Lambourn Ward update from District Councillor Howard Woollaston: May/June 2024

I am the Ward Member (District Councillor) for Lambourn and your representative on West Berkshire Council (WBC). (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 below if you need to get in touch about any of these, or anything else.

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.

Note also that as this post has been built up from monthly updates over several years, in a few cases the web links may now be showing as “broken” (scored through). If on being clicked they produce an error message this may be either because the organisation has changed the page address or because the matter (such as a consultation) is now over and done with and the page has been taken down. 

May/June 2024

As you’ll be aware, the General Election has been called for 4 July and I would urge you to get a postal vote and/or get yourself on the Electoral Roll. Whichever party you support, I believe that it is one of the most important citizen’s rights to vote for a government. For more information, please see this page on WBC’s website.

For me, the next four weeks will be unbelievably busy so please bear with me if I do not respond as quickly as usual.

Council business continues as usual but there are clear rules that anything which is politically sensitive which could affect the vote is temporarily banned.

This has been a surprisingly quiet month for me, partly I am sure because of the two bank holidays and school half terms. My apologies for a shortened version of this column compared to normal.

Sewage and flood risks

Laura Farris’s meeting with the relevant minister proved productive and we have an in-principle agreement that a fluvial consultancy will be paid for out of government funds (that clearly might change). She had proposed holding a public meeting in Lambourn on the matter with Thames Water and the Environment Agency but this has been put on hold because of the election.

Vicky Rieunier, Chair of Lambourn Parish Council arranged a meeting with three operational members of Thames Water, also attended by Chris Harris, Rachel Carden, and me. She is preparing a note of the meeting including action points to go onto the Parish Council Website, Lambourn.org and Penny Post so I will not steal her thunder: but suffice to say it was a very positive and effective session which gives me some encouragement that there may be light at the end of the tunnel. I asked all of the questions which have been raised with me and was generally pleased with the responses.

Groundwater levels continue to fall and are about to get to a position when TW can put cameras into the sewer pipes and find out exactly where the problems are.

Lambourn’s Neighbourhood Development Plan

We are almost there at last. The Steering Group had a final session with our planning consultants and identified the few remaining areas that still needed input. With a following wind we will have it submitted to West Berkshire Council in July, after which it needs to go to a final referendum (organised by WBC) and then off to the Inspector before coming back to residents for a referendum. If approved, it then becomes a very important document in the planning process.

Lambourn Parish Council Annual Assembly

As your Ward Member I attended this and made a brief speech outlining key issues over the last 12 months – not surprisingly, most were water and sewage related.

You can click here to read the full text of the Chair’s address to the meeting in which she summarised the Parish Council’s work over the last year and some of its aspirations for the year to come.

Senior government visitor

For obvious security reasons I cannot identify the identity, but along with our previous MP, Laura Farris, I will be welcoming a senior government minister to Lambourn this Tuesday 4 June. The intention is to allow him to meet some people in Market Square at 2.30 and then to go on to meet some racehorse trainers to discuss the impact on our key local industry through potentially damaging gambling legislation.

Get in touch

Whatever is concerning you please do get in touch on 07836 718100 or howard.woollaston1@westberks.gov.uk

April/May 2024

So now we have had the wettest April since records began in 1835. When is this rain going to stop and we can get a dry spring with the groundwater dropping? I for one have had enough of it and I am sure that I am not alone.

Sewage and flood risks

Laura Farris, the Newbury MP held a surgery in Goodies Café on 26 April morning. Needless to say, the main topic was sewage and flooding. Earlier that morning she met with Vicky Rieunier, Chris Harris, Rachel Carden, and me to look for a way forward with Thames Water.

She had already arranged a meeting with the Environment Secretary, and we agreed that she would ask for a grant to get an expert consultant to advise on fluvial and hydrological issues to assess ways in which the impact of both groundwater and rainfall can be controlled to minimise flooding and groundwater infiltration into the sewers down the valley.

She has also decided to hold a public meeting in Lambourn on the matter. The date will be announced by Penny Post and Lambourn.Org

As I have said many times there is no quick fix, but we need an holistic approach coordinating all agencies.

In the meantime, the Parish Council is arranging a further meeting with the operational staff at TW to better understand the issues and possible solutions. I intend to also attend.

There was however one quick fix, in Eastbury. The Environment Agency had a weed cut which almost immediately removed the flooding in front of the church and have promised to repeat the exercise quarterly. I also arranged for WBC’s contractors to clean Back Street to remove the slime on the road.

Thames Water has confirmed that it has lined 10.1km of sewer pipes and sealed 134 manholes to date. They have funding agreed for a further 548m and 13 manholes from the source down to Great Shefford, for this summer, subject obviously to groundwater levels.

I am very conscious that now the sewage release and flooding have to some extent stopped, that there is a serious danger that the issues will go to the back of peoples’ minds. This will only rear its head again when the groundwater once again starts to rise. Realistically, this could happen at any time. Also, low groundwater provides an ideal opportunity for checking and repairing the pipes, so we need to ensure TW is doing this.

We cannot take our foot off the pedal and must maintain pressure.

A group for the whole of the River Lambourn

This group has now kicked off and I am arranging a meeting to get the framework of the report agreed.

Asphalt Plant Membury Industrial Estate

No change on my comment a month ago. The Planning Department at the Council is under massive pressures and to compound it the Head of the team has medical issues and is on sick leave. The good news is that a new Service Lead for all things planning, including enforcement, has been appointed but he is unable to take up the reins until he is contractually allowed in July. In the meantime, an outsourced contract has been put in place to speed up the whole process and in particular registration of applications.

Members’ bids

The flagpole above the Church in Lambourn was erected on schedule and the St. George’s Flag was flying prominently on 23 April,  St George’s Day. I have agreed with Lambourn Parish Council that my next bid will be to refurbish the public WC at the Memorial Hall at a cost of about £10,000 half funded by the PC and half from my bid from WBC’s CIL pot.

Neighbourhood Development Plan

Final consultations on the plan were held in Eastbury, Lambourn Woodlands and, two in Lambourn in April. The plan will hopefully be submitted to West Berks Council by early summer and then onto the Planning Inspector before a final referendum for the Parish. It has only taken 5 years so far!

The Steering Group, chaired by Sue Cocker, is very conscious of residents’ concerns of residential development before the sewage issues are fixed. However, we are short of housing and particularly affordable housing which has been detailed in a Housing Needs Assessment commissioned from an outside consultant. The WBC Local Pan assumes up to 90 Residential units for Lambourn of which 40% would be affordable, during the period of the plan to 2040. To reinforce the NDP’s views. The plan states very clearly none until sewage is fixed.

Casework

A slight respite over Easter but it still continues apace. Major issues this month mostly revolve around Housing and Planning but inevitably water and sewage. A new issue is trail bikers up by Lynch Wood mostly at weekends. Not only are they noisy, but they are tearing up the ground which of course is still virtually saturated. I have promised to contact the Chief Inspector at Newbury to see if they can do some spot checks.

A lady in Eastbury has discovered that she is paying for the electricity for a flip (similar to a non-reverse valve preventing sewage backing up into houses) from her own meter! I am taking this up with Thames Water.

Get in touch

Whatever is concerning you please do get in touch on 07836 718 100 or howard.woollaston1@westberks.gov.uk

March/April 2024

The leaves are sprouting on the trees and hedgerows which will hopefully mean that the groundwater levels will begin to drop but we still need an end to what seems to be continuing heavy rainfall to have any real effect. Sadly, the usual Lambourn Good Friday open stables event had to be cancelled this year – this was mainly because of waterlogged fields creating parking issues but also because of the thought that sewage in the roads would not have been a good look for visitors to Lambourn (which it wouldn’t).

Unsurprisingly, this update is understandably long on sewage and flooding issues.

Sewage and flood risks

The good news is that after jet-washing of pipes by Thames Water the leaking sewage by the Fire Station in Newbury Street has stopped. Tankering has significantly solved the problem in Goose Green and is easing the situation in Oxford Street in Lambourn. Eastbury sewage leaks had ceased by tankering but has just started up again by Newtown Cottages. Problems have also been reported in Upper Lambourn.

Thames Water is initiating a full clean up. As I have said previously, unfortunately until the groundwater subsides there is little that TW can do apart from continuing tankering and keep the ATAC’s running. The groundwater needs to fall below the sewers before further relining can start and I fear this year that may be into June.

Largely through the efforts of Martyn Wright, who chairs SAGLUV (Sewage Action Group for the Lambourn Upper Valley), he, the three chairs of Lambourn, East Garston and Great Shefford Parish Councils and I recently met with Tessa Fayers, the Main Board Operations Director for Thames Water responsible for the Southeast and Home Counties.

This seemed to be a positive and constructive meeting. She promised to produce a report before Easter, which she did, but unfortunately it was essentially a repetition of what has been promised previously.

You can click here to read about SAGLUV, including its most recent update (currently 6 April 2024) which includes some immediate reactions to the report and an update on the situation across the area that SAGLUV covers.

How did we get here?

There are many views as to what is happening, who is responsible and what might be done next. These are mine…

Clearly, Thames Water is in the financial mire with a debt mountain of over £18bn. Its parent company has just defaulted on an interest repayment of loans from Chinese banks.

This all goes back to privatisation under Margaret Thatcher, which (for the first few years) was highly successful with a cash input into the Treasury and significant private-sector investment into the water infrastructure. The mistake made was not to have a golden share to prevent sales to asset strippers (which happened under Tony Blair ‘s government), creating the disastrous situation in which we find ourselves.

It is in the public domain that Macquarie saddled the company with £10bn of debt and took hefty dividend payments before selling the shares to pension funds and sovereign wealth funds in 2017. To be fair to the current owners led by OMARS (the Ontario State Pension Fund and the UK Universities Staff Superannuation Scheme who between them own over 50% and the other investors), they have not taken a penny in dividends.

The investors have, however, recently stopped an interim payment to the company of £500m as a first tranche of up to £3bn by 2030 on the grounds that Ofwat, the regulator, won’t permit a 40% increase in water rates.

Sadly, I think that the only possible result is some form of renationalisation. It would seem with the benefit of hindsight that privatisation only works where there is no monopoly.

A group for the whole of the river Lambourn

Another water-related organisation that was set up in March (but is yet to acquire a formal name) has also started work.

I have agreed with the Liberal Democrat Councillors representing the lower reaches of the Lambourn, and with Clive Hooker who represents Downlands ward, that we will all collaborate through a cross-party group to lobby Thames Water, The Environment Agency, WBC and central government to find a long-term solution to the flood and sewage issues in the valley.

We intend to compile a dossier with photographs and detailed information clearly showing the seriousness of the situation. Martyn is compiling a template and flood wardens in our part of the valley along with Speen and the last part of the Lambourn where it runs into the Kennet will all contribute. These are the areas most impacted by flooding and sewage issues. Clay Hill, for example, has identical sewage and flooding issues north of the A4 and including Newbury Business Park. The dossier will have a covering letter signed by all District Councillors and Parish Chairs and be sent to all the bodies mentioned above as well as national and local media.

As I have said before, there is no quick fix to this problem. I am convinced that climate change is having an impact. Hopefully this co-ordinated approach will get some results.

Asphalt plant at Membury Industrial Estate

Many of you will know that there has been a planning application for an Asphalt Plant on one of the access roads to Membury Service Station. This is on an existing piece of land allocated for industrial uses and so stands a chance of being recommended for approval. I have taken the precaution of calling it in so that it will be decided by the Western Area Planning Committee.

I chased the planning officer responsible this week and understand from him that he is waiting for a report on drainage and then one from National Highways. I will keep you informed.

Members’ bids

Regular readers of this column will know that every year all District Councillors have the opportunity to bid for up to £5,000 from the Community Infrastructure Levy, which has to be match funded to pay for a project to help the local community.

Last year I got money for the flagpole on the Church in Lambourn, and I gather from the Churchwarden, Bruce Laurie, that after a number of problems, it will be installed on 16 April.

This year I am working with the Parish Council for a major upgrade to the public toilets at the Memorial Hall – fingers crossed…

Casework

A slight respite over Easter but it still continues apace. Major issues this month mostly revolve around housing and planning but – inevitably – also water and sewage.

Roads

My campaigns for speed reductions have had to take a slight back seat owing to the water and sewage issues but the experiment with a 20mph limit in Theale starts next month and I am promised that we are high on the list for consideration thereafter.

The closure of Baydon Road for water pipe repairs created an interesting problem. Thames Water, in its wisdom, created a diversion down Crowle Road and the High Street followed by a left turn by the George; which is a no left-turn junction. WBC’s Highways team was furious but on a Friday afternoon the best that they could do was to take the diversion sign down. According to Mike Billinge-Jones, there were a number of near misses.

Get in touch

Whatever is concerning you that you feel I can help with, please do get in touch on 07836 718 100 or howard.woollaston1@westberks.gov.uk.

February/March 2024

So now we know the facts. We have just had one of the wettest winters in the UK and the wettest February in the southeast since records started back in 1836. No wonder we are having flooding and sewage issues. Many residents have contacted Laura Farris and me complaining and I have outlined below what action is taking place.

On the brighter side the forecast is for a (badly needed) fairly dry week and spring is clearly on the way with the daffodils out.

In a joint session with East Garston, a number of you from Eastbury met with Laura Farris, our MP to raise your concerns many of which were, of course, water-related.

Sewage and flood risks

We still have sewage coming up through the manholes, particularly in Lambourn and Eastbury. Upper Lambourn’s roads are in places running like rivers with the springs bursting up through the carriageway. As I said last month, until the groundwater subsides there is little that Thames Water can do apart from continuing tankering and keep the ATAC’s running.

The sewage pipes go down to East Shefford Treatment Plant in two separate routes. One picks up Upper Lambourn, Lambourn and Membury and the other Eastbury, East Garston and Great Shefford.

So, there are three initiatives going, to try and get some action or at the very least a firm roadmap on what will be done once the groundwater drops, albeit that could be months.

  • Firstly, Clive Hooker (the District Councillor representing East Garston and Shefford) and I along with the Parish Council Chairs for Lambourn East Garston and Great Shefford are trying to meet with Tessa Fayers, the newly appointed Operations Director of Thames Water responsible for the South East who reports directly to the Chief Executive.
  • Secondly the Sewage Action Group has just been launched. This will be chaired by Martyn Wright, an East Garston Flood Warden and the founder of the East Garston Flood and Pollution forum, who has of necessity become an expert in the problems affecting us all in the upper reaches of the valley. This group is looking at the area in isolation, from the source of the river in Upper Lambourn down to the East Shefford treatment plant and includes the three Parish Council chairs.
  • Thirdly, I have agreed with the Liberal Democrat Councillors representing the lower reaches of the Lambourn and Clive Hooker that we will all collaborate through a cross-party group to lobby Thames Water, The Environment Agency, West Berkshire Council and central government to find a long-term solution to the flood and sewage issues in the valley.

We intend to compile a dossier with photographs and detailed information clearly showing the seriousness of the situation. Martyn is compiling a template and flood wardens in our part of the valley along with Speen and the last part of the Lambourn where it runs into the Kennet will all contribute. These are the areas most impacted by flooding and sewage issues. Clay Hill, for example, has identical sewage and flooding issues north of the A4 and including Newbury Business Park. The dossier will have a covering letter signed by all District Councillors and Parish Chairs and be sent to all the bodies mentioned above as well as national and local media.

As I have said before, there is no quick fix to this problem. I am convinced that climate change is having an impact. Hopefully this co-ordinated approach will get some results.

Council budget

The 2024/25 budget was passed last week. Council Tax will increase by 2.99% plus the extra 2% ringfenced for adult social care. (Except in exceptional circumstances, this is the maximum an authority can increase Council Tax by without going to referendum: it seems that all but a handful of councils are taking the same view). There will also be precepts from Lambourn Parish Council, police, and fire services.

I explained the other possible service cutbacks which were stopped last month and approved. The green bin charge reduction of £3pa was kept, despite amendments from the opposition parties who wanted to use the £100,000 saving for planning enforcement and special-needs costs.

Casework

I don’t think in nearly five years in the role that I have ever had so many emails and telephone calls in a single month from people with problems. I do my level best to resolve them but please do bear with me please: at times it is quite overwhelming and unlike an MP, I do not have the benefit of any staff to assist. None the less, that’s what you elected me to do… 

Roads

Potholes are being repaired but not fast enough for most of us. To be fair to West Berkshire Council and its contractor, I am told that there are ten times more than this time last year because of the water levels. With the best will in the world, it’s going to take months to get them all repaired. Do please keep reporting them. You will have noticed that parts of the B4000, Baydon Road and the valley road in East Garston have all been repaired in the last week.

I have been provided with a list of road works currently proposed in addition to the repairs:

2024/5

  • Maddle Road, Upper Lambourn: 1,942m being retextured.
  • Newbury Road, Lambourn: 70m being retextured by Long Hedge.

2026/7

  • The Park, Lambourn: slurry seal to 298m.

I will try to find out what the difference between slurry seal and retexturing is (one is always learning in this job) and enlighten you next month.

Thames Valley Police and the Police & Crime Commissioner

All Councillors were invited to attend an annual presentation by the Chief Constable and the P&CC which I went to last week. Key takeaways were:

  • There are now more police officers in Thames Valley than ever before, and the P&CC is pledging to recruit a further 150 as part of this year’s budget.
  • Since 2019, burglaries are down by more than a third and all neighbourhood crime has reduced by 14%.
  • The police are doubling the number of officers in neighbourhood policing to increase visibility and working with retailers to catch more shoplifters. 

Rural England Prosperity Fund (REPF)

This is a government fund for small rural businesses.

Businesses can apply for between £10,000 and £40,000 to invest in a project that will help stimulate growth, diversification and employment in our rural communities.

The scheme is open for a year, and the Council will be allocating funding on a competitive, rolling-programme basis, to the best applications every couple of months.  To read more about the scheme and apply read see: https://www.westberks.gov.uk/repfgrantscheme.

If you have any queries about this scheme the best officer point of contact is Dan Phelan: Daniel.phelan1@westberks.gov.uk.

Get in touch

Whatever is concerning you please do get in touch on 07836 718 100 or howard.woollaston1@westberks.gov.uk

January/February 2024

Back to a normal length of newsletter. Winter has so far been wet but relatively mild, but I believe that we are likely to be in for a cold snap.

I had cause to have a doctor’s appointment over a relatively minor but uncomfortable ailment. I got an appointment in less than a week after having seen a nurse for my annual bloods etc. the Doctor took his time and was extremely thorough. The NHS often gets a bad press, but I could not fault it. I am fortunate to be able to tell a number of people through this newsletter so well done to our surgery. I appreciate that those in other areas may not experience such prompt service: not for the first time, I feel lucky to live where I do…

Sewage and flood risks

Just before I started to write this newsletter, I checked my emails and found the latest flood alert from the Environment Agency noting that there has been continuing rain showers over the last 24 hours and predicting heavy rain going into Thursday 8 February and perhaps beyond.

I don’t need to tell you that this is not good news given the height of water in the Lambourn and continuing high groundwater levels. The forecasts go on to say that they do not anticipate any property flooding but to avoid walking on paths along the riverbank for obvious reasons.

Sadly, we still have sewage coming up through the manholes in various places and particularly Lambourn and Eastbury. Until the groundwater subsides there is little that Thames Water can do apart from continuing tankering and this latest EA alert further highlights the issue.

Keeping the pressure on

I have now got agreement from the Liberal Democrat Councillors representing the lower reaches of the Lambourn and my colleague, Clive Hooker – my opposite number covering Downlands ward that includes East Garston and Great Shefford – that we will collaborate through a cross-party group to lobby Thames Water, the Environment Agency, West Berkshire Council and central government to find a long-term solution to the flood and sewage issues in the valley.

I had a Zoom meeting with Stuart Gourley, the lead member for the Liberal Democrats, this evening to look at the best way forward. We agreed to identify half a dozen knowledgeable people to write an extended letter to be signed by all relevant district councillors and parish council chairs.

Laura Farris, our MP, joined me in Lambourn last Friday, meeting people in Market Square and those most affected by sewage problems. She is committed to getting Governmental effort along with Lord Benyon, our previous MP, who is a minister in DEFRA. Hopefully the combined pressure will have some impact.

As I have said before, there is no quick fix to this problem. I am convinced that climate change is having an impact. As well as the extraordinary amounts of rainfall causing the high groundwater levels here, it is worth noting that Los Angeles has had a month’s rainfall over two days this week making for a very soggy red carpet at the Grammy awards…

Flood relief from Whitehall

Central government has allocated funds to help both residents and small businesses affected by recent flooding. It only applies to local authorities with more than 50 cases of damage. At the last count West Berkshire had about 30.

If you have had flood damage, please report it.

I have copied below an email sent to the Flood Wardens explaining the scheme:

Flood Recovery Grant

Central Government has announced the following grants which be administered by ‘eligible’ Local Authorities.

  1. Flooded households in eligible affected areas, who can apply for up to £500 cash to help with immediate costs.  
  2. Households and businesses significantly affected, who will be eligible for 100% council tax and business rates relief for at least 3 months.
  3. Small-to-medium sized businesses in eligible affected areas, who can apply for up to £2,500 from the Business Recovery Grant to help them return quickly to business as usual.  
  4. Eligible flood-hit property owners, who can apply for up to £5,000 to help make their homes and businesses more resilient to future flooding via the Property Flood Resilience Repair Grant Scheme.  
  5. Farmers who have suffered uninsurable damage to their land will be able to apply for grants of up to £25,000 through the Farming Recovery Fund towards repair and reinstatement costs for farmers adversely affected by exceptional flooding.

For a Council to be eligible for government support for the above there must have been at least 50 properties flooded internally within the Local Authority area.  At the moment we are aware of 37 properties.  Whilst in a way this is good news compared to the 180 from 2013/14 we would like to hit the minimum 50 properties to take advantage of the government funding.

We are therefore arranging for a leaflet drop in flood hit areas which will direct residents (via a QR code) to an online questionnaire to encourage additional property owners to come forward.  The leaflets will be delivered starting from Thursday 8 February and will take three to four days to cover the affected areas.

If you would like to see plans of the areas that the leaflets are being distributed to in your area, or if you would like any hard copies of the leaflet sent to you, please contact HTAdmin@westberks.gov.uk .

Council budget

The Council Budget papers for 2024/5 were released in draft last Friday evening so I had the joy of working through the 550-page document over the weekend and Monday – we councillors know how to have fun!

A number of you contributed to the consultation process and some attended the meeting in Hungerford Town Hall. I also made comment in various meetings with the administration, and I am delighted to confirm that our views have largely been taken on board:

  • There will be charging for parking in the main Lambourn Car Park behind Universal Stores but the first hour will now be free. We can therefore all drop into the Co-op, Universal Stores, The Food Hall and the other shops without creating chaos by parking in the surrounding roads or paying £1 for the privilege. It would seem that arguments over damage that would be done to the retail trade was taken on board and sense prevailed.
  • The proposal to reduce ditch and drain clearing has been dropped in the light of recent flooding. So too have most if not all of the proposed changes to the bins.
  • There is a proposal to reduce the green bin charge by a nominal amount costing about £100,000. This seems to me to be ludicrous as it is meant to be the first stage of removing all charges for green bin collection. Nearly every comparative unitary authority charge between £60 and £80pa – why should someone living in a flat subsidise someone like me who has a garden?

The proposal is to increase council tax by 4.99% (including the 2% Adult Social Care provision). I attended Scrutiny Commission this week, which makes recommendations to Executive as part of the budget process. Executive meets this Thursday to go through the report, which I will also be attending. The precept from the Parish Council, Fire Service and Thames Valley Police are still unknown but will be firmed up before February 29 when the Budget has to be signed off by Full Council.

Casework

Whilst, inevitably, flooding and sewage continue to be the main items in my postbag, housing has also been a busy area. Issues have ranged from a need for new accommodation because of overcrowding, mould and a leaking roof from one of the smaller housing associations in our area to leaking gutters and resulting damp from the main social housing provider. Fortunately, I am the Shadow Housing Portfolio Holder so I can put some pressure on the council Housing Team to get things done.

Several residents have raised the issue of street lighting. I can confirm that it is proposed to replace all of the streetlights this spring, jointly funded by Lambourn Parish Council and West Berkshire Council. The new lights will be LED, significantly reducing the annual electricity bill.

Roads

Potholes have reared their ugly head again after the prolonged bad weather. This is a district-wide issue and Volker, the Council’s contractor, is working their way through the long list. I have asked Highways if the Lambourn area could be a priority.

Working with Tony King, chairman of the Woodlanders Protection Group (WPG), I have requested a meeting with Highways and representatives of the WPG to look again at speeding and HGVs on the B4000. The lead officer has asked for more detailed information which Tony is collating.

Flooding has rather taken precedence over speeding, but I have reminded the Council of the desire for a 20mph limit in Eastbury and Lambourn High Street. As I drive around West Berkshire, they are clearly becoming more common with a further trial starting in Theale. I am hopeful that we might see some progress in 2024.

District Parish Council Conference

I attended this in Shaw House last week. This seemed fairly well attended but I would have hoped to have seen more parish council representatives there. Part of the reason was almost certainly that it was held mid-afternoon. I am sure that an early evening one would get a better attendance: this point seems to have been recognised as the next one is scheduled for that time. There were a number of useful presentations and the opportunity to ask questions of officers and the Executive.

Get in touch

Whatever is concerning you please do get in touch on 07836 718 100 or howard.woollaston1@westberks.gov.uk

Mid-January 2024 special update

This is a one-off interim Parish Matters to reflect the extreme situation that we are all in with sewage and flooding in the Lambourn Valley.

The Lambourn Valley Flood Forum

The January meeting

On Monday 15 January I chaired an emergency Lambourn Valley Flood Forum meeting by Zoom. Attendees include Thames Water (its main Operations Manager for the valley and its Retail Director for Customer Service), the Environment Agency, key senior Officers from West Berkshire Council (including the Service Director responsible), Flood Wardens from all the main villages in the Valley, the Chairs of both Lambourn and East Garston Parish Council and other interested members of the public. We were 26 strong and with vocal people chairing was a challenge. The meeting lasted for two hours, and I think will have positive results.

No quick fix

The first message is that there is no quick fix. 2023 was the wettest year since records began. The groundwater springs appeared in early December rather than late January /early February, we had high rainfall at the beginning of the New Year and the forecast is for more heavy rain next week.

The result is all too clear – the Lambourn is running at very high levels and very fast. The sewers cannot cope with the effluent combined with groundwater infiltration. This means that sewage is flowing out of manholes in Lambourn and Eastbury and in some cases backing up into peoples’ houses. The groundwater is in many cases only inches below ground level. In Eastbury, there has been some road degradation caused by water pressure below which could take months to fix until water levels subside, while the river has burst its banks and flooded part of Back Street.

Good news

The only good piece of news is that the flood alleviation schemes in West Berkshire have worked to save the very worst of the flooding and the water levels are dropping very slowly. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the Flood Wardens throughout the valley for their dedication and massive efforts. All of the Statutory Bodies made the point that they were their eyes and ears on the ground.

Closures and tankers

There are various road closures in the valley. They are not there for the sake of it and I would urge you to respect them. In some cases, drivers are going too fast through sewage mixed with groundwater, which washes effluent onto people’s gardens and walls – please be considerate.

Jon Winstanley from WBC explained that the closure in Eastbury can’t be made a “hard closure” because of the needs of the emergency services. As mentioned above, repairs will need to wait until the groundwater levels have fallen.

Thames Water has had tankers operating virtually 24/7 to try and keep sewage down as well as ATAC’s (mini filtration units) in Lambourn, East Garston and I believe Great Shefford.

Reports from Flood Wardens further downstream indicated less serious issues until getting to Shaw/Speen on the outskirts of Newbury and in Clay Hill, north of the A4 and close to where the Lambourn flows into the Kennet. WBC was challenged on ditch and drain clearing and EA on enforcing riparian obligations on landowners to allow free flow of the river.

A major achievement

Such meetings tend to focus on immediately local matters and are useful for communities to share information and to get messages to, and answers from, the various organisations. This meeting, however, produced one promised action which will be of benefit to all of TW’s customers.

This was as a result of a recent withering analysis of TW’s customer-service messages by Martyn Wright of the East Garston Flood and Pollution Forum. These included automatic replies saying problems had been fixed when they clearly hadn’t. He sent the whole dossier to Thames Water, which produced an immediate (and rather shocked) response. As a result, David Bird, the main TW Board Director responsible for customer service, attended the meeting.

He offered an apology for TW’s customer care. The response system is new and it appears is not able to deal with complaints in areas which, like ours, suffer from chronic problems of both high groundwater and a defective sewerage system. It seems to be set up for isolated incidents, not the repeat problems that we have endured. Changes to this are promised. He urged people to keep reporting issues but to ignore the automated response saying words to the effect that “your issue is resolved.” You will need to reply on the evidence of your senses to judge if this has happened!

Once done, this will produce benefits for other parts of TW’s area which suffer from the same combination of problems.

Long-term solutions

Amongst numerous others, I challenged Thames Water for a long-term solution to our problems. My take is that climate change is taking effect and rather than infrequent incidents such as 2007 and 2014, we are likely to see this as a more regular occurrence. Questions posed included:

  • Do we need a reservoir above Lambourn to control the flow – if so, could this be partly paid for by hydroelectric power?
  • Does it need a replacement of all the sewers in the valley – if so, who is going to pay when TW has a £14bn debt mountain already?
  • Should central government be getting more involved in the solution? All local authorities are financially struggling already and not in a position to contribute.
  • Should there be better links between TW, EA, and WBC (as was suggested by TW at WBC’s Scrutiny Commission in October 2023)?

What is clear is that, whilst the Lambourn Valley is dear to our hearts, WBC also has the Pang and Kennet as concerns, TW an even larger number of rivers and watercourses and the Environment Agency the whole country.

In conclusion…

As I said at the beginning, there is no quick fix. We just need to keep pushing hard for action (and reporting problems) and I already have the wholehearted support of Laura Farris, our MP, putting pressure on government. Clive Hooker my opposite number who covers East Garston and Great Shefford and I will keep the pressure on WBC, and we will attempt to get a cross-party group of Councillors including those that represent Boxford and the Newbury Wards to have a holistic approach.

Get in touch

Whatever is concerning you please do get in touch on 07836 718 100 or howard.woollaston1@westberks.gov.uk.

December 2023/January 2024

I don’t usually write a Parish Matters for this month as we have all been so busy with Christmas and the lead up to it that usually there is little to talk about. However, the exceptional weather and the resultant flooding and sewage issues prompted me to make an exception.

Could I first wish you all a happy and healthy New Year.

Sewage and flood risks

After numerous calls and emails from residents expressing concerns and the automated flood warning alert from the Met Office, I decided to drive up the Valley to see with my own eyes what the current situation is.

The river is extremely high and is bursting its banks in places, particularly in Back Lane in Eastbury. Manholes have blown off their seatings in both Eastbury as you come in from East Garston and by the Fire Station in Lambourn. In both cases cases this has allowed raw sewage to pour into the river, leaving the roads strewn with wastepaper and other detritus.

There are, however, two pieces of good news. Firstly, the Eastbury Flood Alleviation Scheme is working as designed with a lake of water being held by the bunds allowing a reduced flow of water going into the river downstream. This has almost certianly saved large parts of the village from flooding (and, I am told, that has caused lower water levels in East Garston).

Secondly the rain has stopped. The forecast is dry for next week (though turning cold, bringing with it the threat of ice) and the river level is already marginally down.

Thames Water vans and tankers seem to be all over the place, so they are clearly taking it seriously.

I then drove up Oxford Road and on to Wantage Road as a resident had expressed concern at the ditches. I can see why. The grips (access channels that allow water from the road into the ditches) in some places are having the opposite effect with water streaming from overfull ditches onto the road. In just over a mile, I drove through three separate floods, some quite deep, and saw several other large puddles to the sides of the road.

I am making representations to the Highways Team at the Council to clear as many ditches as possible along with checking and clearing any blocked drains but as you can imagine the team is fully stretched. It is not just the Lambourn that is causing a problem but also the Pang and Kennet and other smaller streams, so this is not going to be a quick fix.

Casework

One major recent success, the abandoned car in Oxford Street has finally been removed. I would like to say by the Police or Council Enforcement but actually by using connections to apply pressure! Otherwise, as you might expect, it has been relatively quiet – until the rain.

Returning to water – which dominates everything at present – I am told that parts of the country have had the normal full amount of rain for January already since the New Year and I am only glad that we live in such a wonderful part of the UK when you see news footage of parts of Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, Nottinghamshire and elsewhere, where there has been massive flooding – I suppose that it puts our problems into perspective.

Get in touch

This is a much shorter Parish Matters than usual, but my normal length will return next month. Hoping that you all stay safe and dry.

Whatever is concerning you please do get in touch on 07836 718 100 or howard.woollaston1@westberks.gov.uk

November/December 2023

Where has this year gone to? As I write this, Christmas is less than three weeks away, but I have at least bought all of my presents for children and grandchildren so am feeling very smug!

20mph at last?

Christian Noll, Editor of the Lambourn.org website, did a great job getting a survey of people’s views on this topic. 289 people responded and the overwhelming majority were in favour of speed restrictions in one form or another. Virtually all supported the lower limit in Eastbury but there was a split between those that wanted a blanket limit throughout Lambourn and those that only wanted parts. You can see the full details here on Lambourn.org.

I maintain my view that the High Street is the most in need but can see the sense from Crowle Road up to The Broadway. My concern with a blanket approach is that it will be completely ignored whereas I feel that drivers are more likely to observe the limit if in small areas. There is also the issue of costs at a time of major budget pressures on the Council.

I passed the survey on to the Senior Highways Officer at the Council. He acknowledges that I had already raised our case at the Council debate but confirmed that it had been agreed that Theale would be the trial experiment and it is unlikely that we will see much progress until late 2024.

Casework

It never stops! Just today brought an elderly lady trying to have a stairlift put in by Sovereign which I am taking up on her behalf. Two abandoned cars have been reported to the Council by me. There have been some successes though, notably an enforcement notice served on the travellers at Ermin Street Stables and Sovereign agreeing to reduce their service charge demands in Harris Close.

Sewage and flood risks

Groundwater levels continue to rise. The ATAC machine has been turned on at the Lambourn Fire Station and a number of residents in Back Lane Eastbury are getting increasingly concerned at potential flood risk. The River Wardens, some Lambourn Parish Councillors and I are attending a meeting organised by East Garston Parish Council for Thames Water to explain progress to date and future plans. You can read Penny Post’s report on the event here.

Member’s bids

I am delighted to report that my bid for half of the cost of replacing the flagpole on the church in Lambourn has been successful and that Bruce Laurie can crack on with replacing this dangerous structure.

Lambourn’s Neighbourhood Development Plan

Various consultations continue and we now have the very first preliminary draft, still with lots to do to get it into the final version but major progress. A possible significant complication is the District Council’s administration being rumoured to be considering the withdrawal of the Local Plan currently lodged with the Inspector. An Extraordinary Council Meeting has been called for 19 December but the agenda and papers are not yet out.

If the rumours are correct, it is potentially disastrous in my judgement. Not only will there be a further cost of about £1.5m: more importantly, any delays will make it increasingly likely that developers will get their way on planning applications or on appeal (or the threat of it), if they can claim that the local plan is out of date.

Events

I was privileged to be invited to join the 103rd birthday party in the Memorial Hall of Sylvia Chilvers who is an absolutely delightful lady and full of fun.

I also was asked to join the formal renaming of the Berkshire Records Office in Reading to the Royal Berkshire Archives. HRH The Duke of Gloucester performed the duties.

When Berkshire Council was split up 1998, each of the six new unitary authorities took on those responsibilities which covered the whole county. West Berkshire became lead authority for the Records Office: so when I was Policy Holder for Culture, I was instrumental in applying for the Royal Warrant as well as securing planning consent for the £2m extension which will hopefully be completed in early 2025. It is a wonderful facility with really enthusiastic staff and a wealth of information which is, with prior notice, available to the public.

Spending cuts

West Berkshire Council, like many local authorities, is finding itself in a potential revenue crisis. Local authorities have a legal duty to produce a balanced budget each year but this time have been hit by unexpectedly high inflation (a number of contracts have been historically index-linked) as well as higher than anticipated demand for adult social care and children’s care – combined, these two items account for about 60% of WBC’s total annual expenditure. At one stage the gap was £14m but cost savings and deferred expenditure have closed the gap to around £3m.

The Council is consulting on a raft of further cost savings involving possible service cuts and extra charges. I would urge you to look at these and make any comments that you wish. You can see all the consultations here and you have until 11 January 2024 to respond. If you know of anyone who would like to express their views but is not online, paper copies can be obtained by calling 01635 55 11 11.

Train travel

I have been passed this information by GWR and thought it best to cut and paste it for anyone thinking of travelling over the festive period.

“We’re getting in touch to remind you of upcoming closures of the railway to London Paddington, as part of HS2’s ongoing construction of a new station at Old Oak Common, just to the west of London Paddington. As a result, there will be no train services into or out of London Paddington on Sunday 24 and Wednesday 27 December.  

On these days, long-distance and most local GWR services will start/terminate at Reading instead of London Paddington. Limited GWR services and Elizabeth line services will run between Reading and Ealing Broadway. Customers can transfer at Ealing Broadway between national rail and London Underground services (Central and District lines) to/from central London.  

Also, as usual, there will be no services across the GWR network on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

Our advice to customers is to travel on alternative days to ensure a smoother journey. For those that need to travel, we recommend allowing plenty of time to reach their destination, especially if they’re making onward connections. Journey planners have been updated with details on all closures. We will be making customers aware through traditional and social media, on board and station announcements, as well as station posters. 

More information is available at www.GWR.com/HS2 and www.HS2.org.uk. Any help you can give in sharing this with your networks will be very helpful.”

You might also be interested in signing up for the newsletters produced by our very active and effective rail campaign organisation, the Bedwyn Train Passenger Group. Despite its name, its focus is on all the services between Bedwyn and Newbury.

Get in touch

Whatever is concerning you please do get in touch on 07836 718 100 or howard.woollaston1@westberks.gov.uk. I usually skip the December/January update so I will continue that approach unless there are any burning issues.

It only remains for me to wish you all a very happy Christmas and a healthy and prosperous New Year.

October/November 2023

I commented last month about the way the nights were closing in and it is now really noticeable. I am writing this on Halloween and as this is the first time for many years that I have lived in the middle of a village I was prepared for trick-or-treaters with a box of Celebrations: no takers, however. Their loss…

20mph at last?

West Berkshire Council provided a report to Executive on 2 November 2023, advocating more 20mph speed limits but not a blanket reduction from 30mph. I have been pushing for this for High Street Lambourn and Eastbury for four years but always met officer and Police resistance.

Only the Executive members vote on these reports but I am entitled to speak as a Shadow Executive member. I was in support as were the rest of my Conservative colleagues, the Greens and our new Independent Member – unanimity of views! I specifically asked for the two Lambourn locations to be given a priority and I will be following that up next week .

Road accident in Lambourn

There has been a small accident opposite the Wheelwrights Arms which has caused some damage to a house. Thankfully this was nowhere near as serious as the accident in Hungerford last year which has led to costs for the Council, a contraflow for the residents and general chaos for everyone (all still ongoing).

Casework

Casework as ever carries on including trying to convince the Revenue and Benefits team along with the Valuation Office that a particular Council Tax demand is ridiculous; and putting a resident in touch with our local architects Mathewson Waters to give advice on a possible small housing scheme. Inevitably there are also yet more planning and enforcement issues, including fly tipping.

Sewage and flood risks

Groundwater levels are getting concerningly high as can be seen in the amount of water in the river. This is compounded by the weed growth that we have seen over the summer.

I reported last month on the Scrutiny Commission of WBC interrogation of Thames Water and the Environment Agency. Encouragingly, this has resulted in further dialogue and an offer by Thames Water to share further information. I am asking the Lambourn Valley Flood Forum what might be helpful.

Member’s bids

Three Posts Lane proved a non-starter as it requires lime mortar to repair the wall which can only be done in the spring  or summer. However, we have found a good local tradesman able to undertake the work and I am continuing to try to get WBC to pay for it out of CIL/S106 monies.

The replacement of St. Michael and All Angels Lambourn flagpole was submitted in time with three quotes. The bid, which is match funded, needs to be recommended by a Council Officer as well. His email on the subject was encouraging:

I believe that your member’s bid to replace the flag pole on top of the Grade 1 listed Church of St Michael and All Angels, Market Place, Lambourn is most worthy of funding.

 As can be seen from the official photograph of the listed church, the flagpole is integral to it and I believe has become very dangerous and, rather than repaired yet again, it should be replaced altogether so that this magnificent building can continue to “fly the flag” for all in Lambourn.”

Hopefully this level of support will win the bid.

Harvest supper

I attended the Harvest Supper at St. James’s Church in Eastbury – a wonderful evening capped off by a really interesting talk by Sue Cocker about Eastbury Manor.

School transport problems

There has been some positive news on this.

WBC has been successful in procuring a replacement coach to provide transport for King Alfred’s pupils, which started after the October half term. This week they have issued bus passes and are ready to start work. A similar result for John O’Gaunt families, with a replacement coach confirmed and this has started. Families were contacted by email and bus passes issued. However, they could not arrive in time for Monday, so the bus operator was made aware of that.

If you have any problems with your passes (such as non-arrival), please contact Client.Transport@Westberks.gov.uk.

I would like to congratulate the WBC team which went the extra mile to get a resolution to these problems which were completely outside their control.

Lambourn’s Neighbourhood Development Plan

Nothing further to report apart from the fact that progress continues. The work on such things isn’t always visible but that’s not to say it isn’t happening. When the time for public engagement comes round again this will be given wide publicity, including by me.

Get in touch

Whatever is concerning you please do get in touch on 07836 718 100 or howard.woollaston1@westberks.gov.uk.

September/October 2023

The nights are noticeably drawing in and the clocks change in only two weeks’ time. As an owl rather than a lark, I wish the government would leave it as it is, but I am sure that others think differently.

I spent three enjoyable days at the Conservative Party Conference last week and have to say it felt much more upbeat than the media portrayed. There were some really interesting fringe meetings and I attended a number on housing issues.

I have had my Covid jab at Graham Jones’ Pharmacy in Lambourn and will be having my flu one at the surgery this week. I would encourage anyone who is entitled to one to get on with it.

I am feeling very green and eco-friendly this month. The house I bought a few weeks ago already had an air-sourced heat pump and I have just signed up for 13 solar panels so my environmental impact will as a result be much reduced. I will report back in a year or so to let you know the financial and other benefits.

Sewage and flood risks

I attended by Zoom the West Berkshire Council Scrutiny Commission special meeting to question and get progress updates from both Thames Water (TW) and The Environment Agency (EA). I have a set of the slides of the TW presentation which I will happily email to anyone interested.

Key observations as follows: –

  • TW are financially robust even with a £14bn debt pile.
  • Of their total annual income, 48% is reinvested into the infrastructure.
  • They have a five-year plan from 2025 to spend £18.7bn on infrastructure improvements – 40% up on 2020/25.
  • A lot of the problems are a result of hydrogen sulphide corroding pipes and joints.
  • They claim that no external dividends have been paid for six years but that excludes debt repayment and interest. Also, being cynical, are there any internal dividends?
  • Their Corporation Tax exposure is limited because all investment expenditure can be used to offset this.
  • The system generally works well in normal circumstances, but the breakdown occurs when there is infiltration of the foul sewers from groundwater springs, very heavy rainfall or where private property is mistakenly connected to the foul sewer rather than the surface water one.

On the face of it, the TW presentation was impressive although I am absolutely convinced that they were being economical with the truth in places. Bear in mind that Thames Water does not just cover the Thames Valley but also London and stretches out into large parts of Essex, Surrey, Hampshire, Gloucestershire and Buckinghamshire.

TW asks residents to report any problems by clicking here. They aim to respond with engineers in an hour and a maximum of two hours.

EA did not have a formal presentation and what they did was woolly and not inspirational. Much of their lack of performance is driven by lack of resources.

In summary, it was a useful session which is to be repeated but we need to drill down further on specifics, particularly locally.

The Lambourn Valley Flood and Pollution Forum meets on Monday and I am sure this will be a hot topic of debate. More to follow next month.

CIL bids

We will hopefully be submitting two bids by the end of the month for Three Posts Lane and a new flagpole for Lambourn Church – fingers firmly crossed…

Membury Industrial Estate

This old faithful is back on the agenda as a planning application for the asphalt plant has been resubmitted. I have agreed with the Parish Council to call it into Western Area Planning Committee, if the planning officers are minded to approve it, so that it at least gets a public airing.

Consent was given to Martin Collins for three external storage areas on their site to house plant etc but was heavily conditioned with a requirement for long term screening using trees and plants.

I am also investigating, again, the possibility of using the service station for HGV access. Last time it was a point-blank no but there have been a number of accidents on Ermin Street which I feel gives some remote hope that National Highways might see sense if it can be secured using number-plate recognition or other technology.

Speeding

Another old faithful from in-boxes past. I am renewing my efforts to get 20mph limits in Lambourn High Street and Eastbury. I am rather more hopeful this time as I have found a number of these limits around villages in West Berkshire and I think we have a good case.

School transport

I believe that the problem is solved for now, but do get in touch if that is not the case.

I am going to be asking the Portfolio Holder for Education and Children’s Services to review the current policy on charging. I have always thought it completely inequitable for parents either side of Newbury Street to have to pay or not depending on whether their children went to King Alfred’s in Wantage or John O’Gaunt in Hungerford, depending on which side of the road they live in: the boundary for the nearest school roughly runs down the middle of Newbury Street.

Planning enforcement

I recently had a meeting with Eric Owens, the Service Director for Planning, whose brief includes Enforcement. There are currently four ongoing cases in the ward and I have expressed my profound disappointment at the lack of action.

The main problem is that, whilst WBC recruited an additional Officer, another left so they are again down to only two and are actively recruiting. I have agreed to lodge a formal complaint to Enforcement copied into him which hopefully will have the desired effect.

Parking consultation

A consultation on parking across West Berkshire has launched and closes on 12 November. I have read the draft and there is some good stuff in there. Please do look at it when it is available: your input is really valuable.

Lambourn’s Neighbourhood Development Plan

We are hopefully getting near the end of this process with a further two meetings scheduled over the next few days. It is a very extensive and complex document which has to go to WBC’s Full Council, then to the Inspector, and then back to full Council before you get to vote on it in a referendum. After this it becomes part of the WBC’s local planning policies for this parish.

It really is true local involvement in the way we want to see the future. Chieveley and Cold Ash’s plans came to Council for the first time last week. They were as detailed as ours will be and took considerably longer to produce.

Laura Farris MP

Laura, who is our MP and the adopted Conservative Candidate for the next General Election, was in Lambourn at my invitation on the afternoon of Friday 22 September. We were in St Michael’s Close and then up into Child Street, Rockfell Road and Flintjack Place where we met a number of residents. She has promised to come back regularly but clearly has a very busy schedule.

Get in touch

Whatever is concerning you please do get in touch on 07836 718 100 or howard.woollaston1@westberks.gov.uk.

August/September 2023

As I mentioned in my last newsletter, I usually skip August and December as they tend to be quieter news months. However, there have been a number of issues that have come across my desk so I thought that I should make an exception this year.

CIL bids

As ward member, this year I had £5,000 to distribute from shared funds from Community Infrastructure Levies (developers’ contributions). About £1,250 has been allocated to repair crumbling walls in Three Posts Lane and I had expected that the rest would be used for the sad but necessary demolition costs of Eastbury Village Hall. However, I’ve very recently learned that this has been raised from other sources. I therefore have about £3,750 going, as it were, begging. Time is critical and it needs to be match funded and properly tendered.

If you have any ideas, please let me know urgently.

Sewage and flood risks

There have been further problems in Eastbury with the road at the Eastbury Plough. Thankfully the Valley Road was re-opened ahead of schedule but is now going to be closed for a day on 7 September. Hopefully that will be the end of it just leaving Thames Water to clear up after themselves.

TW has been asked to attend West Berkshire Council’s Scrutiny Commission in October to explain the problems to date and their proposals going forward. I will be attending in person and will report back.

Lambourn Primary School

WBC has recently announced that none of the problematic crumbly RAAC had been identified at any schools in the district. Imagine, therefore, my dismay when I saw that Lambourn Primary School was on the government’s list. This was not the news that I, or any local parent, wanted to read.

However, on closer inspection of the list it was Lambourne Primary School in Romford, Essex – a very relieved Councillor!

School Transport

We have had a bit of a rollercoaster few days on this.

It started last week when it was announced that school transport between Lambourn and John O’Gaunt and King Alfred’s schools would not be in place. By Monday the school transport team at WBC had pulled out all the stops and seemed to have found a solution. This morning I have heard that whilst JOG is now contracted (with the possible exception of Kintbury), the same is not the case for KA. The team is trying to find a short-term solution using minibuses pending a longer term one.

Casework

The usual issues with planning and roads but this time as well a rogue trader who persuaded an elderly couple to replace a lawn with artificial grass but clearly had no idea how to do it so that it now needs to be redone properly. I would urge everyone to be wary of these charlatans and not part with money until the job is completed satisfactorily and preferably use a recommended tradesperson.

The B4000

It wouldn’t be one of my newsletters without this topic coming up, would it?

This time, the issue was potentially very serious. A couple were driving their family car on the B4000 in Lambourn Woodlands behind a heavily laden straw trailer behind a tractor. It was clearly filled to high because it caught a tree and pulled down a branch which went straight through their windscreen. Thankfully nobody was hurt but they were obviously in shock. The Police and Ambulance services were called, and the Air Ambulance put on warning.

The obvious takeaway from this is to leave plenty of space between you and any vehicle travelling in front of you, particularly if it’s carrying a large load. In the meantime, I’ve alerted the Council’s tree team and they will trim it back if necessary.

Nutrient neutrality

The government has announced that it is moderating the nutrient neutrality rules imposed by Natural England on the Lambourn catchment and many other areas as a result of an edict by the EU. This has held up development in the whole of the Lambourn Valley and has particularly impacted on the racing industry which generates £25m of local income a year. It should result in more affordable housing schemes coming forward, which are much needed in the area. There will be mitigation measures put in place to avoid further damage to the environment.

You can see an article about this issue in Penny Post. This makes the point that this policy change may not be such bad news for the environment as some are claiming.

Last week I spoke to Lord Benyon , our former MP and now the Government Minister responsible, who pointed out that the vast majority of nutrients going into the Lambourn are nitrates coming from the fields rather than phosphates from human habitation. At least one advantage of being out of the EU…

Laura Farris MP

Laura who is our MP and the adopted Conservative Candidate for the next General Election is going to be in Lambourn at my invitation on the afternoon of Friday 22 September. We will be in St. Michaels Close and up into Rockfell and Flintjack if anybody would like to meet her and ask a question.

Get in touch

Whether or not the matter you’re concerned about features in the above (or the below), if you feel I can help please get in touch on 07836 718100 or howard.woollaston1@westberks.gov.uk.

July/August 2023

Thankfully, July has for me been an uncharacteristically quiet month. This  has allowed me to focus on sorting out my new house a few miles downstream in Boxford. Those of you who have moved in recent years will appreciate this brings a multitude of challenges. Not the least is the coordination of work being done and, in my case, coping with the nightmare of dealing with BT.

This experience made me sympathise even more with those in Upper Lambourn who for far too long suffered from appalling broadband. In Eastbury I had Gigaclear fibre to my house but here they only connected half of the village: it seems I am in the wrong half. The existing broadband that I am using is painfully slow.

Sewage and flood risks

We are about to see road closures both in Eastbury and on the valley road at East Garston. (Click here to see the interactive map, being sure to apply the appropriate time period in the pop-up on the top left. See also this article on Penny Post) .This will hopefully draw to a close the work on the new sewer, leaving Thames Water to clear up after themselves. The road closures needed to be delayed until the school summer holidays so that school buses could get through.

I remain Chairman of the Lambourn Valley Flood Forum and we had a useful presentation from Project Groundwater, funded by the Department of Environment Food & Rural Affairs. The key points to take away were that last winter’s rainfall was 157% above average and we obviously had a pretty wet July. Despite this, Thames Water hopes that tankering will no longer be required.

About a year ago, we expanded the scale of the Flood Forum to include the lower reaches of the Lambourn down to the confluence with the Kennet. However, the different issues between rural and urban areas are such that we are now setting up a separate group to be responsible from Speen and down-river to focus on the problems more closely there.

Lambourn Sports Club

I was invited to attend their monthly meeting this week and I have agreed to attend quarterly in the future. The good news is that they are in pretty good financial shape. I have agreed to investigate how West Berkshire Council may be able to provide additional support and in particular to investigate grant funding availability through my good contacts at Sports England.

Lambourn Parish Council

I attended the Parish Council meeting this week and whilst a number of Councillors were away on holiday, I sense a genuine enthusiasm and “can do “attitude from both longstanding and new Councillors to improve things. I would urge you to give them your support. They do this purely for the benefit of the community with no financial reward and we should congratulate them on their generosity of time.

For more information on Lambourn Parish Council, including details of meetings, please click here.

Casework

This continues unabated. This is one of the most rewarding parts of being a District Councillor, where you can make a genuine difference in freeing up bureaucratic blockages. Most of them are personal which I am, for obvious reasons, not at liberty to discuss.

However, one related to a local resident who took his children and some of their friends to the pool at Hungerford Leisure Centre. As many will know, there is a new leisure centre contractor appointed by West Berkshire Council which obviously does not yet appreciate the West Berkshire way of working and tried to insist on taking names of the children. This request our resident quite rightly refused in my view, as some were not his own children. They then insisted that cash payments were not available. He then got in touch with me. I’m pleased to say that the contractor now understands…

Writing for posterity

Thanks to Penny Post’s ability to keep all of my monthly reports in one article, it’s possible to look back and remind myself what the main recurring issues over the last three and a bit years have been. Using the search function, I see that (not counting this month’s quieter report), “traffic” has been mentioned 40 times, “B4000” 43, “Membury” 61, “speed” 72, “water” 73 and “planning” 114.

This provides a fair summary of the issues that have dominated my in-box. Whoever takes my place when the time comes should find this a valuable reference document…

Get in touch

Since starting this newsletter over three years ago I have generally skipped August and December. I propose to follow the same approach unless anything urgent crops up. However, I have already taken my summer holiday so will be here for all eventualities.

Whether or not the matter you’re concerned about features in the above list of search results, if you feel I can help please get in touch on 07836 718100 or howard.woollaston1@westberks.gov.uk.

June/July 2023

My profuse apologies for the delay in sending out my usual monthly newsletter but my world has been rather turned upside down.

Firstly, I was away on holiday for the first two weeks of June. Then for personal reasons it was necessary to move from our house where we have lived since 2005. I have as of last Friday moved into my new house in Boxford. Nearly 20 years accumulation of belongings takes a lot of moving and I am still surrounded by boxes to be unpacked. I did try very hard to remain in the ward but there were no houses on the market that were both suitable and affordable. Boxford is just over 10 minutes’ drive from Eastbury and 12 from Lambourn so you will continue to see me very regularly. All my contact details remain the same.

I had the misfortune to be homeless for a week dotting between hotels and generous friends without access to my main computer (or, at times, internet access). iPads and the like are fine up to a point but not the same, for me at least, as are a screen and keyboard. I am therefore really behind on my ward casework which I normally take pride on being on top of. For this I can only apologise again. Rest assured that normal service will resume very shortly.

The good thing to come out of this is that I was able to donate our boudoir grand piano (that’s between a full grand and baby) to the Primary School. They were really pleased to take it and I have high hopes that it may help inspire a future concert pianist.

Legacy projects

Penny Post has generously, and correctly, pointed out in a recent article that the recently announced new 3G football pitch at John O’Gaunt school in Hungerford was a project started under my watch. So too was the soon-to-be-completed Lido in Newbury and the recent contract award for Leisure Centres which I hope will significantly improve service levels for customers. I’m delighted that all these projects are proceeding well and wish them every success.

I’m sure that the new administration’s failure to mention the legacy aspect of these schemes in its recent press releases were oversights…

Sewage and flood risks

I had no idea that Thames Water has a £14bn debt pile (albeit their operational profits remain fairly robust) but am pleased that the major institutional shareholders have injected £750m of funds with the promise of a further £250m. These investments would seem to be needed.

I have to say that for all their faults I do get the sense that the people on the ground are committed to resolving our issues and I do feel a little inclined towards “better the devil you know” rather than a takeover or privatisation.

The river is extremely high for this time of the year and the Environment Agency has been out cutting weed as has the ever-reliable band of volunteers in Eastbury. As for the human infrastructure, the jury is, I think, still out as to how effective the sewer repair works in 2021 were. Fingers crossed…

Driving

I would urge caution on driving on our local roads. I had the misfortune to have a muntjac run straight out in front of me at night on the B4000 last month. There was nothing I could do to avoid it and thankfully for the poor animal it must have died instantaneously. The damage to my car was substantial – much to Ady Godwin’s delight…

Planning enforcement

The enforcement team at the council has been strengthened, which is something I have been pushing for, for some time. I currently have four separate issues on my desk where I am asking for active intervention.

WBC matters

The start of a new administration always begins with a major training programme, mainly for the benefit of new members. The old hands are expected to take part, not only to make sure we are up to speed but also to welcome the new arrivals. So, I have attended sessions on finance, planning, safeguarding, corporate parenting and waste management amongst others.

It’s important that any knowledge and experience be carried over from one administration to the next for the benefit of residents. As our new Conservative group leader Ross MacKinnon said at the first full WBC Council meeting after the election, all of us want the best for the district: it’s just that we sometimes disagree about the best way of achieving this.

RAF Welford

I was also fortunate to be invited to RAF Welford to celebrate the eightieth Anniversary of the establishment of the base in the lead up to the D-Day landings. We were treated to a really interesting presentation and to see the Museum that has been established, as well as to talk to some of the Officers and personnel who now staff the base for the USAAF.

Get in touch

A little shorter than my usual missives but I have been rather preoccupied, however. As mentioned above, normal service is now returning: so as ever if I can help, please get in contact with me on 07836 718100 or howard.woollaston1@westberks.gov.uk.

May/June 2023

Opposition seems very strange. I am not in a position to initiate anything; it is very dispiriting watching as some projects that I have worked hard on for two or three years are being cancelled; and we already see the early signs of the lid being taken off the previous spending containment which may result in either no reduction of Council Tax in future years or cutbacks in service delivery.

We are still in a “phoney war” period. As opposition we are there to challenge constructively. Where we agree with policies, we will wholeheartedly support them but equally where we don’t, we will actively point out the implications. To date so little has been announced that there is little to get our teeth into.

Needless to say, ward casework continues apace, and the good news is that I have more time to dedicate to it. Inevitably a fair amount of this is of a personal nature but I welcome the opportunity to help.

However, I have been appointed as:

  • Shadow Portfolio Holder Spokesman for Housing, Countryside, Culture, Leisure, Sport and Public Safety.
  • A member of Western Area Planning Committee.
  • The Vice Chair of the Governance Committee.
  • A member of several working parties.

Parish Council Annual Assembly

I was delighted to be able to give a brief speech at this event (more details on which can be found here) where I outlined the key issues that I had encountered whilst canvassing before the election. As mentioned last month, the usual suspects came up and I have addressed some of these specifically in this newsletter.

  • Speeding
  • Potholes
  • Affordable housing
  • Drugs
  • Youth provision
  • Sewage
  • Improving Lambourn High Street

I have promised to speak to the Chief Inspector at Thames Valley Police in Newbury to try and get more police presence here and in particular PCSOs.I have kicked off the speeding request for 20mph in the centre of Lambourn and Eastbury, 40mph on the B4000 and 30mph on Ramsbury Road in Membury.

The Neighbourhood Development Plan continues its progress and will hopefully address some of our affordable-housing needs.

I would really welcome suggestions about how to improve the appearance of the centre of Lambourn. Proposals so far include: resurfacing the main crossroads; creating a one way system using High Street, Crowle Road , Big Lane, The Broadway and Oxford Street; stopping parking in the High Street; and a CIL bid to upgrade decoration generally and provide planting pots.

If anybody wants to get involved, please do get in touch with either Vicky Rieunier at the Parish Council or me (contact details below).

I will be putting in a Members Bid to contribute 50% of the cost of repairing the damaged wall in Three Posts Lane.

Sewage and flood risks

The saga continues! Here in Eastbury we have a rotation of tankers in the middle of the village to deal with very increased water levels in one of the sewers. Thames Water admits that it does not understand what is causing the problem, but it has to be water ingress somewhere. The river is extremely high for this time of the year and the Environment Agency has been out cutting weed as have the ever-reliable band of volunteers.

The new sewer is expected to be fully connected in July –which is ahead of schedule – so everything crossed that it all works. The valley road at the Queens Arms will have to be closed for one or two days to finalise this connection after which Thames Water promise a full clean-up of the mess that has been created.

Youth Club

Largely through the impressive efforts of Vicky Rieunier, Chair of the Parish Council and Anna Field, it is looking very hopeful that the Youth Club can be moved to the Lambourn Centre , a far more appropriate and suitable venue. This has been a great effort and I am delighted that West Berkshire Council accepts the real need here in Lambourn.

Potholes

They continue to be fixed. Eastbury Shute/Straight Lane was repaired without my even knowing about it and you will have seen that a second batch have been repaired on the B4000 between the Pheasant and Hungerford Hill making for a far more comfortable and less stressful drive.

I do urge everyone to go to the Report a Problem section on the Council’s website. It is very easy to use and not only will it be fixed quickly but you will receive an update.

Sovereign’s service charges

I have briefed the new Housing Portfolio Holder on this problem but will continue to badger Sovereign on behalf of ward residents. A reminder that  support is there for those in need: you just need to tell us through the Council’s Cost of Living Hub.

Eastbury Village Hall

Progress is being made thanks to the efforts of Chris Capel and the other Trustees. We need £16,000 to demolish this dangerous building – costs are inflated because of asbestos being present which requires specialist contractors. The village have provided a fair chunk and Greenham Common Trust has been a huge supporter. I am going to put a members bid in to add to the pot and hopefully we can close the gap.

Get in Touch

As ever if I can help, please get in contact with me on 07836 718100 or howard.woollaston1@westberks.gov.uk.

I am away on holiday from 5 to 16 June but will be picking up my emails and phone messages intermittently, generally once a day. We have a house/dog sitter at home but neither she nor our dogs are likely to be of much use for ward matters…

April/May 2023

The emails have died to a trickle and my diary is very empty of meetings. It all seems very strange, but it does give me an opportunity to reflect on the last four years. Things that have popped up in April are varied but continue to reflect concerns. Others such as Membury have at least temporarily gone off the radar.

Canvassing

It was exhausting but also so rewarding getting to talk to people and to hear their issues during the election campaign. There are 3,087 electors in Lambourn Ward and I did my level best to get round the vast majority of them with the exception of the more outlying houses which have had leaflets – there were just not enough hours in the day! Issues which seem to be the most important to people were:

  • Speeding
  • Potholes
  • Affordable housing
  • Drugs
  • Youth provision
  • Sewage
  • Improving Lambourn High Street

Sewage and flood risks

I thought it was bad a month ago, but in late April Thames Water excelled itself. As I am sure that many of you know they managed to damage an existing sewer in East Garston whilst putting in the new £5 million one in, which resulted in sewage going over all of one family’s garden.

The only way to repair it was to pump out all of the effluent from Bockhampton Road which entailed a steady stream of 25 tankers taking it to the East Shefford plant along the Valley Road. The repair work has now finished and TW has promised to fully clean up including repairing damaged verges. Meanwhile work on the new sewer continues apace. Cannot be soon enough as far as I am concerned!

The good news is that none of the leaked effluent has ended up in the river.

With my Chairman of the Lambourn Valley Flood Forum hat on, a meeting has been arranged by West Berkshire Council for senior members of both Thames Water and the Environment Agency and our MP, Laura Farris , along with key members of the Flood Forum to discuss sewage disposal into our River. I sincerely hope that something productive will come out of this.

Potholes

As I said last month this is a UK wide issue largely caused by the very hot summer, a very cold patch and since then heavy rain during the wettest March in 40 years.

West Berkshire Council repaired over 1,000 potholes between January and April 2023 and the programme will continue. This is four times the number for the similar period in 2022. The Council has received a Government Grant of just under £1m and has budgeted for an additional £7 million to keep on top of the problem.

I am sure that you will be surprised that West Berkshire is in the top 3% of councils for pothole repairs but then you only need to travel to any of the councils that surround us, and you can see the difference.

I do urge everyone to go to the Report a Problem section on the Council’s website. It is very easy, and not only will it be fixed quickly but you will receive an update.

Sovereign’s service charges

I have raised this over the last couple of months and progress is being made since then, although not as fast as I would like.

The Council has looked at ways to support individual residents through the Household Support Fund and we will be communicating that to effected residents along with information about the Sovereign £2.5m support package. The main message is that support is there for those in need you just need to tell us through the Council’s Cost of Living Hub.

4 Legs Radio

I joined Chris Capel with a number of others to celebrate five years of broadcasting to the Upper Lambourn Valley with coffee and cake and the opportunity to take part in the broadcast that morning. It is a massive effort and Chris must be congratulated for what he has achieved.

He kindly asked me back the next week for a broadcast of over 30 minutes when he asked some challenging questions which I would like to think that I addressed sensibly…

The election

I can honestly say that it has been an honour and a privilege to represent you in the last four years. It has often been hugely frustrating particularly at the time it takes to get things done but equally rewarding where I have been able to make a real difference to people’s lives.

I very much hope to be re-elected as your District Councillor but if not thank you for all of your support and kind words.

(Note from Penny Post: Howard Woollaston was re-elected for the Lambourn ward on 4 May 2023. You can see the full ward result by clicking here.)

Get in Touch

As ever if I can help, please get in contact with me on 07836 718100 or howard.woollaston1@westberks.gov.uk.

March/April 2023

Canvassing

I have started canvassing for the election on 4 May but the weather has been so wet – I gather that we have had three times the usual rainfall in March – that I am way behind where I intended to be. Hopefully April and, in particular, the Easter break will be better. As I write this the sun is finally emerging so it will be flat out from now on.

Whoever you decide to vote for on 4 May, remember that you need to bring photo ID with you to vote – see here for more information.

I do so enjoy meeting people in the ward, finding out their problems or issues and in most cases being able to do something about them. A good example is some people in a Sovereign home in Woodbury whose roof was leaking. A quick call to my main contact there and someone was out to look at it within 24 hours and job hopefully done.

Other areas in which I’ve got involved recently include neighbour disputes and, inevitably, planning.

The Lambourn Neighbourhood Development Plan (LNDP)

No real further news apart from to say that progress on this important project continues. More information can be found here.

The draft West Berkshire local plan

The Regulation 19 submission (the results of the final public consultation) has now been sent to the Planning Inspector so that’s off the agenda for the next few months.

Sewage

Well, Thames Water (TW) is certainly creating a mess and a fair degree of chaos! That said, it is only temporary and in the long term it is seriously good news for the whole valley: indeed, what we’ve benn asking for. Along with others, I complained about the mud on the roads in Eastbury to my contact at TW. Back Street and Straight Lane are now being cleaned Wednesdays and Fridays and TW has have promised a thorough tidy up on completion. The £5m scheme should be finished by September.

The racing industry

I attended a most useful meeting organised by Laura Farris, our local MP, generously hosted by Will Riggall of Jockey Club Estates which included Nicky Henderson, Oliver Sherwood, Jamie Osborne, Claire Kubler, Merrick Francis of the Lambourn Trainers Association and representatives of the National Trainers Federation.

Key areas we discussed, which Laura is going to raise with relevant ministers, were: –

  • Nutrient neutrality
  • Social housing for stable staff
  • Shortage of stable staff – can racing be made a special case to allow more non-UK workers?
  • Problems of taking horses to France
  • The Horse Racing Betting Levy

Laura is well aware how key the racing industry is to the Lambourn Valley, as are we all, and will be taking up the challenges.

Potholes

This is a UK wide issue largely caused by the very hot summer, a very cold patch and since then heavy rain. I hope that you will have noticed the repairs on the B4000 Ermin Street from The Pheasant to the Membury crossroads although I am concerned to see that some of the smaller patches appear to have already failed and I have reported them.

West Berkshire Council has repaired over 800 potholes since the beginning of 2023 and the programme will continue. This is four times the number for the similar period in 2022. WBC has received a government grant of just under £1m and has budgeted for an additional £7m to keep on top of the problem.

I do urge everyone to go to the report a problem section on WBC’s website. It is very easy to use: not only will the pothole be fixed quickly but you will receive an update.

Sovereign’s service charges

I raised this issue last month and since then have met with directors and staff of Sovereign, WBC’s Housing Team and Leader of the Council. There was a definite meeting of minds.

We appreciated the financial pressures on Sovereign caused by the steep rise in energy costs. The housing association now fully understands our concerns about the impact specifically on vulnerable people and those struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.

It was left that the Council would look at ways to support individual residents through the Household Support Fund. What can be offered has been boosted by a £2.5m support package which Sovereign has recently set up. The main message is that help is there for those in need you just need to tell us through the WBC Hub.

Membury Industrial Estate

The meeting planned for WBC officers, Woodlanders Protection Group and the Business Group from Membury has had to be postponed owing to a judicial review on the original Walker’s application. The reserved matters application for detailed consent has just been refused.

Get in touch

I hope to catch up with some of you at the Lambourn Open Day on Good Friday. As ever, if I can help please get in contact with me on 07836 718100 or Woollastonhoward1@gmail.com

February/March 2023

I was away on a much needed holiday for the first two weeks of February but kept in touch by email and mobile. Even so my mailbox was pretty full on my return and it took me nearly a week to catch up.

The Lambourn neighbourhood development plan (LNDP)

The steering group recently met to bring together the comments from the six public consultations. We were delighted with the level of public engagement and the consultants have started drafting the formal plan. This is expected to go to West Berkshire Council, and then the Planning Inspectorate for approval, before being returned for a parish-wide referendum. Assuming all these hurdles are crossed it will then come into force, probably in early 2024.

You can find more information on the LNDP by clicking here.

The draft West Berkshire local plan

The final public consultation (known as Regulation 19) on the local plan came to an end on 3 March. There was a significant number of responses – thankfully for the environment, mostly were electronic. The Regulation 19 consultation was confirmed as continuing at the Full Council on 2 March, contrary to some press comment which suggested otherwise.

Once these Regulation 19 comments have been considered and summarised, the local plan will then go to the Planning Inspectorate and then to the Secretary of State. All being well, it will come into force in 2024.

If a community is, like Lambourn, producing a neighbourhood development plan then this will, once it has passed all its stages (see the LNDP section above), be slotted into the local plan with as much authority as if WBC had written it itself.

The importance of having a local plan is that it shows a clear and approved strategy preventing maverick developers trying to build on inappropriate sites, including in our very special Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Sewage and flood risk

I am sure that most are aware of the work that Thames Water is doing to create a new sewer from Bockhampton down to the treatment plant at East Shefford. I have to say that I feel for our near neighbours in East Garston, but it seems we might soon have direct experience of this a bit further west: yesterday a digger appeared in the field next to me so I fear that Eastbury is about to take its share of the load.

The £5m scheme will be completed by September but it will look a mess for some time before then and will cause some road closures. Short-term pain for long-term gain!

Speeding

A recent major accident at Membury crossroads on the B4000 resulting in serious injuries once again reinforced the need for speed reduction. I have also asked for better road markings there.

I drove through East Ilsley last week and was surprised to see there is a 20mph limit limit. It adds to my argument for implementation of something similar for the centres of Lambourn and Eastbury.

I am still waiting to hear a date for the speed-limit review for the B4000 Ermin Street which I will be attending to explain residents’ views.

Membury

Planning consent for the Walkers site was granted at the WBC planning committee meeting on 8 February 2023.

Three members of the Woodlands Protection Group and I had a pre-meeting with Eric Owens, the Service Director responsible for Planning and Enforcement, to set the agenda for a meeting scheduled for 23 March. This will include representatives of the companies on the Industrial Estate. The objectives we put forward were:

  • To contain the number of HGVs, and the damage that they are doing to the B4000 in particular.
  • To look at reducing the speed limit on the B4000 and reducing it further on Ramsbury Road
  • To attempt to get a definitive schedule of users on the Estate.
  • To enforce working hour and light emissions to normal working hours.
  • To attempt, through peer pressure or other means, to get a proper management plan in place for the whole Estate.
  • To investigate ways of reducing water run off caused by the amount of hard standing.
  • To work with the recently establishedMembury Business Group to address all these issues.

Eastbury’s lights

The village-wide survey into street lighting has just been circulated to all households asking for a view on three options. There is a plastic box at the door to the church and residents have been asked to return the forms there by Sunday 12 March. A final decision will be made by the Parish Council.

The local election

This will take place on 4 May. Polling stations will be the same as usual apart from Eastbury where the hall can no longer be used so your votes will be need to be cast in the Church instead.

Could I remind all that are intending to vote that you will need photographic proof of identity including passport, driving licence and travel passes. Free voter ID for those that need it, and more information on this change, can be obtained by clicking here or by calling 0800 328 0280.

I am arranging for posters to go up on all notice boards on this matter.

Setting the budget

WBC has set its council tax rate with an increase of 2.99% (the maximum it can demand without going to a referendum) and a further 2% precept for adult social care. Clearly, this is significantly below inflation and in line with the vast majority of councils in England and Wales.

The 2023/24 budget was approved at Full Council on 2 March. The beginning of the process some months ago showed a deficit of £15m on a budget of approximately £150m, largely caused by inflation and energy costs but exacerbated by significant increased demand for adult social care and children’s care – combined, these make up getting on for 60% of the total budget. All councils are legally bound to set a balanced budget – through significant cost reductions and the use of reserves put aside for just this contingency, this has been achieved in West Berkshire with no reduction in services.

Sovereign’s service charges

I have had several requests for help from people renting from Sovereign Housing Association as a result of letters that have been received advising of significant increases in rent and service charges. I am aware from colleagues that other Housing Associations have taken a similar approach. Sovereign owns and manages over 6,500 residential properties in West Berkshire alone. It is a non- profit making organisation but has very significant reserves intended for expanding its portfolio and upgrading existing properties.

Clearly, as with all organisations, inflation has taken its toll, particularly for energy provision. Housing associations have their ability to increase rent currently capped at 7% but this does not apply to service charges for multi-occupied properties such a flats. There have been demands to increase this charge by 240% in some cases: this is clearly not sustainable for the more vulnerable.

As Executive Policy Holder for Housing at WBC, I have instructed our officers to challenge the housing associations and I am personally taking it up with a senior director at Sovereign. I also want to establish whether there is any government support available or if we can use some of our Housing Needs budget to help – more to follow.

If any resident has received such a letter, please let me know: contact details are below.

A hard-hat interlude

Forgive me but I also wanted to mention that I had the opportunity to don high-vis jacket and hard hat when I went to see progress on the Lido in Newbury. When I was there, they were putting in 80 piles: all the pre-work is now completed.

It has been my” baby” and I am delighted that we are running a week ahead of schedule. The final planning issues have been approved and we are firmly on track to re-open in July with an Olympic-sized pool, water slides and a children’s splash area along with new changing rooms, loungers and shortly a café. Roll on summer!

The consultant’s evidence suggests that this will attract people from a wide area. I hope that many of you will be able to use what is going to be a wonderful new facility.

Get in touch

For those of you who receive Parish Matters by email, these will not be sent by that method for March/April and April/May. The reason is that we go into what was called purdah (and now called the restricted period) on March 24, after which I am not by law permitted to use email addresses collected during my time as a ward member.

However, I will still be able to provide Parish Matters through Penny Post (which has all my Parish Matters posts going back to June/July 2020) and Lambourn.org. If I’m re-elected, the normal email communication will resume from the May/June issue: Parish Matters will also continue to be available through the above two outlets as well thereafter.

As ever if I can help please get in contact with me on 07836 718100 or Howardwoollaston1@westberks.gov.uk up until 23.59 on 23 March or on Woollastonhoward1@gmail.com from then until the election.

January/February 2023

As I anticipated in my last column (see below), December was a particularly quiet month but things have warmed up in the new year (as, fitfully, the outside temperatures are now also doing)

Firstly, a very belated Happy New Year to you all. Let’s hope that 2023 proves to be a happier one all round than its immediate predecessors.

Lambourn Parish Council

I’d like to congratulate Vicky Reunier for being elected as Chairman of the Parish Council. I wish her well and look forward to working with her for the benefit of the Parish.

Lambourn Community Interest Company

More congratulations are in order, this time to the Lambourn CIC for have secured some significant funding from the Berkshire Community Foundation to help support the Lambourn Junction Youth Club. More details can be found here.

The Lambourn Neighbourhood Development Plan (LNDP)

There were six public consultations in the last couple of weeks, one each in Eastbury, Woodlands and Upper Lambourn and three in Lambourn. More information on these, and the Lambourn NDP generally, can be found here.

I attended four of them and was impressed not just at the numbers who came but the genuine engagement and interest. After the “call for sites” exercise, nine possible development locations had been identified. These were presented to residents for their views at these events and there were clear opinions both ways on them all.

There are two allocated residential sites in Lambourn for a total of 65 units at Lynch Wood and Newbury Road. The NDP is tasked with identifying sites for a minimum of a further 25 units. Please bear in mind that this is over the plan’s life to 2039 so there is no need to be concerned about a sudden influx.

The steering group is meeting shortly to bring together the comments and after that the consultants will start drafting the formal plan. This is expected to go to West Berkshire Council and then the Planning Inspectorate for approval before being returned for a parish-wide referendum. Assuming all these hurdles are crossed it will then come into force, probably in early 2024.

The Draft West Berkshire Local Plan

Final public consultation (known as “Regulation 19”) has recently commenced and is open for comment until 3 March. If a community is, like Lambourn, producing a neighbourhood development plan then this will, once it has passed all its stages, be slotted into the Local Plan. The Local Plan will then go to the Planning Inspectorate and then the Secretary of State. All being well it will come into force in 2024.

As well as the residential sites (see the NDP section above) there is also a further commercial site allocated at Membury by the grain silos: however, this is not for distribution but small-scale light-industrial use that should generate local jobs.

I do urge you to take a look at the draft. It will impact on us all and this is your chance to make your views known. More information can be found here.

The sewage system and flood risk

The groundwater levels are right back, up by two metres since the new year as evidenced by the return of the Rive Lambourn to its upper reaches. So far so good with no flood issues. I chaired the Lambourn Valley Flood Forum last week attended by over 20 people including representatives of West Berkshire Council, The Environment Agency and Thames Water as well as flood wardens for most of the villages in the valley. Key issues that came out were:

  • An ATAC machine (effectively a mobile sewage treatment plant) is being deployed behind the Lambourn Fire Station as a precaution.
  • Pipes are being laid along the appropriately-named Drain Lane in Upper Lambourn with pumps as a precaution against flooding.
  • Work on the new main sewer from Bockhampton to East Shefford will commence imminently. The £5m project will be completed by the end of the year.
  • The Great Shefford Flood alleviation scheme will similarly be completed by the end of this year.
  • So far, the sewer pipe lining seems to have worked.
  • I am setting up a working party to look at the Lower Lambourn from Speen to where it joins the Kennet.

Speeding

This remains an ongoing issue. I see in the weekend papers a move to reduce speed limits in built up areas to 20mph which I would certainly support, as I have done before.

I am still waiting to hear a date for the speed limit review for the B4000 Ermin Street which I will be attending to explain residents’ views.

Lambourn Primary School

I was delighted to be invited to attend the assembly for Years 5 and 6 last week to explain the role of a District Councillor followed by a Q&A session . I was meant to be there for 15 minutes, but it went on for nearly a half hour. What a delightful bunch of well behaved and confident young people – the school should be proud of themselves, as should their parents.

Not surprisingly the things that most concerned or pleased them were: –

  • Lack of Scouts and Cubs in Lambourn
  • Excitement over the new Lido in Newbury which will be open in July.
  • For those going to JOG in September, the new 3G pitch will be open at the start of term.
  • Wish for a new hard area and basketball net at Mill Lane
  • Annoyance at anti-social behaviour by teenagers damaging play equipment.

Potholes

I’m in no doubt that they are worse than ever, particularly on the B4000 and the valley road. I have asked for action but we in West Berkshire have over 800 miles of highway – that’s more than in Reading and Wokingham combined and about the distance from Land’s End to John O’Groats – so West Berkshire Council’s contractor, Volker, clearly has a massive task in hand to repair these, as well as doing the gritting. I am sure that much of the reason is the extreme weather that we have had both in the summer and over recent months.

I can assure you that the increase in the number of potholes is not the result of any financial squeezing by the Council. There is a fixed contract with Volker and they are being put under pressure to get these sorted. Please do report major potholes – they do get mended faster if you do. The best way to do this is via the Report a Problem page on WBC’s website.

Hot-off-the-press is news that the approach to Great Shefford from East Garston is finally being dealt with in February.

Membury

As ever it continues! The Walker reserved matters application (which includes conditions) comes to the Western Area Planning Committee on 8 February. Annoyingly, I shall be away: however I have arranged a substitute from a rural ward who understands the issues and I have got agreement that my statement can be read out.

There are numerous objections from local residents. Most revolve around the fact that consent was granted for a warehouse and aircraft museum but that has now converted to an aircraft hangar with flights from the runway. This seems to be very major, and unwelcome, change.

There are also proposals for more hard standing by Trinity Grain, which operate the silos there. Objections here revolved around water run-off and potential flooding.

The Membury Business Group

I welcome the recent creation of the Membury Business Group, about which you can read more here. Currently about 12 of the businesses in the estate, including Walkers and Fort, are on board and others are encouraged to join. This will enable the members to speak with one voice on local issues. I look forward to discussing these issues with the group in due course.

Eastbury Issues

  • Street lighting. In January over 40 people attended a meeting in the Church to discuss the options. These were: (i) have no lights at all; (ii) have a limited number at key points; (iii) perform a complete replacement of all existing lights including those not currently working. The clear majority supported option (ii) and Steve Mead will be conducting a village-wide survey before a final decision is made by the Parish Council.
  • Village Hall. I arranged for a builder to come to do a sanity check on whether it is repairable but he confirmed the previous advice that there is no possibility. Chris Capel and his trustees are looking at ways to finance a replacement – all ideas welcome.

The local election

This will take place on 4 May. It seems amazing that it is nearly four years since you elected me as your District Councillor. We have had seen some fairly momentous events since then, the pandemic not least. Since June 2020, I have also for most months been sharing the contents of my in-box as regards ward matters – scroll down for the full story. As you’ll see, there are a number of recurring themes and this is set to continue…

I’m delighted to announce that I’ve been selected as the Conservative candidate for Lambourn in this election and look forward to meeting as many as possible of you over the next couple of months.

Get in touch

I am away from 1 to 17 February. We have people staying here looking after our dogs, but neither they (nor the dogs) will probably be of much help with ward matters. Rest assured, however, that I will still be looking at my emails once a day and picking up calls so you can still contact me on 07836 718100 or Howard.woollaston1@westberks.gov.uk.

December 2022/January 2023

As mentioned below, Howard took a month off from his reports over the festive period, though not from his WBC and ward work.

November/December 2022

Well, we all know that meteorological winter has arrived with a large drop in temperature and forecasters threatening snow flurries shortly.

The festive break may give some time to reflect on the events of the year and the changes that we have seen in our lives, from the Ukrainian War to energy and cost-of-living crises, the sad death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and of course a new King – the first in my lifetime.

Household Issues

  • Mould

After the appalling death of Awaab Ishak in Rochdale, West Berkshire Council has as usual sprung into action. Any mould issues in rented accommodation should be reported immediately to the Environmental Health Team on 01635 503242 or ehadvice@westberks.gov.uk. As Portfolio Holder for Housing, I asked for immediate answers from our main affordable housing provider, Sovereign, which has over 6,500 homes in our area. I was pleasantly surprised at the speed of their response outlining actions that were already in place and their ongoing programme to upgrade all of their properties. The Housing Team also contacted all other registered providers, while the Public Protection team is similarly on the case with the private-rented sector.

  • Cost-of-living and energy crises

Last month (see below) I outlined the support available for those in need. However, in light of the marked change in weather, I’d like to remind you the Cost-of-Living Support Hub has been set up by WBC to help make it easier for residents to get advice and practical support if they are struggling with finances.

You can browse the hub online to find information about financial support benefits, help with food costs and childcare and money saving tips, as well as support if your mental health is being affected. If you need advice specific to your circumstances or need additional support, you can get in touch with WBC staff via the hub. You can also email the hub or telephone it on 01635 503 333.

The hub is open from Monday to Thursday 8.30 to 5.00pm and Friday 8.30am to 4.30pm. The website, of course, never sleeps.

  • Winter messaging for older residents

Sue Butterworth is the WBC Officer coordinating this effort and she is happy to take calls if there are problems or questions. You can contact her on sue.butterworth@westberks.gov.uk, 01635 503 410 or 07387 258 245.

  • Warm Welcome

Warm Welcome continues in the Walwyn Hall Lambourn. The elderly and those living alone are invited at 12.15 on Thursdays for a hot meal in a warm place and the opportunity to socialise. It is hoped to be open until March.

  • Lambourn Junction

As ever any donations either food or money will be gratefully received by Julie Blogg and her team.

CIL and members’ bids

As I mentioned last month (see below), the hoped-for CIL bid for streetlight replacement ran into a problem as a member’s bid has to be for new infrastructure. I said then that I had asked if this could be a mainstream CIL bid and awaited a response.

I’ve since received this and am delighted to report that £25,000 has been allocated from this fund for the beginning of next financial year. Along with a similar amount ear-marked from the Parish Council, this will replace all of the streetlights in Lambourn with energy-efficient ones which are significantly cheaper to run.

The Lambourn Neighbourhood Development Plan (LNDP)

The final draft for public consultation is almost there, which it is intended will have brief video presentations from the land promoters of the various possible sites put forward. There is only one site in the Woodlands and none in Eastbury.

The whole process continues to be impacted by the nutrient neutrality regulations, but the advice is to ignore that given that the plan life is to 2039.

Once the LNDP is approved by both the Inspector and the residents through a referendum it becomes a key element of the West Berkshire Local Plan: indeed, as much part of the Local Plan as if WBC had drafted it itself. Speaking of which…

The draft West Berkshire Local Plan

This is (in every sense) “the big one” and is the document that defines planning and development policies for the 15 years after it’s adopted. If a community has, like Lambourn, done a neighbourhood development plan then this will, once it’s passed all its stages, be slotted into the Local Plan.

West Berkshire Council’s Draft Local Plan was approved to go to final public consultation by Full Council on 1 December 2022. Consultation is for six weeks from 6 January 2023, after which any amendments are approved and it goes on the cycle of the Planning Inspectorate and then the Secretary of State. All being well it will come into force in 2024.

There are two allocated residential sites in Lambourn for a total of 67 units at Lynch Wood and Newbury Road. The NDP is tasked with identifying sites for a minimum of a further 27 units. Please bear in mind that this is over the plan’s life to 2039 so there is no need to be concerned about a sudden influx.

There is also a further commercial site allocated at Membury by the grain silos: however, this is not for distribution but small-scale light-industrial use that should generate local jobs.

Speeding

Along with Steve Mead, one of the parish councillors, I did a brief video to be uploaded onto YouTube highlighting the dangers of speeding down Hungerford Hill and explaining the dangers for residents coming down steps from their homes straight onto the road with no pavement. As anyone who has ever done this kind of thing will know, these rarely go completely according to plan…

First, as soon as we began it started to rain; next, a gentleman opposite started doing some quite noisy work on his fence. We then realised that, it being 10am on a Wednesday morning, the road was empty apart from the Postie. Nevertheless, with some careful cutting and splicing I am sure it will make its point, although it may not win any awards.

After the two serious accidents on the B4000 just outside Lambourn Ward between the turning to Poughley and The Pheasant, I have finally succeeded in getting agreement for a speed review on the next round. In these accidents, two HGVs and three cars were written off and trees and a wall taken down (though happily nobody was injured), all of which reinforces what locals have been saying for years – that stretch of  the road is just plain dangerous. Congratulations to the Woodlands Protection Group on raising £10,000 through crowdfunding to help fund studies to support the case for a 40mph limit and to continue to fight the proposals at Membury. You can read more about this in this separate post.

The racing industry

The planning application for Jamie Osborne’s Gallop was approved with numerous conditions. These included planting 5.7 hectares of natural woodland to replace the 0.57 hectares felled, a stipulation that they be professionally maintained for at least 20 years and significant bio-diversity requirements – overall it seems to me to be a good solution and will allow ongoing use by dog walkers etc as now.

A debate has started about how to attract and retain stable staff. This inevitably revolves around accommodation and hostels, particularly for the teenagers in their first time away from home. It is a key issue for the future of training in Lambourn and at least the ball is rolling. More to follow.

Eastbury Issues

I joined Steve Mead’s surgery in the Church during the month and we had a good stream of people coming through. I really think that joined-up thinking between Parish and District Councillors is hugely beneficial. Issues that arose were:

  • Disappearing white lines at the junction of Straight Lane and Newbury Road. I now have confirmation that these are on the schedule for 2023.
  • Street lighting. Steve Mead has taken on the thankless task of looking at its provision. A number do not work and there is a debate about a preference for dark skies against traffic and accident risks. Steve is proposing a further consultation on 21 January in the church.
  • Speeding (inevitably). I am hopeful that the new data we will get from the new speed cameras will prove the point, at which stage I will ask for a speed review to 20mph.
  • A sewage leak caused by a faulty valve up above the Christmas Tree plantation. At the third attempt, Thames Water seem, to have resolved it. Thanks to Tobi Corney and Steve Pearce for being so persistent.

Happy Christmas

December is usually a quiet month, so I usually let myself off my Parish Matters Newsletter at the beginning of January (and similarly in September after what is usually a quiet August). So, unless there’s anything really major, I will be bringing you up to date next at the beginning of February covering December and January.

It only remains for me to wish you and your families a very happy Christmas and a healthy New Year.

Get in touch

I am here to help if I can. You can contact me on 07836 718100 or Howard.woollaston1@westberks.gov.uk.

October/November 2022

The clocks have gone back and, as Professor Chris Whitty memorably remarked about this time last year, winter is coming. How things have changed this autumn – three Prime Ministers, an imminent recession, further increases in energy bills, rising inflation and a hike in interest rates with the inevitable effect on mortgages. I do at least feel that the grown-ups are back in charge (and that things may not be as bad as they look at the moment).

As a result, my column this month has a slightly different emphasis from usual and majors on cost-of-living issues and the work which both WBC and the local community is doing to address this.

Cost-of-living issues

  • The Cost-of-living Support Hub

This has been set up by WBC to help make it easier for residents to get advice and practical support if they are struggling with finances. Staff are available to provide information around cost-of-living issues and to match needs with the support available both nationally and locally, including from local charities and voluntary organisations.

You can browse the hub online to find information about financial support benefits, help with food costs and childcare and money saving tips, as well as support if your mental health is being affected. If you need advice specific to your circumstances or need additional support, you can get in touch with WBC staff via the hub. You can also email the hub or telephone it on 01635 503 333.

The initiative has been set up by WBC in partnership with Greenham Trust and the Volunteer Centre West Berkshire and will work closely with the local community and voluntary sector.

The hub is open from Monday to Thursday 8.30 to 5.00pm and Friday 8.30am to 4.30pm. The website, of course, never sleeps.

  • Community Life Connected

West Berkshire Council is encouraging community groups which are offering a “warm space” to have an entry on its Community Life Connected Map.

This map has been coproduced by a steering group consisting of Community Groups, aDoddle and Council officers in response to a community request to map local grass roots support following the Covid pandemic. There is no cost for having an entry on the map nor for accessing it.  The map provides small community groups with an opportunity to share information about local support and encourage local volunteering. While groups can include website or social media links in their entry, it also offers those who do not have the resources (in terms of time, expertise, or funds) to have a mini web presence totally free of charge.

There are bookmarks and flyers available to promote the Community Life Connected map and the team would be happy to arrange delivery of these resources to Lambourn if helpful.

I have recently received this comment from the Community Life Connected team:

We haven’t been approached by any community groups or the Parish Council in Lambourn offering a warm space as yet but are keen to support with an offer of help to create the map entries for warm spaces in Lambourn as and when they arise.  The Lambourn Junction community group has started an entry on the map for its CIC and we would be happy to support them adding more content if helpful.”

  • Winter messaging for older residents

WBC’s Public Health team will soon be sharing winter messaging for older residents around staying warm and well this winter. This will be through a combination of emails cascaded by the Ageing Well steering group partners, social media posts, work with voluntary sector partners and hard copy resources for residents who are not digitally connected.

Sue Butterworth is the WBC Officer coordinating this effort and she is happy to take calls if there are problems or questions. You can contact her on sue.butterworth@westberks.gov.uk, 01635 503 410 or 07387 258 245.

  • Warm Welcome

Finally, congratulations to Helen Noll for Warm Welcome in the Walwyn Hall Lambourn. The elderly and those living alone are invited at 12.15 on Thursday 10 November for a hot meal in a warm place and the opportunity to socialise. It is hoped to be open until March. Yet again, Lambourn’s volunteers are rising to the occasion.

The Neighbourhood Development Plan

The request for sites generated a good response which has now been analysed by the consultants. The final residents’ feedback sessions should take place shortly.

The whole process continues to be impacted by the nutrient neutrality regulations. These were introduced in many parts of the country, including the River Lambourn catchment, in March 2022 to protect rivers from the serious problems of phosphate and nitrate pollution. These have, however, severely complicated, and thus delayed the process of approving new developments.

More information on the Lambourn NDP can be found by clicking here.

Leisure centres and swimming pools

Many of you may have seen the recent BBC local news item about the squeeze on local authority finances forcing them to close leisure centres and pools. I am pleased to report that WBC’s Executive recently voted unanimously to keep all of ours open despite very significant cost increases.

Leisure centres and pools are very energy hungry and the financing problem is exacerbated by the smaller number of people visiting them. In the district in 2019, There were about 1,000,000 users of the district’s facilities in 2019 but this is now down to just over 750,000 as a result of post-Covid habit changes and, probably, cost-of-living issues.

Swimming is the second most popular exercise after walking and we have a truly excellent pool in Hungerford with some very competitive membership packages – so please use it.

Lambourn Library

Lambourn Library’s opening hours will be changing in the new year. From the week commencing 2 January the library will close at 5.30pm on Tuesdays (30 minutes earlier than at present) and remain open until for an additional hour on Wednesdays, closing at 1pm.

  • Tuesday 2pm to 5.30pm.
  • Wednesday 10am to 1pm.
  • Friday (unchanged) 10am to 5pm.
  • Saturday (unchanged) 10am to 12.30pm.

Our Library is a fantastic resource for the community supported by our amazing volunteers and with a lot going on for people of all ages – it’s well worth a visit.

Food-waste collections

Separate weekly food waste collections were launched on 31 October for residents who receive a kerbside collection, so don’t forget to put your new green outside caddy out for collection every week on the same day as your recycling and black bin collections.

By recycling your food waste, you will help cut down on what ends up in landfill sites or incineration facilities. Food waste sent to landfill doesn’t harmlessly break down. It has a big impact on the environment as it rots and releases methane, a greenhouse gas that is over 20 times more harmful than carbon dioxide.

If you have not received your food-waste caddies, please email me with your full address and I’ll ensure this is remedied.

Green wheeled bins with only food waste in won’t be collected now that the weekly food waste service has started.

This article in Penny Post has more on the subject.

CIL and members’ bids

The hoped-for CIL bid for street-light replacement has hit a major hurdle. A member’s bid has to be for newinfrastructure, not a replacement, a requirement which the streetlights clearly do not satisfy. Not to give up, I have asked if this could be a mainstream CIL bid and await a response.

The next round of members’ bid funding is now open (note that the £3,000 I can raise needs to be match funded) and I have outlined under the Speeding section below more about the current bid.

Speeding

I am delighted that the Parish Council is setting up a community Speedwatch group. They are joining me in a members bid to provide signage and equipment for the initiative. There are three entry roads into Eastbury and five into Lambourn and there is also consideration being given to Ramsbury Road in the Woodlands.

Please do get in touch with the Clerk, Karen Wilson, if you would like to be involved: info@lambourn-pc.gov.uk

Membury Industrial Estate and the B4000

Planning consent was granted for a renewal of the B8 (storage & distribution use) consent on the access road to Membury Services westbound, despite strong representations against from both me and the Parish Council. The point was made strongly however about both HGV traffic generation and avoiding any subsequent change of use to an asphalt plant as was previously attempted.

I will continue in my attempts to limit further growth there.

John O’Gaunt School

Whilst obviously not in Lambourn, many of our school-age children attend JOG. I mentioned last time about WBC’s financial contribution to the new 3G artificial sports pitch and the grant application. I am delighted to announce that this has now been approved and hopefully work can commence early in 2023. It is a great example of partnership success by Hungerford Town FC, Hungerford Town Council, JOG and WBC and will be a great facility for the wider community.

The dance studio provision is going through the final stages of financial approval and tendering but we look to be on track for it to be in place during the summer 2023 holidays.

Get in touch

I am here to help if I can. You can contact me on 07836 718 100 or Howard.woollaston1@westberks.gov.uk.

September/October 2022

In my last column (see below), I see that I was talking about heatwaves. This is a subject that won’t feature this time: indeed, rather the reverse as autumn is well on its way and the days are getting chillier. This leads directly to one of the main things I want to discuss this month…

Cost-of-living issues

The WBC Parish Report is provided by me to those requesting it and is published in the Lambourn.org website. Some of it is a little turgid but it is worth a five-minute scan to see the issues that face us across West Berkshire. The key ones are inevitably the cost of living and energy crises which will, of course, become particularly acute when winter arrives.

Lambourn and its surrounding villages and hamlets are a surprisingly diverse community with areas of great wealth and others with significant deprivation (hence the need for the superb efforts of the Lambourn Junction). Central government is providing support to people and businesses to reduce the impact on energy costs and has also provided WBC with £694,000 for the six months to March 2023 to support individual households in need.

As a separate, WBC has match funded £50,000 with Greenham Common Trust which we jointly hope will be contributed to by local people and businesses to provide a £200,000 safety net. The Council has also provided a further £200,000 to four local charities specifically to help pensioners.

(It’s worth pointing out that rising costs have also hit WBC. I recently spent seven hours in a budget meeting trying to balance the books. Sadly very little of this could have been anticipated when budgets were set in the early part of this year before Putin’s war in Ukraine. Thankfully WBC was and remains a financially well run council: so if we are struggling, heaven help some of the others…)

The Covid crisis showed how communities can pull together and I have no doubt that the current situation will engender the same resolve. If you or anyone that you know are in need please turn to help. The council has set up a hub similar to the covid one – click here for details.

Speeding

This is a problem that (like so many others) just won’t go away. There has, however, been some progress.

The calming measures have been installed in Eastbury. I am personally very disappointed in them as they are by no means prominent enough nor do they have the rubberised strips in a light grey colour that we were promised. I have tackled the Highways Team on this. The response was that the posts are as close together as can permit large tractors, horseboxes and the like to be able to get through. What I had hoped for as a Baydon-type solution is therefore just not feasible. It’s an unfortunate irony that the narrowness of the road through the village not only makes the speeding problem there so serious but also prevents some of the solutions that would help solve it.

Budget cuts (see above) were cited as the reason for removing the strips. However, if these calming measures make no difference then our argument for a 20mph limit in Eastbury is strengthened.

In Lambourn, I have had some useful meetings with the Parish Council and some well-informed members of the public and an initiative is underway to try and recruit volunteers to be trained on handheld speed cameras. Please get in touch with the Clerk, Karen Wilson, if you would like to be involved info@lambourn-pc.gov.uk

CIL and members’ bids

WBC periodically enables district councillors to bid for funding of up to £3,000 for local projects (members’ bids); also – sadly, less frequently – for larger projects of up to £50,000 (CIL bids). Here’s a summary of what’s recently been accomplished with these and what the next opportunities are.

  • Work is now completed on Fulke Walwyn Way, so taking racehorses off busy roads and reducing inconvenience to local residents. The £20,000 project was jointly funded by the Jockey Club Estates and my CIL bid to WBC.
  • The next tranche of money is now available and I am working with Vicky Rieunier, who chairs Lambourn Parish Council’s Halls & Streets Committee, for a joint bid totalling over £50,000 to replace all of the street lights for modern, environmentally friendly versions which will result in future significant annual cost savings to the parish.
  • The next round of members’ bid funding is now open (note that the £3,000 I can raise needs to be match funded). If anybody has any ideas, please get in touch. Previous bids have resulted in new children’s’ play equipment at both the school and Mill Lane Recreation Ground

Membury Industrial Estate and the B4000

There has been less progress on this than I had hoped. A combination of summer holidays, the sad death of Her Majesty The Queen and the fact that I have been a little out of commission for a few weeks (see below) means that the momentum has fallen away from the cross-department review of the Industrial Estate by WBC and the other initiatives that I outlined in my July/August report (see below). I am now back on the case with these matters.

I have, yet again, talked to Highways about speeding on the B4000. Thames Valley Police is, it appears, reluctant to reduce the limit to 40mph as this is not felt to be enforceable. I have suggested average-speed-limit cameras between the industrial estate and The Pheasant but have had push-back on that. I think that the best hope is for speed cameras either side of the turn-off to Chilton Foliat.

Planning consent was granted for a renewal of the B8 (storage & distribution) use consent on the access road to Membury Services westbound despite strong representations against from both me and the Parish Council. The points were, however, vehemently made about both HGV traffic generation and avoiding any subsequent change of use to an asphalt plant, as was previously attempted.

I will continue in my attempts to limit further growth there.

Nutrient neutrality

There has been no real further progress at a local level and, as a result, some planning applications are not progressing as fast as they should be while planners get to grips with the new regulations designed to protect our waterways.

However, I can report from fringe meetings I attended at the recent Conservative Party Conference that the problem is clearly understood by central government and that it is working hard to unblock things. I was able to specifically raise the issues of the racing industry in Lambourn.

Lambourn Neighbourhood Development Plan

The request for sites generated a good response which are being analysed by the consultants and the final resident’s feedback sessions should take place shortly.

More information on the Lambourn NDP can be found by clicking here.

John O’Gaunt School

Whilst obviously not in Lambourn, many of our children attend JOG. I mentioned last time about WBC’s financial contribution to a new 3G sports pitch and the grant application. We expect to receive confirmation of the grant imminently, so hopefully work can commence early in the new year.

Also at JOG, we have managed to vary a planning consent for a new dance studio. This will be a modular building which will hopefully be installed in the 2023 summer holidays.

Back on the hustings

I have been your ward Councillor for three and a half years now and I have thoroughly enjoyed the challenges and many interesting features of the job. It is particularly gratifying where I have been able to make a difference to residents’ lives and help solve problems for them.

The current democratic cycle is coming to its end and district council elections will take place in May next year. I have decided to put myself forward as candidate for the job again. I have been put on the selection list and hope to be a candidate.

I had intended to be walking the streets by now, knocking on doors and talking to people but .unfortunately, I had a fairly serious car accident in the Eastbury Shute recently. Whilst well on the mend, I shall be a little incapacitated for the next few weeks. I was only doing 20mph in a head on collision, but I urge you all to take care in our narrow lanes – whiplash is not to be recommended…

Get in touch

Whiplash or not, I’m here to help if I can. You can contact me on 07836 718100 or Howard.woollaston1@westberks.gov.uk.

July/August 2022

I hope that you all survived the heatwave a week or so ago. Like many people, I am quite happy up to about 30 degrees but beyond that it gets pretty uncomfortable (certainly the lawns round here feel that way). As I write this, the August harvests are well under way in the fields around the village – so here is my July/August harvest on matters affecting Lambourn ward.

New mini waste recycling centre

A new MWRC is being provided in East Garston in the Queens Arms overflow car park. This should be operational from about 10 August.

It will be similar to the one by Hungerford Station and include large containers for plastic pots, tubs, and trays, as well as smaller ones for waste electrical items and lined cardboard (tetrapak, Pringles tubes etc), and the longer-established collections of paper, cardboard, and textiles. Hopefully this will encourage even more recycling and, as importantly, reduce carbon emissions (and you can pop in to the Queens for a pint afterwards…).

More information on this and all other mini recycling centres in West Berkshire can be found here.

Speeding

My newsletter last month produced a flurry of emails about speeding, particularly in Lambourn and Eastbury and in specifically on Hungerford Hill. I have had a detailed discussion with Highways Department at West Berkshire Council (WBC). As a result, the following actions were agreed:

  • The speed warning light as you come into Lambourn by Hungerford Hill would be repaired (this has since been done).
  • A study will be undertaken to look at the viability of a 20mph speed limit in the centre of the village, probably from Crowle Road to just beyond the Church.
  • A speed-check study will be undertaken by WBC at two points – at the 30mph signs on Hungerford Hill and again by the junction with Crowle Road – for a full week.
  • I will discuss with the Parish Council the possibility of purchasing two speed indicator devices (SIDs), 50% funded through one of my members bid’s from WBC.

The number of HGVs going through Lambourn was also raised. I tried inputting “Wantage” into my Satnav when I was at Membury Industrial Estate and, probably not surprisingly, was directed straight down the High Street and out on Oxford Street. WBC’s Highways team is going to look at whether there is scope for signage directing HGVs down the B4000 and up the A338 through Great Shefford. This will of course have an impact on both roads which will probably not be popular with residents there, but Lambourn’s High Street is much narrower than the main road in Shefford and has far more pedestrians, particularly on market days – it is a bit of a no-win game!

Membury Industrial Estate and the B4000

The promised workshop on these major concerns that I organised was a great success. 18 of us met for a morning on Wednesday 20 July by courtesy of Rooksnest Estate in their Conference Suite. Attendees from West Berkshire Council included the most senior Officers from Planning, Enforcement, Economic Development and Highways; representatives from the community, the Parish Council, the Woodlanders Protection Group, local businesses; and me.

We split into groups to identify the key issues and then had a discussion as to how to at least reduce the impact on residents: solving them completely may be impossible. Most of us in Lambourn, including me, think that Membury Industrial Estate is in the wrong location for environmental and sustainability reasons as well as being in the AONB. However, we are where we are through historical decisions and we have to appreciate that the Estate does generate significant local employment.

Key actions that came out were:

  • Look to create a Business Improvement District (BID). There are a number of these around the Country including one in Central Newbury. They raise money through a small levy on local businesses to make improvements to the appearance of the area and promote it overall. They also provide a forum for local businesses and allow a degree of peer pressure on those companies not meeting their obligations.
  • Enforcement to put measures in place to stop HGVs travelling in unsociable hours and particularly in the middle of the night.
  • Further investigation into speeding and weight of traffic on the B4000.
  • A preference was expressed by residents for smaller-scale development.

The possibility of gaining access to the Estate from the Service Station has been ruled out by National Highways. Finally, it was agreed to reconvene in September in a larger location so that other businesses and effected residents could also attend.

 Nutrient neutrality

This continues to be a major problem for planning applications in the whole of the Lambourn Valley (and beyond: the Lambourn catchment covers about a third of the district) and is particularly having an impact on the racing industry, our key employer in Lambourn.

The good news is that a specialist consultant has now been appointed by WBC, paid for by central government, and there is now an understanding at DEFRA that the Racing Industry needs to be protected. I am hopeful that we will see some progress on this problem in September.

Lambourn Neighbourhood Development Plan

The LDP Working Party wishes to identify land which has potential for new housing up to 2036. The NDP is seeking appropriate sites for 25 new dwellings over the plan period. Sites for up to 65 houses have previously been allocated by West Berkshire Council.

“We would like to invite local landowners, developers and their agents to submit potential housing sites in the Parish of Lambourn. All submitted sites will be subjected to an independent technical site assessment process. Sites considered suitable following the technical assessment will be published for public consultation. Please complete the Site Submission Form which is available from the LPC website, or on request from either Lambourn.ndp@gmail.com or the Clerk to the Parish Council (The Memorial Hall, Oxford Street, Lambourn, RG17 8XP; Tel: 01488 72400)”

More information on the Lambourn NDP can be found by clicking here.

John O’Gaunt’s School

Whilst obviously not in Lambourn, many of our school age children attend JOG. With my Leisure Portfolio hat on, WBC has agreed to contribute £75,000, match funded by The Good Exchange (Greenham Trust) and with further contributions from Hungerford Football Club and Hungerford Town Council. This level of local contribution will enable WBC to submit a grant application to the Football Foundation for £400,000 to provide a new full size 3G artificial football pitch for both school and community use.

Planning consent has already been achieved so, assuming the bid is successful in October, the new pitch should be available by the middle of 2023. The total cost is over £600,000 and as a 3G pitch it will be able to be played on for 80 hours a week. In the light of the Lioness’s success at the weekend we expect even greater demand for pitches. WBC is already starting to look at the possibility of a further grass pitch on land that it owns adjoining this site.

Eastbury Village Hall

As mentioned previously, this is in a very poor condition and beyond economical repair. Chris Capel organized a recent village consultation and the well-attended event indicated an overwhelming support for rebuilding it (as opposed to selling the land). The trustees will be meeting next week to identify the next steps and to look at the various funding opportunities that exist.

This will all take time, money and effort. There’s no quick fix but at least we now have a clear direction of travel. More news will follow over the coming months.

Casework

There is never a dull day as a district councillor and this month has been no exception. Issues raised have ranged from overgrown verges and footpaths to tree branches needing cutting and parking disputes and, of course, trying to support Christian Noll’s campaign to keep the telephone box – you can read more on this issue on Lambourn.org and in Penny Post.

Do get in touch if I can help

August is always a quiet month with many away on holiday. WBC reduces all meetings to essential ones only. As a result, since I was elected in May 2019 I have usually not produced Parish Matters for August. I will follow his line again unless there are any urgent issues.

However, with no school-age children we took our annual family holiday in June so I am very definitely here! As ever if I can be of any help, please get in touch on 07836 718100 or Howard.woollaston1@westberks.gov.uk.

June/July 2022

I have not been around very much this month with, firstly, the Jubilee weekend and then our annual two-week family holiday. As I result, I thought that this was going to be a relatively short Parish Matters, but Lambourn Ward has not let me down. I usually keep on top of my emails whilst I am away but we rented a house with virtually zero internet connectivity.

I therefore came back to a mountain of emails which took me nearly a week to wade through, so I apologise again if you  received a particularly slow response. For those that do contact me about ward issues, you will know that I try to respond where possible by return.

Membury Industrial Estate and the B4000

I am delighted that the promised workshop on these major concerns is going ahead in the next couple of weeks. Attendees from West Berkshire Council will include the most senior officers from Planning, Enforcement and Highways and from the community, representatives of the Parish Council, Woodlanders Protection Group and local businesses. WBC is treating this very seriously as a key initiative which, if successful, they will cite as a way forward for other villages and towns with similar problems.

Directly related to this, I along with some of my fellow councilors have been pressing for an expansion of the Planning Enforcement team. I was pleased to be informed at the end of June that this has now been agreed and the budget allocated so recruitment will start imminently.

Other road issues

I hope some of you will have seen the pavement improvement at the junction of Mill Lane and Newbury Street in Lambourn by the Equine Vets. I received a complaint from a resident with disability issues that he was forced to go into the road as the footpath ran out at the Vet’s car park and was invariably blocked by a legitimately parked car – after a bit of prodding, problem solved.

In Eastbury the long-promised speeding solutions are finally going to be provided shortly although it may mean traffic lights for a day. I have also persuaded highways to repaint the lines at the bottom of Straight Lane whilst they are there.

Speeding as always remains a problem and I will be joining the next meeting with Thames Valley Police to voice your ongoing concerns.

 Nutrient neutrality

This continues to be a major problem for planning applications in the whole of the Lambourn Valley and is particularly having an impact on the racing industry, the key employer in Lambourn.

Various briefings are being prepared to explain the issues. Let me assure you that the Planning Team at WBC is equally frustrated at these restrictions which came out of the blue from natural England in March and will work with applicants to resolve things as quickly as possible.

Lambourn Neighbourhood Development Plan

The really positive and constructive feedback from the village consultations has now been analysed and the consultant has started the drafting of the preliminary report. This will hopefully be available in early autumn, if we are to keep to our timetable.

More information on the Lambourn NDP can be found by clicking here.

Members bids

Every year each District Councilor gets the opportunity to bid for something for their ward which will enhance the Community. The maximum bid is £5,000, and it has to be match funded. Last year I was successful in a bid for a new climbing frame for our school in Lambourn and Rachel Perkins the Head Teacher emailed me today as I am writing this to say that the children love their new Pirate Ship.

This year Helen Noll put forward a proposal to me for a major upgrade to the Mill Lane Play area including planting of hedges and trees, levelling of the goal mouths and rearranging the equipment to improve safety and reduce anti-social behaviour. Thanks to funding from Sheepdrove Foundation, The Pharmacy, Lambourn Junction CIC and the residents of Lambourn I am delighted that the bid has been successful, and work should start soon. All credit to Helen for her enthusiasm and drive.

I also get the opportunity to bid for Community Infrastructure Levy money every year. A total of £500,000 is usually allocated for the 42 District Councilors and again it has to be match funded. The resurfacing of Fulke Walwyn Way is about to start from last year’s successful bid – a joint project with Jockey Club Estates both putting in about £10,000. The next round is likely to be late autumn so please let me know if you have any ideas.

Do get in touch if I can help

I do my best to communicate my ward work through Penny Post, Lambourn.org and my regular e-newsletters. However, I am aware that not everybody is online regularly, if at all. I also appreciate that many prefer a quick face-to-face chat.

With that in mind – and invigorated and refreshed by my recent holiday – I intend over the summer to do a bit of traditional door-knocking around the parish to introduce myself to those who don’t know me and to learn what issues or concerns I might be able to help with. So, if you, or anyone you know who might not get my digital communications, would like me to call in, please let me know (if they definitely don’t want me to call in, please let me know of that too – I won’t be the least offended..)

It is a monumental task, as you can imagine. If you are not in, I will leave a leaflet with my contact details but in any event as ever if I can be of any help, please get in touch on 07836 718100 or

May/June 2022

I usually steer clear of political and general West Berkshire Council(WBC) matters in this local ward newsletter, but I am sure that some of you do not read the accompanying WBC Parish Newsletter and I wanted you to know that in an independent survey conducted by Money.co.uk, your Council has come out as Number 1 of all 304 Councils in the UK as giving best overall performance and Number 8 for best value for money.

I cannot tell you how proud I am at the achievement of this Council and its Officers. It is a huge endorsement of what we are doing both in terms of service delivery to our residents and as importantly keeping council tax demands as low as possible.

New responsibilities…

As I mentioned in last month’s column, I have taken over the Housing Portfolio in West Berkshire, in addition to Leisure & Culture. It has been a steep learning curve and I am now getting to grips with issues such as homeless people (we currently have none in West Berkshire, but we are not complacent) travelers’ sites and the housing list as well as Afghan and Ukrainian refugees –important work which is introducing me to other areas of WBC’s work with which I was previously unfamiliar.

…and old records

I have also taken on the lead role in the extension of the Berkshire Records Office (BRO) in Reading. This was built from some of the proceeds of the sale of Shire Hall when Berkshire County Council was split into the six unitary authorities in 1998. Various functions were divided up amongst the new authorities and West Berkshire became lead authority for the BRO – so I am involved, with my Culture hat on. I had a fascinating tour around this most impressive facility which included showing me the original plans for the school in Lambourn from the mid-1800s (which is now Valentines next to the Co-op).

Planning, nutrient neutrality and Membury Industrial Estate

Sue Halliwell, WBC’s Executive Director for Place (which includes planning and highways) came, at my invitation, to see round the whole of the ward, taking in the sights of the Membury Industrial Estate, Upper Lambourn, Lambourn, Eastbury and the Woodlands. Bridget Jones, one of the Parish Councilors who lives in Membury, joined us for part to highlight the issues at Membury.

The following week, Eric Owens (who heads Planning and Enforcement at WBC) came, with his three most senior officers, to look specifically at the planning and enforcement issues at Membury Industrial Estate – again accompanied by Bridget who clearly explained all the issues.

We have agreed to have a half-day workshop between officers, the Woodlands Protection Group and me to find resolutions to the key problems, including enforcement of planning conditions and traffic generation on the B4000.

Nutrient neutrality (which refers to the aim of removing excess nitrates and particularly phosphates from the aquifer and the river which is fed by it) is still a massive issue. A number of planning applications are being held up and others are being delayed in submission, particularly impacting on the racing industry that is so important to the economy of the Lambourn Valley. I have asked the Planning Team for comment that I can pass onto those affected as to likely timing and conditions that might be applied.

Part of the problem is that this came as a bolt out of the blue from DeFRA in mid-March and West Berkshire Council, and other affected authorities, have little internal resource with experience in this field. The government proposed a £100,000 grant to each authority to recruit someone with experience but we have still not received it and with 26 authorities looking for someone they are going to be in short supply.

I don’t think anyone would dispute the importance of the protection of our world-class chalk stream, but we also need to see a degree of certainty and clarity. I will be reporting back as soon as I receive a response.

The Lambourn neighbourhood development plan

We have now completed the last of five consultation meetings in Lambourn, Upper Lambourn, Eastbury and the Woodlands. Both the turnout and, more importantly, the engagement exceeded our expectations, and the Steering Group got some really helpful indications of people’s thoughts.

I attended all but one of these as well as delivering flyers with Moz Bulbeck-Reynolds, the Chair of Lambourn Parish Council, to all of Eastbury and enjoyed the opportunity to talk to residents at each not just about the plan but also other issues of concern locally. Examples included the regularity of the bus service to Newbury, the new main sewer being installed next summer, drug problems in Lambourn, adult social care and child-care issues.

More information on the Lambourn NDP can be found by clicking here.

The Platinum Jubilee

The Bank Holiday weekend is finally upon us and whilst the weather could be better, I am sure that everyone will make the best of things in the usual British way. I will be attending the Civic Service in St Michaels and All Angels Lambourn on Sunday and have been “persuaded “into reading a lesson. I will also be judging the Eastbury Cake competition later that day as part of the street party in Church or Back Street and will be dropping by the Lambourn party at the Sports Club. Please don’t let it rain after so much effort by so many people!

Other matters

I continue working with Chris Capel on looking at solutions for Eastbury Village Hall and with a number of people and organisations looking at ways to get better use out of the Lambourn Centre.

A summer break

Airlines and airports permitting, we are off on our summer holiday for the next two weeks. As last time, we have a dog-sitter staying but neither she, nor indeed our two dogs, are likely to be of much help with ward matters. However, I will be picking up my emails most days (in the evenings): so, as ever, if I can be of any help to residents, please get in touch on 07836 718100 or Howard.woollaston1@westberks.gov.uk

April/May 2022

Firstly, my apologies for the slight delay in sending out this Newsletter. It was my youngest son’s wedding in Suffolk last weekend which, including the to-ing and fro-ing, took up over three days and has rather impacted on what was in any event going to be a busy week both on the Council and with Lambourn Ward affairs.

My role at West Berkshire Council is changing as of next Tuesday. I am passing over the Internal Governance portfolio to a new Executive Member, Tom Marino, and taking on Housing as well as retaining Leisure and Culture. I have to say that it is a new challenge which I really look forward to.

Anyway, on to what I have been up to in the ward.

Water and sewers

I chaired the Lambourn Valley Flood Forum last week. This includes representatives of all the villages from Upper Lambourn down to where it joins the Kennet in Newbury. Thames Water was in attendance and we received a written report from the Environment Agency (to be fair, the EA usually sends someone to attend in person).

Clearly, groundwater levels have been far lower than previous years so have not fully tested the repairs and linings that Thames Water has put in place. TW has now completed the repairs needed in Malt Shovel Lane.

The big news is the construction of a new main sewer from Bockhampton Road to the main sewage treatment plant at East Shefford. This is a £6 million project due to be undertaken in early summer 2023 and will run through fields to the south of Eastbury and East Garston. Thames Water believes that this will finally resolve sewerage issues in the upper part of the valley and future-proof against any housing development proposed in Lambourn over the course of the emerging West Berkshire Local Plan which once adopted will run up to 2036.

(Outside of the ward, a flood-relief project for Great Shefford has finally been formally confirmed by the Environment Agency and is fully funded – probably also for 2023. See this separate article in Penny Post for more on this important and long-running project. As with the Eastbury scheme, this required a significant contribution (£80,000) from the parish.)

I am delighted to confirm that WBC has received a £150,000 grant from central government for property-protection measures on 27 houses and commercial properties in central Lambourn – further information to follow in due course.

Planning

I have arranged to show, in two separate visits, Sue Halliwell (WBC’s Berkshire’s Executive Director for Place, which includes planning and highways) and Eric Owens (the recently arrived Service Director for Planning and Enforcement) around the whole of the ward taking in the sights of Membury Industrial Estate, Upper Lambourn, Lambourn, Eastbury and the Woodlands.

These follow on from the meeting that I reported on last month between representatives of the Woodland Protection Group, senior Council Officers and me. There has also been a video-conference call with Eric and Lambourn Parish Council so that he could understand more fully LPC’s views and explain what powers WBC has in terms of enforcement.

The Walker’s approved matters application was refused although, as I write this, I am not sure of the reason/s. Otherwise, there have been no really contentious applications this month.

Annual Parish Meetings

I attended the Lambourn Annual Parish Meeting and spoke about the powers and influence a district councillor has with council officers.

I also attended the East Garston Annual Meeting as well as stand-in for Clive Hooker, whose ward it sits in, who was at a birthday dinner organised by his wife. I was astonished at just how busy and well-organized their Parish Hall is with a bar and various indoor sports going on: it even has a full-sized snooker table. It made me realise what we might be able to achieve in Eastbury with a rebuilt hall – if we can find a way of funding it. Any ideas for generous benefactors gratefully received!

Lambourn’s neighbourhood development plan (NDP)

I spent the morning of Saturday 7 May at the first of a series of informal consultations on this in the Church at Eastbury with the redoubtable Sue Cocker. These are the last opportunities for input into the NDP before it gets to its draft stage when things become more formal.

I would urge you to come to one of the other meetings and make your views known. Even though the NDP has yet to be adopted, the policies it’s developing are already being taken account of in planning decisions. It will have far more weight once the referendum is completed and the plan formally adopted. The remaining meetings are as follows:

  • Woodlands St. Mary Village Hall – Thursday 19 May, 7.00pm to 9.00pm.
  • Jockey Club Estates Upper Lambourn – Wednesday 25 May, 5.00pm to 7.00pm.
  • Memorial Hall Lambourn – Friday 27 May, 9.00 to 11.00.
  • Memorial Hall Lambourn – Friday 27 May, 5pm to 7pm.
  • Memorial Hall Lambourn – Saturday 28 May, 10.00am to noon.

I will be attending all of them apart from the Friday morning one on 27 May should you wish also to have a chat with me about this or any other issues.

Roads and rights of way

I recently met the head of the Countryside Team at West Berkshire on-site on Friday 6 May.

The first item was to discuss a solution to the walls in Three Posts Lane in Lambourn. There are two occurrences of the wall having collapsed but the issue is who owns them. They have been repaired over the years in a whole variety of different styles some with coping stones and others with a mix of brick and flint – it actually has a greater charm in my view than a consistent finish. A partially eroded stone says on one part “Restored 2000”. The Council has an obligation to keep the right of way in good repair but not the walls. It was left that more investigation is needed to determine ownership: however, I will be pushing for WBC to take responsibility.

We then moved on to Fulke Walwyn Way in Upper Lambourn, the horse track between Malt Shovel Lane and the High Street allowing horse access to the gallops. Will Riggall of Jockey Club Estates (JCE) joined us and we agreed provisional timings of this summer to tarmac it. This will be jointly funded by WBC and JCE and will resolve a long-standing issue for local houseowners as it tends to be a mud bath in the winter and a dust bowl in summer. As has been pointed out to me several times, neither of these situations are ideal.

Potholes continue to be repaired with Crowle Road next on the list – please do  continue to report them. It is far more effective to repair them when it is dry in the summer months.

The Platinum Jubilee

I am delighted that events are planned in both Lambourn and Eastbury – let us hope for some decent weather.

Get in touch

As ever, if I can be of any help to residents please get in touch on 07836 718100 or Howard.woollaston1@westberks.gov.uk.

March/April 2022

On the last day of March, here I am at my desk writing this newsletter and watching snow fall quite heavily. The same time last week I had got the garden furniture out and was sitting reading the paper with my morning fruit juice outside. What has happened to our weather?

I usually restrict my comments to pure ward issues: but as Executive Portfolio Holder for Leisure I was absolutely delighted to get the 10-year Leisure Strategy signed off along with approval to spend £5 million on a complete refurbishment of Newbury’s historic Lido. You will get the opportunity to enjoy this enhanced facility when it reopens, hopefully in July 2023.

Anyway, turning to matters affecting Lambourn, Eastbury and the Woodlands (of which there are quite a few this month)…

Planning

The full list is available on the excellent Lambourn.org website. The ones that caught my eye this month were the Hunt Kennels Farm on Ermin Street; Jamie Snowden’s application for a hostel and a new barn for stables and storage; and the detailed application for Walker’s Distribution unit at Membury.

  • The Hunt Kennels application for the demolition of the old kennels building and their replacement by a modest sized distribution unit was approved. I voted against as I shared the view of objectors that it sets a dangerous precedent to allow “creep“of industrial use North of the B4000. That said, the applicant runs a small local company generating employment –  and it is on their land next to their house – so I had quite a lot of sympathy for their situation. I am relieved that the consent has had some of the most robust conditions attached that I have seen and which clearly recognise that this is a special case. They link the use very firmly to the family company’s activities and ensures it reverts to agricultural use thereafter.
  • As the hostel and barn application could come before Western Area Planning Committee, I am not allowed to be pre-determined. However, I do welcome the addition of hostel accommodation as Lambourn suffers from a lack of suitable housing for those in the racing industry.
  • The Walkers application is to cover things like access roads, tree planting and colours. It remains a hugely controversial development locally and a petition of over 150 signatures was submitted to WBC opposing it.

I was also asked to inspect Sheepdrove Organic Farm by the Kindersley family. One cannot fail to be impressed by their passion for organic farming and the improvements they have undertaken since the purchase from the Milk Marketing Board some 25 years ago. Clearly all farms must diversify these days in order to remain profitable but this needs to be balanced by any impact on the rest of the community, in this case potential traffic generation.

Planning decisions are rarely straightforward…

Eastbury Village Hall

I have mentioned in a previous newsletter the dire state that this loved building is in. It is riddled with dry and wet rot to the extent that the Trustees cannot insure it for public use. To make things worse, there were significant amounts of asbestos used in its construction which will cause additional demolition costs.

I have been able to help the Trustees in two ways: firstly, to arrange for Mathewson Waters, the architects in Lambourn, to do some work on the basis of deferred fees until funds can be released; secondly, to make representations to remove any Council Tax liability (which looks to have been successful).

The two options thereafter are (i) to find a way of funding a new village hall or (ii) to demolish it, obtain planning consent for a single house and use the proceeds for the benefit of the village. I personally favour the former but there is a long way to go.

Roads and rights of way

I hope you will have noticed the extensive pothole repairs on the B4000 from the Pheasant towards Membury. It is a good start but there is more to be done. Similarly, I noticed today that the promised work to resurface Foxbury is complete. Please do continue to report such problems to West Berkshire Council.

I have been trying for many months now to get the wall in Three Posts Lane in Lambourn repaired. I have now agreed to meet the WBC Officer on site to finally resolve this.

The improvement to Fulke Walwyn Way in Upper Lambourn should start this spring as should – finally – the traffic calming measures in Eastbury.

Lambourn Centre and Lambourn Youth

It is very early days, but I am looking at ways to increase the usage of the Lambourn Centre, retaining the sports and gym facilities but making it more of a community asset. Working with Anna Field, West Berkshire’s Community Engagement Team, and Berkshire Youth we would like to put in a safe destination point for the young people in Lambourn which the recent survey showed to be severely lacking and ultimately to devolve the building to a Community Group.

So far it is looking very encouraging but more to follow over the coming months.

Membury Industrial Estate and the B4000

It wouldn’t be a newsletter from me without these old favorites. Four members of the Woodlanders Protection Group and I had a most successful meeting with West Berkshire Council (WBC) including the Executive Director for Place (which includes Planning Enforcement and Highways) with her senior officers for each discipline. This has resulted in a number of action points including:

  • WBC Civil Contingencies to be approached about an emergency plan for the whole of Membury Industrial Estate, given the amount of combustible materials there.
  • An internal working group to be established at WBC to look at an action plan.  It will comprise Officers from the following teams:
    1. Planning Development Control & Enforcement
    2. Planning Policy
    3. Environmental Health
    4. Highways
    5. Business Rates
  • WBC to investigate air quality surveys.
  • WBC to investigate M4 diversion routing and interaction with satnavs.
  • WBC to look again at speed checks and traffic calming measures.

This is being followed up by two site inspections and a review meeting towards the end of May. At last, I feel that the pressure for action is having an impact.

Lambourn’s neighbourhood development plan

The work continues and there will be a further opportunity for public consultation and input in May with public meetings being arranged in late May at Upper Lambourn, Lambourn, Eastbury and the Woodlands. A leaflet will be hand-delivered to every home in the first week of May with all the details and these will also be given publicity elsewhere including in Penny Post and Lambourn.org. and I do urge you to attend a meeting and express your views. I will be at every meeting if you wish to speak to me about anything else.

Nutrient neutrality

This bombshell was dropped onto the planners at WBC about two weeks ago and may have a major impact on planning in the Lambourn Valley. A number of rivers and their water catchment areas have been selected for protection including the Lambourn from its source in Upper Lambourn down to where it joins the Kennet in Newbury.

The directive is designed to reduce the amount of phosphates and nitrogen going into rivers, particularly chalk streams. I have to say this is commendable for the benefit of our river but similar action in the Test Valley last year resulted in huge planning delays for a year as developers and private individuals tried to understand the implications on the planning process, particularly regarding drainage.

Lambourn Junction

Huge congratulations to Julie Blogg who has been tireless and passionate about the Lambourn Junction initiative. She has received a 2022 High Sheriff of Berkshire Award for all of her commitment and hard work. Seven charities received an award, but Julie was the only one from West Berkshire. 

Lambourn’s phone box

Lambourn’s telephone box is under threat of closure again. Cristian Noll is leading the charge to save it and putting a petition together. It does not have large usage, hence presumably why BT want to close it, but I can’t help feeling that it might be for instances of real cries for help from the most disadvantaged of our community and it is worth fighting to keep it. Lambourn.org and Penny Post are both following this story. 

Hats off to…

Lastly a well done to West Berkshire Council and its contractors, Veolia. An elderly lady from Lambourn called me mid-morning last Tuesday to say that her black bin had not been emptied the previous week. I spoke to the Waste Manager who immediately called her to apologise even better, her bin was collected that afternoon. One very happy resident! 

Get in touch

As ever if I can help, please call me on 07836 718100 or email me Howard.woollaston1@westberks.gov.uk

Wishing you all a very happy and healthy Easter.

February/March 2022

February is the shortest month of the year but, even so, this newsletter seems to have come round very quickly. Looking back through my diary, it has been very busy four weeks which may well account for it.  Mind you, every month as a ward member is busy in its own way. I’m not complaining – it’s what I signed up for and I’m very glad to be able to help residents in any way I can. As ever, see below for my contact details.

I hope that you all weathered the storms safely. My only problem was a tree down in the middle of Eastbury which meant no recycling collection so I reverted to the old-fashioned approach of going to the tip. Many others will have had similar problems to contend with. Hopefully the worst of winter is behind us. The days are getting longer and we will soon all benefit from longer evenings shortly with the hour change.

It would be remiss of me not to mention the dreadful situation in Ukraine and to congratulate volunteers yet again rising to the occasion to raise funds and provide supplies. We held a full WBC Meeting in Newbury on Thursday 3 March and I am pleased to say that every councillor was wearing a blue and yellow ribbon and that the Ukrainian Flag was flying above the Council Offices to show our support.

Anyway, turning to local issues…

Neighbourhood Development Plan

Yet more meetings have taken place and we are making firm progress under the excellent chairing of Sue Cocker. This important project remains on track to be finalised by the autumn. For more information on Lambourn’s NDP, please click here.

Membury Industrial Estate and the B4000

I had a further meeting with key WBC officers in February. This confirmed all of our suspicions that HGV traffic on the B4000 has increased very significantly over the last two years. I have now arranged another meeting in the council offices (yes, face-to-face!) with the officers, the responsible executive director and representatives of the Woodlanders Protection Group for later this month. The aims of this are two-fold: (i) to ensure that there is no misunderstanding about the concerns that we all share regarding the growth of Membury and the impact on road traffic; and (ii) to stress the high importance of planning enforcement to limit uncontrolled expansion, which frequently occur without proper planning consents or without adherence to planning conditions.

This is going to be a long battle…

Investment in Fulke Walywyn Way

West Berkshire Council agreed its 2022-23 budget on 3 March. This included a provision in the capital budget for a £10,000 provision towards the surfacing of Fulke Walwyn Way in Upper Lambourn, the balance of the costs generously being provided by Jockey Club Estates. This should finally resolve the issues of, according to the season, mud or dust that have affected nearby residents for years.

Planning

As I mentioned last month, the application to allow mobile homes and caravans at Four Acres Fields by the M4 on the way to Baydon was refused. The applicant has now lodged an appeal.

A full list of all live applications in Lambourn as on 26 February can be found on the Lambourn.org website. As usual, there are quite a few of them.

Lambourn Youth

Work on this is ongoing and I have been exploring options on whether there is scope to remodel part of the Lambourn Centre to provide a suitable welcoming destination to cater for what is a clear need.

Eastbury Village Hall

As mentioned last month, this is in a sorry state and past the point of patching up. Chris Capel of 4 LEGS Radio fame and the other trustees took soundings on the possible next steps at the meeting in the Church last month which I attended. It is fair to say that a wide range of views were expressed: these included rebuilding it, demolishing it for housing and using the proceeds for the benefit of the village exploring further if the Church could be able to be used instead. More to follow on this one.

Water, water…

The return of the River Lambourn proves that the groundwater has risen over the last month or so though 2022’s levels seem set to be lower than average. This, coupled with the remedial work that Thames Water did last year, will in 2022 at least hopefully avoid a repeat of the sewage problems of the last few year. I’m aware that Penny Post contacted Thames Water on 4 March for its assessment of the results of 2021’s repairs and to see what plans it has for further works this year and has been promised a response next week. Repairs can only efficiently happen when the groundwater levels are within a certain range.

Rest assured that I and others are keeping a close eye on what is unfortunately a perennial problem in this area.

On a separate but related matter, Malt Shovel Lane in Upper Lambourn will be closed for emergency water works, probably until 18 March. This is a major inconvenience to the racing industry as it is the main route for a number of trainers to get their horses to the gallops. However, I understand that there is no alternative if this damaged piece of pipe is to be properly repaired.

Traffic in Eastbury

I know that I sound like an old-fashioned record that has got stuck, but WBC is committed to the Eastbury traffic-calming measures for which I have been pushing for nearly two years. I am chasing the Highways team for a firm date. If successful I will be asking for similar roll outs around Lambourn.

Roads and parking

  • I have now seen the proposed road-repair schedule for Lambourn for this year and next. Parsonage Place and Foxbury are both due for what is called an overlay later this year and Baydon Road from Crowle Road to the B4000 and Part of Ramsbury Road are due for surface dressing in 2023.
  • We are all conscious of potholes (sometimes, unfortunately, not until just after we’ve hit one). Please do report them so they can be fixed.
  • I am also continuing the campaign to resolve the parking issues around the school. A new officer is now in post at WBC and I have asked for an early meeting to try and finally resolve this problem.
  • The indefatigable James Potter, one of the Village Wardens in Eastbury, has applied for a grant from the Thames Valley Police & Crime Commissioner for a speed indicator device (SID) to try to limit speeding in the village. If successful then other locations might want to apply for one next year.

The Jubilee

As we are all aware, it is Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee at the beginning of June. Please keep your eye on any of the valley’s local publications and websites for information on what’s planned and how you can get involved.

Get in touch

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

January/February 2022

The last time I wrote an update, Christmas and New Year were barely on the horizon; now they are a distant memory – that’s what comes of missing a month of reports. Since then, the days have been getting noticeably longer and the first snowdrops are out in my garden. I notice also that the springs have started and the upper part of the Lambourn is flowing again (let’s hope the sewerage system can cope with the rising groundwater this time). Despite the current cold snap, spring is certainly on its way.

Anyway, let’s turn to the key issues of the day. First off, a district-wide matter but one which affect Lambourn as much as everyone else…

Council Tax

I am delighted that WBC is recommending only a 1% increase in Council Tax this year. In addition, the increased demand and responsibility for care homes and adult social care generally means that WBC will be raising a 3% precept for these essential services – even so, the total of 4% is significantly below inflation and one of the lowest demands in the UK.

The Lambourn neighbourhood development plan

The Steering Group has had yet further meetings with the appointed planning consultant. These included walking tours of the Lambourn Conservation Area, Eastbury and the Woodlands looking at building characteristics to try and establish design guidelines.

I mentioned in the last newsletter that Compton has taken nearly four years over its one (this is not unusual). I sit on the Western Area Planning Committee and, by coincidence, a major development proposal for 160 residential units came onto the agenda in December. We eventually decided to defer it as the Compton NDP is going for public referendum this month. It shows the increasing importance of these neighbourhood development plans and why we must persevere with the Lambourn one.

Sue Cocker, who chairs the NDP Steering Group, has even stood down from her other committee responsibilities on the Parish Council to give added oomph to the last stages of this marathon. For more information on Lambourn’s NDP, please click here.

Membury Industrial Estate and the B4000

I reported on a very successful meeting with senior Highways and Planning Officers of West Berkshire Council (WBC) last time. A follow-up meeting is scheduled for later this month after which I hope to be able to arrange a meeting with the responsible Executive Director and key officers of WBC with representatives of the Woodlanders Protection Group.

Planning

The owners of the site next to Membury Service Station, part of which had the withdrawn asphalt plant application on it, have reapplied for their previous consent (which had expired). More than 10 letters of objection were received which means it will go before the Western Area Planning Committee and allow both the Parish Council and me to make representations.

The application to allow mobile homes and caravans at Four Acres Fields by the M4 on the way to Baydon was refused. This brings into focus the whole issue of planning enforcement. As a result of previous austerity cuts, the WBC enforcement team has been reduced to 1.3 full time employees. I have been pressing for this cut to be reversed and I am delighted that another full-time team member is being recruited. We cannot allow unlawful rogue development to happen, here or anywhere else in the district.

A full list of all currently live Lambourn Ward applications can be found on the Lambourn.org website. As usual, there are quite a few of them

Lambourn youth

The survey carried out with the young people of Lambourn produced a low response but did give some firm steers as to what is needed. They underlined the lack of safe places to meet, particularly on dark evenings. With the involvement of Berkshire Youth and WBC I am hopeful that we might be able to come up with some constructive ideas. My thanks to the ongoing commitment of Anna Field and Lambourn Junction.

Eastbury Village Hall

This is in a sad state with significant wet and damp rot. The result is that it is not able to be insured and so can no longer be open. Chris Capel, of 4 LEGS Radio fame, and the other Trustees are taking soundings on the need and what to do with it. I would urge Eastbury residents to attend one the meeting in the Church at 11am on Sunday 6 February to give your thoughts.

If the decision is taken to rebuild it, there will be some complicated design work to achieve modern standards on matters such as parking and environmental sustainability. My thanks to Duncan Mathewson and his team for some initial pro bono work. We will need to look at funding options including National Lottery, Greenham Trust and a possible CIL bid through me.

Water, water…

Thames Water continues to be working on solving the well-documented sewage problems in the area. As mentioned above, the rising groundwater will provide the first real test of the work they have done in the last nine months.

The same cannot be said of the Environment Agency which does not seem to be covering itself in glory over pollution of the Lambourn – thankfully well downstream of the ward, but pollution is pollution. As Chairman of the Flood Forum, I have been getting involved in the issues all the way downriver to where it flows into the Kennet in Newbury.

Broadband in Upper Lambourn

Broadband in Upper Lambourn – hopefully we will be celebrating that the problem is finally solved by next month and it is one more off my list. You can read more in this article in Penny Post which describes what has been a very long saga, far pre-dating my time as your ward member.

Traffic in Eastbury

WBC is now committed to the Eastbury traffic calming measures for which I have been pushing for nearly two years and hopefully they will be in place in the next few months. I am chasing Highways for a firm date. If successful I will be asking for similar roll outs around Lambourn.

Roads and parking

There are a number of temporary road closures around Lambourn for a variety of reasons including dealing with Ash dieback and drainage issues (see above).

I am also continuing in the campaign to resolve the parking issues around the school. A new officer will shortly be in post, and I have asked for an early meeting when he arrives.

The jubilee

It is Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee at the beginning of June, and I would hope that Lambourn and the surrounding areas can come up with some suitable ways to celebrate it.

Get in touch

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

December 2021/January 2022

As mentioned below, Howard took a month off from his reports over the festive period, though not from his WBC and ward work.

November/December 2021

Christmas is rapidly approaching and I have already visited a highly successful and well attended Christmas market in the Church in Eastbury, as well as my first charity Christmas Carol Service. Christmas cards are being written and I have even bought my first Christmas present – so I’m not quite as domestically disorganised as I usually am at this time of year.

Anyway, getting to the key issues of the day…

Neighbourhood Development Plan

The steering group has had a further meeting with the appointed planning consultant which gave more clarity to the direction that we need to follow. A workshop is being set up for the first week of January to get us towards the final draft. I know for some this has seemed a prolonged process, but Compton has taken nearly four years over its one (which is now about to approach the final fence of the public referendum) and I am assured that ours is well on track.

For more information on Lambourn’s NDP, please click here.

Membury Industrial Estate and the B4000

I had a very successful meeting with senior Highways and Planning officers at West Berkshire Council (WBC) where I was able to highlight key issues of local residents on the use of Membury Industrial Estate and its impact on the B4000. The main points that came from this were:

  • Traffic data was provided by WBC. It was recognised that the January 2020 data was pre-Covid so that the increase may well be under-stated. The detailed figures were broken down into time and size of vehicle.
  • I agreed to provide traffic data from the Woodlanders Action Group.
  • WBC will do traffic surveys on the B4000 every two months until the Covid effect is over.
  • WBC is approaching the successor to Highways England to look at access to/from the service station. The J14 Chieveley example was cited as a possible way forward.
  • The proposed 40mph on Ramsbury Road is out for consultation until 16 December. The likely implementation date will be towards the end of 2022 (it normally takes a total of 18 months from start to finish, apparently).
  • WBC is going through all existing planning consents on the Membury Industrial Estate and checking on there conditions attached, which should be completed imminently. WBC’s Enforcement team will then talk to all occupiers reminding them of these conditions.
  • It was agreed to arrange a meeting with representatives of the Action Group when this work is completed in late January, face-to-face in the Council Offices. I am endeavouring to get Sue Halliwell (the relevant Executive Director) to attend.

Planning

Last month I had a meeting with Charlie Walker of Walker Logistics to see how their plans were developing. They have invited three representatives of the Action Group and me to a further meeting: at this they will a presentation of their proposals for comment ahead of a detailed planning application early in the New Year.

The owners of the site next to Membury Service Station, part of which had the withdrawn asphalt plant application on it, have reapplied for the previous consent (which had expired).

A full list of all Lambourn Ward applications over the last month can be found on Lambourn.org.

Youth provision in Lambourn

On the initiative of Anna Field, I have been involved in looking at the provision of facilities for the teenagers in Lambourn – it’s fair to say that these are, in my view, woefully inadequate. We had a very successful “meet and greet” of the school busses in the Market Square on 19 November – Berkshire Youth was there with its minibus (as was Anna, with free pizza), with support from WBC’s community liaison team. We got a good response to an on-line questionnaire which is now being rolled out to all non-primary schools in the catchment area. You can click here to take part in this – you don’t have to be in Lambourn to do so as responses are welcome from anywhere in the Valley. Early days but at least the wheels are in motion.

Other Issues

  • Drains in Parsonage Lane – WBC is going to ensure that there is no further blockage.
  • Broadband in Upper Lambourn – we seem to be finally getting there and hopefully the area will fully connected to the twenty-first century by the spring.
  • The Remembrance Day events were well attended and well organised in all of the villages.

Traffic in Eastbury

WBC is now committed to the Eastbury road quietening measures for which I have been pushing for nearly two years. Hopefully they will be in place in the next few months. If successful I will be asking for similar roll outs around Lambourn.

WBC matters

On the Council Executive front, my main task at the moment is to try to get planning consent for the new proposed Sports Hub in Monks Lane in Newbury. This will be a fantastic facility and will become home to the Newbury men’s and women’s teams, hopefully for the 2022-23 season. As some of you may have seen, I have been interviewed twice by Meridien TV News regarding this.

Your double-jabbed councillor

My arm feels a bit like a pin cushion with both flu and Covid booster jabs – but could I urge you to take advantage of them, particularly in the light of the new Omicron variant. Some vaccination slots are available at the Lambourn Pharmacy – these can be booked through the NHS website. (Note, however, that if you want to book your jab at the pop-up clinic at Hungerford Cricket Club in December this will not be offered as an option on the NHS site and you need to book separately here.)

A month off

Don’t worry – I’m not jetting off to the tropics for the next four weeks. However, I usually skip my December/January newsletter unless anything important crops up: so, assuming that doesn’t happen, I’ll be in touch again at the beginning of February. It only remains for me to wish you all a very happy Christmas and a healthy and successful new year.

Get in touch

If you need to contact me on 07836 718100 or Howard.woollaston1@westberks.gov.uk.

October/November 2021

The clocks have changed, the leaves are falling and it is getting dark horribly early. Whatever the season, however, the Lambourn ward casework never takes a break. There’s a disparate group of issues this month which I have slightly struggled to get into logical headings.

Neighbourhood Development Plan

This carries on apace. The recent Government U-Turn on Local Plan development means that West Berkshire Council’s Local Plan is now back on track to go to the Inspector for approval in the spring with a view to it being adopted by the end of 2022. This has, in turn, put greater pressure on the steering group. Progress since last month has been completion of the analysis of people’s views from the consultations taken around the ward and the issue of a Landowners Survey. We hope to be on track to get first draft completed by the end of this year and it completed by the Spring.

For more information on Lambourn’s NDP, please click here.

Highways and Parking

I have met with Alan Bruter, who lives next door to the school, and another resident on site to look again at the school parking issue. The Head Teacher, staff and pupils there have done their best to manage the problem but it seems that further assistance is needed to solve it. I’ve agreed to do what I can.

This is primarily a health and safety concern – children are being dropped off at and picked up from school with the fear that one might run across the road. Most of us have done school runs in our lives and I can certainly vouch for how stressful they can be.

The obvious solution advocated by Alan is to replicate the road markings on the other side of the street from the school preventing parking for a limited time on both sides from, say, 8am to 10am and from 3pm to 5pm. I raised this with the Highways and Traffic Teams at the Council. They are sympathetic but frankly stretched at the moment with the sheer volume of requests for road signage and repairs. I will keep on pressing them.

Better progress on Three Posts Lane where I now have confirmation that the Council will repair the listed stone wall which has partially fallen down.

Off-roaders continue to plague the area particularly, it seems, around Eastbury. As I have reported previously, the Parish Council, the Council’s enforcement team and the Police are going to be working together to try to reduce the impact on residents.

I understand that my member’s bid to upgrade Fulke Walwyn Way in Upper Lambourn has been successful. Work should start on that jointly with Jockey Club Estates in the spring.

Racehorse Training

I have recently been in touch with Niki Hinman, a new reporter on the Newbury Weekly News. She’s interested in horses and wanted to know more about the racing industry, so I arranged with Will Riggall of JCE to show her Upper Lambourn, in particular the Gallops, followed by a brief tour of Rhonehurst (with thanks to Warren Greatrex). Apart from some torrential showers (all part of the racing deal), she thoroughly enjoyed learning more about what is probably the key economic driver in the Lambourn Valley. This will hopefully lead to good stories infused with first-hand experience.

Planning

I had a meeting with Charlie Walker of Walker Logistics to see how their plans are developing. I was pleased to see that they are taking a sympathetic approach to landscaping, including transplanting mature trees, and are doing their best to minimise the visual impact of their proposed new building.

As I mentioned last month the asphalt plant application at Membury has been withdrawn. The applicants have now asked for temporary consent under what are called permitted development rights (PDRs) to clear and process the material there, then to return the land to AONB condition. This PDR, which is operating under Covid restrictions, has to be completed by the end of January 2022.

A steady stream of applications continue to come in for the ward and two which were heard on 3 November at the Western District Planning Committee on which I sit – confirmation of Residential Use in Coldborough Hill Eastbury and a development of four houses on the site of the bungalow at the junction of Newbury Street and Station Road. Both were approved.

Christmas Market

Finally, a plug for the Eastbury Christmas Market on Sunday 28 November between 5.00 and 7.00. Full details are in Village Views and Penny Post, but it includes a BBQ, brass band, stalls and a bar. It should be a great start to the Christmas season.

Woollaston online

Anyone who knows me will be aware that I have studiously avoided social media. However, I have recently been pressured into setting up a Facebook account – so be prepared…

Get in touch

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

September/October 2021

As I mentioned in my last newsletter, my family and I took a holiday for the back two weeks of September so apologies if you have been waiting for a response from me on anything. I did take a few calls on urgent matters and tried to keep up with the more important emails. Thankfully there were no emergencies for our dogs or house/dog sitter to deal with…

When I sat down to write this I thought that, because of my absence, it would be a much shorter newsletter than usual. Looking back, I see that this isn’t quite the case: proof that I may go away but the issues in the ward do not.

District Parish Conference

Firstly, a reminder that the conference is taking place virtually on Tuesday 19 October. If you wish to join using Zoom, please let me know and I will try to arrange it for you. Zoom obviously has a limited number of users at one time and parish councillors are given priority so it will be first come, first served.

Lambourn Primary School

Over the last few months there have been some complaints about parking at school drop off and pick up times, so I arranged to meet the Principal, Rachel Perkins. It is a year or so since I last visited the school and I was even more impressed by the quality of facilities, including a heated outdoor swimming pool, and how well it appears to be run. We are very lucky to have such a marvellous educational facility in Lambourn.

Rachel showed me child-friendly signs to deter inconsiderate parking and how their system worked to speed up the process of delivery and collection of pupils. Some parents are also parking in the Leisure Centre and walking their children the last few yards. Every school in the district has the same issues and it is clearly most problematic in those that serve a rural area but Lambourn School seems to be doing its best to resolve this problem itself. Please follow any signs or requests that are made by Rachel and her team.

Membury Industrial Estate/B4000 and speeding

I mentioned last month that I had arranged a meeting with Senior Planning and Highways Officers of WBC to look at the issues facing our community from speeding and, in particular, HGVs on the B4000 and the threat to having more traffic onto the main valley road.

This was productive. They are going to undertake some further traffic surveys ahead of arranging a meeting with the Woodlanders Action Group in advance of the district-wide speed limit review in the spring.

As anticipated, the asphalt plant application on the Estate has been withdrawn, at least for now.

Other planning and licensing issues

I am sure that we are all pleased to see the opening of Family Mart in Market Place in Lambourn : I for one wish them every success in their endeavours. I did not oppose the licensing application to sell alcohol, but I am concerned about the illuminated sign which I think is not in keeping with the High Street. I will be arranging to meet with the proprietors to discuss options.

The Fognam Farm, Upper Lambourn Application comes to Western Area Planning Committee on 13 October, (you can see the agenda and links to the documents here) and I will be speaking as ward member. It is opposed by a number of local residents but the site visit I recently attended suggests that the applicants have addressed the majority of the key issues. The committee will decide and I’ll let you know the result next month. You’ll also probably be able to read about this in Lambourn.org or Penny Post.

Less straightforward will be an application for a residential caravan use at Four Acres Yard South of Ermine Street in the Woodlands – one to watch!

Lambourn Neighbourhood Development Plan

I attended two of the sessions to get public input to the plan before I went on holiday. I was pleased to see some positive and, in some cases, forthright views put forward. We really do need community engagement in this process.

Urgency is now back on as the new Minister, Michael Gove, has changed a number of issues. As a result, West Berkshire Council is now pressing ahead with its local plan for submission in 2022 rather than deferring it a further two years. The next meeting of the NDP Steering Group is next week and we will be aiming to achieve a tight timetable to get our plan completed. More information can be found on the LNDP’s website.

Other issues

The trail bike/off roaders are back again. Bucklebury has been particularly successful at curtailing this menace through working jointly with the Police, and West Berkshire and Lambourn Parish Councils and Parish. I will be trying to follow their example.

There have been some complaints of weed spraying by Council contractors which I am following up.

Back in the saddle

After a wonderful two-week holiday in the sun – something with the relaxing of the regulations now makes widely possible again – I returned to the colder, wetter, and more overcast world of West Berkshire. For anyone planning a trip, I can offer the reassuring news that we were through passport control at Heathrow in under 30 minutes,. We were bracing ourselves for a far longer wait. I then turned round in 12 hours and went up to Manchester to the Conservative Conference. This was, as ever, uplifting, positive and exhausting in roughly equal measure.

I am delighted to be back with you as we move further into autumn. As mentioned at the top of this post, I have a number of responsibilities at West Berkshire Council but my primary role is as the ward member, representing you. This is also the part of the job I find the most interesting. As ever, if I can help, please get in touch with me on 07836 718100 or Howard.woollaston1@westberks.gov.uk.

August/September 2021

August is meant to be a quiet month – that was not the case in 2021, however…

Membury Industrial Estate and the B4000

I arranged a meeting with Sue Halliwell, WBC’s Executive Director for Place which includes Planning, Highways and Enforcement. She is also the Interim CEO until Nick Carter’s replacement Nigel Lynn arrives next month. The agenda included seeing what could be done to prevent further expansion at Membury Industrial Estate (MIA), to improve traffic issues on the B4000, to create some form of masterplan and generally to find a way to enforce restrictions.

As a result, I now have a meeting set up as a preliminary to a wider session which will include members of the Woodlanders Action Group (WAG) and the senior officers responsible for Planning and Highways. The officers are beginning to understand the opposition – and, to a degree, anger – from residents at having their views ignored. The process was helped by some insightful public questions at both the Executive on 2 September and the upcoming Full Council meeting on 9 September from local people. More to follow.

The asphalt plant application

Still at the MIA, it would seem that the planning application for the asphalt plant will be withdrawn. The issues are slightly technical, but the application was for a change of use from warehousing/distribution to general industrial. However, the previous planning consent for warehousing had expired and the land has reverted to the AONB.

I suspect that the applicants will restart the process: but this pause provides an opportunity to object again or at the very least get some tighter use restrictions imposed.

Ramsbury Road speed limit

The 40mph speed restriction on Ramsbury Road should be in place shortly.

Lambourn Neighbourhood Development Plan

The dates for public consultation have been widely publicised and I would encourage you to attend one of these below: –

  • Wednesday 8 September, 5pm to 7.30pm, Jockey Club Estates, Mandown Farm, Upper Lambourn.
  • Saturday 11 September, 10am to noon, Eastbury Church.
  • Thursday 16 September, 5.30pm to 7.30pm, Lambourn Memorial Hall.
  • Wednesday 22 September, 5.30pm to 7.30pm, Woodland St. Mary Village Hall.
  • Saturday 25 September, 10am to noon, Lambourn Church.

I will be at the Jockey Club Estates and Lambourn Memorial Hall ones but have a Council Strategy Meeting Day to attend for the Eastbury one and we are hopefully on holiday for the last two. (We have a house/dog sitter whilst we are away but neither they, nor the dogs, will be able to deal with any ward matters on my behalf…)

With potential changes to the planning protocols due to government policy coming up, and the consequent delay in the new Local Plan, it is even more important that you have your say.

Members of the steering group had a useful meeting with the Local Plan Team at West Berkshire Council so that we could ensure that we are on the right track.

Afghanistan

I am extremely proud that West Berkshire Council has risen to the occasion to help the refugees from Afghanistan

The Council had already announced back in July that Afghan families would be welcomed to the district in the next few weeks. We have now also confirmed that two local hotels will be used to temporarily host further evacuees from this weekend (3 to 5 September).

The Council was contacted by the Home Office on 2 September and was advised that two hotels in the district will be used to house evacuees who have completed a 10-day quarantine until permanent accommodation is identified. WBC has already offered permanent housing to three families.

Throughout the pandemic, I have been overwhelmed by the generosity of local residents and businesses. This has again been in evidence with this issue with many offers of support and donations for the refugees having already been received. It is vital that this is managed properly so please make any offers using the proper channels:

Fulke Walwyn Way, Upper Lambourn

I am occasionally able to put bids in from various Council funds for the ward. Last time round I secured a £1,000 contribution towards the cost of the new climbing frame for Lambourn School. The bid this time is to the Community Infrastructure Levy fund to surface Fulke Walwyn Way to stop mud and dust (depending on the season) and reduce horse traffic on the busy B4000 in Upper Lambourn. The bid is for £10,000 match funded by Jockey Club estates – fingers crossed.

Rural crime

I recently met our MP Laura Farris  and Matt Barber, the Thames Valley Police and Crime Commissioner, to discuss rural crime, particularly in the Lambourn Valley. My thanks to Rooksnest Estate for hosting the meeting and particularly to Robert Price, the Estate Manager, who joined us for the discussion.

Three Posts Lane

I am in discussion with the countryside team at West Berkshire Council to try and resolve the issues with the wall in Three Posts Lane Lambourn.

Speeding

The speed review will now include Eastbury, Baydon Road and Hungerford Hill both in Lambourn as well as the B4000.

Jabs in Lambourn

Graham Jones, one of my predecessors as District Councillor for Lambourn, will soon be providing Covid jabs in the Lambourn Pharmacy – so, when my or your turn comes round for a booster, we wont have to go to Swindon or Tilehurst.

And finally…

As part of my WBC responsibilities, I recently hosted a webinar on our plans for the Newbury Lido and had some very positive and useful input. The consultation for this has now closed but the many responses we’ve received will assist with our planning for the renovations. It’s hoped that one of the results of these will be extending its season (currently it closes in early September). It’s certainly Lido weather at the moment…

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.

July/August 2021

Green bins

Firstly, could I add my personal apologies for the lack of green bin collection last week. As is mentioned in the West Berkshire Council report, it was completely out of our hands. The contractor, Veolia, found a very large number of its collection and driver operators had to self-isolate because of Track and Trace from that Monday Morning and did the best they could do in the “Pingdemic” situation. The black and green bins use the same vehicles whereas the recycling ones are specialist and cannot be adapted, so green iins were the obvious casualty.

As a goodwill gesture, West Berkshire Council is making a £4 reduction in the cost for 2021/2 in recompense and will collect additional bags for the first collection now that we are back to normal service.

Rural broadband

In terms of other ward matters there has been a helpful announcement by Government this week of a major boost for Rural Broadband called Project Gigabit. I have asked the Superfast Broadband Manager to see if this might help our few areas that are not fully connected. At 98% coverage we are behind only Bournemouth in terms of non- metropolitan roll out across the entire UK and we are still working to get to 100% (including Upper Lambourn, parts of which have – as residents won’t need reminding – proved difficult to connect to the 21st century in this respect).

“Superfast” is 30mbps but this new proposal is for full-fibre ultrafast broadband of up to 1,000mbps. West Berkshire already has 26.47% coverage which is ahead of most of the UK. West Berkshire, along with Oxfordshire, is in Phase 2 with procurement due to start in May 2022 and roll out from April 2023. It is going to cover 68,600 homes at a cost estimated at between £67 and £114 million.

The Lambourn neighbourhood development plan

Turning to the neighbourhood development plan, you will be pleased to hear that Eastbury has belatedly swung into action with its character assessment (see last month’s report). A group of five of us – including both parish councillors, one of our flood wardens and Nina who runs the village email circulation – recently met to get this process under way.

The plan’s Steering Group, which is a sub-committee of the Parish Council with additional co-opted members, is meeting with the Planning Team at West Berks Council shortly to discuss early provisional findings.

Meetings are being arranged in September for residents to see the progress and make comments. I do urge you to attend and have your say.

Confirmed meetings are:

  • Wednesday 8 September, 5pm to 7.30pm, JCE, Mandown Farm, Upper Lambourn.
  • Saturday 11 September, 10am to noon, Eastbury Church.
  • Thursday 16 September, 5.30pm to 7.30pm, Lambourn Memorial Hall.
  • Wednesday 22 September, 5.30pm to 7.30pm, Woodland St. Mary Village Hall.
  • Saturday 25 September, 10am to noon, Lambourn Church.

 CIL grants for Lambourn

Working with the Chair of Lambourn PC, Moz Bulbeck-Reynolds, I will be trying to put a bid in for a Community Infrastructure Levy Grant looking at Fulke Walwyn Way in Upper Lambourn resurfacing, repairs to the walls at Three Posts Lane in Lambourn and some upgrades to the Memorial Hall. These grants now come up annually so any thoughts for future projects appreciated.

Other matters

  • I have put in a request for a speed-limit review on the B4000 and Eastbury in the next session in early 2022 – please let me know if there are any others. (I have previously raised the suggested that Baydon Road and Hungerford Hill into Lambourn should also be reviewed.)
  • I have also, at the request of neighbours, got the licensing and enforcement teams to look at late-night noise coming from the George.
  • I have asked the drainage team to clear all the drains in Eastbury to avoid potential flooding of listed buildings.
  • The next Lambourn Valley Flood Forum meeting, which I chair, is now arranged for Monday 13 September and I will report on that in my September newsletter.

Slightly further afield

My work as portfolio holder on the Council’s Executive has kept me really busy this month particularly with the leisure element. We are out for consultation on both the overall Leisure Strategy  and, specifically, the Newbury Lido – your views are really welcome so please take a look. Both close at midnight on Sunday 5 September 2021.

The long running saga of what is now being called the Newbury Sports Hub (the provision of a new artificial grass pitch and clubhouse at the Rugby Club at Monks Lane for Newbury Men’s and Ladies Football Teams and community football teams) is reaching a key stage with the planning application going in very shortly.

Weather news

There is a rumour that another heatwave might be on the way later this month – whether this comes to pass or not, enjoy the rest of the summer and keep safe and well.

Get in touch…

As ever please get in touch if I can help on 07836 718100 or howard.woollaston1@westberks.gov.uk

June/July 2021

Lambourn NDP

I will kick off this month with the Lambourn Neighbourhood Development Plan. The Business Survey has now gone out and the Settlement Characteristics Study has been completed, with the notable exception, I am embarrassed to say, of Eastbury, where I live. I am assembling a group with Moz to try to remedy that asap. The District Councillor and the Chair of the Parish Council clearly need to get their collective act together!

The intention is then to have some presentations in the Memorial Hall in Lambourn and Eastbury and the Woodlands village halls in September with a view to pulling everything together by the year end. It has been a long, drawn-out process but I am told by the WBC Planning Department that that is quite normal.

Planning

Sticking with planning issues, I have been trying to continue to assist the applications on Whitehouse Stables and Jamie Osbourne’s gallops, both in Upper Lambourn.

The B4000 and Membury Business Park continue to be issues , as does the proposed asphalt plant. To this list must now be added a recent application for open storage for distribution use at Lambourn Business Park and an application for stables on land just in the area close to Baydon alongside the M4.

Trees – the good and the bad

Trees are an issue on two fronts – on the positive side the Lambourn Environmental Group, formed by Penny Brewer and Ruth Andreski contacted me and they are now in touch with and having a meeting with Countryside Officers of WBC to try and make Lambourn’s contribution to the Jubilee Queens Canopy Project to plant more trees. Great for the environment and a fantastic initiative.

On the negative side, a number of trees are going to have to be cut down because of ash dieback, particularly one at the entrance to Folly Road. We need to replant urgently.

Other issues

Other things raised with me include:

  • Continuing issues with pick-up and drop-off at the school;
  • Late-night noise from The George;
  • Concerns over the positioning of the Lambourn Junction container in the Lambourn Car Park.

Executive matters

In my Executive Portfolio role at WBC, I have been really busy. For example…

  • I was pleased to launch the Summer Reading Challenge at Hungerford Library (Lambourn’s was not quite big enough to get the photo shot inside). This is a brilliant campaign to get children to read books over the Summer Holidays and parents are welcome to join in as well (but do not, I’m afraid to report, get stickers or medals…)
  • The Newbury Lido opened on time on 21 June 21. We have great plans for this much-loved facility on which we will be going out for public consultation shortly.
  • On the subject of consultations, if you go to Newbury even occasionally, please do make your views known on the Newbury Vision (this closes on 16 July). The group is particularly keen to hear from people under 25.

Lambourn Parish Council

I will be joining the Lambourn Parish Council meeting by Zoom on 12 July, sensibly moved from last Wednesday because of a small football match. (All residents are invited to do so as well – click here for the agenda). I am reliably informed that the sound problems we had last month have been resolved so please take a look at that as well as West Berkshire’s Full Council meeting last Thursday at which I had some testing public and member questions to answer: one of the joys of being on the Council Executive…

And finally…

It has just occurred to me that this is probably the first newsletter that has not mentioned Thames Water. There are still issues in East Garston and Great Shefford but they are not my responsibility – that is not to say I am not sympathetic but any matters in these parishes need to be raised with my colleague Clive Hooker (see top of section for his contacts). He and I liaise as necessary on such cross-border issues, of which this is certainly one.

Like everyone else, I am very much looking forward to the final return to normality on 19 July, hopefully some decent weather for the rest of the summer and, of course, Lambourn Carnival.

Get in touch

As ever, keep safe and well. Please do get in touch if I can help – 07836 718100 or Howard.woollaston1@westberks.gov.uk will find me.

May/June 2021

It may have been one of the wettest Mays on record, but the caseload certainly has not dried up…

Lambourn Parish Council

Moz Bulbeck-Reynolds, the new Chair, is rapidly getting into stride but she confessed that it is rather more work than she had anticipated. We had our first catch-up session together which we both agreed was really useful and constructive. We are going to continue them on at least a quarterly basis so that we have a joined-up approach in representing the interests of parish/ward residents (Lambourn is a rare example of a place where the boundaries of each are identical, which simplifies my role somewhat).

I also attended, spoke, and answered questions at the recent Parish Council Assembly. This was held at the Memorial Hall with Moz, three members of Thames Valley Police and me, with Mike Billinge-Jones organising the technical side so that people were able to Zoom in and ask questions. It was very successful and really quite slick.

Sad to say, the same could not be said of the Parish Council meeting on 2 June. Most Parish Councillors came to the Hall while I along with several others joined by Zoom. The sound quality was appalling and after nearly an hour straining our ears to understand what was being said, most of us regretfully gave up. I have agreed to discuss this with Moz next week when she returns from a short holiday and will see if we can come up with a solution. One of the things that has been a positive from Covid has been far greater involvement of the public and interest in local government both at district-council and parish level. It would be a real shame to lose that through a lack of some relatively minor gremlins in the technology.

The notes of the meeting can be seen here at Lambourn.org’s site.

Sewage works

My fellow Councillor, Clive Hooker (whose ward covers from East Garston across to West Ilsley – no convenient one ward = one parish situation for him) and I were interviewed by Penny Post when a team from Thames Water was doing work to line the sewers in East Garston in May. Click here to see it. Whilst I by no means put in an Oscar performance, I think the main points came across quite well. Thames Water seems to be meeting its promises so far.

Very recent news is that there has been a mains water failure near Junction 14 of the M4 which is affecting a limited number of residents in the Woodlands. Thames Water is on the case and is tankering in fresh water to keep mains pressure at an acceptable level until a permanent fix can be done.

Planning issues

Planning applications continue to come in and I have contacted the relevant planning officer on two of these – Jamie Osbourne’s Gallop at the top of Lynch Wood and Tom and Alex Ward’s for a house at Whitehouse Stables.

A campaign to object to the asphalt plant proposal at Membury Industrial Estate is rapidly gaining momentum.

Also, at Membury, after the approval of the Walker Logistics application, I arranged to meet Charlie Walker to discuss ways in which we could mitigate traffic generation on the B4000 and deal with those companies who are not as responsible as Walkers and flout the rules. I am trying to get a meeting of minds between Thames Valley Police, West Berkshire Council Highways team and other interested parties to both reduce speed limits and, more importantly, enforce them. Walker Logistics is happy to assist. I very much hope that the Woodlanders Action Group will take a prominent role, but it also potentially affects the villages in the valley in case the bottom road is used as a rat run.

Covid

Whilst there have been a very few cases of the Indian Variant (now known as Delta), West Berkshire remains in good shape with fewer than 30 cases per 100,000 population in the week ending 31 May, which were primarily caused by two outbreaks in schools elsewhere in the district. It is worth mentioning for those of you who use the mobile lateral flow testing service at Woodlands St. Mary Village Hall on Fridays between 1.15 and 2.00 that there was a day missed last week due to staff illness but normal service should by now have resumed.

For more information, see this clickable map (which enables you to zoom in to an often ward-level of detail.

Parking at the school

Drop-off and collection issues at the Primary School have been raised with me. Whilst this is essentially a health and safety concern – with the fear that a child might be injured where cars are temporarily parked – it is also a significant inconvenience to people who live close to the school . There does not seem to be an easy solution and it is a similar theme for all schools in the district. It is obviously more of a problem for those in rural areas where, for many, walking or cycling to school is impractical. I suspect that Covid has also been a factor with less car-sharing.

I have been in touch with both the Headteacher and West Berkshire’s traffic safety team to try and find a way to improve things. They are working together, and I have agreed to review matters again at the end of this month.

Other matters

  • Wall repairs at Three Posts Lane – just who is responsible?
  • Upgrading Fulke Walwyn Way in Upper Lambourn to stop both the mud and dust at different times of the year. Jockey Club Estates and West Berkshire Council are now in touch to find a suitable solution.

At least now the weather seems to have turned for the better as we move into summer. Our holiday plans have all been cancelled – a situation many others will find themselves in – and we will be having a staycation. Then again, we are all fortunate to live in one of the most beautiful parts of the UK. Please stay safe and remain aware of social distancing. Hopefully we will have more relaxations of restrictions on 21 June.

Get in touch

Please do get in touch if I can help – 07836 718100 or Howard.woollaston1@westberks.gov.uk.

April/May 2021

Well – we seem, at long last, to be on the way out of the Covid nightmare. For me it has meant lunch outside at the Queens Arms in East Garston, a haircut after 17 weeks, a check-up at the dentist after nine months and my first trip to London for well over a year. We will hopefully see further relaxations on 17 May. Although West Berkshire has very low levels of infection, I would urge everyone to be cautious – we do not want any slip ups!

Vaccinations and testing

I hope that by now most will have had their first vaccination. I have my second next week. The Racecourse Vaccination Centre will be closing shortly but Boots in Northbrook Street Newbury is being set up as a replacement which may be more convenient for many of us.

Lateral Flow testing has now moved to the Library Car Park in Church Street Hungerford and there is no need to book. Lateral flow tests are also available for home testing from the Market Square on Monday mornings and although there were some initial problems, these seem to have been resolved. See this post for more information about what’s available throughout the district (and across the borders).

Water, water…

I chaired the recent Lambourn Valley Flood Forum meeting which led to some robust challenges to both the Environment Agency and Thames Water. These covered their progress on items as diverse as: pollution into the river; why volunteers are being charged to do work removing silt and weed which should be an EA responsibility; why the Great Shefford project is not proceeding as quickly as promised; and (inevitably) what are the next stages in preventing the release of sewage in the future. I am pleased to say that both organisations responded well both during and after the meeting.

The Lambourn neighbourhood development plan (LNDP)

Lambourn Neighbourhood Development Plan continues apace with Helen Noll agreeing to join the Working Group and a business survey about to go out. This will only take 10-15 minutes to complete electronically and will produce some useful data so I would be grateful if you could find the time to do this if it’s relevant to you. For more information on the LNDP, please visit its website.

Broadband in Upper Lambourn

Good news on this has recently come in. The final addition to the scope of the SFBB Project has been approved and Upper Lambourn is part of it. Openreach will commence its build programme with a final delivery date of Q4 2021/2022. The build is subject to survey so they cannot guarantee 100% of properties that are currently in scope will be delivered to as there is much that is unknown until full surveys are done. About time too!

Member’s bid

As your district councillor I can put in a request for an Annual Members Bid. This is for £5,000 for a project to benefit the ward which has to be match funded. Bids have to be in by mid-late June, so any ideas gratefully received – see my contact details below.

Planning matters

The application to build a new warehouse unit and historic aircraft museum by Walker Logistics at Membury Industrial Estate was approved by West Berkshire Council’s Western Area Planning Committee by five votes to four. The argument was essentially loss of Area of Outstanding Beauty land and increased traffic generation against employment.

The latest application at Membury, for an asphalt plant, is currently going through the planning process. There have been numerous objections so it will also come before the Western Area Planning Committee.

Traffic – Lambourn and Woodlands

Which brings me on neatly to traffic issues. I am trying to engage with Walkers and the other responsible employers on the Industrial Estate to see if we can find a way to control traffic generation and speeding on the B4000 through the Woodlands. The Woodlanders Action Group is girding its loins for this next fight. The speeding issue is essentially down to Thames Valley Police and I am in touch with the Superintendent based in Newbury to explore options.

Speeding issues have also been raised with me again on Baydon Road and Hungerford Hill in Lambourn.

Traffic – Eastbury

In Eastbury, works to try and reduce speed through the village are due at the end of this month or beginning of June. This involves minor kerb works to give the impression that the carriageway is narrower than it is without actually restricting the passage of large agricultural vehicles and buses. The intention is to introduce a dull yellow/buff asphalt material aiming to break up the visual line, particularly in the long straight stretch by The Plough and the entrance to the village from the east. This avoids textured surfaces creating noise levels.

It is an experiment. If it works, we will look to roll out something similar in Lambourn. The intention is that it should encourage more appropriate speeds whilst not increasing maintenance costs.

Also new HGV signs were put up at the end of Straight Lane in the last few weeks.

Lambourn Parish Council (LPC) meeting 5 May 2021

I attended the virtual LPC meeting last night and would like to congratulate Moz Bulbeck-Reynolds on being elected Chairperson and to send my thanks to all of the Councillors, in particular the new ones, for sparing their time on this important civic duty. You can read Penny Post’s report of the meeting here. The official minutes will appear on the Lambourn.org website in due course.

The meeting included a presentation from Christian Noll about the recently formed Lambourn Junction Community Interest Company – a great step forward.

And finally…

Other recent ward matters revolve around the usual case load of minor planning and housing issues and helping Lambourn Junction Foodbank to have a temporary approval for a container in the village car park.

All we need now is for the weather to perk up and get a little warmer.

Get in touch

As ever, keep safe and well. Please do get in touch if I can help – 07836 718100 or Howard.woollaston1@westberks.gov.uk.

March/April 2021

As I write this on Bank Holiday Monday, I am very relieved to have got to the comparative calm of the long Easter weekend. March was a really busy month both in the Council and on Lambourn case work. We were all lucky to have a couple of days of fairly warm weather and the Woollaston shorts made their first appearance of the year last Tuesday.

Portfolio changes

We have had a reshuffle of portfolios at West Berkshire Council so I have left Health and Wellbeing and gone back to Internal Governance, retaining Leisure and Culture. To be honest it is a relief: although I did my best, I often felt out of my depth on health issues and did not want the role in the first place!

Leisure remains a hot potato particularly over the Football provision in Newbury. I held a Public Webinar on the proposed new Sports Ground which people were kind enough to say went well and I am delighted to say that we have now agreed terms with Newbury Rugby Football Club for a long lease to provide a first-class football pitch with changing rooms, floodlighting and a bar/function room. Subject to planning approval this will be open in Spring next year and will become the new home for Newbury men’s and women’s football teams.

My new portfolio puts me right in the thick of how we create public meetings under the new rules. The one thing that we are all adamant about is that we are going to keep live streaming and the ability for catch-up using YouTube. The over 14,000 views of Council Meetings clearly shows that this is a major new way to engage with the Public.

Local elections

The Police & Crime Commissioner and Lambourn Parish Council by-elections for Upper Lambourn and Lambourn are on 6 May. The usual polling stations will be open. These will be Covid-friendly (perhaps Covid-unfriendly would be a better term); but even so, if  you have a postal vote you may prefer to use that.

Sewage issues

As I alluded to above there has been a lot going on in and around Lambourn. First the good news – Thames Water has announced that ground water levels in the valley are dropping so there should be no more sewerage issues this winter. Hopefully TW will stick by their words and ensure that the remaining works are completed over this summer and autumn to avoid any reoccurrence in the future.

Traffic issues

Speeding remains a particular problem and I have taken up cases with WBC Highways team and Thames Valley police in the last month over Hungerford Hill, Baydon Road and the B4000. I have been trying to get some action since you elected me nearly two years’ ago and will persevere.

Another concern is the overnight closure of the M4 Eastbound from J15 to J13 over the next three weeks. The diversion is via Marlborough and the A4 but those in the know will inevitably use the B4000. I have liaised with Wiltshire County Council and the Police but it seems that there is little that can be done.

Planning

On the planning front there were 35 written objections to the proposed asphalt plant at Membury Industrial Estate so it will definitely come before the Western Area Planning Committee (on which I sit), along with other controversial applications in the pipeline including Walkers at Membury, Collingbridge Farm and Fognam Farm in Upper Lambourn.

Lambourn’s neighbourhood development plan

The NDP continues apace, now including a full photographic survey by drone of the River Lambourn from its source to the ward boundary between Eastbury and East Garston. A big thank you to Simon Godfrey who kindly did it for free as a benefit to the community. For more information on Lambourn’s NDP, please click here.

Better times (hopefully) ahead

I hope that you had a peaceful and enjoyable Easter. We now have the gradual relaxation of lockdown starting with non-essential shops reopening, being able to get haircuts again and most importantly being able to see friends over a drink outside pubs. Vaccinations continue at a great rate and the infection and death rates seem back under control so hopefully this nightmare might be behind us.

Get in touch

Wishing you all well and do get in touch if I can help. You can reach me on Howard.woollaston1@westberks.gov.uk or 07836 718100.

February/March 2021

The good news is that spring is finally here with the days drawing out and crocuses and daffodils beginning to appear. More importantly, we now have a roadmap to escape the lockdown and return to normality again.

Covid

I will start with the pandemic. I had my first Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine last week. Apart from having to go to Swindon for it, it could not have been easier – painless and all done in five minutes. I felt a bit as if I’d mild flu for 24 hours but otherwise no other side-effects.

Along with two of the Hungerford Councillors, I visited the new lateral flow testing centre at Hungerford Rugby Club when it opened on 22 February. Again, so efficient, and easy and I had a result on my mobile in under 30 minutes – negative, thankfully. More information on lateral flow testing in the area can be found here.

Infection rates in West Berkshire as a whole are dropping rapidly and the Lambourn ward is currently in the lowest possible category (three cases or fewer) – see this interactive map for details. However, let us not be complacent – we need to beat this thing once and for all!

Sewage

As most will know, the sewerage issue raised its ugly head again in Newbury Street in Lambourn. Thankfully this time it was a short-term occurrence but it did result in effluent going into the river (again), followed by a massive tanker operation in Bockhampton for several days. Thames Water has said for some time that they will not be able to finally crack the problem until the end of this year. Rest assured I intend to hold their feet firmly to the fire on this one.

Please see this post for information about what you should not put down your toilets – following this advice will greatly help matters.

Covid grants

All district councillors were invited to put in a pitch for some £1,000 Covid Grants to cheer up their ward. I racked my brain to think of something appropriate and got in touch with Rachel Perkins, Head Teacher at the Primary School, who told me that they were raising money to provide a new climbing frame. I duly made the application and am delighted that the money was allocated towards the cost of this project.

Local plan consultation

The Local Plan consultation is now completed. You may recall that I have raised in the past the proposed extension to Membury Employment Area. I was asked by the Woodlanders Action Group to submit a petition against the proposal signed by 106 people and there were numerous other objections so we will wait and see.

Traffic

We have succeeded in getting the speed limit in Membury Road reduced to 40mph effective in the late spring.

I have chased up the Highways Department at the Council about the installation of the traffic calming measures in Eastbury which were meant to be installed this half term. They apologised for the delay and they are promised soon.

I have noticed a number of potholes some quite deep due to the recent cold weather – do please report them and they will be dealt with.

Planning

There are a number of planning issues in the ward at present.

I recently met Tom and Alex Ward who run Whitehouse Stables in Upper Lambourn and who have applied for a new family house and office to the rear of their stables. They have done a fantastic job in developing their new stables (on the left-hand side as you pass Malt Shovel Lane on the B4000) – a credit to the whole area. I have put in a letter of support to the planning officer.

Still in Upper Lambourn and on the equine and related front, the saga at Fognam Farm in Upper Lambourn continues.

An application has been submitted by Racing Welfare on land at the rear of Collingridge Farm adjacent to Oaksey House in Oxford Street going back to Millfield for 24 flats to accommodate racing staff both current and retired and a hostel with 20 bedrooms for young people coming into the racing industry. I am sure nobody can ignore the need for this type of accommodation particularly given the near £25m that the racing industry generates for the Lambourn Valley every year. The issues relate to access, disruption to local residents’ lifestyles and flooding/sewerage concerns. The Parish Council has decided to object. Whilst I have an open mind at present, I have called it in. This means the application will go before the Planning Committee, so enabling councillors as well as officers to look at the matter carefully before reaching a decision.

There is also a proposal at early stages for residential development on the Wantage Road on the left-hand side as you go out of the village – I will be keeping a watching brief on it.

Finally, back to Membury, the Walker Distribution Application is still to be decided. I also received notice today that an application has been submitted for the installation of an asphalt plant – does it never end?

Get in touch

As ever, keep safe and well. Please do get in touch if I can help – 07836 718100 or Howard.woollaston1@westberks.gov.uk.

January/February 2021

January has got me back to my usual busy schedule. From my Executive Portfolio-holder side, Covid, the Newbury Football Ground proposals and both the Culture & Heritage and the Leisure Consultations have been extraordinarily time-consuming: nor have things been quiet on the Lambourn Ward home front…

Lambourn Valley Flood Forum

I chaired the Lambourn Valley Flood Forum on Monday 25 January A good turnout and mostly very positive. There remain some administrative issues with flood prevention further down the valley but, from a Lambourn/Eastbury perspective, Thames Water seem to be on top of things. The groundwater levels are rising rapidly now and you will have seen the river flowing quite fast. Let us all hope that there will be no repetition of 2020.

A groundwater warning was issued for the Lambourn Valley catchment on 4 February: this post has links to sources of up-to-date information.

West Berkshire Council’s local plan consultation

The consultation process is now closed. I submitted a 105-person petition on behalf of the Woodlanders Action Group, and I was one of many objecting individually to the proposed extension of the Membury Industrial Estate Designated Employment Area with the implications of increased HGV traffic on the B4000, not to mention environmental effects.

Green-bin interruptions

I am sorry for the one-off green-bin cancellation last month. This was caused by the perfect storm of ill or self-isolating operatives and increased green bin usage beyond previous years. Hopefully all back to normal now.

Lambourn Junction

This excellent organisation was highly commended in the Community Champions Award 2020 for West Berkshire – a great effort and wonderful to see your hard work for the community recognised.

Lambourn Parish Council meeting in February

Unfortunately I was unable to attend this as it clashed with West Berkshire Council’s Western Area Planning Committee meeting. You can read Penny Post’s report of LPC’s meeting here.

North Wessex Downs AONB

Along with some Lambourn Parish Councillors, I attended the annual presentation by North Wessex Downs AONB. A large part of this related to chalk streams and I will be trying to get the Lambourn included in the overall approach to improve water quality.

Potholes

Lambourn.org received a very appreciative email from a resident who wanted to make it public that West Berkshire Council has done a great job at repairing the potholes after he notified them of their existence. The Highways team was delighted to have good feedback. If you need to report a pothole problem, this is the page to visit.

Eastbury

As part of the Lambourn Neighbourhood Development Plan process, I am trying to get a group together to create an Eastbury Design Guide. James Potter has already made an excellent start but any willing volunteers welcome.

Covid

Sadly, we cannot avoid the virus. The vaccine rollout at Newbury Racecourse has really picked up speed after arguably a slow start and we should be up to if not ahead of the other Berkshire Unitary Authorities by the end of next week. Nearly all over 80’s are now vaccinated and it is hoped that the over 70’s will not be far behind with over 65’s like me baring an arm by the end of the month. Thankfully, West Berkshire is at the lowest end of Berkshire infections and all the indicators are moving in the right direction, so there appears to be light at the end of the tunnel for a gradual return to normality – keep everything crossed.

West Berkshire Council’s website has a wide range of information about the pandemic and the various local responses to it. You may also be interested in this map on the Gov.uk website which, when you zoom in, enables to drill down almost to parish level.

…and back to work

Finally, a whole raft of planning issues along with a blocked drain in Lambourn – the joys of being your District Councillor!

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.

December 2020/January 2021

I had not intended, as last year, to provide a local commentary this time as effectively it was only a two-week month but we are in unusual times so I thought that I should.

Covid in Lambourn

Things change so rapidly. It was only just over a month ago that West Berkshire had an infection rate of 51 in 100,000. That has now risen to over 400 but the good news is that our district has the lowest rate in the whole of Berkshire and Lambourn is the lowest in the whole of West Berkshire, both by some way. We must be doing something right so please keep it up.

The reality of the virus was, quite literally, brought home to me just before Christmas when my stepson tested positive and was promptly banished to his room. As a result, my wife and I both went for testing at Newbury Showground – a very quick and efficient experience (we both tested negative, by the way).

Lambourn  Flood Forum

I am chairing the next Lambourn Valley Flood Forum meeting on 25 January and will update you further next month. Thames Water has continued to do work on resolving the long-term issues and whilst groundwater levels continue to rise my fingers are firmly crossed that we will not see a repetition of 2020. We can all do our bit as well – please see this post (apologies for the rather unpleasant header image but it does reflect a reality with which residents will be all too familiar) with advice from Thames Water about what we should not put down our toilets.

Speed limit in Membury

West Berkshire Council has agreed that the speed limit in Membury Road will be reduced to 40mph.

Lambourn Neighbourhood Development Plan

The Lambourn NDP will be out for consultation shortly, after the working party has had a final Zoom meeting with West Berkshire Council. Please see the LNDP website for more information. Please make sure you have your say when asked – this is an important process which will determine the extent and nature of development in the parish over the next decade or so.

West Berkshire’s Local Plan

West Berkshire’s Local Plan, which runs up to 2037, is out for consultation and I would urge you to look at it. The key two issues for us here in Lambourn are a proposed extension of the Membury Industrial Estate of about 300,000 sq ft and confirmation of the Lynch Wood housing allocation for just over 60 units of which 40% are designated affordable. (Note that the Lambourn NDP and West Berkshire’s Local Plan, are separate but related projects: it just so happens that, in Lambourn, the two consultations are coming up at more or less the same time. I recommend that you respond to both.)

Get in touch

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

November/December 2020

Quite a lot to talk about this month. Let’s start with one which has been a regular and unwelcome feature of life in the upper Valley for some time – and one on which I’m glad to say that there are now some real signs of progress.

Sewers and groundwater

I spent the morning of Saturday 28 November with our MP Laura Farris and Rachel Carden in Upper Lambourn and by the Fire Station, looking at progress. I have since been briefed by Thames Water (TW) and West Berkshire Council (WBC) on what has been done so far and likely outcomes for this winter.

In Upper Lambourn a pipe has been put in by TW to speed up the flow of surface water out of the appropriately-named Drain Lane and into the river, which should reduce pressure from groundwater into the sewer pipes. They are ready to start pumping as soon as necessary and they are liaising with Will Riggall at Jockey Club Estates to minimise impact on the horses. Jamie Osbourne has kindly agreed to the use of part of his land to allow further pumping of groundwater into the Lambourn to further ease the situation.

TW is continuing the process of sealing manholes, checking pipes, and lining where necessary in particular at Foxbury and Tubbs Farm Close. They think they have solved the problem at the fire station but there will need to be a temporary road closure by the Nippy Chippy, hopefully only for a day to get into the pipes under the road.

In Eastbury, the manhole has been sealed so fingers crossed. We seem to have an engineer who cares about his job and is getting things done. As he said to me “I wouldn’t want it outside my house “. The key is that they are onto it this year before the problem rears its ugly head.

I will be chairing the Lambourn Valley Flood Forum in January and will give feedback on that in my January report.

Further information from Thames Water on this matter can found in this post. See also Laura Farris’ FB page (30 November) and the discussion, to which Rachel Carden has been contributing, on the Lambourn Community FB Group.

The Neighbourhood Development Plan

The working party, excellently chaired by Sue Cocker, is close to going out to consultation and I would urge you to look at it when it is released and make your views clear. We even had a meeting in the Memorial Hall – socially-distance of course – which made a novel and welcome change from staring at faces on a screen.

The two most controversial sites are the land adjacent to the Employment Area in Membury (where the current application is due to be heard in January) and the residential proposal off Lynch Lane which is allocated for 61 houses and flats of which 40% have to be affordable.

This consultation will be followed by West Berkshire Council’s Local Plan Review covering the period up to 2036. This will be out for consultation in the Early Spring and Mike Billinge-Jones, Chairman of the Parish Council, and I are attending an initial briefing session about this on Monday 7 January.

Click here for more information on Lambourn’s NDP.

The Parish Council

I attended the Parish Council meeting on 2 December (you can read Lambourn.org’s summary of the event here) and I was able to provide some clarification on various points.

Eastbury

The so-called Eastbury Pole (which was put up for some form of remote metering on the eastern side of the village but never used) is due to be removed in January by WBC, even though it is not their property.

The traffic calming measures in the village are scheduled for February Half Term. Once we see how effective they are Moz Bulbeck-Reynolds and I will arrange to meet up with the Council’s Traffic Engineer to see if we can roll out something similar in Lambourn.

Remembrance Sunday

This went well in both villages with some large, laminated poppies on many houses, organised by Nina Rees-Howe-Davies with donations to the British Legion. A great effort in this challenging year.

Lambourn Junction

This continues to perform brilliantly from its new central location and if you can let them have food or even a donation, I know it would be hugely appreciated.

Covid

I do have to touch on the Covid situation. As with everyone, I found that the return to lockdown was painful. West Berkshire has the lowest infection rate in the whole of Berkshire (53 in 100,000 on 4 December) and it continues to move in the right direction. Lambourn, in turn, has one of the lowest rates in the district – another reason why we are so fortunate to be living in such a wonderful rural area. I am hopeful that West Berkshire will move to Tier one in two weeks’ time.

And there’s more…

Being a ward member is full of variety. Here are just four examples of some of the other things which November has brought me…

  • Arranging for a dumped car to be removed.
  • Getting the Council’s contractors to get Eastbury Shute cleaned after flints washed off the fields in heavy rain.
  • Again, in Eastbury Shute, getting fly-tipping removed promptly – the culprits were spotted, and the registration number taken. I have contacted the Superintendent in Newbury asking her to prosecute. As ever, James Potter was on the case as well.
  • Making a submission to reduce the speed limit in Ramsbury Road by the Industrial Area.

Get in touch

Do let me know if there is, as your Ward Councillor, anything I can do to help you. You can reach me on Howard.woollaston1@westberks.gov.uk or 07836 718100. Although these will lessen a bit over the next month, my WBC responsibilities sometimes involve my spending eight or more hours in Zoom meetings so there may be times when I’m unavailable or can’t get back to you at once.

I am going to skip the December Report as little is likely to happen in the lead up to the festive period (I hope). However, just because I might have a communications holiday, that’s not to say that my municipal activity will cease. After all, a lot of the work Thames Water has recently done (see above) has been largely invisible. I hope my next report will also be able to say that it has been effective.

It only remains for me to wish you all as happy a Christmas as we can have and a healthy, prosperous and hopefully virus free New Year.

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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