s display of support and positivity during CV-19 has spread to other communities in the town – see more here.

• The Newbury Weekly News reports on p17 that Cold Ash’s parish councillors are preparing to oppose fresh plans for 75 new homes at Coley Farm. The article explains that the original outline planning permission only just ‘scraped through’ approval by West Berkshire Council in 2017 after a deciding vote cast by the Chair of the Dostrict Planning Committee by Hilary Cole, one of Cold Ash’s ward councillors.

Click here to see the latest Cold Ash Community Bulletin which includes photographic evidence of ants being hopeless at social distancing.

Theale and district

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

• The District Councillor for Theale, Alan Macro, covers some virus-induced changes to local services and summarises the current local planning matters in his April newsletter which you can read here.

• As mentioned last week, life goes on and parish and town councils are adjusting the the new methods of working. 14 April was, for example, to have been the occasion of Aldermaston’s annual parish meeting but the PC decided to hold a normal parish Council meeting instead using videoconferencing. Matters discussed included one planning application (and another with the council decide not to make a submission on as it is in Brompton), various reports from local groups, confirmation that the response to the West Berkshire’s HELAA (land allocation assessment) had been made and agreeing a local grant. The meeting also reported that West Berkshire had recently approved four applications, all consistent with the PC’s recommendations. It was also reported that the local CV-19 support groups working well – for more information on this and other such groups, see this separate post. The full minutes will in due course appear on the council’s website.

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

Marlborough & district

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

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

• Click here for a statement from Wiltshire Council about financial grant support for small businesses as a result of Coronavirus.

• Cadley-based firm Dobie Wyatt, which in normal times makes protective tarpaulins, has shifted ins production to the more immediate need for PPE masks. Marlborough News takes up the story.

Marlborough News also reports that the Marlborough LitFest has launched its Love Books Competition something which, as the article points out, ‘aims to celebrate a love of reading amongst teenagers and adults, is perhaps even more important in these uncertain times.’  The original deadline of April 24 has now been extended to July 17. Click here for details.

• The same website reminds us that From 2 to 4 October 2 to October 4, all being well, Marlborough will be hosting its first festival of arts and science dedicated to celebrating the night sky. This article points out that the last week has provided some ideal night-viewing conditions and points out some of the things to look out for.

• The Gazette and Herald reports on the steps taken by villagers at Ufcott, between Marlborough and Swindon, to halt work on the Wroughton Airfield site which will, it is claimed, result 150 vehicle movements a day on a narrow village by-way.

• Wiltshire’s Chief Constable has said that crime in the county has fallen by more than a quarter since the lockdown began.

Click here for a list of current consultations being run by Wiltshire Council. 

Homestart Kennet is looking for volunteers to help with its projects in the area – click here for more information.

Wantage & district

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

• I mentioned last week about the uncertainties caused to the planning system by CV-19. On 14 April, the Leader of the Vale Council wrote a letter to the Secretary of State on this subject: you can read the whole text here

• It’s still unclear what the short-, medium- or long-term prognosis is for the Wantage Community Hospital, despite a request that the wards be re-opened.

• News here from the Wantage & Grove Campaign Group about a long-running battle with Network Rail. ‘Those of you with long memories will remember the fuss a couple of years ago when Network Rail wanted to demolish the railway bridge at Steventon. After a lot of fighting from Steventon residents the Vale refused permission in August 2018 and Network Rail launched an appeal. We heard today that the appeal has been withdrawn. They have agreed a new permanent speed limit set at 110mph for the railway through the village. This means that the B4107 bridge over the railway will not need to be removed and replaced as part of the Great Western Electrification Programme.’

Click here for information about online entertainment available from Cornerstone and The Beacon. 

• Julie Mabberley’s regular column on p8 of the Wantage & Grove Herald looks at the Planning Oxfordshire’s Environment and Transport Sustainably (POETS) group’s recent Vision for the Future of Oxfordshire document.

• Information here from the Vale Council here about waste collection services in the area.

• A further reminder that Wantage and Grove Campaign Group’s public meeting with David Johnston MP, Yvonne Constance, and Emily Smith which was planned for 22 May has been cancelled: however, the group has added a discussion forum to its website so that it can discuss the issuesand then send our questions to these people. Anyone registered to receive the W&GCG’s emails should be able to join in – click here to sign up for these.

• All charges are suspended in the District Council car parks at The Beacon and on Limborough Road until 1 June and during this time you do not have to display a ticket. Any outstanding car park permits, recently expired or due to expire, will also be honoured until that date – permit holders therefore do not need to take any action before then. 

Click here for other news from the Wantage and Grove Campaign Group

• 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.

• Click here for information on the location of defibrillators in and around Wantage.

Swindon & district

Latest news from Swindon Borough Council.

• Swindon Museum and Art Gallery has launched a new digital project to bring its collection of modern art to people’s living rooms.

• Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet approved the Town Centre Movement Strategy (TCMS) at its virtual meeting on 22 April.

• The Council is urging local businesses and organisations which might be eligible for government grants to apply if they are yet to do so.

• In common with our councils and fire services, Swindon Council and the Wiltshire and Dorset Fire Service are urging residents not to light bonfires during the pandemic.

Click here for information from Swindon Council about how Coronavirus is affecting its services as well as other useful information. 

• Swindon Borough Council will prioritise certain waste collections over the coming months amid the continuing Coronavirus crisis.

• A tailor from Wooton Basset has (so far) made over 400 face masks for staff at the Great Western. His are quite easy to spot as many of them feature cartoon characters.

• Bus-pass restrictions have been lifted for older and disabled people in Swindon.

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

The song and the quiz

• The Song of the Week isn’t a song at all but a piece of warm-up bluesy music played by the Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio (though there is only one organ) before a gig at the Upstream Music fest in London in May 2017. You can hear the bass part but there is no bassist: about half way through I realised the organist was playing the bass part with his feet, which I just can’t get how people can do. I particularly liked one comment said on the post: ‘I wish my wife looked at me the way the drummer looks at the organist.’ 

• And so the Quiz Question of the Week  winds matters up. This week’s question is: What unexpected goal-scoring record does Leicester City’s Ashley Barnes hold (and is likely to hold for at least another two or three weeks)? Last week’s question was: By roughly how many times does the biomass of the world’s insects exceed that of the world’s humans? Opinions differ, but one figure I saw said by a factor of about 30. However, insect numbers are declining quickly (about 2.5% a year according to some estimate). It’s not the kind of thing you immediately notice, like you might with elephants: but when they’re gone they’re gone and most of them do something very useful in the food chain. We’re all in this together…

Brian Quinn

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