Lambourn Ward update from District Councillor Howard Woollaston, April/May 2022

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

Just as some MPs also have executive responsibilities, so do some district councillors at local level. It might be useful to give you a quick overview of what mine are (some of these changed in April 2021 and again in May 2022):

  • I have a seat on the nine-member Executive (WBC’s main decision-making body).
  • I am (as of May 2022) the portfolio holder for Housing.
  • I am also the portfolio holder for Leisure and Culture (leisure includes leisure centres, playing pitches and anything to do with sport. Culture includes libraries and all of the cultural and heritage buildings and events in the district).
  • I am also leading on the Leisure Centre and Football strategies which is, to put it mildly, a testing role.
  • I am a member of the Western Area Planning Committee which considers planning issues which either the relevant the ward member/s or a sufficient number of residents feel need to be looked at more closely before a decision is made.

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

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

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 NDP’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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