Hungerford Town Council Update September/October 2020

These notes incorporate some but not all of the matters discussed at the Full HTC meeting on 5 October 2020, the agenda for which can be found here. Any references below to ‘the meeting’ refer to this event unless specified otherwise. Any such issues are not necessarily covered here in the order in which they were discussed. The official minutes of the meeting will in due course be found on the HTC site. This report may also include information about HTC’s activities which were not discussed at the meeting. See the foot of this post for more information.

Full Council Meetings take place generally at 7.00pm on the first working Monday of every month except August (when there is no meeting). For the foreseeable future, these meetings will be conducted online. Please see the Virtual Council Meetings section below for more on this, including how you can continue to participate in or contribute to these.

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

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

Police report

The following report was provided to the meeting by the local policing team.

Covid-19

Covid-19 never really left the news but it is now firmly back on the top of the agenda with talk of a second wave following a rise in infection rates across the country. It is now more important than ever to follow the social-distancing guidelines. On this I would like to highlight that HTC has coned off two areas on the High Street so that pedestrians can keep apart. These areas are busy with foot traffic and the coned sections allow for space. On several occasions recently we have had to stop and speak with drivers who have been moving cones so they can park there.

From 14 September gatherings of more than six people became unlawful. There are some exemptions to this and these can be found on the Government’s website. The government announced further restrictions on 22 September. These include changes to wearing face coverings and working from home. Furthermore, from 24 September, all cafés, bars and restaurants must close by 10pm. Again I am pleased to report that so far the majority of the community are adhering to these.

Halloween

Halloween is generally the second busiest night of the year for us. However we are not sure what it will look like this year due to Covid-19. I urge everyone to use a degree of common sense and abide by the government’s restrictions. For some people this time of year can be frightening or intimidating due to trick-or-treating. Covid-19 this year could make people more anxious than normal. Please respect those who have posters or signs saying they do not wish to be disturbed.

Local incidents

I reported in last month’s update of 11 garages or vehicles being broken into in the town. This month there have been two. Sometime between 19 and 21 September, a garage door was tampered with on Priory Avenue (nothing was taken). On the evening of 23 September a van was broken into on Smitham Bridge Road where loose change was taken.

The team issued a young driver with a Section 59 warning following the manner in which he was driving down the High Street on the evening of 11 September.

General information

  • See above regarding reporting incidents.
  • People are encouraged to sign up for Thames Valley Alerts. As well as local crime information, you can receive details of the latest scams.
  • Thames Valley Police has a Facebook page.
  • The local policing team also wants to draw attention to the ‘what three words’ app which is used to help with the prevention of rural crime by locating people. The app provides a three-word code for each grid which is mapped over the world. By ringing 999 and quoting it the police can locate you.
  • You can report incidents online but if it is urgent please continue to call on 101 (non-emergency) and 999 in an emergency.
  • If you would like to report anonymously you can do so via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or online.
  • The team’s email address is hungerfordanddownlandsnhpt@thamesvalley.pnn.police.uk. This is not monitored 24/7 and should not be used to report a crime.
  • The Herbert Protocol. The local police team is keen to promote the Herbert Protocol initiative which helps us all to try to keep vulnerable members of our community safe.

District Councillors’ report

All three DCs were present at the meeting. Aside from matters mentioned elsewhere, these were the main topics that were raised.

  • DC Benneyworth reminded everyone that this seems to be the season of consultations. As well as the government’s white paper on planning (see separate section below), consultations on the Housing Strategy (closes 1 November), the London Road Industrial Estate (closes 20 October) and the Cultural Heritage Strategy (closes 18 October) were all still active.
  • Investment in WBC’s Community Municipal Investment closes on 16 September. The aim of this is to ‘fund green projects to help the district become carbon neutral by 2030.’ More information can be found here. The aim is to raise £1m: so far it has attracted about £800,000.
  • All residents should now have had stickers put on their bins reminding them that food waste (which still makes up about 25% of the black-bin rubbish collected) should be put in your green bin, even if you haven’t signed up to WBC’s garden-waste service.
  • The disputed matter of public participation at WBC meetings, including those of WAPC, which was curtailed shortly after lockdown, has now largely reverted to the previous arrangements. (The main difference from pre-Covid days is that the statements from interested parties are read out by an officer rather than in person. The option of their being asked questions has, however, been restored.)
  • Due to the rising levels of Covid-19 cases, WBC has re-started its weekly Gold Command meetings. (See also section below.)
  • Members of the public are urged to contact any of their ward members (see this page for contact details) if any of the Covid-prevention measures such as the barriers or bollards on some pavement bays have been moved. It was reported that some have been moved (and not replaced) for deliveries. Cllr Benneyworth pointed out that these were present for a reason and the Mayor added that a survey of local businesses had shown a clear majority for retaining them.

Mayor’s report

Councillor Changes

HTC said a sad farewell to Cllr Sally Hawkins. I was able to catch up with Sally before she embarked on her new adventure, living closer to family. Sally’s health-and-safety background was a real asset and HTC will miss her commitment and enthusiasm on the team.  We also welcomed two new members to our team last month, Cllr John Shatford and Cllr Ellie Yaker-Wells. They have both chosen their committees and I look forward to working with them over the coming months.

Freedom of The Town

HTC will be holding a presentation for this year’s Freedom of the Town awardees. We will present certificates and medals to our four recipients. Sadly, we are unable to hold our usual reception but we hope to make the presentation as special as we can. HTC will send the awardees home with a small treat to celebrate their volunteer efforts. The individual citations will be sent to press following the presentation on Saturday.

Chamber of Commerce

I attended the chamber of commerce AGM as HTC’s representative on 21 September at the Royal British Legion. The committee voted in new Chair, Karen Salmon, Karen is a director and solicitor at Marlborough Law. I look forward to working with Karen and wish the chamber team all the best.

MP Laura Farris Hungerford MP Surgery & local introductions

I was invited to attend Laura’s surgery for local constituents. The surgery was held in the town hall, those attending agreed better advertising of this event in the future would be beneficial. Dates will follow for another surgery in November.

I accompanied Laura on a visit to the Y&CC. Laura was interested in the history of the centre and also the planned future projects following the appointment of a new youth worker.

Sadly, the rain hampered the Smarten Up visit though Laura was able to plant in the war memorial gardens before leaving to attend another appointment. I know Laura also visited the primary school and met with Karen Salmon from Marlborough Law.

Christmas Plans

Regretfully HTC has cancelled this years Mayor Carol Service normally held at St Lawrence’s. I was really sad to cancel this much- loved community event. However, HTC is working on a Christmas Lights pre-recorded switch-on event. We will write to groups within the community for their support and inclusion to the project. Please get involved and help us to spread a little festive cheer. I think we could all do with a little pick me up! I look forward to witnessing the creativity…

Remembrance Sunday

The message this year is ‘Remember from Home’. We are encouraging our community to decorate their homes, placing poppies in their windows and on their front doors. Please also watch the televised service with your families.

This year due to Coronavirus we’ve scaled back the town,s service. There will no parade: instead, wreath-layers will be invited to attend a smaller service and lay their wreaths for the groups and individuals they represent. Strict social distancing rules will be observed, we will record the whole event and upload the service for the community to watch slightly later.

Local Covid statistics

It was accepted by all that, although the figures were rising, West Berkshire as a whole (and Hungerford in particular) was far better off than some areas. The detailed figures for the various Middle Super Output Areas (MSOAs) in West Berkshire can be seen here. Councillor Downe pointed out that the figures paint a picture perhaps slightly better than the reality, as 0, 1 or 2 cases are all expressed as ‘..’ on the chart for data-protection purposes.

The DCs agreed to enquire as to at what point any increase in the figures for Hungerford would result in further measures being taken and what these might be; also to confirm whether any local lockdowns, as are in place in many parts of the country, would apply to the whole district or just specific areas which had been identified as hotspots.

CV-19 members’ bids

Under recent government funding plans, the District Councillors, or Ward Members (currently Dennis Benneyworth, James Cole and Claire Rowles for Hungerford and Kintbury) can each put in up to a bid of up to £1,000 for projects will support the area’s reaction to and recovery from CV-19. These can be pooled and, unlike with the normal members’ bids, match funding is not required. Applications must be made by the end of the year.

DC Rowles told the meeting in September that a few projects had been proposed but that the DCs welcome further suggestions. She then sent HTC a list of projects which were being proposed in other wards to act as a guide.

Matters that had so far been proposed for Hungerford were fixed hand-sanitisers at various locations around the town, safety screens at the HTC office, a rebate on cleaning products bought for the Croft Hall and Field, a laptop for the HTC office and a forehead temperature scanner. If anyone else has any suggestions they should contact claire.barnes@hungerford-tc.gov.uk as soon as possible. Bear in mind that these need to fulfil the objectives described in the first paragraph above.

Hungerford 2036 (neighbourhood development plan)

The consultant acting for the H2036’s Project Team has made an initial assessment of how each of the potential sites for development published in WBC’s HELAA report match H2036’s own assessment of each site. A similar exercise is now being conducted with the three sites that were submitted after the HELAA was published (work that will need to be reviewed by WBC to ensure that  all the sites have been subject to the same level of evaluation). Feedback is also requested from some external bodies, mainly the local AONB (it was pointed out by Councillor Crane at the meeting that the ANOB is currently appointing a new Chair, which probably accounted for the delay). The next stage will be to contact the promoters of the various sites to check the assessments we have created for their own site/s.

At around the same time (likely to be the end of November or early December) the H2036 team expects to have sight of the consultation draft WBC Local Plan which it understands will contain guidance for NDP groups on the housing growth numbers for each area. This will provide the essential backdrop for the Hungerford public consultation on potential sites.

Once all the above stages have been completed, a public consultation will take place. It’s expected that this will happen in early 2021.

For more information, see the Hungerford 2036 post here.

HTC’s response to the government’s white paper on planning

It was reported at the meeting that WBC had already issued its response, which could be used as a useful source by HTC. It was felt at the meeting the WBC’s response was a useful document and that HTC would need to make its own response in addition to ensure that there was a suitable reaction to the white paper. This included a number of proposed top-down policies which were perhaps not applicable to the town. There was also some doubt as to how much importance would, under the proposed new arrangements, be accorded to neighbourhood development plans, such as Hungerford is currently undertaking.

It was agreed at the meeting that a working party would be set up to include The Mayor and Councillors Downe, Fyfe and Hudson, to prepare a response.

The white paper can be seen here.

HTC’s committees

The following committee reports were circulated before the meeting:

  • Environment and Planning (notes of meeting held on 12 October). Six applications were considered. One met with an objection, one with strong support, two with no objection and two with no objection with conditions.
  • Highways and Transport (notes of meeting held on 28 September). Matters covered included a report from the Smarten up Hungerford team (including information about the winter planting of the 20 flower tubs); confirmation that a new taxi rank will be created at the station (see the Hungerford section of the 1-8 October 2020 Local News in Penny Post for more on this; also this post for the background to HTC’s long-term plans for the area around the station); speeding issues and a possible 20mph limit; Christmas plans; and the (long-awaited) response from WBC to the problems of signage and hedgerow improvements (which WBC has now agreed will be guided by the report produced by Councillor Fyfe – the DCs agreed at the meeting to chase WBC for a date when this work would be carried out). It was also confirmed last the meeting that further discussions were needed before a definite recommendation about the location of any further CCTVs could be made.
  • Recreation and Amenities (notes of meeting held on 22 September). Matters covered included the new lease for the Triangle Field; the problems with the shrinking wet-pour surfaces at the two play parks, mainly at Bulpit Lane (at the meeting a different solution was proposed to this from that suggested by the committee); ensuring that the Croft Field remain Covid-compliant now that bookings have started to return; work on the maintenance and overhaul of the tragedy and war-memorial gardens; tree-planting at the Triangle Field; and the issue of dog-fouling at St Saviour’s.

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

Arrangements for future events in 2020

See The Mayor’s report above.

Finances

Councillor Knight said that, because of Covid-19, expenditure was slightly lower than expected. Most items were on budget or varied only because of phasing issues. HTC’s cash reserves were currently healthy. A major item of expenditure each year was a subsidy to the Leisure Centre: as this head been closed for about five months it was recently confirmed that there will be an £11,000 reduction in the normal contribution for the current year.

Virtual council meetings

HTC has been as active as possible in supporting the community through these challenging times. Many tasks and activities cannot currently take place but HTC’s councillors and officers are still active online and full council and committee meetings take place as normal (though using Zoom) The link for each meeting is on the agenda which is published on the HTC website a few days before each meeting. For anyone unable or unwilling to attend meetings in this way, questions can be sent by email to townclerk@hungerford-tc.gov.uk or by post to The Town Clerk, Hungerford Town Council, The Library, Church Street, Hungerford RG17 0JG. These need to arrive by 2pm on the day of the meeting. You can also phone 01488 686 195 and leave your question on HTC’s answerphone (this is not always checked every day so please leave your message three days before the meeting).

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

Contacting WBC in an emergency

You can also contact West Berkshire Council out of office hours for emergencies. These are considered to include:

  • Major incidents such as major accidents or significant flooding.
  • Fallen trees and other debris blocking or restricting roads or causing potential danger to road users.
  • Traffic lights not working (West Berkshire Council only manages fixed traffic lights, not temporary ones).
  • Emergency repairs to council-owned temporary accommodation (tenants of properties should contact their housing association, landlord or agent).

 

The sections above cover the main issues with which HTC has recently been involved or concerned: it by no means describes all of HTC’s activities. Nor is this an official record of any meeting nor of any other aspect of HTC’s activities. Links to the official minutes of this and other meetings are provided in this post. For more information on HTC, please click here.

If there’s anything that you’d like to see addressed by HTC, and perhaps also covered in this way in future editions of Penny Post Hungerford, please email claire.barnes@hungerford-tc.gov.uk. Any such suggestions should be received at least four working days before the end of the month (and preferably sooner) if they are to be included in the corresponding post for the following month. That is not, of course, to say that HTC will not in any case give the matter its attention and respond personally if appropriate.

This information has been compiled by Penny Post from information supplied by HTC and others. Every reasonable effort has been made to provide a clear and dispassionate summary of the points covered but these may contain expressions of opinion which may not accord with HTC’s official view on the matter. Links have been provided to other posts, on the Penny Post site or elsewhere, to give additional information where this has been judged useful or necessary. The presence of such a link should not be taken to imply that HTC necessarily agrees with, endorses or supports any of the material contained therein.

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