Hungerford Town Council Update September/October 2021

These notes incorporate some but not all of the matters discussed at the Full HTC meeting on 4 October 2021, the agenda for which can be found here. The official minutes of the meeting will in due course be found on the HTC site. 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.  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 in the Corn Exchange complex on the first working Monday of every month except August (when there is no meeting). The agenda for the next one (as well as for the Council’s various committee meetings) can be found in this section of the HTC website

See the foot of this post for more information.

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

No report was provided for the meeting and no members of the Police attended the meeting.

The local Police team

The current set up of the team is one Inspector, one Sergeant, three Police Constables and five PCSOs to cover the Hungerford and Downlands area. Please see below for how to contact them.

Local events

If you have any community events for which you would like representation from your local NHPT, please contact us via the above email address. While we cannot guarantee we will always be able to attend, we will make every effort to do so. 

General information (including contacts)

  • Please report all incidents to the Police or otherwise they will not be officially recorded – news travels fast round a community but if no one tells us, we don’t know about it. 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 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.

Presentation from Andrea Barrett of Eight Bells for Community Strength

Andrea explained that Eight Bells for Community Strength (EBfCS) had grown out of the Eight Bells for Mental Health Charity,established over a decade ago. EBfCS was set up in early 2020 to directly address issues of loneliness and isolation and increase wellbeing. Setting up such a new organisation which crucially involved personal interaction during a pandemic was, she admitted, challenging. She was, however, able to report that, despite this, EBfCS has succeeded in most of its initial goals and is an integral part of WBC’s Covid recovery strategy.

The service is open to anyone over 18, either directly by them, or with their permission by family, clinicians or organisations on their behalf. The aim is, through a range of community activities and engagements, to encourage self-reliance and self-confidence. Whilst this is not a befriending service, there is an element of this to enable tailored support.

As with many such groups, demand for services currently exceeds supply. Central to EBfCS’s operation are the Community Navigators, of whom there are currently eight in West Berkshire. Although none are currently in Hungerford (something that is being addressed), this does not prevent Hungerford residents from accessing the service.

If you would like to volunteer as a Community Navigator, the full Community Navigator role description can be found here. You can also contact Andrea, the Community Strength Coordinator, on 07985 404 302 or by email cs@eightbellsnewbury.co.uk. She also welcomes hearing from anyone who is looking to create community activities which may dovetail with EBfCS’s work.

Presentation from Chris Boulton of Greenham Trust

2022 will, Chris told the meeting, see the 25th anniversary of Greenham Trust (GT) (formerly Greenham Common Trust). Few in the later 1990s would have imagined that an organisation founded on the slightly speculative ambition of re-inventing the function of a Cold War airbase would since have given away over £64m to local causes (“local” being anywhere in West Berkshire and in the wards and parishes in Hampshire which directly abut it). Traditionally, GT has been focussed on awarding grants (increasingly by match-funding through The Good Exchange) to a wide range of community groups. The pandemic, however, led to some changes.

The main one was that GT, rather than being mainly a reactive donor, launched its own appeals. These included its Covid appeal (raising c£0.5m); its appeal for support for IT kit for schools, plugging a well-documented gap in central-government support (raising c£0.25m and providing over 1,200 devices); its partnership with WBC in the Thriving to Survive initiative; and its appeal for Afghan refugees. Most recently, it has developed a Youth Fund, to which c£0.25m has already been dedicated and which will be replenished as required.

GT is also embracing other projects. One, in conjunction with the Queen’s Green Canopy, is a commitment to planting 25,000 trees in the area over the next five years. Alliances are being formed with the 20 or so other grant trusts in the area in order to maximise the benefit that can be provided and a senior member of staff has been re-deployed to concentrate exclusively on this. Another matter on GT’s radar was seeing if West Berkshire could create a hospice – the district doesn’t currently have one. He also received fulsome praise from a member of the public at the meeting, a representative of the Hungerford Summer Festival, who said that the organisation’s continued success would have been impossible without GT’s constant support.

He also referred to GT’s role, in conjunction with WBC and the Volunteer Centre West Berkshire, in setting up the Community Hub as a central source of information and advice during the first lockdown (and ever since). This was one of the first such to have been established in the country.

Chris stressed that GT’s core aim remained to “support projects that made a difference.” This included helping organisations find innovative solutions that didn’t wholly rely on financial grants and which involved collaboration with other funders or sources of assistance.

Presentation from Steve Ardagh-Walter, Portfolio-holder for the Environment at WBC

Steve said that the three main phases in WBC’s response to climate change had been the declaration of an emergency, the formulation of a strategy and the creation of a delivery plan. It was to the latter that he mainly referred.

He was keen to draw the distinction between the impact resulting from WBC’s own activities and those from the district as a whole. The proportions of these were roughly 1% and 99% respectively (in line with those of other councils Penny Post has contacted). He said that the target was to get both to net zero by 2030. On the first, he was “cautiously optimistic”. The second was, he admitted, “much more challenging.”

As regards the former, he mentioned plans such as the solar farm at Grazeley; WBC’s policy from 2022-23 of buying energy only from renewable sources; the introduction of more cycling infrastructure (Steve is also WBC’s Cycling Champion); the creation of wildflower verges (working with BBOWT); and improvements in recycling, particularly with food waste (which currently accounts for 25% of black-bin contents and which could be dealt with more effectively). The first two of these were likely to make a significant contribution to reducing WBC’s own emissions. The major contributors to WBC’s own emissions were schools (by far), followed by the council’s own premises, leisure centres and care homes. (It’s worth noting that academy schools, which include all secondaries, as well as all private schools, are outside WBC’s orbit of direct influence).

He also spoke of the issue of EV charging points, highlighting the logistical, financial, legal and moral dilemmas attendant on the idea of reserving certain on-street parking bays for people with EV cars and providing the necessary infrastructure for this. WBC was, he said, currently conducting a trial and consultation in parts of Newbury. “We have to get this right,” he said and added that WBC had limitations of “funding and officer time” to develop the project more widely or more quickly.

Councillor Lewis suggested that partnership arrangements with companies (in one of which he declared an interest) have been a way forward for councils to solve these issues. Steve said that this was one of WBC’s preferred models but that any approach needed to go through a formal tendering process.

Councillor John Downe pointed out that HTC had proposed a number of “measured and carefully considered” suggestions about the EV-charging issue in Hungerford which had been met with an officer’s response that he described as “dismissive” and “pretty rubbish”. Steve apologised for this (which he had not seen before it was sent). Both agreed that a greater engagement with HTC would be useful in addressing this.

Councillor Alistair Fyfe pointed out that WBC’s cycling plan contained not one reference to Hungerford, even though it was bisected by two main roads – the A338 and the A4 – which made not just cycling but also walking extremely perilous even within parts of the town due to a long-term lack of investments in pavements. The question of cycleways on the particularly dangerous A4 was, Steve suggested, one which a greater utilisation of the canal paths might help solve (although it was pointed out that these were in most places barely wide enough to cater for walkers, still less walkers and cyclists).

Please see the Mayor’s report below for some further remarks about HTC’s dealings with WBC on the matter of EV charge points.

The Chestnut Walk application

Steve Ardagh-Walter’s presentation led to a discussion of the above application, HTC’s views on which are summarised in the last section of the Mayor’s report below. Much of the debate turned on the distinction between WBC’s role as the planning authority (in which it needs to remain impartial and follow its own policy) and in its role, with Sovereign Housing, as the applicant (in which it is free to propose any measures it deems appropriate).

HTC felt that WBC’s stance on this had been unambitious, supported by DC James Cole who said that “it was for for WBC to set an example” in the matter of environmental standards. Steve Ardagh-Walter said that it was to be hoped that these assurances would be tightened up into something more concrete. The feeling of the meeting – again to quote the Mayor’s summary below – was that these were no more than “non-committal, non-enumerated and vague aspirations” which would hold no planning force and which represented a major missed opportunity given WBC’s stated climate-change ambitions.

Mayor’s report

The High Sheriff

Councillor Claire Winser and I attending the High Sheriff’s summer reception at Bucklebury House. This was the first large official engagement for a while and it certainly felt very strange to be back in company again. It was great to meet the other Mayors for the civic year ahead.

Food & Craft Market

I attended the Hungerford Food & Craft Market at the Croft Field on 12 September. The market is very well attended and proving very popular. I also attended it on 3 October with Councillors Daniel Lewis, Derek Alford and DC James Cole, running the council’s first councillor surgery. It was an excellent and relaxed opportunity to meet residents and give them the opportunity to share ideas or raise any concerns.

Hungerford in Bloom

It was great to welcome this year’s competition winners to a presentation ceremony. The competition was hugely popular this year and we had a brand-new entry which took the top prize. I really hope residents will continue to support this much-loved competition. The judges were very impressed with the standard of entries and I’d like to say a huge thank you to Sarah Chatters, Sarah Hennessey, Claire Winser, the judges and all those who entered this year’s competition. A full report on the winners can be found here.

Grant Awards

It’s always wonderful to gather the grant recipients together and give them the opportunity to share the stories of the groups, organisations and charities they represent. It’s also nice to know how they’re preparing to spend their grant awards. HTC knows the importance of these grants, even more so this year because of the pandemic and the difficulties they’ve faced in fundraising and recruiting for their organisations. A full report of the event, including details of all the recipients and the uses to which their grants will be put, can be found here.

Horticulture & Handicrafts Show

I was thrilled to attend the event for the first time this year and hand out prizes to the winning entries. I was so impressed with the entries and exhibits on show. There were some very strict judges this year but well done to all those who entered and supported this event. Thank you to HAHA and the Royal British Legion for hosting.

Freshers Fair at John O’Gaunt School

I attended the recent Freshers Fair at JOG school and was delighted with the interest of students in extra-curricular clubs and community engagement activities. The number of sign-ups on the day makes us hopeful of being able to re-start a youth council. This will be supported by the school and link into HTC. Congratulations Councillors Derek Alford Dan Lewis for their commitment to this project. Youth engagement has always been hugely important to me and the team and I’m really looking forward to getting involved.

Remembrance Sunday 14 November

This year’s remembrance parade will go ahead as usual. We will socially distance the wreath layers  to be 1m apart and the war memorial area will be managed so that we can ensure a safe space. We look forward to having Hungerford Town Band and 6th Armoured Close Battalion Support – REME involvement once more.

Summer Festival

HTC representatives met with several Summer Festival organisers to talk about next year’s 10-day event. We really are so lucky to have such a varied range of events and talent right on our doorsteps. Please continue to support the brilliant calendar of activities being planned for next year.

EV charging points in Hungerford

WBC portfolio holder for the Environment DC Steve Ardagh-Walter will be attending HTC’s full council meeting this month (see report above).

HTC recently wrote to council leader Lynne Doherty to share its frustrations following HTC’s request for some modest incremental measures which,would go some way to help alleviate some of the challenges faced by Hungerford residents as we actively encourage them to switch to EV’s. HTC feels that, although the response from WBC was initially very positive, our request nearly seven weeks later has failed to materialise.

The response to our request for parking permit holders to have access to car park-based chargers contradicts WBC’s own ULEV strategy statement. We don’t yet even have the four fast chargers planned for installation, although these have been promised since June. HTC hopes that WBC will work with HTC to ensure Hungerford residents have the same opportunities currently being enjoyed in Newbury and agreeing to support the environmental efforts Hungerford is striving to realise for our community.

Planning application 21/01868/FULD Hungerford Old Peoples Home, Chestnut Walk, Hungerford

Against the background of WBC’s Climate Emergency Declaration and Zero carbon strategy, it seems extraordinary that a new housing scheme half-owned by WBC Council is being proposed which isn’t setting out to be an exemplar development. This should be a beacon showpiece for commercial housing developers to demonstrate what they too should be doing to make new homes environment friendly and to ensure the occupants of the homes can experience low energy costs without causing climate damage.

In the current application’s design and access statement, the text is littered with non-committal, non-enumerated and vague aspirations regarding energy efficiency and low-carbon heating. Words and phrases such as “endeavour”, “where appropriate”, “subject to the viability” give no definitive information as to what standards these homes will be built to nor what the heating energy sources will be.

This planning application has been called to Western Area Planning committee by DC James Cole. Let’s hope WBC councillors realise the opportunity they have in front of them to address and amend the plans to show all developers the standards WBC and HTC aspire to.

District Councillors’ reports

Two of the DCs – Dennis Benneyworth and James Cole – were present at the meeting. Their comments included:

  • Some residents have been experiencing problems arising from anti-social behaviour in two Sovereign-managed properties. DC Benneyworth escalated these to Sovereign and each property has been designated a case officer to actively manage any on going issues. Long-running maintenance maintenance issues had also been reported at Redwood House/Lindley Lodge. The Mayor thanked DC Benneyworth for his work on this.
  • Following the Mayor’s visit to the freshers’ Fair at John O’Gaunt School, all three DCs will be visiting the school later this week and meeting Head Teacher Richard Hawthorne.
  • A recurrence of the flooding problem on the A4 near the Co-op garage has been reported and the DCs will be drawing this to the attention of the Highways Department at WBC.
  • There are a number of WBC consultations including on domestic abuse (until 10 November) and the Library Service (until 15 November). Nominations also remain open for the Learner Achievement Awards (until 15 October).
  • More than one comment has been received from new residents of the Lancaster Park development (see separate sections below).
  • The 30mph speed limit on the Common has, as previously reported, been agreed by WBC and the new signs will be being installed in the week commencing 6 December.

Please see this page on WBC’s website should you wish to contact the DCs directly about any matter that relates to the Hungerford and Kintbury ward.

Lancaster Park and Bewley Homes

A resident of the new Lancaster Park development recently told a member of HTC and a district councillor that Bewley Homes had warned them that they should not expect a warm welcome in Hungerford and that they should “keep their heads down”. This is not the first time that such a claim has been made since people began moving in earlier this year.

Although the housing development has not been free of controversy, HTC utterly refutes the suggestion that it would condone or encourage any persecution of new residents and is unaware that any other organisation in the town would wish to do so either. HTC has printed welcome packs which it hand delivers and always had a policy of encouraging the widest possible engagement in all aspects of the town’s life. It was agreed that clarification would be sought from Bewley as a matter of urgency.

Roadworks and temporary traffic lights on the A338 by the entrance to Lancaster Park

After several delays, remedial works started on 6 September. These should have taken about six weeks to complete although recently work appears to have stopped. It’s unsure when this will re-commence nor whether this will affect the proposed completion date of mid-October.

Note that HTC is not responsible for any aspect of this work which is down to WBC and Bewley Homes.

Hungerford 2036 (neighbourhood development plan)

Following the two initial public consultations in the Corn Exchange early in the summer about the four potential sites for new homes, two further consultation exhibitions took place in in the Croft Hall in September. The H2036 Project also had a stall at September’s Hungerford Food and Artisan Festival. 

As a result of these events and further local publicity, approximately 220 mainly online responses have been received from residents in all parts of the parish plus a few from further afield. The responses include comments for all of the four sites as well as some overall feedback. There have also been an additional 24 registrations from residents to receive updates about the H2036 Project as it progresses. 

The consultation period ended at the end of September: the public responses will now be analysed by the team.

West Berkshire Council recently announced that, due to NPPF changes, its planned Local Plan schedule is being delayed. H2036 will need to consider the implications of this for its anticipated project end-date.

For more information, see the Hungerford 2036 post here.

Christmas lights

A three-year contract to supply these has been awarded to Shield Electrics. This was also discussed in detail at the Finance & General Purposes Committee meeting on 15 September (see the HTC Committees section).

The Mayor announced that this year the lights will be switched on by Roger Beard who was recently honoured by Hungerford CC (its pavilion has been re-named after him) as a result of over 60 years of work for the club. This will take place on 28 November.

The Croft Field Activity Centre

The application is currently in WBC’s planning system and further news is expected later this month. The project was also discussed in detail at the Finance & General Purposes Committee meeting on 15 September (see the HTC Committees section).

HTC’s committees

The following committee meetings have recently taken place: Note that, apart from E&P, meetings do not take place in August. Work continues in these areas, however, and some of the results are referred to elsewhere in this report.

  • Environment and Planning. (Last meeting 13 September – click here to see the minutes.) Items covered included: 15 planning applications; case officers’ reports; and an update on a stage two complaint to WBC.
  • Finance & General Purposes. (Last meeting 15 September – click here to read the minutes.) Items covered included: the Croft Field Centre; the Christmas lights; the Bridge Street war memorial; and the welcome packs for Lancaster Park.
  • Recreation, Amenities and War Memorials. (Last meeting 21 September – click here to read the minutes.) Items covered included: a memorial for Jack Williams; work at the Triangle Field; the skate park; Remembrance Sunday; the allotments; the Hungerford Theatre Group; and trees.
  • Highways and Transport. (Last meeting 27 September – the minutes will appear here in due course.)

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

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.

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