Newbury Town Council Update – March/April 2021

The following section provides a brief summary from Newbury Town Council (NTC) Leader Martin Colston. It covers the main issues which he, and NTC, have been dealing with over the previous month and looks forward to matters to be dealt with in the month to come. It by no means describes all of his, or the Council’s, activities and does not necessarily reflect NTC’s official position. More information – including details of NTC meetings, events, press releases and contacts – can be found on the NTC website.

March April 2021

Consultations Galore!

We are busy with lots of consultations at the moment to get feedback from our residents on our plans and get their ideas too. That way we aim to ensure what we end up delivering is what local people want.

The biggest consultation is for Blossoms Field in Wash Common. Our ambition is to eventually achieve Green Flag status for this park. We’re just about to sending out letters to thousands of residents to gather their suggestions for things they would like to see improved or changed, or new facilities they would like. Will analyse the inputs and then put together a number of practical and affordable ideas for a further consultation later in the year so we can then whittle it down to a final plan. This is the same approach we took for the City Recreation Ground upgrade which we completed last year and which is proving very popular. If you would like to contribute, please follow this link.

We’ve also recently consulted on our plans for an NHS Commemorative garden at Old Hospital Green on Andover Road and also for a planned upgrade to Greenham House Gardens.

Climate Conference

We will be holding our third Climate Conference on Saturday 17 April at 2.30 via Zoom. We’ll be giving an update on our progress towards carbon neutrality by 2030 and an update on our Climate Grants. And we have three guest speakers to talk on a variety of climate-related subjects: the Lockdown Wood, Heating the Home Counties and the Greening Campaign. Everyone is welcome – we’d love to see you and get your feedback on what we’re doing and suggestions too. Please register your interest here.

Community Café in Victoria Park

This project has had a bit of setback with the Environment Agency putting in an objection to the plans. We consulted with the EA last year and then amended the plans to address every single one of their recommendations. It seems they have objected in error, but they are so short-staffed that it’s going to take a while to unpick. This is hugely frustrating as it inevitably means a delay in gaining planning consent and being able to start the build…

February/March 2021

Community Café in Victoria Park

We are currently awaiting a decision from West Berkshire Council on our planning application for the new community café in Victoria Park. In the meantime, we have initiated the process of finding a suitable operator for the café: we held a Zoom meeting on 24 February with several interested operators who were able to ask questions and share ideas. It’s great to see so much interest and we’re looking forward, planning permitting, to moving forward with this project.

Greenham House Gardens

NTC will be taking over ownership of Greenham House Gardens from West Berkshire Council later on this year. It’s perhaps an under-used open space which we think can be improved for the enjoyment of our local residents. We have some ideas and are running a consultation at the moment on this. If you’d like to give us your feedback and any suggestions, please click here.

Climate Conference

We will be holding our third Climate Conference on Saturday 17 April at 2.30 via Zoom. We’ll be giving an update on our progress towards carbon neutrality by 2030 and an update on our Climate Grants. And we have three guest speakers to talk on a variety of climate related subjects. Everyone is welcome via this Zoom link.

January/February 2021

Lockdown#3

Another year and another lockdown which is obviously tough for everyone. As a council we’re doing our best to keep our services going and our facilities open and safe. I’m really pleased that once again our markets are continuing (although we’re asking everyone to wear masks), our public toilet is open, and so are our parks and children’s playgrounds. Based on government guidance we’ve had to close the tennis courts in Victoria Park again, and, following a request from Thames Valley Police, we have also had to close the skate park. As soon as we’re allowed to, we will re-open promptly.

Newbury Civic Awards

We’ve just opened nominations for this year’s Newbury Town Civic Awards. These celebrate achievements, honour volunteers and recognise those who make a difference in our community. This year we have launched a new awards category of Community Champions Awards to honour those who have given back to the community and their actions have been in direct response to the Covid 19 pandemic. We also have the following categories:

  • The Newbury Town Civic Award
  • The Young Persons Civic Award
  • Business Civic Award
  • Environmental Contribution Civic Award

If you would like to nominate someone for any of these awards, please go to https://newbury.gov.uk/civic-awards/. Nominations close on Sunday 28 February 2021.

Planning for 2021/22

Our strategy and budget will be approved at Full Council on 1 February. Given all the challenges of Covid, I’m delighted with the progress that’s been made during the first year of our strategy. Highlights for me are that we’ve completed a major upgrade to the City Recreation Ground well ahead of schedule, we’ve submitted our planning application for a fully redesigned and sustainable new Community Café and public toilets for Victoria Park, we’ve reduced our carbon footprint by 26 tonnes, and we’re now six months into our three-year partnership with Berkshire Youth to provide outreach youth work.

The core strategy remains unchanged, but we have made a number of important additions, most notably extending our commitment to providing youth work beyond our partnership with Berkshire Youth to include support for both the Community Youth Project at the Nightingales and the Riverside Community Centre in Clay Hill.

Engaging with our Young People

We’re very keen to find out what changes we could make that would benefit our young people. So we’ve launched a simple questionnaire – just one question! – to gather feedback and ideas. We’ll use the results as the basis for further discussions in one or more online events. Please encourage any young people you know who either live in Newbury or visit regularly to complete the survey by 4 February so we can get as broad an input as possible: https://newbury.gov.uk/young-people-in-newbury-make-your-voice-heard/

December 2020/January 2021

Tier 4 (and beyond)

Five weeks ago, I was thinking we might be heading for Tier 1 but then the number of positive tests started to rise rapidly and so Tier 3 seemed the more likely outcome. Unfortunately, we were only in Tier 3 for a day when Tier 4 was announced: since then, of course, we’ve moved into a national lockdown. Not what any of us would’ve wanted but I think it was the right decision. Fortunately, the Town Council can continue to deliver its services as it did during both the previous lockdowns.

Royal Visit

Newbury market had a royal visitor when Prince Edward came to the Market Place and chatted to all the stallholders. Excitement all round including the normally routine sign off of the press release and accompanying photos which had to go via the royal household! I’m delighted to say the market continues to be busy both with stalls and shoppers, and will be remaining despite the new regulations.

Tree Planting in Blossoms Field

Groups of volunteers and councillors planted 100 trees in Blossoms Field to replace the 48 we’ve had to remove over the last several months because of disease, damage or for safety reasons. To protect the trees while they are small and at risk, we have installed a temporary deer-proof fence. The fence will be removed when no longer needed and will be used again somewhere else. Part of the Council strategy is to achieve Green Flag status for the public open space in Wash Common – Victoria Park has just retained its Green Flag status and the recent upgrades to the City Recreation Ground have been made to help it win a Green Flag too. In order to determine what changes to make in pursuit of the Green Flag for Wash Common, we plan to carry out a detailed public consultation for local residents in Spring 2021, the scope of which will include reaction to the new trees.

Planning for 2021/22

I spent much of December working through the council budget for 2021/22 to prioritise what needs to be done and what we would like to achieve against the money needed to deliver it. We will be recommending the budget and resulting precept at our Policy & Resources committee meeting on 18 January, so I’ll be able to go into more detail next month.

November/December 2020

The Second lockdown

We have been very pleased that the regulations surrounding the second lockdown have allowed us to keep all our parks and playgrounds open, although we have had to close the tennis courts in Victoria Park. Once again we have kept the charter market open throughout and I’m delighted that we continue to have around a dozen stalls and more new traders coming to Newbury. Please do come and see for yourself on Thursdays and Saturdays.

Remembrance Sunday

The Covid regulations unfortunately prevented the staging of anything like our traditional Remembrance Day Parade and service. However, in partnership with the British Legion, we were able to hold a socially distanced wreath laying ceremony with representatives from many organisations and hosted a live video feed of the event for people to remember from home. Fingers crossed things will be back to normal for next year.

New play equipment

The latest playground to have benefitted from our strategic programme to replace all aged equipment is the one in Walton Way. There are now several new attractions including a ‘Calypso Boat, ’rotator’ and two ‘springers’ along with a new, rubberised surface which is made from recycled car tyres.

Britain in Bloom

The Britain in Bloom competition could not take place this year for obvious reasons, so we were delighted that the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has awarded Newbury with a Certificate of Recognition for the work we were able to put into Britain in Bloom. This is testament to our Grounds Maintenance Officer and the grounds maintenance team from Continental. The RHS also recognised the community spirit of gardeners at Carnarvon Place. Last year they won their category in Newbury in Bloom and were a key part of our entry for Britain in Bloom. I was delighted to be able to present them with their framed certificate.

October/November 2020

New café in Victoria Park

We have just submitted our planning application for the planned new Community Café in Victoria Park which is a major milestone – it’s taken a huge amount of work to get to this point. As well as a café for users of the park, this building will provide much needed public toilets, including a disabled access one with a specialist hoist. In addition, the building will deliver against our sustainability objectives with a large solar panel array on the roof and ground-source/air-source pumps for heating. The new café will be open all year round and will add significantly to the amenity of the park.

Victoria Park keeps Green Flag

We were delighted that Victoria Park’s Green Flag status has been retained for another year. The Green Flag is the recognised mark of a quality park or green space and demonstrates to the public that the Park boasts the highest possible environmental standards, is beautifully maintained and has excellent visitor facilities.

Diversity and equality

At our October Council meeting we were delighted to have presentations from the organisers of the BLM demonstrations in Newbury and also from Community United. Both gave us an insight into the challenges facing our BAME minority residents. At our next Civic Pride, Arts & Leisure meeting we will consider how we as the Town Council can best support their work in the future.

September/October 2020

Climate change

On 19 September, NTC held its second public climate workshop. We started with a report on our progress towards becoming carbon neutral by 2030.I’m delighted to say that during the first year of acting on our strategy, we reduced our carbon emission by over 26 tonnes (a 37% reduction) compared our target reduction of 7 tonnes per year. This is largely a result of investment in the Town Hall to improve the effectiveness of our solar panels and a focus by staff on reducing electricity consumption. Over the next three years we will be investing in more energy-efficient heating and lighting, improved insultation, secondary glazing and further solar panels.

We also launched our new Carbon Grants which are open to anyone planning projects that will reduce carbon emissions within the parish of Newbury. Recipients of the grants will present at future climate workshops so we can all learn from their experiences. If you would like to apply for a Climate Grant, please contact the Community Services Manager at david.ingram@newbury.gov.uk.

We also had three excellent speakers: Dr Sam Cartwright from BBOWT on Green Corridors; Robert Williams from Reading Buses on Carbon Reduction and Rural Transport Challenges; and Lois Ryan, a student, on Young People Fighting Climate Change.

Parks we can be proud of

Upgrading our parks is a key part of our strategy with significant investment planned over the next three years. Good progress has been made in City Recreation Ground this month: one side of the pathway around the park has been resurfaced with an environmentally friendly material made from recycled waste rubber, and a new MUGA has been installed. The Skylings play area has had a whole new suite of play equipment installed. And the surface around play equipment at Blossoms Field has been replaced with a safer, more durable material.

Grants for local charities

Twice a year, NTC’s Grants Committee meets to agree which local causes to support. It’s always both a sobering and uplifting session. I’m pleased to say we donated over £14,500 to 17 local charities which support those in need in Newbury and our contribution was generously matched by the Greenham Trust.

Charter Market

The Newbury Charter Markets on Thursdays and Saturdays continue to be busy with many new traders who have been attracted to Newbury since lockdown when it was one of the few markets to remain open. This month we said goodbye to Glyn Moyse who has been running his watch stall for 41 years.

Sandleford

Finally, we were very pleased that the planning application for the widening of Warren Road has been withdrawn. NTC had opposed it, believing it to be a Trojan Horse for the Sandleford Development which our Joint Sandleford Working Group with Greenham Parish Council strongly opposes (as discussed last month).

August/September 2020

Pedestrianisation

The temporary (since 1 June) 24-hour pedestrianisation of Newbury town centre came to an end on 31 August. NTC, in partnership with the Newbury BID, has carried out a shopper survey (with 460 responses) to assess reaction to the trial and to gather views on priorities for the future of the town centre. A summary of the findings can be found here. We have also set up a new Newbury Town Centre Working Group which will hold its first meeting soon, and will review the results of the survey to help set its priorities. We remain committed to our strategy of permanent pedestrianisation of the Market Place (with traffic able to go down Mansion House Street and on into Wharf Street and then Bear Lane).

Outreach youth worker

Since the elections in May 2019 it has been one of the central ambitions of the council to provide outreach youth work in Newbury. We are delighted that in August we finalised our partnership agreement with Berkshire Youth to provide 12 hours of outreach youth work every week for the next three years. We are also delighted that Berkshire Youth has now leased the Waterside Centre from West Berkshire Council and will begin refurbishment soon.

Climate change

The second key new part of the council strategy is to become carbon neutral by 2030. We will be holding our second Climate Change Workshop on 19 September. We will provide an update on our carbon reduction vs our target, launch our Climate Grant, and have three speakers to help stimulate ideas. The workshop will be held on Zoom and you can register your interest here.

Sandleford

We have been working closely with Greenham Parish Council via a Sandleford Joint Working Group. This group has met four times in August to scrutinise the latest planning application for Sandleford and report back to our Planning and Highways Committee. The all-party committee unanimously agreed to accept the recommendations of the Group and oppose the application on several grounds, including the poorly-planned access, environmental impact and whether or not the scheme is actually relevant to the housing requirements being discussed in the new Local Plan. We believe houses are needed in Newbury and in West Berkshire, but question the need for the destruction of a greenfield site when new opportunities are arising all the time for more residential property in the town centre and other brownfield areas.

 

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