Hungerford Town Council Update May/June 2020

Note: due to Coronavirus, there have been several changes to the way in which Hungerford Town Council’s (HTC’s) business is being conducted. These are variously referred to in the sections below.

These notes incorporate some but not all of the matters discussed at the Full Hungerford Town Council Meeting on 1 June 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.

HTC = Hungerford Town Council; WBC = West Berkshire Council; WAPC = WBC’s Western Area Planning Committee.

Full Council Meetings take place 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 the foreseeable future, these meetings will be conducted online. Please see the Virtual Council Meetings section below for more on this, including how you can continue to participate in these meetings in other ways.

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

Police report

The following statement was received from the local TVP team and read out by the Mayor:

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic we are continuing to Police the town and wider area in a slightly different way. Furthermore to support the ongoing recovery of the UK we are expecting more changes to the way we work in the weeks to come.

We were due to return to Newbury Police Station, however our stay at the Tri-station in Hungerford has been extended. This enables us to maintain social distancing amongst our ffficers and staff. We are continuing to provide a visible presence in the town, in our smaller villages and the surrounding rural areas. We are engaging with our public to encourage and educate on the Governments regulations. Again I am pleased to say the majority of people are complying.

13 May saw the government slightly relax the Lockdown with the new guidance encouraging people to return to work. It also allowed for people to visit public outdoor spaces, take outdoor exercise as much as they like and meet one person from another household. From 1 June, the lockdown has been further relaxed with changes on the meeting of family and friends. This could see meetings of up to six people in open public spaces and gardens whilst maintaining a two metre social distance.

I am pleased to report that this month crime in the town remains low. Two shopliftings occurred at the beginning of the month and a vehicle inference was reported on the 29 May after car doors were discovered wide open. Nothing however appears to have been stolen. If anyone has any information regarding this please contact us.

General information

You can report online at https://www.thamesvalley.police.uk, but if it is urgent please continue to call on 101 (non-emergency) and 999 in an emergency.

• People 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.”

Kennet Radio

Apologies – due to an error this section was omitted from the report and was added on 4 June 2020.

Julian Swift-Hook of Kennet Radio said that the station had ambitions to extend its FM coverage further east to include Hungerford (it’s currently available there and anywhere else online). The process of obtaining a licence would be assisted by a letter of support in principle from the Town Council; and this HTC agreed to provide. He stressed that all matters of detail would need to be discussed at a later date and that the question of where any transmitter would be sited would be a matter for WBC’s planning system to determine.

The Nursery School

Suzanne Taylor, the Head Teacher at the Hungerford Nursery School, addressed the meeting to update the Council on the continued work done by the Nursery School during lockdown and to remind them that the underlying national funding issue was still unresolved. HTC and, on behalf of WBC, the District Councillors offered her their thanks for her team’s continued offered and offered the support of both organisations. More information can be found in the separate post here.

Mayor’s report

The Mayor’s report is usually a list of meetings and events she attended: for obvious reasons, there were none of these in May (aside from virtual ones). Instead, the Mayor provided the following report.

Another month in shielding lockdown – and how spoilt we have been with the weather. I was lucky enough to take a week off with my husband, during which we tested the new operating procedures at the waste recycling centre in Newbury. We felt it was working really well and was well managed and organised.

Following a call of concern and distress from a small business on the High Street, I wish to thank District Councillor Dennis Benneyworth for assisting me to support this business directly. Between us, we have successfully overcome an issue which meant the business (which was previously unable to claim the SBRR government loan) has now successfully qualified for this and is now in receipt of the funds. [Councillor Benneyworth explained at the meeting that issue was a complex one and involved a discretionary element: he also paid tribute to the WBC officers who grasped the urgency of the problem and for resolving matters so quickly]. This helps secure the future of this small firm which has been established in the town for the last 20 years. The owner contacted me on Friday afternoon to say thank you and that she was completely overjoyed and very relieved – a great result!

It’s important to stress that any business requiring advice or assistance should get in touch with HTC. If we can’t help, we can certainly signpost you to the appropriate person.

Although I have been unable to attend outside meetings there are still many actions and decisions that require my attention. I know the Town Clerk and Deputy Town Clerk remain extremely busy with actions and revised practices. I wish to thank all HTC staff for their support and tenacity during Covid-19 outbreak. I believe Hungerford has managed this pandemic well and is blessed to have an army of willing volunteers.

There are always challenges to overcome. I hope we’ve highlighted processes that could be improved upon. I’m sure there will be reviews following reflection on our Covid-19 response.

We are now looking to support residents and businesses to safely transition into a strange new ‘normal’ as we start to reopen. I hope Hungerford residents will be patient and understanding as we emerge, showing consideration and support to residents who could still feel quite uneasy and anxious because of the changes to lives from this on-going pandemic.

I would also like to clarify HTC’s position following a report in the 28 May 2020 edition of Newbury Weekly News. In May’s R&A Committee meeting, the committee agreed to form a working party to discuss onward viability of the TFMC (Triangle Field Management Committee) and consider any further amendments to HRFC’s (Hungerford Rugby Club’s) hire agreement. I would like to formally state that HTC has a very good working relationship with both HRFC & TFMC and that all past concerns – from over two years ago – have been addressed and the club continues to grow and thrive. HTC wishes to ensure this town-owned asset is managed and maintained and remains a valuable community space for sport and recreation.

District Councillors’ report

All three District Councillors were present for the whole of the meeting.

Councillor Dennis Benneyworth remarked that some sense of normality was slowly returning with the schools starting to come back and non-essential businesses re-opening and that these would present their own challenges. He stressed a point relating to the intervention he and the Mayor had made in a problem for a local business (see Mayor’s Report above) and also referred to the item referred to as ‘special expenses’ in the HTC agenda: a slightly tangled issue concerning the phasing of charges made by WBC to HTC for some of the street lights in the town which he had helped resolve.

Councillor Claire Rowles summarised some recent changes to the committee membership involving the Ward Members following WBC’s Annual Meeting on 12 May. She is on Licensing and Governance and Ethics; James Cole is on Licensing (as Chair) and the Overview and Scrutiny Management Commission, as well as being WBC’s Heritage Champion; and Dennis Benneyworth is on the District and the Western Area Planning Committees. Full details of all WBC committees can be found here.

Councillor James Cole explained about some of the experiences of running a council under the recent restrictions and referred to a long list of necessary regulations which made life at the offices quite challenging. He also described how a recent three-hour Licensing Committee meeting needed to pause every ten minutes or so to confirm that everyone had heard what had been said in the previous period. He also pointed out that there were further uncertainties ahead if meetings were to take place partly in person and partly online.

All three District Councillors praised the work done by WBC’s Community Hub, which helps to co-ordinate the district’s response to the crisis, seems to be working well – see here for details.

Hungerford 2036 (neighbourhood development plan)

The project team is currently receiving information from possible developers in Hungerford based on information supplied in WBC’s HELAA report published earlier this year. It is also discussing with WBC about its producing HELAA-style report into three new sites which have been identified since the HELAA was finalised. It’s hoped that the H2036 team will be able to conduct a public consultation during the autumn of 2020 on this important aspect of its work.

For more information, see the Hungerford 2036 post here.

HTC’s committees

Environment and Planning. Six applications were considered at the meeting on 11 May, with five no objections and one objection on grounds of increased size and layout. District Councillor Benneyworth confirmed that there no Hungerford-related matters at the next meeting of the WAPC on 20 May. Councillor Gaines advised that there were two important items on the agenda of the next HTC E&P meeting on Monday 8 June.

Recreation and amenities. The most recent meeting took place on 19 May at which various items were discussed. An update was provided by the Marsh Lane Allotment-holders (HAHA), which has 100% occupancy. Fundraising is in progress for water tanks. The HAHA Chairman confirmed that all government guidelines are being adhered to. Regarding the Rugby Club, a working party was to be set up to discuss the the review of HRFC’s rent agreement. HT’s maintenance employee has been able to get back to work and a list of works has been prioritised by the Clerk. A keyless system will be installed at the Croft Field Activity Centre, funded by S106 revenue. Finally, a working party has been set up to discuss and plan improvements to both the Bridge Street war memorial and Tragedy garden site.

Highways and Transport. The most recent meeting took place on 22 May at which various items were discussed. Progress on the possibility of re-locating to taxi rank from its current position under the bridge to either in front of the Corn Exchange or the railway station car part has been slow due to personnel changes at GWR and Covid-19. The Smarten Up Hungerford team  would put forward siting options for the new troughs for the plants. Re-painting or cleaning up the telephone control boxes will also be undertaken by SUH with the appropriate permissions.

For further details on HTC’s committees, including membership, agendas and minutes, please click here (and go to the ‘Town Council’ tab).

Speeding traffic

Since the lockdown there has been an increase in the amount of traffic that is speeding in the area. WBC is aware of this problem and has offered suggestions to help. Members of HTC’s Highways and Transport Committee will work with WBC to address this issue.

The Hungerford Tragedy memorials

There are two of these in the town, one near the Football Club and the other in St Lawrence’s Church. For reasons described in this separate post, the latter will need to be relocated and the Church and HTC are considering options. Two possibilities have been proposed by the Church and a third was proposed at the HTC meeting. See the above-mentioned post for more information, including how you can make your views known.

Social distancing after 15 June

HTC recognises that the re-opening of non-essential shops from 15 June will pose some challenges. Several shops are located in clusters, so leaving little room for queueing outside and in places (particularly in Bridge Street) the pavements are very narrow. HTC’s officers and its Highways and Transport Committee have been working with WBC and other organisations to find safe and workable solutions, and these are being given top priority. Options being considered include temporary pavement signs and the suspension of some parking bays. As the situation, and the resulting government advice, is likely to be subject to change, so might the measures that are put in place in Hungerford.

HTC is also aware that precautions need to be taken by by HTC itself and all other owners or occupiers of buildings which have been empty for some time to guard against the risk of Legionella, which is associated with stagnant water and air-conditioning systems. This sometimes fatal disease has symptoms similar in some ways to those of Coronavirus.

Hungerford’s public toilets

HTC hopes that the public toilets nest to The Library can be re-opened from 15 June if this will be consistent with social-distancing requirements and government regulations.

Hungerford’s pigeons

This is a recurring problem and will become more acute with the re-opening of the shops and the consequent need for outdoor queuing. As previously mentioned, this is a long-standing problem to which there is no easy solution. The best long-term plan is for suitable measures to be put in place on every building and structure in or near the High Street which will require a wide level of co-operation. The local Public protection Partnership and WBC are aware of the problem and HTC has set up a working group. WBC has also said that its street-cleaning teams will visit the High Street as often as possible.

Virtual council meetings

HTC has been as active as possible in supporting the community through these challenging times. Many tasks and activities cannot currently take place but HTC’s councillors and officers are still active online. The most important recent development has been the resumption of HTC’s full council and committee meetings.

Between late March and early April, the combination of social-distancing rules and the fact that voting could not take place save in person meant that all council meetings were suspended. However, following government legislation and guidance from professional bodies, these have now resumed virtually. The link for each meeting is on the agenda which is published on the HTC website a few days before each meeting. For anyone unable or unwilling to attend meetings in this way, questions can be sent by email to townclerk@hungerford-tc.gov.uk or by post to The Town Clerk, Hungerford Town Council, The Library, Church Street, Hungerford RG17 0JG. These need to arrive by 2pm on the day of the meeting. You can also phone 01488 686 195 and leave your question on HTC’s answerphone (this is not always checked every day so please leave your message three days before the meeting).

HTC’s register of volunteers

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.

Hungerford in Bloom 2020

Please see this post for information about changes to this year’s competition (including children’s competition on the theme of a miniature garden).

Hungerford Town Council office

The HTC office at The Hub is currently closed but emails and phone messages are being monitored.  Call 01488 686 195 to leave a message or (preferably) email admin@hungerford-tc.gov.uk.

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 any meeting 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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Covering: Hungerford, Marlborough, Wantage,   Lambourn, Newbury, Thatcham & Theale