Hungerford Town Council Update October/November 2020

These notes incorporate some but not all of the matters discussed at the Full HTC meeting on 2 November 2020, the agenda for which can be found here. Any references below to ‘the meeting’ refer to this event unless specified otherwise. Any such issues are not necessarily covered here in the order in which they were discussed. The official minutes of the meeting will in due course be found on the HTC site. This report may also include information about HTC’s activities which were not discussed at the meeting. See the foot of this post for more information.

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

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

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

Presentation by John O’Gaunt School

At the start of the meeting, Lucy Lee (the Chair of Governers) introduced Richard Hawthorne, the Head at John O’Gaunt since June 2020. He spoke of the problems of running a school at this time, with the backdrop of evert-changing regulations and advice, but pointed out that the school had so far experienced no confirmed Covid cases and had an above-average attendance record. He also said that he felt the school was well-prepared for whatever the next phase of the pandemic proved to be.

He also referred to his vision for the school, which was ‘big school ambition, small school care’, and stressed how grateful he was for the help and support he had received from the governors, the PTA, the town council, local media groups and the local community.

He also mentioned that, with regard to home learning, about 25% of the families with children at the school had IT facilities which were ‘inadequate’ in one way or another (including in number). HTC agreed that it would discuss the precise needs with the school and do what it could to help address this problem.

Richard Hawthorne has written a monthly diary for Penny Post since his appointment and the most recent (October/November) instalment has just been added.

Hungerford Youth Worker

Tanya Noyce, the new Youth Worker at the Hungerford Youth Centre, also introduced herself to HTC. Her responsibilities include setting up and running youth services in the town and is looking to recruit volunteers to work in a new service with young people and also those with experience in setting up virtual platforms. She is also looking for young people locally who are interested in being part of a steering group. She can be contacted on tanya@hungerfordYC.org.uk.

Police report

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

Lockdown

Since our last update Covid numbers have continued to rise across the country and on 31 October the Government announced a second lockdown. This will come into force on 5 November until 2 December. The full details can be found on the government’s website, but the three main points are:

  • Requiring people to stay at home, except for specific purposes.
  • Preventing gatherings with people you do not live with, except for specific purposes.
  • Closing certain businesses and venues.

Anti-social behaviour

We continue to work closely with HTC to tackle anti-social behavior in the town. This month we have received a couple of reports of criminal damage in The Croft area. This is being regularly patrolled by the team.

On the 21 October we held a follow-up OSARA meeting chaired by Sgt Murray. We reviewed the last month’s anti-social behaviour in comparison to what had been happening previously and spoke of any new concerns. We find these meetings invaluable and will be holding another in the New Year.

Halloween

The whole team was on duty for Halloween as this can be a busy night. Most people made the decision to stay indoors with few out trick or treating. We carried out regular checks of our anti-social behavior hotspots including The Croft and over the course of the evening seized large quantities of alcohol from persons under the age of 18, as well as dispersing those who were in groups larger than six. The team also seized quantities of cannabis from various persons over the Halloween weekend, those dealt with were referred into the Drugs Diversion Scheme.

This scheme aims to reduce the harm caused by the use of drugs and drug related offences. It gives those young people found in possession of small quantities of illegal drugs the opportunity to take part in a tailored diversion to address their drug use as an alternative to facing prosecution. Further information regarding the scheme can be found on the Thames Valley Police website.

We have highlighted before the need to report. This was highlighted recently when the day after Halloween we were made aware that there were posts on social media platforms regarding youths playing with fireworks in the town and groups of youngsters fighting. Neither of these were reported to us so even though we were on duty we were not aware of them.

Local incidents

This month two persons have been arrested and charged with two burglaries that occurred recently in the town.

General information

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

District Councillors’ report

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

  • DC Rowles referred to WBC’s Community Hub and Business Rate Support Scheme. She also said that new government grants would soon be available.
  • DC Benneyworth  said that pedestrian barriers were to be added to the locations on the High Street were there were currently cones as part of pavement-widening measures.
  • DC Rowles reported that the discussions between the developers and WBC regarding the mix of housing at Salisbury Road (which the Case Officer has admitted as having gone on for a long time) have reached the point where WBC has demanded that a report be provided looking at the issue. This would be paid by the developer but DC Rowles agreed to check on who would commission this and how independent it would be. It seems unlikely this will be received and considered in 2020 and so the matter certainly won’t come before WAPC before early 2021.
  • DC Cole reminded the meeting that so-called Covid Marshall scheme (which, according the Gov.uk website, provides ring-fenced funding to councils to support ‘any activity which will support compliance and enforcement of measures to control the spread of Covid-19 across individuals, businesses and in the community’ were available for Hungerford, if required.
  • DC Rowles confirmed that the complaint about the overgrown hedgerow in Atherton Road had been raised with WBC’s officers.

Vegetation and street signs

This last item in the DCs’ report (see above) prompted a discussion about the general problems of overgrown bushes and trees obscuring road visibility or signs, and of the signs themselves often being filthy sometimes to the point of illegibility. Councillor Crane referred to a particular problem near the garden centre on the A4; Councillor Fyfe referred again to a list of 20 such issues around the town which he had highlighted in a report some months ago. The DCs promised to press WBC for some action.

HTC closures as a result of the new restrictions

For the time being, the public toilets, the skate parks and the two play parks will remain open but the Croft Field Activity Centre will close. More information is available here.

Mayor’s report

New Councillors

Councillor vacancies have received some new interest and we hope to fill available spaces soon. If you would like further information or details on how to apply to become a Town Councillor, please contact the Town Clerk at claire.barnes@hungerford-tc.gov.uk.

Freedom of the Town Awards

I was delighted to finally be able to present the 2020 awards to our amazing awardees. Congratulations once again to Derek Loft, Di Loft, Roger Ballard and Steve Skipworth. So well deserved and such a huge honour. Thank you for the lovely messages sent in response to the event. HTC is thrilled you enjoyed the ceremony.

Christmas Plans

HTC has started filming the Christmas pre-recorded lights switch-on community video.

Following the announcement of a second lockdown this weekend, Penny Locke and Stuart March will go into turbo drive and cover as many groups as possible over the next few days. Sadly we won’t reach all groups in time, but we hope to encourage you to film your own message and send  it in for editing. Please get involved and help us to spread a little festive cheer. We are committed to making the best of a bad situation. Please support us (following all legal guidance) if you feel you are able to.

Remembrance Sunday

The message this year is ‘Remember from Home’. We are encouraging our community to decorate their homes, placing poppies in their windows and on their front doors. There are some printed templates (ready to colour in), placed in the foyer of the Library building, please collect one before Thursday. For more information, see this separate post.

Due to Coronavirus, we had planned a scaled-back service. Under the new regulations it now seems that even this is now in doubt and HTC will advise as soon as possible. I will lay HTC’s wreaths whatever the outcome as part of my daily exercise.

I was delighted to volunteer again this year for the poppy appeal. The weather was horrendous; so many thanks to the staff at Tesco for taking pity on a drenched Mayor and my cousin Claire. You’ve been such great supporters of the Royal British Legion poppy appeal.

War Memorial Gardens

The Town Clerk and I met with HTC’s new contractors to start the much-needed revamp of the War Memorial Gardens in Bridge Street. We’ve received permission from WBC to remove from the riverside bed two fir trees which are in poor condition. This work, alongside shrub pruning, soil improvement and general clearing, will be the first phase. The second phase will look to replant empty spaces and build a raised bed to allow seasonal planting in the spring. The plan is to use Hungerford colours to create the town’s crest visible from the roadside because of its raised, wedged construction.

The garden at the entrance to the war memorial avenue in Bulpit Lane has received its first contractor visit. There is more work to be done here but it’s a great start to refreshing these much- loved community gardens. The Tragedy Gardens will also be receiving a make-over in due course. We may need to find sponsorship or funding before we can achieve the replanting to the standard we would like to see in this area: sadly it appears to be a target for loitering and littering which isn’t helpful.

Croft Field Activity Centre

Councillor Fyfe, the Town Clerk and I met an architect at the Croft Field to start planning the project to re-vamp this community space, using the S106 funding secured for this project last year. This was an initial meeting to talk through ideas including user needs and aspirations. Following recent committee approval to proceed to next steps, we have asked for initial plans and drawings for a selection of ideas to present to council for determination of best design. This is an exciting project for HTC and will help provide a more workable space for site hirers and established main users. We have created a working party and the project will be overseen by Councillor Fyfe and myself.

Lord Lieutenant’s SERFCA awards

These awards were held virtually this year, it was really nice to see some familiar faces and witness the many presentations. Congratulations to all the awardees and also to the Lieutenancy office for a well organised event, I was able to watch virtually with other civic dignitaries in the area. It was nice to be invited to this online civic event and I felt like Hungerford Mayors for one of only a handful of occasions this year.

Police OSARA Meeting

DC Rowles, CouncillorFyfe and I met with Police Sgt Andrew Murray and his team to discuss on-going anti- social behaviour in Hungerford. There had been some positive outcomes following our last meeting although details can’t be shared at this time due to on-going investigations.

We have sadly seen a rise in criminal damage and littering at HTC-owned sites. Hungerford’s local team has stepped up patrols and asked me to stress the importance of reporting all crime. Please see the Police Report section above for details.

Pigeons

Some positive progress has been made and I’d like to thank the working party for their continued commitment to this long-running project on this troublesome issue.

Taxi ranks

Two new ranks have recently been created at the station, although this doesn’t solve the problem of the ranks in the High Street which are also much favoured by delivery drivers which leads to some conflict. This is a matter which has been debated for many years but HTC remains committed to creating a long-term solution.

Hungerford 2036 (neighbourhood development plan)

The assessment of the three sites that were submitted after WBC’s HELAA (potential development-site allocation) was published earlier this year has now been concluded by HTC’s consultants and the results have been submitted to WBC so that it can verify that all the sites have been subject to the same level of evaluation. At the meeting, DC Benneyworth agreed to press DC Hilary Cole (WBC’s portfolio holder for planning) for an early response.

Also working with assistance from the consultant, the group now has a working draft of the H2036 Site Assessments which take into account priorities derived from Hungerford resident’s input. The assessments cover all of the HELAA sites which WBC concluded were, at least in part, developable within 15 years. The H2036 site assessments will become final drafts once we have the additional three WBC HELAA reviews (see above).

The next stage will be to contact the promoters of the sites to ensure that there are no errors of fact and then – hopefully in early 2021 – to submit all the sites to a local consultation. Councillor Downe, the Chair of H2036, said that this would fit neatly with WBC’s own consultation on its local plan, the consultation on which is due to be start on 11 December.

For more information, see the Hungerford 2036 post here.

CCTV Cameras

Councillor Fyfe provided a succinct and informative presentation showing how the functionality of the existing CCTV cameras in the town could be improved, and new ones added.

After a number of different resolutions were proposed and votes cast it was eventually agreed to place a new 360 degree CCTV camera at the Bear roundabout, to replace the CCTV camera outside WHSmiths with a new 360 camera and resite the existing pan tilt zoom (PTZ) camera moving it to the Croft Field and install one fixed camera at the Croft Field also. In addition they agreed to fix the existing PTZ camera opposite the library to face in one direction and install another PTZ camera facing the other way. The server in the office will be upgraded to cope with the additional cameras too. It was also decided to pursue an urgent solution to CCTV at the Triangle Field, which poses additional problems due to its distance from the HTC office. Total cost is £7,955 plus VAT (which HTC can reclaim). Of this, £5,000 already existed in the budget and the remainder could comfortably be covered either from the contingency fund or as a consequence of the reduced payment from HTC to the Leisure Centre as a results of its having been closed for part of the year.

There was some discussion about the general desirability of more cameras although the feeling of the meeting was that these were of value to the Police either in providing direct evidence of crimes or of the presence of vehicles leaving the town after a crime had taken place. Councillor Crane also suggested that it would be worth establishing the CCTV arrangements of individual businesses in the town. It was also pointed out that the Police made a contribution to HTC for processing and studying the images and that this was likely to increase as a result of their being additional cameras and would also cover any ongoing costs.

HTC’s committees

Several aspects of the work of HTC’s committees are covered elsewhere in the report. For details on HTC’s committees, including membership, agendas and minutes, please click here (and go to the ‘Town Council’ tab).

Arrangements for future events in 2020

See The Mayor’s report above.

Finances

Aside from various formal matters, the main reference to finance at the meeting took the form of congratulations to the Responsible Financial Officer Jeff Ford for HTC having been given a clean bill of financial health by the auditors – he was quick to point our that this was a ‘joint effort’, the praise for which should be shared with the Clerk and her assistants.

Hungerford Hub

Councillor Knight gave a brief summary of the progress that had been made with the management and operation of the Hub and Library since it was taken over from WBC in 2018, including improving the garden, re-designing the interior and creating a new website. He also listed a number of savings with the new arrangement provided. He requested that HTC consider a subsidy of £9,000 for its 2021-22 budget, the same as for the current year. He said he had hoped this would be less but that Covid-19 had reduced revenue by about £5,000. The Mayor confirmed that HTC was happy to continue to support the Hub and seconded the motion, which was passed unanimously.

Virtual council meetings

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

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

Contacting WBC in an emergency

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

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

 

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

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

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

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