Local News 8-15 October 2020

Our round-up of local news across the area (and a bit beyond) this week including Hungerford’s newsletter, Inkpen and Combe’s Ps, Brimpton’s recording, Newbury’s sign, Kintbury’s call-in, Lambourn’s blockage, Shefford’s support, Wickham’s ale, East Garston’s news, Eastbury’s rumble strips, Chilton Foliat’s tree, Wantage’s petrol, Gove’s lease, Burghfield and Mortimer’s housing, Hermitage’s open day, Cold Ash’s bee, Chaddleworth’s clubs, Thatcham’s plots, Swindon’s tractors, Bedwyn’s visit, Marlborough’s conditions, the Great Barrington Declaration, immediate consequences, Excel files, a blessing from God, the councillor’s missing trousers, two suggestions for Mark Z, billionaires, a binary life, local demography, long letters, long fingers, a list of demands and a lot of money.

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)

• Recently there’s been publicity given to what claims to be a global movement known as ‘the Great Barrington Declaration‘ which, according to its website, has been signed by about 3,500 medical and public-health experts and about 5,500 GPs. In essence, this appears to assert that lockdown is inherently the wrong approach to take and that it conceals and perhaps exacerbates equally bad problems ranging from economic collapse to a spike in mental-health problems. Two of the GBD’s main planks appear to be that help and protection should be concentrated on the vulnerable and that herd immunity will eventually rescue the situation.

The main problem with the first is that it’s far from clear how ‘vulnerable’ people can be identified, or even defined. The elderly, obviously; but while many of these live in dedicated accommodation such as care homes but many others do not. There are also plenty of examples of people of a wide range of ages and backgrounds who have contracted CV-19 with very serious results (including ‘long Covid’). There’s also a wider moral dimension in that the government has an obligation to cater for all the members of the population who might be vulnerable, not those who can easily be identified as such. As regards the herd immunity, there’s so far no evidence if effective immunity is conferred in all cases, or for how long; or perhaps at all. It might take a year for more for any herd immunity to become sufficiently widespread. However, if immunity lasts for less time then the circle will never be closed. 

I understand that GBD originated in the USA. Given its apparent aims, it may be an attempt to provide a some form of science-based structure for libertarian views. This article in Wired makes some very good points about this, including questioning how authoritative the 3,500-odd ‘medical and public-health experts’ actually are. 

• A slightly similar issue, or choice, is being debated in the UK with the specific focus on how severe the lockdowns should be, whether local restrictions are working and whether there should be more parliamentary scrutiny. On the last, the PM admitted recently that the increased role of the state was not something he welcomed. This is slightly different from the point made by the Speaker and others recently that the executive was treating parliament with ‘contempt’. Whether local lockdowns are working or not seems to be a matter for debate (see also here, from The Independent, in August). At the very least, they give more power and influence to local health experts who, as many have long argues, need to be more centre-stage in this. On the other hand they risk exacerbating the proverbial north/south divide: most of the areas currently under tighter restrictions are north of Birmingham (or in South Wales), as are all the areas with more than 100 cases per 100,000. This could all change, of course.

There is certainly a bewildering range of regulations. I don’t think anyone could get full marks on any test about these (certainly not several MPs, cabinet members or their fathers). To make matters worse, as the BBC commented with a discretion that almost achieved irony, ‘people don’t necessarily change their behaviour exactly in line with rule changes.’ Many would argue that some of the rule changes are not that clear. All are, however, variations on five basic points: keep your distance, cover your mouth and nose, avoid large gatherings, wash your hands and self-isolate if ill or tested positive. 

• A lot of risks, like not dancing on the edge of a cliff or walking across a busy A road, need no amplification because they have immediate consequences. Covid does not. A week or more may elapse before you report any symptoms, if indeed you do: perhaps as many as 80% of cases are asymptomatic (or perhaps pre-symptomatic) or so mild as to attract no attention. Moreover, the symptoms vary. Among young children, The Sun suggests that sore throat, fatigue, loss of appetite and rashes are common symptoms (in addition to the well-publicised ones of fever, cough and loss of taste and smell) and that children are in any case more likely to be asymptomatic. Private Eye’s MD, meanwhile, claims that for the elderly, as well as ‘just feeling awful, the key symptom is delirium.’ Anyone who looks after the young or the old will agree that these are fairly common age-related signs of a variety of things and at any time.

In another demonstration of the ubiquitous Pareto Principle, The Eye’s MD also says that 20% of the infections are responsible for 80% of the spread. He also adds that of the 30,000 excess deaths in private homes since March, only one in ten is directly attributed to Covid and that ‘we don’t know why.’ All in all, although we know a lot more about this virus now than we did in February, we don’t know nearly enough.

• One thing I know, though – and my academic discipline was medieval history – is that there is a limit to how many records one can safely import into, and transfer between, Excel files. This basic problem seems to be at the heart of the problem of 16,000 Covid cases being not added to the statistics – and, more importantly, their contacts not immediately being traced. “The use of XLS as an intermediate format is an error of biblical proportions,” said Jonathan Crowcroft, Marconi Professor of Computer Science at the University of Cambridge. “In fact, it’s an error of Pooh and Piglet proportions – Christopher Robin would have corrected it. It’s shocking that taxpayers’ money and possibly people’s lives are risked by stupidity at this scale.”

To make it worse, it’s currently not clear if some or all of these missing records have been lost for good. To me, it seems about as sensible as going out picking apples armed only with a small saucepan. There are clearly a lot of things that are being rushed through at the moment and this fiasco leaves one wondering what other corners might be being cut, such as with the clinical testing of vaccines. There is certainly an intense pressure to get one ready.

• No one is providing this pressure more strongly than the US President. He is now out of hospital and back in the White House and has described catching Covid as ‘a blessing from God.’ The real blessing will come if hundreds of other people with whom he came into contact do not test positive given the insouciance with which he and his staff seem appear to have enforced social-distancing regulations. He is also full of praise for the experimental drug Regeneron, to which he seems to have given unilateral approval. According to the New York Times, he promises to make it ‘free to anyone who needs it.’ It’s not clear how he’ll do this as the company itself has admitted it only expects to be able to treat 300,000 people (less than 0.1% of the country’s population) by the end of the year. PoTUS seems to believe that he has been cured. However, the NYT article quotes Dr Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious diseases specialist, as saying that there was ‘a one million percent no’ chance that Regeneron had cured the President in 24 hours. He also suggested that Trump’s currently up-beat mood could be explained by dexamethasone, which he has also been taking to reduce fever and which can create feelings of euphoria. ‘This is the dexamethasone speaking,’ Dr Chin-Hong concluded. 

• The strange tale of the PR confusions that surrounded PoTUS’s Covid experience is considered at in this separate post.

• Still stateside, the prospective VP candidates had their moment in the spotlight last night. The debate seems to have been rather better tempered than the last week’s fiasco, one talking point being a fly that that appeared to have fallen in love with Mike Pence. I see from photographs that – possibly to discourage the candidates from leaping out their seats and attacking each other or perhaps for some other reasons – the organisers had put two perspex screens between them. The BBC has fact-checked half a dozen of the claims here: neither candidate seems to have done particularly well. Still, in these contests it’s not what you say that counts but how presidential (or vice-presidential) you appear to be.

• We’ve been following the story of WBC Councillor Steve Masters who’s been active in the HS2 protests at Jones Hill Wood in Buckinghamshire. This reached a violent conclusion last week when the site was stormed by eviction officers and police during which various protestors, including Councillor Masters, were arrested. I saw him at the food and artisan market in Hungerford on Sunday and he was wearing a pair of grey tracksuit bottoms designed for a person of a different size and shape which he described as ‘prison issue’, almost all his possessions having been removed. He also told me that Swampy, whom many will remember as the pin-up boy of the divisive protests about Newbury by-pass in the 1990s, had made an appearance at the site together with his son. The HS2 Rebellion Facebook page has made a number of accusations against the National Eviction Team’s (NET’s) conduct, including that four members including a manager were recently suspended after an incident further north, near Leamington, which was captured on CCTV and showed them drinking Stella and then assaulting two men who were in a car and taking photos. Stella has a bit of a poor reputation, often appearing as evidence in these kinds of cases. NET’s doesn’t seem to be much better. What an awful job that must be; particularly if – as some of the operatives perhaps do – you even partly share the protestors’ views. HS2 does seem to be an inanity and an insanity on a colossal scale.

• Two bit of news were released recently which are, when you think about, very unsurprising. The first was that billionaires (particularly those involved in IT – and who isn’t, these days?) have done very well out of Covid, their wealth rising by over 25% in the four months between April and July 2020. Billionaires, by definition, want to get rich and are quite good at it. There might be a sense of irritation we feel about them but there’s no inherent contradiction between what they set out to do and what they accomplish – they do what they say on the tin.

• The same cannot, however, be said for many members of the the Church of England. The organisation stands accused, according to a recent report, of having failed for decades to protect children and young people from sexual predators and, moreover, appeared to have ‘facilitated…a place where abusers could hide.’ These are vastly worse than any crimes the act of becoming a billionaire could lead to and include hypocrisy, dishonesty, dereliction of duty and cruelty. If organised religion has any purpose it is surely to combat exactly these evils – or am I missing something?. 

• The confusion, misunderstanding and evasion surrounding the various Covid regulations is, as mentioned above and just about everywhere else, widespread. It seems to me that, particularly in these digital times, we’re essentially binary creatures. There are only two choices that we really understand: (a) you can do this; and (b) you cannot do this. Any exceptions just create a grey area which people can exploit and which risks undermining the whole business. So, my proposal is that we have five days on, when everyone can do what they want, followed by three days off, when everyone has to stay at home, anyone out and about being rounded up and put somewhere or other for a bit (haven’t worked that part out yet). It will be unjust and unpopular and doubtlessly scientifically and epidemiologically unsound but you’ve got to admit one thing – it will be simple…

• The BBC reports that there were 58 CV-19 cases in West Berkshire in the week 28 September to 4 October, 28 up on the week before. This equates to 37 cases per 100,000. The average area in England has 62 (up from 28 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. This has been discussed at every council level, and doubtless a lot of other places, as it will have profound impacts on the planning system (that certainly appears to be its intention). One thing that recently struck and was touched on at a recent meeting of Lambourn Parish Council, is Howard by whom the proposed three zones (development, renewal and protection) will be decided. 

• The same meeting also revealed a statistic which has a number of consequences for everything from housing to social care and from taxation revenue to the demand for flu jabs. According to ONS, the population of West Berkshire aged under 65 is likely to fall by 5% between now and 2035 while the population aged over 65 will rise by 42%. In 2035, these sections will make up respectively 74% and 26% of the population as opposed to 80% and 20% as now. That’s quite a shift.

Click here for the latest news from West Berkshire Council.

• West Berkshire Council has developed a draft Cultural and Heritage Strategy ‘which sets out [WBC’s] 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. If you are aware of any others, let us know.

• The animal of the week is the fly that ‘stole the show‘ at the recent VP debate in the USA.

• The letters section of the Newbury Weekly News this week– a bumper four-and-a-half-page section – includes a letter in defence of long letters, daddy’s little girl, traffic calming, Lockdown Wood, a poor investment, badgers and plastic.

• A number of good causes have received valuable support including: vulnerable people in Swindon (thanks to DEFRA); Home Instead Senior Care Swindon (thanks to the Walk 30 miles for Dementia UK challenge); Bowel Cancer UK (thanks to Nicola Franks); numerous good causes (thanks to those who took part in the virtual London Marathons); the NHS (thanks to Erin Saunders).

Hungerford & district

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

• As regularly as ever, the latest Penny Post Hungerford was published on Tuesday proving the best, best and most comprehensive round-up of what’s going going on in the town. You can click here to read it if you didn’t receive it. We’ve got news from the Town Council, the Town and Manot, local retailers and businesses, the Youth Centre, the Camera Club, the Primary School and the Smarten Up team. We’ve also got a report on local MP Laura Farris’ recent visit, the latest instalment of JOG Head Richard Hawthorne’s regular diary and inspiration from the HAHA allotments. Is that all? Not a bit of it. We also reveal how you can study the night sky, rent a bookseller, get a take-away, walk the length of the K&A in bite-size stages, choose a book, choose some wine, be funny during lockdown and look after hedgehogs. 

• 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. I understand this is to be called in.

• 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).

Marlborough News reports here on local MP Danny Kruger’s visit to Chilton Foliat Primary School on 2 October ‘as part of a fact-finding mission.’

• The most recent meeting of Chilton Foliat Parish Council took place on 8 September and you can read the minutes here. Among the usual mixed bag of parochial items (including CIL payments, planning issues and speeding), one matter caught my eye: ‘Plane tree – Cllr Coome noted that the situation is getting worse,’ the minutes laconically recorded. I admit I only have to flick back to some earlier minutes to find out what the problem is: but I prefer to speculate. Is the tree moving around, or using bad language, or picking fights with people coming out of The Wheatsheaf or even slowly turning into something else? You will find no more avid reader than me of the minutes following the next meeting on 10 November for the next instalment of this.

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

• Click here for the October edition of the Inkpen and Coombe Bulletin. items covered include poppies, planning, the playing field, the pre-school, the primary school, the police, the Parish Council and some other things that don’t being with ‘P’. 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 Lambourn Parish Council took place on 7 October. It was a hybrid meeting – yet another term that we’re all going to have to get used to – with most people on Zoom and some others socially distanced in the Memorial Hall. What’s needed to make these work better is a good-quality microphone that be easily moved around as some of the latter group could barely be heard. Various matters were discussed including three planning applications (on which the PC, as a consultative body, is entitled to express an opinion although WBC has the final say), the NDP, the proposed development at Lynch Lane, the recent meeting of the Flood Forum, the co-option of a new councillor (Jerry Winfield being invited to join), the archives in the Alms Houses, the PC’s response to various government and WBC consultations and the problems of blocked pipes in the Memorial Hall. Some of these are discussed in slightly more detail below.

• The Lynch Lane proposal is still at pre-application discussion stage. The only discussion that really matters is that between WBC’s planning officers and the applicant. Their positions seem to be a fair way apart at present. WBC’s site allocation provides for 60 homes, 40% of which are to be ‘affordable’ as it’s a green-field site; the developers have indicated they have a figure of 105 in mind. Until the application is put in it’s impossible to do more than speculate.

• Sue Cocker explained that work on the neighbourhood development plan had reached the point where the consultants had largely completed its landscape character assessment and she showed the meeting a map with the seven separate areas marked. This is an important stage in the project as it will enable policies to be proposed which will govern or influence development in all of these (very different) areas. The parish includes the industrial area at Membury, the corridor of the River Lambourn, the Downs and the village itself.

• At a recent meeting of the Lambourn Valley Flood Forum, it was announced that a new manager has been appointed by Thames Water to oversee works in this stretch of the valley. Funding has already been secured to line 45 metres of troublesome pipes although he warned that it was possible that similar problems could be encountered in 202-21 as last year. Ward member Howard Woollaston commented after the meeting 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.’

• It’s hard to imagine what pleasure or profit someone would derive from taking three new toilet rolls, removing the cardboard tubes and then putting rolls and tubes into the toilet and pulling the chain: but this is what someone did in the public toilet at the Memorial Hall, with predictable results. The meeting reported that £540 had been spent on clearing out the blockage (in which limescale also played a part). Arrangements are being put in place to reduce the chances of this peculiar crime being repeated.

• I would like to be able to say, as I do for everywhere else, that ‘the minutes will soon be available on the Parish Council website‘ but I can’t: there is no Parish Council website and never has been although one is now planned. Previously the PC was parked, none too elegantly, on the Lambourn.org website but, for whatever reason, all the information was recently removed apart from one generic page. I have no idea when the new site will be operational as, rather surprisingly, it wasn’t on the agenda for the recent PC meeting. Aside from it being a legal requirement for PCs to display all relevant information clearly and promptly, the demands of the pandemic response and the need to be compliant with the new website accessibility code of conduct make this all the more urgent. The PC is also in the middle of conducting an NDP. Specifying, building, testing and de-bugging a website takes time, often quite a lot of it. At present, if you want to see minutes, agendas or any other documents which would normally be on a PC website you’ll need to email the Clerk on lambournpc@btconnect.com: not an ideal solution for anyone (nor, I imagine, for her.)

• The October East Garston News has recently been published and you can click here to read it.

• Four sets of rumble strips (a wonderfully onomatopoeic phrase) were meant to have been installed in Eastbury – one at two entry points on the bottom road and two in the village itself by now – but this has been put back: WBC now says that this will have happened by the end of March.

• The Five Bells in Wickham has its own on-site brewery, Wickham Ales, and the first pints from this are now ready to be pulled at the pub for drinking in or taking away. The first available beer is known as Fortitude, a suitable name for these times. I think I’ll pop down on Saturday and fill up our four-pint container. (I don’t know if owner Duncan Jones needs suggestions for any additions to the range but Covid Blaster, Curfew and Lockdown Light Ale are my immediate suggestions.)

• The most recent meeting of Great Shefford Parish Council for which minutes have been published took place on 3 September and you can read the minutes here.  A meeting was held on 1 October, the minutes for which will be available on due course. One item, that was discussed was the application 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.’ The PC’s response, sent to WBC two days later, was support for this, subject to the correction of a document error about the height and a question about a flood-risk assessment. You can see the response here.

• The same pub has put in another application for a single-storey farm shop and the application can be viewed here. The PC will be considering this application at its meeting on 5 November.

• The October Valley of the Racehorse e-newsletter will be published on Saturday 10 October. Please email penny@pennypost.org.uk if there’s anything you want to contribute.

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.  

• 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 or 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.

• As mentioned above and elsewhere, there is a lot of confusion about some aspects of the Covid regulations but one that should be pretty clear is that if you go into a public indoor space you need to wear a mask. Some people are exempted for medical reasons while others believe that to do so is to follow bad science. None the less, it’s the law at present. My eye was caught by the story on page 3 of the NWN about Valerie Jerome, a Newbury ophthalmologist, who went online to mention that she’d had someone in for an appointment who refused to wear a mask out of personal choice. The post spread went viral (we’re going to have to think of another word for that) and she was disturbed to see that the responses included a number of deeply personal and offensive remarks, few of which the writers would have dared to say to her face.

I called her to discuss this. She’s already in one of the higher risk professions because of needing to be in close proximity to clients and has a shielding family member, so needs to exercise extra care. If she sees 20 clients a day and all decide not to wear masks, she becomes 20 times more likely to be infected than someone who is safely and anonymously at home, posting hate mail on social media. If you’re running a business, online abuse can also translate into fake negative reviews or groundless complaints to the professional body. On 1 April 2019 I wrote an April Fool’s article suggesting that Facebook was going to be introducing some new ‘reputation-saving features. The time seems fast to be arriving when these are needed. So, Mr Zuckerberg, if you’re a Penny Post subscriber, drop me a line and let me know when these compulsory upgrades will be rolled out.

• The NWN covers, on p5, the saga of Lidl’s sign at its new store at the retail park. This followed the tried-and -tested route of the shop putting in an application for a sign, the planning authority refusing it, the applicant appealing and HM Planning Inspectorate over-ruling the authority. The article has some delightful phrases from HMPI’s decision which one only finds in these kinds of documents. The sign will, for instance, be positioned in such a way ‘that harm to the visual amenity of the area would not occur.’ A bit late for that: surely the visual amenity (whatever exactly that is) was shot as soon as a retail park was built there? The sign also has, you will be relieved to learn, ‘a slim-line, pole design,’ which I think means it’s on a pole. I’d imagine that Lidl might be less pleased with the fact that HMPI has decided that the sign will ‘not be visually intrusive’. A sign that is not at least a bit visually intrusive is surely failing in its only purpose (as so many road signs in the area, choked with vegetation and caked with dirt, currently do)? Finally, one of the reasons HMPI refused the appeal was because WBC had not supplied a copy of its Shopfronts and Signs Supplementary Planning Guidance, July 2003 to which its original decision referred. Do they not have access to the web at HMPI? I found it in about three seconds and a very fine read it seems to be. I haven’t got beyond page one yet, mind you. That page is dominated by a WBC logo in pink rather than the current green which already conveys a pleasingly old-world feel. 

• 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 on-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. 

• A reminder that you can see two responses to the 17 September 2020 planning-policy response from West Berkshire Council concerning the Sandleford soap opera by clicking 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.

• The most recent meeting of West Ilsley Parish Council took place on 14 September and you can read the minutes here and scrolling to the foot of the page. One of the items discussed was the future of the Village Hall which, due to declining income and events as a result of Covid, was perhaps no longer viable. What must have been a depressing matter was seemingly discussed for some time without any firm decision being reached. The notes end with the remark that ‘the mood of the council was that they would be very loath to give up the hall, for we will never get it back.’ Indeed. Three to six months is perhaps all it takes for habits to change and people or groups to find other venues, pubs, shops or whatever the service is that has been suspended. Covid has been around for closer to seven. A village without a hall is a poorer place but these venues cost money to maintain.

• The most recent meeting of Brightwalton Parish Council took place on 14 September and you can read the draft minutes here

• The October Chaddleworth News has been published and you can read it here. Items covered include information from the Church and Schools, updates from the Gardening and Cricket Clubs, news from the Parish Council, a short history of the Lambourn Valley Railway, news from the Downland Practice and a touch of Halloween Baking from Trindledown.

• The most recent meeting of Chaddleworth Parish Council for which minutes have been produced took place on 16 September and you can read the minutes here. The most recent meeting took place on 6 October and 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

• 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). In particular, that there will be an open day on Saturday 10 October at the Primary School. You can see the leaflet about the event here.

• 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

• Over the last three weeks we’ve covered the issue of the six and half acres of woodland on the Dunston Park Estate, known as Piggy Woods. In brief summary, although it was widely believed this belonged to WBC, it in fact didn’t. The owners offered it for sale ‘with possible development opportunities’. This attracted immediate local concern which found expression and cohesion in a Facebook page. Thatcham Town Council and in particular Councillor Dillon then proceed to have matters like tree preservation orders placed on the land to afford extra protection. This appears to have had some effect. The land hadn’t sold as one unit in an auction last month for £250,000 as a ‘development opportunity’ and, since these municipal interventions, has been re-branded as ‘an ideal tranquil escape or even private camping area or for recreational use.’

It has also since been chunked down into smaller parcels. An article on p24 of this week’s Newbury Weekly News says four: in fact there are 10, each of which is to be offered at auction for about £35,000. This represents quite a jump in total price considering the admission of reduced commercial opportunities. The NWN’s figure is excusable as only four plots are being offered for sale on 13 October (with the remainder coming before a different auctioneer at a later date). The plan of the site for the first four plots doesn’t show the other six which might, inadvertently or otherwise, lead purchasers to believe that their investment would secure 25% of the site rather than merely 10%. For a body like Thatcham TCor a charity to acquire the land, or perhaps a central chunk of it, might seem to be a way to save the site but it appears that there are a number of potentially onerous repairing leases attached to the land. There for the time being the matter rests until next week’s auction. Thatcham TC and Councillor Dillon seem to have done all they could very quickly. It’s worth repeating that his proposals attracted unanimous support from a council which is comprised of three political parties; no mean feat in itself. 

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@westberks.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 originally referred being next to impossible to realise.

• Further plans have been submitted for ‘the erection of 91 residential dwellings together with associated infrastructure and landscaping’ at Lower Way. You can see the documents here.

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

• It seems, however, that the town’s Christmas lights’ switch-on, usually an annual and popular event, will not take place.

Thatcham Festival will, however, be going ahead – indeed starts this weekend – with a mixture of actual and on-line events. Click here for more information.

• The most recent meeting of Brimpton Parish Council took place on 6 October and you can listen to a recording of the meeting here (this will be replaced by the minutes – draft or final – in due course on the same page).

• 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 a bee and ends with Aldous Huxley.

Theale and district

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

• In his latest newsletter, Councillor Graham Bridgman reports on the initial assessments for housing numbers for Burghfield and Stratfield Mortimer (although he reminds everyone that ‘things are somewhat up in the air’ as a result of the consultation on the planning white paper). He also stresses that ‘the requirements are indicative at this stage as they are subject to change as work on the Local Plan Review progresses. A requirement may also change as a result of any changes that the Government make to the standard methodology which is used for calculating the overall housing need for a district – hence the reference to the planning white paper.’ His summary for the two parishes is as follows:

Stratfield Mortimer: the NDP includes an allocation for up to 110 dwellings, the allocated site has outline planning permission, and the first phase of development (28 dwellings) is progressing. Given the outstanding dwellings still to deliver, officers consider that there should not be any additional allocation in the plan period. It is however recognised that windfall development may come forward over the plan period.

Burghfield: the parish falls within the recently revised AWE Burghfield DEPZ and residential development is unsuitable in this zone. However an Offsite Plan is being produced and this may allow a limited amount of development – the housing requirement for Burghfield will be reviewed following the publication of the Offsite Plan.

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 5 October and you can read the minutes here. Most of the discussion appears to have been concerned with planning applications.

• 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 154 CV-19 cases in Wiltshire in the week 28 September to 4 October, 94 up on the week before. This equates to 31 cases per 100,000. The average area in England has 62 (28 last week). 

Marlborough News reports that the Burbage, Kennet & Avon, Great Bedwyn and Ramsbury & Wanborough surgeries have won platinum awards for offering best support for unpaid carers.

• And still on the MN website, the Town Council has supported the development of the police station site, though with suggested conditions.

• The same website announces that St John’s has launched its first Virtual Open Evening for current Year 6 students and parents. The Virtual Open Evening can be viewed on the school’s website.

• 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.

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

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

• 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 68 CV-19 cases in the Vale in the week 28 September to 4 October, 48 up on the week before. This equates to 50 cases per 100,000. The average area in England has 62 (28 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. 

• Julie Mabberley’s regular column on p8 of the Wantage & Grove Herald looks at some of the many consultations which are currently awaiting your comments, principally the Transport Strategy for England’s Economic Heartland. As she points out at the end, ‘if we don’t reply to consultations then these people won’t know what our views are, even if they choose to ignore them.’

• The Vale Council, however, provides a more upbeat assessment of its ability to listen to residents’ opinions. ‘Record numbers of residents and people working in the Vale of White Horse recently responded to a survey about the district council’s forthcoming new Corporate Plan,’ a recent statement claimed, ‘and councillors are set to consider changes to plans based on the public feedback.’ They you are – it can make a difference.

• The Oxford to Cambridge Arc is, according to another statement from the Vale, ‘a bold vision to create a global hub for innovation and green development that inspires communities worldwide.’ As mentioned last week, before this bold vision can be realised, everyone needs to agree what it is going to be called.

• You can click here to read Vale Council Leader Emily Smith’s recent statement to the Council.

• 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. 

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

• The Herald reports that a man was recently arrested in Wantage for driving away from a number of service stations without paying. The photo on the article shows the back of his van filled with large containers full of petrol. Fortunately the police stopped him before he had an accident, the possible results of which don’r bear thinking about.

• The most recent (special) meeting of Grove Parish Council took place on 1f September and you can read the (currently draft) minutes here. Items covered including the Grove Airfield site, speeding, hedge debris, arrangements for Remembrance Day, planning application P19.V1420/O for ‘up to 220 dwellings’ (which was objected to on several grounds) and the continuing discussions about the lease for the Rugby Club. 

• 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 October 2020 issue of the Letcome Register. Items covered include an update from the Parish Council, a letter from local MP David Johnston (which looks like the same one that appeared in the Herald a few weeks back), news from the villages clubs and societies, updates from the Community Nature Reserve and the Conservation Group, gardening tips and not one but two saints of the month.

• 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 59 CV-19 cases in Swindon in the week 28 September to 4 October, 17 up 24 on the week before. This equates to 27 cases per 100,000. The average area in England has 62 (28 last week). This article in Swindon Link (published on 7 October) drills a bit deeper into the local figures.

• According to the Advertiser, farmers in tractors will demonstrate in Swindon on Friday 9 October as part of a nationwide campaign against government plans for post-Brexit trade deals with the USA and others.

• The next stage of improvement work at White Hart junction will see the A419 southbound exit slip road closed until late November.

• 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 at the end of September.

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, it’s Song of the Week time. This is by the amazing Slim Galliard: two songs (not sure what either of them are called nor when they were recorded). One one he played the piano (sometimes with his hands upside down) and on the other the guitar. The thing I want you to clock, aside from his musicianship, is how long his fingers are. I reckon he could stretch an octave and a fifth on a piano. At times I was half-expecting them to get tangled up, like spaghetti on a fork. What a showman as well.

• And now for the Comedy Sketch of the Week. This isn’t a comedy sketch as such but is a short scene I’ve always liked from the ridiculous but entertaining film Armageddon, in which Bruce Willis’ character lists some of the conditions that his unlikely crew have demanded if they are going to venture forth and save the world which – spoiler alert – they do; although – another spoiler alert – not all of them survive).

• And so it’s the train hitting the buffer that is the Quiz Question of the Week. This week’s question is: Who said “it costs a lot of money to look this cheap?” Last week’s question was: How many single-use plastic drinking straws were used in England in 2019? About 4.7 billion, apparently. Seems a lot, doesn’t it? Anyway, as of 1 October they’ve been banned.

Brian Quinn

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