Lambourn Ward update from District Councillor Howard Woollaston, October/November 2020

I am the ward member (district councillor) for Lambourn and the representative on West Berkshire Council. (The Lambourn Ward has the same borders as the parish of Lambourn.) These reports give a monthly summary of the work that I’ve been involved with in the ward. If matters take more than a month to resolve – which sadly is often the case – then expect to see them referred to more than once. You’ll see my contact details at the end of each section below if you need to get in touch about any of these, or anything else.

Just as some MPs also have executive responsibilities, so do some district councillors at local level. It might be useful to give you a quick overview of what mine are:

  • I have a seat on the nine-member Executive (WBC’s main decision-making body).
  • I am the Portfolio Holder for Public Health & Community Wellbeing, Leisure and Culture – as you might imagine this is a particularly demanding post at the best of times and particularly so currently.
  • I am also leading on the Leisure Centre and Football strategies which is, to put it mildly, another testing role.
  • I chair the Local Outbreak Engagement Board which now meets weekly, alternatively in public and in closed sessions. I would really welcome your watching as it gives everyone a close insight as to where we are in the pandemic locally. The next public one is on Monday November 9 at 6.00pm. I promise it will be for less than an hour! Click here for more information.
  • I am a member of the Western Area Planning Committee which considers planning issues which either relevant the ward member/s or a sufficient number of residents feel need to be looked at more closely before a decision is made.

My colleague Clive Hooker is the ward member for Downlands, which includes the parishes of East Garston and Great Shefford, so please contact him if your enquiry relates to that area.

Notes: The reports were provided at the end of the first-named month below. Any links in the text have been added by Penny Post which will take you to articles on the Penny Post website or elsewhere

October/November 2020

Lambourn Junction

I am delighted that Lambourn Junction has a new home in Baydon House in the High Street. I went to visit Julie Blogg and her team shortly after it opened. Thanks again to Sovereign Housing for allowing its use – a perfect location and likely to be even more in need over the next few weeks.

Lambourn Parish Council

I attended the October Parish Council meeting but unfortunately not November’s as it clashed with the Western Area Planning Committee (see above). You can see Penny Post’s report of the meeting by clicking here.

Sewage and flooding

I am aware that this recurring matter was discussed at the above-mentioned Parish Council meeting. I have had further discussions with the Environment Agency and Thames Water about potential flooding and we continue to make progress – fingers firmly crossed.

Lambourn’s NDP

The Lambourn Neighbourhood Development Plan continues to make steady progress with the draft pre-consultation version with West Berkshire’s Planning Team so that they can understand areas of concern and our potential direction of travel. Again, this was discussed at the Parish Council meeting (see link above).

Flu jabs

I’m not great with needles and injections but I rose above this last week and went to have my flu jab. I have to say that the organisation at the Sports Club in Lambourn was unbeatable: as for the jab itself, I didn’t feel a thing. Well done to all those involved.

Most of the over-65s have now had their jabs but, if you haven’t, get in touch with Lambourn Surgery to make an appointment (you may get a prompt from them in any case). If you are under 65 and in eligible group, the Surgery will contact you. If you are registered with a different surgery then other arrangements might apply. See here for the NNS page on flu jabs generally.

And finally…

Finally, the lockdown. None of us want it and to a degree it is a little unfair on us here in Lambourn as we are currently one of the least affected areas in the country. West Berkshire is relatively low and Lambourn and Hungerford have the lowest infection rate in the district. However, I think it is important that we all follow the rules. It should only be for four weeks after which we can hopefully get something close to a normal-ish Christmas if we all pull together to beat this thing…

Get in touch

If there’s anything you want me to look into, get in touch on 07836 718100 or Howard.woollaston1@westberks.gov.uk – lockdown or not, I’ll do my best to help.

September/October 2020

John O’Gaunt School

I recently had a meeting with Richard Hawthorne, the Head of John O’Gaunt School in Hungerford, and some of the Trustees of Excalibur Trust (which runs the academy of which JOG is a part) to discuss home-to-school transport issues from Lambourn.

(Richard only took over his new role in June. As you might imagine, he has had his time fully occupied with keeping up with an implementing the ever-changing guidance and regulations. He’s been keeping a diary of his interesting experiences over the last few months which you can see here.)

Sewage and flooding issues

I chair the Lambourn Valley Flood Forum, which comprises representatives of all of the villages in the valley, Thames Water, the Environment Agency and West Berkshire District Council. Few will need reminding that flooding – mainly into the sewer pipes – is a problem in the area and one I’m working hard to resolve. The is is complex and multi-faceted and there is not a quick fix (however, I remain confident that there is a fix). I’m glad to report that for the first time since I took on the role, I came away feeling that there was a real determination to resolve our issues. • See all the previous monthly sections below for more on this.

Lambourn’s NDP

I am a member of the Lambourn Neighbourhood Development Plan Steering Group, excellently chaired by Sue Cocker. We had a productive meeting with the consultancy firms and the document should be out for consultation to the wider community shortly. Your input will be highly valued: indeed is vital, as an NDP can only succeed if it is a genuine community enterprise. • See the July/August section below for more on NDPs in general and Lambourn’s in particular.

I had a useful update meeting with Will Riggall of Jockey Club Estates looking at the various planning issues in Upper Lambourn and how they impact the racing community. This will also feed into the NDP discussions (see above).

Broadband in Upper Lambourn

Superfast broadband in Upper Lambourn continues to be a bugbear. A friend of mine, Jarvis Woolger, has been in touch with a few of you to explore whether there might be a 4G solution at least in the short term. Like the problem of the sewage (though for very different reasons) this is not simple to fix. • See the August/September section below for more on this.

Lambourn Junction

This is a truly marvellous initiative which is still very much needed. Finding a suitable and long-term location has been a problem in recent months and I have been helping Julie Blogg arrange matters with Sovereign Housing to locate Lambourn Junction in Baydon House on the High Street. This has now all been signed and Lambourn Junction has moved. Many thanks to Sovereign Housing for the help and support on this one.

Eastbury

In Eastbury I have followed up James Potter’s excellent idea of new signs at the top and bottom of Straight Lane and Eastbury Shute to try and deter lorries and vans going down this small rural roads. I have also asked for the road lines to be repainted at the bottom of Straight Lane after a recent near accident and have finally got confirmation that the unused metal street pole at the eastern end of the village will be removed. Finally four rumble strips – two in the village itself and one on each of the approaches on the valley road – will be being installed. This has been held up a bit but officers at West Berkshire Council have assured me recently that these will be installed by the end of March, and hopefully sooner.

And finally

On top of that, there are the continuing issues, throughout the parish, of speeding, parking and potentially unsafe trees.

Meanwhile, in the Council in September…

As mentioned at the had of the post, I chair the Local Outbreak Engagement Board which proposes action in the event of a localised Covid-19 outbreak. Until recently it met monthly in public but, in view of the increasing number of cases, now meets weekly, alternating between public and private sessions. The public ones can be watched on Youtube. As Executive Policy Holder for Public Health & Community Wellbeing , Leisure and Culture, you will not be surprised to hear that the workload is currently high. Even in these times of rising cases, West Berkshire remains one of the safer places to live which hopefully will continue.

See also this leaflet on West Berkshire Council’s Local Outbreak Control Plan.

Covid-19 casts its shadow over everything but as a council we need to keep a large number of other wheels turning and this includes getting your feedback on some decisions that we need to make. There are several active consultations at present, some of which close quite soon. More details can be found here.

Our libraries are now open again (though with different arrangements in place, as you would imagine). More information can be found here.

I need to finish where I started. With life now moving indoors and Covid cases on the rise, it’s more important than ever that we all do what we can to minimise the spread and follow the government guidelines.

As ever, please get in touch if I can help at all – 07836 718100 or Howard.woollaston1@westberks.gov.uk.

Get in touch

If there’s anything you want me to look into, let me know on 07836 718100 or Howard.woollaston1@westberks.gov.uk – it’s what I’m here for…

August/September 2020

Broadband in Upper Lambourn

Several residents of Upper Lambourn will not need telling that they have an appallingly slow broadband service. As mentioned before, I have been trying to help resolve this long-standing and complicated issue (many different agencies and companies have been or involved). I was also very recently made aware of a consultation from Superfast Berkshire on this matter which ends on 26 September. You can see it here. It’s not very easy to follow but I shall contact SFB next week and try to get a plain-language explanation of what action people need to take which I shall pass on to the relevant residents.

Planning issues

There have been a large number of planning applications, particularly in Upper Lambourn, and I had a very productive meeting with Will Riggall of Jockey Club Estates so that I have a better understanding of the issues from a racehorse training perspective. The big future application is Lynch Lane. The site is allocated for 60 residential units in the local plan and, as it is greenfield, WBC expects 40% of these to be affordable: much needed in Lambourn. I have had a meeting with the developer who is seeking to increase the density and a meeting with the Parish Council is being arranged. Once the application has been put in everyone will have a chance to view and comment.

Sewage (again)

One of the problems that will come up will, of course, be any further impact on our sewerage system (indeed, this is likely to re-appear even if no new homes are built). I recently had a useful meeting with representatives of Thames Water and West Berkshire Council in Upper Lambourn with Jack Brown and Rachel Carden to try again to find a solution – we certainly do not want a repetition of winter 2019-20. The key problem, as ever, is high groundwater levels infiltrating the sewers through cracks in the pipes. Thames Water has invested in some high-tech kit to try and spot these but it can only be used when the ground-water levels are high enough to spot the water coming in but not so high that the pipes start to fill. They have to hit the sweet spot (although on reflection I am not sure that is the happiest phrase to use when talking about sewage). I am chairing the Lambourn Valley Flood Forum in mid-September so will know more after that.

Lambourn’s NDP

I am also actively involved with the Neighbourhood Development Plan which will soon come out for consultation. The team, led by Sue Cocker, has put an enormous amount of energy into its development for which they must be congratulated and thanked.

Other matters

The work of a district councillor also includes helping people or organisations resolve problems. These can be many and various and, in a single-member ward like Lambourn I get to see them all. Some of the private matters I have recently got involved with include trying to resolve a parking issue, hopefully securing a solution to the new location for Lambourn Junction, working on behalf of a resident to sort out a community infrastructure levy dispute and helping to address the recurring concerns about speeding in the area.

If there’s anything you feel I can help you with, please get in touch with me on 07836 718100 or Howard.woollaston1@westberks.gov.uk. If I can’t help (and some matters may be beyond my or WBC’s ability to influence) I’ll do my best to direct you to someone who can.

July/August 2020

Broadband in Upper Lambourn

To repeat the points I made last month, many of you will be aware that this is in places absurdly slow and has obviously been a particular problem during lockdown. Although West Berkshire is one of the best served areas for superfast broadband in the UK, this is of no comfort people whose speeds are still virtually at 1990s dial-up levels. Rest assured that I’m continuing to do my best to get this improved.

Lambourn Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP) working party

I am delighted to be a member of this. As many of you will be aware, NDPs provide a way by which parishes can directly influence planning decisions, effectively by agreeing certain matters in advance with the planning authority. Each needs to pass through several stages as prescribed by law. These include public consultations, an external examination and, finally, a public referendum. If it passes all these tests, the NDP then becomes as much part of the districts’s local plan as if the planning authority had written it itself. The process can take several years (Lambourn’s began in October 2018). As in the past, the NDP group will periodically be inviting the views or residents – you’re urged to respond to these as your input will be influential. There’s more information about NDPs here.

Planning issues

I have been involved in various planning applications including Walkers at Membury, Trabbs Farm which was given consent and Fognam Farm. I have met with the developers of the proposed residential scheme on the land adjacent to Lynch Lane in Lambourn. This is an allocated site, but their proposals are for over 100 houses and I will be having a further meeting with them and the Parish Council to try to reduce their aspirations. I think it is well known that I support the need for more affordable housing in Lambourn, but this seems to me to be more than a step too far.

Speed limits

I have have been lobbying for reduce speed limits on the approach to Membury Industrial Estate and continuing discussions with the Highways Department as to how to reduce speeding on the five main approaches to Lambourn.

Thames Water

The discussions with Thames Water continue about how to avoid a repetition of the flooding and sewage events that we saw this winter in the future. We have to find a solution! This article provides a background to to the problem

Lambourn Junction

I have offered my support to Julie Blogg who has kindly agreed to take over the running of Lambourn Junction.

The Leisure Centre

I visited the Lambourn Centre in July and am delighted that this and the other such centres in the area are starting to re-open.

Interviews

I’m aware that those of you who don’t know me may (perhaps) be interested in finding out more about who your local ward member is. As well as the interview with Penny Post which I mentioned last month, I was also delighted to have been interviewed by Suzi Cairns for 4 LEGS Radio on 24 July.

Get in touch

Please contact me if I can help on 07836 718100 or Howard.woollaston1@westberks.gov.uk.

June/July 2020

Sewage

First, I must shine a light on the (waterlogged) elephant in the room. As Chairman of the Lambourn Valley Flood Forum, on 22 June we recently had a further (virtual) meeting attended by Thames Water, the Environment Agency and representatives from West Berkshire Council, the parish councils in the upper Lambourn Valley and other interested parties. This article provides a background to to the problem as well as a report on the discussion at this event of the local sewage issues.

There is no doubt that Thames Water has done a great job at the quick fix of tankers, at significant cost to them, but we have stressed yet again the need for a permanent solution. The sheer scale of the problem is extraordinary but I will continue along with our MP Laura Farris to press for a way to resolve this.

Eastbury and Lambourn traffic-calming measures

I’m aware that this has been an issue in the village for some time. Moz Bulbeck-Reynolds, one of the Parish Councillors, and I met with WBC Highways in Eastbury to agree traffic-calming measures. This will involve a rubberised surface in four areas of the village which will look like cobblestones and not be visually too intrusive and should help slow traffic. which should be put in place over the October half term. If they prove successful we will look to see if it can be rolled out on the five access roads to Lambourn. We are also looking at improving the entrance gates to Lambourn which will hopefully have a further effect on curtailing speeding, as they appear to have done elsewhere. Finally, I have raised again the proposed 20mph speed limit in Eastbury.

Volunteering in Lambourn

Lambourn Junction has been a revelation to me and I would like to see if we can build on the preparedness of people to volunteer and help to improve the appearance and feel of Lambourn as a community. I am going to try to get a working party Zoom meeting arranged to discuss possible ideas whilst people remain so focussed and enthused. Helen and Christian Noll have already kindly agreed to be involved. If you have any suggestions or would like to participate in these discussions, please let me know (see below). More on this to follow.

Planning issues

There have been a number of local planning applications which I am keeping a close eye on to protect this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty whilst recognising that there is a need for more housing, particularly that which is affordable.

Broadband

I am also trying to resolve the issue of superfast broadband (or lack of) in Upper Lambourn. This is one of a handful of problems in West Berkshire. As a district, we are one of the best connected anywhere in the UK apart from the major cities but I appreciate that that is of zero consolation to those who continue to have connectivity problems, particularly in these times when a fast and reliable internet service is professionally and socially vital. I’m aware that this is a long-running issue which long pre-dates my election as your Ward Member in May 2019 but rest assured that I’m doing what I can to ensure that this is addressed. If anyone in the ward feels that they have a broadband issue that I might not be aware of, please get in touch (see below).

Who am I?

I’ve been your Ward Member since May 2019 but, particularly due to the circumstances of the last few months, I have not had the opportunity to meet as many of you I would have liked at the various public events in the area that normally take place. For those of you who don’t know me, or who would like to know what my choice of music, reading material and luxury object would be were I to be invited on Desert Island Discs (which hasn’t so far happened), here’s an interview I recently did with Penny Post.

Whether you agree with my choices or not, I’m here to represent you. If you have anything you’d like to raise with me, on the above matters or anything else, please get in touch with me at Howard.woollaston1@westberks.gov.uk  or 07836 718 100.

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