Local News 12-19 November 2020

Our round-up of local news across the area (and a bit beyond) this week including Hungerford’s report, Shefford’s objections, East Garston’s access, Thatcham’s youth, Newbury’s gamble, Denford’s security, Inkpen’s heating, Lambourn’s newsletter, Marlborough’s suppliers, Chilton Foliat’s garden, Cold Ash’s poppies, Aldbourne’s floods, Chaddleworth’s news, Wantage’s mums, Aldermaston’s short-list, Theale’s priorities, Hampstead Norreys’ lights, Padworth’s jokes, Letcombe Regis’ saint, Swindon’s jobs, Greg Clarke, lawn and order, censoring PotUS, an arboreal arrest, Doctor Jab-Jab, S114 alert, 0%, a living wage, the world of advertising, the Rashford swerve, eight bells, a prehensile tail, Stonehenge, covert wardens, Albert Camus, jailhouse rock, one state and thick people.

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)

• The French writer Albert Camus observed that ‘everything I know about morality and the obligations of man, I owe it to football.’ The recent statements by Greg Clarke made at a parliamentary committee, which led to his resignation this week as Chairman of the Football Association (FA), might perhaps teach us about these, and about the use of language, stereotyping, sexuality, life choices and the power of the press.  So, what did he say? (I’m talking about what he said this week: he stands accused of making other similar remarks in the past.)

The accusation that seems to have the most resonance is using the term ‘coloured’ to describe black players. His defence was that he’s worked overseas for many years (This BBC article mentions the USA; his Wikipedia entry refers directly only to South Africa and Australia) while, in the US, he was ‘required to use the term ‘person of colour’.’ I’ve never lived in any of these countries but I am aware that ‘coloured’ calls to mind the times of the civil rights movement and apartheid. I wouldn’t be certain of what racially descriptive terms are or are not acceptable; though, given his job, he should have been, or else someone should have told him.

He also made a comment about the fact that the IT department at the FA had more South Asians than Afro-Caribbeans because they have ‘different career interests.’ I’m not quite sure what point he was making, nor how representative the FA’s IT department is: but it does perhaps confirm to – or reinforce – a stereotype. I’ve looked in vain for any figures that might tell me whether this snapshot is reflected in actual UK employment statistics. The remark leads to the question as to what stereotypes tell us. Are they merely lazy generalisations where some nationalities like the Irish, the Belgians and the Canadians are the butt of jokes made by their more noisey neighbours, or do they contain an element of truth? Were they, perhaps even this one, true a generation ago but are no longer true now? This seems worth looking into, although in the current climate of opinion this might be difficult, as even suggesting that one has an interest in the matter may be interpreted as supporting the view you are trying to investigate. 

He also stands accused by the Daily Mail – that fearless advocate of tolerance – of saying that being gay is a ‘life choice.’ I’m not sure anyone would be as thick as to suggest this, certainly not to a Commons Select Committee. In fact, the accusation isn’t true. He was actually talking about coming out as gay, a quite separate matter from being gay. I admit it’s not clear what he knows about this subject as he admitted, according to the Telegraph, that no gay footballer has ever tried to have a discussion with him. (He’s probably spoken to a lot of gay footballers, but not about their sexuality) but that doesn’t leave him guilty as charged. He also went on to say that ‘I’d like to believe and I do believe they would have the support of their mates in the changing room,’ which seems a reasonable enough sentiment. 

Finally, he made a strange comment about young girls not wanting to be goalkeepers because they don’t like having the ball kicked hard at them. The two odd things about this are, first, that he claimed the observation was made to him by a female coach and, second, that he thought it might not be true. Why then did he tell the story at all? I don’t know if there is indeed a shortage of young female goalkeepers. When I used to play football, at school and in my younger adult days, the position of goalkeeper was regarded almost as a punishment and tended to be rotated. His informant added that young girls ‘prefer to kick [the ball] than have it kicked at them.’ Who doesn’t? 

This article in the Telegraph pulls no punches in its assessment of Greg Clarke nor of the body he recently led. Sports administrators were traditionally hard-nosed, no-nonsense alpha males, emulating may of the qualities that are acceptable in the artificial world of the sport they represent. Many have clearly not adjusted to the long-overdue emergence of mass female participation nor to the whole issue of racism. This is particularly odd as sports are, in general, very multi-racial. The administrators seem to be strangely divorced from all this. The FA is possibly well rid of Clarke although that can best be judged by the choice of replacement. His prior reputation has certainly contributed to his downfall. However, unless we can try to understand why he said what he did, and report it accurately, and discuss it in an inquisitive and constructive way, then we are no further forward. I always distrust the barrage of abuse against easy targets. The accusations leave a faint whiff of sanctimoniousness and the implication that we, being more aware, would have avoided all the mistakes and errors of judgment that we’re now so freely criticising. ‘There but for the grace of God go I’ might be a more honest assessment for some of the commentators.

• A final point on this is the warning on the BBC’s article on Greg Clarke that ‘this report contains offensive language.’ What drivel. The article is a perfectly clear and rational piece which examines and quotes the use of certain terms and phrases. In any case, offence is something that needs to be taken. ‘This report contains language to which some people may take offence’ would have been better but even so, what’s the point? Is the phrase a form of clickbait? And why just language? Why not opinions? In recent weeks. the BBC has written pieces that might be ‘offensive’ to Manchester United supporters, Roman Catholics or members of the Labour Party, merely through pointing out some unwelcome home truths. Should they be giving an alert for that?  

• Talking about easy targets leads inevitably to Donald Trump. The number and nature of the criticisms of his public utterances dwarf those of Greg Clarke’s but I am uneasy by the fact that Twitter is censoring his tweets. Who exactly is doing this and on what basis? I no more trust Twitter’s boss than I do Trump when it comes to truth, whatever exactly truth is. The reality is that about half the world’s population, including PotUS (as he still is) are now self-publishers. Twitter, Facebook and the rest are merely the mediums. To require them to decide what should and should not appear is akin to giving a printer the right to remove a chapter from a book or to add a disclaimer to the cover. The best feature any social-media organisation can add is to delay every post by half an hour to give people time to think about, and perhaps research, what they had said and re-phrase it. If everyone worked on a 30-minute delay in communicating information – and for most of the world’s history it was a lot longer than that – we might reflect a bit more on what we said. 

• I’m not even going to mention the Four Seasons Landscaping fiasco – the ‘quattro stagioni of political events’ as The Guardian perhaps inevitably called it – as  just about everyone who can hold a pen has beaten me to it. All I want to do is direct you to the merchandising page of what appears to be a perfectly reputable firm that happened to have the same name as a famous hotel. The company deserves its moment in the sun, so if ‘Make America Rake Again’ or ‘Lawn and Order’ T-shirts or face-masks could be your missing Christmas stocking filler, click here

• The result of the US election is, at the time of writing, not clear, with PotUS sulking in his tent and an army of lawyers preparing a raft of challenges. As mentioned last week, some of you may remember the month-long challenges following the 2000 election (which was far closer). Assuming that Joe Biden is officially declared the winner, one world leader who might be slightly worried is our very own PM. Biden believes that Brexit was a historic mistake, as would be leaving the EU without a trade deal and doing anything to undermine the Good Friday agreement. The Sunday Times on 8 November also referred to how badly the disparaging remarks made by BoJo and his Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab about Barak Obama and the Black Lives Matter movement had gone down with the Democrats: these seem to be at least as offensive as those which recently cost Greg Clarke his job with the FA (Biden was Obama’s VP for the whole of his eight-year term). The newspaper also quotes Tommy Vietor, a former close Obama aide, as describing our PM as ‘a shapeshifting creep.’ All of this suggests that the incoming administration has an accurate grasp of British political realities. Biden appears to have allayed some of the concerns by having Number 10 high up his list of international calls on 10 November, though matters were hardly helped by the alternative message congratulating President Trump on a second terms being clearly visible. Obviously leaders prepare statements for every outcome: however, as the rest of the message seemed to be the same, this won’t help shake the image of a ‘shapeshifting creep.’ 

• With a rapidly rising CV-19 death toll and a host of other leader-of-the-free-world problems, our little island’s problems and opinions may not concern Biden for long. The main good news this week, for all of us, seems to have been the announcement of a vaccine: for reasons explained in this separate post, there seem to be grounds for optimism about this.

• As for the Covid-19 rates in the UK, these figures suggest that the increase in the rate of the rate of cases is slowing (despite a steep spike on 12 November) and that the rate of hospital admission is, falling, both with many regional variations. The number of cases is still rising but, given the way the statistics are calculated, one would expect these to reflect the other two figures up to four weeks later. Opinions are still divided as to whether the latest lockdown was predicated on false data. It seems to be with us, with all its inequalities, until 2 December. For the rest of that month there is, I suspect, no power that any government can enforce to stop people from eating and drinking and socialising as much as they can. After the year we’ve had, this might seem even more likely. All the more reason to hope that the vaccine works.

This article from Newbury Today reports that the Environment Agency (EA) had admitted that the England’s rivers are among the most polluted in Europe with only 14% being of ‘good’ ecological status: worse still, the figure for the number of rivers which pass the chemical status test is 0%. It must be stressed that this is partly due to more rigorous testing standards and I’ll be trying to find out the comparable figures for some other countries to put this in context. None the less, assuming these standards are reasonable, 0% is not a great point to be starting from. The article puts most of the blame for this on run-off from agriculture and discharges from sewage works. The latter would include the so-called ‘permitted discharges’ whereby the EA permits water companies to put untreated sewage into the watercourse in cases of emergency. The accusation is that the definition of emergency seems to be becoming more and more generous, to the extent that this solution is now almost the norm; certainly such a state of emergency seems to exist in the upper Lambourn valley every year during times of high groundwater levels (normally between February and July).

Brexit and Covid permitting, a private member’s bill is due to be debated in the Commons in January which aims to limit the circumstances in which such discharges can happen and increase the fines for breaches. This should, in turn, force the water companies to do something to solve the cause of the problem. The cost will be considerable but having a functioning sewage system is about as important a piece of infrastructure as one can think of: a lot more important than, perhaps, a high-speed train line between London and Birmingham and also a good deal cheaper. As Charlotte Hitchmough, Director of Action for the River Kennet, pointed out, if these leaks involved oil or gas they’d have been fixed immediately. Sewage pouring into our rivers, onto our streets and into our houses is, however, apparently OK. 

• A letter in this week’s Newbury Weekly News claims that Steve Masters, the West Berkshire Green Party Councillor for Speen (and previously the unofficial arboreal councillor for Wendover South during the HS2 protests), was arrested under the wrong legislation last month, the Trade Union and Labour Relations Act having nothing to do with the offence he is alleged to have committed. I spoke to the previously arboreal member who said that he believed the Act had been recently used as a catch-all several times though he didn’t think that any convictions have resulted. 

• This is Living Wage week. The Living Wage Foundation estimates that 1.3 million key workers including security guards, NHS, school & supermarket staff do not earn a real Living Wage, meaning they can’t meet their everyday needs. The difference between the Government’s National Living Wage and the real Living Wage is 78p an hour outside London and £1.98 in London.

• A warning for all local councils was this week provided by Croydon Council (which regularly features in Private Eye’s Rotten Borough’s section) which has issued a Section 114 notice, essentially an admission that it cannot balance its budget and is effectively insolvent. The Eye has recently reported on a list of high-profile resignations and a damning auditor’s report. It appears that many of its problems stem from what have proved to be disastrous investments in the commercial property market. Many councils have decided that this is a solution to their financial strictures, although it’s debatable whether many possess the necessary expertise. Croydon is the first council since Northants two years ago to issue an S114. Given the perfect storm of Covid, Brexit uncertainty, a drop in demand for commercial property, reduced income from central government and increased expenditure on social care, it probably won’t be the last. 

• While idly web surfing the other night I came across an old film about Peter Marsh. He was one of the major players in the advertising world from the 60s until about 2000 and my interest in him is that his daughter is an old friend of mine. One story caught my eye. Back in the 70s, Allen Brady & Marsh, a brash agency even by the standards of that profession, were pitching for the British Rail account. BR’s top brass was shown into a freezing cold room with torn sofas, tables filled with overflowing ashtrays and dirty cups and with newspapers and cold tea and beer all over the floor. Every time they asked when Peter Marsh would see them, the receptionist said ‘dunno.’ Just as they were about to leave in a huff, Peter Marsh walked in. “Right,” he said, “you’ve just seen what we all experience with British Rail. Come into my office and I’ll help you fix it.” They got the contract. Wait, though. I spoke to his daughter who told me that this had never happened. Her father had denied the story for years but, because it was exactly the kind of thing he might have done, the denials were not believed and eventually he gave up and it ended up in print and online. Why someone, perhaps a jealous rival (of which he had many), would want to make up a positive yarn about such a manifest self-publicist is beyond me. Perhaps he made it up himself and then for some reason of his own denied it. It’s also a timely reminder not to trust anything we read. It is, however, a good story: and, in the world of advertising, that’s really all that matters…

• The BBC reports that there were 161 CV-19 cases in West Berkshire in the week 1-7 November, up 21 on the week before. This equates to 102 cases per 100,000. The average area in England has 182 (156 last week). 

• West Berkshire’s Council Leader Lynne Doherty will answer Coronavirus questions during a Facebook Live event on 17 November.

• This week’s NWN reports, on p3, about the £400m which the government has recently allocated to councils to support poorer children and families over the winter. This look like a U-turn to me – or at least a Rashford swerve – but MP Laura Farris denies this is the case. Fair enough: it’s really a question of political semantics. Opposition parties make U-turns: your own party ‘upgrades ongoing funding priorities in line with real-life needs’, or words to that effect.

• Steve Masters, the founder of the charity Eight Bells for Mental Health, explains the work of his organisation in the same newspaper (on p9). I spoke to him briefly about this on 12 November and he confirmed that ‘demand was currently outstripping supply.’ I asked him what was top of the list that the organisation needed (the need for donations was assumed) – ‘probably an additional venue,’ he suggested. If you can help with this, or any other aspect of the charity’s work, contact them through the website.

• The new West Berkshire Covid dashboard, which provides up-to-date states and information about the virus was launched last week – click here to take a tour. 

Click here for the latest Covid-19 News from West Berkshire Council.

• West Berkshire Council is providing a special online reading project to address learning deficits caused by the lockdown.

• West Berkshire Council is calling upon local residents to nominate deserving individuals and groups for the Community Champion Awards 2020. Volunteer Centre West Berkshire and Greenham Trust have joined the Council to launch the scheme and are each supporting an award. Nominations must be in by 20 November.

• West Berkshire Council has announced its plans to support residents during the new national restrictions scheduled for 5 November to 2 December.

• The Council has also announced plans for business support for the same reason.

• West Berkshire Council is to implement a support plan that will help residents and businesses to contain the spread of Covid-19, funded by the Government’s Covid Marshall Grant.

Click here for the latest news from West Berkshire Council.

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 has 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 this harvest mouse which, as Marlborough News reveals, has been discovered by Action for the River Kennet volunteers at the Stonebridge Wild River Reserve in Marlborough. As well as being very small – the volunteers must have good eyesight – it is the old British mammal with a prehensile tail, which it can use almost like a fifth limb. You knew that, though, didn’t you?

• The letters section of the Newbury Weekly News this week include, as well as those covered elsewhere, communications on the subject of badgers, cats, dogs, allotments and free school meals.  

• A number of good causes have received valuable support including: Inner Flame (thanks to Big Lottery, Lloyds Bank Foundation and Nationwide); The Swindon Tamil Association (thanks to the Wiltshire Community Foundation); Solent Mind (thanks to Darcy Hunt); Newbury Soup Kitchen (thanks to Newbury Electrical Services); many local groups (thanks to Greenham Trust).

Hungerford & district

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

• The November Penny Post Hungerford was published last week and as ever provides the best and most comprehensive round up of what’s going on in the town. If you didn’t receive it, click here to see the whole thing.

• See in particular the October/November update from the Town Council which covers a numbers of matters with which HTC has been involved.

• One of these, as mentioned last week, involved the drawn-out discussions between West Berkshire Council’s officers and the developers at the Salisbury Road site about proposed changes to the housing mix. This won’t come before Western Area Planning Committee until next year. Meanwhile, building work continues. If this dispute isn’t resolved, the day will come when the developers are faced with a choice of wither building what has been approved, or what they want to build, or stopping work pending a decision. I’m sure WBC’s enforcement officers will be keeping a close eye on this. 

• This week’s NWN has, on p24, the slightly odd story of a planning application for a ‘security lodge’ at Denford Park Estate. This was refused by planning officers March on the grounds of a ‘clear and substantial conflict with the housing supply policies of the local plan.’ Following a reported attempted break in at the estate, a similar application was re-submitted stressing the need for ‘adequate security measures’ and supported by what the paper described  as ‘confidential’ comments from a Thames Valley Police officer. All this appeared to carry some weight as, on this occasion, the planning officers seemed less concerned with the needs of the local plan and recommended it be approved. The matter was called in to Western Area Planning Committee by ward member Dennis Benneyworth (who spoke in favour of the application) where, on 11 November, it was passed by six votes to three. It was also agreed that the residency condition would be watered down, meaning that it would be permissible for the building to be occupied by the security person after they had retired or, after they had died, by their widow. Aside from the fact that such a person would hardly provide ‘adequate security’, if this is the main concern then some kind of booth which could staffed in shifts 24/7 would surely be what was needed. This is, however, unmistakably a one-bedroom house, complete with chimney and garden (though no longer a thatched roof: this has been replaced by slate) in which the occupant would presumably at times be asleep or from which they would at times be absent. Nor would it guard the only entrance to the estate. All in all, as a security lodge it seems to be slightly flawed. From the drawings, it looks like a perfectly normal single-storey house, though.

• In Inkpen the discussions about the fairly large New Mill development continue. One of the problems appears to be a proposed gas-fired boiler to heat the new underground swimming pool. This might cause a problem for the planners if, as currently, it’s to be built on former agricultural land. The obvious solution would be to insist on a ground-source system. This would comfortably provide enough energy, the additional heat needed for the sauna (also part of the plans) then being provided by electricity. Not everyone has the means or the space for a ground-source system but this application would seem to provide both. If we are indeed in a climate emergency this is surely one case where a stand could be made. The owner would benefit as well. If we saw the planning authority demanding this kind of condition, it would make us all more likely to fall in with the council’s many exhortations and instructions, on climate change and other matters, which involved some adjustments or compromises in our own way of life. 

• As mentioned last week, the temporary Oakes Bros car park at the station has now been closed off with the loss of about 100 spaces.  See this post for more on the long-running issue of car parking and other improvements at the station.

• 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).

• The most recent meeting of Chilton Foliat Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 8 September and you can read the minutes here. The next meeting will take place on Tuesday 10 November and you can read the agenda here

Marlborough News reports that Chilton Foliat Primary School is raising funds to help transform its Early Years’ garden and play area.

• The most recent meeting of Kintbury Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 1 October and you can read the minutes here. The main item was discussed was the one for 23 new units at Inglewood (20/02079/COMIND) which had led to ‘a number of objections from residents of Inglewood and other nearby properties.’ 

• Click here for the October 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 Lambourn Parish Council took place on 4 November and the minutes will be available from the Clerk (and eventually on the to-be-constructed website) in due course. You can click here to read my report of the meeting.

• As mentioned last week, planning application has been made for a change of use from horse-training yard to office space at Mabberley’s in East Garston. You can read more about this, in particular the question of traffic and access,  in this separate post.

• The most recent meeting of Great Shefford Parish Council took place on Thursday 5 November and the minutes will appear on the PC’s website in due course. One of the items up for discussion was the application 20/02245/FUL for the creation of a farm shop at The Great Shefford pub, the details of which you can see here. This triggered nearly 30 letters of objection (and over 30 of support). At the meeting, the PC objected on three grounds: parking and general traffic; the lack of a flood-risk assessment; and the threat to the existing shop and PO in the village. On the first of these, WBC’s Highways Department has requested that, to support the proposal, the opening times of the shop would need not to overlap with those of the pub, particularly at weekends. On the second, WBC’s Land Drainage Department has objected to the development, ‘the main reason being that no flood rick assessment has been provided.’ All of these, and other relevant documents, can be seen on the above-mentioned link.

The third objection, concerning the viability of the existing shop, is less clear-cut. WBC’s own policy (Shop.5) says that it ‘will encourage proposals for the provision and retention of local shops within both new and existing residential areas and in village settlements. It will also encourage the provision and retention of farm shops, provided that they do not adversely affect the vitality of nearby village shops.’ It’s not clear how the point in the second sentence can be quantified. If a shop or PO closes, it doesn’t tend to re-open. Many communities, including our village of East Garston, have discovered this to their cost. It would be interesting to see how WBC’s planners interpret this clause. Neighbouring East Garston Parish Council, many of whose residents use the shop at Great Shefford, also objected on the grounds of traffic and the possible threat to the existing shop.

West Berkshire Council’s decision on any planning matter will be informed by, but does not depend on, the views of parish councils. There are plenty of cases where the officers have taken a different view to the parish and others – probably a lower percentage – where, when the matter goes to committee (which this one will, probably in early 2021), this takes a different view from the officers. 

• And still with the Great Shefford, congratulations to Joshua Khan and his team after the pub was named in the CAMRA’s West Bekrshire Good Beer Guide.

• The November Valley of the Racehorse e-newsletter was published last weekend. Click here to see it if you didn’t receive it.

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

• Newbry BID has launched its ‘shop local‘ campaign – see here for more.

• Click here for news of a few of the things were in Newbury Town Council Leader Martin Colston’s in-tray last month.

• This week’s NWN reports on p2 that a 24-hour gaming centre in Newbury’s Market Place. The objections to this were mainly on grounds of increasing crime (the applicant pointed out that the group has 170 other venues nationwide, not one of which the Police had ever tried to revoke the licence for) and increasing the risk of poverty. This may be true but I’m not sure whether WBC’s remit includes protecting people against every possible risk and temptation. In any case, 24/7 gambling is available in every home with an internet connection. 

• A reminder that the new owners of the Kennet Centre are asking for your views on the ambitious plans to transform the ailing venue. The proposals can be seen here as well as in a display in the Kennet Centre itself. Please make your comments by 13 November (ie very soon). This is not an official consultation but Lochailort’s Planning Director James Croucher told Penny Post on 29 October that the opinions received will be influential in shaping their final views. It’s hoped that planning permission will be applied for by the end of the year although this will depend on what comes out of the consultation.

• It will be no surprise that the episode 199 or thereabouts of the London Road Industrial Estate claimed some space in this week’s NWN (p8). This concerned questions which a resident had asked about the length of the leases on the easterner’s and thus whether compulsory purchase orders (CPOs) would be needed in order to clear the site. It appears from a letter on p19 that some of the leases have another 70 years to run meaning that either CPOs or some similarly expensive process will need to be undertaken if the vision of the ‘comprehensive masterplan’, one of the options proposed in the recent report from Avison Young, is to be realised. Indeed, even the piecemeal approach (the other option) may be in doubt or at least compromised if the wrong, from WBC’s point of view, buildings have long leases. Councillor Ross MacKinnon is quoted in the article as saying that CPOs would be a ‘last resort’ but ‘we’re not going to say never because that would rule out the comprehensive masterplan.’ The other thing that might rule out CPOs is the cost. WBC has already spent a considerable some of money on the project, including the recently-revealed sums on closing down, and then possibly re-opening, the football ground. As mentioned before, this is surely something that, when planning permission has been granted (and it hasn’t even been applied for) should be paid for by the developers.

• Applications are now open for grants to support local environmental groups with projects that will reduce CO2 emissions and other actions that benefit the climate in Newbury. There is a total fund of £10,000 available with the closing date for this year’s applications on 31 December 2020. More information can be found here.

• Newbury Town Council is seeking planning permission for a Community Café in Victoria Park. The application has been submitted to West Berkshire Council and can be seen here (reference number 20/02294). 

• A reminder that battle has once again be joined over the future of the Winterbourne Arms in Winterbourne. See this post for more information.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council took place on 13 October 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 village. It 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 Hampstead Norreys Parish Council took place on 29 October and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included one planning application (to which the PC objected), signing and safety issues on the bridleway near the school, consideration of the cost of replacing the lighting in the car park and agreeing some donations to be made by the PC.

• The November Chaddleworth News has been published and you can read it here

• Plans for a community orchard at the multi-award-winning Hampstead Norreys Community Shop are well advanced: see here for more information.

• The most recent meeting of West Ilsley Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 14 September and you can read the minutes here and scrolling to the foot of the page. The most recent meeting took place on Monday 9 November and you can see the agenda here.

• The same PC has a vacancy for a councillor and for a clerk.

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

• The most recent meeting of Chaddleworth Parish Council took place on 6 October and you can read the minutes here

• The most recent meeting of Ashampstead Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 7 September and you can read the minutes here. The last meeting took place on 2 November and the minutes will appear here in due course.

• The most recent meeting of Compton Parish Council took place on 5 October and you can read the minutes here

• The most recent meeting of Hermitage Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 17 September and you can read the minutes here

• See also this page for up-to-date information about Hermitage’s neighbourhood development plan.

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

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.

• This week’s NWN reports on p25 that the Christmas Community Day for 2020 has been cancelled due to Covid.

• Flick over the page and there’s coverage of claims by a local resident that the cycle lanes on the A4 need to be re-designed.

• The same page also has news of the Town Council’s partnership with RMD Adventure Learning to bring back specialist youth workers to the town.

• The most recent meeting of Thatcham Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 28 September and you can read the minutes here

• The tale of Piggy Woods continues (for those of you not familiar with this, including the action that you can take, see this separate post). 

• A reminder that 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.

• The most recent meeting of Brimpton Parish Council took place on 6 October and you can read the minutes here

† The most recent meeting of Cold Ash Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 27 October 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 poppies and ends with Albert Einstein.

Theale and district

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

Click here to see the most recent (November 2020) copy of the Padworth Newsletter. This includes notes on the most recent Parish Council meeting on 5 October which covered matters including the adoption of a bus shelter, caravans at the Village Hall car park, a rabbit problem, a vacancy for a Neighbourhood Watch Co-ordinator and confirmation that there has been ‘no further problem with vermin’ at the Recycling Centre. In a splendid spirit of neighbourly co-operation, the notes for the October meeting of Aldermaston Parish Council. There’s also some world-weary widow dispensed by a duck, news of local groups and societies and three quite good (and one decidedly creaky) jokes.

• The most recent meeting of Aldermaston Parish Council took place on 10 November and the minutes will appear on the PC’s website in due course. My eye was at once caught in the unofficial notes I received by a mention of the parish’s ‘Covert Support Group.’ This seemed an alarming idea, particularly with AWE just up the road: I also wondered what the point of a covert group was if people were told about about it. Two minutes later an amended version came through, pointing out that it was a Covid Support Group, whose local activities have resumed during the current lockdown. Other matters included one planning application, a solution to the problem of some diseased horse chestnut trees, the whittling down of the short list of four possible new items of fitness equipment at the Recreation Ground to an even shorter list of two and confirmation that Aldermaston, along with the three neighbouring parishes of Benham, Brimpton and Padworth, has agreed the shared purchase of speed monitoring equipment, the financing of which was helped by a member’s bid of £1,000. 

• The ward member Alan Macro is campaigning for a pedestrian crossing at the eastern (Reading) end of Theale High Street.

• The most recent meeting of Theale Parish Council took place on 2 November and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included four planning applications (consideration of two of which were deferred), the discussion of a list of priority projects for the next financial year, proposals to increase the use of the recreation ground and an agreement to waive some of the hire charges to Theale and Tilehurst Cricket Club.

• The most recent meeting of Englefield Parish Council took place on 8 October and you can read the draft minutes here

• The most recent meeting of Stratfield Mortimer Parish Council took place on 8 October and you can read the minutes here

• The most recent meeting of Aldermaston Parish Council took place on 13 October and the minutes will appear here in due course.

Marlborough & district

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

• The BBC reports that there were 459 CV-19 cases in Wiltshire in the week 1-7 November, one down on the week before. This equates to 92 cases per 100,000. The average area in England has 182 (156 last week). 

• The most recent meeting of Marlborough Town Council took place on 2 November 2020 and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included a report from the local Police team, a proposal from one of the ward members that the TC develop a whole-town transport strategy, the presentation of the petition (see last week’s column) regarding speeding at Port Hill, municipal arrangements during the current lockdown, a lengthy discussion on the proposal (also mentioned last week) that St John’s students be banned from using Priory Gardens (which was defeated by 10 votes to two), an agreement to create a working group to push forward the aims of the town’s climate emergency declaration, the TC’s support for the community fridge and a discussion about a tourist information centre at St Peter’s Church. 

Click here for two excellent lists of suppliers in and around Marlborough which are offering takeaways and also those offering deliveries or click-and-collect for a wide range of products. 

• You can click here to read the most recent (11 November) blog from Marlborough’s Mayor, Mark Cooper.

Marlborough News reports that 150,000 signatures have been received on a petition to halt the building on a £2bn road tunnel under Stonehenge. Despite this, and the the fears of the Planning Inspectorate which claimed that the project would cause ‘permanent, irreversible harm’ to the World Heritage site, the Transport Secretary gave the scheme the green light on 12 November.

• There’s a brief report and photos here recording Marlborough’s socially-distanced Remembrance Day commemoration.

• If you need help during the latest lockdown, Marlborough’s volunteers are able and ready to help. Click here for details.

Click here for details of Marlborough’s neighbourhood development plan.

• To tie in with the autumn foliage, Marlborough Town Council has published its latest self-guided walk, The Savernake Tree Trail – a treasure hunt of ancient oak trees. The full walk is six miles but there’s a shorter Acorn Walk version for little legs. More information can be found here.

Click here to see details of a consultation (closing 15 November, so any day now) regarding the change of area designation for Marlborough’s neighbourhood development plan.

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 (these only take place on odd, not even, months) took place on 10 September and you can read the draft minutes here

• The most recent meeting of Aldbourne Parish Council took place on 4 November and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included a discussion about the draft budget, the problems of a parking bay that had been wrongly positioned by Wiltshire Council, a report from the local Carbon-neutral group, an update on the neighbourhood development plan (which has now reached a pause as assessments need to be conducted by Wiltshire Council) and what seemed to be a fairly lengthy discussion about a perennial problem, that of flooding and in particular Thames Water’s role in trying to address this. ‘Water levels are currently quite high for the time of year,’ the meeting ominously recorded, ‘and it is anticipated there will be flooding again this year.’ 

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 153 CV-19 cases in the Vale in the week 1-7 November, 42 up on the week before. This equates to 112 cases per 100,000. The average area in England has 182 (156 last week). 

• The Leaders of South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse district councils have written a letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to express their dismay that the national lockdown was announced without sufficient support for all businesses in place.

• This week’s Herald reports on the re-opening of the maternity ward at the Wantage Community Hospital which has been closed since March. The other facilities at the Hospital, which were ‘temporarily’ closed in 2016 have yet to re-open: ‘another battle to fight,’ as Councillor Jenny Hannaby pointed out.

• The same paper, on p5, expresses the hope that the A34 review might ‘cut accidents and congestion’ on the ‘overloaded road.’

• And flick across to p4 for coverage of the newspaper’s ‘shop local‘ campaign.

• The latest newsletter from the Wantage and Grove Campaign Group includes the latest on the developments at Crab Hill and Park Farm and the forthcoming AGM of the Newbury Street Practice Patients Group on Thursday 12 November.If you want to subscribe to the newsletter (which is free), click here.

• Like most councils, the Vale has responded to the governments planning white paper: and, also like most councils, it has raised some objections. Read more here.

Click here for information about the help available from the Vale Council during the latest lockdown.

Click here for news from the Wantage and Grove Campaign Group.

• People in the Vale of White Horse have the chance to comment on some proposed changes to parking arrangements in the district council’s off-street car parks. This closes on 19 November.

Help continues to be available, should it be required, during half term in Oxfordshire for families of children in receipt of free school meals.

• Julie Mabberley’s regular column on p8 of the Wantage & Grove Herald considers some possible aspects of a post-Covid world, including community living rooms.

• An over on p10, local MP David Johnston makes a number of decidedly party-political points about the differing reactions to the government’s Covid policies in an article headlined ‘Forget party politics and let’s work together.’

• A reminder that Wantage fundraiser, Ray Collins’ charitable trust has pledged to deliver Christmas hampers to elderly and vulnerable people in the town this year.

• The most recent (special) meeting of Grove Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 15 September and you can read the (currently draft) minutes here.

• 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 November 2020 issue of the Letcombe Register. Items covered include plans to improve the Letcombe Brook, a message from the Parish Council, gardening tips, news from village voluntary and community groups and the saint 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 409 CV-19 cases in Swindon in the week 26 October to 1 November, 21 up on the week before. This equates to 184 cases per 100,000. The average area in England has 182 (156 last week). 

• The Advertiser reports that senior council officers have claimed that thousands of jobs could come to the town if the the soon-to-be-vacant Honda site is used properly.

Swindon Link reports that the local Public Health test and trace team at Swindon Borough Council has spent the last two months taking part in a project tracking down contacts of positive covid-19 cases which the national system has been unable to reach.

• Swindon’s former Groundwell Park and Ride could be given a new lease of life after Swindon Borough Council’s Planning Committee approved a development brief.

• The same council has provided an update on its services during the new national restrictions.

Work has been completed on two schemes to help walkers and cyclists get about.

• Wiltshire Police claims that Covid patrols increase public engagement. This post reports that they are now being seen on Swindon’s streets.

• As mentioned last week, Thursday 19 November is World Toilet Day, and this year Thames Water will be hosting an online event aimed at primary-school children to highlight the importance of sanitation. 

Swindon Link reports that Swindon’s Cabinet has approved plans for Cultural Quarter in the town centre.

• An ambitious plan to make Swindon Borough Council carbon neutral within 10 years has been presented to the town’s councillors.

• Work at the White Hart junction will see the A419 southbound exit slip road closed until late November.

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 comes the Song of the Week. I never greatly cared for Elvis Presley – I guess you had to be there – but I like this version of Heartbreak Hotel by Martin Simpson and Danny Thompson.

• And next up it’s the Comedy Sketch of the Week. Let’s treat ourselves to another dollop of Chris Morris’ Jam and Thick People.

• And so we come in to land with the Quiz Question of the Week. This week’s question is: What do Albert Camus, Pope John Paul II and David Icke have in common? Last week’s question is: How many states did Walter Mondale win in the 1984 US Presidential election? The rather sad, for him, answer is just the one, his home state of Minnesota (and only just). He also won Washington DC but I think that’s what the Americans call a gimee for the Democratic candidate. Biden won over 92% of the votes in DC this time, although team Trump will probably claim that this was the result of ‘massive fraud’.

Brian Quinn

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Penny Post


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