Hungerford Town Council Update February/March 2021

These notes incorporate some but not all of the matters discussed at the Full HTC meeting on 1 February 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:

Covid

This started with a reminder that the country is still in lockdown and that where possible people should stay at home.

On 22 February the Prime Minister published his road map out of lockdown which begins with schools reopening on 8 March. The full details can be found on the government’s website. There is now some light at the end of the tunnel and we will soon hopefully be able to enjoy the warmer weather with our family and friends – we just need to be patient and abide by the restrictions currently in place. Although infection rates are decreasing we should not get complacent.

The district

This is the time of year when we see an increase in certain rural offences, in particular hare coursing and the associated criminal damage to crops, hedgerows and gates. In recent weeks, we have received several calls of vehicles driving about in fields surrounding the town hare-coursing and/or causing criminal damage and also further afield towards the Oxfordshire border.

Crimes and incidents

  • There has been a real drop in reports of anti-social behaviour, with nothing reported in February.
  • Overnight on 8 February a vehicle parked in Prospect Road had two tyres slashed with what looked to be a knife or similar sharp object.
  • On 14 February the Co-Op on the High Street reported a shoplifting.
  • On 24 February a greenhouse in a garden in Moores Place had the windows smashed.

If anyone has information regarding any of the above please contact us (see below).

Jack Williams, 1928-2021

It is with great sadness that we heard of the passing of Jack Williams. Jack was known to the longer serving members of the Hungerford team who have great memories of times spent with him listening to stories of days gone by and his knowledge of Hungerford was second to none. Rest in peace, Jack.

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 hungerfordanddownlands@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.

Co-option of new councillors

Following the procedures agreed at the meeting in January, it was agreed that one recent applicant for co-option 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 April.

Assuming this co-option takes place, a vacancy still exists for two councillors. Please contact claire.barnes@hungerford-tc.gov.uk if you are interested.

District Councillors’ report

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

  • WBC will be approving its 2021-22 budget at its meeting this week and a report is promised on this as soon as possible thereafter.
  • A extension to the current legislation will be needed if remote council meetings can continue after 7 May. (Given the government’s timetable and the convenience that these provide for many, it seems likely this will happen.)
  • Vaccinations in the area are going well and the numbers are in line with the considerable national achievement.
  • A lateral flow testing site in Hungerford has recently opened at the Rugby Club, aimed at people who are asymptomatic. People such as taxi drivers, trade workers, shop workers and others whose occupation brings them into necessary contact with people outside their bubble, are particularly encouraged to attend. The results are available in about 30 minutes and the centre is exceedingly well run . For more information, see this post.
  • A reminder that grants are available from West Berkshire Council for help during the pandemic. See here for those for individuals and here for those for businesses.
  • West Berkshire’s lottery recently distributed around £14,000 to 12 local charities. Although none are based in Hungerford many, such at Citizens Advice, offer services throughout the area.
  • A reminder that there are a number of consultations running on WBC’s website.
  • A number of local elections will take place on 6 May including for the Police and Crime Commissioner. The rest are by-elections (none in or directly affecting Hungerford).
  • The project to install recycling bins in Hungerford is now all but complete.
  • Volunteers may be required with surge testing in the event that “variations of concern” of Covid are felt to be prevalent in the community. See here for more information.

WBC’s Environmental Action Plan

Councillor Downe enquired again when this long-promised document would be published. The DCs assured him that this would be “on the WBC website shortly.”

Health and safety

The Mayor thanked the Town Clerk and DC James Cole for procuring the hi-vis jackets for the volunteers at the Wednesday market; and the Town Clerk and her staff for running the recent H&S training course for the councillors. See also the Mayor’s report below.

HTC strategy document 

See the Mayor’s report below.

2021 Census

Mention was made of this at the meeting All households should now have received an information card and will between 3 and 8 March. Census day is Sunday 21 March. Participation is compulsory. People are being encouraged to complete it online although paper forms are still available. HTC is happy to assist local residents in any way it can. See the HTC website for contact details.

Mayor’s report

Jack Williams, 1928-2021

I wish to express my sadness on hearing the news of former Mayor Jack Williams passing. Hungerford’s ‘Man of the Century’ will leave a huge void in Hungerford’s community. I’ve been asked to attend the funeral and read the town’s eulogy which is both an honour and huge privilege.

Hungerford Town Council wishes to extend its deepest condolences to Jacks family and friends. I will remember Jack fondly, his warmth, reassurance and guidance whilst attending civic events together, will always hold a special place in my memories. I know Jack will be reunited with his beloved Margaret. May you rest in peace, Jack.

(This summary of his his life and work on the excellent Hungerford Virtual Museum website makes it clear how much he contributed to local life. The organisations with which he was closely involved included the Town Council, the Town and Manor, the Cricket Club, the Football Club, the Methodist Church, the Fire Brigade, the Twinning Association, John O’Gaunt School, the Youth Centre and the Surgery. In fact, it would be easier to make a list of the town’s organisations with which he had not at one time or another been involved.)

Chestnut Walk

Several councillors held a Zoom meeting with members of WBC to discuss proposals for the redevelopment of land on the old Chestnut Walk care home site. HTC felt this space should be used as a showcase project, incorporating best-build practice, built to a good environmental standard, which has a low carbon footprint, is both energy efficient and desirable. WBC has accepted HTC’s views and aspirations and hopefully they’ll come back with plans which will see this site redeveloped to these new standards which people increasingly expect.

Health & safety training

Office, myself and Councillor Winser attended two sessions of health & safety training on Zoom. This ever-changing topic feels a little less scary following these sessions. I have definitely learnt some valuable knowledge which I can draw upon and now better understand.

HTC strategy document

Before Covid, HTC was working on a strategy document for the town, sharing achievements and aspirations with residents, giving the community an opportunity to feedback and become more informed of HTC’s roles, responsibilities, aspirations and planned projects. Initially I felt that, with just a few tweaks, we’d be ready to present it (maybe in a different format to the one initially planned) to the town. I hadn’t really taken on board the enormity or effects a year of Covid restrictions would bring. It’s obviously impacted on so many parts of community life and may well have moved the goal posts for so many of us. I hope HTC can take the time to review its strategy and perhaps re-focus on projects we might not have considered important just a year ago.

Litter

I’ve been receiving emails relating to litter within the town. I hope we will be able to organise a litter pick soon, in the meantime I’ve been asked to support individuals who have asked to collect litter as part of their daily exercise. I wanted to take this opportunity to ask the public to be considerate whilst out and about and request all litter is disposed of appropriately due to its negative impact on cattle, wildlife and the environment. We have so many volunteers who spend an enormous amount of time making the town look smart and welcoming. Let’s all aspire to be more considerate whilst enjoying our beautiful green spaces.

Salisbury Road Development – Lancaster Park

We appear to be no closer to resolving the application to modify the type of affordable homes on this site. WBC cancelled its Western Area Planning Committee for February and the agenda has not yet been published for the March meeting. HTC will continue to push for news and information. I am hopeful MP Laura Farris will support HTC’s objection and support the town’s need for socially rented homes.

Hungerford 2036 (neighbourhood development plan)

The H2036 Project Team met twice during February to complete the analysis of the fact-checking feedback from site promoters. This element of the work has now been taken account of within the individual site assessments and a further consistency check between site assessments has been carried out.

We will now be responding back to the individual site promoters with our comments and any changes we have made based on their feedback. We have concluded that it would be constructive to request some additional inputs to ensure that by the time we are able to conduct physical public consultations, we will have the most comprehensive information possible about each site.

Given the Government’s road-map timetable for exiting lockdown we hope to be ready to engage with residents starting in May.

For more information, see the Hungerford 2036 post here.

Covid infection rates in Hungerford

As this (this interactive map shows, in the seven days to 24 February the number of infection rates in the town was less than three (white on the map). The last time it was this low was in October. This is also the case in all the neighbouring areas except from the (far larger) Ramsbury, Ogbournes and Avebury MSOA (which had four cases). This is in marked contract to the situation last month when the town had a higher than usual number of cases.

It’s also worth pointing out that, when starting from a low base, small increases can seem disproportionately large when expressed as percentage rise. In the same way, the rate per 100,000 will, when applied to an area with fewer than this number of people, be greater than the total number of cases in that area. Both of these apply to Hungerford. For example, the same (see link above) data source on 1 February reported that the figures for the seven days up to 27 January had, compared to the seven-day figures up to 26 January, fallen by five cases: given the low number of cases, this was also expressed as 18.5%, which suggests a far more dramatic change.

HTC’s committees

Reports for the following recent committee meetings were circulated before, though not discussed at the meeting:

  • Environment and Planning. Items covered included six planning applications (two objections, one no objection, one support and one no comment); a discussion about the development at Chestnut Walk and the speed of the progress; and the consideration of a street-trading licence for a new take-away business. You can read the minutes of the meeting on 8 February here.
  • Recreation and Amenities. No meeting this month, but it was reported that process is being made with the legal work on the lease for the Triangle Field.
  • Highways and Transport. No meeting this month, but it was reported that Councillor Chicken had managed to obtain the approval of GWR’s Station Manager to have secure cycle boxes installed at the railway station.
  • Finance and General Purposes. Councillor Winser reported that the HTC was running under-budget for the year as a whole (£10,903 in February), mainly as a result of projects and other work which had not taken place due to Covid. The main boost to HTC’s finances has been the reduction in the £32,000 annual payment to the Leisure Centre due to its having been closed for much of the year. Discussions are continuing with the Responsible Financial Officer to see how these savings can be moved into the 2021-22 budget to help cover the cost of various forthcoming projects. The minutes of the meeting on 8 February will be published here soon.

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.

Facebook
Twitter
Pinterest
Email
Print

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Sign up to the free weekly

Penny Post
e-newsletter 

 

For: local positive news, events, jobs, recipes, special offers, recommendations & more.

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