Hungerford Town Council Update December 2020/January 2021

These notes incorporate some but not all of the matters discussed at the Full HTC meeting on 4 January 2021, 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. NDP = Neighbourhood Development Plan. H2036 = Hungerford’s NDP. DC = District Councillor.

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

Police report

The following report was provided by the local Thames Valley Police team for the meeting (note that this has been amended by Penny Post as the report was written before the government announced the national lockdown on 4 January):

Firstly the team would like to send our best wishes for a happy and heathy 2021.

As always the town has been lit up beautifully by Christmas lights. A special mention must go to Helen for the hilarious ending to the virtual Christmas light switch-on. We have such a great town and the community is one we feel proud to be a part of.

Covid-19 continues to dominate the news and our day-to-day policing. Infection rates are continuing to rise in West Berkshire as well as across the whole country. The regulations and levels of restrictions have changed several times since December, getting more severe on each occasion. On 4 January a national lockdown was ordered with effect from the following day.  Essentially, and with a few exceptions, this means STAY AT HOME. Information on these and other relevant matters can be found on the government’s and WBC’s websites (see here for an article with links to these). It is now more important than ever to adhere to the guidance. Remember, above all: hands, face, space.

Other matters

  • Over the Christmas period we received a few calls relating to people breaching the Covid-19 regulations: however, in the main our local community abided by the Tier 4 restrictions that had been placed upon us (and have since been updated to become a national lockdown).
  • Over the last month we have had several varying reports of anti-social behaviour and criminal damage. These are centred mainly on The Croft and Hungerford Rugby club. We have dispersed youths from these areas and confiscated alcohol.  These areas are being regularly patrolled by the team and we will be continuing to work with HTC on this issue.
  • At the beginning of November two house boats were broken into on the Hungerford section of the Kennet and Avon. Searches were carried out and one suspect has been arrested. An investigation is still ongoing.
  • Towards the end of November a large quantity of lead was stolen from the roof of Hungerford Primary School. An investigation is still ongoing and a suspect has been arrested.
  • In the last two weeks of December we have received a couple of reports of pickpocket-type thefts of purses or wallets in Tesco. Please be vigilant when carrying out your shopping and secure your personal items. We shall drop off some purse bells and security clips to attach to purses at Customer Services for anybody that would like one.
  • In the early hours of New Year’s Day Officers were called to a fight outside the One Stop in Fairview Road. At this time I am unable to comment further on this incident.

Again I will highlight the need to officially report incidents to the Police, not just post them on social media as we do not have the resources to monitor these sites. It is important everything gets reported so that as a team we can identify trends and problem areas. If it’s not reported it’s not officially recorded.

Note: a question at the meeting asked if the seeming rise in crime was part of a wider trend. The Mayor reported that she had spoken to a local police team representative who had confirmed that many of the incidents involved a small group of people already known to the police.

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.

James McMahon

At the meeting, HTC noted the sad news that James McMahon, the Youth Worker employed by St Lawrence’s Church, had unexpectedly died on 29 December 2020 and offered its condolences to his friends and family. James was a valued part of the town’s Neighbourhood Plan team, a voluntary role which he dedicated his personal time to. He also worked eight hours a week as a youth worker for the church, half of this working with young people and the rest in preparation and recruiting adult helpers. He will be sorely missed. A GoFundMe page has been set up to help support his widow and two young children.

District Councillors’ report

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

  • Sovereign is now seeking to move on the re-development of Chestnut Grove site and the provision of eight affordable homes for shared ownership. Plans will be submitted to HTC and comments can be submitted by email to chestnutwalk@sovereign.org.uk.
  • Draft location sites have been provided by WBC for the siting of re-cycling bins in the town.
  • The question of the CIL grants (see next section) was discussed with the DCs.

Bidding for CIL funds

In early December 2020, WBC announced that ‘up to £500,000’ has been set aside for Community Infrastructure Levy funding (realised from contributions made by developers) to “ensure sustainable services through innovation and partnerships” by allocating funding for community groups to bid to support WBC’s policies in its local plan. This is in addition to the normal CIL payments which are made to parishes in which the development takes place in order to mitigate its effects. The deadline for applications in 10 January 2021 and the work must be completed by 31 March 2022.

For reasons that are unclear, the one email that WBC sent on this subject ended up in the Clerk’s spam folder and was only discovered shortly before Christmas. At the meeting there was some discussion as to whether WBC could extend the deadline for what would be a fairly detailed submission, including estimates. A decision as to what action HTC would take with regard to this opportunity would await the DC’s response as to whether this could be supplied after the closing date. One problem might be that the bids need to be considered by the Executive of WBC before being finally agreed as part of WBC’s 2021-22 budget on 2 March.

Co-option of new members

One person had expressed an interest in joining HTC and was present at the meeting. It was agreed that they would attend as many virtual HTC meetings as possible over the next month so as better to understand the work of the Council and to get to know its members. Their application would then formally be considered at the HTC meeting in February. It was intended that this process would also apply to all future applicants.

Mayor’s report

Happy New Year

We start the new year with many of the constraints we had back in December, Hungerford had 23 confirmed Covid cases up to 29 December 2020. The good news is the Oxford vaccine has now been approved, which has an advantage over other vaccines regarding being able to be stored at a higher temperature. It’s important to remind everyone that there is still a very real need to adhere to government guidelines, keeping Hungerford’s numbers low and until we can once again find ourselves in calmer waters.

Being Santa

I was thrilled to deliver personally four food hampers to families in Hungerford who were chosen on my request by the wonderful Family Centre team. The Hampers were gifted by One Stop in Fairview Road and I wish to thank them personally for donated the hampers and for allowing me to choose their recipients. All four families were completely delighted to receive them. It was such a lovely act of kindness and a real community feel good project.

Christmas Trees

I wish to thank Shield Electrics for their streamlined installations of the Christmas lights. The lights felt even more magical this year and were a very welcome pick me up for Hungerford residents and businesses. I would also like to thank Sarah Chatters and Cllr Rob Chicken for their efforts to ensure this huge project went smoothly.

Thank you to Hungerford businesses and residents who kindly donated, helping to fund the lights through the Good Exchange. All donations through the Good Exchange are matched funded, this really helps to stretch HTC’s budget for the Christmas lights. Many of the light strings were in need of replacement and we also needed to replace the baskets that sit under the lamp-post trees. The good Exchange application is still live and further donations can be made through this link. Thank you for your donations, I know finances have been stretched for many of the towns businesses and we really appreciate your continued support.

Lastly, I wish to thank Roger Ballard and Shield Electrics for receiving my distress call following the storm over Christmas during which six trees had snapped and many more tipped over. They answered my call for help and came out at 7.30am to make good. In addition, Cllr Downe rescued the High Street barriers which had also been flattened in the storm. “Teamwork makes the dream work!”

WBC’s Local Plan and Hungerford’s NDP (H2036)

Every five to ten years, a local planning authority (LPA) like West Berkshire Council is required to produce or update its local plan (LP). The LP sets out where and how land can be developed through a set of planning policies against which planning applications can be assessed. Among many other things, the LP’s policies can allocate major (strategic) sites for housing developments and specify general rules of where and how individual minor land use changes can take place. As part of the last iteration of the WBC LP, for example, the current Salisbury Road 100-dwelling site was allocated for housing.

WBC is now in the process of a major update to its local plan which is intended to cover the period until 2037 (although it is likely within that period that further rolling updates will be needed). On 11 December 2020, a draft version was formally issued for consultation input from residents of the district. The consultation is open until 5 February 2021 although for anyone who wishes to comment, the easiest way to do it is here.

Since Hungerford is currently in the process of developing its NDP through the Hungerford 2036 Project Team, the new Draft WBC Local Plan does not include any considerations of further sites for development in the town. It does however, set a requirement for sites to be identified sufficient for an additional 55 dwellings over the plan period. The decisions about where those 55 will be delivered are in effect delegated to the NDP (assuming that, in due course, it is approved by external examiners and a referendum of the town’s voters). Early in 2021 the H2036 Project Team will be consulting with residents on the possible housing sites around the town that have been identified and assessed by them over the last 10 months.

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

The H2036 Site Assessments are currently being fact-checked with their respective site promoters. We have asked for their feedback by 8 January.

On 17 December at a joint HTC/H2036 working party discussion the H2036 Project Team updated the Council on the site evaluations, received their feedback and discussed consultation plans. The H2036 team would like any further feedback from members as soon possible.

See the above section for more information about WBC’s local plan update and its relationship with Hungerford’s NDP.

For more information, see the Hungerford 2036 post here.

HTC’s budget for 2021-22

This was set at £306,689. This represents in increase of 1.17% over the previous year. (Technically, it is an increase of 3.88% but the difference is explained by the contribution to the street lights which were previously a separate item on the council tax bill – 1.17% is the effective overall increase residents of the town will pay.)

Legionella risk assessment at the Rugby Club

After some discussion it was agreed at the meeting that, in addition to the checks that have already been carried out in 2020, that a final rink assessment would be conducted by a suitably qualified person before the building was handed over to the management of the Rugby Club.

HTC’s committees

The only committee which had met in December was Environment and Planning. This considered five planning applications, none of which were opposed (though one had conditions recommended). It also re-iterated HTC’s position with regard to the revised application for the Salisbury Road site (20/01023/MDOPO), the full text of which can be seen here. Local residents are encouraged to submit their comments (see the post for the link) if they feel comfortable in doing so.

For details on HTC’s committees, including membership, agendas and minutes, please click here (and go to the ‘Town Council’ tab).

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