Hungerford Town Council Update November/December 2020

These notes incorporate some but not all of the matters discussed at the Full HTC meeting on 7 December 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 West Berkshire Foodbank

At the start of the meeting, there was a brief presentation by Jennifer Bartter, who is responsible for the running of the Hungerford end of West Berks Foodbank (WBFB), in particular the distribution centre at the Methodist church. WBFB supports local people in crisis, providing seven-day nutritionally-balanced food parcels delivered directly to clients’ homes.

She pointed out that the Distribution Centre had been running normally until Covid-19 when centres had to close. Fran Chamings, the recently-appointed Project Manager, was therefore faced with the creating a new system for home delivery which she executed magnificently (click here to see her talking to Penny Locke of Penny Post on 30 June 2020). This, supported by many volunteers (including Ted Angell and his Handybus team and the Hungerford Self-Isolation Network) enabled goods to be delivered to clients’ homes direct from the warehouse.

Jennifer dealt with the clients who had particular financial hardship. As the service had lost the important face-to-face contact, she called them each week to check on their welfare and needs. At the busiest point she was ringing an average of 25 Hungerford clients a week: some needed help every week, others less frequently. Between April and November 422 food parcels were delivered to families in Hungerford and Kintbury: some contained supplies for several weeks.

Demand in this area has since dropped. Clients are now being advised to contact WBFB’s Crisis Line (01635 760 560, 8am to 6.30pm, Monday to Friday) directly for help from the Foodbank but delivery to their home still takes place in the same way, mainly still via the Handybus. Donations, which fell in the early stage of the pandemic, have since picked up and now include a welcome amount of amount of fresh fruit and vegetables.

The list of required donations, and where these can be left, can be found on the Foodbank’s website. News of when the Distribution Centre at Hungerford will re-open will also appear there.

Police report

No police report was provided for the meeting: if one is received later it will be added here.

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

DCs Dennis Benneyworth and James Cole were present at the meeting. Aside from matters mentioned elsewhere, these were the main topics that were raised.

  • WBC’s Covid response (see the Community Hub) and Business Rate Support Scheme and the Discretionary Business Scheme. The local PPP is now also involved in the local test and trace work.
  • The recent Covid members’ bids were successful for safety improvements for Town Council assets (£1,398) and improvements to public toilets at Kintbury (which badly needed them) lock after increased lockdown usage (£757). There remains about £845 which will probably be the subject of a separate bid to support students at JOG school by purchasing laptops which will then remain of JOG to support more children in the future.
  • Further progress in conjunction with the PPP has been made on the problem of the town’s pigeons. Residents should not, however, expect any immediate solution to this problem.

Newbury Masterplan Consultation

The DCs urged HTC and residents to participate in this consultation which will help shape the future of our county town for many years to come. The aim of this survey is to identify the town’s needs, and exercise which will ‘form the first stage of a broad engagement strategy with the local community.’

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.

Armistice Day

This was, for obvious reasons, rather different to the town’s usual remembrance event. Luckily, all the usual wreaths were laid by the many organisations representing our community. Huge thanks to Derek & Di Loft who worked really hard to keep us safe and Covid secure throughout the service. Thank you also to Rev. Mike Saunders for conducting the service.

On 11/11/2020 I was delighted to read the Exhortation and the Kohima at the Bridge Street War Memorial. It was a huge honour to do so with others who came to pay their respects.

The war memorial garden makeover is coming along and it’s been great to receive so many positive comments.

Christmas Community Video

I’m sure most of you have seen the video that went out last Sunday as Hungerford became magical once again with our beautiful Christmas lights. The video has been hailed as the highlight of the year by many residents. YouTube views reached over 1700 with thousands more on Facebook. (Not quite ‘viral’, but maybe that’s no bad thing in the current climate (pun stolen from John Downe). I have been inundated with messages, emails and cards of thanks for bringing a little joy to the community following a challenging year.

Special thanks to Stuart March, Penny Locke and Claire Barnes for their dedication to this project, and to all the groups, clubs and charities that took part. Well done Hungerford!

Budget

A finance meeting was recently held to look in detail at HTC’s budgets and projects for 2021/2022. HTC has achieved so much this year despite the pandemic. Our action plan is becoming more aligned to our budget: planning and preparation is key to the success of the projects we hope to achieve in the coming year. We hope to finalise the budget in early January. This is a huge undertaking for HTC’s RFO each year and I’d like to mention how much the councillors appreciate Jeff”s detailed reports to help guide us through each year.

HTC’s website

This is now operational and looking really good. Such projects takes enormous number of hours behind the scenes, providing further testament to the commitment of HTC staff. HTC is fully compliant to the latest guidelines and accessible for all users of our website.

WBC’s Leisure Strategy

Councillor Knight and I held a zoom meeting with Paul Anstey at WBC to discuss the leisure strategy and possible opportunities to increase Hungerford’s leisure provision alongside other towns in West Berks. Hungerford’s inclusion to this strategy is hugely important and we wanted to showcase Hungerford’s dynamic around leisure within the town.

This was a hugely successful first meeting opportunity and we were able to demonstrate some exciting future aspirations that could benefit health and well-being within our community. (Ideas so far include walking/cycling paths/routes, athletics track, 4G pitches, skate park improvements, MUGGA, splash pad and shared multiuser facilities). Keith and I would like to thank Paul for his understanding of the town’s needs and enthusiasm for the ideas we shared at the meeting. We look forward to continuing the discussion and seeing some of the ideas included within the overall leisure strategy for West Berkshire. This is a very exciting project!

Croft Field Activity Centre

Councillor Fyfe, the Town Clerk, the Deputy Town Clerk and I met with architects to discuss potential plans for the renovation project planned for the croft activity centre. I hope we can realise the ambitions of HTC and deliver the brief using secured S106 funding. This is a tricky project as the building is old, poorly laid-out and not at all environmentally friendly. The aim is to increase its hire capability and become DDA compliant, a condition we agreed to address when we took the lease from WBC. (Part of me wants to call DIY SOS and watch our dream project become a reality for the community.) Even without such help, we hope we can achieve some of our wish list and plan to do the rest in stages as budgets and grants permit. I know HTC is looking forward to this exciting new venture early next year.

Triangle Field

Talks are continuing with HRFC concerning the future hire agreement of this 15-acre site for sport and leisure opportunities. HTC has received quotes for the car park resurfacing (next stage) and these will be discussed at the next HRFC meeting. HTC has and continues to invest heavily into this site: it’s important to manage this facility and reach the site’s full hire potential – so becoming as cost neutral as possible – and to safeguard this beautiful green space for future generations to enjoy.

London Plane Tree – War Memorial

HTC has now appointed a tree surgeon to lower the canopy of this substantial tree. Road closures will be required ensuring health and safety regulations are met. This work will be completed early spring 2021.

Raised Bed – War Memorial site

As part of the Bridge Street War Memorial renovation project, we are going to erect a raised bed which will hopefully receive future sponsorship and be kept and maintained by the Smarten-Up Hungerford team. The bed will be visible by passing pedestrians and motorists. I am hopeful we can design the town’s roundel in flowers.

Meeting with John O’Gaunt School

The three DCs, the Mayor and the Clerk and the Head of JOG, Richard Hawthorne, met on 4 December to discuss funding and other issues. The school’s main need was for funding for additional computers for students with inadequate facilities at home (when addressing the HTC meeting last month, Richard Hawthorne said that ‘about 25% of the families with children at the school had IT facilities which were ‘inadequate’ in one way or another.’). HTC has agreed to provide £3,000 for this as part of its own grants scheme. In addition, it is hoped that the remaining £845 of the DCs’ members’ bids (see above) will be able to be allocated to this. Mr Hawthorne also thanked Green Machine Computers in Ramsbury for the help it had provided in sourcing recycled IT kit.

This matter (and many others) is touched on in Richard Hawthorne’s monthly Diary of a Head Teacher.

Hungerford 2036 (neighbourhood development plan)

H2036 has now reached a significant milestone in the project with completed HELAA and its own Hungerford 2036 Site Assessments on all the potential development sites put forward to WBC or direct to us. The HELAA-type assessments HTC carried out have been verified and confirmed by WBC

H2036 will during December be asking site promoters to fact-check the H2036 assessments against our criteria for their own site/s. In the new year, H2036 will engage with residents to seek their insights on our assessments. This will be widely publicised throughout the town.

WBC’s consultation on the Local Plan Update will be published on 11 December. As well as providing more guidance on future housing numbers across the district this will also provide a more secure basis for H2036 to review any planning policy areas where the NDP for Hungerford might benefit from specific refinements.

 The H2036 Project Team will update the Council on 17 December on the site evaluations, receive its feedback and discuss consultation plans

For more information, see the Hungerford 2036 post here.

Reaction to the proposed revisions to the Salisbury Road application

Councillor Downe gave a summary of the background to this issue and read a statement of HTC’s proposed response to this, which was passed unanimously. You can read more on this very important local issue in this separate post which includes the full text of the statement.

The H1 bus service

It was proposed this once-a-week service be moved from Wednesday to Friday, subject to agreement with WBC and conciliation with users. Current funding restrictions do not at present permit the service to run on both days as previously.

HTC’s budget for 2021-22

This was discussed briefly and the matter will be the subject of further discussion and ratification at the January Full HTC meeting. It is likely that the precept will rise by 1.6% but this cannot be confirmed until WBC has set its own rate for band D properties.

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). Reports were provided for the following committees which had met recently:

  • Highways & Transport. Items covered included traffic-speed monitoring, recycling bins, footpath improvements on the A4, active travel funding and the perennial issue of the town’s pigeons.
  • Finance & General Purposes. No major or unexpected items with HTC being “where it needed to be” at this stage of the year. The RFO Jeff Ford was once again singled out for praise for his work on the budgets.
  • Environment and Planning: Items covered included two minor planning applications (no objections to either), a discussion about the empty premises in the town and the schedule for the H2036 neighbourhood development plan.

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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