Hungerford Town Council Update April/May 2021

These notes incorporate some but not all of the matters discussed at the Full HTC meeting on 4 May 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 generally take place at 7.00pm on the first working Monday of every month except August (when there is no meeting) or generally on the first Tuesday where the first Monday is a bank holiday  These took place remotely in 2020-21 because of Covid but will (as matters currently stand) revert to in-person after 7 May.

It was agreed at the meeting that the meeting scheduled for 7 June would be cancelled and that the next one would be on Monday 5 July.

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

A report was not provided for the meeting: if one is supplied later, it will be added here later.

General information

  • Please report all incidents to the Police or otherwise they are not officially recorded.
  • 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.

Public forum

HTC has proposed that the parking bays outside Coffee#1 be removed. These have not been in use for vehicles during lockdown to provide more room for social distancing.

Adrian Gilmore of the Hungerford Arcade attended the meeting and advanced some reasons as to why this would not be a good idea. He argued that the loss of any parking space a bad idea for the town or for WBC’s revenue, that they would be expensive and the risk that a widened pavement would lead to traders using this for tables and chairs, so reducing the space available for pedestrians.

The Mayor pointed out that the matter has been discussed and agreed at the Highways and Transport Committee. It was also pointed out that, since the parking bays have been bollarded off, people have commented favourably on the better visibility and the wider pavement. However, some councillors felt that the matter should be looked at again in committee. After a discussion, it was agreed to support H&T’s recommendation in favour of the proposal to convert the parking bays to pavement.

Elections

  • The Mayor (Helen Simpson) was elected unanimously to serve for another year.
  • There were two candidates for Deputy Mayor, Claire Winser and Rob Chicken. After some discussion, Claire Winser was elected. The Mayor thanked Keith Knight for the support he has provided in his role as Deputy Mayor.
  • Claire Winser was re-elected as the Chair of the Finance & General Purposes Committee and Jon Shatford as the Deputy Chair.

District Councillors’ report

None of the DCs were present at the meeting as it clashed with WBC’s annual meeting. A report was, however, provided. The following items are relevant to Hungerford, rather than the district as a whole:

  • WBC is working towards its carbon-neutrality target by 2030 and welcomes local projects in Hungerford including the wildflower verge project along the A4, the enhanced plastic recycling trial at the station and the provision of recycling bins in the High Street. Special mention must be made of WBC’s waste collection teams which has maintained the service during the pandemic with a minimum of disruption.
  • The DCs continue to work closely with HTC’s Environment and Planning committee and represent concerns at district level. The Salisbury Road development and allocation of affordable housing type remains a particular hot topic (see section below).
  • Hungerford was successful in obtaining two Members’ Bids in last year’s round. The first winning bid part-funded the re-generation of the Bridge Street war memorial, improving the appearance of this most important focal point of the town; the other went towards provision of a new balance bar at the Hungerford Nursery School.
  • Future funding for early years remains a concern and through the Headteacher of Hungerford Nursery School, Suzanne Taylor, your DCs have been kept abreast of the nursery’s situation. We have lobbied support of both the WBC Executive and our MP and will continue to do so in order to achieve a more secure long-term outcome for this wonderful facility. (Please see also this separate post on the subject of the Nursery School’s struggle over the last few years to secure its funding.)
  • We worked with John O’Gaunt Headteacher, Richard Hawthorne, to secure funding for laptops during home schooling. This money was ultimately re-directed when it became clear that JOG had already achieved its goal but we have established a good relationship with him and very much look forward to working with him and the school in the future. (Please see also this separate post in which Richard Hawthorne shares his thoughts each month about the challenges of running a secondary school during a pandemic. The most recent entry was added on 4 May 2021.)
  • The outstanding feature of the past 12 months locally has to be the way in which members of the Hungerford community have stepped up to the challenge of the pandemic and met the needs of our residents. Whether it be shopping trips, picking up prescriptions from Boots, a lift to the racecourse for a jab or even just a friendly chat, Hungerford has shown itself to be rich in volunteers and community spirit. Whilst we look forward to seeing the back of the disease we very much hope this community spirit remains.

It was suggested by Councillor John Downe that a response is still awaited on the details of the electric-vehicle charge points in the car park and that this would be chased with the DCs and the officers by him and HTC’s staff.

Social rented housing at Lancaster Park (“Salisbury Road”)

The DC’s report summarised this impasse as follows:

“The developer is seeking to alter the provision of social rented housing in favour of shared ownership siting the non-viability of the current proposal. This has been met with considerable resistance within the town and, as a result of local feeling, your DCs have called this application into committee should WBC officers be minded to approve this.

“The viability study has now been completed and its findings are being considered by the relevant departments within the council and, though we have been waiting for a considerable amount of time, we can expect a decision on this very soon.”

Mayor’s report

Annual review 2020-21

I can honestly say this has been one of the strangest years to have served as Hungerford Town Mayor – definitely one for the history books, and perhaps one to share with my grandchildren one day. It’s also been one of the most rewarding years. Hungerford has always had a strong sense of community. As a tragedy town we certainly know how to support each other through a crisis. The pandemic has united the town once again, Hungerford’s army of volunteers has ensured no one was left alone without food or medicine. Drawing the town together through the many established media channels, achieving the community Christmas Light Switch-on Video, refreshing the War Memorial and Tragedy Gardens, raising funds for John O’Gaunt School (when an urgent need for laptops to support children’s learning was identified) were all highlights from the civic year.

Hungerford’s shops and businesses have had an incredibly hard year, but haven’t they looked after us! I don’t think I’ve heard anything but positivity from them all, adapting their businesses in-order to survive, being resourceful with click and collect, free local home deliveries. I hope every resident will support these very special small independents as we continue to emerge from the pandemic. (You might be interested in this article from February 2021 in which several of them reflected on the previous 12 months and looked forward to the future.)

My own family has started its weekly catch up sessions in the pub. Personally, I’m very much looking forward to getting back to a game of bingo at the Royal British Legion. I hope all residents and businesses will look forward to better times ahead reunited once again with colleagues, friends and families. I have been honoured to serve another year as Town Mayor.

Meetings

HTC will be returning to face-to-face meetings from the 7 May following the latest government guidelines. We had hoped we would be able to continue with Zoom meetings or at least a hybrid of both platforms. HTC has certainly learnt to value this new platform. Although we look forward to seeing you all again, we feel this is a regressive step. We’ve certainly felt the benefits of remote meetings: they are less costly, as we do not need to hire venues, help with councillor attendance and encourage new councillors who would otherwise not be in a position to attend meetings in person.

Flowers

The town’s floral displays have been ordered and we hope these will enhance and create a welcoming High Street for residents and visitors to the town. These will be further complemented by the oak half barrels which are being planted and maintained by the Smarten Up Hungerford team.

Hungerford in Bloom

This much- loved Hungerford tradition will be back this year. HTC knows many of our residents have spent a huge amount of time in their gardens throughout lockdown and we are looking forward to seeing the fruits of their labours. Please get involved – large or small, residential or commercial, we hope you will make the competition fun and maybe a little inspiring.

Annual Report

As HTC was unable to hold the annual town meeting last March, we’ve decided instead to communicate our plans with you in a different way. A leaflet will soon be available which will highlight our past past achievements, explain new projects and aspirations and give you, Hungerford’s residents, an opportunity to provide feedback. We encourage your involvement and participation. Please look out for this, which we intend to share online as well as in print.

Hungerford 2036 (neighbourhood development plan)

The project team has been conducting meetings with site promoters on Zoom to receive their responses on various questions about their sites. This process should be completed by the end of May 2021.

The H2036 project team will be meeting during May to develop and agree and approach for publishing the site-assessment information for consultation with residents. HTC will be briefed (hopefully in early June) on the approach and content of this once all the input from the site promoters has been received. With the easing of Covid restrictions, it’s hoped that this consultation can be conducted during the summer through in-person events, as well as online.

For more information, see the Hungerford 2036 post here.

Formal business (year-end)

A number of formal items were covered (items 89 to 94) concerning year-end financial matters and agreed; and  (as this was also HTC’s annual meeting). The details of these can be seen on the agenda.

It was noted that HTC received a clean audit for 2020-21, for which the Responsible Financial Officer and his assistant received a brief but heartfelt round of applause.

Formal business (annual meeting)

A number of formal items were covered (items 95 to 110). The details of these can be seen on the agenda.

Covid infection rates in Hungerford

As this (this interactive map shows, the seven–day rolling rate of new cases by specimen date ending on 29 April 2021 the number of infection rates in the town was fewer than three (white on the map), as it was for all the contiguous areas; and as it has been for some time. It was mentioned at the meeting that West Berkshire has shown a small (in actual numbers, though not in percentage: see below) spike recently but this was mainly due to one outbreak in a school elsewhere in the district.

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. Any future changes using this map should be interpreted with this in mind.

HTC’s committees

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

  • Environment and Planning. (Last meeting 12 April – click here to see the minutes.) Items covered included: the WBC settlement boundary review; support in principle for a trading licence for the Dapao takeaway van, providing a suitable site can be found; the consideration of six planning applications; and concern over aspects of WBC’s approval of the North Hidden Grain Store application in Hungerford Newtown.
  • Recreation and Amenities. (Last meeting 20 April – click here to see the minutes.) Items covered included: the co-option of two councillors onto the committee; the Bridge Street memorial; a possible memorial for Jack Williams; the Croft Field Activity Centre; the proposal that a bench be installed in St Saviour’s Cemetery (which led to a discussion about the cost of maintaining the benches in the town, of which HTC is already responsible for over 70); and health and safety at the Wednesday markets.
  • Highways and Transport. (Last meeting 26 April – click here to see the agenda (the minutes will be added here when available).
  • Finance and General Purposes. (Last meeting 9 March – click here to see the minutes.) Items covered included: the annual governance statement; grants; the progress of the streetlight transfer; and an update on acquiring the freehold of the Bridge Street Memorial site. The next meeting will be held on Wednesday 5 May and you can see the agenda here (the minutes will be added here when available).

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

Extraordinary full council meeting

In the light of the government’s recent decision not to permit council meetings to be held other than in-person after 7 May, a special full council meeting of HTC will be held on Thursday 6 May, mainly to discuss the best way in which these can be organised after this date.

The government has initiated a call for evidence on the subject to which any interested person, whether a council member or officer or not, in encouraged to respond (if you use none of the free-text boxes it will take as little as five minutes).

Date of next full HTC meeting

Because of the current uncertainty concerning when in-person meetings can safely resume, the June 2021 Full Council will be cancelled. The next meeting will therefore be on Monday 5 July.

Contacting HTC

HTC can be contacted in the following ways:

  • By email to townclerk@hungerford-tc.gov.uk
  • By post to The Town Clerk, Hungerford Town Council, The Library, Church Street, Hungerford RG17 0JG.
  • By phone on 01488 686 195.

Any questions for an HTC meeting need to arrive by 2pm on the day (please allow more time if you have left this on the ansafone).

Members of the public are also welcome to attend any meetings, remotely (for as long as these are permitted) or in-person (once these resume).

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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