Lambourn Parish Council meeting, 4 November 2020

This report has been written by Penny Post as a result of attending (by Zoom) the most recent meeting of Lambourn Parish Council (LPC) on 4 November 2020. It does not pretend to be an official version of the meeting and by no means covers all the items discussed nor all the matters with which LPC has recently been involved: it has merely picked out aspects which are likely to be of immediate local interest and offered some background and context, which council minutes generally do not.

Every reasonable effort has been made to provide a clear and dispassionate summary of the points covered but the article may contain expressions of opinion which might not accord with LPC’s official view on the matter. It may also refer to what Penny Post believes to be relevant matters which were not discussed at the meeting.

Because of the current lack of a completed LPC website (see section below), it’s not currently possible to provide any links to the agenda, nor to where the minutes will eventually be displayed, nor to any other relevant official LPC documents.

The links that have been provided have been added by Penny Post. The presence of such a link should not be taken to imply that LPC necessarily agrees with, endorses or supports any of the material contained therein.

LPC = Lambourn Parish Council. WBC = West Berkshire Council. LNDP = The Lambourn Neighbourhood Development Plan.

Summary

Various matters were discussed including the usual formal business, two planning applications (one of which was a fourth-time submission which finally seems to have produced an acceptable design, to which no objection was proposed; the other was an urgent matter involving internal remedial work which the PC felt was best left to WBC’s experts), communications from WBC about planning decisions it has taken, the proposed community orchard, the new LPC website, the auditors’ report, the site meeting at the proposed Greenways site, the LNDP, various WBC and national consultations, applications for a share of CIL expenditure and reports from the recent meetings of the Lambourn Valley Flood Forum and WBC’s District Parish Council Conference. Several of these are considered in more detail below.

Lambourn Community Orchard

Councillor Sue Cocker and Lambourn resident Penny Brewer gave a summary of the history of this project. Penny Brewer she had, in 2019, had the idea of creating wildflower verges in the parish. This led to her contacting West Berkshire Council Tree Officer Arthur Cullen and also other local residents who we’re interested in similar schemes, including a recent planting at Close End. Arthur Cullen then offered Lambourn some fruit trees at no charge which had been over-ordered for another project elsewhere. These needed to be planted by December. This seemed like an ideal opportunity to being the idea of a community orchard to, as it were, fruition. The question then arose as to where this would be sited.

Councillor Cocker stresses that this was a community, and not an LPC, project. A proposal at Woodbury did not prove popular (perhaps because the communication gave the impression that the matter was a done deal). Two other identified sites had other drawbacks. The most promising seems to be North Farm Close. Some residents have expressed concern about parking but Penny brewer pointed out that, aside from the initial planting and an annual pruning visit, the trees could (aside from watering until established) be left to their own devices until they were harvested which was unlikely to be for several years. LPC agreed to support this plan.

Click here to see more information from the Community Orchard for Lambourn Facebook page

Lambourn’s neighbourhood development plan

Sue Cocker, the Chair of the LNDP Steering Group, explained that work on the neighbourhood development plan had reached the point where the consultants had now completed its landscape character assessment. She stressed that the entire project was community-driven and evidence-based: for more information, contact lambourn.ndp@gmail.com.

See here for more on neighbourhood development plans.

Flooding and sewage

The Chairman Mike Billinge-Jones summarised the recent meeting of the Lambourn Valley Flood Forum and there were also contributions from Councillor Sue Cocker and local resident Rachel Carden (who has been following this issue for some time). This led to a wider discussion about aspects of the issues in the Upper Lambourn Valley including groundwater infiltration of sewers (Thames Water has identified 41 such pipe leaks in the parish), the problem of groundwater not being efficiently diverted into the river, the silting of the river bed (which appears to be resulting in different policies in Lambourn and downstream in Eastbury) and the concern about the additional problems that would be caused by new builds. As mentioned before, the problem is a complex one and involves three major organisations (WBC, the Environment Agency and Thames Water) as well as several smaller ones (including the various parish councils) whose timescales, priorities and interests do not always co-incide.

The Councillors’ summaries echoed Howard Woollaston’s point made at last month’s LPC meeting that the appoint of Thames Water’s Steve Sanderson to manage the whole Lambourn Valley seemed, so far, to be producing some action. It was, however, pointed out that the emergency pump by the fire station (and also, presumably, the tanker lorries) was likely to be a feature of local live once again when the groundwater started rising. One encouraging fact is that this will in the future be able to remove nitrates from the sewage.

This article provides some background to the problem.

Consultations

There are currently various consultations open, including on WBC’s Draft Leisure Strategy, on which LPC would make a response (see here for all of WBC’s consultations).

The Audit

The audit of LPC’s procedures and monitoring identified six areas which needed attention, including the lack of a website, some issues with formal financial procedures and the need to update the parish’s fixed asset register.

Lambourn Parish Council’s website

A temporary website was briefly demonstrated at the meeting and some of the related issues discussed. It was agreed that this be preceded with although there was no target date discussed for when this would be live. LPC has never had its own website (having used part of Lambourn.org’s until September 2020).

The temporary site can be seen here. Note that it’s still being worked on and so the content and functionality may be a bit volatile. If you have any comments, or if you want to see minutes, agendas or any other documents which are currently not displayed there, please email the LPC Clerk Karen Wilson at lambournpc@btconnect.com.

The Proposed Greenways development

Representatives of LPC met the site promoters of this scheme, which is envisaged to create 30 homes (at least some of them being available, according to the promoters, at 60% of the market rent, rather than 80%, this being the government’s definition of ‘affordable’). Two serious obstacles seem to be (a) creating a sufficient access road, which would seem to involve widening Greenways; and (b) the opposition that is likely to come from WBC and local residents if any further new builds are created unless the existing sewage problems in the parish are resolved (this is also likely to be an issue with the proposed Lynch Lane site).

Note: on 9 November, Manor Oak Homes contact Penny Post to correct an incorrect assumption I had made as to what might happen next (since removed). “Manor Oak Homes,” the statement read, “does not intend to submit a planning application at this stag, but rather intends to promote the site as an allocation in the emerging Lambourn Neighbourhood Plan and West Berkshire Local Plan. The next step will therefore be to submit representations to Lambourn Parish Council and West Berkshire Council at the appropriate time to promote the site as a sustainable location for development.” More information on the proposal can be found on Manor Oak’s website, here.

WBC’s District Parish Council Conference

Councillor Sue Cocker attended this virtual event (which takes place twice a year, most recently in October) and reported on some of the issues raised. Many of these concerned Covid-19 and the support that was available to individuals, businesses and parishes (see this page for information on WBC’s Community Hub and this page for information generally on WBC’s various initiatives).

She also picked out three other aspects of the event:

  • WBC’s response to the government’s white paper on planning (about which WBC’s Head of Planning Policy Bryan Lyttle outlined a number of points that would be of concern to PCs nationwide, including the uncertainty concerning the zoning system, the role of PCs in considering planning applications and the future shape of NDPs).
  • The increased recognition that is (correctly) now being given by the government to local test-and-trace systems, rather (or at least in addition to) the national one.
  • WBC’s involvement in the LoRaWAN Smart Cities Pilot Project (SCPP), not a term which many at the meeting (before or after the presentation) were familiar with. A LoRaWAN, or ‘long-range wide-area network’, is a way of getting information from, or sharing it between, devices on the so-called ‘internet of things’. They have a range of up to about 10km and use very small amounts of power. This can be used for a wide range of applications, from tracking traffic and wildlife movements to monitoring vehicle emissions and detecting broken street lights. LoRaWANs have the advantages of not being controlled by (and thus charged for by) telecoms companies and so are free to operate. Local partnerships such as the Thames Valley SCPP to exploit this technology area becoming commonplace: the aim, as its website puts it, is to develop ‘technology solutions that can meet real-world challenges in delivering public sector services.”
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Covering: Hungerford, Marlborough, Wantage,   Lambourn, Newbury, Thatcham & Theale