Local News 1-8 October 2020

Our round-up of local news across the area (and a bit beyond) this week including Hungerford’s taxis, Newbury’s update, Kintbury’s award, Lambourn’s volunteers, Shefford’s SID, Inkpen’s mill, Wantage’s hospital, Grove’s fire, Burghfield and Mortimer’s nag, Cold Ash’s marxist, Thatcham’s piggy, Peasemore’s fox, Wickham’s elephants, Swindon’s art,  Aldbourne’s sculpture, Marlborough’s litter, Manton’s school, proud boys, mud-wrestling, Mr Boom, Covid fatigue, changing our habits, community spirit, plastic straws, an arboreal eviction, high-stakes bridge, a news flash, CaMKOx, digging your scene, a speeding judge, long letters and Edward the Confessor.

Click on any highlighted and underlined text for more information on the subject. Some will link to other pages on this site, others to pages elsewhere.

Police, transport and council contacts

Information on police, transport (including roadworks) and district councils can now be found on a separate page here.

Links to the websites for town and parish councils can still be found in the appropriate sections below.

Across the area (and further afield)

• I didn’t do much more than glance at a few extracts from the recent US Presidential debate, but what I saw seemed both boring and unpleasant (a difficult combination to pull off). The BBC called it ‘chaotic and bitter’ which seems about right. According to the its survey of the world’s press reaction, we also have ‘a dark, horrifying, unwatchable fever dream’ from The Guardian, ‘chaotic, childish and gruelling,’ from Libération in France, ‘a car accident’ from Der Spiegel in Germany, ‘rowdy and based on mutual contempt’ from La Repubblica in Italy and – my favourite – ‘mud wrestling’ from The Times of India. Some of the US commentators were even more scathing and at times embarrassed.

Most alarming to many was President Trump’s refusal to condemn some of the right-wing groups, in particular the Proud Boys, which Wikipedia describes as ‘a far-right, neo-fascist, male-only organisation that promotes and engages in political violence.’ Oddly, it seems to have been started (in 2016) as a far-right joke, taking its name from a song in the Disney film Aladdin; odder still, perhaps, for a US far-right group, its current leader, Enrique Tarrio, is Afro-Cuban. The question, which the President sort of answered and sort of didn’t, was about white supremacist groups although this appears to be about the only right-wing cause this organisation doesn’t officially espouse. Trump told them to ‘stand back and stand by’ which sounds like a military order to me. I can’t recall a US election fought against such a toxic backdrop. There are two more debates to come and one (which might be slightly less X-rated) between the potential VPs. However, as both POTUS and his consort FLOTUS have tested positive for Covid it’s possible that at least one of the scheduled top-level debates may not now happen. No great loss, probably.

• The Prime Minister announced this week that we are at a ‘critical moment‘ with Covid-19. This may be true; but many MPs from all sides have united in opposing the drift of power away from the Commons and towards the effective rule by decree which the 2020 Coronavirus Emergency Act permits (with six-monthly reviews). The government’s attitude to parliament was described by the Speaker on 30 September as being one of ‘contempt’ although it seems now that some kind of compromise has been agreed. Slightly arcane debates about procedure, responsibility and scrutiny may not seem vital at present and rather call to mind the rancorous Brexit debates (which themselves seem to be far from over). None the less, there are important principles at sake. The Commons also provides a reasonably good way of ensuring that the regulations are discussed and considered properly. This might also help them be better understood. If two government ministers – the PM and Education Secretary Gillian Keegan – and the PM’s own father (a photo of whom appeared in the Daily Mirror on 1 October which showed him shopping without a mask) can get these wrong, what hope is there for the rest of us? 

• There also seems to be several signs of Covid fatigue creeping into our behaviour. The two-month hiatus had given everyone a false sense of hope. The complex and ever-changing regulations and advice since have been both confusing and in many cases unwelcome. The Times reported on 30 September that commuting rates have not fallen at all despite the government’s recommendation that people work from home. Students in many universities seem to be paying scant attention to the regulations (this is perhaps fine as long as they don’t subsequently go home and hug their grandparents). The fact that official fines and police warnings for people breaching self-isolation rules when infected suggests that these are not being universally obeyed.

There are also plenty of ambiguities, confusions and – to some – irrationalities in the regulations. Indoor and outdoor gatherings are treated differently (logical, as everyone agrees that the latter is vastly less risky) but this leads to confusions when people move from one area to another, as they do in pubs. Different areas have vastly different rates and it’s still not clear whether local councils – which know far more about their locality than Whitehall does – have the necessary powers to implement local measures. (Even if they did, this might risk still more confusion with there then being two possibly contradictory sets of regulation and advice). Weddings appear to be exactly twice as risky as funerals. The rule of six is also unclear, to me at least: if we go to the pub with two other couples today, can we then do the same with two different couples tomorrow? The 10pm closure seems arbitrary: better, perhaps, to have four days on and three days off. Aside from clarity, there’s also enforcement which is, by the police, almost impossible. We could turn into a nation of vigilantes which, as mentioned before, is another matter on which the cabinet is divided, the Home Secretary thinking we should and the PM thinking we shouldn’t.

• There are no shortage of suggestions as to how the PM can change his tack. The Speaker has offered one (see above). Several papers have referred to the Chairman of the Bank of England’s upbeat economic prognosis as opposed to the PM’s caution, prompting the headline ‘Mr Boom v Mr Gloom’ in the Daily Mail. The I says that several ministers accept that the regulations need to be simplified to restore public confidence. The Chief Medical Officer has suggested that the virus could be controlled with effective local action: this would seem to demand more powers being devolved to councils, something the government seems to see as a last resort. James Frayne, one of the founders of the right-leaning think tank People First has offered the PM a seven-point plan ‘to win back the country’ which contains some startling generalisations but also some sound advice about acting more simply, more honestly and (slightly beyond the PM’s control, this one) more globally. 

The problem is that, since 1945, we’ve been used to living our lives with a fairly clear idea of where the government’s power stopped. During WW2 we were exhorted to be prudent, thrifty and discreet but nothing since then has even suggested that Whitehall can control how many people we see and where we can or cannot go. Boris Johnston clearly idolises Churchill and has been presented with a Churchillian challenge of uniting the country against an enemy, and encouraging us to accept privations and sacrifices. Churchill’s advantage was, as well as being a vastly superior orator, that the enemy was in plain sight. Nothing is less in plain sight than a virus. (Churchill was also helped by Hitler’s insane decision to shift his bombing away from the RAF bases and onto the cities, so enabling Churchill to continue to get the country to rally round the idea of the threat of invasion.) BJ hasn’t managed to pull this off. Aside from his manifest shortcomings, the country is now more sceptical, diverse and sophisticated than it was in the 1940s. As the virus is invisible and as the number of deaths have been far lower than some of the predictions (designed, with some justification, to get our attention), so the PM’s stock has fallen. So too did Churchill’s, who was defeated by a landslide in 1945.

As mentioned last week, our whole reaction turns on whether there’s an interest for us personally, or enough societal pressure, to make us be responsible. The responsible things are to keep our distance from people, wash our hands regularly, wear face-coverings indoors, protect and support vulnerable people and stay on our own for 14 days (about 0.0005 of our projected lifespan) if we test positive. We also need to accept that this is going to be with us for the rest of our lives and so we might have to moderate our behaviour (as we had to with AIDS, in a specific way). We aren’t used to doing this and it’s unwelcome. Governments need to moderate their behaviours as well, starting with co-operating a bit more and doing things like closing down wild-animal markets. 

• The idea of changing our habits and general default behaviour – which scares me as much as it does you – becomes even vaster when we think about climate change: which to most observers is a genuine existential threat. Many are searching for positives for Covid and there doubtless will be some, as there are with any game-changing event). One of them might be that it has accustomed us, in double-quick time, to accept that some higher and immutable power demands that we change how we behave. Combatting climate change, which has got lost in the Covid and Brexit tempests, will require far more dramatic alterations. Perhaps, ten or so years from now, we might look back from a hopefully less carbon-heavy world and see that Covid taught us that we can survive as a species if we make adjustments when we have to (and preferably before) and that re-attuning ourselves to the wavelength of the planet on which we’re stuck is a good idea. 

• There was a lot of talk from the UK government about following the best science. As mentioned here before, the ‘best science’ is impossible to define. In any case, scientific predictions are only one of the factors that a government needs to take into account. The economy, logistics, public acceptance and political benefit all have to be factored in. As The Times pointed out on 30 September, the 10pm pub-closure decision was essentially political rather than scientific. It was also designed to get the attention of a particular sector of the population. Time will tell if it has done so and if this has made any significant difference. 

• Devizes MP Danny Kruger was in June commissioned by the Prime Minister to produce a report on sustaining the community spirit of the lockdown. You can see the report, a press release and the PM’s comments by clicking here. The central recommendation was for ‘a more local, more human, less bureaucratic, less centralised society in which people are supported and empowered to play an active role in their neighbourhoods.’ This reads very much like the idea of the ‘big society’ briefly proposed (and quickly dropped) by the hapless David Cameron in 2010. The central idea – that communities needed to be more self-reliant, resilient and self-supporting – was a sound one and could, if presented properly (which it wasn’t) have been a useful construct to help support genuine localism and societal change. In the event, it looked more like a patronising instruction to people to volunteer to replace all the services that were being cut as a result of austerity. This time round, with some really strong evidence of what bottom-up responses can accomplish, it perhaps stands a better chance. The key issue will be, as well as the ‘infrastructure and policy support’ which the PM appears to be promising, money. Local councils have had their funding cut and are at a crossroads with regard to a longer-term settlement based more on business rates. For many, including, West Berkshire, the majority of their spending is on social care, a statutory responsibility. The extra money that has been received as a result of Covid-19 has been in the form of one-off payments: something more regular is needed.

• Apparently in England we use 4.7 billion single-use plastic straws each year, about 85 per person. If these were all on average 16cm long that would be enough for them to stretch nearly twice round the equator. As of today they are banned, along with plastic stirrers and plastic-stemmed cotton buds, all items which the environmental law charity ClientEarth describes as ‘the most pointless plastics out there.’ The move was to have taken place in April but was, presumably because of Covid, put back six months (or by 2.35 billion straws).

• A long-expected event took place on 1 October with the arrival of about 40 eviction officers and 20 police officers at the HS2 protest site in Jones Hill Wood on Buckinghamshire. Several of the protestors, including West Berkshire and Newbury Town Councillor Steve Masters, have been spending much of their time in trees houses 60 feet off the ground for the last few months. “I am a public official and I have followed a path of public service throughout my life,” Steve Masters told Penny Post today. “This began 34 years ago when I joined the RAF. I swore to protect my fellow citizens then – now, as we face the greatest challenge in climate change, I am duty-bound to continue to protect the people of this country and the world. I am willing to be arrested, and ultimately imprisoned, in order to highlight the catastrophic damage HS2 will do to our natural environment. Our Prime Minister pledged to protect the biodiversity of the planet while at the same time continuing to support this destructive and unnecessary rail link. As the chainsaws whine around me this morning, I remain resolute and determined to fight for a future fit for my grandchildren.”

Jones Hill Wood is one of 108 such habitats that will need to be destroyed in order that – at a cost that rises by the day and is unlikely to be less than £100bn – people will be able to travel slightly more quickly between London and Birmingham and (if phase two ever materialises) the cities further north. As most people who make these kind of journeys probably do so for business, and as most of them probably work on the train, this seems like bad news. The 35% time saving that the DfT has estimated for the London to Birmingham journey will merely mean that people arrive for their meeting 35% less well prepared. Doesn’t seem to be worth £100bn to me…

• The BBC reports that there were 30 CV-19 cases in West Berkshire in the week 21-27 September, 11 up on the week before. This equates to 19 cases per 100,000. The average area in England has 28 (up from 19 last week). 

• West Berkshire Council plans to invest £43 million on new builds, expansion and improvement of schools and the refurbishment of education-related care facilities across the District in its Education Capital Programme for 2020-2023.

• A reminder that the government’s white paper on planning has been published and you can see it here

• Residents of West Berkshire are being urged to look out for their voter registration details.

Click here for the latest news from West Berkshire Council.

• West Berkshire Council has developed a draft Cultural and Heritage Strategy ‘which sets out our vision for the next 10 years to ensure that culture and heritage continues to be an important part of everyone’s daily life in West Berkshire.’ You can click here to read more and to take part, which you need to have done by Sunday 18 October.

West Berkshire, Vale of White Horse, Wiltshire and Swindon Councils have set up their own web pages relating to the outbreak. Click here as follows for the high-level links for West Berkshire, Vale of White Horse, Wiltshire and Swindon.

• West Berkshire Council set up a Community Support HubClick here to visit the website or call 01635 503 579 to speak to the the Building Communities Together team. The Hub has also set up two FAQ pages, for residents and for businesses. You can also click here to sign up to receive the Hub’s e-bulletins and click here to see the weekly updates. 

• You can click here to choose to receive all or any of West Berkshire Council’s e-newsletters.

Click here for a post listing the various places which are offering a takeaway and/or delivery service. As with the volunteers’ post above, if you are aware of any others, let us know.

• The animal of the week is will have to be whichever fox it was that gave its name to the recently award-winning Fox at Peasemore – see the ‘Compton & Downlands’ section below.

• The letters section of the Newbury Weekly News this week– a bumper four-and-a-half-page section – includes communications about the LRIE, arboreal councillors, pessimistic science, the UK’s live-events sector, two versions of A4 speeding, food waste and the planning white paper. There’s also a letter suggesting that some of the letters in the paper are too long. I don’t agree. This is effectively the paper’s comment section and people here get an opportunity to express things directly which otherwise have to come through the filter of journalism. Some of them are expressing quite complex points (at least four are doing so this week) and I think the Editor is doing a good job by allowing such a range of opinion. 

• A number of good causes have received valuable support including: The Pink Place (thanks to Dave Reece); Doctors of the World (thanks to Dr Nikki Kanani); Great Shefford’s parish churches (thanks to Denise Herrington); Macmillan Nurses (thanks to St Gabriel’s School); Kennet School (thanks to April Goddard); the Oxford Transplant Foundation (thanks to Ashley Mason); Discovering Autism Spectrum Happiness (thanks to the Wiltshire Community Foundation’s Coronavirus Response and Recovery Fund). 

Hungerford & district

• Latest news from Hungerford Town Council, Kintbury Parish Council, Shalbourne Parish Council and Inkpen Parish Council

• A reminder that the the next food and artisan market (and the last of the year) will take place at the Croft Field on Sunday 4 October from 10.30am to 2.30pm.

• The Town and Manor of of Hungerford has announced two changes at the top: CEO Jed Ramsay will be leaving next week to resume his career in flood-risk management; and Constable Nick Lumley stepped down last week. They will be replaced by (on an interim basis) Ellie Dickens and Greg Furr respectively, both former Constables. “It has been an absolute pleasure to be the Constable of the Town and Manor for the past 18 months,” Nick Lumley told Penny Post. “The best part of it has been the number of brilliant people I have met and I would like to thank them all for their support, encouragement and enthusiasm. I’m looking forward to getting on with the many chores that have been ignored over the past year and a half!”

• A long-running issue in Hungerford is the question of car parking at or near the station (see this post for more). The potential closure of the temporary Oakes Bros car park and the eventual completion of the Salisbury Road development will reduce supply and increase demand: less certain is how long it will take travel patterns, and thus the demand for parking spaces, to return to pre-Covid levels. The fear that the Town Council, residents and local traders have is of rail users parking in nearby roads of the High Street with all the obvious problems.

One recent change to the parking arrangements was the upgrading of the West Berkshire car park which has prevented deliveries being made to the businesses in The Cuttings. This has, in turn, prompted the Town Council to request that WBC convert the taxi rank in the High Street into a 24/7 loading bay. The question then arose as to where the taxi rank would be re-sited. GWR has recently agreed that one can be created at the car park; but one is also needed in or near the High Street. In front of the Town Hall has been suggested, although this would cause problems during the Wednesday markets. These are organised by the Town and Manor, but the Town Council has stressed that it is 100% supportive of these. A taxi rank that can’t be used for eight working hours a week is clearly not ideal. Moreover, the area is also used for other one-off events which would also require the taxi rank to be suspended. I’m not even clear if one can have a taxi rank which is sometimes there and sometimes not, as the Town Council decides.

The process for re-siting a rank involves legal and administrative processes that can take West Berkshire up to 18 months to accomplish so it’s necessary to find the right place. Logic suggests this will be somewhere where it will always be available. In the meantime, the delivery vans and the taxis need to share the current bay, which is leading to a certain amount of friction. It would be great if this could be resolved sometime sooner than March 2022 but that seems to be the timescale. The process will, of course, only start when the Town Council has agreed where the new rank should be, and West Berkshire has agreed.

• Another matter which seems log-jammed concerns the Salisbury Road site. Work has started (as many local residents will be vividly aware) but no agreement has currently been reached between the developers and West Berkshire Council about the former’s desire to change the mix of properties there. If this isn’t agreed soon, it’s possible that work will have to stop until this is resolved. All this is caused by the fact that, as so often happens, what the developers could get permission for and what they intend to build are very different things.

• Audley Inglewood retirement home in Kintbury is planning an expansion which plans having been submitted for 23 care units in what is proposed to be a net-zero development. You can se the plans on WBC’s website here.

• The most recent meeting of Hungerford Town Council’s Planning Committee took place on 14 September and you can read the minutes here

• Hungerford currently has a vacancy for up to three Town Councillorssee here for more information. The posts will be filled by co-option (two were filled at the last Full Council meeting).

• This week’s NWN reports on p24 that Jan and Anita Munger, who run the Corner Stores in Kintbury, have received fulsome and formal thanks from the villagers for going ‘above and beyond’ during the pandemic. At a socially-distanced ceremony last weekend they were presented with a glass plaque, a voucher for a meal and an overnight stay at The Vineyard and a cheque for £1,699. Well done to them to to all the other shops, pubs and community groups who have helped keep life’s wheels turning during 2020.

• The most recent meeting of Kintbury parish Council took place on 3 September and you can read the minutes here

• The New Mills development at Inkpen, which has so far been the subject of about a dozen separate applications rather than the one over-arching one with WBC insisted on a couple of months ago, is still being discussed between officers and developers. The scope of the work seems considerable; as has been, according to some reports, the amount of disruption. As with Salisbury Road (see above) this inevitable aspect can only be given a definite end date when all the planning issues have been resolved.

• Click here for the September edition of the Inkpen and Coombe Bulletin. If you want to subscribe or contribute, contact gloriakeene@hotmail.com.

Lambourn Valley

Latest news from Lambourn Parish CouncilEast Garston Parish CouncilWelford Parish Council and Great Shefford Parish Council.

• The most recent meeting of Great Shefford Parish Council took place on 3 September and you can read the minutes here. One of the items discussed concerned the results of the recent Speed Indicator Device (SID) test conducted in the village by two Parish Councillors using West Berkshire Council’s equipment. The Chairman described the results (which suggested that only one vehicle in the three days had been exceeding the 30mph limit ) as ‘ridiculous’ as they had witnessed ‘dozens’ of speeding vehicles. It was then admitted by WBC that the device was faulty, meaning that the exercise will need to be re-done. (This reminds me of a story from back in the early days of speed guns when a motorist took the matter to court, claiming that they were unreliable. A similar device was produced: the Clerk pointed it at the bench and announced that it showed that the Judge was moving at 45mph. The case was dismissed.) Other matters discussed included communication between the PC and The Great Shefford, the ongoing discussions between the PC and the Environment Agency about the flood alleviation scheme and the repair work at the pavilion and to the fence on the A338 (both of which were carried out by three Councillors at no cost to the parish). 

• The October Valley of the Racehorse e-newsletter will be published next week. Please email penny@pennypost.org.uk if there’s anything you want to contribute.

• As mentioned last week, a potentially major development is being planned at Lynch Lane in Lambourn. The developers have had pre-application discussions with WBC with one planned with Lambourn PC for 1 October. 

• Each week when writing this column I discover something about this area I didn’t know before. This week’s epiphany is that Wickham’s chapel is famous for its papier-maché elephants. There, that’s not a sentence you read every day. Don’t believe me? Click here for confirmation.

• The Lambourn PC website – or the part of the Lambourn.org website on which the PC was encamped – has been taken down so any enquiries need to be addressed in writing or my email. There should still be a page there with that information at least. I’m assured by the PC that work is progressing with the new website though no date had been set as to when it would be launched.

• The next meeting of Lambourn Parish Council will take place by Zoom on Wednesday 7 October at 7.30. If you would like to see the agenda (not available on the website – see above) or require the Zoom access code, please email the Clerk, Karen Wilson, at lambournpc@btconnect.com.

See this article for important information about the broadband service (or lack of) in Upper Lambourn. if this affects you, there seem to be two immediate courses of action you can taker, one of which has a 31 March 2021 deadline but which is well worth dealing with as soon as you can.

• The most recent meeting of East Garston Parish Council took place on 2 September and the draft minutes can be seen here.  

• An application has been put in by The Great Shefford for the ‘erection of a series of 150mm x 150mm box section metal posts to support six canopy panels of varying dimensions.’ You can view the application here. The bottom-left panel of the page shows how you can comment on this should you wish to. The determination deadline is 11 November 2020.

• A reminder that Lambourn’s last remaining phone box is due to be withdrawn from service and there’s a consultation on this which runs until 21 October: you can read more here

Click here for the latest news from Lambourn Surgery.  Also, click here for details of volunteer marshalls who are required during the flu-jab sessions.

4 Legs Community Radio Station will on continue broadcasting during the CV crisis – click here for more

Newbury & district

Latest news from Newbury Town Council, Greenham Parish Council, Chieveley Parish Council and Hamstead Marshall Parish Council.

• You can click here to read the latest monthly summary from Newbury Town Council Leader Martin Colston. The recent climate-change workshop, park upgrades and local grants have been among the items in his in-tray during September.

• As mentioned last week, members of the public are being formally asked for their views about the London Road Industrial Estate. You have until 20 October to make your views known. There’s to be an ‘online virtual engagement session’ at 6pm on Thursday 8 October. If you’d like to take part, please email bill.bagnell@westberks.gov.uk to register your interest: the exact format will be determined once the numbers are known.  

• A reminder that you can see three responses to the 17 September 2020 planning policy response from West Berkshire Council concerning the Sandleford soap opera by clicking here. In summary, WBC’s officers appear to have decided to call the developers’ bluff on this long-running affair and are insisting that the development be built in the way its policy and needs demand or not at all. It remains to be seen how either of the applicants will react to this.

• As this matter is featured in the NWN this week, I thought I’d repeat the two paragraphs below from last week’s column…

• Another development in Newbury, to the north of the town near the Vodafone HQ, is also not quite proceeding as hoped. Once again, the grandmother’s footsteps approach to planning – applying for and getting permission for something acceptable to the planners and then stealthily using various methods to chip away at the scheme until it resembles something more acceptable to the developer – has been followed here. One mysterious and unwelcome aspect concerns the phasing of the various parts of the work. The local centre, which would include the school and various amenities, was originally logically scheduled as phase one. It appears from a recent meeting of the Western Area Planning Committee that these have now been relegated to phases five and six (out of seven), meaning that there’ll be no school on the site until after – perhaps some time after – about 220 homes have been occupied. It appears that there is nothing that WAPC can do about this as it’s already been agreed bertween officers and developers. If true, it seems insane. Habits including driving to schools and shops rather than walking and ordering online rather than using local retailers – exactly the opposite of what WBC has claimed are its intentions – will necessarily become established before any amenities are provided (if they indeed ever are) to provide an immediately local alternative. The work will also be disruptive if, as the name implies, the local centre is in or near the centre of the site.  

A further uncertainty concerns how the phased development might affect any future work on the other, eastern, half of the site which was in 2017 decoupled from the western site currently being developed. If any overarching obligations remain, it’s uncertain how, given that the eastern site would be handled by a separate developer, these could be reconciled and jointly executed. It could, for instance, be claimed that the completion of a certain phase has only happened when that phase has completed on both sites; an apparently nonsensical (but possibly legally compelling) argument considering that work on the eastern site has yet to start. This could result in similar bilateral confusion that at Sandleford, with the additional problem that the two parts are completely out of phase with each other. To make matters even more complicated, the eastern part would be served by a private road (Vodafone’s The Connection) which WBC has not been able to adopt. This would mean that residents would be using the road with no guarantee of any particular level of maintenance and with bin lorries and public-utility contractors only allowed on the site with Vodefone’s permission. 

• The 24/7 pedestrianisation in Newbury town centre has came to an end on 31 August. Newbury TC, in partnership with the Newbury BID, carried out a shopper survey and the results are summarised here

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council took place on 8 September and you can read the minutes here (scroll down to ‘Minutes 2020’: when clicked, the PDF will download). 

• Please click here for Hamstead Marshall.net, which provides an excellent round-up of what’s going on in and around the villageIt also publishes the quarterly Hamstead Hornet – if you’d like to subscribe (which is free), contact Penny Stokes at admin@hamsteadmarshall.net

• Click here for the latest NTC News from Newbury Council.

Compton & Downlands

Latest news from Hampstead Norreys Parish Council, Compton Parish Council, Ashampstead Parish Council, Beedon Parish Council, Chaddleworth Parish Council, Brightwalton Parish Council, The Peasemore Village website, West Ilsley Parish Council and East Ilsley Parish Council.

• Congratulations to The Fox at Peasemore which has won in the Community category of the 2020 Great British Pub Awards as a result of the range of services and support which it offered to the village during lockdown. 

• The most recent meeting of Brightwalton Parish Council took place on 14 September and you can read the draft minutes here. Items covered included a co-option, new arrangements at the church, the re-opening of the Village Hall, maintenance work, planning applications and the 2020 Christmas tree.

• The Ridgeway ward member Carolyne Culver has confirmed that four planning applications in the area (Ilsley Barn Farm, Pirbright Institute and two at the industrial site in Compton) have been called in and which will (unless they are refused) be determined by the Western Area Planning Committee, hopefully before the end of the year. The first-named of these is currently the subject of discussions between officers and the developers which might increase the timescale.

• A reminder that the latest Chaddleworth News has been published. You can see the September 2020 edition here. Printed copies will also be distributed. Items covered include Merchant Navy Day an appeal for volunteers, news from the village’s societies and the Hardship Fund, a cricket report and a bit of history.

• The most recent meeting of Chaddleworth Parish Council was due to have taken place on 1 September but was inquorate and re-scheduled for 16 September. The minutes will appear here in due course.

• The most recent meeting of Ashampstead Parish Council took place on 7 September and you can read the minutes here

• The most recent meeting of Compton Parish Council for which minutes have been published took place on 19 August and you can read the minutes here

Hermitage Parish Council has produced its August update, which can be seen here

• The most recent meeting of Hermitage Parish Council for which the minutes have been published took place on 20 August and you can read them here.

• See also this page for up-to-date information about Hermitage’s neighbourhood development plan (the parish is one of seven in the district currently working on an NDP).

• The most recent meeting of West Ilsley Parish Council took place on 14 September and you can read the minutes here. (In case any of you think Penny Post serves no purpose in your life, when I clicked on the link earlier all I got was a blank screen. I decided to take the matter right to the very top and left a message for the PC Chairman. An hour later I had an email saying the problem was fixed. There you go: ‘Penny Post – we make the hidden visible.’)

• The most recent meeting of East Ilsley Parish Council took place on 15 September and you can read the draft minutes here

• And, in the same village, the September edition of the East Isley Communicator (the 100th) has been published. You can click here to read it.

Thatcham and district

Latest news from Thatcham Town Council, Hermitage Parish Council, Cold Ash Parish Council, Bucklebury Parish Council, Brimpton Parish Council and Woolhampton Parish Council.

• The most recent meeting of Thatcham Town Council took place on 28 September and you can read the draft minutes here. As well as the matter of Piggy Woods (see below), items covered included reports from committees (covering issues such as the surface-water management plan and the skate park), a discussion of the Council’s Carbon Footprint Report, and a discussion about the orcas on the A4 (rubber studs which help divide the cycle lane from motor traffic). Opinion was divided on this last point and the discussion is covered on p26 of this week’s Newbury Weekly News.

• Over the last two weeks we’ve covered the issue of the six and half acres of woodland on the Dunston Park Estate, known as Piggy Woods. This was, to the surprise of everyone, offered for sale in September for £250,000 (with possible ‘development opportunities’): it failed to sell and has now been re-parcelled into 11 0.6-acre plots, each at £35,000. Local residents have rallied round in opposition and a petition was launched last month which has currently attracted over 2,000 signatures. A Facebook page has been set up. West Berkshire and Thatcham Town Councillor (TTC) Lee Dillon and others have been active in putting some practical measures in place which will help protect the woods from development. These were summarised in a motion at the the recent full meeting of TTC and received unanimous support. The motion was that TTC would support the following objectives: (1) The tree preservation orders on the site; (2) the pursuit of an Article 4 directive, which will remove any permitted development rights which might exist; (3) support for the woods being designated as an official green space in the refresh of the WBC local plan; and (4) support for establishing any rights of way.

If you want to get involved there are three things you could do: (i) sign the petition if you haven’t done so; (ii) email trees@westberkshire.gov.uk and Lee.Dillon@westberks.gov.uk saying that you support the tree preservation order; and (iii) email Lee.Dillon@westberks.gov.uk if you are willing to sign a witness statement confirming that you have used any path in the wood at some point in the last 20 years, this being an essential step in establishing a right of way. If all these things can be put in place, this should result in the ‘development opportunities’ to which the prospectus referred being next to impossible to realise.

When I spoke to Lee Dillon about this on 1 October, he was keen to stress that new homes (and, almost as importantly, the infrastructure to support them) are certainly needed in Thatcham. However he, and at least 2,000 other people, believe that destroying this woodland is not the way forward. It’s worth stressing again that this received cross-party support at the recent TTC meeting and so is not a political issue.

As a footnote to this, and as mentioned before, it’s to be hoped that this issue will encourage West Berkshire Council to update its asset registry which includes proof of title to any land it believes it owns. It was believed, certainly by TTC, that Piggy Woods was transferred to the old Newbury District Council way back in the 1990s but it’s now clear this never happened. Other similar nasty surprises could thus follow if this isn’t refreshed.

• A plan A and a plan B for a social distanced Remembrance Day parade in Thatcham have been drawn up by the Town Council.

• Two Thatcham Town Councillors, Jeremy Cottam and Christine Rice, will be in Thatcham Broadway to discuss local issues between 10am and noon on Saturday 3 October.

• The most recent meeting of Brimpton Parish Council took place on 1 September and you can read the minutes here.

• Information about the progress of Cold Ash’s neighbourhood development plan can be found here.

Click here to see the latest Cold Ash Community Bulletin, which this week starts with some rubbish and ends with Groucho Marx.

Theale and district

Latest news from Theale Parish Council, Aldermaston Parish Council, Stratfield Mortimer Parish Council, Englefield Parish Council and Burghfield Parish Council.

• The M4 eastbound between J13 and J12 will be closed from 9pm on Friday 2 October through to 6am on Monday 5 October.This will be followed by overnight closures (9pm to 6am) of the same stretch on Monday 6 and Tuesday 6 October 2020. Traffic will be diverted from junction 13, south down the A34 and A339 into Newbury, then east all the way along the A4 to re-join the M4 at junction 12. Delays and congestion are expected. Email info@highwaysengland.co.uk or call 0300 123 5000.

Click here for the minutes of the latest meeting of the Burghfield and Mortimer Neighbourhood Action Group (NAG).

• The most recent meeting of Theale Parish Council took place on 7 September and you can read the minutes here

• The most recent meeting of Stratfield Mortimer Parish Council took place on 10 September and you can read the minutes here

• The most recent meeting of Aldermaston Parish Council took place on 8 September and you can read the minutes here

• The September 2020 newsletter from Burghfield Parish Council has been published and you can read it here.

Marlborough & district

Latest news from Marlborough Town CouncilAldbourne Parish Council and Great Bedwyn Parish Council.

• The BBC reports that there were 60 CV-19 cases in Wiltshire in the week 21-27 September, 17 up on the week before. This equates to 12 cases per 100,000. The average area in England has 28 (19 last week). 

• Click here to read local MP Danny Kruger’s September column in Marlborough News (see also ‘Across the Area’ above).

• The same website reports that St John’s has won fourth place in the 2020 Schools Carbon Challenge.

• And still with MN, year-two pupils at Great Bedwyn Primary School attended a private viewing of the ‘Sculpture in a Landscape 1969 – 2020’ exhibition held at West Leaze, Albourne, organised by the Friends of the Garden.

• And, my final selection from this source this week, plans to replace temporary classrooms, improve welfare facilities and increase the size of the playground at Preshute Primary School in Manton were presented for initial discussion at Marlborough Town Council Planning Committee meeting on 21 September. Click here for more.

• You can read the minutes of the above-mentioned Planning Committee meeting here.

• The most recent meeting of Marlborough Town Council took place on 7 September and you can see the draft minutes here

• More than 30 bags of litter were collected from Marlborough’s streets during the Great Marlborough September Clean.

• Marlborough Town Council received a number of suggestions for names for the new roads at Rabley Wood View. Marlborough News reveals the shortlist and explains what happens next.

The same website reports on a number of grants recently made by the Town Council to local organisations.

• Saturday 3 October was to have been the date of Darkskiesfest, Marlborough’s first festival dedicated to the night sky.As with so many things, the event is now moving online. Click here for more.

• The most recent meeting of Great Bedwyn Parish Council took place on 10 September and you can read the draft minutes here. For a meeting which lasted for an hour and 20 minutes they seem extraordinarily brief. Perhaps everyone was speaking very slowly.

• The most recent meeting of Aldbourne Parish Council took place on 9 September and you can read the minutes here

• The most recent meeting of Aldbourne’s Planning Committee took place on 26 August and you can read the draft minutes here.  

Click here for a list of current consultations being run by Wiltshire Council. 

Wantage & district

Latest news from Wantage Town Council, Grove Parish Council and Letcombe Regis Parish Council.

• The BBC reports that there were 20 CV-19 cases in the Vale in the week 21-27 September, seven up on the week before. This equates to 15 cases per 100,000. The average area in England has 28 (19 last week). 

• Wantage Town Council’s consultation on plans to extend the pedestrianised areas in the town centre is now active and can be seen here. You have until 31 October to make your views known. 

• This week’s Herald has on p3 the suggestion from the Bridget Rosewell, the head of the National Infrastructure Commission, that the so-called Oxford to Cambridge Arc – which the government has ear-marked as a zone of housebuilding, technology and transport improvements – should be renamed to make it less elitist. I do need to declare an interest as I went to Cambridge but – despite this slip-up by the admissions system – most people would agree that they are both very good universities, regularly appearing the the medal positions in a variety of league tables. If we have to have a word starting with ‘e’ then ‘excellent’ might serve better, which might be a good ambition for the arc as a whole. The area is already being know as the OxCam Arc, which slips quite easily off the tongue. Ms Rosewell’s suggestion of CaMKOx Arc, on the other hand, looks like a chemical formula and – once you work out that you can in fact pronounce it – sounds slightly lewd.  

• On the same page there’s a report on the latest wave of campaigning about the mysterious non-opening of the Wantage Community Hospital after its ‘temporary’ closure in 2016. The CEO of the Oxford NHS Foundation Trust recently announced admitted that although long-overdue repairs to the hospital had been completed  there were no plans to re-open the beds. 

• Julie Mabberley’s regular column on p8 of the Wantage & Grove Herald looks at some of the major local planning issues, many of which have been rumbling on for years. Some of these are, in the way that the planning system permits, still the subject of appeals, revisions and discussion: developers rarely intend to build exactly what they get permission for. That is more like an opening bid in a high-stakes game of bridge.

• The town council has re-published the draft of its neighbourhood development plan which failed at the examination stage in 2016

• A further reminder about another initiative from the Town Council and the Chamber of Commerce, the Wantage Wednesdaysclick here for more information

• £8 million could be pumped into providing more affordable homes across South Oxfordshire and the Vale of White Horse following Cabinet meetings at the two district councils this week.

• Vale of White Horse Council has £43,077 to provide funds for voluntary- and community-sector projects that are providing essential services to vulnerable residents in the districts who are struggling to afford food and other essential provisions as a result of Covid-19. 

• If you live in the Vale and haven’t responded to the yellow reminder letter about voter registration you need to do this soon

Click here for news from the Wantage and Grove Campaign Group. If you want to subscribe to this (which is free), click here.

• The most recent (special) meeting of Grove Parish Council took place on 1 September and you can read the (currently draft) minutes here

• There was an arson attack in Grove recently with a bench on the recreation ground being destroyed. If you have any information, contact 101.

• Click here for information the Didcot, Abingdon and Wantage Talking Newspaper (DAWN) for the blind and partially sighted. The organisers are currently appealing for help to keep the service going – click here for details.

• You can click here to see the September 2020 issue of the Letcome Register. (At the time of writing the link still isn’t active. I suggested two weeks ago week that was probably about to be uploaded but no sign yet…and still no sign last week…or this week…)

• Click here for information on the location of defibrillators in and around Wantage.

Swindon & district

Latest news from Swindon Borough Council.

• The BBC reports that there were 35 CV-19 cases in Swindon in the week 21-27 September, 17 up on the week before. This equates to 16 cases per 100,000. The average area in England has 28 (19 last week). As reported here last week Swindon is now off the government’s Covid watchlist but residents are urged not to relax.

• Residents visiting council buildings are being asked to scan NHS QR code posters in order to comply with new test and trace guidelines. The Council will continue to offer a manual option for recording visitors’ contact details, for people who do not have a smartphone or do not want to use the NHS Covid-19 app.

• Swindon Link reports that four Swindon parks have been chosen to host an autumn trail with a difference.

Funding is now in place for a key link road, which will form an important part of Swindon’s New Eastern Villages (NEV).

• A wide-ranging package of support provided for Honda workers in Swindon was among the items discussed at the latest national taskforce meeting today on 30 September.

• Significant excavation and repair work has recently started on the access road into Stanton Country Park.

• The Government has awarded Swindon £1m in funding to help accelerate the Kimmerfields project in the town centre.

• A short section of Whitworth Road is due to be closed until early October as part of the £2.8m improvements at the Moonrakers junction in Stratton.

Click here for information from Swindon Council about how Coronavirus is affecting its services as well as other useful information. 

• Click here for details of the many volunteering opportunities at Great Western Hospital.

The song, the sketch and the quiz

• So, here we are at the Song of the Week. The 80s didn’t half produce some great music (at least I think so). Digging Your Scene by The Blow Monkeys is a particularly good example (at least I think so).

• And now for the Comedy Sketch of the Week. We return, once again, the wonderful A Bit of Fry and Laurie and News Flash. It couldn’t happen here…could it? Or has it already happened and we just haven’t noticed?

• And so it’s last orders, which can only mean the Quiz Question of the Week. This week’s question is answered elsewhere in this column and is as follows: How many single-use plastic drinking straws were used in England in 2019? Last week’s question was: England had three kings in 1066. William I and Harold were two: who was the other one? The Answer is Edward the Confessor: though only just as he died on 6 January. 

Brian Quinn

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