Newbury Area Weekly News sections – 2022 archive

To see the current Newbury & Surrounding Area Weekly News column, please click here.

Please note that this section is presented as an archive of past columns and is not updated (except by the addition of the previous post every week). Some web links may no longer be active (usually indicated by a score-through), for instance when draft parish council minutes are replaced by adopted ones or when a consultation has closed.

Click here for the 2023 archive

Click here for the 2024 archive

Thursday 22 December 2022

We’re taking a couple of weeks off: normal service will be resumed on Thursday 5 January 2023.

Thursday 15 December 2022

This week we cover the neighbourhood development plan, Christmas events, the bandstand, tree-cycling and the need for volunteers. We also take a close look at a recent WBC committee meeting which tells us something about the future of York House but perhaps rather more about his the Council’s work is scrutinised; and take a look back at some of the stories we’ve covered in the area over the last 12 months (many of which are unfinished business) – plus our usual round-up of other local news, local events and activities and news from your local councils.

This week’s news

• Newbury’s Waterside Centre’s Youth Café will be open for Christmas Youth Club from next Wednesday 21 December to Friday 23 December from 3pm to 8pm. There will be lots of fun activities, games, sports, arts and crafts, as well as a boxing workshop, climbing workshop and a disco. Click here for details on how to book your child or teen a place. Click here for further details.

City Arts Newbury invites everyone to contribute a black Christmas silhouette to their Living Advent Calendar reveal on Thursday 22 December. See here for all the details on how to get involved in this creative festivity.

• St George’s Church in Wash Common has opened a Welcome Café, offering complimentary tea, coffee and biscuits to anyone who would like a warm and friendly place to come. The café is initially running on Monday and Wednesday mornings, from 8.45am to midday and is meeting in the church building, on the hall side. After Christmas, the plan is to open on a Friday as well and to move into a larger space in the main church. All are assured of a warm welcome. See more details here.

• Quick reminder to send y0ur memories of Bandstand in Victoria Park, which is set to have a refurbishment before the start of the 2023 season to [email protected] or see more details here.

• There have been wonderful Newbury Living Advent Calendar experiences this week with lots of creativity at Brown Paper Loves yarn shop in Inch’s Yard. A new physical window is revealed every day leading up to Christmas – see the full schedule here and photos on their facebook page. To show appreciation for the trail please make a donation here to help the project raise £500 for Newbury Soup Kitchen, Eight Bells for Mental Health and Loose Ends charities.

• Anyone feeling lonely at this time of year is very welcome to pop into the Corn Exchange cafe bar any Monday morning between 1030am to 12.30pm for Coffee Companions.

• Did you know you can ‘treecycle’ your old real Christmas tree through the Sue Ryder charity? Register with them by Wednesday 4 January to get your real Christmas tree collected and recycled, in exchange for a donation. They’ll be collected them between the 9 and 12 January. Click here for further details.

The Loose Ends drop-centre at Newbury Cricket Club serves food to the vulnerable and homeless and wants to extend their hours during the winter period. They need a few more volunteers who can spare an hour or so per month.  Please click here to apply to volunteer with this vital, friendly, warm charity.

Newbury Samaritans are looking for more volunteers to join their team based at West Street in central Newbury. For more information about what is involved (and a link to Penny’s recent interview with Director of Newbury Samaritans, Andrew Melsom) please see here.

• Do you know anyone who goes that extra mile? Please nominate them for the West Berks Community Champion Awards. The categories are Community Group of the Year, Lifetime Achievement Award, The Pat Eastop Junior Citizen of the Year Award and Volunteer of the Year. The deadline is Monday 2 January 2022.

The new cost of living support hub on West Berkshire Council website explains the different types of support available if you are struggling with rising living costs and are concerned about paying your household bills. You can also click here to read this article we’ve recently published about the Hub and what help and support you can expect from it.

Warm spaces for people to visit this winter include St Nic’s Church on Thursday afternoons and  The Fair Close Centre on Newtown Road which has opened a free café for anyone over sixty who is looking for a warm, friendly place to visit during the winter from 9.30am to 11.30am Monday to Friday. The Kennet Christian Centre on Enborne Road is also open every Tuesday from 1pm to 3pm where they will be serving hot drinks and soup free to everyone. For more warm spaces across the area see here.

• We have added more information about support available to get you through the cost of living crisis, including tips on how to reduce your home energy bills. And please watch out for any scams that ask you to click to apply for energy rebates – they all happen automatically.

• The latest edition of the Hamstead Hornet, which covers life in the village of Hamstead Marshall, can be seen here. Topics covered in this issue include The White Hart, the bus shelter, a funeral, a canine food bank, carol singing, planning applications and forthcoming events.

Hamstead Marshall Parish Council intends to start a community speedwatch programme: if you’re interested in helping, please contact Anne Budd on 01488 657022 or [email protected].

Christmas

• The West Berkshire Toy Appeal 2022, organised by the Swift Group requests donations of new unwrapped gifts for local underprivileged children. Click here to see a full list of drop-off points and click here for more details abo9ut how you can get involved.

Did you know Santa is popping-in to Newbury throughout December? You can catch him at the free Santa’s grotto over at Park Way shopping centre every day between the 17 and 23 December, from 11am and 4pm.

Extending the consultation

Newbury Town Council has extended the Neighbourhood Development Plan (NNDP) survey to 31 January 2023 to give more people, particularly younger and more senior residents, the chance to share their views. By completing the survey here, you can help decide where new homes, shops and offices should be built. You can have your say on what new buildings should look like and what infrastructure is provided. The survey also covers community, cultural and sports facilities, as well as heritage, business and facilities for young people. In addition, it asks for your views on biodiversity and climate change.

You can click here to learn more about the NNDP.

Oversight and scrutiny

The 29 November meeting of WBC’s Oversight and Scrutiny Management Committee (OSMC) considered, as mentioned last week, whether or not to refer the proposed sale of York House in Newbury back to the Executive. As the minutes recorded, “the call-in appeared to hinge around the assertion that the Executive had been given insufficient information to be able to make a proper decision. Summaries of previous proposals were provided in the report, but detail was absent, so key questions were around how much trust the Executive put in the Property Team, and whether the Executive asked sufficient questions at the meeting.”

You can see the minutes of the meeting here (item 33 is the one at issue) and a video of the meeting here (point 33 is covered from about 12′ with the vote at 1 hr 3′ 30″).

The Chair (Alan Law) stressed two things at the start of this agenda item. The first was that this was a call-in, not a scrutiny: the only options were to confirm the decisions or to make recommendations and refer it back. In particular, he stressed, “this was not a scrutiny of property or asset management.”

What followed was, however, to some extent a scrutiny of the decision-making process and the advice received (although certain matters, such as about the maintenance work that had been carried out, were ruled to be outside the scope of the meeting). What was surely needed would have been for a member of the Executive to have been there to answer questions. Ross Mackinnon was due to attend but was unable to do so. That being the case, the matter should surely have been deferred until he or one of his colleagues could have attended, documents in hand.

The second preliminary comment made by the Chair was that “the debate should focus solely on matters raised in the call-in and not introduce any new points.” Fair enough: one would hear the same thing said during, for instance, a planning committee meeting. I’m not sure, though, if this limitation should also be applied to the Chair’s summing up. He said that he would use his casting vote (there was a 3-3 tie) to reject the motion, even though the indicative vote had suggested that it be adopted.His rationale was that he felt that the real reason for the call in was “a possible questioning of how the executive system works.” This looks to as if he’s in fact deciding matters based on his reading of what the sub-text of the call-in was and thus might fall foul of his own stipulation on focussing “solely on matters raised in the call-in.”

There are problems with any system but it doesn’t therefore follow either that these shouldn’t be aired nor that to do so nullifies the issue that occasioned the debate. As matters were left, the questions about the decision-making here remain unanswered. Added to this is the concern – which perhaps would entered no one’s mind until the Chair made his remarks – that the executive system is somehow flawed and talso so fragile hat sending this matter back to it would bring it crashing to the ground.

As a result the Chair effectively decided that matter was not referred back to the Executive, although where this was because of the above-mentioned point of principle or because it was felt there was nothing to see here is unclear. However, he also summed matters up by saying that “this had been a very good debate with many valid points made. I’m sure that the members of the Executive when they see the report will take note.” So – is there anything to see here or not? I’m confused.

In any case, “take note” in what way? There was no request to look at matters again nor provide any evidence to fill some of the gaps or recollection that the meeting exposed so these “valid points” may just fade into the ether. or something to be called in, and accepted, and for nearly an hour of discussion to take place followed by a tied vote suggests that there are things that could be improved, if only regarding communication. At the very least, the Executive should realise that clear evidence is needed to support any decisions and that, if it isn’t provided, the OSMC will ask to see it. Otherwise, what’s the point of it? The process and procedures may have all been correct and constitutional but as an exercise in scrutiny and oversight it seemed to fall rather short.

There are two other things that this discussion and its aftermath exposed, both of which I’ve mentioned several times. The first is the 19th-century way that meetings are conducted with all members needing to be physically present if they are to vote. This was briefly changed during lockdown but the old (and I mean old) rules were re-imposed last year. There are numerous advantages in enabling remote participation. Less car usage is one. Reducing absenteeism is another. Also, councillors and officers are busy people and the former work for virtually nothing – for some, a round trip of an hour would be needed to get to and from Newbury. It’s retrograde and border-line bonkers. On the anti side, the argument was recently made to me that those participating at home may not be paying attention to the discussion. Well, nor may they be in the chamber. I’ve been to many meetings where participants are busy on their phones in pursuit of shopping bargains or sending tweets, while some MPs are known to watch porn during Commons debates. Attendance is no guarantee of attentiveness.

Secondly, the Chair of the OSMC should be from an opposition party. This is no reflection on Alan Law but, as a member of the ruling cohort, he is inevitably in a compromised position. The counter-argument might be that an opposition Chair might ask too many questions and come down too strongly against the Executive. Four points on that. First, that seems preferable to the opposite risk. Second, the ruling party would (under the current arrangements) still have a majority of members. Third, having an opposition Chair seems to work pretty well for many House of Commons committees and for about a third of the councils in the south east. Fourth, doing this avoids any suggestion that the Council is in any way trying to mark its own homework.

As matters stand, I don’t have as much confidence in the system as I would like to. At least this matter has had some kind of an airing although with no certainty that anything will be reviewed. The result is that York House will probably be put up for sale. Whether this will happen before the election in May remains to be seen.

A look back…

This will be the last news update of 2022: normal service will be resumed on 5 January 2023.

Over the last year we’ve published a large number of stories about this area. Some have been referred to many, many times: that’s not because we feel the need to re-cycle copy or go over old ground but because the issues themselves have not gone away, have re-surfaced or have, like a mutating virus, acquired new features which need considering.

At the foot of this post you’ll see a link to our archive section (which may in turn link to another one). Searching for any or part of the phrases mentioned in bold below will take you to the often multiple references to these issues. Many of these still have a lot of life left in them and so expect further coverage in 2023.

The two main things that tend to crop up are planning and flooding and/or sewage. These are the kind of things that normally we don’t think about at all: when they’re directly affecting us, however, it’s almost impossible to think about anything else. We’ve lost count of the number of times these have cropped up in our coverage (a few of the major ones are referred to below). Whenever we cover them, and indeed other stories, we try to present as many points of view as possible, explain the issues and provide links for further information.

Matters such as speeding, rights of way, dog mess,, jubilee and coronation festivities and defibrillators are, amongst a host of other things, dealt with by town and parish councils. We provide information on their activities and link to  the most recently available minutes, and provide a summary of these if they are reasonably recent.

We’ll be continuing to cover as many aspects of life in this area as we can in 2023 and beyond, seeking always to inform, explain, comment and (where appropriate) entertain. If there’s anything you’d like to see covered, or if you have anything to say about anything we’ve covered already, please email [email protected].

Here’s a brief summary, in no particular order, of some of the recurring stories in this area in 2022. It by no means refers to all the issues we’ve written about.

  • Sandleford is a development which seems neither to go away nor to get started: whether the latter will happen soon since the successful appeal by one of the developers is anyone’s guess.
  • The London Road Industrial Estate (LRIE), the Faraday Road football ground and the Monks Lane sports hub are three related and controversial issues that have some way to run yet.
  • Watermill Bridge, a proposed development in Wash Water, could also be described as controversial and we’ve been doing our best to represent both sides of the argument.
  • Eagle Quarter (the proposed re-development of the Kennet Centre in Newbury) – much the same story here. A big plan, plenty of conflictive views and several points of view to cover and comment on.
  • Enborne’s solar farm, This project has also attracted controversy although it seems like a good plan to us.
  • The Newbury and District Agricultural Society (NADAS) which runs the Newbury Show has had an eventful 18 months resulting in a new board of trustees and a recent announcement that the Show will return in 2023 after a three-year break. We’ve been covering this ever since the disagreements in NADAS came to a head and sought to explain the various issues involved.
  • Newbury’s neighbourhood development plan (NNDP) has recently got under way and we provide regular updates about its work.
  • Readibus. The community-transport provider has for several years been locked in a battle with WBC due to its refusal to sign what amounts to a gagging clause. This has had an effect on the funding it’s received and thus on the services in can provide for its clients, most of whom have mobility problems.
  • The Bell in Boxford. Plans to re-build the pub here were thwarted earlier this year after the application became collateral damage as a result of the then new nutrient neutrality regulations. Hopefully, a solution to this may be in sight.
  • North Newbury. The large development here ran into problems during the summer when it became clear that a number of pre-occupation conditions had not been discharged, so leading to people being unable to move in to one part of the site. This was not a simple issue and seems to have been resolved. However, given the way our planning system works, this could happen again elsewhere.

Community notices

Thatcham & Newbury Town Ladies & Girls Football Club offers three weeks free as a taster, so if you would like to try it out, email [email protected]

• The Loose Ends drop-in centre in Newbury are currently looking for more volunteers to join their friendly team. Located at Newbury Cricket ground, they offer hot meals and a safe and friendly environment for vulnerable people. More details and how to apply can be found here.

Free bus travel starting in West Berkshire (and the return journey if going beyond the West Berkshire border) all day on several allocated days in December. As well as being able to get around West Berkshire, free bus travel is available to Reading, Basingstoke and Swindon. For more information click here. As part of this scheme West Berks Council is offering a Free Christmas Shopper Bus Service for villages, including Hungerford Newtown, that don’t have a public bus service on Saturdays in the run up to Christmas. To book your seat and request a shopping destination of your choice, please contact 01635 551111 or email [email protected]. See here for more details.

• Did you know you can raise concerns with Newbury Town Council at a Saturday Surgery between 10 am and 12 noon any week at the steps of the Town Hall?

If you own a bike, Neighbourhood Watch strongly recommends registering it on the bikeregister.com database as every police force in the country uses it to search for stolen and recovered bikes.

ADS Family Help, who support families of autistic children and adults, host free West Berks Teen Club sessions twice a month, at the Moorside Community Centre. Read more information about the club here.

• If you fancy a natter with free drink and cake, pop along to Newbury’s two friendly community cafes. Educafe Community Cafe is every Wednesday in Newbury Library from 11am to 2pm and Speen Community Cafe is every Wednesday at The Starting Gate Pub from 2pm to 5pm.

Fair Close Centre on Newtown Road in Newbury provides a vital social hub and meals on wheels for over 65s, many of whom live on their own. Please support them here. Goodness knows we might all need their services in years to come.

• The Community Larder at the Waterside Centre is open every Tuesday afternoon to provide members with surplus food, discounts for local businesses, access to other services and support, as well as a friendly community environment. 

•  Newbury Library offers free IT support sessions including filling out online forms, how to Zoom, downloading e-magazines or sorting out pictures. Bookable 30- or 60-minute sessions. To find out more or book a slot, email [email protected].

• Please click here for Hamstead Marshall.net, which provides an excellent round-up of what’s going on in and around the village. This also publishes the quarterly Hamstead Hornet.

Local events and activities

For more information on events and activities across the Penny Post area, see the website calendar.

• Dates for the diary

Fri 16 Dec Beauty & the Beast Ballet, Arlington Arts Centre. On until Sun 18 Dec.

Sat 17 Dec Live Music Night, the Two Watermills, Newbury.

Sat 17 Dec Great Gatsby Gala Christmas Party, Newbury Rugby Club.

Sun 18 & Mon 19 Dec A Christmas Carol, Highclere Castle.

Wed 21 Dec Messy Museum Mornings: Deck the Halls, Festive Crafts, West Berks Museum.

Sat 14 Jan Volunteer Recruitment Day, Newbury Corn Exchange.

Sat 17 & Sun 18 Feb Newbury Stitch Fair, the Kennet Centre.

Regular events

Friendly gardening club in the centre of Newbury. See here for how to get involved.

Waterside Centre’s Youth Café every Wednesday evening, during term time, between 4:30pm and 6pm for Years 7 to 13. Contact [email protected].

• Newbury Park Run at Greenham Common at 9am every Saturday morning. Folks of all ages welcome to run/walk/jog the 5km. They also have volunteering opportunities. See details here.

• ACE Space on St Nicholas Road hosts live acoustic performances. Join their Facebook group or follow them on Twitter.

• Newbury Community Larder every Tuesday 2pm to 4pm at the Waterside Centre (down the canal from Costa Coffee on Northbrook Street). For more details please contact [email protected] or call 01635 018500.

Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesdays between 2pm to 5pm. Drop in for a chat or a cuppa, knitting and craft activities. You don’t have to live in Speen to join in. Follow them on facebook here.

Educafe’s Community Cafe at Newbury Library every Wednesday between 11am and 2pm. If you would like to pop along for a friendly chat or to volunteer in the cafe please see their website for more details.

• Berkshire Youth‘s Waterside Centre in Newbury hosts various clubs and activities for local children and can provide volunteering opportunities for adults too.

 The Base, Greenham organise many artistic-focused events for people of all ages to let their creative sides go wild.

News from your local council

Note: “the most recent meeting” refers to the most recent one for which minutes (in some cases draft) or some other summary is available. Other meetings may have taken place since. Some councils publish minutes more promptly than do others.

Many councils do not hold meetings in August and many postponed their September meeting following the Queen’s death. 

• The most recent meeting of Newbury Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 17 October and you can download the minutes here. There was also a shorter meeting on 27 October concerning the Victoria Park Café and you can download the minutes here. Note that many matters are delegated to committees.
To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 21 November and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: planning matters; Falkland CC; financial matters; the 2023-24 budget; speeding; litter; and the coronation.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 16 November and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: a presentation on plans to use Shaw-cum-Donnington Primary School building as day centre for those with dementia by James Wilcox (CEO of Fair Close) and Chris Boulton (CEO of Greenham Trust); financial matters; residents parking on the green at Lamp Acres; a report from ward member Lynne Doherty; planning matters; and the Christmas newsletter.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 8 November and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here to download the meeting schedule. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 7 November and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 12 October and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 12 October and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Hamstead Marshall Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 21 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here. To see minutes, please click here.

• Newbury area council contacts

Parishes: Newbury Town CouncilGreenham Parish CouncilChieveley Parish CouncilEnborne Parish CouncilBoxford Parish CouncilSpeen Parish Council,  Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council, and Hamstead Marshall Parish Council.

West Berkshire Council: click here to visit the website.

News from other areas

Penny Post area – please see the following separate sections: Hungerford area; Lambourn ValleyThatcham area; Compton and DownlandsBurghfield area; Wantage area; Marlborough area.

News and views from across the area and beyond: please see the most recent Weekly News with Brian column.

Thursday 8 December 2022

This week we cover afternoon tea, a living calendar, royal tree-planting, the soup kitchen and warm spaces. We also take a look at the slow progress at Sandleford, publish the developer’s view concerning the proposed Watermill Bridge project in Wash Water and reflect on the wisdom of selling a housing asset and what the story tells us about how effective WBC’s self-scrutiny is – plus our usual round-up of other local news, local events and activities and news from your local councils.

This week’s news

• The Mayor of Newbury is inviting the town’s oldest residents to join him for his yearly Festive Afternoon Tea Party. Guests will be served an afternoon tea box with sandwiches, scones and sweet treats along with a cup of tea and a festive tipple. The tea party will take place on Tuesday 13 December from 2pm in Newbury Baptist Church Hall.  Places for this event are limited to ticketed entry, and advance booking is essential. Please note that guests should be over the age of 75 years and will be required to arrange their own transport to and from the church hall. To reserve your place, contact the Mayor’s Office supplying your name, date of birth, postal address along with any dietary requirements, by calling 07538 334 106, or alternatively email [email protected].

• This weekend West Berkshire Libraries will be running free Christmas craft workshops for children, with all materials provided. No advance booking needed. Pop-by Newbury Library between 2pm-3pm on Saturday 10 December.

•  On Monday 12 December 2022 HM Lord-Lieutenant for the Royal County of Berkshire, Mr James Puxley, and the Chairman of West Berkshire Council, Councillor Rick Jones, will be planting a tree at Stroud Green in Newbury in tribute to HM Queen Elizabeth II. All welcome to attend the ceremony from 10.45am for a 11am start. A Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) has been chosen as it is said to have been one of HM Queen Elizabeth II’s favourite trees and the location close to Newbury Racecourse was selected as the late Queen was a regular visitor to the Racecourse and a keen horsewoman. The tree will be planted using special soil improver that has been produced by our Waste Services contractor, Veolia, using flowers laid by the public in tribute to HM Queen Elizabeth II back September.

• The much-loved Bandstand in Victoria Park is set to have a refurbishment before the start of the season in 2023. Performances on the bandstand have been very popular over the years and Newbury Town Council would like local residents to share their stories and memories. Cllr Sarah Slack, Chair of the Town Council’s Community Services Committee said, “Perhaps you performed there for a special event, or maybe you are a regular each summer when the bands are playing, or do you even have some old photographs? We will be creating a page on our website to showcase memories and photographs of the bandstand in days gone by and would love for you to get involved.” Please email [email protected] or see more details here.

• Next week, Berkshire Maestros will be holding a family ‘Have a Go’ day at Newbury Music Centre, St Bartholomew’s School. Drop in for the opportunity to try lots of different instruments and chat to their teachers about learning to play. That’ll be taking place on Tuesday 13 December between 4:30pm and 6:30pm.

For more Newbury Town Council news see their December newsletter here.

Newbury Living Advent Calendar is bringing festive joy across the town throughout December as a new physical window is revealed every day leading up to Christmas. See the full schedule here and photos on their facebook page. To show appreciation for the trail please make a donation here to help the project raise £500 for Newbury Soup Kitchen, Eight Bells for Mental Health and Loose Ends charities.

• Anyone feeling lonely at this time of year is very welcome to pop into the Corn Exchange cafe bar any Monday morning between 1030am to 12.30pm for Coffee Companions.

• Quick reminder that Newbury Soup Kitchen relies heavily on food donations to make soups, pasta sauces and casseroles to feed our local homeless and vulnerable. Please email [email protected] if you can help. They also need donations of wooden cutlery and foil take-away containers.

The Loose Ends drop-centre at Newbury Cricket Club serves food to the vulnerable and homeless and wants to extend their hours during the winter period. They need a few more volunteers who can spare an hour or so per month.  Please click here to apply to volunteer with this vital, friendly, warm charity.

Newbury Samaritans are looking for more volunteers to join their team based at West Street in central Newbury. For more information about what is involved (and a link to Penny’s recent interview with Director of Newbury Samaritans, Andrew Melsom) please see here.

• Latest news from Healthwatch West Berkshire includes what to do if you are worried your child has scarlet fever or Strep A and new Urgent Treatment Centre at Great Western Hospital. Click here for full details.

• Do you know anyone who goes that extra mile? Please nominate them for the West Berks Community Champion Awards. The categories are Community Group of the Year, Lifetime Achievement Award, The Pat Eastop Junior Citizen of the Year Award and Volunteer of the Year. The deadline is Monday 2 January 2022.

The new cost of living support hub on West Berkshire Council website explains the different types of support available if you are struggling with rising living costs and are concerned about paying your household bills. You can also click here to read this article we’ve recently published about the Hub and what help and support you can expect from it.

Warm spaces for people to visit this winter include St Nic’s Church on Thursday afternoons and  The Fair Close Centre on Newtown Road which has opened a free café for anyone over sixty who is looking for a warm, friendly place to visit during the winter from 9.30am to 11.30am Monday to Friday. The Kennet Christian Centre on Enborne Road is also open every Tuesday from 1pm to 3pm where they will be serving hot drinks and soup free to everyone. For more warm spaces across the area see here.

• We have added more information about support available to get you through the cost of living crisis, including tips on how to reduce your home energy bills. And please watch out for any scams that ask you to click to apply for energy rebates – they all happen automatically.

• The latest edition of the Hamstead Hornet, which covers life in the village of Hamstead Marshall, can be seen here. Topics covered in this issue include The White Hart, the bus shelter, a funeral, a canine food bank, carol singing, planning applications and forthcoming events.

Hamstead Marshall Parish Council intends to start a community speedwatch programme: if you’re interested in helping, please contact Anne Budd on 01488 657022 or [email protected].

Christmas

• The West Berkshire Toy Appeal 2022, organised by the Swift Group requests donations of new unwrapped gifts for local underprivileged children. Click here to see a full list of drop-off points and click here for more details abo9ut how you can get involved.

Did you know Santa is popping-in to Newbury throughout December? You can catch him at the free Santa’s grotto over at Park Way shopping centre on the weekend of the 10 and 11 December plus every day between the 17 and 23 December, between 11am and 4pm.

Watermill Bridge – Bewley’s view

Last week (see below) we looked at some criticisms of the proposals for the 270 homes at Wash Water from a local pressure group. One of the main points concerned (as it so often does) flooding. I said that “the disagreement between them is one of stark simplicity: the developers feel that they have done all they can to mitigate the flooding risk and the ERVPS disagrees. a spokesperson for the group stressed to me on 1 December that the issue could be clarified if a sequential test were performed on the site.”

We’ve since had a response from Bewley.

“National policy dictates that where developments demonstrate through evidence that proposals are in an areas of low flood risk, no further actions are needed. Where developments fall within areas at risk of flooding, development will be asked to provide a sequential test. In line with guidance Bewley Homes prepared a Flood Risk Assessment. The assessment reviewed existing flood maps including the Council’s Strategic Flood Risk Assessment (SFRA). The existing flood maps were considered high-level and of too low a resolution to accurately determine flood risk at the proposed development site.

“Bewley’s Engineers at RPS prepared a bespoke high-resolution model to calculate flood risk for this particular area of the Enborne. The model included a +70% buffer to account for climate change, a more robust measure than guidance requires. The model has been validated by the Environment Agency as the responsible national body.

“The new model shows areas of low flood risk, and areas at risk of flooding within the study area. The model has informed the proposals with all development being positioned outside the areas at risk of flooding, following a sequential approach. Neither the Environment Agency nor Hampshire County Council as Lead Local Flood Authority (Statutory Consultees) hold any objection over the proposed scheme.

“The response from Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council (BDBC) on the proposals recognises the new flood model and lack of objection from statutory consultees. BDBC recognise that the assessment provided by Bewley follows a sequential approach, providing certainty that future development will not lead to issues of flooding, now, or in the future. BDBC has therefore satisfied themselves that the provisions of National Policy have been satisfied and that a sequential test is not required.”

The statement goes on to touch on a separate point, concerning whether Basingstoke & Deane Council (B&D) has what might be termed a housing crisis. Figures supplied by Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities suggests that it does. Of all the authorities in the South East (Berkshire’s councils are, for reasons I haven’t been able to establish, excluded for the results), B&D has for the last four years had the largest number of households on housing waiting lists. In 2021-22, the most recent year the figures cover, B&D’s was 4,922: the next highest, West Oxfordshire, was 2,839. The average for the region as a whole was 1,473 2020-21, a figure that’s remained fairly constant over the previous six years that the stats consider.

This may only be one way of measuring the success of a planning authority’s housing policy. It is, however, hard to argue with Bewley’s point that these statistics don’t suggest that all is well there. I’ve asked Bewley if these figures can be provided per capita, as it’s obviously unfair to compare the waiting lists from two authorities which have very different populations. A quick check in the meantime has revealed that, although B&D is one of the larger districts (185,200), this doesn’t come close to accounting for the number of people waiting for a home. New Forest, for example, has about the same population but its waiting list is a quarter of B&D’s.

“Moreover,” the Bewley statement continues, “by putting back the local plan by some 12 months, B&D has ensured that families in urgent housing need will not get the homes they deserve. The government appears to have underlined this in the watering down of the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill to avoid any mandatory targets for housing delivery, meaning that local need gets ignored on the basis of objections from voters who presumably already have a home.

“Michael Gove has stated that “we have an urgent need in this country to build more homes so that everyone – whether they aspire to home ownership of not – can have a high quality, affordable place to live. This is what Bewley has sought to achieve in the proposal at Watermill Bridge. We have created a scheme which is beautiful in design and meets the highest standards for energy efficiency and biodiversity, together with community benefits and sustainable transport links. We would hope that this is recognised in consideration of the project by the council.”

The site is, of course, only just in B&D. If built, for all practical purposes the new homes will be in Newbury and so a lot of the mitigation will fall on West Berkshire Council’s shoulders. There will doubtless be a certain amount of horse-trading as to how the developer contributions would be shared. There are a large number of hurdles to clear before this stage is reached, though.

If anyone else has any comments or views on this, please contact me at [email protected].

York House

There’s a letter on p20 of this week’s NWN about WBC’S proposed sale of York House in Newbury. I’m not as familiar with this issue as I’d like to be and time has prevented my redressing that this week. However, after a couple of phone calls and a study of the letter, the following points are worth making.

Firstly, there seems yet again to a question about whether the democratic wheels at WBC are, particularly with regard to scrutiny, turning as smoothly as they should, and as smoothly as they need to to if residents are going to trust the system. I haven’t seen the recent Oversight and Scrutiny Management Committee (OSMC) meeting which was referred to but the author of the letter (who is, it’s fair to point out, a prospective Lib Dem candidate in the May election) suggests that the matter was called in to the OSMC as there were questions about whether the Executive had been given the correct information and whether all the organisations which might have been interested in taking the building on had been able to respond in time to the consultation about it.

The meeting appeared to conclude with an unseemly procedural car crash regarding the interpretation of the indicative vote (relevant as the votes were tied and that the Vice Chair, who supported the idea of asking the Executive to look at the matter again, was unable to present in person and thus not able to vote). In what seems to be in defiance of the convention that a casting vote should in such cases follow the indicative vote, the Chair decided to cast this vote the other way.

The problem, as this and many other public organisations regularly fail to realise, is that it’s not necessary for something actually to be wrong: merely that it looks wrong is enough. The inference from anything that’s handled like this is that there’s something to be hidden and that the discussion is being closed down. This will neither encourage more people to come forward to stand as councillors, nor increase public perception that the Council is able to scrutinise itself and is thus an organisation worthy of respect.

As I’ve suggested several times before, there’s a really easy way of killing this problem and it’s one that about a third of the councils in the area follow – ensure that the Chair of the OSMC is from an opposition party. This is also something that’s followed with a number of Common’s committees, including the Committee on Standards. It’s not a very difficult concept to grasp.

Secondly, WBC does, I understand, have aspirations to being a home-builder and home-owner, Selling this property, which could be retained as is, converted or re-built as affordable or social-rent homes, doesn’t seem to square with this ambition.

Thirdly, I understand that the price that would be asked is about £750,000. It’s been suggested to me that it’s worth £1m+, even though it needs some work doing on it. The fact that it costs about £10,000pa to maintain makes it clear that something should be done with it: but is selling it, during this low market. the best option? Some feel not and that all the options have not been properly explored.

No rush at Sandleford

On 6 May, the Secretary of State announced that the appeal by the one of the two developers against WBC’s refusal of permission for the controversial 1,000-home Sandleford development would be allowed. The project has been a largely hypothetical one for over a decade, with not one home having built. It seems set to stay in this condition for some time yet. Discussions are taking place between the developers, Bloor Homes, and WBC about a number of matters, including an attempt by WBC to place a limit on the project’s timescale. Currently, this is envisaged to be seven years (stipulated as being between the maximum period between the discharge of the first planning condition and the date of the last one) but I’m not clear if this has been agreed.

Even if it is, I can’t see what will compel the developers to adhere to it. If, in seven years time, only half if the 1,000 homes have been built and several conditions remain un-met, what can WBC do about it? Developers are running businesses and the timings that suit their finances may not accord with the policies of the planning authority.

A Lid Dem Councillor to whom I spoke about this suggested that all these discussions suggested that the scheme may have changed considerably and that, in the current economic climate, Blood Homes is no hurry to get the diggers in.

The other, western, part of the site was not covered b y the recent appeal and it’s currently unclear whether the developers, DNH, intend to lodge any planning applications for this bit. So, one part of the project in inching forward and the other appears to have stopped: about par for the course at Sandleford.

Community notices

Thatcham & Newbury Town Ladies & Girls Football Club offers three weeks free as a taster, so if you would like to try it out, email [email protected]

• The Loose Ends drop-in centre in Newbury are currently looking for more volunteers to join their friendly team. Located at Newbury Cricket ground, they offer hot meals and a safe and friendly environment for vulnerable people. More details and how to apply can be found here.

Free bus travel starting in West Berkshire (and the return journey if going beyond the West Berkshire border) all day on several allocated days in December. As well as being able to get around West Berkshire, free bus travel is available to Reading, Basingstoke and Swindon. For more information click here. As part of this scheme West Berks Council is offering a Free Christmas Shopper Bus Service for villages, including Hungerford Newtown, that don’t have a public bus service on Saturdays in the run up to Christmas. To book your seat and request a shopping destination of your choice, please contact 01635 551111 or email [email protected]. See here for more details.

• Did you know you can raise concerns with Newbury Town Council at a Saturday Surgery between 10 am and 12 noon any week at the steps of the Town Hall?

If you own a bike, Neighbourhood Watch strongly recommends registering it on the bikeregister.com database as every police force in the country uses it to search for stolen and recovered bikes.

ADS Family Help, who support families of autistic children and adults, host free West Berks Teen Club sessions twice a month, at the Moorside Community Centre. Read more information about the club here.

• If you fancy a natter with free drink and cake, pop along to Newbury’s two friendly community cafes. Educafe Community Cafe is every Wednesday in Newbury Library from 11am to 2pm and Speen Community Cafe is every Wednesday at The Starting Gate Pub from 2pm to 5pm.

Fair Close Centre on Newtown Road in Newbury provides a vital social hub and meals on wheels for over 65s, many of whom live on their own. Please support them here. Goodness knows we might all need their services in years to come.

• The Community Larder at the Waterside Centre is open every Tuesday afternoon to provide members with surplus food, discounts for local businesses, access to other services and support, as well as a friendly community environment. 

•  Newbury Library offers free IT support sessions including filling out online forms, how to Zoom, downloading e-magazines or sorting out pictures. Bookable 30- or 60-minute sessions. To find out more or book a slot, email [email protected].

• Please click here for Hamstead Marshall.net, which provides an excellent round-up of what’s going on in and around the village. This also publishes the quarterly Hamstead Hornet.

Local events and activities

For more information on events and activities across the Penny Post area, see the website calendar.

• Dates for the diary

Sat 10 Dec Children’s Christmas Crafts, Newbury Library.

Sun 11 Dec Santa Saves Christmas Children’s Show, Arlington Arts Centre.

Tue 13 Dec Mayor’s Festive Afternoon Tea, Newbury Baptist Church Hall.

Tue 13 Dec Berkshire Maestro’s ‘Have a Go’ Evening, Newbury Music Centre.

Wed 14 Dec ACE Dance Studios Winter Showcase, Arlington Arts Centre.

Regular events

Friendly gardening club in the centre of Newbury. See here for how to get involved.

Waterside Centre’s Youth Café every Wednesday evening, during term time, between 4:30pm and 6pm for Years 7 to 13. Contact [email protected].

• Newbury Park Run at Greenham Common at 9am every Saturday morning. Folks of all ages welcome to run/walk/jog the 5km. They also have volunteering opportunities. See details here.

• ACE Space on St Nicholas Road hosts live acoustic performances. Join their Facebook group or follow them on Twitter.

• Newbury Community Larder every Tuesday 2pm to 4pm at the Waterside Centre (down the canal from Costa Coffee on Northbrook Street). For more details please contact [email protected] or call 01635 018500.

Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesdays between 2pm to 5pm. Drop in for a chat or a cuppa, knitting and craft activities. You don’t have to live in Speen to join in. Follow them on facebook here.

Educafe’s Community Cafe at Newbury Library every Wednesday between 11am and 2pm. If you would like to pop along for a friendly chat or to volunteer in the cafe please see their website for more details.

• Berkshire Youth‘s Waterside Centre in Newbury hosts various clubs and activities for local children and can provide volunteering opportunities for adults too.

 The Base, Greenham organise many artistic-focused events for people of all ages to let their creative sides go wild.

News from your local council

Note: “the most recent meeting” refers to the most recent one for which minutes (in some cases draft) or some other summary is available. Other meetings may have taken place since. Some councils publish minutes more promptly than do others.

Many councils do not hold meetings in August and many postponed their September meeting following the Queen’s death. 

• The most recent meeting of Newbury Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 17 October and you can download the minutes here. There was also a shorter meeting on 27 October concerning the Victoria Park Café and you can download the minutes here. Note that many matters are delegated to committees.
To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 16 November and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: a presentation on plans to use Shaw-cum-Donnington Primary School building as day centre for those with dementia by James Wilcox (CEO of Fair Close) and Chris Boulton (CEO of Greenham Trust); financial matters; residents parking on the green at Lamp Acres; a report from ward member Lynne Doherty; planning matters; and the Christmas newsletter.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 8 November and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: planning matters; financial matters; speeding; repairs and maintenance; Tommy memorials; rights of way; and the Christmas tree.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here to download the meeting schedule. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 7 November and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: footpaths and roads; Holders Meadow; the Greenway; the parish plan; planning matters; financial matters; the Village Hall; and repairs and maintenance work.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 12 October and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 12 October and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 26 September and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Hamstead Marshall Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 21 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here. To see minutes, please click here.

• Newbury area council contacts

Parishes: Newbury Town CouncilGreenham Parish CouncilChieveley Parish CouncilEnborne Parish CouncilBoxford Parish CouncilSpeen Parish Council,  Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council, and Hamstead Marshall Parish Council.

West Berkshire Council: click here to visit the website.

News from other areas

Penny Post area – please see the following separate sections: Hungerford area; Lambourn ValleyThatcham area; Compton and DownlandsBurghfield area; Wantage area; Marlborough area.

News and views from across the area and beyond: please see the most recent Weekly News with Brian column.

Thursday 1 December 2022

This week we cover the annual Living Advent Calendar, a carnival, a climb, a hornet and open studios. We also take a look at a couple of local planning issues, one involving solar panels and both of which (with, in our view, differing degrees of justification) involving the threat of flooding – plus our usual round-up of other local news, local events and activities and news from your local councils.

This week’s news

Newbury Living Advent Calendar has kicked off at Willow & Bloom on Bartholomew Street and will bring festive joy across the town throughout December as a new window is revealed every day leading up to Christmas. See the full schedule here. To show appreciation for the trail please make a donation here to help the project raise £500 for Newbury Soup Kitchen, Eight Bells for Mental Health and Loose Ends charities.

Newbury Town Council has just officially opened its newly installed inclusive seesaw in Victoria Park with the help of a £10,000 grant from the National Lottery Community Fund. The seesaw will allow children who are wheelchair users the chance to enjoy Victoria Park alongside the already existing accessible roundabout. The seesaw is one of only three in the UK. Although this new equipment can be used by all, this project will make a substantial difference for children with limited mobility and wheelchair users and is an additional improvement to the playground which also has an accessible roundabout.

Newbury Soup Kitchen relies heavily on food donations from supermarkets and the local community. This has reduced hugely recently as supermarkets are removing Best Before dates on fruit and vegetables and the public are buying reduced items in supermarkets more than ever. If you have an allotment or are happy to donate vegetables to them, they would be very grateful as they work on a ‘Ready Steady Cook basis’ making soups, pasta sauces and casseroles to feed our local homeless and vulnerable. Please email [email protected] if you can help. They also need donations of wooden cutlery and foil take-away containers.

• The Great Christmas Carnival Newbury 2022, apparently ‘the largest Christmas event in the South’, is back at Newbury Racecourse. Attractions include an ice rink, Santa’s grotto, a circus, the Greatest Hits Radio Big Wheel, over 20 rides and games, a Christmas markets and plenty of food and drink. Click here to find out more.

• Northway Climbing Centre Newbury are excited to be offering their first SEN climbing session on Saturday 17 December. They will be opening the centre an hour early to allow SEN children and their families the chance to climb whilst the centre is quiet. They plan to run more SEN events in the future (please note that children must be supervised by an adult and the supervising adult must attend an introductory session the day before). To book, please call on 01635 31636 and for more details click here.

• Quick reminder that this weekend The Base, at Greenham is opening the doors of its Resident Artist’s studio for a festive studio open weekend on Saturday 3 and Sunday 4 December. Visitors are encouraged to wander around the arts centre to see the artists at work, watch live demonstrations and even try a potter’s wheel. There will also be live Christmas music, as well as delicious food and beverages from the Honesty Café. See more details here.

The Loose Ends drop-centre at Newbury Cricket Club serves food to the vulnerable and homeless and wants to extend their hours during the winter period. They need a few more volunteers who can spare an hour or so per month.  Please click here to apply to volunteer with this vital, friendly, warm charity.

• Do you know anyone who goes that extra mile? Please nominate them for the West Berks Community Champion Awards. The categories are Community Group of the Year, Lifetime Achievement Award, The Pat Eastop Junior Citizen of the Year Award and Volunteer of the Year. The deadline is Monday 2 January 2022.

The new cost of living support hub on West Berkshire Council website explains the different types of support available if you are struggling with rising living costs and are concerned about paying your household bills.

• As mentioned previously, Newbury’s neighbourhood development plan (NDP) is still at a fairly stage: this means that you can still influence the matters that it covers. Click here for a post we’ve recently published which included a map of the designated area, links to sources of further information about NDPs and news of a survey which the steering group has launched: this is an opportunity for you to share your views and help to shape the future of Newbury. The results will be used to help guide and finalise the vision and objectives for the NDP. Please respond to this by the end of November.

For more Newbury Town Council news, see their November newsletter here.

Warm spaces for people to visit this winter include St Nic’s Church on Thursday afternoons and  The Fair Close Centre on Newtown Road which has opened a free café for anyone over sixty who is looking for a warm, friendly place to visit during the winter from 9.30am to 11.30am Monday to Friday. The Kennet Christian Centre on Enborne Road is also open every Tuesday from 1pm to 3pm where they will be serving hot drinks and soup free to everyone. For more warm spaces across the area see here.

• We have added more information about support available to get you through the Cost of Living crisis, including tips on how to reduce your home energy bills. And please watch out for any scams that ask you to click to apply for energy rebates – they all happen automatically.

• The latest edition of the Hamstead Hornet, which covers life in the village of Hamstead Marshall, can be seen here. Topics covered in this issue include The White Hart, the bus shelter, a funeral, a canine food bank, carol singing, planning applications and forthcoming events.

Hamstead Marshall Parish Council intends to start a community speedwatch programme: if you’re interested in helping, please contact Anne Budd on 01488 657022 or [email protected].

Christmas

• This weekend is the St Nicholas Church’s Winter Season Christmas Concert and the Newbury Sea Cadets Christmas Craft Fair will be on Saturday 3 December.

• The West Berkshire Toy Appeal 2022, organised by the Swift Group requests donations of new unwrapped gifts for local underprivileged children. Click here to see a full list of drop-off points and click here for more details abo9ut how you can get involved.

West Berkshire Giving Tree is looking for donations of gifts for children and adults who have been affected by domestic abuse. You can give online or in person (in Newbury, Theale or Hungerford) before 6 December.

Did you know Santa is popping-in to Newbury throughout December? You can catch him at the free Santa’s grotto over at Park Way shopping centre on the weekend of the 10 and 11 December plus every day between the 17 and 23 December, between 11am and 4pm.

Enborne’s panels

We’ve mentioned before about the proposal to create a solar far in Enborne to the north of Spring Gardens. You can click here to see the details of the application on WBC’s planning portal.

To the many documents has recently been added a 32pp letter of objection from a firm of solicitors acting “on behalf of a consortium of residents of Spring Gardens.” The preamble says that “Our Clients believe the proposed solar farm in its current design might cause severe impacts to their properties and neighbourhood. For the reasons set out below, WBC are simply not able to make a decision that complies with their statutory duties on the basis of application as it currently stands. Any permission granted on the basis of the application in its current form,” the comments menacingly conclude, “would be vulnerable to legal challenge.”

The main point of contention here is the flooding risk. I’m not an expert in such matters but it seems to me that the necessary mitigation measures have been put in place. The residents disagree. WBC’s experts, and possible the members of the Western Area Planning Committee, will need to decide. One thing that does seem clear, however, is that the flooding problems that currently exist in and around Spring Gardens arise from the fact that the measures put in place when the estate was built in the 1990s have not been properly maintained. Due to the insane system that prevails in such cases, the responsibility for, and revenues from, this was handed over not to WBC but to a private firm and after this passage of time it’s proving hard to establish what has been done or even who agreed to do what in the first place.

The solicitor’s letter tacitly acknowledges this by saying that, if WBC does grant permission, “the matters set out in this letter [which include many references to flooding] should be controlled by conditions and a Section 106 Agreement for such financial provision as is necessary for the safe and ongoing maintenance of the attenuation pond and other infrastructure.” This seems to me to be admitting a permission that the “consortium” would be happy. It also seems to admit that, in the opinion of the solicitor, the flood risk can be managed safely. 

I don’t think anyone would disagree with the solution proposed. The main thing in such cases is to have clear maintenance responsibilities agreed, these to be discharged by an organisation that – unlike a private company – isn’t going anywhere and has an interest in ensuring things are done properly. The Poor’s Allotment Charity matches this description pretty exactly.

The letter also makes reference to the loss of agricultural land though I’m a bit confused by this. For one thing, it’s only mid-grade; secondly, it won’t be permanently lost as the panels may only be there for 20 or 30 years; thirdly, in recent time it’s only been used for grazing sheep and that can continue. Sheep and solar panels (and pollinator- friendly wildflowers, come to that) go together perfectly well.

It’s also worth noting, something that the solicitor’s letter acknowledges, that the site “has historically been used to provide fuel for the poor of the parish of Enborne.” That is certainly what a solar farm could do (I’m unsure if the power can be directly looped to local homes but I understand that all the profits from the scheme will be ploughed back into the local community). Nor am I sure what the definition of “poor” is. If used as a relative term, people in Enborne and elsewhere are all a lot poorer than they were as a result of every-price hikes. 

Solar farms, and wind turbines, are perhaps a form of intermediate technology; like fax machines. They are the best we have now but may yet be superseded by something better (like cold fusion). Yes, they consume carbon and other things to build, as do petrol cars or a gas boilers. Unlike these, however, they don’t burn up fossil fuels when in operation. When something better arrives or when they’ve reached the end of their lives they can be taken down fairly quickly leaving being little sign that they were ever there, which is more than can be said for a power station, or even a house.

My study window on the first floor here in East Garston overlooks the Jubilee Meadow. I’ve asked myself how I would feel if the Parish Council announced it had plans to put solar panels there. I’m fairly sure I wouldn’t mind: I’d like to think I’d be rather proud of them and satisfied that we were doing our bit. Better still, of courser, would be if our energy bills dropped as a result. Even without that, it would be good to know that this was one energy source that Putin couldn’t mess around with.

Sequential tests in Wash Water

We mentioned on 17 November (in the archive section of this column) the fact that the plans for the proposed Watermill Bridge development in Wash Water had been scaled down from 350 homes to 270. A link to the documents can be found here, along with ways by which any comments for or against the scheme can be made to Basingstoke & Deane Council. As with the Enborne solar scheme (see above), the question of flooding looms large. The main actors in this drama are, aside from B&D Council, the developers Bewley Homes and The Enborne River Valley Preservation Society. For all the technical details, the disagreement between them is one of stark simplicity: the developers feel that they have done all they can to mitigate the flooding risk and the ERVPS disagrees. a spokesperson for the group stressed to me on 1 December that the issue could be clarified if a sequential test were performed on the site.

A sequential test, according to Gov.uk, “compares the site you’re proposing to develop with other available sites to find out which has the lowest flood risk.” If one is performed and it fails, it will be hard for the planning authority to grant permission without laying itself open to a judicial review from the opponents; if one is done and the site passes then, if there are no other serious policy objections, it will be hard for the authority to refuse the application without laying itself open to an appeal from the developers. I understand that one hasn’t been done but B&D Council can insist on this. To do so and awaiting the results would seem to simplify the decision-making. If this doesn’t happen, the matter will comer before the district’s planning committee if the officers are minded to approve the application. When this might happen is anyone’s guess. Planning committees will consider all the pros and cons of the issue, not just the flooding risk, and it’s up to each member how much weight they give to each point. A fair amount of lobbying is to be expected.

On 1 December, I contacted Bewley Homes to see if they had any comment on the continued local concerns about flood risk and I was promised a response in due course (I should point out that Bewley has always got back to me on other matters I’ve raised with them). In the meantime, you can have a look at the plans on the link above and decide for yourself.

Community notices

Thatcham & Newbury Town Ladies & Girls Football Club offers three weeks free as a taster, so if you would like to try it out, email [email protected]

• The Loose Ends drop-in centre in Newbury are currently looking for more volunteers to join their friendly team. Located at Newbury Cricket ground, they offer hot meals and a safe and friendly environment for vulnerable people. More details and how to apply can be found here.

Free bus travel starting in West Berkshire (and the return journey if going beyond the West Berkshire border) all day on several allocated days in November and December. As well as being able to get around West Berkshire, free bus travel is available to Reading, Basingstoke and Swindon. For more information click here. As part of this scheme West Berks Council is offering a Free Christmas Shopper Bus Service for villages, including Hungerford Newtown, that don’t have a public bus service on Saturdays in the run up to Christmas. To book your seat and request a shopping destination of your choice, please contact 01635 551111 or email [email protected]. See here for more details.

• Did you know you can raise concerns with Newbury Town Council at a Saturday Surgery between 10 am and 12 noon any week at the steps of the Town Hall?

If you own a bike, Neighbourhood Watch strongly recommends registering it on the bikeregister.com database as every police force in the country uses it to search for stolen and recovered bikes.

ADS Family Help, who support families of autistic children and adults, host free West Berks Teen Club sessions twice a month, at the Moorside Community Centre. Read more information about the club here.

• If you fancy a natter with free drink and cake, pop along to Newbury’s two friendly community cafes. Educafe Community Cafe is every Wednesday in Newbury Library from 11am to 2pm and Speen Community Cafe is every Wednesday at The Starting Gate Pub from 2pm to 5pm.

Fair Close Centre on Newtown Road in Newbury provides a vital social hub and meals on wheels for over 65s, many of whom live on their own. Please support them here. Goodness knows we might all need their services in years to come.

• The Community Larder at the Waterside Centre is open every Tuesday afternoon to provide members with surplus food, discounts for local businesses, access to other services and support, as well as a friendly community environment. 

•  Newbury Library offers free IT support sessions including filling out online forms, how to Zoom, downloading e-magazines or sorting out pictures. Bookable 30- or 60-minute sessions. To find out more or book a slot, email [email protected].

• Please click here for Hamstead Marshall.net, which provides an excellent round-up of what’s going on in and around the village. This also publishes the quarterly Hamstead Hornet.

Local events and activities

For more information on events and activities across the Penny Post area, see the website calendar.

• Dates for the diary

Fri 2 Dec The Educafe’s Festive Bazaar, the Globe Indoor Garden, Newbury.

Fri 2 Dec Bookshelf Pop-Up , Pageant Parties, Newbury.

Sat 3 Dec Victorian Christmas Fayre, Newbury Town Centre.

Sun 4 Dec Christmas Bazaar, Cats Protection Adoption Centre, Curridge.

Sun 4 Dec Christmas Fair, Shaw House, Newbury.

Sun 11 Dec Santa Saves Christmas Children’s Show, Arlington Arts Centre.

Wed 14 Dec ACE Dance Studios Winter Showcase, Arlington Arts Centre.

Regular events

Friendly gardening club in the centre of Newbury. See here for how to get involved.

Waterside Centre’s Youth Café every Wednesday evening, during term time, between 4:30pm and 6pm for Years 7 to 13. Contact [email protected].

• Newbury Park Run at Greenham Common at 9am every Saturday morning. Folks of all ages welcome to run/walk/jog the 5km. They also have volunteering opportunities. See details here.

• ACE Space on St Nicholas Road hosts live acoustic performances. Join their Facebook group or follow them on Twitter.

• Newbury Community Larder every Tuesday 2pm to 4pm at the Waterside Centre (down the canal from Costa Coffee on Northbrook Street). For more details please contact [email protected] or call 01635 018500.

Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesdays between 2pm to 5pm. Drop in for a chat or a cuppa, knitting and craft activities. You don’t have to live in Speen to join in. Follow them on facebook here.

Educafe’s Community Cafe at Newbury Library every Wednesday between 11am and 2pm. If you would like to pop along for a friendly chat or to volunteer in the cafe please see their website for more details.

• Berkshire Youth‘s Waterside Centre in Newbury hosts various clubs and activities for local children and can provide volunteering opportunities for adults too.

 The Base, Greenham organise many artistic-focused events for people of all ages to let their creative sides go wild.

News from your local council

Note: “the most recent meeting” refers to the most recent one for which minutes (in some cases draft) or some other summary is available. Other meetings may have taken place since. Some councils publish minutes more promptly than do others.

Many councils do not hold meetings in August and many postponed their September meeting following the Queen’s death. 

• The most recent meeting of Newbury Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 8 August and you can download the minutes here. Items covered included: questions from members of the public; questions from members; Community United; the tree canopy; and the Community Café. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) Items covered included: ownership of public areas at Sandleford (see also The common parts above); the Mayor’s report; the CEO’s report; committee reports; the nomination of the Mayor and Deputy and of the Leader and Deputy; and formal matters.
To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 16 November and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: a presentation on plans to use Shaw-cum-Donnington Primary School building as day centre for those with dementia by James Wilcox (CEO of Fair Close) and Chris Boulton (CEO of Greenham Trust); financial matters; residents parking on the green at Lamp Acres; a report from ward member Lynne Doherty; planning matters; and the Christmas newsletter.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 7 November and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: footpaths and roads; Holders Meadow; the Greenway; the parish plan; planning matters; financial matters; the Village Hall; and repairs and maintenance work.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 12 October and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: financial matters; grant awards; a report from ward member Lynne Doherty; a report from the Planning and Highways Committee; speeding; the Parish Improvement Plan; and repairs and maintenance.
To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 12 October and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: planning matters; financial matters; Greenham Control Tower; waste management; access to the Common; and repairs and maintenance work.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 11 October and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: planning matters; financial matters; defibrillator training; the Chieveley Traffic Group; rights of way; signage; Tommy memorials; repairs and maintenance work; and the playground project.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here to download the meeting schedule. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 26 September and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Hamstead Marshall Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 21 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here. To see minutes, please click here.

• Newbury area council contacts

Parishes: Newbury Town CouncilGreenham Parish CouncilChieveley Parish CouncilEnborne Parish CouncilBoxford Parish CouncilSpeen Parish Council,  Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council, and Hamstead Marshall Parish Council.

West Berkshire Council: click here to visit the website.

News from other areas

Penny Post area – please see the following separate sections: Hungerford area; Lambourn ValleyThatcham area; Compton and DownlandsBurghfield area; Wantage area; Marlborough area.

News and views from across the area and beyond: please see the most recent Weekly News with Brian column.

Thursday 24 November 2022

This week we cover the Christmas markets, the Mayor’s fund, warm spaces, an orchestra and rags to reusables. We also take a look at improvements at Birchwood Care home following a coroner’s report and a CQC inspections, a special day for Educafé and splashing the cash at Newbury station – plus our usual round-up of other local news, local events and activities and news from your local councils.

This week’s news

•  The Mayor of Newbury has opened applications to Newbury residents for the Mayor’s Benevolent Fund Christmas Appeal.  You can collect an application form from the Town Hall in confidence. The closing date for applications is this Sunday 27 November.

The Loose Ends drop-centre at Newbury Cricket Club serves food to the vulnerable and homeless and wants to extend their hours during the winter period. They need a few more volunteers who can spare an hour or so per month.  Please click here to apply to volunteer with this vital, friendly, warm charity.

Quick reminder from Citizen’s Advice on how to shop savvy and stay safe online this Black Friday (25 November) and Cyber Monday (28 November). Remember, if an offer is too good to be true, it’s probably not true…

• West Berkshire Council is asking residents to take part in a survey regarding equality and diversity in the district. They want to make sure that the people of have an equal entitlement to high quality services, employment and opportunities for personal development, and that the council has a fair and inclusive organisational culture. Please complete this online survey by midnight on Sunday 27 November, if you would like to have your views heard.

• Do you know anyone who goes that extra mile? Please nominate them for the West Berks Community Champion Awards. The categories are Community Group of the Year, Lifetime Achievement Award, The Pat Eastop Junior Citizen of the Year Award and Volunteer of the Year. The deadline is Monday 2 January 2022.

The new cost of living support hub on West Berkshire Council website explains the different types of support available if you are struggling with rising living costs and are concerned about paying your household bills.

•  Would you like to contribute to City Arts Newbury Living Advent Calendar festive window display? They need black cut-out silhouettes (as simple or complicated as you like) as possible. Ideally something Christmas-y, such as a snowman, Christmas tree, snowflake, a star, reindeer, etc, which will be included in the festive montage. The grand reveal of the window will be on Sunday 22 December, so make sure your contributions are handed in before then. For more details please click here.

• Speaking of City Arts Newbury, this weekend is their Artisan Christmas Fair, with a whole range of local crafts and lots of opportunity for potential Christmas pressies and supporting local creators. Pop over to their lovely space on Hampton Road on Saturday 26 or Sunday 27 November between 10am and 4pm.

• Also happening this weekend, on Saturday Newbury Symphony Orchestra will be holding it’s Winter Concert at St Nicholas Church from 7:30pm. Click here to get your tickets.

• Penny is delighted to be part of a new Rags2Reusables community upcycling initiative kindly supported by Educafé. Their first workshop is How to Make a Draught Excluder from Old Socks at Brown Paper Loves yarn and button shop in Inch’s Yard, Newbury next Tuesday 29 November from 6.30pm to 8.30pm. Suitable for all sewing abilities from complete beginners to experienced hands, all are very welcome. This is a skill sharing opportunity with Fashion & Textile Creative & Upcycler Julia Moore. See here for more details and how to book.

• The Base, at Greenham are opening the doors of its Resident Artist’s studio for a festive studio open weekend on Saturday 3 and Sunday 4 December. Visitors are encouraged to wander around the arts centre to see the artists at work, watch live demonstrations and even try a potter’s wheel. There will also be live Christmas music, as well as delicious food and beverages from the Honesty Café. See more details here.

• As mentioned previously, Newbury’s neighbourhood development plan (NDP) is still at a fairly stage: this means that you can still influence the matters that it covers. Click here for a post we’ve recently published which included a map of the designated area, links to sources of further information about NDPs and news of a survey which the steering group has launched: this is an opportunity for you to share your views and help to shape the future of Newbury. The results will be used to help guide and finalise the vision and objectives for the NDP. Please respond to this by the end of November.

For more Newbury Town Council news, see their November newsletter here.

Warm spaces for people to visit this winter include St Nic’s Church on Thursday afternoons and  The Fair Close Centre on Newtown Road which has opened a free café for anyone over sixty who is looking for a warm, friendly place to visit during the winter from 9.30am to 11.30am Monday to Friday. The Kennet Christian Centre on Enborne Road is also open every Tuesday from 1pm to 3pm where they will be serving hot drinks and soup free to everyone. For more warm spaces across the area see here.

• We have added more information about support available to get you through the Cost of Living crisis, including tips on how to reduce your home energy bills. And please watch out for any scams that ask you to click to apply for energy rebates – they all happen automatically.

• The latest edition of the Hamstead Hornet, which covers life in the village of Hamstead Marshall, can be seen here. The most recent one (September 2022) covers footpaths, the Garden Society, a vacancy on the Parish Council, a dog looking for a new home, the parish plan, planning applications, forthcoming events and an update from the Parish Council.

Hamstead Marshall Parish Council intends to start a community speedwatch programme: if you’re interested in helping, please contact Anne Budd on 01488 657022 or [email protected].

Christmas

Newbury Rotary’s Santa Run will take place this weekend on Sunday 27 November from 10am to noon in the Market Place with the choice of either a 1km or 5km route. This event supports local charities including West Berkshire Mencap, West Berkshire Therapy Centre and Time to Talk. It is also an excellent opportunity for participants to obtain sponsorship from friends, colleagues and family to raise funds for their own preferred charities. For all the details including routes and how to register, click here.

• The West Berkshire Toy Appeal 2022, organised by the Swift Group requests donations of new unwrapped gifts for local underprivileged children. Click here to see a full list of drop-off points and click here for more details abo9ut how you can get involved.

West Berkshire Giving Tree is looking for donations of gifts for children and adults who have been affected by domestic abuse. You can give online or in person (in Newbury, Theale or Hungerford) before 6 December.

• St Nicholas Church’s Winter Season Christmas Concert  and Newbury Sea Cadets Christmas Craft Fair will be on Saturday 3 December.

Did you know Santa is popping-in to Newbury throughout December? You can catch him at the free Santa’s grotto over at Park Way shopping centre on the weekend of the 10 and 11 December plus every day between the 17 and 23 December, between 11am and 4pm.

Educafé at Christmas

The Educafé Community Café is embedded into Newbury Library now every Wednesday from 11am to 2pm with over 150 visitors each week. Penny spoke to a community art teacher visiting from Reading this week who was very impressed and said there was nothing like it in Reading. Well done to the founders Colline Watts and Claire Middleton and to the support they have from West Berkshire Council and library staff.

Next week, they are returning for one day to their first home at The Globe’s indoor garden for a free Festive Bazaar on Friday 2 December. It’s a day where you can come and find out more about what Educafe does, whilst supporting them to raise some funds so they can reach more people and keep supporting our community.

From 11am to 4pm there will be Educafé’s usual craft and parent activities, English conversation plus festive specials like gift stalls, guess the Christmas Cake weight and a human fruit machine. Hot drinks and cakes will be free all day and there will also be a low-cost chilli and rice lunch until 2pm – so, do pop in for a friendly chat during the day.

Birchwood Care Home

There’s an article on p3 of this week’s Newbury Weekly News with the headline “Care home [Birchwood in Newbury] still at risk of deaths”. I suppose this could be said of any such place: but the point here was that there were some specific problems which the article covers, one of which appears to have led to the death of a resident, Frederick King, in September 2021.

It should be stressed, however that since the home has had a CQC inspection which highlighted a number of problems, including those that contributed to this (mainly poor record keeping). I spoke to portfolio holder Joanne Stewart at the time who said that following the report, a number of measures were immediately put in place to address the concerns (clearly any measures that had been put in place following his death had not resulted in significant improvement by the time the inspection took place in July 2022). The NWN article quotes the Coroner as being “satisfied that improvements have been introduced there” although this was qualified with the observation that “there was still a risk of future deaths” there. None the less, with these two loud warning bells having been rung, the care home is probably a safer place that it was 14 months ago.

I contacted WBC about this on 24 November and received the following statement. “We send our condolences to the family of Mr King. We note the findings of the Coroner and the concerns which were raised at the Inquest.  West Berkshire Council was in the process of updating relevant policies and processes prior to the Coroner’s investigation into Mr King’s death, including changes to the management structure.  Ensuring our most vulnerable residents are protected and cared for is one of our priorities.  Alongside a dedicated ongoing improvement programme for Birchwood Care Home, and in conjunction with our obligations under the Care Quality Commission framework, we continue to work with staff across our care homes to maintain high standards and ensure we are providing good quality care to all our residents.”

All change

A statement from WBC on 24 November says that the multi-million-pound redevelopment of Newbury station “has taken a significant step forward with completion of work on the north side of the station.” Seven new ticket gates, an open-plan ticket area, enlarged waiting room, café and toilets are now in use as part of a remodelling of the station to provide “an enhanced customer experience.” (I’m sorry, but I still get cross when I see passengers described as customers.)

The report continues: “Great Western Railway is working with West Berkshire Council, Berkshire LEP and Network Rail to deliver the improvements, designed to help support the town’s economic development. This started with the installation of a lift at the station and last year saw the opening of two new cycle hubs adding 300 cycle spaces and a new 160-space multi-storey car park with electric car charging points and improved walking routes to the town centre. Work is also progressing at pace on the south side of the station with the creation of three new business growth units, and improved pedestrian and bus access.” You can read the full statement here.

It would be lovely to see some similar improvements at Hungerford station. That at present seem unlikely: what’s the point? possible funding bodies might ask themselves, given that GWR’s new timetables have effectively relegated it, Bedwyn and Kintbury to a kind of Thomas the Tank Engine branch-line service.

Community notices

Thatcham & Newbury Town Ladies & Girls Football Club offers three weeks free as a taster, so if you would like to try it out, email [email protected]

• The Loose Ends drop-in centre in Newbury are currently looking for more volunteers to join their friendly team. Located at Newbury Cricket ground, they offer hot meals and a safe and friendly environment for vulnerable people. More details and how to apply can be found here.

Free bus travel starting in West Berkshire (and the return journey if going beyond the West Berkshire border) all day on several allocated days in November and December. As well as being able to get around West Berkshire, free bus travel is available to Reading, Basingstoke and Swindon. For more information click here. As part of this scheme West Berks Council is offering a Free Christmas Shopper Bus Service for villages, including Hungerford Newtown, that don’t have a public bus service on Saturdays in the run up to Christmas. To book your seat and request a shopping destination of your choice, please contact 01635 551111 or email [email protected]. See here for more details.

• Did you know you can raise concerns with Newbury Town Council at a Saturday Surgery between 10 am and 12 noon any week at the steps of the Town Hall?

If you own a bike, Neighbourhood Watch strongly recommends registering it on the bikeregister.com database as every police force in the country uses it to search for stolen and recovered bikes.

ADS Family Help, who support families of autistic children and adults, host free West Berks Teen Club sessions twice a month, at the Moorside Community Centre. Read more information about the club here.

• If you fancy a natter with free drink and cake, pop along to Newbury’s two friendly community cafes. Educafe Community Cafe is every Wednesday in Newbury Library from 11am to 2pm and Speen Community Cafe is every Wednesday at The Starting Gate Pub from 2pm to 5pm.

Fair Close Centre on Newtown Road in Newbury provides a vital social hub and meals on wheels for over 65s, many of whom live on their own. Please support them here. Goodness knows we might all need their services in years to come.

• The Community Larder at the Waterside Centre is open every Tuesday afternoon to provide members with surplus food, discounts for local businesses, access to other services and support, as well as a friendly community environment. 

•  Newbury Library offers free IT support sessions including filling out online forms, how to Zoom, downloading e-magazines or sorting out pictures. Bookable 30- or 60-minute sessions. To find out more or book a slot, email [email protected].

• Please click here for Hamstead Marshall.net, which provides an excellent round-up of what’s going on in and around the village. This also publishes the quarterly Hamstead Hornet.

Local events and activities

For more information on events and activities across the Penny Post area, see the website calendar.

• Dates for the diary

Fri 25 Nov Carers Rights Day Event, Frank Hutchins Community Hall.

Sat 26 Nov Newbury Symphony Orchestra Winter Concert, St Nicholas Church.

Sat 26 Nov Cardlabs: Zookeeper Demonstrations, Newbury Library.

Sat 26 to Sun 27 Nov City Arts Newbury: Artisan Christmas Fair, Community Art Hub, Hampton Road.

Fri 2 Dec The Eeducafe’s Festive Bazaar, the Globe Indoor Garden, Newbury.

Sat 3 Dec Victorian Christmas Fayre, Newbury Town Centre.

Sun 4 Dec Christmas Bazaar, Cats Protection Adoption Centre, Curridge.

Regular events

Friendly gardening club in the centre of Newbury. See here for how to get involved.

Waterside Centre’s Youth Café every Wednesday evening, during term time, between 4:30pm and 6pm for Years 7 to 13. Contact [email protected].

• Newbury Park Run at Greenham Common at 9am every Saturday morning. Folks of all ages welcome to run/walk/jog the 5km. They also have volunteering opportunities. See details here.

• ACE Space on St Nicholas Road hosts live acoustic performances. Join their Facebook group or follow them on Twitter.

• Newbury Community Larder every Tuesday 2pm to 4pm at the Waterside Centre (down the canal from Costa Coffee on Northbrook Street). For more details please contact [email protected] or call 01635 018500.

Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesdays between 2pm to 5pm. Drop in for a chat or a cuppa, knitting and craft activities. You don’t have to live in Speen to join in. Follow them on facebook here.

Educafe’s Community Cafe at Newbury Library every Wednesday between 11am and 2pm. If you would like to pop along for a friendly chat or to volunteer in the cafe please see their website for more details.

• Berkshire Youth‘s Waterside Centre in Newbury hosts various clubs and activities for local children and can provide volunteering opportunities for adults too.

 The Base, Greenham organise many artistic-focused events for people of all ages to let their creative sides go wild.

News from your local council

Note: “the most recent meeting” refers to the most recent one for which minutes (in some cases draft) or some other summary is available. Other meetings may have taken place since. Some councils publish minutes more promptly than do others.

Many councils do not hold meetings in August and many postponed their September meeting following the Queen’s death. 

• The most recent meeting of Newbury Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 8 August and you can download the minutes here. Items covered included: questions from members of the public; questions from members; Community United; the tree canopy; and the Community Café. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) Items covered included: ownership of public areas at Sandleford (see also The common parts above); the Mayor’s report; the CEO’s report; committee reports; the nomination of the Mayor and Deputy and of the Leader and Deputy; and formal matters.
To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 16 November and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: a presentation on plans to use Shaw-cum-Donnington Primary School building as day centre for those with dementia by James Wilcox (CEO of Fair Close) and Chris Boulton (CEO of Greenham Trust); financial matters; residents parking on the green at Lamp Acres; a report from ward member Lynne Doherty; planning matters; and the Christmas newsletter.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 7 November and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: footpaths and roads; Holders Meadow; the Greenway; the parish plan; planning matters; financial matters; the Village Hall; and repairs and maintenance work.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 12 October and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: financial matters; grant awards; a report from ward member Lynne Doherty; a report from the Planning and Highways Committee; speeding; the Parish Improvement Plan; and repairs and maintenance.
To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 12 October and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: planning matters; financial matters; Greenham Control Tower; waste management; access to the Common; and repairs and maintenance work.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 11 October and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: planning matters; financial matters; defibrillator training; the Chieveley Traffic Group; rights of way; signage; Tommy memorials; repairs and maintenance work; and the playground project.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here to download the meeting schedule. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 26 September and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Hamstead Marshall Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 21 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here. To see minutes, please click here.

• Newbury area council contacts

Parishes: Newbury Town CouncilGreenham Parish CouncilChieveley Parish CouncilEnborne Parish CouncilBoxford Parish CouncilSpeen Parish Council,  Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council, and Hamstead Marshall Parish Council.

West Berkshire Council: click here to visit the website.

News from other areas

Penny Post area – please see the following separate sections: Hungerford area; Lambourn ValleyThatcham area; Compton and DownlandsBurghfield area; Wantage area; Marlborough area.

News and views from across the area and beyond: please see the most recent Weekly News with Brian column.

Thursday 17 November 2022

This week we cover the Empire café, the town’s NDP, play equipment and Educafé. We also take another look at the Eagle Quarter application and a reaction to this from a local group; while, further south, there’s another development to keep an eye on at Wash Water – plus our usual round-up of other local news, local events and activities and news from your local councils.

This week’s news

Newbury Town Council are delighted to announce the instalment of a brand new piece of accessible play equipment over at Victoria Park.  The new inclusive seesaw was funded with the help of a £10,000 grant from the National Lottery Community Fund. Apparently this piece of equipment can be used by all children, however this will make a substantial difference for those with limited mobility and wheelchair users. The seesaw will be officially unveiled with a ribbon cutting ceremony on 24 November, and the children from the Keevil Unit at Speenhamland School will be the first to try out the new facility. Please click here for more news on the story.

• Earlier this week a lorry mounted the pavement to park on Cheap Street and the wing mirror caught the awning of the Empire Cafe. As Newbury’s most historic café they don’t want a plastic replacement so Wendy who runs the cafe is looking for someone to help fix the traditional metal brackets. See Penny’s video here for more details.

•  The Mayor of Newbury has opened applications to Newbury residents for the Mayor’s Benevolent Fund Christmas Appeal.  You can collect an application form from the Town Hall in confidence. The closing date for applications is Sunday 27 November.

The West Berkshire Draughtbusters, a free service to help residents stay warm this winter, are looking for more volunteers. The registered charity are run by local volunteers who fix simple problems, like holes in the wall, doors and windows, with the aim to help make peoples houses warmer and hopefully help reduce residents heating bills. If you or someone you know would be willing to help fix some simple DIY problems for vulnerable members of the community, please get in contact with West Berkshire Council. For more information about the service click here to see our past article.

Congratulations to Newbury Friends of the Earth for planting their fifth Lockdown Wood last weekend in Hamstead Marshall. A total of 110 home-grown saplings were planted including a mixture of native broadleaved species, including many oaks, chestnuts, maple, silver birch, plus a few yews.  A hedge was also planted with home-grown hazel, hawthorn and holly. All of the young trees were protected against deer grazing with recycled tree guards. For more details and how to get involved with maintaining all the Lockdown Woods across the area please see here.

The annual West Berkshire Giving Tree is back for Christmas 2022. The Giving Tree provides you with an opportunity to share your Christmas spirit by donating a gift to a child or adult who has been affected by Domestic Abuse. You can get involved in the gift of giving online or in person and all labels will contain anonymised information on the person you will be buying for, for example ‘Girl aged 3’ or ‘Man aged 34’. The gifts can be a mixture of donations, toys and experiences. Gifts should be new, unused and unwrapped. The Giving Tree will be open to donations from now until 6 December. For more information about how to get involved, click here or for questions contact [email protected].

Many congratulations to Newbury local, Eleanor Gilbert from Rookery Farm, for being awarded the BBC Food and Farming Countryfile Young Countryside Champion award. She was presented with the award a gala event at Cardiff’s National Museum, along with the other finalists, earlier this week. For more on this story about Eleanor’s great work, check out the Newbury Today’s article.

Quick reminder there will be free bus travel starting in West Berkshire (and the return journey if going beyond the West Berkshire border) all day on several allocated days in November and December. As well as being able to get around West Berkshire, free bus travel is available to Reading, Basingstoke and Swindon. For more information click here. As part of this scheme West Berks Council is offering a Free Christmas Shopper Bus Service for villages, including Hungerford Newtown, that don’t have a public bus service on Saturdays in the run up to Christmas, starting Saturday 19 November. To book your seat and request a shopping destination of your choice, please contact 01635 551111 or email [email protected]. See here for more details.

There is a lot of hype these days around Black Friday (25 November) and Cyber Monday (28 November). When it comes to shopping online, it’s tempting to grab a ‘good deal’ but it is also a great opportunity for scammers to take advantage of customers looking for a bargain. Please see these reminders from Citizen’s Advice on how to shop savvy and stay safe online. Remember, if an offer is too good to be true, it’s probably not true…

• As mentioned previously, Newbury’s neighbourhood development plan (NDP) is still at a fairly stage: this means that you can still influence the matters that it covers. Click here for a post we’ve recently published which included a map of the designated area, links to sources of further information about NDPs and news of a survey which the steering group has launched: this is an opportunity for you to share your views and help to shape the future of Newbury. The results will be used to help guide and finalise the vision and objectives for the NDP. Please respond to this by the end of November.

Educafé Community Café based at Newbury Library has been shortlisted for The People Award 2022 that celebrates creative and enterprising ways to help improve the local community. The winning organisation will receive £5,000 to support their community. Please vote for them here by 20 November.

Each year Carers Rights Day brings organisations together to help carers know their rights and find out how to get the help and support they are entitled to. The Reading & West Berkshire Carers Partnership will be hosting an event to mark the day on Friday 25 November 2022 at the Frank Hutchings Community Hall,  Thatcham, between 12.30pm and 3.30pm. There will be representatives from organisations such as Age UK Berkshire, West Berkshire Council: Adult Social Care, CommuniCare, Alzheimer’s Society and Dementia Friendly West Berkshire there to offer advice. There is no need to prebook, but if you would like more information click here or contact For further details of this event email [email protected] or call 0118 959 4242.

For more Newbury Town Council news, see their November newsletter here.

Warm spaces for people to visit this winter include St Nic’s Church on Thursday afternoons and  The Fair Close Centre on Newtown Road which has opened a free café for anyone over sixty who is looking for a warm, friendly place to visit during the winter from 9.30am to 11.30am Monday to Friday. The Kennet Christian Centre on Enborne Road is also open every Tuesday from 1pm to 3pm where they will be serving hot drinks and soup free to everyone. For more warm spaces across the area see here.

• We have added more information about support available to get you through the Cost of Living crisis, including tips on how to reduce your home energy bills. And please watch out for any scams that ask you to click to apply for energy rebates – they all happen automatically.

• The latest edition of the Hamstead Hornet, which covers life in the village of Hamstead Marshall, can be seen here. The most recent one (September 2022) covers footpaths, the Garden Society, a vacancy on the Parish Council, a dog looking for a new home, the parish plan, planning applications, forthcoming events and an update from the Parish Council.

Hamstead Marshall Parish Council intends to start a community speedwatch programme: if you’re interested in helping, please contact Anne Budd on 01488 657022 or [email protected].

Christmas

• The run-up to Christmas is really kicking-off this weekend, as Newbury’s Light Switch-On Festival will be happening this Saturday 19 November. The event will last all day, starting from around 10am, with activities all around the town centre. Then after dark you’ll be able to view Newbury’s Christmas lights in all their splendour! Activities around the town include a Santa’s grotto, a living nativity, various street entertainers, Christmas carols and live music, a giant snow-globe photo-op, family-friendly workshops and much more. Click here to read more about the various events and where to find them.

• If that’s not enough Christmas for you this weekend, then the City Arts Newbury’s Artisan Christmas Fair will be running on both Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 November – at the Community Art Hub on Hampton Road. Plus there will also be a Vegan Christmas Market on Sunday at the Market Place, so plenty of Christmas opportunities to enjoy.

Newbury Rotary’s Santa Run will take place on Sunday 27 November from 10am to noon in the Market Place with the choice of either a 1km or 5km route. This event supports local charities including West Berkshire Mencap, West Berkshire Therapy Centre and Time to Talk. It is also an excellent opportunity for participants to obtain sponsorship from friends, colleagues and family to raise funds for their own preferred charities. For all the details including routes and how to register, click here.

• St Nicholas Church’s Winter Season Christmas Concert  and Newbury Sea Cadets Christmas Craft Fair will be on Saturday 3 December.

Revised plans at Watermill Bridge

We’ve covered in the past the plans to build 350 (as it originally was) homes at what would be called Watermill Bridge in Wash Water This is just over the border in Basingstoke & Deane although with obvious consequences for the nearby residents in West Berkshire. The developers, Bewley Homes, have recently submitted a revised plan, now for 270 homes (a link to the documents can be found here, along with ways by which any comments for or against the scheme can be made to Basingstoke & Deane Council). The Enborne River Valley Preservation Society claims in its recent newsletter that “the changes to the application are irrelevant and our objection remains strong, valid and continues to be the voice of the local community.”

The newsletter went on to say that the ERVPS had “immediately commissioned some more advice from our planning consultant, and as a result we submitted to BDBC our response pointing out that all our previous objections, alleging breaches of numerous planning guidelines and policies, were still valid.” You can see the full text of ERVPS’s objection by clicking here.

On 17 November, I contacted Bewley Homes to ask it it had any comment on the latest application and the response from the local pressure group. To be fair, Bewley normally responds fairly quickly. No response has yet been received but we’ll bring you any statement or comment from the company as and when we receive it.

Half time at Eagle Quarter

We mentioned last week (see below) at WBC’s decision to refuse permission for Lochailort’s plans for Eagle Quarter project, which would have turned the Kennet Centre into something very different: too much so, in the views of the planners.

As mentioned, the ball is now in Lochailort’s court. It’s unlikely, given how much skin it has in the game, that matters will rest there. It may decide to appeal or to lodge a new application. We’re currently only at half time in this particular fixture, with both sides applying sticking plaster and liniment and sucking on their orange quarters (if that still happens at half time) before going again. Extra time, penalties and even a replay are not to be ruled out.

We have recently received a comment from The Newbury Society regarding the application’s refusal, which we’re happy to reproduce here verbatim.

“Our main response is one of relief.  A large-scale development which would have been damaging to Newbury has been refused, leaving the opportunity for a future redevelopment of the Kennet Centre which would make a positive change to Newbury – and one which respects the character of the town centre.  The voices of Newbury residents should be heard.

“We see that the “Eagle Quarter” plans have been rejected for several reasons, many of them echoing the views voiced by The Newbury Society back in May 2021; and in spite of two sets of revised plans, they were never really addressed by the developers.  The highest blocks would have been “excessively tall and dominant”; so, among other things, hopefully this will shut the door both to high-rise blocks and to poorly-designed six-storey flats on Newbury’s street frontages. And please, any redevelopment which involves flats should include a significant proportion of affordable housing, and sufficient parking; two things the developers repeatedly resisted.”

Community notices

Thatcham & Newbury Town Ladies & Girls Football Club offers three weeks free as a taster, so if you would like to try it out, email [email protected]

• The Loose Ends drop-in centre in Newbury are currently looking for more volunteers to join their friendly team. Located at Newbury Cricket ground, they offer hot meals and a safe and friendly environment for vulnerable people. More details and how to apply can be found here.

•  All day Connect Group Bus Tickets for up to 4 people (any combination of adults and children) can be bought from the bus driver or via the Newbury & District app on your phone (which also shows in real time where each bus is on its journey so you know how long you have to wait).

• Did you know you can raise concerns with Newbury Town Council at a Saturday Surgery between 10 am and 12 noon any week at the steps of the Town Hall?

If you own a bike, Neighbourhood Watch strongly recommends registering it on the bikeregister.com database as every police force in the country uses it to search for stolen and recovered bikes.

ADS Family Help, who support families of autistic children and adults, host free West Berks Teen Club sessions twice a month, at the Moorside Community Centre. Read more information about the club here.

• If you fancy a natter with free drink and cake, pop along to Newbury’s two friendly community cafes. Educafe Community Cafe is every Wednesday in Newbury Library from 11am to 2pm and Speen Community Cafe is every Wednesday at The Starting Gate Pub from 2pm to 5pm.

Fair Close Centre on Newtown Road in Newbury provides a vital social hub and meals on wheels for over 65s, many of whom live on their own. Please support them here. Goodness knows we might all need their services in years to come.

• The Community Larder at the Waterside Centre is open every Tuesday afternoon to provide members with surplus food, discounts for local businesses, access to other services and support, as well as a friendly community environment. 

•  Newbury Library offers free IT support sessions including filling out online forms, how to Zoom, downloading e-magazines or sorting out pictures. Bookable 30- or 60-minute sessions. To find out more or book a slot, email [email protected].

• Please click here for Hamstead Marshall.net, which provides an excellent round-up of what’s going on in and around the village. This also publishes the quarterly Hamstead Hornet.

Local events and activities

For more information on events and activities across the Penny Post area, see the website calendar.

• Dates for the diary

Sat 19 to Sun 20 Nov City Arts Newbury: Artisan Christmas Fair, Community Art Hub, Hampton Road.

Sat 19 Nov Christmas Light Switch-On Event, Newbury Town Centre.

Sun 20 Nov Sunday Tea Dance, Shaw Social Club.

Fri 25 Nov Carers Rights Day Event, Frank Hutchins Community Hall.

Sat 26 Nov Newbury Symphony Orchestra Winter Concert, St Nicholas Church.

Sat 26 to Sun 27 Nov City Arts Newbury: Artisan Christmas Fair, Community Art Hub, Hampton Road.

Sat 3 Dec Victorian Christmas Fayre, Newbury Town Centre.

Sun 4 Dec Christmas Bazaar, Cats Protection Adoption Centre, Curridge.

Regular events

Knit and Natter on Thursdays from 11am at Brown Paper Loves, Inch’s Yard Newbury.

Chatterday on Saturdays from 11am (bring along your own craft project and join the chat) at Brown Paper Loves, Inch’s Yard Newbury.

Friendly gardening club in the centre of Newbury. See here for how to get involved.

Waterside Centre’s Youth Café every Wednesday evening, during term time, between 4:30pm and 6pm for Years 7 to 13. Contact [email protected].

• Newbury Park Run at Greenham Common at 9am every Saturday morning. Folks of all ages welcome to run/walk/jog the 5km. They also have volunteering opportunities. See details here.

• ACE Space on St Nicholas Road hosts live acoustic performances. Join their Facebook group or follow them on Twitter.

• Newbury Community Larder every Tuesday 2pm to 4pm at the Waterside Centre (down the canal from Costa Coffee on Northbrook Street). For more details please contact [email protected] or call 01635 018500.

Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesdays between 2pm to 5pm. Drop in for a chat or a cuppa, knitting and craft activities. You don’t have to live in Speen to join in. Follow them on facebook here.

Educafe’s Community Cafe at Newbury Library every Wednesday between 11am and 2pm. If you would like to pop along for a friendly chat or to volunteer in the cafe please see their website for more details.

• Berkshire Youth‘s Waterside Centre in Newbury hosts various clubs and activities for local children and can provide volunteering opportunities for adults too.

 The Base, Greenham organise many artistic-focused events for people of all ages to let their creative sides go wild.

News from your local council

Note: “the most recent meeting” refers to the most recent one for which minutes (in some cases draft) or some other summary is available. Other meetings may have taken place since. Some councils publish minutes more promptly than do others.

Many councils do not hold meetings in August and many postponed their September meeting following the Queen’s death. 

• The most recent meeting of Newbury Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 8 August and you can download the minutes here. Items covered included: questions from members of the public; questions from members; Community United; the tree canopy; and the Community Café. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) Items covered included: ownership of public areas at Sandleford (see also The common parts above); the Mayor’s report; the CEO’s report; committee reports; the nomination of the Mayor and Deputy and of the Leader and Deputy; and formal matters.
To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 12 October and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: financial matters; grant awards; a report from ward member Lynne Doherty; a report from the Planning and Highways Committee; speeding; the Parish Improvement Plan; and repairs and maintenance.
To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 12 October and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: planning matters; financial matters; Greenham Control Tower; waste management; access to the Common; and repairs and maintenance work.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 11 October and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: planning matters; financial matters; defibrillator training; the Chieveley Traffic Group; rights of way; signage; Tommy memorials; repairs and maintenance work; and the playground project.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here to download the meeting schedule. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 26 September and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 26 September and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 21 September and you can read the minutes here
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Hamstead Marshall Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 21 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here. To see minutes, please click here.

• Newbury area council contacts

Parishes: Newbury Town CouncilGreenham Parish CouncilChieveley Parish CouncilEnborne Parish CouncilBoxford Parish CouncilSpeen Parish Council,  Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council, and Hamstead Marshall Parish Council.

West Berkshire Council: click here to visit the website.

News from other areas

Penny Post area – please see the following separate sections: Hungerford area; Lambourn ValleyThatcham area; Compton and DownlandsBurghfield area; Wantage area; Marlborough area.

News and views from across the area and beyond: please see the most recent Weekly News with Brian column.

Thursday 10 November 2022

This week we cover Educafé on the short-list, cuts at the Watermill, Remembrance Day services, Carers’ Rights Day and Newbury’s neighbourhood development plan. We also take a close look at the recent refusal of planning permission for the proposed Eagle Quarter redevelopment of the Kennet Centre, go through the reasons given by the planning officers and ask what the next step for the shopping centre might be (and offer a proposed solution) – plus our usual round-up of other local news, local events and activities and news from your local councils.

This week’s news

This Sunday 13 November the Remembrance Sunday Parade & Service will be stepping off at 10.30am from Pelican Lane and marching the length of Northbrook Street turning into Mansion House Street. Once there, Mayor of Newbury, Gary Norman, will take the salute prior to continuing to the Market Place where the Remembrance Service will take place. Everyone is welcome to attend the event taking. For more information click here.

The Watermill Theatre thanks everyone who has voiced their support in response to their 100% funding cut from Arts Council England. They say that the most practical thing supports can do right now is to make a donation at watermill.org.uk/donate_now or become a Friend. The theatre’s Christmas Fair is this Friday 11 November, from 10.00am to 2.30pm. There’ll be theatre tours, shopping, refreshments, festive family activities and more.

Great news for bus users. Following on from successful free bus travel last Christmas, this Easter and for the Platinum Jubilee celebrations, bus journeys starting in West Berkshire, and the return journey if going beyond the West Berkshire border, will be free all day on several allocated days in November and December. As well as being able to get around West Berkshire, free bus travel is available to Reading, Basingstoke and Swindon. For more information click here. As part of this scheme West Berks Council is offering a Free Christmas Shopper Bus Service for villages, including Cold Ash and Bucklebury, that don’t have a public bus service on Saturdays in the run up to Christmas, starting Saturday 19 November. To book your seat and request a shopping destination of your choice, please contact 01635 551111 or email [email protected]. See here for more details.

• As mentioned previously, Newbury’s neighbourhood development plan (NDP) is still at a fairly stage: this means that you can still influence the matters that it covers. Click here for a post we’ve recently published which included a map of the designated area, links to sources of further information about NDPs and news of a survey which the steering group has launched: this is an opportunity for you to share your views and help to shape the future of Newbury. The results will be used to help guide and finalise the vision and objectives for the NDP. Please respond to this by the end of November.

So week two into the new food waste collection scheme and we forgot that the food caddy was collected weekly so we didn’t put it out…hope you did better than us. Luckily we have a home compost as well so a lot can go into that.  Quick reminder that you don’t have to put your food waste in the green bags (it can go straight in the caddy which is easy to rinse out) and the lovefoodhatewaste.com website has great ideas about how you can reduce food waste.

Educafé Community Café based at Newbury Library has been shortlisted for The People Award 2022 that celebrates creative and enterprising ways to help improve the local community. The winning organisation will receive £5000 to support their community. Please vote for them here by 20 November.

Each year Carers Rights Day brings organisations together to help carers know their rights and find out how to get the help and support they are entitled to. The Reading & West Berkshire Carers Partnership will be hosting an event to mark the day on Friday 25 November 2022 at the Frank Hutchings Community Hall,  Thatcham, between 12.30pm and 3.30pm. There will be representatives from organisations such as Age UK Berkshire, West Berkshire Council: Adult Social Care, CommuniCare, Alzheimer’s Society and Dementia Friendly West Berkshire there to offer advice. There is no need to prebook, but if you would like more information click here or contact For further details of this event email [email protected] or call 0118 959 4242.

For more Newbury Town Council news, see their November newsletter here.

Warm spaces for people to visit this winter include St Nic’s Church on Thursday afternoons and  The Fair Close Centre on Newtown Road which has opened a free café for anyone over sixty who is looking for a warm, friendly place to visit during the winter from 9.30am to 11.30am Monday to Friday. The Kennet Christian Centre on Enborne Road is also open every Tuesday from 1pm to 3pm where they will be serving hot drinks and soup free to everyone. For more warm spaces across the area see here.

Donations of woodworking tools (hand and electrical) are requested by the new Men’s Shed at The Fair Close Centre on Newtown Road in Newbury. If you have any spare tools that can be upcycled or re-homed, please drop them off at the Community Furniture Project. There will be a Tool Sale to raise funds for the centre on Saturday 10 December at The Fair Close Centre.

Due to patient feedback, the way you book an appointment at Strawberry Hill Medical Centre is changing. They are reverting to the pre-pandemic system for doctor appointments with the exception that they will continue to offer a range of appointment types (face-to-face, telephone, text). You can still use their website to request repeat prescriptions, request an appointment with the nurses or for routine health reviews, request a sick/fit note, ask for blood test results and cancel appointments.

• We have added more information about support available to get you through the Cost of Living crisis, including tips on how to reduce your home energy bills. And please watch out for any scams that ask you to click to apply for energy rebates – they all happen automatically.

• The latest edition of the Hamstead Hornet, which covers life in the village of Hamstead Marshall, can be seen here. The most recent one (September 2022) covers footpaths, the Garden Society, a vacancy on the Parish Council, a dog looking for a new home, the parish plan, planning applications, forthcoming events and an update from the Parish Council.

Hamstead Marshall Parish Council intends to start a community speedwatch programme: if you’re interested in helping, please contact Anne Budd on 01488 657022 or [email protected].

Christmas

• St Nicholas Church’s Winter Season Christmas Concert  and Newbury Sea Cadets Christmas Craft Fair will be on Saturday 3 December.

• Newbury Market Place will be home to the Vegan Christmas Market on Sunday 20 November.

The Eagle has left the building (for now at least)

On 4 November, WBC’s planners decided to refuse the application for the re-development of the Kennet Centre as “Eagle Quarter”. You can see all the documents relating to the application, including the decision notice, by clicking here.

The officers gave nine reasons for their decision, any one of which on its own might have been sufficient. These were (1) the “failure to demonstrate that there are no suitable and available alternative sites at a lower risk of flooding”, known as a sequential test; (2) an “overpowering and dominant” design; (3) the lack of affordable housing; (4) the small size of the flats; (5) not enough open space; (6) surface-water issues; (7) traffic issues; (8) insufficient parking spaces; and (9) an adverse effect on proposed public-transport improvement schemes.

A spokesperson for Lochailort said that they were “very disappointed” by the decision. Andy Moore, one of the two WBC ward members, said that he was “grateful that the officers had looked carefully at the responses, particularly concerning heritage and conservation.” Other reactions will doubtless follow, ranging between these two in their sentiments.

This is unlikely be the last we hear of this. Lochailort will probably either appeal or submit a fresh application: indeed, it may already have the outline in the desk drawer in case of this verdict. If a new application is to be lodged, the developers may wait until after the election on 4 May. Officers are, of course, apolitical and do not come and go at the whims of the electorate. However, a new council (possibly of a different political complexion) may have new policies. It will also then be clearer what will be in the local plan. This will be officially presented to WBC’s Full Council on 1 December and a regulation 19 consultation period of up to seven weeks will follow.

This decision leaves the problem of what will happen to the Kennet Centre. It’s currently a bit like a sick animal – everyone knows it’s going to get put down but no one can agree what is the best way of doing this, nor what kind of animal is going to replace it. As it stands, it’s probably un-rentable and un-saleable, as well as being (certainly with this application) un-developable.

I have some sympathy with Lochailort on this. I felt that, although the size was considerable, it’s not much bigger than Parkway, and a lot easier on the eye. The sustainable features were creditable. The scale was ambitious, the opening up of a new street imaginative and the design attractive. However, it was on these grounds of scale, heritage and conservation that many of the objections were based and these formed the largest sections in the decision notice.

I am rather doubtful that the “market town” personality of Newbury to which many of these objections referred could ever be returned to (that possibility was largely shot when the Kennet Centre was built in the 1970s), even if it ever existed. The developer’s use of the heritage card, however, seems to have had no effect. Point 2 of the refusal reasons dismissed the connection with the commercial past use of the site which the application had stressed, and which inspired the proposed new name of Eagle Quarter. “Development of the scale and height proposed,” the document says, “would…introduce a false narrative of Newbury’s ‘industrial’ past.”

It’s hard to know what to make of this, except to wonder if it was accidentally copied and pasted from a review of a magical-realism novel. That was then; this is now. We need to respect and be aware of the past but not slavishly to emulate it – and I speak as someone with a history degree. Plenty of buildings offend this principle. In any case, “Eagle Quarter” is just a name. Perhaps the developers are now wishing they hadn’t proposed this connection at all.

So – what will happen to the poor old KC? I have one suggestion.

It’s often said that there’s a need for commercial space with short leases and flexible terms for start-ups, pop-up shops, pop-up restaurants, hot-desking workspaces and the like. Neither WBC nor Newbury TC can help satisfy this unless this is using property that it owns or controls. The private-sector exists to make money and so wants to charge the highest possible rents on the longest possible leases, all secured with personal guarantees.

So, WBC and/or NTC could offer Lochailort a fixed sum for a year’s lease on any empty units in the Kennet Centre and see if these can be used to help provide these kind of spaces. If it works, and unless things have changed with the application and the bulldozers have moved in, it can be extended.

The advantage for Lochailort is that it will have at least get some revenue from these empty units and will have the centre being a bit more buzzy. It will also serve to test the proposition, which forms part of its plans, that such spaces should exist in the new development.

The advantage for WBC and NTC is that they will at least have tried to do something, and hopefully succeeded, and so go some way to satisfying some of the ambitions identified in last year’s Newbury Masterplan.

Something different and imaginative is certainly needed. The alternative may be that we all watch this un-loved, unlovely but still functional building slide into darkness and dereliction. From this situation, rats, pigeons and arsonists are likely to be only beneficiaries.

Community notices

Thatcham & Newbury Town Ladies & Girls Football Club offers three weeks free as a taster, so if you would like to try it out, email [email protected]

• The Loose Ends drop-in centre in Newbury are currently looking for more volunteers to join their friendly team. Located at Newbury Cricket ground, they offer hot meals and a safe and friendly environment for vulnerable people. More details and how to apply can be found here.

•  All day Connect Group Bus Tickets for up to 4 people (any combination of adults and children) can be bought from the bus driver or via the Newbury & District app on your phone (which also shows in real time where each bus is on its journey so you know how long you have to wait).

• Did you know you can raise concerns with Newbury Town Council at a Saturday Surgery between 10 am and 12 noon any week at the steps of the Town Hall?

If you own a bike, Neighbourhood Watch strongly recommends registering it on the bikeregister.com database as every police force in the country uses it to search for stolen and recovered bikes.

ADS Family Help, who support families of autistic children and adults, host free West Berks Teen Club sessions twice a month, at the Moorside Community Centre. Read more information about the club here.

• If you fancy a natter with free drink and cake, pop along to Newbury’s two friendly community cafes. Educafe Community Cafe is every Wednesday in Newbury Library from 11am to 2pm and Speen Community Cafe is every Wednesday at The Starting Gate Pub from 2pm to 5pm.

Fair Close Centre on Newtown Road in Newbury provides a vital social hub and meals on wheels for over 65s, many of whom live on their own. Please support them here. Goodness knows we might all need their services in years to come.

• The Community Larder at the Waterside Centre is open every Tuesday afternoon to provide members with surplus food, discounts for local businesses, access to other services and support, as well as a friendly community environment. 

•  Newbury Library offers free IT support sessions including filling out online forms, how to Zoom, downloading e-magazines or sorting out pictures. Bookable 30- or 60-minute sessions. To find out more or book a slot, email [email protected].

• Please click here for Hamstead Marshall.net, which provides an excellent round-up of what’s going on in and around the village. This also publishes the quarterly Hamstead Hornet.

Local events and activities

For more information on events and activities across the Penny Post area, see the website calendar.

• Dates for the diary

Fri 11 Nov Watermill Christmas Fair, Watermill Theatre.

Sun 13 Nov Remembrance Parade and Service, Northbrook Street and Market Place.

Sat 19 to Sun 20 Nov City Arts Newbury: Artisan Christmas Fair, Community Art Hub, Hampton Road.

Sat 19 Nov Christmas Light Switch-On Event, Newbury Town Centre.

Sun 20 Nov Sunday Tea Dance, Shaw Social Club.

Fri 25 Nov Carers Rights Day Event, Frank Hutchins Community Hall.

Sat 26 Nov Newbury Symphony Orchestra Winter Concert, St Nicholas Church.

Sat 26 to Sun 27 Nov City Arts Newbury: Artisan Christmas Fair, Community Art Hub, Hampton Road.

Sat 3 Dec Victorian Christmas Fayre, Newbury Town Centre.

Sun 4 Dec Christmas Bazaar, Cats Protection Adoption Centre, Curridge.

Regular events

Knit and Natter on Thursdays from 11am at Brown Paper Loves, Inch’s Yard Newbury.

Chatterday on Saturdays from 11am (bring along your own craft project and join the chat) at Brown Paper Loves, Inch’s Yard Newbury.

Friendly gardening club in the centre of Newbury. See here for how to get involved.

Waterside Centre’s Youth Café every Wednesday evening, during term time, between 4:30pm and 6pm for Years 7 to 13. Contact [email protected].

• Newbury Park Run at Greenham Common at 9am every Saturday morning. Folks of all ages welcome to run/walk/jog the 5km. They also have volunteering opportunities. See details here.

• ACE Space on St Nicholas Road hosts live acoustic performances. Join their Facebook group or follow them on Twitter.

• Newbury Community Larder every Tuesday 2pm to 4pm at the Waterside Centre (down the canal from Costa Coffee on Northbrook Street). For more details please contact [email protected] or call 01635 018500.

Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesdays between 2pm to 5pm. Drop in for a chat or a cuppa, knitting and craft activities. You don’t have to live in Speen to join in. Follow them on facebook here.

Educafe’s Community Cafe at Newbury Library every Wednesday between 11am and 2pm. If you would like to pop along for a friendly chat or to volunteer in the cafe please see their website for more details.

• Berkshire Youth‘s Waterside Centre in Newbury hosts various clubs and activities for local children and can provide volunteering opportunities for adults too.

 The Base, Greenham organise many artistic-focused events for people of all ages to let their creative sides go wild.

News from your local council

Note: “the most recent meeting” refers to the most recent one for which minutes (in some cases draft) or some other summary is available. Other meetings may have taken place since. Some councils publish minutes more promptly than do others.

Many councils do not hold meetings in August and many postponed their September meeting following the Queen’s death. 

• The most recent meeting of Newbury Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 8 August and you can download the minutes here. Items covered included: questions from members of the public; questions from members; Community United; the tree canopy; and the Community Café. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) Items covered included: ownership of public areas at Sandleford (see also The common parts above); the Mayor’s report; the CEO’s report; committee reports; the nomination of the Mayor and Deputy and of the Leader and Deputy; and formal matters.
To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 12 October and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: financial matters; grant awards; a report from ward member Lynne Doherty; a report from the Planning and Highways Committee; speeding; the Parish Improvement Plan; and repairs and maintenance.
To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 11 October and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: planning matters; financial matters; defibrillator training; the Chieveley Traffic Group; rights of way; signage; Tommy memorials; repairs and maintenance work; and the playground project.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here to download the meeting schedule. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 26 September and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 26 September and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 21 September and you can read the minutes here
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 10 August and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Hamstead Marshall Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 21 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here. To see minutes, please click here.

• Newbury area council contacts

Parishes: Newbury Town CouncilGreenham Parish CouncilChieveley Parish CouncilEnborne Parish CouncilBoxford Parish CouncilSpeen Parish Council,  Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council, and Hamstead Marshall Parish Council.

West Berkshire Council: click here to visit the website.

News from other areas

Penny Post area – please see the following separate sections: Hungerford area; Lambourn ValleyThatcham area; Compton and DownlandsBurghfield area; Wantage area; Marlborough area.

News and views from across the area and beyond: please see the most recent Weekly News with Brian column.

Thursday 27 October 2022

This week we cover an open day, men’s sheds, wildflowers, fireworks, warm spaces and model railways. We also highlight a survey from the Newbury neighbourhood development plan steering group, provide the latest news about the 2023 Newbury Show and nip across the county line to take a look at the proposed Watermill Bridge development. The long-running planning application at The Bell in Boxford has also reached a conclusion and we look at some of the aspects of this, including pollution, planting and planning conditions. As usual, we also have our usual round-up of other local news, local events and activities and news from your local councils.

This week’s news

This Saturday 29 October, Blake Ludwig from Newbury Friends of the Earth is leading an Introduction to Ancient Trees Walk at Donnington Castle. Blake will introduce you to one of our ancient oaks, and in the process introduce you to using the Woodland Trust’s Ancient Tree Inventory and what we will need to look out for in cataloguing any trees we may find in the future. See here for more details.

Quick reminder about the new kerbside food waste collection starting next week (see here for a reminder of how it works and why it is being introduced). Over 100 local primary school children submitted name suggestions for the new food waste collection vehicles and the winners to look out for are: The Hungry Recycler, Composter Clemmie, Sir Andy Curry, Betty Banana, Food Feaster 2.0, Garbage Gobbler, Pikachew and Eva Egg Shell.

• There’s no shortage of family activities to do this weekend. The Newbury Model Railway Exhibition is at St Barts on Saturday 29 October, from 10am to 4:30pm with demonstrations, refreshments and trade stands. Little ones can enjoy some Inflatable Fun over at the Kennet Centre on now until the Saturday 29 October. This Sunday 30 October, there’s a spooky Halloween at the Cemetery event in Newbury’s Newtown Road Cemetery Chapel suitable for 6 to 16 year olds and a Family Spooky Print Workshop at City Arts Newbury. There are also Scarecrow Trails in East Ilsey at the Swan and also one at Woolton Hill.

• While on Sunday is the rescheduled Newbury Town Hall Open Day, from 10am to 2pm. Visitors will be able to view the Council Chamber, the Civic Staircase, the Town Hall portraits and other civic regalia, as well as displays of community projects and talks from a local historian. More details can be found here.

• Important reminder from ARK (Action for the River Kennet) that although it’s late October and we have had some rain, we are still in drought conditions with a hosepipe ban. And yet somehow our household usage is higher than normal. Thames Water are applying for licenses to extract water from local rivers which would be really harmful to wildlife so let’s all please save as much water in our homes as possible. The more water that is tied up in our houses and sewage systems, the less is in rivers, canals, ponds and lakes – as we must remember that we all share the same supply of the wet stuff.

• Earlier this month, The Retreat, Elcot Park between Newbury and Hungerford won the Best Hotel Interior Renovation Award. You can see for yourself how gorgeous the hotel now is if you pop along to their free Saturday evening music session with our favourite Scampy duo from 6pm to 8pm at The Atlas Room or their monthly farmers market this Sunday from 10am to 2pm in The Courtyard.

Warm spaces for people to visit this winter include The Fair Close Centre on Newtown Road which has opened a free café for anyone over sixty who is looking for a warm, friendly place to visit during the winter from 9.30am to 11.30am Monday to Friday. The Kennet Christian Centre on Enborne Road is also open every Tuesday from 1pm to 3pm where they will be serviing hot drinks and soup free to everyone.

Donations of woodworking tools (hand and electrical) are requested by the new Men’s Shed at The Fair Close Centre on Newtown Road in Newbury. If you have any spare tools that can be upcycled or re-homed, please drop them off at the Community Furniture Project. There will be a Tool Sale to raise funds for the centre on Saturday 10 December at The Fair Close Centre.

Congratulations to the Watermill Theatre for the success of its costume jumble sale last weekend of old costumes and props that raised an amazing £3,000 and gave lots of old costumes a second lease of life. Funds raised from the sale will go towards the Bangor theatre, help support upcoming shows such as Notes from a Small Island and The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, both coming to stage in 2023. Over 250 people reportedly went along to bag a bargain. More on this story in the NewburyToday.

West Berkshire Community Hospital League of Friends is asking for donations of unwanted books and jigsaw puzzles (complete sets only: no missing pieces please) in aid of new equipment and services for the hospital. Any donations can be dropped off at the hospital, at the book table by reception.

A reminder that Newbury Town Council is inviting volunteers to help create a micro-wildflower meadow on the small area of land next to the garages near to the Ladybirds Preschool from 10am on Saturday 5 November. If you would like to help plant the bulbs and wildflower seeds, they will be starting from there and progressing along the edges and around the trees, through the footpaths of Culver Road and Three Acre Road. If you would like to get involved please contact James Heasman, the Town Council’s Parks and Open Spaces Supervisor on [email protected].

• Quick reminder that the Newbury Lions Annual Charity Firework display at Newbury Racecourse will be on Saturday 5 November. Tickets must be pre-bought this year for safety reasons, so please get your tickets on eventbrite, the Newbury and Thatcham Tesco branches, Newbury Building Society branches in Newbury, Thatcham and Hungerford and at the Lions market stalls in Newbury on 29 October.

• We have added more information about support available to get you through the Cost of Living crisis, including tips on how to reduce your home energy bills. And please watch out for any scams that ask you to click to apply for energy rebates – they all happen automatically.

• The latest edition of the Hamstead Hornet, which covers life in the village of Hamstead Marshall, can be seen here. The most recent one (September 2022) covers footpaths, the Garden Society, a vacancy on the Parish Council, a dog looking for a new home, the parish plan, planning applications, forthcoming events and an update from the Parish Council.

Hamstead Marshall Parish Council intends to start a community speedwatch programme: if you’re interested in helping, please contact Anne Budd on 01488 657022 or [email protected].

The Watermill Theatre will be holding its Christmas Fair on Friday 11 November, from 10am to 2:30pm. There’ll be theatre tours, shopping, refreshments, festive family activities and more. Click here to book your place in advance. Click here for more information.

Newbury’s plan

Newbury’s neighbourhood development plan (NDP) is still at a fairly stage: this means that you can still influence the matters that it covers.

Click here for a post we’ve recently published which included a map of the designated area, links to sources of further information about NDPs and news of a survey which the steering group has launched: this is an opportunity for you to share your views and help to shape the future of Newbury. The results will be used to help guide and finalise the vision and objectives for the NDP. Please respond to this by the end of November.

A sequential test

We’ve mentioned the application at Watermill Bridge in Wash Water several times (most recently in the 13 October edition of this column, which you can see here). The planning application 21/03394/OUT can be viewed here. This is just across the state line in Basingstoke and Deane, although all the effects of the planned development will be felt in West Berkshire.

It has been suggested that one of the things which should have happened, and which so far hasn’t is a sequential test. This is defined by Gov.uk as “comparing the site you’re proposing to develop with other available sites to find out which has the lowest flood risk.” The same page goes on to say that a sequential test must be done if both of two two conditions are met: (a) that the development is in flood zone 2 or 3 ; and (b) that a sequential test hasn’t already been done for a development of the type envisaged on the proposed site. It’s possible that a sequential test has already been done but one person to whom I spoke said they felt this was unlikely as they didn’t think the site had ever been considered for development before. Point (a), however, certainly does apply.

A nine-page submission from the Environment Agency dated 5 July (which can be found with the other documents on Basingstoke and Deane’s planning portal) offers the planning authority some advice about the test: “In accordance with the National Planning Policy Framework (paragraph 162), development in flood risk areas should not be permitted if there are reasonably available alternative sites, appropriate for the proposed development, in areas with a lower risk of flooding. The sequential test establishes if this is the case. Development is in a flood risk area if it is in Flood Zone 2 or 3, or it is within Flood Zone 1 and your strategic flood risk assessment shows it to be at future flood risk or at risk from other sources of flooding such as surface water or groundwater.”

This is a matter that Basingstoke ands Deane and the developer, Bewley Homes, will need to thrash out between them. However, if one were needed it seems odd that this wasn’t one of the first documents demanded: failure on this would probably be enough to kill the project in which casein would have been good to know this sooner rather later to save everyone’s time and money. Even if. sequential test isn’t required – or is and the site passes it – it’s unlikely that those who are objecting because of the possible flooding risk – from surface- and groundwater – will be completely placated.

I have no particular view on the development personally. I’ve spoken to Bewley and to the opponents and can see that both are passionate about believing that their point of view is correct. I have tried to represent both each time I cover it. One of my main interests in the matter was to cover the various sustainable features which the applicant has promised and see, if the site is built out, how many of these (hopefully all) become reality. There’s a long way to go first, however. The matter will eventually be decided by Basingstoke and Deane’s planning committee: though when this will happen is anyone’s guess. It seems unlikely to be this year.

The Newbury Show 2023

It appears that the plans for the 2023 event (the first time it will have been held since 2019) were now all but settled. A board meeting of NADAS will be taking place soon to confirm these and an announcement is promised very early in November. Depending on what’s decided, the Show may not run on all three of the dates (15, 16 and 17 September) previously suggested. Once this has been signed off, I imagine that work will need to begin more or less immediately on preparing for the event (much preparatory work has already been done). Projects of this size take the best part of a year to plan, particularly after a two-year hiatus and as changes would need to be made to its scope and scale.

For more information on this, please see this separate post.

Another round at The Bell

The planning application for rebuilding The Bell in Boxford has recently been approved, at the second time of asking. In this separate post we take a look at the nutrient neutrality regulations which have featured so prominently in this story (which we’ve covered several times: see the archive section, a link to which can be found at the foot of the post). We also consider the planning conditions that have been imposed and whether or not there’s a better and more collaborative way that these can be specified. This also leads on to some thoughts about how we can learn from consents which have not produced the hoped-for results (and there are a few of those) to reduce the chance of their being repeated elsewhere.

It’s impossible to say when the first pints might be pulled there. Any discussions about the conditions could take months before a spade is put in the ground. It’s certainly going to cost more than it would have done were it to have been approved first time round in the spring. I certainly look forward ro seeing the results. Judging by the numerous letters of support on the planning portal, a good number of Boxford’s residents would seem to agree.

Community notices

Thatcham & Newbury Town Ladies & Girls Football Club offers three weeks free as a taster, so if you would like to try it out, email [email protected]

• The Loose Ends drop-in centre in Newbury are currently looking for more volunteers to join their friendly team. Located at Newbury Cricket ground, they offer hot meals and a safe and friendly environment for vulnerable people. More details and how to apply can be found here.

•  All day Connect Group Bus Tickets for up to 4 people (any combination of adults and children) can be bought from the bus driver or via the Newbury & District app on your phone (which also shows in real time where each bus is on its journey so you know how long you have to wait).

• Did you know you can raise concerns with Newbury Town Council at a Saturday Surgery between 10 am and 12 noon any week at the steps of the Town Hall?

If you own a bike, Neighbourhood Watch strongly recommends registering it on the bikeregister.com database as every police force in the country uses it to search for stolen and recovered bikes.

ADS Family Help, who support families of autistic children and adults, host free West Berks Teen Club sessions twice a month, at the Moorside Community Centre. Read more information about the club here.

• If you fancy a natter with free drink and cake, pop along to Newbury’s two friendly community cafes. Educafe Community Cafe is every Wednesday in Newbury Library from 11am to 2pm and Speen Community Cafe is every Wednesday at The Starting Gate Pub from 2pm to 5pm.

Fair Close Centre on Newtown Road in Newbury provides a vital social hub and meals on wheels for over 65s, many of whom live on their own. Please support them here. Goodness knows we might all need their services in years to come.

• The Community Larder at the Waterside Centre is open every Tuesday afternoon to provide members with surplus food, discounts for local businesses, access to other services and support, as well as a friendly community environment. 

•  Newbury Library offers free IT support sessions including filling out online forms, how to Zoom, downloading e-magazines or sorting out pictures. Bookable 30- or 60-minute sessions. To find out more or book a slot, email [email protected].

• Please click here for Hamstead Marshall.net, which provides an excellent round-up of what’s going on in and around the village. This also publishes the quarterly Hamstead Hornet.

Local events and activities

For more information on events and activities across the Penny Post area, see the website calendar.

• Dates for the diary

On now until Sat 29 Oct Festival of Frights, various events around Newbury Town Centre.

On now until Sun 30 Oct Wash Common Scarecrow Hunt, Collect map from Co-Op on Essex Street.

Sat 29 Oct Model Railway Exhibition, St Bartholomew’s School.

Sat 29 Oct Halloween Summer, The Retreat, Elcot Park.

Sat 29 to Sun 30 Oct Celebration Exhibition by the Market Square Quilters, Newbury College.

• Sun 30 Oct Newbury Town Hall Open Day, Newbury Town Hall, Market Square.

Sat 5 Nov Newbury Lions Fireworks, Newbury Racecourse.

Sat 5 Nov Installing Micro-Wildflower Meadow, near Ladybirds Preschool, Culver Road and Three Acre Road.

Regular events

Knit and Natter on Thursdays from 11am at Brown Paper Loves, Inch’s Yard Newbury.

Chatterday on Saturdays from 11am (bring along your own craft project and join the chat) at Brown Paper Loves, Inch’s Yard Newbury.

Friendly gardening club in the centre of Newbury. See here for how to get involved.

• Newbury Park Run at Greenham Common at 9am every Saturday morning. Folks of all ages welcome to run/walk/jog the 5km. They also have volunteering opportunities. See details here.

• ACE Space on St Nicholas Road hosts live acoustic performances. Join their Facebook group or follow them on Twitter.

• Newbury Community Larder every Tuesday 2pm to 4pm at the Waterside Centre (down the canal from Costa Coffee on Northbrook Street). For more details please contact [email protected] or call 01635 018500.

Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesdays between 2pm to 5pm. Drop in for a chat or a cuppa, knitting and craft activities. You don’t have to live in Speen to join in. Follow them on facebook here.

Educafe’s Community Cafe at Newbury Library every Wednesday between 11am and 2pm. If you would like to pop along for a friendly chat or to volunteer in the cafe please see their website for more details.

• Berkshire Youth‘s Waterside Centre in Newbury hosts various clubs and activities for local children and can provide volunteering opportunities for adults too.

 The Base, Greenham organise many artistic-focused events for people of all ages to let their creative sides go wild.

News from your local council

Note: “the most recent meeting” refers to the most recent one for which minutes (in some cases draft) or some other summary is available. Other meetings may have taken place since. Some councils publish minutes more promptly than do others.

Many councils do not hold meetings in August and many postponed their September meeting following the Queen’s death. 

• The most recent meeting of Newbury Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 8 August and you can download the minutes here. Items covered included: questions from members of the public; questions from members; Community United; the tree canopy; and the Community Café. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) Items covered included: ownership of public areas at Sandleford (see also The common parts above); the Mayor’s report; the CEO’s report; committee reports; the nomination of the Mayor and Deputy and of the Leader and Deputy; and formal matters.
To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 11 October and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: planning matters; financial matters; defibrillator training; the Chieveley Traffic Group; rights of way; signage; Tommy memorials; repairs and maintenance work; and the playground project.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here to download the meeting schedule. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 26 September and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: planning matters; financial matters; speeding; litter; and the co-option of a new member.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 21 September and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: various matters arising from the previous meeting; speeding; trees; planning matters; loud motor cycles; financial matters; parish newsletters; and repairs and maintenance. 
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 10 August and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 27 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Hamstead Marshall Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 21 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here. To see minutes, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 4 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• Newbury area council contacts

Parishes: Newbury Town CouncilGreenham Parish CouncilChieveley Parish CouncilEnborne Parish CouncilBoxford Parish CouncilSpeen Parish Council,  Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council, and Hamstead Marshall Parish Council.

West Berkshire Council: click here to visit the website.

News from other areas

Penny Post area – please see the following separate sections: Hungerford area; Lambourn ValleyThatcham area; Compton and DownlandsBurghfield area; Wantage area; Marlborough area.

News and views from across the area and beyond: please see the most recent Weekly News with Brian column.

Thursday 20 October 2022

This week we cover allotments, a larder, a league of friends, fireworks and wildflowers. We also take a look at the funding provided for WBC’s library service and, not for the first time, refer to the twin problems of Newbury’s football grounds and the London Road Industrial Estate.  As usual, we also have our usual round-up of other local news, local events and activities and news from your local councils.

This week’s news

Click here (and scroll down to Across the area) for news of West Berkshire Council’s Library Service, new food recycling arrangements, a service of thanksgiving, political invective, a paint-recycling initiative and the cost of living hub.

• Congratulations to the various winners of the Newbury’s ‘Best Kept Allotment’ awards. The awards were presented at the Town Hall Chamber on the evening of Thursday 13 October, by the Mayor of Newbury, Cllr Gary Norman, and Chair of the Town Council’s Community Services Committee, Cllr Sarah Slack, to tenants who were judged to have kept the best allotment plots on each site. This year 19 awards were given out, including ‘Best Newcomer’, ‘Best Plot’, ‘Best Schools Plot’ and ‘Best Site Overall’. For a full list of winners, check out the full article on Newbury Town Council’s website here.

West Berkshire Community Hospital League of Friends are currently asking for donations of unwanted books and jigsaw puzzles (complete sets only – no missing pieces please) in aid of new equipment and services for the hospital. Any donations can be dropped off at West Berks Community Hospital, at the book table by reception.

The Waterside Community Larder will be closed next Tuesday 25 October, due to half term. It will next be open on Tuesday 1 November, 2pm to 4pm, as usual.

• The Newbury Model Railway Club is holding a Model Railway Exhibition on Saturday 29 October, from 10am to 4:30pm. The event will take place at St Bartholomew’s School and there will be demonstrations, as well as refreshments and trade stands present. More information can be found here.

• The Retreat, Elcot Park are holding a Halloween Supper with guest horror author A.J. West on Saturday 29 October, from 7pm. The event will include a cocktail reception, two-course meal and terrifying tales from the author. All guests will receive a complimentary signed copy of his novel The Spirit Engineer. For ticket prices, menu information and to book your place, click here or call 01635 800520.

ADS Family Help, who support families of autistic children and adults, host free West Berks Teen Club sessions twice a month, at the Moorside Community Centre. The club encourages teenagers with special needs and learning difficulties to socialise and the opportunity to take part in fun activities. A drink and snack are also provided. They also hold a social club for adults once a month. If you or someone you know would be interested in this service, you can read more information about the club here.

Newbury Town Council invites volunteers to help create a micro-wildflower meadow on the small area of land next to the garages near to the Ladybirds Preschool from 10am on Saturday 5 November. If you would like to help plant the bulbs and wildflower seeds, they will be starting from there and progressing along the edges and around the trees, through the footpaths of Culver Road and Three Acre Road. The bulbs will be native species such as daffodils, snowdrops and wild garlic. If you would like to get involved please contact James Heasman, the Town Council’s Parks and Open Spaces Supervisor on [email protected].

• As mentioned previously, Newbury Town Council have rescheduled the Newbury Town Hall Open Day to Sunday 30 October, from 10am to 2pm. Visitors will be able to view the Council Chamber, the Civic Staircase, the Town Hall portraits and other civic regalia, as well as displays of community projects and talks from a local historian. More details can be found here.

• If you fancy a natter with free drink and cake, pop along to Newbury’s two friendly community cafes. Educafe Community Cafe is every Wednesday in Newbury Library from 11am to 2pm and Speen Community Cafe is every Wednesday at The Starting Gate Pub from 2pm to 5pm.

Schools are being invited to participate in a competition to rename the London Road Industrial Estate. It’s depressing to reflect that the only solid achievement there over the last four years is likely to have been accomplished by a child. See this separate article for more on this saga.

Click here to see the October 2022 newsletter from Newbury Town Council.

• Quick reminder that the Newbury Lions Annual Charity Firework display at Newbury Racecourse will be on Saturday 5 November. Tickets must be pre-bought this year for safety reasons, so please get your tickets on eventbrite, the Newbury and Thatcham Tesco branches, Newbury Building Society branches in Newbury, Thatcham and Hungerford and at the Lions market stalls in Newbury on Saturdays 22 and 29 October. Newbury Lions do a lot of good work in the community and if you know anyone who needs help please contact [email protected]

• We have added more information about support available to get you through the Cost of Living crisis, including tips on how to reduce your home energy bills. And please watch out for any scams that ask you to click to apply for energy rebates – they all happen automatically.

• The latest edition of the Hamstead Hornet, which covers life in the village of Hamstead Marshall, can be seen here. The most recent one (September 2022) covers footpaths, the Garden Society, a vacancy on the Parish Council, a dog looking for a new home, the parish plan, planning applications, forthcoming events and an update from the Parish Council.

Hamstead Marshall Parish Council intends to start a community speedwatch programme: if you’re interested in helping, please contact Anne Budd on 01488 657022 or [email protected].

Football coming home?

Neither an edition of Penny Post, nor of the Newbury Weekly News, would be complete without a reference to the continuing saga of the football grounds in Newbury, one of which (at Faraday Road) has been closed since June 2018 and the other one (at Mon’s Lane) has yet to be built.

This week’s NWN has on p4 an article setting out the policies of the two opposition parties in West Berkshire were they to achieve total or shared power in the district following the elections in May 2023. The headline, “opposition vow to return football to Faraday Road” summarises their positions.

I don’t know how many thousands of words I’ve written on this subject, and on the related matter of the Loddon Road Industrial Estate’s re-development. A lot. At present, however, I’ve got nothing to add to this summary I wrote a few weeks ago, A vision, a replacement and a tight corner in Newbury. I’m sure that this will not be the last word on the subject between now and 4 May.

West Berkshire’s Libraries

Back in the mid 2010’s, if you can remember that far back, when lockdown was something that only happened in prisons and a truss was just a surgical or structural support, there was a funding crisis and West Berkshire Council took the decision to close all its libraries apart from the one at Newbury. The public backlash that followed was considerable and resulted in a third way which WBC seems originally not to have considered, This involved the service partly being provided by local volunteers. Though not ideal, this at least saved all the libraries (Wash Common’s is in a slightly different situation). Many would argue that maintaining a comprehensive service is a statutory responsibility and that this should be properly funded. WBC may argue that the money simply isn’t there and that this is best compromise (albeit one that the then administration didn’t initially propose). Both points of view have their merits.

The question of how the service was to be funded came up again in 2017-18 when WBC suggested that every parish pay a voluntary levy based on £1 per person per year towards the cost of the Library Service. Some were concerned by the precedent that this would set for the district asking parishes to contribute to the cost of services it should be running itself. There were also fears (which proved unjustified) that residents of non-contributing parishes would be denied some services. A thin edge of the wedge was also detected: where, some asked, might this end? Would there be similar levies to cover social care, refuse collection or pothole repairs?

The levy in fact proved pretty popular, at it height producing about £100,000pa, roughly 10% of the Library Service’s budget. However, the two largest contributors, Newbury and Thtacham, have recently decided that their contributions should wither be conditional or reduced. This has led to an open letter to Thatcham Town Council from portfolio holder Howard Woollaston and fellow Executive-member (and Thatcham Town Councillor) Steve Ardagh-Walter.

The letter includes (as well as the predictable reference to playing politics) a veiled threat that, without such payments, it may be necessary to cut services. In fact, Thatcham has for the last two years been making its contributions conditional on the money being spent to enhancements to the service or facilities provided by the town’s library. A TTC councillor told me on 20 October that as no such enhancements were planned by WBC in 2022-23 then no contribution would be made and it feels that the money can better be spent on other projects. As for Newbury, it has been reducing its contributions from c £35,000 in 2019-20 to £10,000 this year and it appears that this will reduce to nothing for next year. Neither of these would have come as as much of a surprise as the tone of the letter appears to suggest.

I have sympathy with WBC’s position. However, the previous levy was created over six years ago to respond to a particular funding crisis. That has now been replaced by another one so perhaps the concept of the contribution needs to be re-sold to the parishes, particularly Newbury and Thatcham whose combined population is about 44% of the district’s. Such levies are not an ideal way to raise funds but can be valuable as a short-term solution. Assuming that they’ll keep going indefinitely may, however, be unrealistic.

Community notices

Thatcham & Newbury Town Ladies & Girls Football Club offers three weeks free as a taster, so if you would like to try it out, email [email protected]

• The Loose Ends drop-in centre in Newbury are currently looking for more volunteers to join their friendly team. Located at Newbury Cricket ground, they offer hot meals and a safe and friendly environment for vulnerable people. More details and how to apply can be found here.

•  All day Connect Group Bus Tickets for up to 4 people (any combination of adults and children) can be bought from the bus driver or via the Newbury & District app on your phone (which also shows in real time where each bus is on its journey so you know how long you have to wait).

• Did you know you can raise concerns with Newbury Town Council at a Saturday Surgery between 10 am and 12 noon any week at the steps of the Town Hall?

If you own a bike, Neighbourhood Watch strongly recommends registering it on the bikeregister.com database as every police force in the country uses it to search for stolen and recovered bikes.

Fair Close Centre on Newtown Road in Newbury provides a vital social hub and meals on wheels for over 65s, many of whom live on their own. Please support them here. Goodness knows we might all need their services in years to come.

• The Community Larder at the Waterside Centre is open every Tuesday afternoon to provide members with surplus food, discounts for local businesses, access to other services and support, as well as a friendly community environment. 

•  Newbury Library offers free IT support sessions including filling out online forms, how to Zoom, downloading e-magazines or sorting out pictures. Bookable 30- or 60-minute sessions. To find out more or book a slot, email [email protected].

• Please click here for Hamstead Marshall.net, which provides an excellent round-up of what’s going on in and around the village. This also publishes the quarterly Hamstead Hornet.

Local events and activities

For more information on events and activities across the Penny Post area, see the website calendar.

• Dates for the diary

Mon 24 to Sun 30 Oct Wash Common Scarecrow Hunt, Collect map from Co-Op on Essex Street.

Wed 26 to Sat 29 Oct Festival of Frights, various events around Newbury Town Centre.

Sat 29 Oct Model Railway Exhibition, St Bartholomew’s School.

Sat 29 Oct Halloween Summer, The Retreat, Elcot Park.

Sat 29 to Sun 30 Oct Celebration Exhibition by the Market Square Quilters, Newbury College.

• Sun 30 Oct Newbury Town Hall Open Day, Newbury Town Hall, Market Square.

Sat 5 Nov Newbury Lions Fireworks, Newbury Racecourse.

Sat 5 Nov Installing Micro-Wildflower Meadow, near Ladybirds Preschool, Culver Road and Three Acre Road.

Regular events

Knit and Natter on Thursdays from 11am at Brown Paper Loves, Inch’s Yard Newbury.

Chatterday on Saturdays from 11am (bring along your own craft project and join the chat) at Brown Paper Loves, Inch’s Yard Newbury.

Friendly gardening club in the centre of Newbury. See here for how to get involved.

• Newbury Park Run at Greenham Common at 9am every Saturday morning. Folks of all ages welcome to run/walk/jog the 5km. They also have volunteering opportunities. See details here.

• ACE Space on St Nicholas Road hosts live acoustic performances. Join their Facebook group or follow them on Twitter.

• Newbury Community Larder every Tuesday 2pm to 4pm at the Waterside Centre (down the canal from Costa Coffee on Northbrook Street). For more details please contact [email protected] or call 01635 018500.

Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesdays between 2pm to 5pm. Drop in for a chat or a cuppa, knitting and craft activities. You don’t have to live in Speen to join in. Follow them on facebook here.

Educafe’s Community Cafe at Newbury Library every Wednesday between 11am and 2pm. If you would like to pop along for a friendly chat or to volunteer in the cafe please see their website for more details.

• Berkshire Youth‘s Waterside Centre in Newbury hosts various clubs and activities for local children and can provide volunteering opportunities for adults too.

 The Base, Greenham organise many artistic-focused events for people of all ages to let their creative sides go wild.

News from your local council

Note: “the most recent meeting” refers to the most recent one for which minutes (in some cases draft) or some other summary is available. Other meetings may have taken place since. Some councils publish minutes more promptly than do others.

Many councils do not hold meetings in August and many postponed their September meeting following the Queen’s death. 

• The most recent meeting of Newbury Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 8 August and you can download the minutes here. Items covered included: questions from members of the public; questions from members; Community United; the tree canopy; and the Community Café. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) Items covered included: ownership of public areas at Sandleford (see also The common parts above); the Mayor’s report; the CEO’s report; committee reports; the nomination of the Mayor and Deputy and of the Leader and Deputy; and formal matters.
To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 26 September and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: planning matters; financial matters; speeding; litter; and the co-option of a new member.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 21 September and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: various matters arising from the previous meeting; speeding; trees; planning matters; loud motor cycles; financial matters; parish newsletters; and repairs and maintenance. 
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 10 August and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 27 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Hamstead Marshall Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 21 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here. To see minutes, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 12 July and you can read the minutes here. There was also an extraordinary meeting on 11 August to consider a planning application, the minutes for which you can read here.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here to download the meeting schedule. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 4 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• Newbury area council contacts

Parishes: Newbury Town CouncilGreenham Parish CouncilChieveley Parish CouncilEnborne Parish CouncilBoxford Parish CouncilSpeen Parish Council,  Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council, and Hamstead Marshall Parish Council.

West Berkshire Council: click here to visit the website.

News from other areas

Penny Post area – please see the following separate sections: Hungerford area; Lambourn ValleyThatcham area; Compton and DownlandsBurghfield area; Wantage area; Marlborough area.

News and views from across the area and beyond: please see the most recent Weekly News with Brian column.

Thursday 13 October 2022

This week we cover fireworks, Educafé, a netball league, councillors’ surgeries, quilters and Newbury’s neighbourhood development plan. We also have a look at the latest proposals concerning the proposed re-development of the Kennet Centre and look at some views about this (for and against) and also cross just over the boarder into Basingstoke & Deane to consider another recently revised application, this time for the proposed Watermill Bridge development in Wash Water.  As usual, we also have our usual round-up of other local news, local events and activities and news from your local councils.

This week’s news

• Newbury Town Council has announced the rescheduled date for the Newbury Town Hall Open Day, following the postponement of the one in September due to mourning for the Queen. Newbury Town Hall will be opening its doors to the public to celebrate Historical Open Day on Sunday 30 October, from 10am to 2pm. Visitors will be able to view the Council Chamber, the Civic Staircase, the Town Hall portraits and other civic regalia, as well as displays of community projects and talks from a local historian. More details can be found here.

Congratulations to Thatcham & Newbury Town Ladies & Girls FC for their successes so far this season. See their facebook page for recent match reports.

Victoria Park has once again been awarded ‘Green Flag’ status for 2022/23, recognised by the Green Flag Award Scheme as one of the very best in the world. The prestigious Green Flag Award is the recognised mark of a quality park or green space and demonstrates high environmental standards, is well maintained and has excellent visitor facilities. The Town Council received the Award for Victoria Park for the first time in 2019. Check out the full story here.

• Attention netballers: there’s a new social netball league starting in Newbury on Tuesday 18 October and they are looking get new players involved, including those who enjoy the game but are maybe a little rusty and out of practice. Open to all ladies over 14, the aim is to improve fitness and have fun. The group is open to everyone of all abilities, from seasoned players to total newbies. To book a place, visit couch2court and scroll down to 18 October on the calendar.

• Newbury Town Council’s fifth Climate Emergency Workshop on Saturday 1 October was a big success where over 50 members of the public turned up to see for themselves what the Council are doing, as well as offer feedback on their plans to tackle the remainder of the town and Council’s carbon footprint. If you missed out you can read the Council’s report of the event here. For more information about the Council’s climate change initiatives, you can contact Cllr Chris Foster, Chairperson NTC Climate Change Working Group at [email protected].

• If you fancy a natter with free drink and cake, pop along to Newbury’s two friendly community cafes. Educafe Community Cafe is every Wednesday in Newbury Library from 11am to 2pm and Speen Community Cafe is every Wednesday at The Starting Gate Pub from 2pm to 5pm.

Schools are being invited to participate in a competition to rename the London Road Industrial Estate. It’s depressing to reflect that the only solid achievement there over the last four years is likely to have been accomplished by a child. See this separate article for more on this saga.

Click here to see the October 2022 newsletter from Newbury Town Council.

• Quick reminder that the Newbury Lions Annual Charity Firework display at Newbury Racecourse will be on Saturday 5 November. Tickets must be pre-bought this year for safety reasons. You will not be able to pay on the gate so please get your tickets on eventbrite, the Newbury and Thatcham Tesco branches, Newbury Building Society branches in Newbury, Thatcham and Hungerford and at the Lions market stalls in Newbury on Saturdays 22 and 29 October. Newbury Lions do a lot of good work in the community and if you know anyone who needs help please contact [email protected]

• We have added more information about support available to get you through the Cost of Living crisis, including tips on how to reduce your home energy bills. And please watch out for any scams that ask you to click to apply for energy rebates – they all happen automatically.

• The latest edition of the Hamstead Hornet, which covers life in the village of Hamstead Marshall, can be seen here. The most recent one (September 2022) covers footpaths, the Garden Society, a vacancy on the Parish Council, a dog looking for a new home, the parish plan, planning applications, forthcoming events and an update from the Parish Council.

Hamstead Marshall Parish Council intends to start a community speedwatch programme: if you’re interested in helping, please contact Anne Budd on 01488 657022 or [email protected].

The NDP kicks off in earnest

On 12 July 2021, Newbury Town Council (NTC) resolved to undertake a Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP) for the Parish of Newbury. NDPs are in essence a way for the local community – not just the town or parish council – to work with the planning authority (West Berkshire Council in this case) to write the part of the local plan pertaining to that parish. They can prevent development but they can stipulate where it will (or will not) take place. The project takes several years and culminates in a referendum of the residents. You can click here to see more on Newbury’s NDP and click here to read more about NDPS generally.

One of the first public-facing tasks is a survey among the residents of the parish. This is a fact- and opinion-gathering exercise, enabling the Steering Group to understand what people are particularly concerned about and what they want to protect or to change. You can click here to see the survey, which closes on 30 November 2022.

If you have any questions about the NDP or if you would like to get involved in any way, please contact Nigel Foot, the Chair of the Steering Group, on [email protected].

Eagle Quarter

The matter of the proposed re-development of the Kennet Centre, which we have covered several times before (visit the archive of this section and search for “Eagle”) came before Newbury Town Council’s planning committee on 3 October, the minutes of which you can download here. The plans have been revised since the committee last took a squint at it but its conclusion was pretty much unchanged:

  • “Strong objection: (i) It is out of character and scale with the surrounding area – therefore it is in contradiction to the NPPF Para. 120(e). (b) Would like to see a mix of housing, including affordable and social, not just properties for rent. (c) Would like to see this application redesigned. (d) The blocks as amended are still too high. (e) The conservation area appraisal, although behind schedule, should be considered before the application is put forward. (f) All 3 previous NTC  objections have not been addressed by the applications.”

The revised application comes with a strong endorsement (rather than “indictment” as the NWN put it) by former RIBA President Professor George Ferguson who claimed that the designs were “inventive” and “derive from an intelligent analysis of the historic plans and plots.” The scheme “sits comfortably with the old town” and includes a “memorable contemporary pedestrian entrance.” He “applauded the ambition to create a major residential and cultural neighbourhood in the heart of the old town” and concluded that he felt  the schemes “well judged” and that it would also be by future generations. 

It’s unlikely that there will much in the way of a meeting of minds on this proposal between these two camps as the issue has now been being debated for the best part of 18 months. The wait may be nearly over, however, as it is hoped that this will come before WBC’s Western Area Planning Committee (WAPC) at one of its two November meetings (and will, I imagine, be the only item on the agenda, so significant is the application). Barring a referral to the District Planning Committee or an appeal, that will make the final decision on the matter. Until that happens, you can still make your comments by visiting WBC’s planning portal.

The two members of NTC’s planning committee who are also WBC councillors and are or may be on WAPC abstained in the recent NTC vote to avoid any accusation of pre-determination.

The watermill shrinks but still turns

In November 2021, Bewley Homes lodged an to build 350 homes at Wash Water in a development to me known as Watermill Bridge. The developers have recently submitted “a change to the description of the application” which carries the same number and reduces the number of dwellings to 270 . The planning application 21/03394/OUT can be viewed here (on Basingstoke and Deane’s (B&D’s) website, note, as the site is just the other side of the border with West Berkshire). At the time of writing the new documents were still being uploaded, a task that should be completed in the next few days. The heads of terms of the revision is as follows:

“A hybrid application for a mixed-use community, comprising:

  • an outline planning application for up to 270 dwellings (Use Class C3) including dwellings for older people; a 1,600 square metre community building (Use Class F2(b)); a 1,200 square metre Health and Wellbeing Centre (Use Class E(e)) and a 250 square metre convenience store (Use Class F2(a)); demolition of Common Farm and associated agricultural buildings; the provision of open space, allotments, community gardens, a riverside park/nature trail, drainage attenuation, landscaping and associated infrastructure; and
  • a full planning application for the first phase of residential development including 82 dwellings (Use Class C3); the route for the diversion of Footpaths 9, 742 and 42; public open space, associated landscaping and infrastructure works. Full planning approval is also sought for access arrangements including a new vehicular access onto the Andover Road (A343).”

As regards affordable housing, the overall provision is  for “40% affordable housing dwellings with the provision to be phased. The overall target tenure mix to be: 25% First Homes and the% remainder split 70% rent and 30% shared ownership, subject to change with the Council’s agreement.”

The project also, as its name implies, includes a waterwheel which will be designed to power the community centre. In addition, the scheme includes a number of promises about sustainable features such as solar panels and ground-source or air-source heat pumps.

I spoke to two representatives of Bewley about this earlier this week. There seems to be a genuine acceptance that this is the way forward and that the building industry was realising that it had to be doing things in a different manner. Most things come down to money, of course. Adding features in excess of what’s currently demanded may cost more than can be recouped from raising the sale price. The day will come, however, when such features are demanded by buyers, not least because they suspect that without them the home will be harder to sell on. Each developer will have its own view about exactly how much to offer and when and what can be gleaned in the way of both profit and repuational advantage in the process. Much also depends on what the developer is prepared to commit to and, that having happened, what the planning authority is prepared to enforce. Bearing all these factors in mind, it will be interesting to see how many of these features become a reality.

We’re getting ahead of ourselves, however. There’s the small hurdle of planning permission to be crossed first. The application will come before a B&D planning committee at some point, though no one can say for sure when. WBC will be consulted but will not be making the decision. Nor will WBC get any developer contributions directly, even though virtually all the impact the development will be felt in West Berkshire. I spoke to a B&D councillor about this recently and was told that, once the contributions had been agreed, there would be “a conversation” with WBC about what WBC might need to provide by way of mitigation and what it would receive from B&D in return.

One service WBC any new residents may not be able to access for free is the recycling centre a couple of miles away on the A339. Several years ago, West Berkshire and Hampshire had a falling out over contributions from Hampshire CC for its residents to use this as a result of which they are now  charged. Perhaps if B&D make a generous enough offer to WBC this might be changed.

A lot of water will need to pass under the watermill before matters get to that stage, of course: if, indeed, they ever do, as there are a number of objections to the proposal (as, in fairness, there always are).

Community notices

Thatcham & Newbury Town Ladies & Girls Football Club offers three weeks free as a taster, so if you would like to try it out, email [email protected]

• The Loose Ends drop-in centre in Newbury are currently looking for more volunteers to join their friendly team. Located at Newbury Cricket ground, they offer hot meals and a safe and friendly environment for vulnerable people. More details and how to apply can be found here.

•  All day Connect Group Bus Tickets for up to 4 people (any combination of adults and children) can be bought from the bus driver or via the Newbury & District app on your phone (which also shows in real time where each bus is on its journey so you know how long you have to wait).

• Did you know you can raise concerns with Newbury Town Council at a Saturday Surgery between 10 am and 12 noon any week at the steps of the Town Hall?

If you own a bike, Neighbourhood Watch strongly recommends registering it on the bikeregister.com database as every police force in the country uses it to search for stolen and recovered bikes.

Fair Close Centre on Newtown Road in Newbury provides a vital social hub and meals on wheels for over 65s, many of whom live on their own. Please support them here. Goodness knows we might all need their services in years to come.

• The Community Larder at the Waterside Centre is open every Tuesday afternoon to provide members with surplus food, discounts for local businesses, access to other services and support, as well as a friendly community environment. 

•  Newbury Library offers free IT support sessions including filling out online forms, how to Zoom, downloading e-magazines or sorting out pictures. Bookable 30- or 60-minute sessions. To find out more or book a slot, email [email protected].

• Please click here for Hamstead Marshall.net, which provides an excellent round-up of what’s going on in and around the village. This also publishes the quarterly Hamstead Hornet.

Local events and activities

For more information on events and activities across the Penny Post area, see the website calendar.

• Dates for the diary

Sat 15 Oct Oktoberfest Beer Festival, Hermitage Hall.

Mon 24 to Sun 30 Oct Wash Common Scarecrow Hunt, Collect map from Co-Op on Essex Street.

Wed 26 to Sat 29 Oct Festival of Frights, various events around Newbury Town Centre.

Sat 29 to Sun 30 Oct Celebration Exhibition by the Market Square Quilters, Newbury College.

• Sun 30 Oct Newbury Town Hall Open Day, Newbury Town Hall, Market Square.

Sat 5 Nov Newbury Lions Fireworks, Newbury Racecourse.

• Regular events

Knit and Natter on Thursdays from 11am at Brown Paper Loves, Inch’s Yard Newbury.

Chatterday on Saturdays from 11am (bring along your own craft project and join the chat) at Brown Paper Loves, Inch’s Yard Newbury.

Friendly gardening club in the centre of Newbury. See here for how to get involved.

• Newbury Park Run at Greenham Common at 9am every Saturday morning. Folks of all ages welcome to run/walk/jog the 5km. They also have volunteering opportunities. See details here.

• ACE Space on St Nicholas Road hosts live acoustic performances. Join their Facebook group or follow them on Twitter.

• Newbury Community Larder every Tuesday 2pm to 4pm at the Waterside Centre (down the canal from Costa Coffee on Northbrook Street). For more details please contact [email protected] or call 01635 018500.

Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesdays between 2pm to 5pm. Drop in for a chat or a cuppa, knitting and craft activities. You don’t have to live in Speen to join in. Follow them on facebook here.

Educafe’s Community Cafe at Newbury Library every Wednesday between 11am and 2pm. If you would like to pop along for a friendly chat or to volunteer in the cafe please see their website for more details.

• Berkshire Youth‘s Waterside Centre in Newbury hosts various clubs and activities for local children and can provide volunteering opportunities for adults too.

 The Base, Greenham organise many artistic-focused events for people of all ages to let their creative sides go wild.

News from your local council

Note: “the most recent meeting” refers to the most recent one for which minutes (in some cases draft) or some other summary is available. Other meetings may have taken place since. Some councils publish minutes more promptly than do others.

Many councils do not hold meetings in August and many postponed their September meeting following the Queen’s death. 

• The most recent meeting of Newbury Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 8 August and you can download the minutes here. Items covered included: questions from members of the public; questions from members; Community United; the tree canopy; and the Community Café. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) Items covered included: ownership of public areas at Sandleford (see also The common parts above); the Mayor’s report; the CEO’s report; committee reports; the nomination of the Mayor and Deputy and of the Leader and Deputy; and formal matters.
To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 21 September and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: various matters arising from the previous meeting; speeding; trees; planning matters; loud motor cycles; financial matters; parish newsletters; and repairs and maintenance. 
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 27 July and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: The Rising Sun in Stockcross (including a grant of £5,000); financial matters; committee reports; the parish improvement plan; the pavement on the B4000; and maintenance and repairs.
To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Hamstead Marshall Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 21 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here. To see minutes, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 13 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 12 July and you can read the minutes here. There was also an extraordinary meeting on 11 August to consider a planning application, the minutes for which you can read here.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here to download the meeting schedule. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 4 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 4 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• Newbury area council contacts

Parishes: Newbury Town CouncilGreenham Parish CouncilChieveley Parish CouncilEnborne Parish CouncilBoxford Parish CouncilSpeen Parish Council,  Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council, and Hamstead Marshall Parish Council.

West Berkshire Council: click here to visit the website.

News from other areas

Penny Post area – please see the following separate sections: Hungerford area; Lambourn ValleyThatcham area; Compton and DownlandsBurghfield area; Wantage area; Marlborough area.

News and views from across the area and beyond: please see the most recent Weekly News with Brian column.

Thursday 6 October 2022

This week we consider an apple day, musical theatre, Newbury in Bloom and an international relay race. We also take a look at the prospects for Newbury Show returning in 2023 and for a revision to a planning restriction which will enable it to operate 12 months a year rather than eight at present. As usual, we also have our usual round-up of other local news, local events and activities and news from your local councils.

This week’s news

• NOMADS Musical Theatre Group are delighted to be back on stage after a three year break due to Covid.  They are performing romantic comedy The Wedding Singer (based on Adam Sandler’s hit movie) until this Saturday 8 October. Tickets can be bought at 01635 522733 or online at cornexchangenew.com

Newbury Apple Day is a lovely autumnal occasion for the whole family in the marketplace on Saturday 8 October. You can have a go at scratting and pressing, bring along your own apples to be pressed and help with identification can also be offered. Learn about the community orchards around Newbury. Buy apple cakes and other homemade apple goodies. See here for details.

• Quick reminder that the world’s longest, non-stop relay ever attempted will be passing through Newbury this Friday 7 October. The Running Out of Time relay started in Glasgow, home of COP26 last year, and will finish in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, on 6 November for the start of COP27.  Runners, cyclists and sailors will carry a baton containing a climate message that’ll be delivered to world leaders urging more support to help people tackle the climate crisis where they live. David Starly is running Stage 140 leaving Kintbury Corner Stores at 9.40am and arriving at Victoria Park at 11.05am. Aska Kageura will then take the baton on Stage 141 from Victoria Park to Woolhampton.

• Congratulations to the winners of the 2022 Newbury in Bloom awards. Plum and Grain won the business category, Falkland Primary School Allotment Plot won the School Category, St Nicolas Church the Place of Worship category, Lower Raymond Almshouses the Neighbourhood category, Jayne French-Drayton the Allotments category, Secret Garden Project at The Globe Garden the Community Projects category. Scroll through this gallery of garden photos on our facebook page here and see more details of runners up on Newbury Town Council’s website here.

Click here to see the October 2022 newsletter from Newbury Town Council.

Newbury Lions Annual Charity Fireworks wonderful display at Newbury Racecourse is on Saturday 5 November (not to be confused other events that weekend). They have asked us to spread the word that tickets must be pre-bought this year for safety reasons. You will not be able to pay on the gate so please get your tickets on eventbrite at branches of Tesco in Newbury and Thatcham, Newbury Building Society branches in Newbury, Thatcham and Hungerford and at Lions market stalls in Newbury on Saturdays 22 and 29 October. Newbury Lions do a lot of good work in the community and if you know anyone who needs help please contact [email protected]

Eight Bells welcomes everyone to its Art Exhibition celebrating World Mental Health Day on Monday 10 October at Newbury Friends Meeting House. Entry is free and there will be tea, coffee and cake and some of the art will be for sale.

• There is a petition to rename Victoria Park as Elizabeth the Great Park in respect for her late majesty. Another idea has been mooted to re-name Hutton Close as Elizabeth Park.

• There is an opportunity to have your say on the future of Hutton Close including whether if should continue as a public open space, include children’s play equipment, a formal garden/park, urban woodland or any other suggested uses of the land.

• Philip Brown Violins on Cheap Street has a vacancy for a part-time cleaner one day a week and the hours are completely flexible. See here for details.

• You have probably received your new food waste caddies by now. We have spoken to the team behind the scheme and lay to rest some of the concerns about the planned new weekly collection of food waste by West Berkshire Council. See more details here.

• The latest edition of the Hamstead Hornet, which covers life in the village of Hamstead Marshall, can be seen here. The most recent one (September 2022) covers footpaths, the Garden Society, a vacancy on the Parish Council, a dog looking for a new home, the parish plan, planning applications, forthcoming events and an update from the Parish Council.

Hamstead Marshall Parish Council intends to start a community speedwatch programme: if you’re interested in helping, please contact Anne Budd on 01488 657022 or [email protected].

Getting the show back on the road

It appears that, after a three-year hiatus, the Newbury Show will be back again in September 2023. We take a look at the background to this, including the 2021 change of management at the Newbury & District Agricultural Society which runs the event, the reasons for the decision to cancel the 2022 event and what changes might be expected this time round. Read more here.

Community notices

Thatcham & Newbury Town Ladies & Girls Football Club offers three weeks free as a taster, so if you would like to try it out, email [email protected]

• The Loose Ends drop-in centre in Newbury are currently looking for more volunteers to join their friendly team. Located at Newbury Cricket ground, they offer hot meals and a safe and friendly environment for vulnerable people. More details and how to apply can be found here.

•  All day Connect Group Bus Tickets for up to 4 people (any combination of adults and children) can be bought from the bus driver or via the Newbury & District app on your phone (which also shows in real time where each bus is on its journey so you know how long you have to wait).

• Did you know you can raise concerns with Newbury Town Council at a Saturday Surgery between 10 am and 12 noon any week at the steps of the Town Hall?

If you own a bike, Neighbourhood Watch strongly recommends registering it on the bikeregister.com database as every police force in the country uses it to search for stolen and recovered bikes.

Fair Close Centre on Newtown Road in Newbury provides a vital social hub and meals on wheels for over 65s, many of whom live on their own. Please support them here. Goodness knows we might all need their services in years to come.

• The Community Larder at the Waterside Centre is open every Tuesday afternoon to provide members with surplus food, discounts for local businesses, access to other services and support, as well as a friendly community environment. 

•  Newbury Library offers free IT support sessions including filling out online forms, how to Zoom, downloading e-magazines or sorting out pictures. Bookable 30- or 60-minute sessions. To find out more or book a slot, email [email protected].

• Please click here for Hamstead Marshall.net, which provides an excellent round-up of what’s going on in and around the village. This also publishes the quarterly Hamstead Hornet.

Local events and activities

For more information on events and activities across the Penny Post area, see the website calendar.

• Dates for the diary

Sat 8 Oct Consultation Coffee Morning, Newbury Town Hall

Sat 8 Oct Newbury Apple Day, Newbury Market Square

Mon 10 Oct Mental Health Art Exhibition, Newbury Friends Meeting House

24 to 30 Oct Wash Common Scarecrow Hunt

Sat 5 Nov Newbury Lions Fireworks, Newbury Racecourse

• Regular events

Knit and Natter on Thursdays from 11am at Brown Paper Loves, Inch’s Yard Newbury.

Chatterday on Saturdays from 11am (bring along your own craft project and join the chat) at Brown Paper Loves, Inch’s Yard Newbury.

Friendly gardening club in the centre of Newbury. See here for how to get involved.

• Newbury Park Run at Greenham Common at 9am every Saturday morning. Folks of all ages welcome to run/walk/jog the 5km. They also have volunteering opportunities. See details here.

• ACE Space on St Nicholas Road hosts live acoustic performances. Join their Facebook group or follow them on Twitter.

• Newbury Community Larder every Tuesday 2pm to 4pm at the Waterside Centre (down the canal from Costa Coffee on Northbrook Street). For more details please contact [email protected] or call 01635 018500.

Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesdays between 2pm to 5pm. Drop in for a chat or a cuppa, knitting and craft activities. You don’t have to live in Speen to join in. Follow them on facebook here.

Educafe’s Community Cafe at Newbury Library every Wednesday between 11am and 2pm. If you would like to pop along for a friendly chat or to volunteer in the cafe please see their website for more details.

• Berkshire Youth‘s Waterside Centre in Newbury hosts various clubs and activities for local children and can provide volunteering opportunities for adults too.

 The Base, Greenham organise many artistic-focused events for people of all ages to let their creative sides go wild.

News from your local council

Note: “the most recent meeting” refers to the most recent one for which minutes (in some cases draft) or some other summary is available. Other meetings may have taken place since. Some councils publish minutes more promptly than do others.

Many councils do not hold meetings in August and many postponed their September meeting following the Queen’s death. 

• The most recent meeting of Newbury Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 8 August and you can download the minutes here. Items covered included: questions from members of the public; questions from members; Community United; the tree canopy; and the Community Café. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) Items covered included: ownership of public areas at Sandleford (see also The common parts above); the Mayor’s report; the CEO’s report; committee reports; the nomination of the Mayor and Deputy and of the Leader and Deputy; and formal matters.
To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 21 September and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: various matters arising from the previous meeting; speeding; trees; planning matters; loud motor cycles; financial matters; parish newsletters; and repairs and maintenance. 
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 27 July and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: The Rising Sun in Stockcross (including a grant of £5,000); financial matters; committee reports; the parish improvement plan; the pavement on the B4000; and maintenance and repairs.
To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Hamstead Marshall Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 21 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here. To see minutes, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 13 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 12 July and you can read the minutes here. There was also an extraordinary meeting on 11 August to consider a planning application, the minutes for which you can read here.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here to download the meeting schedule. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 4 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 4 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• Newbury area council contacts

Parishes: Newbury Town CouncilGreenham Parish CouncilChieveley Parish CouncilEnborne Parish CouncilBoxford Parish CouncilSpeen Parish Council,  Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council, and Hamstead Marshall Parish Council.

West Berkshire Council: click here to visit the website.

News from other areas

Penny Post area – please see the following separate sections: Hungerford area; Lambourn ValleyThatcham area; Compton and DownlandsBurghfield area; Wantage area; Marlborough area.

News and views from across the area and beyond: please see the most recent Weekly News with Brian column.

Thursday 29 September 2022

This week we consider cricket, a car accident, climate change, apples and swimming. We also offer another chance top reflect on one view (other views available elsewhere) on what’s been going on at the London Road Industrial Estate and have an update on the plans to bring a pub back to Boxford. As usual, we also usual round-up of other local news, local events and activities and news from your local councils.

This week’s news

• “If governments are serious about the climate crisis, there can be no new investments in oil, gas and coal, from now – from this year,” Fatih Birol, International Energy Agency in May 2021. This is the message being spread by the climate group Just Stop Oil (which is lobbying for no new oil or gas extraction rather than switching off existing supply lines). To find out more, please go along to JSO Newbury’s free talk at ACE SPACE this Friday 30 September.

• Newbury Town Council’s fifth Climate Emergency Workshop is this Saturday 1 October at 2pm in Newbury Town Hall. The Council will be outlining its climate emergency journey so far and updating the public on the suggestions that came out of the very first workshop in 2019. If your group would like to have a platform at the workshop or an information stand at the Town Hall, please get in touch at [email protected] . If you are interested in attending the event, please register here.

• Last Sunday’s Cricket and Family Day hosted by Community United at Falkland Cricket Club was a huge success, showing diversity through the teams that played cricket as well as the food, dance and music. The organisers would like to thank all the volunteers that made it happen, including those labelled as ‘asylum seekers’. See more on their facebook page here.

Our thoughts are with the family of the gentleman who was tragically killed in a car accident on Andover Road on Tuesday this week. No other vehicles were involved but Thames Valley Police are appealing for witnesses to help them investigate the incident by making a report online or by calling 101, quoting reference number 43220433994.

• Did you know there is a friendly gardening club in the centre of Newbury that anyone can join to help tend two raised beds by the canal? No previous experience is required, everything is provided and you can help yourself to the produce grown. See here for how to get involved.

• The world’s longest, non-stop relay ever attempted will be passing through Newbury on Friday 7 October. The Running Out of Time relay in the name of climate action will start in Glasgow, home of COP26 last year, on 30 September and finish in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, on 6 November for the start of COP27, the next UN summit of world leaders discussing the climate crisis. Runners, cyclists and sailors will carry a baton containing a climate message that’ll be delivered to world leaders urging more support to help people tackle the climate crisis where they live. David Starly is running Stage 140 leaving Kintbury Corner Stores at 9.40am and arriving at Victoria Park at 11.05am. Aska Kageura will then take the baton on Stage 141 from Victoria Park to Woolhampton.

Newbury Apple Day is a lovely autumnal occasion for the whole family in the marketplace on Saturday 8 October. You can bring along your own apples to be pressed and help with identification can also be offered. See here for details.

Eight Bells welcomes everyone to their Art Exhibition celebrating World Mental Health Day on Monday 10 October at Newbury Friends Meeting House. Entry is free and there will be tea, coffee and cake and some of the art will be for sale.

• According to West Berkshire Council, about 90% of eligible residents in West Berkshire have claimed or received their £150 Energy Rebate. The closing date for all online applications has now passed. Therefore, if you have not applied for the rebate, the £150 will be credited to your Council Tax account by 30 September 2022 and a revised bill with a letter explaining what they can do should hopefully be issued next week. This is explained on westberks.gov.uk/council-tax-rebate. Anyone who still has questions on their £150 Energy Rebate should email: [email protected]

There are a lot of bikes being stolen at the moment by thieves who have bolt cutters so it doesn’t seem to matter how good your lock is. Neighbourhood Watch strongly recommend registering your bike on the bikeregister.com database as every police force in the country uses it to search for stolen and recovered bikes. There is also a Stolen Bike Watch (Newbury) facebook group you can join.

• There is still time adults and children to sign up for lessons with GR Swimming Schools in the pool at Brockhurst & Marlston School in Hermitage. Visit swimlessons.co.uk for all details.

• Quick reminder about Newbury Town Council’s survey about the future use of the open space at Hutton CloseClick here for the link. You can also discuss the issue with officials at a Coffee Morning at Newbury Town Hall on Saturday 8 October. The consultations deadline is 30 October, for more information please click here.

• The latest edition of the Hamstead Hornet, which covers life in the village of Hamstead Marshall, can be seen here. The most recent one (September 2022) covers footpaths, the Garden Society, a vacancy on the Parish Council, a dog looking for a new home, the parish plan, planning applications, forthcoming events and an update from the Parish Council.

Hamstead Marshall Parish Council intends to start a community speedwatch programme: if you’re interested in helping, please contact Anne Budd on 01488 657022 or [email protected].

Visions and replacements at the LRIE

We covered this matter last week but a slightly amended version of this can now ben seen in a separate post which you can read here.

This article looks my view of the situation as it was in late September 2022. Much may change in the future. These will be added to this post, and/or put in another post which will be linked to from this and/or added to our Newbury Area Weekly News column which is updated every Thursday.

I am vividly aware that some people may disagree with what I have said. Indeed, this is one of those issues where it would be utterly impossible to write something which everyone was happy with. If anyone wishes to add a comment, please do so using the box at the foot of this post. Once approved, these will be visible to all subsequent readers. You can also email [email protected].

Boxford’s bell

As mentioned several times earlier this year, the application to tear down the crumbling remains of this pub and replace it with a new, single-storey watering hole ran into problems earlier this year when it was refused by WBC’s planners on grounds of surface-water issues and, more seriously, an alleged infringement of the new nutrient neutrality regulations. These were introduced in parts of West Berkshire and other districts in March 2022 with the aim of reducing the leeching of phosphates and nitrates into the aquifer and thus into the River Lambourn.

One of the key tests for whether a development fell under these rules was whether it would increase the number of overnight stays. Given that the plans were reduce this (the number of guest rooms going from six at present to none at all), the supporters of the scheme were quick to ask why the plans had been refused. Discussions have taken place since, during which time WBC’s planning officers have slowly been trying to understand the regulations, where they should be applied and what mitigations could be used.

With The Bell, these discussions seem to have borne fruit. A new application (which you can see here) has been lodged which appears to address the two areas which had previously caused problems. The matter has been called in by one of the ward members in the event that officers are minded to refuse it: hopefully that won’t be necessary given how much time has been spent on discussing and, hopefully, agreeing plans and conditions that will be acceptable to both sides. If all goes well, therefore, the green light should be given quite quickly. So far about 20 people of lodged letters in support of the plans. There have yet to be any objections.

Community notices

Thatcham & Newbury Town Ladies & Girls Football Club offers three weeks free as a taster, so if you would like to try it out, email [email protected]

• The Loose Ends drop-in centre in Newbury are currently looking for more volunteers to join their friendly team. Located at Newbury Cricket ground, they offer hot meals and a safe and friendly environment for vulnerable people. More details and how to apply can be found here.

•  All day Connect Group Bus Tickets for up to 4 people (any combination of adults and children) can be bought from the bus driver or via the Newbury & District app on your phone (which also shows in real time where each bus is on its journey so you know how long you have to wait).

• Did you know you can raise concerns with Newbury Town Council at a Saturday Surgery between 10 am and 12 noon any week at the steps of the Town Hall?

Fair Close Centre on Newtown Road in Newbury provides a vital social hub and meals on wheels for over 65s, many of whom live on their own. Please support them here. Goodness knows we might all need their services in years to come.

• The Community Larder at the Waterside Centre is open every Tuesday afternoon to provide members with surplus food, discounts for local businesses, access to other services and support, as well as a friendly community environment. 

•  Newbury Library offers free IT support sessions including filling out online forms, how to Zoom, downloading e-magazines or sorting out pictures. Bookable 30- or 60-minute sessions. To find out more or book a slot, email [email protected].

• Please click here for Hamstead Marshall.net, which provides an excellent round-up of what’s going on in and around the village. This also publishes the quarterly Hamstead Hornet.

Local events and activities

For more information on events and activities across the Penny Post area, see the website calendar.

• Dates for the diary

Fri 30 Sept Just Stop Oil Talk, Ace Space.

Sat 1 Oct Climate Emergency Workshop, Newbury Town Hall.

Sat 8 Oct Consultation Coffee Morning, Newbury Town Hall

Sat 8 Oct Newbury Apple Day, Newbury Market Square

• Regular events

Knit and Natter on Thursdays from 11am at Brown Paper Loves, Inch’s Yard Newbury.

Chatterday on Saturdays from 11am (bring along your own craft project and join the chat) at Brown Paper Loves, Inch’s Yard Newbury.

Sunday afternoon music at Victoria Park Bandstand, Newbury.

• Newbury Park Run at Greenham Common at 9am every Saturday morning. Folks of all ages welcome to run/walk/jog the 5km. They also have volunteering opportunities. See details here.

• ACE Space on St Nicholas Road hosts live acoustic performances. Join their Facebook group or follow them on Twitter.

• Newbury Community Larder every Tuesday 2pm to 4pm at the Waterside Centre (down the canal from Costa Coffee on Northbrook Street). For more details please contact [email protected] or call 01635 018500.

Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesdays between 2pm to 5pm. Drop in for a chat or a cuppa, knitting and craft activities. You don’t have to live in Speen to join in. Follow them on facebook here.

Educafe’s Community Cafe at Newbury Library every Wednesday between 11am and 2pm. If you would like to pop along for a friendly chat or to volunteer in the cafe please see their website for more details.

• Berkshire Youth‘s Waterside Centre in Newbury hosts various clubs and activities for local children and can provide volunteering opportunities for adults too.

 The Base, Greenham organise many artistic-focused events for people of all ages to let their creative sides go wild.

News from your local council

Note that many parish and town councils do not hold meetings in August. In addition, meetings which were scheduled to have taken place during the period of mourning following the death of the Queen (8 to 19 September) would have been cancelled or postponed.

• The most recent meeting of Newbury Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 8 August and you can download the minutes here. Items covered included: questions from members of the public; questions from members; Community United; the tree canopy; and the Community Café. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) Items covered included: ownership of public areas at Sandleford (see also The common parts above); the Mayor’s report; the CEO’s report; committee reports; the nomination of the Mayor and Deputy and of the Leader and Deputy; and formal matters.
To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 21 September and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: various matters arising from the previous meeting; speeding; trees; planning matters; loud motor cycles; financial matters; parish newsletters; and repairs and maintenance. 
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 27 July and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: The Rising Sun in Stockcross (including a grant of £5,000); financial matters; committee reports; the parish improvement plan; the pavement on the B4000; and maintenance and repairs.
To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Hamstead Marshall Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 21 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here. To see minutes, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 13 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 12 July and you can read the minutes here. There was also an extraordinary meeting on 11 August to consider a planning application, the minutes for which you can read here.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here to download the meeting schedule. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 4 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 4 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• Newbury area council contacts

Parishes: Newbury Town CouncilGreenham Parish CouncilChieveley Parish CouncilEnborne Parish CouncilBoxford Parish CouncilSpeen Parish Council,  Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council, and Hamstead Marshall Parish Council.

West Berkshire Council: click here to visit the website.

News from other areas

Penny Post area – please see the following separate sections: Hungerford area; Lambourn ValleyThatcham area; Compton and DownlandsBurghfield area; Wantage area; Marlborough area.

News and views from across the area and beyond: please see the most recent Weekly News with Brian column.

 

Thursday 22 September 2022

This week we consider a consultation, a coffee morning, a cowshed, cricket and a charity shop. We also take a closer look at a number of controversial development matters including the football grounds and greet a possible breakthrough with the impasse at Shaw Valley. In addition, we have reactions from several local bodies concerning the revised plans for the Kennet Centre and also consider a welcome development for affordable homes (which should also have repercussions for a similar project in Hungerford). As usual, we also usual round-up of other local news, local events and activities and news from your local councils.

This week’s news

• Since the beginning of the month, Newbury Town Council have been consulting residents about their views on the future use of the open space at Hutton Close. So far, they have received about 170 responses but are still looking for more. Click here for the link to the online survey where you can submit your views on the matter. Further more, there will be a Coffee Morning at Newbury Town Hall on Saturday 8 October, where the public can discuss the matter with local officials in-person. The consultations deadline is 30 October, for more information please click here.

• If you missed the Commemoration March on Round Hill at sunset on Tuesday this week in memory of the fallen of the First Battle of Newbury on 20 September 1643, do see these atmospheric photos. We make that the 379th anniversary of the battle.

• All welcome at the annual United Nations Association Coffee Morning in Newbury Town Hall this Saturday 24 September from 10am to noon. There will be a welcome from the Town Crier and an introduction from the Mayor with display about the important work of the UNA.

• This Sunday 25 September sees Community United’s free Cricket and Family Day at Falkland Cricket Club. The event is promoting inclusion and diversity within the community and welcomes all local residents. Twice as big as last year, there are twelve teams playing in the cricket competition on the day with the support of the Berkshire Cricket Foundation. Berkshire Youth will be providing entertainment and activities for young people, and Kennet Radio will be providing a musical backdrop to the day. There will be a diverse selection of food available, with respect to culture and religion. See full details here.

Last chance to visit the lovely free outdoor Altered States Sculpture Exhibition at Shaw House as it closes this Sunday 25 September. This exhibition of traditional, modern and cutting-edge contemporary work is open from 11am – 4pm and well worth a visit.

• Have you ever considered getting an electric vehicle, but have a lot of questions or don’t know where to start? Well on Sunday 25 September at the Acland Hall Car Park in Cold Ash there will be an Electric Vehicle Showcase of local electric vehicle owners who are happy to share their experiences, knowledge and advice with those considering getting one. Click here for more details.

• Local crisis charity The Cowshed which provides clothing and support for individuals and families in Berkshire experiencing hardship, have just launched their Warm Winter Campaign to raise £10,000 for coats, blankets, pillows and duvets for families trying to keep warm this winter. The charity has reported seeing a huge increase in demand for their services, as the cost of living starts to impact on vulnerable members of our community and they are worried the level of demand will exceed their current donations. If you would like to contribute to the Warm Winter Campaign click here.

Corn Exchange Newbury have launched their Panto Pay it Forward Appeal to raise funds so that those in need in the community can enjoy some Christmas cheer with a live performance of this year’s Jack & The Beanstalk pantomime. The Corn Exchange aim to fund around 650 school tickets and 100 adult tickets for those who would otherwise not be able to attend. If you can, please donation to the appeal here. More on this story can be found in the Newbury Today.

Bas Books and Home charity shop in the Kennet Centre are opening their doors at 8.30am on Tuesday 27 September to celebrate their second birthday with pastries and juices and everyone is welcome. The shop raises money for Berkshire and Hampshire based Sebastian’s Action Trust that supports seriously ill children and their families. If anyone is able to offer a raffle prize, donation or a gift voucher towards our raffle it would be gratefully welcomed. Please email [email protected]  for details.

The SustainHUBle Monthly Market will be on Thursday 29 September at St Francis Parish Hall, Wash Common, between 11am and 2pm. This month the The Blade Sharpening Company will be there offering blade sharpening service for £5 per item. Other sustainable businesses will also be there such as those offering refills and local procedure will also be in attendance. Click here for more information.

• “If governments are serious about the climate crisis, there can be no new investments in oil, gas and coal, from now – from this year,” observed Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency in May 2021. This is the message being spread by the climate group Just Stop Oil (which is lobbying for no new oil or gas extraction rather than switching off existing supply lines). Just Stop Oil Newbury is hosting two free talks in Hungerford Library, on Monday 19 October with Maria Wood, and on Tuesday 1 November with Roger Hallam (one of the co-founders of Extinction Rebellion).

• There is still time adults and children to sign up for lessons with GR Swimming Schools in the pool at Brockhurst & Marlston School in Hermitage. Visit swimlessons.co.uk for all details.

• Newbury Town Council’s fifth Climate Emergency Workshop is on Saturday 1 October at 2pm in Newbury Town Hall. The Council will be outlining its climate emergency journey so far and updating the public on the suggestions that came out of the very first workshop in 2019. If your group would like to have a platform at the workshop or an information stand at the Town Hall, please get in touch at [email protected] . If you are interested in attending the event, please register here.

Newbury Apple Day is a lovely autumnal occasion for the whole family in the marketplace on Saturday 8 October. You can bring along your own apples to be pressed and help with identification can also be offered. See here for details.

• The latest edition of the Hamstead Hornet, which covers life in the village of Hamstead Marshall, can be seen here. The most recent one (September 2022) covers footpaths, the Garden Society, a vacancy on the Parish Council, a dog looking for a new home, the parish plan, planning applications, forthcoming events and an update from the Parish Council.

Hamstead Marshall Parish Council intends to start a community speedwatch programme: if you’re interested in helping, please contact Anne Budd on 01488 657022 or [email protected].

Visions and replacements

Back in 2014, WBC’s principal ambition – vision, even – was to transform the London Road Industrial Estate into a commercial and residential neighbourhood. The keystone of this was the football ground at Faraday Road (which it owned) which would be re-developed as housing, the proceeds helping fund the rest of the project. All that was needed was to find a new home for the football club (which leased the site) elsewhere in Newbury to comply with Sport England’s statutory requirements, choose a development partner, get permissions and start digging. Newbury was, after all, a thriving town on the crossroads of southern England. A vision was in place. What could possibly go wrong?

As it turned out, pretty much everything. What followed was, and is, a muddle of massive and frankly embarrassing proportions which continues to this day. It has involved several legal cases, several planning applications, contradictory public statements, an eviction, an arson attack, the formation of a pressure group, countless letters, meetings and emails and a lingering sense of confrontation and recrimination.

One central theme runs through this. Before re-developing Faraday Road, WBC was required to provide (as Sport England (SE) reminded WBC in October 2014) “an equivalent or better provision in terms of quantity and quality in a suitable location.” If it could not provide this, then the re-development of Faraday Road – the whole point of the exercise – would probably be unlawful.

It is impossible to believe that WBC was not aware of its obligations. As well as Sport England, Newbury FC, the Newbury Community Football Group (NCFG), the FA and the Football Foundation and others had been reminding WBC of this since at least early 2014. All the more perplexing, therefore, that in April 2016 the then CEO of West Berkshire Nick Carter, when asked what  the Council was going to do to address the problem, replied that “we are not going to do anything.”

This insouciance and light-touch approach was still in evidence when WBC made a major error in June 2018. Without taking legal advice and without having thought through the consequences, it closed the Faraday Road ground. It seems that was mainly as a kind of courtship ritual with its then development partner, St Modwen; a public means of proving that that the council was serious about freeing up the site and thus a worthy mate. All this assumed that the agreement with the developer could be proceeded with (as a later legal case proved, it couldn’t). As well as setting the Council on the downward path it has since followed, this decision gifted the NCFG a perfect raison d’être and casus belli. Both of these it has accepted.

Even more perplexing is that, despite knowing that it needed to find a replacement, no steps appeared to have been taken to do this until Howard Woollaston took over the portfolio in 2020. Some of the criticisms levelled against this as a stand-alone venue has been unfair – the capital costs, for instance, will be paid for by a low-cost loan from the PWLB – although it does anticipate a high level of subsidy and seems to benefit the Rugby Club more than the local football community. However, at least Councillor Woollaston has done something. The sports hub at Monks Lane may be a great success, and I hope it is. This does not, however, affect the question of whether it’s a replacement for Faraday Road.

By many opinions, it isn’t. An email from Sport England as recently as March 2022 confirmed that “nowhere in the planning application was it stated that this was a replacement for Faraday Road and on that basis it would not have been appropriate for Sport England to consider it such as a replacement.” The pitch is smaller, fewer spectators can be accommodated and the ground will not be run by the football club (which will be the junior partner). The plans were scaled down from two stands to one. The debate as to what “step” (the standard of ground and associated facilities) Monks Lane is or could be, Faraday Road was or either could aspire to be has been both unedifying and inconclusive. It has been officially described a “partial replacement” which could be translated as meaning “not a replacement.”

It this is not a replacement, it follows that the re-development of the Faraday Road ground risks being unlawful if a replacement pitch hasn’t been found. As the last eight years has failed to reveal a possible site that’s of the right size, in the right place and available to use, must be assumed that no such site exists. The only suitable replacement for Faraday Road is thus Faraday Road itself; just as the only future for the wider London Road Industrial Estate is – as the latest vision states – as an industrial estate. This sense of having a taken a long, bruising and expensive journey only to arrive back at the same place is clearly not an easy one for WBC to accept.

It may be that the idea of a “partial replacement” (a phrase which has been officially employed) could be used to suggest that extra mitigation might be sufficient to get WBC over the line. The stipulation is, however, quite clear: “an equivalent or better provision in terms of quantity and quality in a suitable location.” This doesn’t go on to say “or any other number of lower-grade facilities instead as mitigation.” However, WBC seems to be gambling on this being an accepted sub-text; or on Sport England lacking the necessary Luis Suarez-like bite to enforce its own rules.

A judicial review

The matter has become significant now because of a judicial review against the planning approval for Monks Lane launched by Alan Pearce, who lives in the LRIE and has long been critical of WBC’s handling of the matter of the LRIE’s development.

On 16 September, he was granted leave by the High Court to appeal on three grounds, all concerning the way the application was presented and what it represented itself to be. Even if WBC wins the judicial review that doesn’t solve the underlying problem, that Monks lane is not a replacement facility.

It’s also worth considering what WBC is fighting for here. The new vision for the LRIE is, as mentioned before, as a commercial/industrial area (with or without a re-developed Faraday Road). That’s what it is already, of course; but WBC appears to want to attract what might be called a better class of customer (my words, not theirs). New tech businesses, for example, in sectors such as IT and life sciences, staffed by lean, keen entrepreneurs who can bring that part of the town exciting job opportunities and reputational enhancement rather than, as at present, businesses like car showrooms, tyre fitters and boxing gyms. That’s fine as an aspiration but these new-age tenants can’t be magicked up out of the grass. There’s also little to attract them to the LRIE as its currently organised.

Would a large self-storage depot fit this new paradigm? Probably not: like the car showrooms for which the new vision has no time, these take up a lot of space, employ hardly any people and involve physical rather than digital products. It’s therefore unfortunate that, in the former Newbury Weekly News print works on the southern part of the site, a self-storage unit will soon be opening. The new vision, conceived only a few months ago, seems already to be in danger of being compromised by circumstances beyond its control.

WBC has painted itself into a corner from which there seems no easy escape. The LRIE looks almost exactly as it did ten or fifteen years ago. No planning application for Faraday Road has been submitted. In legal and development terms, the situation remains largely as it was in 2014. WBC has made enemies of those it could have worked with. Local sport has been impoverished, Newbury FC being now an itinerant team playing its matches in Henwick and Lambourn. A lot of money has been spent and, apart from an access road that the developers (whoever they eventually prove to be) should have built, there’s nothing much to show for it. Many feel that the surface-water problems, which would become worse were more development to take place, have not been addressed. Legal actions continue. Unless the area is seriously spruced up, which can’t happen in one go, or quickly, the LRIE is highly unlikely to attract a sufficiency of the kind of businesses that the latest vision seems to demand. Lose, lose, lose, in short. The matter started badly and it’s very hard to see how it has improved since.

Eagle Quarter

As mentioned last week, Lochailort Newbury Ltd has recently submitted a revised application for its proposals to re-develop the Kennet Centre. You can see all the documents here. On 15 September, Lochailort also supplied the following statement to Penny Post which we’re happy to reproduce below verbatim.

“This revised scheme retains the overall aim of the original application in terms of delivering a residential-led, mixed use scheme that brings life back to this unloved and neglected part of Newbury. It also retains the sustainability and low carbon aspirations of the original scheme, a focus on providing exciting new spaces for independent and artisan retailers and F&B businesses, new connectivity via the new street network connecting the station with the town centre, and outstanding build to rent residential accommodation.

“The revisions undertaken have focused on the design of the proposals, particularly how the scheme relates to the existing historic fabric and character of Newbury. This was studied in depth and the design evolved through a collaborative process between the scheme architect, Collado Collins, and Professor Robert Adam PhD RIBA who was instructed to review and re-elevate the architecture and appearance of the proposed buildings which front onto Market Place and Bartholomew Street, alongside Collado Collins’ alterations to the appearance of the proposed blocks adjacent to the new pedestrian street to ensure that they relate to the revised frontage elevations.

“The resulting scheme is of exceptional design quality that relates to the historic character of Newbury while vastly improving the street elevations and the relationships of the proposal site with adjacent and nearby listed buildings and the conservation area. It will replace a fading and out of date shopping centre, with a bespoke mixed use development of the highest quality which will, in turn, act as a catalyst for the wider regeneration of Newbury town centre.”

A statement received from Newbury Town Council on 22 September said that “The statement from Lochailort is noted. The Planning and Highways Committee of Newbury Town Council last gave its opinion on 25 October 2021 and objected to this application based on: (i)he Town Centre Conservation Area Appraisal and Masterplan Vision document are not yet published. The application should take these documents into consideration; (ii) the development is out of character with the historic Market Town nature of Newbury; (iii) there is a lack of affordable housing; and (iv) the blocks as amended are still too high.

This view has been the consistent majority opinion of the Town Council since it was first consulted on the development. There is not enough detail in Lochailort’s statement to ascertain whether or not our concerns have been addressed. We look forward to further analysis of Lochailort’s proposal and would be happy to withdraw our objection if all four grounds for objection above are addressed in full.”

The Newbury Society also made a comment, on the same day: “As Lochailort accepts, existing town centre buildings are predominantly two and three storeys in height. Reflecting this, we would expect new buildings facing Newbury’s traditional streets to be mainly three storeys in height, perhaps with four-storey accents. Some higher buildings may be acceptable towards the centre of the site, but – in line with the Newbury Town Plan – we would expect these to be no more than six storeys in height: generally up to five, with six-storey accents. Even with these we would ask for the upper storeys to be set back from the internal street frontages, so that these retain ‘market town’ proportions. The overall effect should be, as stated in the Newbury Town Plan, that “the height of present buildings in the town centre should be respected”.”

We were also contacted by WBC Lib Dem Councillor Tony Vickers, also on 22 September, who stressed that he was (as a member of the Western Area Planning Committee (WAPC) that will decide the application) speaking in a personal capacity. “I can see that there’s determination to get this scheme through on the part of Lochailort,” he said. “The changes are significant and in the right direction. I’m sure they won’t satisfy many – if not most – of those who love Newbury as it is. But doing nothing with the Kennet Centre isn’t an option and we’ll have to be very sure that something better will be offered if this scheme is rejected. I’ll need to look closely at the detail and see what our officers recommend.”

The next question is when the afore-mentioned WAPC will meet to determine the application. Much rests on whether the case officer decides if the changes are sufficiently substantial to merit a further period of consultation. If it’s considered that this is needed then it will be at least a couple of months before it appears on the WAPC agenda; if it isn’t then this could happen as early as mid-October. In either case, anyone who has commented on the application (there’s still time to do this: see link above) will be contacted and advised how they can participate in what promises to be a long meeting. I’d be surprised it it weren’t the only item on the agenda given the scale of the project and the range of reactions to the proposals.

Shaw Valley: progress at last

With one major development project seemingly neck-deep in quicksand and another yet to get off the blocks (see the sections above), it’s time to have a quick look a matter we’ve covered several times in the last couple of months: the case of the arrested development in north Newbury, the property sales and completions on part of which were halted some months ago. This was because of concerns by one of the developers about the legal implications of allowing sales to continue given that some important pre-occupation planning conditions had not been discharged. This was complicated by the even more opaque problem of the nutrient neutrality regulations which were imposed on this area in March 2022. Nether the developers nor WBC yet seem clearly to see how these can be implemented (they are, I understand, not alone in this).

The upshot of this unusual technical and procedural car crash was that a number of would-be purchasers have, through no fault of their own, found themselves in a stressful and expensive limbo, not knowing when or even if they’ll be able to move in nor whether any additional insurance might be required.

On 23 September, Penny Post received the following encouraging statement from aTaylor Wimpey spokesperson: “Following discussions with West Berkshire Council, we have taken the decision to start moving in those customers that have been delayed as a result of outstanding planning conditions at Shaw Valley. We would like to sincerely thank their customers for their patience during this time. We remain committed to working closely with the council in order to discharge the outstanding planning conditions at Shaw Valley as soon as possible.”

I understand that these outstanding conditions will gathered together in what’s known as a Section 96a application. I was told last week that only when this is submitted and validated – and at the time of writing it hasn’t been, despite many assurances over several weeks that it will be soon – will all the parties have sufficient comfort that they can proceed without any undue legal risk. I’m not sure (but have asked) if this is a pre-condition for the moving-in to be able to re-commence. It certainly seems that Sovereign is not comfortable with any people moving into its properties there until this has been submitted to WBC.

Affordable homes

WBC’s Western Area Planning Committee (WAPC) met on 21 September and the final, and least contentious, item it considered was 21/02145/FULEXT for “the construction of 18 new homes composed of one and two bed dwellings, all with associated access, parking, amenity and landscaping on land adjacent to Phoenix Centre, Newtown Road, Newbury.” The applicant was Homes for West Berkshire, a joint venture between WBC and Sovereign Housing. You can see the documents relating to the application here.

This will be interest to many residents of Hungerford as Homes for West Berkshire’s plans for re-developing the old care home at Chestnut Walk were paused until this application was passed, the idea being that both could proceed together and take advantages of economies of scale. Opposition to the original Chestnut Walk plans, expressed by the Town Council and the ward members last year, centred on the lack of any ambition with regard to environmental and sustainable features and the resulting weak signal that this sent out  to show that WBC was leading by example in the climate emergency. These plans are being revised. It’s expected that the new features at Chestnut Walk will be aligned with those recently agreed for Newtown Road at WAPC.

These include good insulation, air-source heat pumps and EV charge points: but not solar panels. WBC Councillor and WAPC member Adrian Abbs told Penny Post on 22 September that he “asked for an amendment and the solar PV was put in as it was passed as an advisory. The Sovereign representative in attendance said they would look at this again as community orientated solutions had come along since they first started.”

Given that the mandatory conditions fell short of what we could expect, why was it voted through unanimously? “We need the type of housing,” Adrian Abbs told me. “Getting a development that’s 100% affordable is a big enough win, particularly as its highly insulated and uses low-energy heating. It’s a lot better than most houses being built.” Hopefully Chestnut Walk’s properties will be built to at least the same standards; hopefully some solar panels will be added to both designs as well.

Community notices

Thatcham & Newbury Town Ladies & Girls Football Club offers three weeks free as a taster, so if you would like to try it out, email [email protected]

• The Loose Ends drop-in centre for hot meals in Newbury are currently looking for more volunteers to join their friendly team. Located at Newbury Cricket ground, they offer a safe and friendly environment for vulnerable people, as well as also giving out essentials such as mini food parcels, clothes, sleeping bags and toiletries. Volunteer tasks include setting up ready for sessions, preparing and serving food, giving out tins and toiletries to our clients. More details and how to apply can be found here.

•  All day Connect Group Bus Tickets for up to 4 people (any combination of adults and children) can be bought from the bus driver or via the Newbury & District app on your phone (which also shows in real time where each bus is on its journey so you know how long you have to wait).

• Did you know you can raise concerns with Newbury Town Council at a Saturday Surgery between 10 am and 12 noon any week at the steps of the Town Hall?

Fair Close Centre on Newtown Road in Newbury provides a vital social hub and meals on wheels for over 65s, many of whom live on their own. Please support them here. Goodness knows we might all need their services in years to come.

• The Community Larder at the Waterside Centre in Newbury is open every Tuesday between 2pm and 4pm. The Larder gives its members access to surplus food, discounts for local businesses, access to other services and support, as well as a friendly community environment. Click here to find out more about the larder and how to get involved. For more information on how community larders work, see Penny’s short video here of Wantage Community Larder).

• In celebration of Newbury Building Society’s 165th birthday they are donating 165 days of employee volunteering time to worthwhile causes in and around their branch towns including Newbury and Thatcham. The scheme is running throughout 2022, so if your organisation needs volunteers, or you know a group that does, please apply here.

• If you would like to host Ukrainian refugees, please contact 01635 503579 or [email protected] or visit this page to find out more information. Another way you can help is by making a donation here. Please also join the Newbury Ukraine Support facebook group.

•  Newbury Library offers free IT support sessions including filling out online forms, how to Zoom, downloading e-magazines or sorting out pictures. Bookable 30- or 60-minute sessions. To find out more or book a slot, email [email protected].

• Please click here for Hamstead Marshall.net, which provides an excellent round-up of what’s going on in and around the village. This also publishes the quarterly Hamstead Hornet.

Local events and activities

For more information on events and activities across the Penny Post area, see the website calendar.

• Dates for the diary

Fri 23 Sept The Mayor’s Quiz and Curry Night, The Chequers Hotel, Newbury.

Sat 24 Sept United Nations Association Coffee Morning, Newbury Town Hall.

Sun 25 Sept Cricket and Family Day, at Falkland Cricket Club.

Sun 25 Sept Family Family Day, St Thomas Infant School.

Sun 25 Sept Electric Vehicle Showcase, Acland Hall Car Park.

Thurs 29 Sept SustainHUBle Market, St Francis Parish Hall, Wash Common.

Sat 1 Oct Climate Emergency Workshop, Newbury Town Hall.

Sat 8 Oct Consultation Coffee Morning, Newbury Town Hall

• Regular events

Knit and Natter on Thursdays from 11am at Brown Paper Loves, Inch’s Yard Newbury.

Chatterday on Saturdays from 11am (bring along your own craft project and join the chat) at Brown Paper Loves, Inch’s Yard Newbury.

Sunday afternoon music at Victoria Park Bandstand, Newbury.

• Newbury Park Run at Greenham Common at 9am every Saturday morning. Folks of all ages welcome to run/walk/jog the 5km. They also have volunteering opportunities. See details here.

• ACE Space on St Nicholas Road hosts live acoustic performances. Join their Facebook group or follow them on Twitter.

• Newbury Community Larder every Tuesday 2pm to 4pm at the Waterside Centre (down the canal from Costa Coffee on Northbrook Street). For more details please contact [email protected] or call 01635 018500.

Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesdays between 2pm to 5pm. Drop in for a chat or a cuppa, knitting and craft activities. You don’t have to live in Speen to join in. Follow them on facebook here.

Educafe’s Community Cafe at Newbury Library every Wednesday between 11am and 2pm. If you would like to pop along for a friendly chat or to volunteer in the cafe please see their website for more details.

• Berkshire Youth‘s Waterside Centre in Newbury hosts various clubs and activities for local children and can provide volunteering opportunities for adults too.

 The Base, Greenham organise many artistic-focused events for people of all ages to let their creative sides go wild.

News from your local council

Note that many parish and town councils do not hold meetings in August. In addition, meetings which were scheduled to have taken place during the period of mourning following the death of the Queen (8 to 19 September) would have been cancelled or postponed.

• The most recent meeting of Newbury Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 8 August and you can download the minutes here. Items covered included: questions from members of the public; questions from members; Community United; the tree canopy; and the Community Café. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) Items covered included: ownership of public areas at Sandleford (see also The common parts above); the Mayor’s report; the CEO’s report; committee reports; the nomination of the Mayor and Deputy and of the Leader and Deputy; and formal matters.
To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 27 July and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: The Rising Sun in Stockcross (including a grant of £5,000); financial matters; committee reports; the parish improvement plan; the pavement on the B4000; and maintenance and repairs.
To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Hamstead Marshall Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 21 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here. To see minutes, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 20 July and you can read the minutes here
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 13 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 12 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here to download the meeting schedule. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 4 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 4 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• Newbury area council contacts

Parishes: Newbury Town CouncilGreenham Parish CouncilChieveley Parish CouncilEnborne Parish CouncilBoxford Parish CouncilSpeen Parish Council,  Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council, and Hamstead Marshall Parish Council.

West Berkshire Council: click here to visit the website.

News from other areas

Penny Post area – please see the following separate sections: Hungerford area; Lambourn ValleyThatcham area; Compton and DownlandsBurghfield area; Wantage area; Marlborough area.

News and views from across the area and beyond: please see the most recent Weekly News with Brian column.

 

Thursday 15 September 2022

This week we look at local mourning for the Queen, a ploughing match, a drop-in centre and litter. We also take a closer look at three contentious planning issues – a hoped-for change of heart at Shaw Valley; an appeal for historical evidence at the London Road Industrial Estate; and the latest on the plans to re-develop the Kennet Centre. As usual, we also usual round-up of other local news, local events and activities and news from your local councils.

Note: due to the period of mourning which will end after the Queen’s funeral on Monday 19 September, a number of events and activities may be postponed or cancelled, perhaps at short notice. We have highlighted those that we are aware of but you are advised to check in advance with the organisers.

This week’s news

As the nation continues to mourn the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, in our local communities residents, businesses and officials have been paying their respects to her memory. As the Union flag flew at half-mast from the Town Hall, hundreds gathered at Newbury Market Place to hear the formal proclamation of the accession of King Charles III, on Sunday 11 September. A full account of this event can be read here on Newbury Today.

• As you are probably now aware, Monday 19 September will be the day of the Queen’s funeral and has been declared a national bank holiday. All schools will be closed, as well as many business, including most supermarkets, as a mark of respect and in order to allow employees to observe the event.

• The screening of the Queen’s funeral at the Vue cinema in Newbury is fully booked but you can also watch it in good company at Thatcham Baptist Church and The White Hart in Hamstead Marshall, The Retreat Elcot Park between Newbury and Hungerford.

A Book of Condolence is available to sign in Newbury Town Hall between 10am and 4pm until Tuesday 20 September.

A Book of Condolence can be signed in St Mary’s Church Chieveley and anyone wishing to lay a floral tribute can do so at Chieveley Village Hall by the old door at the edge of the car park. St Nicolas Church in Newbury is also open for anyone who wants a quiet space to reflect on the Queen’s death.

• The heritage open day at Newbury Town Hall, originally planned for this weekend, has been postponed as a mark of respect for the Queen. The Council plan to rearrange the event, but the date has not yet been decided. In the meantime, they are instead offering the public to come to the Town Hall to sign a book of condolence, which is available between 10am and 4pm until Saturday 17 September or lay floral tributes outside the building.

• “If governments are serious about the climate crisis, there can be no new investments in oil, gas and coal, from now – from this year,” observed Fatih Birol, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency in May 2021. This is the message being spread by the climate group Just Stop Oil (which is lobbying for no new oil or gas extraction rather than switching off existing supply lines). Just Stop Oil Newbury is hosting two free talks in Hungerford Library, on Monday 19 October with Maria Wood, and on Tuesday 1 November with Roger Hallam (one of the co-founders of Extinction Rebellion).

• This Saturday and Sunday Greenham Air Base is offering a rare opportunity for the public to visit the Decontamination Chamber with guided walks and talks and a special fundraising raffle. More details on their facebook page here. Here is our Guide to more Heritage Open Days across the area throughout September.

• This weekend also sees Newbury & District Agricultual Society’s Annual Ploughing Match, held on Rookey Farm in Curridge. Come along for some farmyard family fun to see horses, stream engines, vintage machinery as well as food and drink and of course farming competitions. That’s on Saturday 17 September, from 9am and 3pm, more information can be found here.

• There is still time adults and children to sign up for swim lessons with Jo in the pool at Brockhurst & Marlston School in Hermitage. Visit swimlessons.co.uk for all details.

• Next Wednesday 21 September there will be a Community Response to the Cost of Living Crisis meeting in Newbury. The aim of the meeting at St John’s Churcho is to coordinate the community response to the looming crisis and develop a network of support hubs across the district. These hubs will provide a warm and comfortable space for residents who are unable to heat their homes as the price of domestic energy spirals, and signpost people to where they can get more support. The meeting will be chaired by a member of the local church community. All welcome. Please book your free place here.

• The Loose Ends drop-in centre for hot meals in Newbury are currently looking for more volunteers to join their friendly team. Located at Newbury Cricket ground, they offer a safe and friendly environment for vulnerable people, as well as also giving out essentials such as mini food parcels, clothes, sleeping bags and toiletries. Volunteer tasks include setting up ready for sessions, preparing and serving food, giving out tins and toiletries to our clients and  clearing and cleaning up the clubhouse at the end of service. More details and how to apply can be found here.

Bas Books and Home charity shop in the Kennet Centre are opening their doors a little earlier on Tuesday 27 September to celebrate their second birthday with pastries and juices from 8.30am to 11am and everyone is welcome. The shop raises money for Berkshire and Hampshire based Sebastian’s Action Trust that supports seriously ill children and their families. If anyone is able to offer a raffle prize, donation or a gift voucher towards our raffle it would be gratefully welcomed. Please email [email protected]  for details.

The SustainHUBle Monthly Market will be on Thursday 29 September at St Francis Parish Hall, Wash Common, between 11am and 2pm. This month the The Blade Sharpening Company will be there offering blade sharpening service for £5 per item. Other sustainable businesses will also be there such as those offering refills and local procedure will also be in attendance. Click here for more information.

• The Community Larder at the Waterside Centre in Newbury is re-open again every Tuesday between 2pm and 4pm, having been closed for essential building maintenance. The Larder gives its members access to surplus food, discounts for local businesses, access to other services and support, as well as a friendly community environment. They are always open to new members to click here to find out more about the larder and how to get involved. For more information on how community larders work, see Penny’s short video here of Wantage Community Larder).

• Calling all litter pickers and community action groups to partake in the ‘Plasticblitz’ campaign to help keep the areas around rivers in West Berkshire free of plastic. The campaign was started by the Thames River Trust and West Berkshire Council along with Action for the River Kennet are organising clean-up efforts locally, taking place between the 17 and 25 September. Click here to find out more about the initiative and how to register.

Educafe’s Community Cafe at Newbury Library has just restarted this week after a summer break. This great community initiative is organised by Clare Middleton from Berkshire School of English and Colline Watts from Colline’s Kitchen at the Waterside Centre. Official home of DECSA , the Diverse Ethnic Communities Support Agency for West Berkshire, Educafe also provides free refreshments, support and activities for parents and toddlers, a knit and natter table, yoga and agency support in the community to over 150 visitors each Wednesday between 11am and 2pm. If you would like to pop along for a friendly chat or to volunteer in the cafe please see their website for more details.

• Community United’s Cricket and Family Day on Sunday 25 September at Falkland Cricket Club aims to promote inclusion and diversity within the community, bring communities together by eliminating discrimination and promoting positive relationships. You can read more on this story and the financial contribution from on Newbury Town Council on its website here.

Great memories of Newbury’s Real Ale Festival and lots of great feedback from the attendees.

• Newbury Town Council’s fifth Climate Emergency Workshop is on Saturday 1 October at 2pm in Newbury Town Hall. The Council will be outlining its climate emergency journey so far and updating the public on the suggestions that came out of the very first workshop in 2019. If your group would like to have a platform at the workshop or an information stand at the Town Hall, please get in touch at [email protected] . If you are interested in attending the event, please register here.

• The latest edition of the Hamstead Hornet, which covers life in the village of Hamstead Marshall, can be seen here. The most recent one (September 2022) covers footpaths, the Garden Society, a vacancy on the Parish Council, a dog looking for a new home, the parish plan, planning applications, forthcoming events and an update from the Parish Council.

Hamstead Marshall Parish Council intends to start a community speedwatch programme: if you’re interested in helping, please contact Anne Budd on 01488 657022 or [email protected].

The eagle lands again

As most people in the area will be aware, Lochailort, the owner of the Kennet Centre (apart from the sinister Post Office building near the Sainsbury’s roundabout perhaps the most un-loved structure in Newbury) has decided that wholesale re-development is the way forward. Others have disagreed, the scale of the new proposals have attracted particular criticism. As I’ve suggested in pervious versions of this column, the scheme is not perfect (what is?) but seems to have some points in its favour, particularly if all the promised sustainable features are retained.

Lochailort Newbury Ltd has recently submitted a revised application for its proposals and WBC is now commencing its statutory consultation process. You can see all the documents here. On 15 September, Lochailort also supplied the following statement to Penny Post which we’re happy to reproduce below verbatim.

“This revised scheme retains the overall aim of the original application in terms of delivering a residential-led, mixed use scheme that brings life back to this unloved and neglected part of Newbury. It also retains the sustainability and low carbon aspirations of the original scheme, a focus on providing exciting new spaces for independent and artisan retailers and F&B businesses, new connectivity via the new street network connecting the station with the town centre, and outstanding build to rent residential accommodation.

“The revisions undertaken have focused on the design of the proposals, particularly how the scheme relates to the existing historic fabric and character of Newbury. This was studied in depth and the design evolved through a collaborative process between the scheme architect, Collado Collins, and Professor Robert Adam PhD RIBA who was instructed to review and re-elevate the architecture and appearance of the proposed buildings which front onto Market Place and Bartholomew Street, alongside Collado Collins’ alterations to the appearance of the proposed blocks adjacent to the new pedestrian street to ensure that they relate to the revised frontage elevations.

“The resulting scheme is of exceptional design quality that relates to the historic character of Newbury while vastly improving the street elevations and the relationships of the proposal site with adjacent and nearby listed buildings and the conservation area. It will replace a fading and out of date shopping centre, with a bespoke mixed use development of the highest quality which will, in turn, act as a catalyst for the wider regeneration of Newbury town centre.”

If you have any comments to make on this, please email [email protected]. You can also continue to contact WBC to oppose or support the scheme (see above link for details) up until the point when the master is determined by WBC’s Western Area Planning Committee. When the matter will come before WAPC is currently uncertain.

The history of the LRIE

It’s well known that attempts to re-develop this site have progressing at a glacial pace for most of the 21st century. It now seems that the drainage problems there (one of the most contentious aspects of the scheme) may have their origins in changes made to the human geography in Victorian times.

Tony Vickers, the Lib Dem’s spokesperson on planning matters, has issued this request on the subject of the site’s more recent history. You can contact him on [email protected].

“I’d like to hear from anyone who worked on what is now the London Road Industrial Estate (LRIE) before it was built in the late 1960s and 70s. I have been passed copies of maps of the area from 1893, 1939 and 1962 to compare with the present-day by someone in the newly formed Newbury Flood & Drainage Action Group. It shows how the course of the North Brook (originally an arm of the River Kennet) has been changed by development. This may explain why it now causes flooding lower down in the back gardens of houses south of London Road and through to the new Lidl car park.

“The North Brook begins as a ditch in the far west of Northcroft Park, a meadow grazed by cattle until the 1950s. At peak flows of the Kennet it filled up and flowed below Goldwell Park and through Elliots factory site (now Northcroft Park Estate), then was culverted under Northbrook Street, emerging into the marshy land south of Park Terrace. In the early 20th century it was culverted through the newly landscaped Victoria Park but the outflow from the marsh was to the north, east of Charlton Place flats.

“Before the A339 was built in the 1960s the North Brook then meandered across what is now LRIE, through the Victorian era pumping station in Faraday Road and the present day Calor Gas depot into the Rive Kennet immediately east of what is now Dairy Farm allotments. Another smaller ditch is shown on 1893-1962 maps starting roughly where Kelvin Road is and flowing east-south-east parallel with London Road, crossing where Tesco now is. This was not North Brook and was designed to carry a far smaller load of water and much of that also drained into the Kennet.

“The problem now is that all the surface water from the impermeable surfaces of the town centre south of Waitrose and north of the Kennet flows into this culverted channel. The ditch south and east of LRIE wasn’t designed to take it. I would like to know what happened to the original North Brook where it crossed the LRIE as that was built. If the course of this arm of the Kennet could be restored so that it drains directly back into its parent river and not first into the Lambourn, as now, north of A4, then perhaps flood risk in our town could be reduced.

“It is up to the local flood risk management authorities to devise a solution but perhaps some direct knowledge of what happened to the old North Brook when LRIE was built could contribute to finding that solution. This becomes urgent as we near the time when West Berkshire Council submits outline plans to redevelop LRIE.”

Shaw Valley

I’ve mentioned about the impasse here several times in the last month or so (see below and the archive section to previous columns) and there is nothing definite to report. However, I understand that discussions have been continuing between all the parties to try to resolve matters to the extent that people can finally move into their new homes, a moratorium having been placed on this on one part of the site a few months ago when it became clear that some of the pre-occupation conditions had not been discharged.

The big problem seems still to be the mitigation measures required by the nutrient neutrality regulations which could yet take some time to understand, still less implement. If life isn’t going to be put on hold indefinitely, it may be necessary for those involved to take a view on this. As I mentioned last week, one of the key drivers of the planning process is a measurement of the risks and of the commercial (and human) advantages of following any particular course of action. This balance can change. This was a fairly odd situation to begin with so it’s perhaps not surprising if initial positions need now to be revised. There’s certainly no shame in doing this.

Our sympathies once again to those would-be residents who are caught up in this muddle.

Community notices

Thatcham & Newbury Town Ladies & Girls Football Club offers three weeks free as a taster, so if you would like to try it out, email [email protected]

• Do you have a friendly nature? The ability to chat with people easily? Good listening skills and knowledge of your local area? Local charity Eight Bells is currently looking to recruit Community Navigator Volunteers in Greenham to provide community support, with a focus on looking after mental health and reducing social isolation. Volunteers will be fully trained and by giving as little as two hours a week you could make a huge difference in someone’s life. Please click here to find out more.

• Eight Bells charity is also looking for male volunteers across the area to join their team of Community Navigators. The organisation is dedicated to creating pillars of strength and support in the community, and to prevent social isolation and loneliness. To register your interest in the role fill in the form here, and to find out more about what the Eight Bells do, visit their website here.

•  All dayConnect Group Bus Tickets for up to 4 people (any combination of adults and children) can be bought from the bus driver or via the Newbury & District app on your phone (which also shows in real time where each bus is on its journey so you know how long you have to wait).

• Did you know you can raise concerns with Newbury Town Council at a Saturday Surgery between 10 am and 12 noon any week at the steps of the Town Hall?

Newbury and Thatcham Handybus assists elderly and mobility-impaired residents with trips to shopping centres, social gatherings and wellness activities. Follow their Facebook page for their latest news and details of upcoming daytrips that can be booked. Or contact them on 01635 37111 or [email protected].

Fair Close Centre on Newtown Road in Newbury provides a vital social hub and meals on wheels for over 65s, many of whom live on their own. Please support them here. Goodness knows we might all need their services in years to come.

• In celebration of Newbury Building Society’s 165th birthday they are donating 165 days of employee volunteering time to worthwhile causes in and around their branch towns including Newbury and Thatcham. The scheme is running throughout 2022, so if your organisation needs volunteers, or you know a group that does, please apply here.

• If you would like to host Ukrainian refugees, please contact 01635 503579 or [email protected] or visit this page to find out more information. Another way you can help is by making a donation here. Please also join the Newbury Ukraine Support facebook group.

•  Newbury Library offers free IT support sessions including filling out online forms, how to Zoom, downloading e-magazines or sorting out pictures. Bookable 30- or 60-minute sessions. To find out more or book a slot, email [email protected].

• Please click here for Hamstead Marshall.net, which provides an excellent round-up of what’s going on in and around the village. This also publishes the quarterly Hamstead Hornet.

Local events and activities

Note: following the death of Queen Elizabeth II on 8 September, some events over the following few days may be cancelled or postponed. Please check with the organisers.

For more information on events and activities across the Penny Post area, see the website calendar.

• Dates for the diary

Fri 16 Sept Talk: Dressing Victorians and Edwardians, Shaw House.

Sat 17 Sept District Agricultural Society’s Annual Ploughing Match, Curridge.

Sat 17 Sept Heritage Open Day: Decontamination Suite, Greenham Air Base.

• Sun 18 Sept Heritage Open Day: Decontamination Suite, Greenham Air Base.

Fri 23 Sept The Mayor’s Quiz and Curry Night, The Chequers Hotel, Newbury.

Sat 24 Sept United Nations Association Coffee Morning, Newbury Town Hall.

Sun 25 Sept Cricket and Family Day, at Falkland Cricket Club.

Thurs 29 Sept SustainHUBle Market, St Francis Parish Hall, Wash Common.

Sat 1 Oct Climate Emergency Workshop, Newbury Town Hall.

• Regular events

Knit and Natter on Thursdays from 11am at Brown Paper Loves, Inch’s Yard Newbury.

Chatterday on Saturdays from 11am (bring along your own craft project and join the chat) at Brown Paper Loves, Inch’s Yard Newbury.

Sunday afternoon music at Victoria Park Bandstand, Newbury.

• Newbury Park Run at Greenham Common at 9am every Saturday morning. Folks of all ages welcome to run/walk/jog the 5km. They also have volunteering opportunities. See details here.

• ACE Space on St Nicholas Road hosts live acoustic performances. Join their Facebook group or follow them on Twitter.

• Newbury Community Larder every Tuesday 2pm to 4pm at the Waterside Centre (down the canal from Costa Coffee on Northbrook Street). For more details please contact [email protected] or call 01635 018500.

Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesdays between 2pm to 5pm. Drop in for a chat or a cuppa, knitting and craft activities. You don’t have to live in Speen to join in. Follow them on facebook here.

• Berkshire Youth‘s Waterside Centre in Newbury hosts various clubs and activities for local children and can provide volunteering opportunities for adults too.

 The Base, Greenham organise many artistic-focused events for people of all ages to let their creative sides go wild.

News from your local council

• The most recent meeting of Newbury Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 8 August and you can download the minutes here. Items covered included: questions from members of the public; questions from members; Community United; the tree canopy; and the Community Café. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) Items covered included: ownership of public areas at Sandleford (see also The common parts above); the Mayor’s report; the CEO’s report; committee reports; the nomination of the Mayor and Deputy and of the Leader and Deputy; and formal matters.
To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 27 July and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: The Rising Sun in Stockcross (including a grant of £5,000); financial matters; committee reports; the parish improvement plan; the pavement on the B4000; and maintenance and repairs.
To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Hamstead Marshall Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 21 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here. To see minutes, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 20 July and you can read the minutes here
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 13 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 12 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here to download the meeting schedule. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 4 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 4 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• Newbury area council contacts

Parishes: Newbury Town CouncilGreenham Parish CouncilChieveley Parish CouncilEnborne Parish CouncilBoxford Parish CouncilSpeen Parish Council,  Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council, and Hamstead Marshall Parish Council.

West Berkshire Council: click here to visit the website.

News from other areas

Penny Post area – please see the following separate sections: Hungerford area; Lambourn ValleyThatcham area; Compton and DownlandsBurghfield area; Wantage area; Marlborough area.

News and views from across the area and beyond: please see the most recent Weekly News with Brian column.

Friday 9 September 2022

This week we look at local mourning for the Queen, a real ale festival in Newbury, a community festival in Wash Common, the return of Educafé. We also have the latest developments in the story of the Shaw Valley development in north Newbury and take a look at a perplexing delay with the solar farm in Enborne: plus there’s our usual round-up of other local news, local events and activities and news from your local councils.

This week’s news

• The Mayor of Newbury, Councillor Gary Norman, wishes to express the deep sadness of Newbury Town Council, Officers, and the residents of Newbury at the death of Queen Elizabeth and offer condolences to the Royal Family. As a mark of respect, the Union Flag will be flown at half-mast from the Town Hall. A Book of Condolence has been opened at Newbury Town Hall in honour of the Queen following her passing. The book has been signed by Mayor of Newbury, Councillor Gary Norman and West Berkshire Council Chairman, Councillor Rick Jones and members of the public are invited to sign the book and lay flowers from today.

• West Berkshire Council has confirmed that the official announcement in West Berkshire of the new King will be read from 2pm on Sunday 11 September. The proclamation will be read by the Chairman of West Berkshire Council, Councillor Rick Jones, in Market Place in Newbury. Members of the public are invited to attend the reading, which will be attended by local dignitaries and will last 10 to 15 minutes. Also participating in the event will be Paul Dick OBE, Deputy Lord Lieutenant and Councillor Gary Norman, Mayor of Newbury Town Council. The national proclamation will be read on Saturday 10 September.

• In response to the sad news, Chieveley Parish Council has postponed their meeting scheduled for Monday 13 September. A Book of Condolence will be available in St Mary’s Church Chieveley from Saturday 10 September. Anyone wishing to lay a floral tribute can do so at Chieveley Village Hall by the old door at the edge of the car park.

• This Saturday 10 September sees the return of Newbury’s Real Ale Festival in which there will be live music, open mic stage, artisan market, food and of course lots to drink. In response to some complaints last year from nearby residents, the organisers appear to be a doing much better job of communicating this year and have promised the music will end at 10pm – see details here posted on Newbury Happening Today facebook group by Lizzie Stanley who supports the event but is glad to know what the end time will be. The festival’s website says that since they began they have donated over £100,000 to good causes so it’s good that they’ve found a way to keep the event going.

• The second annual Wash Common Community Festival, Garden & Craft Show is also this Saturday at Falkland Cricket Club and will include the grand opening of Wash Common Scouts HQ at 2.30pm. For all details see the festival’s facebook page here.

West Fields’ CommuniTEA  have been opening their gardens to visitors for tea and cake several weekends a year in aid of local charities and Children in Need. They are finishing their 2022 season with a flourish on Sunday 11 September with their usual tea, cakes and live music, and also a local craft market. Lots to choose from and all made in West Fields. See their facebook event for more details.

• Good news for local tennis lovers. Newbury Town Council has entered into a 10-year agreement with the National Tennis Association (NTA) with support from the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) to enable the local community to easily access tennis courts and increase awareness and participation of tennis in the area. This means that Newbury Tennis Club, Thatcham Memorial Foundation Tennis Courts and Victoria Park Tennis Courts are now connected under one banner as Newbury & Thatcham Community Tennis. For more information about the new agreement, you can read about it here. If you would like to book one of the courts click here.

Educafe’s Community Cafe at Newbury Library re-starts this week on Wednesday 14 September after a summer break. This great community initiative is organised by Clare Middleton from Berkshire School of English and Colline Watts from Colline’s Kitchen at the Waterside Centre. Official home of DECSA , the Diverse Ethnic Communities Support Agency for West Berkshire, Educafe also provides support and activities for parents and toddlers, a knit and natter table, yoga and agency support in the community to over 150 visitors each Wednesay between 11am and 2pm. If you would like to pop along for a friendly chat or to volunteer in the cafe please see their website for more details.

• St Nicolas Church is open for anyone who wants a quiet space to reflect on the Queen’s death. A book of condolence will also be available for people to sign in the Town Hall.

• As part of England’s Heritage Open Days, a number of local organisations are opening their doors to the public for free this September. This weekend you can enjoy special open days from Shaw House and West Berkshire Library. For more events see our Guide to Heritage Open Days across the area between 9 and 18 September.

• The Corn Exchange Newbury and the Watermill Theatre are joining forces to launch the Careers in the Arts programme starting in September 2023, which aims to nurture young talent and train young people with transferable skills. The traineeships will offer hands-on experience in running a theatre, including technical, wardrobe, catering, marketing, fundraising, finance, front of house and box office. Funded by the Greenham Trust, this programme hopes to create employment opportunity in the arts and culture sector. For more information, see Newbury Today.

• The Mary Hare School, which is a specialist school for deaf children, has just opened a new primary school. Located in a brand-new, purpose built building the primary school is dedicated high quality education and support of deaf children and their families. More on this story in the Newbury Today.

• Community United’s Cricket and Family Day on Sunday 25 September at Falkland Cricket Club aims to promote inclusion and diversity within the community, bring communities together by eliminating discrimination and promoting positive relationships. Berkshire Youth will provide fun and games for young people, and Kennet Radio will all be there. You can read more on this story and the financial contribution from on Newbury Town Council on its website here.

• Newbury Town Council’s fifth Climate Emergency Workshop is to be held on Saturday 1 October at 2pm in Town Hall Chamber, Market Place. The Council will be outlining its climate emergency journey so far and updating the public on the suggestions that came out of the very first workshop in 2019. If your group would like to have a platform at the workshop or an information stand at the Town Hall, please get in touch at [email protected] . If you are interested in attending the event, please register here.

• The latest edition of the Hamstead Hornet, which covers life in the village of Hamstead Marshall, can be seen here. The most recent one (September 2022) covers footpaths, the Garden Society, a vacancy on the Parish Council, a dog looking for a new home, the parish plan, planning applications, forthcoming events and an update from the Parish Council.

Hamstead Marshall Parish Council intends to start a community speedwatch programme: if you’re interested in helping, please contact Anne Budd on 01488 657022 or [email protected].

Shaw’s Valley

We’ve written about this several times and I’ve been trying to find out a bit more about this complex, technical and emotive issue which is preventing a number of people from moving into one part of the development in north Newbury. I’ve been promised statements by the two developers: one was very short and didn’t really address the points I asked about and the other hasn’t yet sent me anything, so I’m not really any further forward on this. The issue principally turns on a number of planning conditions which the planning authority mandates when the application is approved and which are added to the decision notice. Some of these need to be done before people move in but in this case several weren’t. It seems this often happens; perhaps in the same way as people carry on driving after their road tax has expired and sort the problem out later.

In this case, however, nutrient neutrality regulations (which were introduced in March 2022 in the Lambourn catchment area, which the site is part of) caused a far bigger problem. This required a serious level of mitigation to be demonstrated  with regards to possible contamination of the soil (and thus the aquifer, and thus the river) by phosphates and nitrates. Contamination can come both from foul water leakage from sewage pipes and from surface water draining from, for example, gardens that have used fertilisers and driveways that may contain chemicals. (Obviously, surface water can and often does drain into sewage systems. Many feel that more should be done to ensure that in new developments these are kept as separate as possible to ease the pressure on sewage systems; but we’re getting slightly off the point).

The detailed FAQs provided by the Local Government Association in April (and updated many times since) points out (in 3.8) the lack of certainty as to whether applications which are built out but not had their conditions discharged are “caught” by these regulations. The document says that “some councils are taking a risk-based approach and are discharging conditions and taking extra care should the conditions include items relating to drainage. Other councils are simply not processing them.” It certainly seems that if the conditions had all been discharged before people started moving in in late 2021 then the problem would be less serious.

One might imagine that a planning authority would check that all the necessary work had been done before occupation started and, if it hadn’t, issue a stop notice. It seems that the checking doesn’t happen; while stop notices tend to be used with reluctance as they immediately move the relationship into a world of legal pain and expense. Once the conditions have been specified it becomes the developer’s legal responsibility to perform them. With every brick that’s laid and every home that’s occupied, the legal risk thus moves from the planning authority to the developer. In the case of Shaw Valley, the two developers took different views of the risk, Taylor Wimpey Homes deciding to stop selling homes until matters were addressed and David Wilson Homes deciding to continue.

How long the nutrient neutrality issues will take to resolve and thus the whole development be given a clear green light is harder to say. the LGA document warns that “long-term mitigation options are not a quick fix – you should plan on the basis that it may be between one and two years at the earliest before acceptable mitigation options in place.” WBC and presumably the developers have been talking to Natural England to try to find a pragmatic solution to this. In the meantime, anyone hoping to move in to a Taylor Wimpey home on the site should probably not book the delivery van just yet.

It has also been suggested to me that local ward members and parish councillors have a role to play in keeping an eye on developments and highlighting any possible issues to the planning department. The obvious question here is whether these people would have the necessary knowledge to know what they were looking for. Some might: but would they also have the time?

From all this, it would therefore appear that, for it to work at all, this aspect of the planning system relies on three things: the integrity of developers; careful assessments of legal risk; and a network of what are essentially unpaid informers. (It also, as this case has shown, depends on the government not introducing regulations at short notice which, in the case of the nutrient neutrality ones, do not appear to have been as well through-through as they might have been.)

Finally, communication is as in all things important as well. Sections 3.3 and 3.5 of the LGA’s FAQs make some recommendations on these points. I’ve written to WBC to ask how it has handled each of these issues and await the response with interest.

Catching the rays

We’ve mentioned before about the proposed solar farm in Enborne, the application for which was lodged earlier this year (you can see the details here). A number of objections have been based on the fear that this will increase the risk of flooding in the nearby properties in Spring Gardens. This is perfectly reasonable concern but it appears that the flooding problems are (i) pre-existing and (ii) likely to be improved rather than exacerbated by the proposed work. The questions of why there is a flooding problem, who should have dealt with this and whether they did are to some extent separate issues and expose a nonsense in the planning system, namely that developers (rather than councils) generally assume the responsibility for managing and maintaining these kind of external common parts. We are where we are, however. The matter will in due course come before the Western Area Planning Committee (WAPC) for determination, prior to which everyone who has made a comment will be contacted and told how they can attend and even participate in this discussion.

Before this can happen, a procedural issue needs to be sorted out between the applicant and the planners regarding the deadline (which has passed) by which the applicant needs to have responded to any matters raised by the council, even though there still seems to be an outstanding report which either the applicant or the council (I’m still not clear which) should have provided. If I’m not explaining this very well it’s because I’m not quite sure what the issues are; if it seems slightly Kafka-esque then it’s because it might be. All will hopefully be resolved when the case officer returns from holiday next week.

One thing that the WAPC may bear in mind – and which the applicant will probably be encouraged by – is the recent approval given to the far larger project at Bloomfield Hatch near Mortimer (see the Burghfield Area Weekly News column and the archive section that links for this). This established at least two relevant points of importance. The first is that the real threat to agricultural land is not solar farms but climate change (the Enborne site is in any case only used for sheep grazing, which can continue when the panels are installed). The second is that, the way energy prices are going, such schemes are likely to be financially viable, as long as the money can be borrowed cheaply enough (such as through the Public Works Loan Board). As mentioned above, the work should also enable the flooding problem to be fixed.

Although the determination date has passed, comments can still be made up until the time WAPC meets to consider the matter by visiting WBC’s planning portal.

Community notices

Thatcham & Newbury Town Ladies & Girls Football Club offers three weeks free as a taster, so if you would like to try it out, email [email protected]

• Do you have a friendly nature? The ability to chat with people easily? Good listening skills and knowledge of your local area? Local charity Eight Bells is currently looking to recruit Community Navigator Volunteers in Greenham to provide community support, with a focus on looking after mental health and reducing social isolation. Volunteers will be fully trained and by giving as little as two hours a week you could make a huge difference in someone’s life. Please click here to find out more.

• Eight Bells charity is also looking for male volunteers across the area to join their team of Community Navigators. The organisation is dedicated to creating pillars of strength and support in the community, and to prevent social isolation and loneliness. To register your interest in the role fill in the form here, and to find out more about what the Eight Bells do, visit their website here.

•  All day Connect Group Bus Tickets for up to 4 people (any combination of adults and children) can be bought from the bus driver or via the Newbury & District app on your phone (which also shows in real time where each bus is on its journey so you know how long you have to wait).

• Did you know you can raise concerns with Newbury Town Council at a Saturday Surgery between 10 am and 12 noon any week at the steps of the Town Hall?

Newbury and Thatcham Handybus assists elderly and mobility-impaired residents with trips to shopping centres, social gatherings and wellness activities. Follow their Facebook page for their latest news and details of upcoming daytrips that can be booked. Or contact them on 01635 37111 or [email protected].

Fair Close Centre on Newtown Road in Newbury provides a vital social hub and meals on wheels for over 65s, many of whom live on their own. Please support them here. Goodness knows we might all need their services in years to come.

• In celebration of Newbury Building Society’s 165th birthday they are donating 165 days of employee volunteering time to worthwhile causes in and around their branch towns including Newbury and Thatcham. The scheme is running throughout 2022, so if your organisation needs volunteers, or you know a group that does, please apply here.

• If you would like to host Ukrainian refugees, please contact 01635 503579 or [email protected] or visit this page to find out more information. Another way you can help is by making a donation here. Please also join the Newbury Ukraine Support facebook group.

•  Newbury Library offers free IT support sessions including filling out online forms, how to Zoom, downloading e-magazines or sorting out pictures. Bookable 30- or 60-minute sessions. To find out more or book a slot, email [email protected].

• Please click here for Hamstead Marshall.net, which provides an excellent round-up of what’s going on in and around the village. This also publishes the quarterly Hamstead Hornet.

Local events and activities

Note: following the death of Queen Elizabeth II on 8 September, some events over the following few days may be cancelled or postponed. Please check with the organisers.

For more information on events and activities across the Penny Post area, see the website calendar.

• Dates for the diary

Sat 10 Sept Newbury Real Ale Festival, Northcroft Fields, Newbury.

Sat 10 Sept Wash Common Community Festival, Enbourne Street, Newbury.

Sat 10 & Sun 11 Sept Shaw House Heritage Open Days, Shaw House, Newbury.

Sat 10 & Sun 11 Sept West Berks Library Heritage Open Days, West Berks Museum, Newbury.

Fri 16 Sept Talk: Dressing Victorians and Edwardians, Shaw House.

Sat 17 Sept The Agricultural Society’s Annual Ploughing Match, Curridge.

Fri 23 Sept The Mayor’s Quiz and Curry Night, The Chequers Hotel, Newbury.

Sun 25 Sept Cricket and Family Day, at Falkland Cricket Club.

Sat 1 Oct Climate Emergency Workshop, Newbury Town Hall.

• Regular events

Knit and Natter on Thursdays from 11am at Brown Paper Loves, Inch’s Yard Newbury.

Chatterday on Saturdays from 11am (bring along your own craft project and join the chat) at Brown Paper Loves, Inch’s Yard Newbury.

Sunday afternoon music at Victoria Park Bandstand, Newbury.

• Newbury Park Run at Greenham Common at 9am every Saturday morning. Folks of all ages welcome to run/walk/jog the 5km. They also have volunteering opportunities. See details here.

• ACE Space on St Nicholas Road hosts live acoustic performances. Join their Facebook group or follow them on Twitter.

• Newbury Community Larder every Tuesday 2pm to 4pm at the Waterside Centre (down the canal from Costa Coffee on Northbrook Street). For more details please contact [email protected] or call 01635 018500.

Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesdays between 2pm to 5pm. Drop in for a chat or a cuppa, knitting and craft activities. You don’t have to live in Speen to join in. Follow them on facebook here.

• Berkshire Youth‘s Waterside Centre in Newbury hosts various clubs and activities for local children and can provide volunteering opportunities for adults too.

 The Base, Greenham organise many artistic-focused events for people of all ages to let their creative sides go wild.

News from your local council

• The most recent meeting of Newbury Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 8 August and you can download the minutes here. Items covered included: questions from members of the public; questions from members; Community United; the tree canopy; and the Community Café. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) Items covered included: ownership of public areas at Sandleford (see also The common parts above); the Mayor’s report; the CEO’s report; committee reports; the nomination of the Mayor and Deputy and of the Leader and Deputy; and formal matters.
To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 27 July and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: The Rising Sun in Stockcross (including a grant of £5,000); financial matters; committee reports; the parish improvement plan; the pavement on the B4000; and maintenance and repairs.
To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Hamstead Marshall Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 21 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here. To see minutes, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 20 July and you can read the minutes here
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 13 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 12 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here to download the meeting schedule. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 4 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 4 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• Newbury area council contacts

Parishes: Newbury Town CouncilGreenham Parish CouncilChieveley Parish CouncilEnborne Parish CouncilBoxford Parish CouncilSpeen Parish Council,  Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council, and Hamstead Marshall Parish Council.

West Berkshire Council: click here to visit the website.

News from other areas

Penny Post area – please see the following separate sections: Hungerford area; Lambourn ValleyThatcham area; Compton and DownlandsBurghfield area; Wantage area; Marlborough area.

News and views from across the area and beyond: please see the most recent Weekly News with Brian column.

Thursday 1 September 2022

We didn’t do a news update for 1 September 2022 as were having a week off. However, the 25 August section below will include much information that’s still relevant, including regarding community organisations and recurring events (please email [email protected] if you would like information about your organisation to be included here).

Many of the news items that we covered last week also remain relevant as they relate to issues that are still active or to events that are yet to take place. The normal service of updating these will resume on 8 September.

The main issue which we’ve been covering in recent weeks, and will continue to cover until it’s resolved, is the seeming impasse at the Shaw Valley development in north Newbury. This seems increasingly likely to result in many people who were hoping to have moved in not being able to do so. This is partly the result of various planning conditions (mainly to do with drainage and highways) not having been completed, so leaving the two developers or West Berkshire Council or perhaps all three of them open to possible legal action if any more homes were occupied; and partly the result of the nutrient neutrality regulations which first appeared in 2019 and which started to apply to this part of West Berkshire in March 2022.

To describe nutrient neutrality as being problematic for developers and planning authorities would be an understatement. There still seem to be genuine areas of uncertainty about how the regulations need to be interpreted and in what cases they apply. As a result, it’s estimated that at at least 100,000 homes in 74 separate districts have been delayed. The situation has recently been thrown into even more confusion by Liz Truss’ promise that if she becomes PM (as seems likely) she will abolish the regulations altogether. Presumably, there will first need to be a rather clearer and better thought-through alternative to put in its place. Few would argue that our rivers need protection but critics have claimed that the current regulations, principally aimed at developments which increase overnight stays (and thus toilet flushes), do not address the main cause of the problem which is run-off from agricultural land. If the regulations are repealed, local authorities may need to brace themselves for a wave of appeals regarding developments which had previously been refused (such as The Bell in Boxford) on nutrient-neutrality grounds. This workload will be on top of a rising backlog of undetermined applications which has built up as a result of these uncertainties.

In the case of Shaw Valley, nutrient neutrality is only a part of the problem. As mentioned above, some other conditions have not been met which has led to the partial moratorium on any further completions. Normally, these spats between homebuilders and the planning authority – which can to an outsider seem as obscure as a theological debate in a seminary – are played out long before anyone has moved in. On this occasion the car crash has happened when there were actually people in the car.

We have contacted West Berkshire Council and the two developers involved, David Wilson Homes and Taylor Wimpey Homes, all of which promptly responded and promised my statements very soon. I’ll therefore hope to cover this tangled tale in more detail next week, hopefully with a hopeful outcome for the victims.

Thursday 25 August 2022

This week we look at an open day at the fire station, an upcoming climate workshop and a heritage open day> We also have the latest developments in the tangled and unhappy story of the Shaw Valley development in north Newbury: plus there’s our usual round-up of other local news, local events and activities and news from your local councils.

This week’s news

• As part of England’s Heritage Open Days, Newbury Town Hall is throwing open its doors to the public on Saturday 17 September from 10am to 2pm. Everyone is invited to come along and view the Council Chamber, The Civic Staircase, The Town Hall portraits, the Council’s maces and other civic regalia – including the Town Hall Honours Boards, which lists the Mayors of Newbury going back to 1596 and features many well-known local families. For more information, click here.

Good news that many West Berks bus routes now offer an all day Connect Group Bus Ticket for up to 4 people (any combination of adults and children) for £10 (urban fare) or £15 (rural fare). These tickets can be bought from the bus driver or via the Newbury & District app on your phone (which also shows in real time where each bus is on its journey so you know how long you have to wait).

• See p8 of this week’s Newbury Weekly News for a report on the recent open day at Newbury Fire Station which raised over £1,000 for the Fire Fighters’ Charity.

•  Newbury Town Council is contributing £2,500 to help fund Community United’s Cricket and Family Day on Sunday 25 September at Falkland Cricket Club to promote inclusion and diversity within the community, bring communities together by eliminating discrimination and promoting positive relationships between our diverse communities. Berkshire Youth will provide fun and games for young people, and Kennet Radio will entertain us with music and commentary. The Council’s contribution will be matchfunded by The Greenham Trust, making an overall value of £5,000 to Community United. You can read more on this story on Newbury Town Council’s website here.

•  Newbury Town Council’s fifth Climate Emergency Workshop is to be held on Saturday 1 October at 2pm in Town Hall Chamber, Market Place. Since declaring a climate emergency in 2019, the Town Council’s Climate Emergency Working Group (CEWG) has been taking action to transition Newbury Town Council’s operations to net zero for carbon emissions. At the workshop, the Council will be outlining its climate emergency journey so far and updating the public on the suggestions that came out of the very first workshop in 2019. If your group would like to have a platform at the workshop or an information stand at the Town Hall, please do get in touch at [email protected] . If you are interested in attending the event, please register here.

• The next Community Garden drop-in session at Shaw House will be on Tuesday 30 August from 10am to 2pm. All ages are allowed at it is a great place to make new friends, learn tips and tricks to get the most out of your garden and enjoy all the benefits that come with the great outdoors. Click here for more details on how to pre-book.

• The latest edition of the Hamstead Hornet, which covers life in the village of Hamstead Marshall, can be seen here.

• New play equipment was installed today on the Village Hall field in Hamstead Marshall on 24 August and the Parish Council reports that it will need time to set in place so will be tied off for a couple of days. It will be available for play from Saturday 27 August, 2022.

Hamstead Marshall Parish Council intends to start a community speedwatch programme: if you’re interested in helping, please contact Anne Budd on 01488 657022 or [email protected].

A meeting in the valley

As mentioned last week, uncertainty rages – the verb is a fair one given how many people are immediately affected – over the Shaw Valley development in north Newbury.

A very brief summary is that about four months ago (which was in turn about four months after people started moving in) it became clear to West Berkshire Council that some of the planning conditions had not been “discharged” (ie completed). a realisation which should perhaps have happened earlier. These conditions involved both drainage and highways. Some were, I understand, minor but others were not. Rather than place a “stop” notice on the site there was instead a voluntary agreement by one of the developers (Taylor Wimpey) but not the other (David Wilson) to halt the sale of homes. As a result, at least 20 individuals or families find themselves through no fault of their own stuck in limbo. Many have already had mortgage offers lapse.

The new nutrient neutrality regulations announced on 16 March have further complicated matters. If these apply to properties which we built though not occupied on 16 March (opinion differs on this) then matters could be even more protracted. Partly due to a lack of guidance from Natural England, it’s still not clear how the regulations need to be interpreted nor even, as mentioned above, what properties that apply to. Nor is it clear how long the other conditions will take to get discharged.

Earlier this week, one of the ward members, Steve Masters, suggested that a meeting be held involving all the interested parties in an effort to resolve the problem. The suggestion was welcomed by officers and it appears that this will be convened in the next week or so. The trick will be to find a solution which is commercially viable, procedurally compliant and legally defensible.  One possibility is for Taylor Wimpey unilaterally to start selling the homes again. However, having stopped doing so for several months, it would need to point to something that had changed to justify re-opening the shop and it’s hard to see what this might be. The last thing it would want is to sued by Natural England or DeFRA for having breached nutrient neutrality regulations. As for WBC, by permitting a situation where one part of the site is selling homes and the other is not, it appears to have landed in the worst of both worlds, incurring the displeasure of, and potentially action by, both the would-be residents and Natural England, each on completely opposite grounds. It has also, once again, managed to get itself the wrong side of a PR muddle, though I don’t get the impression it’s too bothered about this.

It’s not entirely certain whether WBC or the developers were responsible for the delay in getting these conditions discharged. What does seem  clear, however, is that if all these had been addressed when they should have been then none of this muddle would have happened.

Normally these often arcane disputes between the planning authority and the developers are played out months or years before anyone moves in. In this case, the car crash is involving real people, for whom the consequences are getting more severe with every day that passes. Hopefully the meeting suggested by Steve Masters will plot a way through this muddle that everyone can live with. When the dust has settled and the work completed, the Taylor Wimpey part of the site will without doubt be fully tenanted with people who have paid the then market rate (which is only going one way) for their properties. Whether these prove to be the same people who are so desperately trying to move in is another matter.

For more on this story, see the columns in the archive section for 18 August, 28 July and 21 July.

Community notices

Thatcham & Newbury Town Ladies & Girls Football Club offers three weeks free as a taster, so if you would like to try it out, email [email protected]

• Do you have a friendly nature? The ability to chat with people easily? Good listening skills and knowledge of your local area? Local charity Eight Bells is currently looking to recruit Community Navigator Volunteers in Greenham to provide community support, with a focus on looking after mental health and reducing social isolation. Volunteers will be fully trained and by giving as little as two hours a week you could make a huge difference in someone’s life. Please click here to find out more.

• Eight Bells charity is also looking for male volunteers across the area to join their team of Community Navigators. The organisation is dedicated to creating pillars of strength and support in the community, and to prevent social isolation and loneliness. To register your interest in the role fill in the form here, and to find out more about what the Eight Bells do, visit their website here.

• Latest news from Wash Common Library: Spanish club is back for September from Saturday 3 September at 10am and our book this month is The Long Call by Anne Cleeves which is quite an easy read so there is still time to pop into the library to borrow the book. The library is open Tuesday 2 to 4pm, Friday 9 to 11am and Saturday 10am to noon. For more information please contact [email protected].

• Did you know you can raise concerns with Newbury Town Council at a Saturday Surgery between 10 am and 12 noon any week at the steps of the Town Hall?

Newbury and Thatcham Handybus assists elderly and mobility-impaired residents with trips to shopping centres, social gatherings and wellness activities. Follow their Facebook page for their latest news and details of upcoming daytrips that can be booked. Or contact them on 01635 37111 or [email protected].

Fair Close Centre on Newtown Road in Newbury provides a vital social hub and meals on wheels for over 65s, many of whom live on their own. Please support them here. Goodness knows we might all need their services in years to come.

• In celebration of Newbury Building Society’s 165th birthday they are donating 165 days of employee volunteering time to worthwhile causes in and around their branch towns including Newbury and Thatcham. The scheme is running throughout 2022, so if your organisation needs volunteers, or you know a group that does, please apply here.

• If you would like to host Ukrainian refugees, please contact 01635 503579 or [email protected] or visit this page to find out more information. Another way you can help is by making a donation here. Please also join the Newbury Ukraine Support facebook group.

•  Newbury Library offers free IT support sessions including filling out online forms, how to Zoom, downloading e-magazines or sorting out pictures. Bookable 30- or 60-minute sessions. To find out more or book a slot, email [email protected].

• Please click here for Hamstead Marshall.net, which provides an excellent round-up of what’s going on in and around the village. This also publishes the quarterly Hamstead Hornet.

Local events and activities

For more information on events and activities across the Penny Post area, see the website calendar.

• Dates for the diary

• Fri 26 Aug Dirty Dancing Outdoor Cinema, Newbury Rugby Club.

Fri 16 Sept Talk: Dressing Victorians and Edwardians, Shaw House.

Sat 17 Sept The Agricultural Society’s Annual Ploughing Match, Curridge.

Sat 17 Sept Newbury Town Hall Open Day, Newbury Town Hall.

Fri 23 Sept The Mayor’s Quiz and Curry Night, The Chequers Hotel, Newbury.

Sun 25 Sept Cricket and Family Day, at Falkland Cricket Club.

Wed 28 Sept Shaw House: 400 Years of History talk, Corn Exchange.

Sat 1 Oct Climate Emergency Workshop, Newbury Town Hall.

• Regular events

Knit and Natter on Thursdays from 11am at Brown Paper Loves, Inch’s Yard Newbury.

Chatterday on Saturdays from 11am (bring along your own craft project and join the chat) at Brown Paper Loves, Inch’s Yard Newbury.

Sunday afternoon music at Victoria Park Bandstand, Newbury.

• Newbury Park Run at Greenham Common at 9am every Saturday morning. Folks of all ages welcome to run/walk/jog the 5km. They also have volunteering opportunities. See details here.

• ACE Space on St Nicholas Road hosts live acoustic performances. Join their Facebook group or follow them on Twitter.

• Newbury Community Larder every Tuesday 2pm to 4pm at the Waterside Centre (down the canal from Costa Coffee on Northbrook Street). For more details please contact [email protected] or call 01635 018500.

Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesdays between 2pm to 5pm. Drop in for a chat or a cuppa, knitting and craft activities. You don’t have to live in Speen to join in. Follow them on facebook here.

• Berkshire Youth‘s Waterside Centre in Newbury hosts various clubs and activities for local children and can provide volunteering opportunities for adults too.

 The Base, Greenham organise many artistic-focused events for people of all ages to let their creative sides go wild.

News from your local council

• The most recent meeting of Newbury Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 8 August and you can download the minutes here. Items covered included: questions from members of the public; questions from members; Community United; the tree canopy; and the Community Café. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) Items covered included: ownership of public areas at Sandleford (see also The common parts above); the Mayor’s report; the CEO’s report; committee reports; the nomination of the Mayor and Deputy and of the Leader and Deputy; and formal matters. To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 27 July and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: The Rising Sun in Stockcross (including a grant of £5,000); financial matters; committee reports; the parish improvement plan; the pavement on the B4000; and maintenance and repairs. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Hamstead Marshall Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 21 July and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: planning matters; co-operation on common issues with the parishes of Kintbury and Enborne; a report from ward member James Cole; potholes; the bus shelter; the PC’s website; financial matters; and an apology from the Craven Arms about noise. To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 20 July and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: financial matters; correspondence; planning matters; speeding; the Owen Road Wildflower Meadow; dog bins; the future of the Old School; and the PC’s website. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 13 July and you can read the minutes here. Items covered including; ground-nesting birds on the Common; possible wind turbines; councillor co-options; financial matters; and planning matters. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 12 July and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included:Items covered included: the proposed changes to the S106 agreement for Newbury Showground (see separate section above); other planning matters; financial matters; parish paths; nutrient neutrality; and the Tommy memorial.To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here to download the meeting schedule. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 4 July and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: footpaths and roads; Holder’s meadow; the Greenway; the parish plan; the parish website; planning matters; financial matters; and the Village Hall. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 4 July and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: the illegal encampment in Wash Water; planning matters; traffic calming; and repairs and maintenance. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• Newbury area council contacts

Parishes: Newbury Town CouncilGreenham Parish CouncilChieveley Parish CouncilEnborne Parish CouncilBoxford Parish CouncilSpeen Parish Council,  Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council, and Hamstead Marshall Parish Council.

West Berkshire Council: click here to visit the website.

News from other areas

Penny Post area – please see the following separate sections: Hungerford area; Lambourn ValleyThatcham area; Compton and DownlandsBurghfield area; Wantage area; Marlborough area.

News and views from across the area and beyond: please see the most recent Weekly News with Brian column.

Thursday 18 August 2022

This week we cover  an open day, stallholders, a newsletter and playground problems, as well as taking a closer look at the financial, administrative and reputational problems which continue to haunt the Shaw Valley development in north Newbury: plus there’s our usual round-up of other local news, local events and activities and news from your local councils.

This week’s news

• There’s plenty to look forward to this weekend in Newbury, with Saturday bringing us the Newbury Fire Station Open Day, while Sunday sees the return of the Vegan Market, music from Phoenix Brass and CommuniTEA Time – where you can socialise with tea, cakes and other goodies in aid of Children in Need. There’s bound to be something for everyone.

• Newbury Town Council are calling on West Berkshire Council to increase the amount of tree coverage in the town centre, so make. Highlighted by the recent heatwave, the centre seems to be lacking enough shady spots to take shelter under. Other benefits of more trees would be to help reduce pollutants and temperature levels in the town, create habitats for wildlife and in general make the town more sustainable and attractive. You can read more about this on the town council’s website.

• Did you know that gardening has been proven to reduce stress, lower cholesterol and blood pressure and even help ease depression? Well Eight Bells have been running successful Community Garden drop-in sessions at Shaw House, throughout August. The next drop-in session will be on Thursday 25 August from 10am to 2pm. All ages are allowed at it is a great place to make new friends, learn tips and tricks to get the most out of your garden and enjoy all the benefits that come with the great outdoors! Click here for more details on how to pre-book.

• This week’s long-awaited downpour was substantial but not substantial enough to raise our extremely low river and reservoir levels caused by the driest July since 1885. As a result, Thames Water will be implementing a hosepipe ban from Wednesday 24 August. You can still use mains water to fill watering cans and buckets, and gardeners say this is a more efficient way to the water the garden so please make every drop count. There are exemptions for Blue Badge holders, or those on Thames Water’s Priority Register with restricted mobility, who find carrying a bucket or watering can difficult. And while the temporary ban does not cover businesses, Thames Water is asking businesses across its area to be mindful of the drought and to use water wisely, for example, by not washing commercial vehicles or turning off water features on their properties. See more details here.

The Retreat Elcot Park islooking for more stallholders who would like a free pitch at their monthly farmers market.  They are particularly interested to hear from those who stock local food produce. If you would be interested please email Tim at [email protected] with information regarding what you sell and some pictures.

Newbury Town Council’s new August newsletter includes their survey about Hutton Close, the new blue plaque for Rev. James Bicheno, the news regarding the Victoria Park Bandstand and the Mayor’s Curry Quiz Night.

• The Fair Close Centre on Newtown Road in Newbury is a vital social hub for over 65s and their carers/companions. They have a great restaurant and are offering two course lunches for just £10 during August. So if you yourself, or a friend or relative, is over 65 do book a table on 01635 40488 or [email protected]. Penny has had a great meal there and says everyone is very friendly.

• Stuck for ideas of what to do with the kids this summer? Our Guide to Summer Fun includes free summer activities at the Waterside Centre and Code Ninjas summer camps in Newbury for kids to have fun learning to code video games, Minecraft mods, cartoons, arcades and much more (they also have a special summer offer for new students), Peter Rabbit Storytime Trail at The Base, Greenham.

• Quick reminder that Newbury Town Council are urging locals to stay vigilant to help protect our playgrounds from vandals. Please report any incidents of anti-social behaviour either directly to Newbury Town Council by calling 01635 35486 or emailing  [email protected] or by reporting to the Police on 101. You can also report vandalism anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

• In celebration of Newbury Building Society’s 165th birthday they are donating 165 days of employee volunteering time to worthwhile causes in and around their branch towns including Newbury and Thatcham. If your organisation needs volunteers, or you know a group that does, please apply here.

• The latest edition of the Hamstead Hornet, which covers life in the village of Hamstead Marshall, can be seen here.

Hamstead Marshall Parish Council intends to start a community speedwatch programme: if you’re interested in helping, please contact Anne Budd on 01488 657022 or [email protected].

Shaw’s unhappy valley

The Shaw Valley development in North Newbury is currently in something of a muddle with prospective buyers unable to move into their new homes because of a moratorium on completions caused by a dispute between WBC and the developers, Taylor Wimpey, about the discharge of certain planning conditions. This is more than an arcane wrangle about process: several of the would-be homeowners have been seriously financially inconvenienced by this, some having mortgage offers cancelled and all having to make expensive alternative arrangements until matters are resolved.

I understand that discussions have taken place at various levels between the parties but it’s unclear what the timetable is. One thing that should be happening is something called a Section 96 application which brings together all the planning conditions into one document. Quite why this is so vital when everyone involved presumably knows what needs to be done I couldn’t say: but there it is. I believe this was submitted by the developers last week but it will take two to three weeks to validate. To the people waiting to move in, this must all seem like doing an elaborate safety inspection of a lifebelt when the real problem is that someone’s drowning in the middle of lake.

On 16 August, I asked WBC four questions about the issue: (i) what the conditions were that were not discharged by the developers; (ii) why these only came to light fairly recently rather than before the first people moved in in December 2021; (iii) when this will get resolved; and (iv) what can be done to ensure that similar muddles don’t happen again. I haven’t yet received an answer but will provide this if and when I do.

The issue also highlights the fact that the way WBC decides, enforces and resolves issues is almost completely opaque and incomprehensible to most people, particularly in the case of planning matters. I appreciate that planning is complex and technical and (as we’re constantly told) the department is short-staffed. There must, however, be some way of improving the way these matters are explained and thus enhancing the resulting “customer journey”, to use today’s parlance. The customer journey for some people in Shaw Valley has so far been abominable even before they’re moved in. Matters may not be WBC’s fault, as they possibly aren’t with regard to the nutrient neutrality issue. However, if the Council’s position is not explained, people will be quick to intrude their own explanation. This may not be accurate and certainly won’t take a charitable view of WBC’s role.

Matters also aren’t helped by the fact that people generally have two modes in dealing with their local authority. The first, if all is going well, is one of complete indifference. The other, when things don’t go well, can easily turn to incoherent rage at the glacial speeds, opaque processes and baffling jargon that seem to act as a series of deliberate and insuperable barriers to getting anything done. When it needs to, as with Covid and the refugees, WBC can be pretty fleet of foot. At other times matters seem to progress very slowly and very mysteriously. There may be good reason for this, in which case the council needs to explain why to help manage expectations. Otherwise it’s just bad language and high blood pressure all round.

In the case of Shaw Valley, something seems to have slipped anchor pretty badly on a number of levels including enforcement and communication. Steve Masters, one of the councillors for the affected ward, has been much involved in talking to would-be residents and trying to get matters resolved. “The situation is outrageous,” he told Penny Post on 18 August. “People who have saved up money to buy homes are being hindered, inconvenienced and financially penalised due to delays caused by a planning system that appears to be in disarray.”

Community notices

Thatcham & Newbury Town Ladies & Girls Football Club offers three weeks free as a taster, so if you would like to try it out, email [email protected]

• Do you have a friendly nature? The ability to chat with people easily? Good listening skills and knowledge of your local area? Local charity Eight Bells is currently looking to recruit Community Navigator Volunteers in Greenham to provide community support, with a focus on looking after mental health and reducing social isolation. Volunteers will be fully trained and by giving as little as two hours a week you could make a huge difference in someone’s life. Please click here to find out more.

• Eight Bells charity is also looking for male volunteers across the area to join their team of Community Navigators. The organisation is dedicated to creating pillars of strength and support in the community, and to prevent social isolation and loneliness. To register your interest in the role fill in the form here, and to find out more about what the Eight Bells do, visit their website here.

• Latest news from Wash Common Library:  there is no Spanish club this month but it will be back on Saturday 3 September at 10am and our book this month is The Long Call by Anne Cleeves which is quite an easy read so there is still time to pop into the library to borrow the book. The library is open Tuesday 2 to 4pm, Friday 9 to 11am and Saturday 10am to noon. For more information please contact [email protected].

Volunteer driver is requested to give four refugees from Thatcham a lift to Brown Paper Loves craft and textile shop in Inch’s Yard, Newbury on Friday mornings for knitting lessons. The volunteer would be very welcome to stay for the session if they wanted. If you can help, please message West Berkshire Action for Refugees’ facebook page or email [email protected].

• Did you know you can raise concerns with Newbury Town Council at a Saturday Surgery between 10 am and 12 noon any week at the steps of the Town Hall?

Newbury and Thatcham Handybus assists elderly and mobility-impaired residents with trips to shopping centres, social gatherings and wellness activities. Follow their Facebook page for their latest news and details of upcoming daytrips that can be booked. Or contact them on 01635 37111 or [email protected].

Fair Close Centre on Newtown Road in Newbury provides a vital social hub and meals on wheels for over 65s, many of whom live on their own. Please support them here. Goodness knows we might all need their services in years to come.

• If you would like to host Ukrainian refugees, please contact 01635 503579 or [email protected] or visit this page to find out more information. Another way you can help is by making a donation here. Please also join the Newbury Ukraine Support facebook group.

•  Newbury Library offers free IT support sessions including filling out online forms, how to Zoom, downloading e-magazines or sorting out pictures. Bookable 30- or 60-minute sessions. To find out more or book a slot, email [email protected].

• Please click here for Hamstead Marshall.net, which provides an excellent round-up of what’s going on in and around the village. This also publishes the quarterly Hamstead Hornet.

Local events and activities

For more information on events and activities across the Penny Post area, see the website calendar.

• Dates for the diary

• Sat 20 Aug Newbury Fire Station Open Day, Newbury Fire Station.

• Sun 21 Aug Phoenix Brass, Victoria Park Bandstand.

• Sun 21 Aug Newbury Vegan Market, Newbury Market Place.

• Sun 21 Aug CommuniTEA Time for Children in Need, Basecamp, Russel Road.

• Fri 26 Aug Dirty Dancing Outdoor Cinema, Newbury Rugby Club.

Fri 16 Sept Talk: Dressing Victorians and Edwardians, Shaw House.

Sat 17 Sept The Agricultural Society’s Annual Ploughing Match, Curridge.

Fri 23 Sept The Mayor’s Quiz and Curry Night, The Chequers Hotel, Newbury.

Wed 28 Sept Shaw House: 400 Years of History talk, Corn Exchange.

• Regular events

Knit and Natter on Thursdays from 11am at Brown Paper Loves, Inch’s Yard Newbury.

Chatterday on Saturdays from 11am (bring along your own craft project and join the chat) at Brown Paper Loves, Inch’s Yard Newbury.

• Sunday afternoon music at Victoria Park Bandstand, Newbury.

• Newbury Park Run at Greenham Common at 9am every Saturday morning. All welcome to run/walk/jog the 5km. See details here.

• ACE Space on St Nicholas Road hosts live acoustic performances. Join their Facebook group or follow them on Twitter.

• Newbury Community Larder every Tuesday 2pm to 4pm at the Waterside Centre (down the canal from Costa Coffee on Northbrook Street).  For more details please contact [email protected] or call 01635 018500.

Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesdays 2pm to 4pm. Drop in for a chat or a cuppa, knitting and craft activities. You don’t have to live in Speen to join in. Follow them on facebook here.

• Club Quiz nights every second Wednesday of the month at The Club Bar and Bistro. Registration from 6.30pm and quizzes starting at 7.30pm. See more here.

• Berkshire Youth‘s Waterside Centre in Newbury hosts various clubs and activities for local children and can provide volunteering opportunities for adults too.

 The Base, Greenham organise many artistic-focused events for people of all ages to let their creative sides go wild.

News from your local council

• The most recent meeting of Newbury Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 27 June and you can download the minutes here. Items covered included: members’ questions and petitions; reports from the Mayor, the leader and the CEO; the internal audit; financial matters; and reports from committees and working groups. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) Items covered included: ownership of public areas at Sandleford (see also The common parts above); the Mayor’s report; the CEO’s report; committee reports; the nomination of the Mayor and Deputy and of the Leader and Deputy; and formal matters. To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Hamstead Marshall Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 21 July and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: planning matters; co-operation on common issues with the parishes of Kintbury and Enborne; a report from ward member James Cole; potholes; the bus shelter; the PC’s website; financial matters; and an apology from the Craven Arms about noise. To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 20 July and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: financial matters; correspondence; planning matters; speeding; the Owen Road Wildflower Meadow; dog bins; the future of the Old School; and the PC’s website. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 13 July and you can read the minutes here. Items covered including; ground-nesting birds on the Common; possible wind turbines; councillor co-options; financial matters; and planning matters. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 12 July and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included:Items covered included: the proposed changes to the S106 agreement for Newbury Showground (see separate section above); other planning matters; financial matters; parish paths; nutrient neutrality; and the Tommy memorial.To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here to download the meeting schedule. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 4 July and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: the illegal encampment in Wash Water; planning matters; traffic calming; and repairs and maintenance. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 25 May and you can read the minutes here. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 16 May and you can download the minutes here. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• Newbury area council contacts

Parishes: Newbury Town CouncilGreenham Parish CouncilChieveley Parish CouncilEnborne Parish CouncilBoxford Parish CouncilSpeen Parish Council,  Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council, and Hamstead Marshall Parish Council.

West Berkshire Council: click here to visit the website.

News from other areas

Penny Post area – please see the following separate sections: Hungerford area; Lambourn ValleyThatcham area; Compton and DownlandsBurghfield area; Wantage area; Marlborough area.

News and views from across the area and beyond: please see the most recent Weekly News with Brian column.

Thursday 11 August 2022

This week we look at a facelift for the Bandstand, playground problems, hedgehog highways and two ways to help Ukranian families who are looking to set up their own homes: plus our usual round-up of other local news, local events and activities and news from your local councils.

This week’s news

• This weekend brings us some fun, throwback events to enjoy in the sunshine – the Retrofestival at Newbury Showground from Friday 12 to Sunday 14 August, with all things vintage, from live music, all kinds of classic cars and military vehicles, dance demos and even air shows – plus the Antiques Fair at Shaw House.

Newbury Town Council’s new August newsletter includes their survey about Hutton Close, the new blue plaque for Rev. James Bicheno, the news regarding the Victoria Park Bandstand and the Mayor’s Curry Quiz Night.

• Good news that the much-loved Victoria Park Bandstand is set get a new facelift for spring 2023. In the meantime you can still enjoy musical performances there most every Sunday afternoons this summer until the end of September. For all events in the Park, see the Victoria Park page on Newbury Council’s website.

The Ugly Duckling pottery painting café in Newbury will be hosting a special pottery activity for Ukrainian children in the area on Tuesday 23 August. If you would like to sponsor £10 for a child’s session please click here to donate online or pop into the shop on Bartholomew Street.

• For those looking for some live entertainment next week, singer Sion Wiley will be appearing at The Craven Arms in Enborne for a live acoustic session on Wednesday 17 August from 6pm to 8pm.

Volunteer driver is requested to give four refugees from Thatcham a lift to Brown Paper Loves craft and textile shop in Inch’s Yard, Newbury on Friday mornings for knitting lessons. The volunteer would be very welcome to stay for the session if they wanted. If you can help, please message West Berkshire Action for Refugees’ facebook page or email [email protected].

• The Fair Close Centre on Newtown Road in Newbury is a vital social hub for over 65s and their carers/companions. They have a great restaurant and are offering two course lunches for just £10 during August. So if you yourself, or a friend or relative, is over 65 do book a table on 01635 40488 or [email protected]. Penny has had a great meal there and says everyone is very friendly.

• Stuck for ideas of what to do with the kids this summer? Our Guide to Summer Fun includes free summer activities at the Waterside Centre and Code Ninjas summer camps in Newbury for kids to have fun learning to code video games, Minecraft mods, cartoons, arcades and much more (they also have a special summer offer for new students), Peter Rabbit Storytime Trail at The Base, Greenham, free kids coding session at Newbury Library.

• Quick reminder that Newbury Town Council are urging locals to stay vigilant to help protect our playgrounds from vandals. Please report any incidents of anti-social behaviour either directly to Newbury Town Council by calling 01635 35486 or emailing  [email protected] or by reporting to the Police on 101. You can also report vandalism anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

• In celebration of Newbury Building Society’s 165th birthday they are donating 165 days of employee volunteering time to worthwhile causes in and around their branch towns including Newbury and Thatcham. If your organisation needs volunteers, or you know a group that does, please apply here.

• The latest edition of the Hamstead Hornet, which covers life in the village of Hamstead Marshall, can be seen here.

Hamstead Marshall Parish Council intends to start a community speedwatch programme: if you’re interested in helping, please contact Anne Budd on 01488 657022 or [email protected].

Hedgehog highways

The words “hedgehogs” and “planning” are not often found in the same sentence but all that changes a few weeks back when Newbury Town Council resolved to request that all new developments in Newbury include a 13cm hole in the bottom of fences that allows hedgehogs to move freely between gardens. What followed was a statement from WBC; an article on the BBC website; another, different statement from WBC; several letters to local media publishers; and a public petition.

This separate post takes a closer look at the issue and discusses what this tells us about the problems of planning enforcement, overburdening not only developers but also officers, normalising environmentally-friendly features of new builds and a PR opportunity for developers.

Ukranians moving out

Some of the Ukrainian families who have now been in the country for a few months are now starting to look for their own homes. The Newbury Area Ukraine Support Group (NAUSG) is currently working with WBC to try to get a deposit scheme and/or a guarantor scheme set up: this will help tenants who may not have much if any credit history in the UK get on the property ladder. As regards finding the accommodation, there are two main ways this can be accomplished: by direct discussions with individual landlords; or through letting agents.

Regarding the first, NAUSG welcomes hearing from landlords who have properties that are or soon will be available and the group can pass details on to those who might be interested – email [email protected]. (NAUSG mainly works in the Newbury to Hungerford area but welcomes enquires from landlords with properties across the district or in north Hampshire). Regarding the second, we spoke to Nina Clark, a long-established and well-respected agent based in Hungerford. “We’ve recently had a really good experience renting a property to a Ukrainian family,” she told me on 11 August. “We welcome hearing from landlords or tenants of any nationality.” The letting-agent route is certainly worth considering for landlords who have not rented before as there are a number of compliance hoops to be jumped through which an agent can help with.

Community notices

Thatcham & Newbury Town Ladies & Girls Football Club offers three weeks free as a taster, so if you would like to try it out, email [email protected]

• Do you have a friendly nature? The ability to chat with people easily? Good listening skills and knowledge of your local area? Local charity Eight Bells is currently looking to recruit Community Navigator Volunteers in Greenham to provide community support, with a focus on looking after mental health and reducing social isolation. Volunteers will be fully trained and by giving as little as two hours a week you could make a huge difference in someone’s life. Please click here to find out more.

• Eight Bells charity is also looking for male volunteers across the area to join their team of Community Navigators. The organisation is dedicated to creating pillars of strength and support in the community, and to prevent social isolation and loneliness. To register your interest in the role fill in the form here, and to find out more about what the Eight Bells do, visit their website here.

• Latest news from Wash Common Library:  there is no Spanish club this month but it will be back on Saturday 3 September at 10am and our book this month is The Long Call by Anne Cleeves which is quite an easy read so there is still time to pop into the library to borrow the book. The library is open Tuesday 2 to 4pm, Friday 9 to 11am and Saturday 10am to noon. For more information please contact [email protected].

• Action for River Kennet is currently seeking volunteers over the next few weeks as part of the Love the Lambourn project that cleans up the River Lambourn around the area of the Riverside Community Centre. The dates and more information can be found here.

• Did you know you can raise concerns with Newbury Town Council at a Saturday Surgery between 10 am and 12 noon any week at the steps of the Town Hall?

Newbury and Thatcham Handybus assists elderly and mobility-impaired residents with trips to shopping centres, social gatherings and wellness activities. Follow their Facebook page for their latest news and details of upcoming daytrips that can be booked. Or contact them on 01635 37111 or [email protected].

Fair Close Centre on Newtown Road in Newbury provides a vital social hub and meals on wheels for over 65s, many of whom live on their own. Please support them here. Goodness knows we might all need their services in years to come.

• If you would like to host Ukrainian refugees, please contact 01635 503579 or [email protected] or visit this page to find out more information. Another way you can help is by making a donation here. Please also join the Newbury Ukraine Support facebook group.

•  Newbury Library offers free IT support sessions eg filling out online forms, how to Zoom, downloading e-magazines or sorting out pictures. Bookable 30 or 60 min sessions. To find out more or book a slot, email [email protected].

Local events and activities

For more information on events and activities across the Penny Post area, see the website calendar.

• Dates for the diary

• Fri 12 Aug to Sun 14 Aug Retrofestival, Newbury Show Ground.

• Sun 14 Aug Antique & Brocante Market, Shaw House.

• Sat 20 Aug Newbury Fire Station Open Day, Newbury Fire Station.

• Sun 21 Aug Phoenix Brass, Victoria Park Bandstand.

Fri 23 Sept The Mayor’s Quiz and Curry Night, The Chequers Hotel, Newbury.

Wed 28 Sept Shaw House: 400 Years of History talk, Corn Exchange.

• Regular events

Knit and Natter on Thursdays from 11am at Brown Paper Loves, Inch’s Yard Newbury.

Chatterday on Saturdays from 11am (bring along your own craft project and join the chat) at Brown Paper Loves, Inch’s Yard Newbury.

• Sunday afternoon music at Victoria Park Bandstand, Newbury.

• Newbury Park Run at Greenham Common at 9am every Saturday morning. All welcome to run/walk/jog the 5km. See details here.

• ACE Space on St Nicholas Road hosts live acoustic performances. Join their Facebook group or follow them on Twitter.

• Newbury Community Larder every Tuesday 2pm to 4pm at the Waterside Centre (down the canal from Costa Coffee on Northbrook Street).  For more details please contact [email protected] or call 01635 018500.

Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesdays 2pm to 4pm. Drop in for a chat or a cuppa, knitting and craft activities. You don’t have to live in Speen to join in. Follow them on facebook here.

• Club Quiz nights every second Wednesday of the month at The Club Bar and Bistro. Registration from 6.30pm and quizzes starting at 7.30pm. See more here.

• Berkshire Youth‘s Waterside Centre in Newbury hosts various clubs and activities for local children and can provide volunteering opportunities for adults too.

 The Base, Greenham organise many artistic-focused events for people of all ages to let their creative sides go wild.

News from your local council

• The most recent meeting of Newbury Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 27 June and you can download the minutes here. Items covered included: members’ questions and petitions; reports from the Mayor, the leader and the CEO; the internal audit; financial matters; and reports from committees and working groups. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) Items covered included: ownership of public areas at Sandleford (see also The common parts above); the Mayor’s report; the CEO’s report; committee reports; the nomination of the Mayor and Deputy and of the Leader and Deputy; and formal matters. To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 20 July and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: financial matters; correspondence; planning matters; speeding; the Owen Road Wildflower Meadow; dog bins; the future of the Old School; and the PC’s website. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 12 July and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included:Items covered included: the proposed changes to the S106 agreement for Newbury Showground (see separate section above); other planning matters; financial matters; parish paths; nutrient neutrality; and the Tommy memorial.To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here to download the meeting schedule. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 4 July and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: the illegal encampment in Wash Water; planning matters; traffic calming; and repairs and maintenance. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 9 June and you can read the minutes here. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 25 May and you can read the minutes here. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 16 May and you can read the minutes here. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Hamstead Marshall Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 20 January and you can read the minutes here.  To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• Please click here for Hamstead Marshall.net, which provides an excellent round-up of what’s going on in and around the village. This also publishes the quarterly Hamstead Hornet.

• Newbury area council contacts

Parishes: Newbury Town CouncilGreenham Parish CouncilChieveley Parish CouncilEnborne Parish CouncilBoxford Parish CouncilSpeen Parish Council,  Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council, and Hamstead Marshall Parish Council.

West Berkshire Council: click here to visit the website.

News from other areas

Penny Post area – please see the following separate sections: Hungerford area; Lambourn ValleyThatcham area; Compton and DownlandsBurghfield area; Wantage area; Marlborough area.

News and views from across the area and beyond: please see the most recent Weekly News with Brian column.

Thursday 4 August 2022

This week we look at tattoos, classic cars, a consultation and a community café, as well as considering the current state of play at the proposed solar farm in Enborne and offering our usual round-up of other local news, local events and activities and news from your local councils.

This week’s news

• Newbury Town Council is asking residents to have their say on the Hutton Close Area. The Town Council owns and maintains the 2.6 acre site which was used for a temporary construction compound between 2018 and 2021 and since then has remained mostly public open space, used mainly for dog walking and children playing football. They would like your opinion on the use of the open space going forward and how it could be improved. To have you say, click this link, which will lead you to a questionnaire where you can leave your answers. The closing dates for this consultation will be 30 October.

• This weekend sees two very different events in Newbury: the very first Newbury Tattoo Convention, hosted at Corn Exchange, Newbury and a Classic Car Vehicle Show at Newbury Showground with all details on the West Berkshire Classic Vehicle Club website.

• The Fair Close Centre on Newtown Road in Newbury is a vital social hub for over 65s and their carers/companions. They have a great restaurant and are offering two course lunches for just £10 during August. So if you yourself, or a friend or relative, is over 65 do book a table on 01635 40488 or [email protected]. Penny has had a great meal there and says everyone is very friendly.

• It’s been just over a month since Newbury’s streets were lined with rainbows in celebration of West Berkshire’s very first Pride march. Newbury Pride’s latest newsletter reflects on the success of the event where over a thousand people came out to parade on Saturday 2 July, ending with a disco of classic club anthems. You can also take a look through our post of photos and highlights from the day. This Friday will be the first of Newbury Pride’s regular socials since the parade. Go along to the Crossed Key’s on Friday 5 August at 7:30pm to meet with friendly and supportive members of the local LGBTQIA+ community.

• Inspired by the Lionesses Women’s Euro 2022 victory? Thatcham & Newbury Town Ladies & Girls football club caters for under 7s, right up to their adult ladies team. They offer three weeks free as a taster, so if you would like to try it out, email [email protected] or visit their website.

• Stuck for ideas of what to do with the kids this summer? Our Guide to Summer Fun includes free summer activities at the Waterside Centre and Code Ninjas summer camps in Newbury for kids to have fun learning to code video games, Minecraft mods, cartoons, arcades and much more (they also have a special summer offer for new students), Peter Rabbit Storytime Trail at The Base, Greenham, free kids coding session at Newbury Library.

The Ugly Duckling pottery painting cafe in Newbury will be hosting a special pottery activity for Ukrainian children in the area on Tuesday 23 August. If you would like to sponsor £10 for a child’s session please click here to donate online or pop into the shop on Bartholomew Street.

• Latest news from Wash Common Library:  there is no Spanish club this month but it will be back on Saturday 3 September at 10am, Poetry Club is on Monday 8 August at 3pm and the subject this month is water, Book Club is on Thursday 11 August at 7.30pm and our book this month is The Long Call by Anne Cleeves which is quite an easy read so there is still time to pop into the library to borrow the book. The library is open Tuesday 2 to 4pm, Friday 9 to 11am and Saturday 10am to noon. For more information please contact [email protected].

• The Newbury and Thatcham Handybus assists elderly and mobility-impaired residents with trips to shopping centres, social gatherings and wellness activities. Follow their Facebook page for their latest news and details of upcoming daytrips that can be booked. Or contact them on 01635 37111 or [email protected].

• Quick reminder that Newbury Town Council are urging locals to stay vigilant to help protect our playgrounds from vandals. Please report any incidents of anti-social behaviour either directly to Newbury Town Council by calling 01635 35486 or emailing  [email protected] or by reporting to the Police on 101. You can also report vandalism anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

• In celebration of Newbury Building Society’s 165th birthday they are donating 165 days of employee volunteering time to worthwhile causes in and around their branch towns including Newbury, Thatcham, Hungerford, Basingstoke and Didcot. In line with their Green Community work, they would particularly like to hear from organisations with sustainability or environment focused projects from litter picking to planting community gardens. If your organisation needs volunteers, or you know a group that does, please apply here.

• If you are looking for a friendly face, activities and free tea and cake pop into Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate on Wednesdays from 2pm to 4pm. You don’t have to live in Speen to join in. Follow them on facebook here.

• West Berks Food Bank is looking for volunteers, particularly those that can be drivers to deliver food parcels, packers to make the food parcels and volunteers who can sort donations at the warehouse. it is also looking for volunteers who can help them managed social media accounts. If you think you would be suitable for any of those roles contact [email protected] or phone 07836 500610. You can download the volunteering form to fill out here. For more information about West Berks Food Bank on their website.

The latest edition of the Hamstead Hornet, which covers life in the village of Hamstead Marshall, can be seen here.

Hamstead Marshall Parish Council has announced that it intends to start a community speedwatch programme: if you’re interested, please contact Anne Budd on 01488 657022 or [email protected].

• The same Council has also announced that it has decided to to review the Village Design Statement which was submitted to West Berkshire Council via the Downland Forum (no longer functioning) in 2007. Parish Councillors think a review is necessary as HMPC now has different members and needs to ascertain if anything new should be added, or otherwise. In addition, the PC welcomes opinions from parishioners with particular regard to the design statement and or providing views on what they think needs to be included in making Hamstead Marshall “a happy and thriving community.” The design statement can be found on the HMPC website.

Local sunshine

We’ve mentioned before about the proposed solar farm in Enborne, the details of which you can see here. You can also click here to see the dedicated section on Enborne PC’s website. This was due to have been determined by 10 May but, nearly three months on, I understand that some reports are still required from WBC and no state has yet been fixed for its consideration by the Western Area Planning Committee (WAPC). The application has certainly stirred local interest with about 40 letters of support and perhaps double the number of objections. I suspect this is probably quite a normal ratio for a development of this scale

How relevant the objections are will be for the WAPC to decide. A good number of them refer to the drainage and flooding problems the development might cause. In fact, there’s already a problem with this which dates back to when the nearby houses in Spring Gardens (note the name) were built in the late 1990s. Under the insane system which prevails in this country, the common parts of the development (including the drainage maintenance) were not handed over to the district or parish council but retained by the developer, which then sold them on to a different company. As a result, it is proving very hard to establish what work has been done, or should have been done, and to locate original agreements which date back to a pre-digital age. The current arrangements are clearly not satisfactory: were they to have been, a local resident would not recently been moved to execute what might be called guerrilla maintenance work on one of the ditches. This may or may not achieve the desired result (whatever it was) and may or may not have unwelcome and unintended consequences when the rain starts falling again.

There are also accusations that the farm would be unsightly. It’s true that it would be less attractive than a field (although solar farms can co-exist with sheep and wildflowers) but is a lot better than some of the alternatives. The site is owned by the Enborne Parish Field (EPF) charity, the objective of which is “to promote any charitable purpose (charitable in English law) for the benefit of the residents of the parish of Enborne in West Berkshire; in particular but not exclusively by the provision of grants to local charities which provide advice and services calculated to relieve the charitable needs of those residents.” It could be argued that these aims could best be fulfilled by selling the land to a developer which wanted to build an industrial park. This was, after all, exactly what the trustees of another local charity, the Newbury and District Agricultural Society, were planning to do last year with regard to the Showground until this was halted by regime change.

The Local Electricity Bill will, if it passes (it’s currently at the second reading stage in the Commons and has cross-party support), enable electricity generators to sell “clean” electricity locally, so giving direct and commensurate benefits to the community where the generation takes place. In any case, if the solar far goes ahead, there is a way that Enborne should benefit. The project is being led by Calleva Community Energy and it will return some of the profits from the scheme to the EPF. This will probably then be distributed following the same criteria as currently guides its activities, for example for community groups or for specific entry-efficiency projects. It seems unlikely that, as was eye-catchingly suggested in a leaflet from a local political party that’s doing the rounds, this will automatically result in a reduction in the parish council precept or the Council Tax bill (which I’m not sure is actually possible to do). A good part of the profits will, however, remain in the parish, hopefully directed towards those who need it most. At present, the only income from the site comes from letting out the field for sheep grazing, the revenue from which is unlikely ever to fund anything particularly exciting.

If work does go ahead, it’s to be hoped that residents, the EPF, the parish council, WBC and Calleva will put their heads together and agree how this can provide a once-in-a-generation opportunity to fix the long-standing drainage problems. It might also provide an opportunity to put the management of any maintenance in the hands of an organisation with some expertise and local stature, something that seems not to be the case at present. This might be a bit too much to hope for, however.

Should you wish to find out more, please see either of the links in the first paragraph. Should you wish to make your views know I would advise you not to bother with any surveys that might come your way form any political parties as the responses to these will not be regarded as evidence by WAPC. Although the official closing date for comments has passed, you should still be able to do this on WBC’s site (see link above). When the matter finally ends up on WAPC’s agenda, anyone who has commented in this official way will be contacted and told how they can participate.

Community notices

• Do you have a friendly nature? The ability to chat with people easily? Good listening skills and knowledge of your local area? Local charity Eight Bells is currently looking to recruit Community Navigator Volunteers in Greenham to provide community support, with a focus on looking after mental health and reducing social isolation. Volunteers will be fully trained and by giving as little as two hours a week you could make a huge difference in someone’s life. Please click here to find out more.

• Eight Bells charity is also looking for male volunteers across the area to join their team of Community Navigators. The organisation is dedicated to creating pillars of strength and support in the community, and to prevent social isolation and loneliness. To register your interest in the role fill in the form here, and to find out more about what the Eight Bells do, visit their website here.

• Action for River Kennet is currently seeking volunteers over the next few weeks as part of the Love the Lambourn project that cleans up the River Lambourn around the area of the Riverside Community Centre. The dates and more information can be found here.

• Did you know you can raise concerns with Newbury Town Council at a Saturday Surgery between 10 am and 12 noon any week at the steps of the Town Hall?

• The Fair Close Centre on Newtown Road in Newbury provides a vital social hub and meals on wheels for over 65s, many of whom live on their own. Please support them here. Goodness knows we might all need their services in years to come.

• If you would like to host Ukrainian refugees, please contact 01635 503579 or [email protected] or visit this page to find out more information. Another way you can help is by making a donation here. Please also join the Newbury Ukraine Support facebook group.

•  Newbury Library offers free IT support sessions eg filling out online forms, how to Zoom, downloading e-magazines or sorting out pictures. Bookable 30 or 60 min sessions. To find out more or book a slot, email [email protected].

Local events and activities

For more information on events and activities across the Penny Post area, see the website calendar.

• Dates for the diary

• Until end of 2022 West Berkshire Museum’s Hope and Pride Exhibition, Newbury.

• Until end of Sept Peter Rabbit Storytime Trail, The Base, Greenham.

Fri 5 Aug Newbury Pride Social, The Cross Keys, Newbury.

Sat 6 Aug Chieveley Village monthly market.

Sat 6 to Sun 7 Aug Newbury Tattoo Convention, Corn Exchange, Newbury.

• Sun 7 Aug Classic Car Vehicle Show, Newbury Show Ground.

• Fri 12 Aug to Sun 14 Aug Retrofestival, Newbury Show Ground.

•  Sat 20 Aug Newbury Fire Station Open Day, Newbury Fire Station.

Fri 23 Sept The Mayor’s Quiz and Curry Night, The Chequers Hotel, Newbury.

Wed 28 Sept Shaw House: 400 Years of History talk, Corn Exchange.

• Regular events

Open Mic Night at The Newbury Pub every Thursday evening with the Newbury Social Club.

• Newbury Park Run at Greenham Common at 9am every Saturday morning. All welcome to run/walk/jog the 5km. See details here.

• ACE Space on St Nicholas Road hosts live acoustic performances. Join their Facebook group or follow them on Twitter.

• Newbury Community Larder every Tuesday 2pm to 4pm at the Waterside Centre (down the canal from Costa Coffee on Northbrook Street).  For more details please contact [email protected] or call 01635 018500.

Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesdays 2pm to 4pm. Drop in for a chat or a cuppa, knitting and craft activities. You don’t have to live in Speen to join in. Follow them on facebook here.

• Club Quiz nights every second Wednesday of the month at The Club Bar and Bistro. Registration from 6.30pm and quizzes starting at 7.30pm. See more here.

• Berkshire Youth‘s Waterside Centre in Newbury hosts various clubs and activities for local children and can provide volunteering opportunities for adults too.

 The Base, Greenham organise many artistic-focused events for people of all ages to let their creative sides go wild.

News from your local council

• The most recent meeting of Newbury Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 27 June and you can download the minutes here. Items covered included: members’ questions and petitions; reports from the Mayor, the leader and the CEO; the internal audit; financial matters; and reports from committees and working groups. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) Items covered included: ownership of public areas at Sandleford (see also The common parts above); the Mayor’s report; the CEO’s report; committee reports; the nomination of the Mayor and Deputy and of the Leader and Deputy; and formal matters. To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 20 July and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: financial matters; correspondence; planning matters; speeding; the Owen Road Wildflower Meadow; dog bins; the future of the Old School; and the PC’s website. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 12 July and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included:Items covered included: the proposed changes to the S106 agreement for Newbury Showground (see separate section above); other planning matters; financial matters; parish paths; nutrient neutrality; and the Tommy memorial.To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here to download the meeting schedule. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 4 July and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: the illegal encampment in Wash Water; planning matters; traffic calming; and repairs and maintenance. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 9 June and you can read the minutes here. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 25 May and you can read the minutes here. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 16 May and you can read the minutes here. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Hamstead Marshall Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 20 January and you can read the minutes here.  To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• Please click here for Hamstead Marshall.net, which provides an excellent round-up of what’s going on in and around the village. This also publishes the quarterly Hamstead Hornet.

• Newbury area council contacts

Parishes: Newbury Town CouncilGreenham Parish CouncilChieveley Parish CouncilEnborne Parish CouncilBoxford Parish CouncilSpeen Parish Council,  Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council, and Hamstead Marshall Parish Council.

West Berkshire Council: click here to visit the website.

News from other areas

Penny Post area – please see the following separate sections: Hungerford area; Lambourn ValleyThatcham area; Compton and DownlandsBurghfield area; Wantage area; Marlborough area.

News and views from across the area and beyond: please see the most recent Weekly News with Brian column.

Thursday 28 July 2022

This week we look at playgrounds, buses, a Mayor’s quiz, Peter Rabbit, source material for a possible (though unlikely) book and keep our eye on the problems at the Shaw Valley development: plus our usual round-up of other local news, local events and activities and news from your local councils.

This week’s news

Newbury Town Council will open the doors of the Newbury Town Hall for a Family Open Day this Saturday 30 July, between 10am and 2pm. Children can meet the Mayor and try on Councillors’ robes and learn more about the town council and the history of the town hall. Click here to find out more.

•  From there you can pop down to The Base, at Greenham to celebrate the 120th birthday of Peter Rabbit with The World of Peter Rabbit Storytime Trail which opens this Saturday 30 July and runs till the end of September. Experience the classic children’s story through a walking trail, featuring favourite scenes, photo opportunities, a variety of creative workshops, a collaborative Peter Rabbit Mural Art piece, Merry Go-Round Storytelling with fabulous songs and much more. For more information about the schedule and activities available and to book your tickets click here or call  01635 522733.

• Newbury Town Council are urging locals to stay vigilant to help protect our playgrounds from vandals. There has unfortunately been an ongoing issue with vandals damaging play equipment and making it very dangerous for children to use. Cllr Sarah Slack, Chairperson of the Council’s Community Services Committee commented: “Some people are setting out to deliberately endanger children by removing nuts, bolts or screws. They actually go out with the tools needed to do this damage to the play equipment so loved by children…”. Read more on her comments here. Please be vigilant and report any incidents of anti-social behaviour either directly to Newbury Town Council by calling 01635 35486 or emailing  [email protected] or by reporting to the Police on 101. You can also report vandalism anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

This is your last chance to have your say on West Berkshire Council’s Bus Improvement Plan, as the survey deadline ends this weekend. If you would like your views heard regarding bus services, including a proposed new bus service between Newbury and Harwell that would allow connections to Oxford, Abingdon, Didcot, Wantage and Milton Park, then please take the survey before midnight on Sunday 31 July.

• Great news that Chieveley Village monthly market is re-starting on the first Saturday of the month so put Saturday 6 August in your diary and follow them on facebook here.

The Retreat, Elcot Park between Newbury and Hungerford just off the A4 is also launching a farmer’s market this Sunday 31 July. And they also have a few places available for their special Taste of Provence dinner next Wednesday 6 August.

• The Mayor of Newbury, Cllr Gary Norman, is inviting teams of up to 6 people for Mayor’s quiz & curry night, on Friday 23 September at The Chequers Hotel. A curry and entry for the quiz is just £15 per person and all proceeds will go towards the Mayor’s Benevolent Fund, which helps those in financial need within our local community. Please pre-book your tickets on 07538 334106 or [email protected]. Check out their website for more information.

• Stuck for ideas of what to do with the kids this summer? Our Guide to Summer Fun includes free summer activities at the Waterside Centre and Code Ninjas summer camps in Newbury for kids to have fun learning to code video games, Minecraft mods, cartoons, arcades and much more. They also have a special summer offer for new students.

• In celebration of Newbury Building Society’s 165th birthday they are donating 165 days of employee volunteering time to worthwhile causes in and around their branch towns including Newbury, Thatcham, Hungerford, Basingstoke and Didcot. In line with their Green Community work, they would particularly like to hear from organisations with sustainability or environment focused projects from litter picking to planting community gardens. If your organisation needs volunteers, or you know a group that does, please apply here.

• Well done to the students of St Mary’s Primary School in Kintbury, for organising a fundraiser for Newbury Soup KitchenBy baking cakes, making bracelets, selling drinks and then organising a sponsored 17km wild walk from Kintbury to Combe Gibbet. The walk took place on Saturday 9 July and raised over £1,000. The students are now planning to visit the charity to hand over the final cheque themselves, but until then you can still add to their total by visiting their JustGiving page. Well done to all the students that took part. Read more information on Newbury Today here.

• This week a new blue plaque was unveiled commemorating Rev. James Bicheno, Baptist Minister of Newbury 1780-1807, who was a campaigner and activist fighting against the transatlantic slave trade. It was officially unveiled by Mayor of Newbury, Cllr Gary Norman, on Wednesday 27 July and is now Newbury’s sixteenth blue plaque. It is placed at the school the Reverend used to work at, Greenham House on Greenham Road. For more information about the new plaque see here, and if you would like to know more about the life of James Bicheno and Newbury other famous residents, see here.

• If you are looking for a friendly face, activities and free tea and cake pop into Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate on Wednesdays from 2pm to 4pm. You don’t have to live in Speen to join in (Penny goes quite regularly and enjoys playing crib). Follow them on facebook here.

• West Berks Food Bank is looking for volunteers, particularly those that can be drivers to deliver food parcels, packers to make the food parcels and volunteers who can sort donations at the warehouse. it is also looking for volunteers who can help them managed social media accounts. If you think you would be suitable for any of those roles contact [email protected] or phone 07836 500610. You can download the volunteering form to fill out here. For more information about West Berks Food Bank on their website.

The latest edition of the Hamstead Hornet, which covers life in the village of Hamstead Marshall, can be seen here.

Pimlico (part two)

So far as I’m aware, there’s still no further news on the Passport to Pimlico story (see last week’s section below) concerning the problems at the Shaw Valley development in north Newbury. It appears that some planning conditions have not been performed correctly, or at all, which has resulted in WBC advising would-be residents not to complete on any purchase transactions. However, until it’s known what these breached conditions actually are, it’s obviously hard to know when this might be resolved. It will also be interesting to know why at least one condition which should have been performed and checked before anyone moved in only came to light as an issue seven months after the the houses started to be occupied. I understand that there will be a meeting next week after which matters should be a bit clearer.

As mentioned, this is quite separate from the slightly surreal issue of the unadopted roads in the estate which leaves the residents with the additional inconvenience of having to rely on a management company to do things like collect rubbish and fix potholes. It has been suggested to me that the drift towards the management of common parts of a development by a private company rather than by the district or parish council is likely to become more common rather than, as ought to be the case, outlawed altogether. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not knocking the private sector here. Everything has its place. If I wanted a piece of innovative software, a snazzy logo or a hand-made suit, I wouldn’t be going to WBC. Services like road and drainage maintenance, recycling and hedge trimming, however, need a different and less exciting approach which needs to be reliable, regular, reasonably priced, answerable and run by an organisation that isn’t going anywhere. Estate management companies fail on all these tests.

Kicking off again

A book could be written – and not a short one, either – about the tangled saga, now in its fifth year, of the closure of the Faraday Road football ground and the planned opening of the sports hub at Monks Lane. I shall not be writing it: but anyone planning to do so could, of course, do far worse than look at the many mentions of these issues in the previous iterations of this column (see link to the archive sections below).

Another useful source would be the letters pages of the Newbury Weekly News over this period. It’s recently been rare to find that section silent on the matter. This week’s edition certainly doesn’t disappoint. There are three letters, all of them quite long, one stating WBC’s position and the others taking the opposite point of view. If you’re not familiar with the matter it will be hard to follow all the twists and turns of the arguments. Indeed, it’s quite hard to follow them even if you are familiar with it. The nature of the exchanges rather undermines the widely held supposition that if people discuss their differences then some common ground will eventually be found. Exactly the reverse is happening here.

This all seems set to rumble on for some time – after all, the sports hub is yet to be built and planning permission has yet to be applied for at Faraday Road (indeed, the land isn’t even specified for development at all, a point that seems to have got overlooked until quite recently). With a local plan being updated and an election on the horizon (which always carries the possibility of a change of administration), further twists are not be ruled out. In the meantime, it provides the NWN with a pretty much guaranteed page of copy every week which it doesn’t have to pay anyone to write. These letters also display bucketfuls of opinion, something which the articles in the paper studiously avoid.

I somehow doubt that A Political Football or whatever it might be called will ever get written. If it is, however, I would like to see it contain a preface jointly authored by Howard Woollaston of WBC and Paul Morgan of the Newbury Community Football Group. In the meantime, we shall have to put up with this weekly-serial approach (the film rights to which are still available). Alternatively, you can read what I say about the matter from time to time in this column.

Community notices

• Do you have a friendly nature? The ability to chat with people easily? Good listening skills and knowledge of your local area? Local charity Eight Bells is currently looking to recruit Community Navigator Volunteers in Greenham to provide community support, with a focus on looking after mental health and reducing social isolation. Volunteers will be fully trained and by giving as little as two hours a week you could make a huge difference in someone’s life. Please click here to find out more.

• Eight Bells charity is also looking for male volunteers across the area to join their team of Community Navigators. The organisation is dedicated to creating pillars of strength and support in the community, and to prevent social isolation and loneliness. To register your interest in the role fill in the form here, and to find out more about what the Eight Bells do, visit their website here.

• Action for River Kennet is currently seeking volunteers over the next few weeks as part of the Love the Lambourn project that cleans up the River Lambourn around the area of the Riverside Community Centre. The dates and more information can be found here.

• Did you know you can raise concerns with Newbury Town Council at a Saturday Surgery between 10 am and 12 noon any week at the steps of the Town Hall?

• If you would like to host Ukrainian refugees, please contact 01635 503579 or [email protected] or visit this page to find out more information. Another way you can help is by making a donation here. Please also join the Newbury Ukraine Support facebook group.

• The Fair Close Centre on Newtown Road in Newbury provides a vital social hub and meals on wheels for over 65s, many of whom live on their own. Please support them here. Goodness knows we might all need their services in years to come.

•  Newbury Library offers free IT support sessions eg filling out online forms, how to Zoom, downloading e-magazines or sorting out pictures. Bookable 30 or 60 min sessions. To find out more or book a slot, email [email protected].

• There is still plenty of time to plan your entry for Newbury in Bloom 2022  which will take place the week commencing 18 July. Competition guidelines can be seen here.

Local events and activities

For more information on events and activities across the Penny Post area, see the website calendar.

• Dates for the diary

• Until end of 2022 West Berkshire Museum’s Hope and Pride Exhibition, Newbury.

Sat 30 Jul Town Hall Family Open Day, Newbury Town Hall.

Sat 30 Jul to Sun 31 Jul Altered States Sculpture Exhibition, Shaw House.

Sat 6 to Sun 7 Aug Newbury Tattoo Convention, Corn Exchange, Newbury.

•  Sun 7 Aug Classic Car Vehicle Show, Newbury Show Ground.

• Fri 12 Aug to Sun 14 Aug Retrofestival, Newbury Show Ground.

•  Sat 20 Aug Newbury Fire Station Open Day, Newbury Fire Station.

Fri 23 Sept The Mayors Quiz and Curry Night, The Chequers Hotel, Newbury.

Wed 28 Sept Shaw House: 400 Years of History talk, Corn Exchange.

• Regular events

Open Mic Night at The Newbury Pub every Thursday evening with the Newbury Social Club.

• Newbury Park Run at Greenham Common at 9am every Saturday morning. All welcome to run/walk/jog the 5km. See details here.

• ACE Space on St Nicholas Road hosts live acoustic performances. Join their Facebook group or follow them on Twitter.

• Newbury Community Larder every Tuesday 2pm to 4pm at the Waterside Centre (down the canal from Costa Coffee on Northbrook Street).  For more details please contact [email protected] or call 01635 018500.

Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesdays 2pm to 4pm. Drop in for a chat or a cuppa, knitting and craft activities. You don’t have to live in Speen to join in (Penny goes quite regularly and enjoys playing crib). Follow them on facebook here.

• Club Quiz nights every second Wednesday of the month at The Club Bar and Bistro. Registration from 6.30pm and quizzes starting at 7.30pm. See more here.

• Berkshire Youth‘s Waterside Centre in Newbury hosts various clubs and activities for local children and can provide volunteering opportunities for adults too.

 The Base, Greenham organise many artistic-focused events for people of all ages to let their creative sides go wild.

News from your local council

• The most recent meeting of Newbury Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 11 May and you can download the minutes here. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) Items covered included: ownership of public areas at Sandleford (see also The common parts above); the Mayor’s report; the CEO’s report; committee reports; the nomination of the Mayor and Deputy and of the Leader and Deputy; and formal matters. To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 20 July and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: financial matters; correspondence; planning matters; speeding; the Owen Road Wildflower Meadow; dog bins; the future of the Old School; and the PC’s website. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 12 July and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included:Items covered included: the proposed changes to the S106 agreement for Newbury Showground (see separate section above); other planning matters; financial matters; parish paths; nutrient neutrality; and the Tommy memorial.To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here to download the meeting schedule. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 4 July and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: the illegal encampment in Wash Water; planning matters; traffic calming; and repairs and maintenance. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 9 June and you can read the minutes here. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 25 May and you can read the minutes here. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 16 May and you can read the minutes here. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Hamstead Marshall Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 20 January and you can read the minutes here.  To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• Please click here for Hamstead Marshall.net, which provides an excellent round-up of what’s going on in and around the village. This also publishes the quarterly Hamstead Hornet.

• Newbury area council contacts

Parishes: Newbury Town CouncilGreenham Parish CouncilChieveley Parish CouncilEnborne Parish CouncilBoxford Parish CouncilSpeen Parish Council,  Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council, and Hamstead Marshall Parish Council.

West Berkshire Council: click here to visit the website.

News from other areas

Penny Post area – please see the following separate sections: Hungerford area; Lambourn ValleyThatcham area; Compton and DownlandsBurghfield area; Wantage area; Marlborough area.

News and views from across the area and beyond: please see the most recent Weekly News with Brian column.

Thursday 21 July 2022

This week we look at the strange circumstance of the north Newbury estate that seems in some ways not really to be part of West Berkshire at all and at the Newbury Showground’s discussions with a local parish council to mitigate some of the restrictions on the site’s use. We also have a long cycle ride, bowls, shops and food parcels: plus our usual round-up of other local news, local events and activities and news from your local councils.

This week’s news

• Thames Valley Neighbourhood Police Team invites residents to Have Your Say this Friday 22 July at Riverside Community Centre in Clay Hill from 6.30pm to 7.30pm.

• There’s no excuses for being bored this weekend, as there are a whole host of fun activities in and around the local area to take part it. On Saturday 23 July there will be the Shaw House Summer Fair, the Berkshire Balloon Fiesta & Action Extravaganza, the Summer of Soul Reason Concert and the Newbury Youth Theatre’s performance of Love Letters ahead of their run at the Edinburgh Fridge Festival. Newbury Today describes it as a “collection of heart-warming modern fables for older children and their families connects people across warzones; exposes poorly executed scams; and shines a light on the impact of industrial action in heaven.” There is definitely something for everyone!

• Next week there will be a new blue plaque unveiled commemorating Rev. James Bicheno, Baptist Minister of Newbury 1780-1807, who was a campaigner and activist fighting against the transatlantic slave trade. The plaque will be officially unveiled by Mayor of Newbury, Cllr Gary Norman, and will be Newbury’s sixteenth blue plaque. It will be placed at the school the Reverend used to work at, Greenham House on Greenham Road. For more information about the new plaque see here, and if you would like to know more about the life of James Bicheno and Newbury other famous residents, see here.

Calling all choirs: the Newbury Business Improvement District (BID) is starting to plan the town’s 2022 Christmas Light Switch-On Event, and is looking for choirs to take part and sing at this wonderful community celebration. Whether your choir group is large or small, gospel or jazz, church or school, amateur or pro, BID wants to hear from you. If you are interested, please contact Alison on alison@newburybid. com or 07776 006018. More details can be found here.

• Newbury BID have also launched a new trail map of independent shops acrosss the town. Click here to view the map online and find out where you can pick up a hard copy.

• Educafé’s weekly Community Café at Newbury Library is now taking a summer break returning on Wednesday 14 September. In the meantime everyone is welcome at the  similar Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesdays 2pm to 4pm. Drop in for a chat or a cuppa, knitting and craft activities. You don’t have to live in Speen to join in (Penny goes quite regularly and enjoys playing crib). Follow them on facebook here.

• Last week we mentioned how Leader of the Newbury Town Council Councillor, Martin Colston along with three friends, Sean Bird, Rog Davis and Bart Kuijten, would be cycling 300 miles in 24 hours in aid of local charity, Eight Bells. Well fantastic news because despite the heat, they smashed their goal and managed to raise an incredible £1,740. The money will go towards supporting the mental health drop-in sessions, which the charity provides for the local community. Well done fellas.

• Well done to everyone who attended the charity day event at the West Berks Bowls Club last Friday 15 July in aid of the Mayor of Newbury’s charity of the year Speakability, which supports those who have suffered from strokes and their families. More on this story here.

• The Lockdown Woods project, run by Newbury Friends of the Earth, seeks more land locally for its fifth and final Lockdown Wood for 100 to 200 home-grown saplings. Any parish land, or any sympathetic landowners happy to host a community commemorative wood on an area up to two acres please click here for more details.

• Our Guide to Summer Fun includes Code Ninjas on London Road who offer lots of summer camps for kids to have fun learning to code video games, Minecraft mods, cartoons, arcades and much more. They also have a special summer offer for new students.

• West Berks Food Bank is looking for volunteers, particularly those that can be drivers to deliver food parcels, packers to make the food parcels and volunteers who can sort donations at the warehouse. it is also looking for volunteers who can help them managed social media accounts. If you think you would be suitable for any of those roles contact [email protected] or phone 07836 500610. You can download the volunteering form to fill out here. For more information about West Berks Food Bank on their website.

Newbury Town Council’s grants to local charities has just been announced, totalling £10,440 to 12 local charities to support their work for the local community. The projects to benefit include: Newbury Family Counselling Services, Newbury Soup Kitchen, West Berkshire Homeless and Newbury Riding for the Disabled. All the projects are registered on The Good Exchange, where the Council’s contribution will be match funded by Greenham Trust. See here for the full list of charities which have received funding.

As of earlier this week, West Berkshire Hospital has implemented a new ‘pay on exit’ parking charge system.  The old ‘pay and display system’ has been replaced with Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology, which reads vehicle registrations upon entering the car park. Then when leaving, pay at the machine by reception. You still have the option to pay on arrival by mobile or via the Parkonomy app, if you prefer.

Newbury Town Council will open the doors of the Newbury Town Hall for a Family Open Day on Saturday 30 July, between 10am and 2pm where children can meet the Mayor and try on Councillors’ robes and learn more about the town council and the history of the town hall. Click here to find out more.

West Berkshire Council have extended their Bus Improvement Plan survey deadline. It is vital they hear from passengers and potential passengers to ensure they are meeting needs. If you would like your views heard regarding Berkshires bus services, then take the survey before midnight on Sunday 31 July.

The latest edition of the Hamstead Hornet, which covers life in the village of Hamstead Marshall, can be seen here.

Passport to Pimlico

The Shaw Valley development in north Newbury near the Vodafone site has been in the news recently after reports (including on the front page of this week’s NWN) that certain conditions have not been met by the developers. The headline to the NWN article describes these as “red tape” but it seems rather more than that. Conditions on matters such as drainage and pathways are specified for a reason. The trick is enforcing them. As is well known, WBC has fewer enforcement officers than it should but some at least have been deployed (or threatened to be deployed) here: the matter is therefore regarded as quite serious. This is confirmed by a statement issued by WBC on 19 July which says that “Taylor Wimpey Oxfordshire and David Wilson Homes are yet to satisfy a number of conditions” but that WBC “is confident that, working with the Planning Department, they will satisfy those conditions shortly.”

However, this assertion, in respect of drainage and highways at least, seems to be contradicted by a communication received by one would-be purchaser from Wimpey Homes on 21 July. This said that information on these points had been sent to WBC on 22 June but that, for reasons unspecified, was re-requested on 30 June. I further understand that a meeting at WBC to consider and perhaps approve this will take place on 25 July. It’s unclear why it will have taken the best part of five weeks to deal with this and also if these are the only conditions on which information is needed. Local ward member Steve Masters has contacted WBC’s planning department to find out more on these points. He has also been in regular contact with local residents (and would-be residents) as well as with Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council.

There is also a much more complex and separate issue which has been known about since day one: WBC does not own the access to the site. The road was owned by Vodafone but I understand now has been sold to a management company. These organisations often end up owning the common parts of developments and charging whatever fees they can get, often for doing as little as possible. That’s bad enough when applied to hedges, paths and drainage: what’s more rare is, as here, when this extends to the roads.

WBC’s officers told the Western Area Planning Committee (WAPC) in September 2020 that as it couldn’t adopt the access – it had tried to but Vodafone and the developers weren’t interested – it also couldn’t adopt the roads in the estate. This means that if there’s a problem with, say, a pothole, residents will have to contact the management company. As part of their council tax is going to the highways department and as I imagine they aren’t getting a rebate from WBC, they are effectively paying twice. Even if they are rebated, they still have a separate system to grapple with.

At the same WAPC meeting, the officer stressed that residents would have rights of access (the mere fact that this needed to be mentioned at all shows how odd the situation is), as would emergency vehicles and refuse lorries. However, WBC’s refuse collections don’t operate here, the service instead being provided in a different way by the management company – another service for which residents are probably paying for twice. Charges from these estate management companies are subject to no cap that I’m aware of. All in all, it’s slightly as if this estate isn’t really in West Berkshire at all, as Pimlico briefly wasn’t in the 1949 Ealing film. That was, however, fiction and comedy: what’s happening at Shaw Valley is neither.

One might fairly ask why, this intractable problem being in place, WBC permitted the development to happen at all. The answer is that it didn’t: the application being passed on appeal by the Planning Inspector in 2017. WBC was, however, left with the problem of dealing with it including by the conditions referred to at the above-mentioned WAPC meeting. A pragmatic solution would have been for the planning inspector to arrange for a compulsory purchase of the access road. If the price had been fair, I doubt Vodafone (which then owned it) could have complained too loudly as the last time I checked the company was in the business of providing telecom services rather than fixing potholes and collecting rubbish on housing estates. That ship has sailed, however.

WBC cannot be blamed for the original muddle but it could stand accused of not having acted fast enough when it became clear that the planning conditions were not being adhered to. As mentioned above, it seems so far to have taken five weeks to consider one aspect of the issue. I spoke to another would-be resident on 21 July who told me that had been advised on 27 May, the day before they were due to complete, that WBC had advised that no one else should move in although other people had been given the same news during March and April. It’s hard to understand this staggered timescale. Whatever exactly the problems are (that’s not clear either), it’s equally hard to understand why they took so long to spot. These conditions generally need to be signed off before any homes are occupied: however, the first residents moved in over seven months ago. Why the delay?

No one will feel this more keenly than the existing or would-be occupants of the homes, many of whom may now be wishing that they’d made plans to move elsewhere. Those who are already there are faced with uncertain charges (though their solicitors should have apprised them of this) and possibly unperformed conditions, the long-term implications of which may be considerable. Those who have yet to move in are currently not able to, even if they still wish to. As it’s not clear what exactly the problems are, it’s also not clear what conditions need to be satisfied before the homes can be occupied. Some of the would-be residents have had mortgages cancelled due to the delay and all have been severely messed around. No one seems to be coming out of this with much credit at the moment.

If you are caught up in this muddle, I suggest you contact Shaw-cum-Donninton Parish Council or your WBC ward members, Steve Masters and Lynne Doherty (whose details can be found here). There is also a (closed-user) Facebook group which you can visit here. Penny Post would also welcome hearing from anyone, residents or otherwise, who has any views on this matter: please contact [email protected].

Chieveley’s support

We mentioned last week about the Newbury and District Agricultural Society’s (NADAS) attempts to set aside some of the limitations on the use of the Showground which, the organisation claims, have hitherto reduced the society’s income and which led in part to last year’s decision by the previous administration at NADAS (overturned by the current one) to sell the Showground. NADAs’s Chairman Steve Ackrill attended the meeting of Chieveley Parish Council on 12 July to answer questions about the proposed changes and to ask for CPC’s support in having the Section 106 agreement modified. What follows is taken verbatim from the minutes.

“Councillor Cowan raised the concern that there was no restriction listed in the S106 modification application to show that a total of 180 days were only permitted for non-agricultural events on the Showground. This matter was discussed when three members of the Parish Council met with NADAS members earlier in the year.

“Steve Ackrill, Chairman of NADAS in attendance was invited to speak. Mr Ackrill said it would be impossible to hold 180 days of non-agricultural events, with the full number of days permitted to hold events. One example is that the bigger events could take one week to prepare for a 2-day weekend event, then one week after for the breakdown. Considering this, NADAS would not actually be able to reach a total of 180 of non-agricultural events.

“Mr Ackrill confirmed that NADAS would not have any issues to include this constraint in the S106 agreement and said he would contact West Berkshire Council the next day to ask how to include this constraint in the submitted S106 modifications application.

“Councillor Cowan also raised the relaxation of the S106 conditions for winter use being a concern that lighting for a car park could be added later. NADAS had reassured the Parish Council that there were no plans to add permanent lighting to the site.

“Councillor Belcher then concluded and asked Council, – if NADAS amend the S106 modifications to include this constraint of a total of 180 days for non-agriculture events, and Parish Council add comments regarding the concern of lighting added for car parks over the winter months, would Councillors then support the S106 modifications application? All Councillors resolved to support on these two conditions.”

Community notices

• Do you have a friendly nature? The ability to chat with people easily? Good listening skills and knowledge of your local area? Local charity Eight Bells is currently looking to recruit Community Navigator Volunteers in Greenham to provide community support, with a focus on looking after mental health and reducing social isolation. Volunteers will be fully trained and by giving as little as two hours a week you could make a huge difference in someone’s life. Please click here to find out more.

• Eight Bells charity is also looking for male volunteers across the area to join their team of Community Navigators. The organisation is dedicated to creating pillars of strength and support in the community, and to prevent social isolation and loneliness. To register your interest in the role fill in the form here, and to find out more about what the Eight Bells do, visit their website here.

• Action for River Kennet is currently seeking volunteers over the next few weeks as part of the Love the Lambourn project that cleans up the River Lambourn around the area of the Riverside Community Centre. The dates and more information can be found here.

• Did you know you can raise concerns with Newbury Town Council at a Saturday Surgery between 10 am and 12 noon any week at the steps of the Town Hall?

• If you would like to host Ukrainian refugees, please contact 01635 503579 or [email protected] or visit this page to find out more information. Another way you can help is by making a donation here. Please also join the Newbury Ukraine Support facebook group.

• The Fair Close Centre on Newtown Road in Newbury provides a vital social hub and meals on wheels for over 65s, many of whom live on their own. Please support them here. Goodness knows we might all need their services in years to come.

•  Newbury Library offers free IT support sessions eg filling out online forms, how to Zoom, downloading e-magazines or sorting out pictures. Bookable 30 or 60 min sessions. To find out more or book a slot, email [email protected].

• There is still plenty of time to plan your entry for Newbury in Bloom 2022  which will take place the week commencing 18 July. Competition guidelines can be seen here.

Local events and activities

For more information on events and activities across the Penny Post area, see the website calendar.

• Dates for the diary

• Until end of 2022 West Berkshire Museum’s Hope and Pride Exhibition, Newbury.

Sat 23 Jul Shaw House Summer Fair, Shaw House, Newbury.

Sat 23 Jul Berkshire Balloon Fiesta & Action Extravaganza, Newbury Showground.

Sat 23 Jul Summer of Soul Reason Concert, The Phoenix Centre, Newbury.

Sat 23 Jul Newbury Youth Theatre’s Love Letters, Arlington Arts, Newbury.

Sun 24 Jul Beating the Bounds By Bike, meet outside Newbury Town Hall.

Tue 26 Jul Town Heritage Walk, Newbury Market Place.

Wed 27 Jul Unveiling of New Blue Plaque, at Greenham House, Greenham.

Sat 30 Jul Town Hall Family Open Day, Newbury Town Hall.

Sat 6 to Sun 7 Aug Newbury Tattoo Convention, Corn Exchange, Newbury.

• Regular events

Open Mic Night at The Newbury Pub every Thursday evening with the Newbury Social Club.

• Newbury Park Run at Greenham Common at 9am every Saturday morning. All welcome to run/walk/jog the 5km. See details here.

• ACE Space on St Nicholas Road hosts live acoustic performances. Join their Facebook group or follow them on Twitter.

• Newbury Community Larder every Tuesday 2pm to 4pm at the Waterside Centre (down the canal from Costa Coffee on Northbrook Street).  For more details please contact [email protected] or call 01635 018500.

Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesdays 2pm to 4pm. Drop in for a chat or a cuppa, knitting and craft activities. You don’t have to live in Speen to join in (Penny goes quite regularly and enjoys playing crib). Follow them on facebook here.

• Club Quiz nights every second Wednesday of the month at The Club Bar and Bistro. Registration from 6.30pm and quizzes starting at 7.30pm. See more here.

• Berkshire Youth‘s Waterside Centre in Newbury hosts various clubs and activities for local children and can provide volunteering opportunities for adults too.

 The Base, Greenham organise many artistic-focused events for people of all ages to let their creative sides go wild.

News from your local council

Note: “the most recent meeting” refers to the most recent one for which minutes (in some cases draft) or some other summary is available. Other meetings may have taken place since. Some councils publish minutes more promptly than do others.

• The most recent meeting of Newbury Town Council took place on 11 May and you can download the minutes here. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) Items covered included: ownership of public areas at Sandleford (see also The common parts above); the Mayor’s report; the CEO’s report; committee reports; the nomination of the Mayor and Deputy and of the Leader and Deputy; and formal matters. To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council took place on 12 July and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included:Items covered included: the proposed changes to the S106 agreement for Newbury Showground (see separate section above); other planning matters; financial matters; parish paths; nutrient neutrality; and the Tommy memorial.To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here to download the meeting schedule. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council took place on 4 July and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: the illegal encampment in Wash Water; planning matters; traffic calming; and repairs and maintenance. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council took place on 15 June and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: a councillor co-option; vandalism; financial matters; planning matters; a review of the jubilee; the site of the old school; and speeding. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council took place on 9 June and you can read the minutes here. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.=

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council took place on 25 May and you can read the minutes here. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council took place on 16 May and you can read the minutes here. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Hamstead Marshall Parish Council took place on 20 January and you can read the minutes here.  To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• Please click here for Hamstead Marshall.net, which provides an excellent round-up of what’s going on in and around the village. This also publishes the quarterly Hamstead Hornet.

• Newbury area council contacts

Parishes: Newbury Town CouncilGreenham Parish CouncilChieveley Parish CouncilEnborne Parish CouncilBoxford Parish CouncilSpeen Parish Council,  Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council, and Hamstead Marshall Parish Council.

West Berkshire Council: click here to visit the website.

News from other areas

Penny Post area – please see the following separate sections: Hungerford area; Lambourn ValleyThatcham area; Compton and DownlandsBurghfield area; Wantage area; Marlborough area.

News and views from across the area and beyond: please see the most recent Weekly News with Brian column.

Thursday 14 July 2022

This week we look at a new proposal for the long-running saga of Newbury’s football grounds and reflect on the some of the issues this latest suggestion raises (including how one might define a vision). We also cover NADAS’s attempts to reduce some of the restrictions on the use of the Showground, Newbury’s hedgehog highways and some thirsty saplings: plus our usual round-up of local news, local events and activities and news from your local councils.

This week’s news

• This Friday 15 July, Leader of the Newbury Town Council Councillor Martin Colston along with three friends, Sean Bird, Rog Davis and Bart Kuijten, will be cycling in aid of Eight Bells, a local mental health charity. They will be attempting to cycle 500km (300 miles) in 24 hours.  Click here to find out more about the challenge or to make a donation.

The Big Event at the bandstand in Victoria Park this Saturday 16 July will be a fabulous performance by  20 members of Project Band from 3pm to  5pm, with Archie Coffield playing the bagpipes in the interval (Archie was one of the original Mull Of Kintyre Pipers in 1977). Local hobby musicians who play brass, woodwind, guitar or drums are warmly welcome to join Project Band.

Calling all tree lovers – can you help water the saplings in Lockdown Wood at Goldwell Parkthis Sunday 17 July from 10am?  The soil is bone dry, and some of the precious young trees are at risk. Newbury Friends of the Earth need people watering and moving hoses in rotation. If you can help please contact Susan Millington on [email protected]

Newbury Town Council will open the doors of the Newbury Town Hall for a Family Open Day on Saturday 30 July, between 10am and 2pm where children can meet the Mayor and try on Councillors’ robes and learn more about the town council and the history of the town hall.

• West Berks Food Bank is looking for volunteers, particularly those that can be drivers to deliver food parcels, packers to make the food parcels and volunteers who can sort donations at the warehouse. it is also looking for volunteers who can help them managed social media accounts. If you think you would be suitable for any of those roles contact [email protected] or phone 07836 500610. You can download the volunteering form to fill out here. For more information about West Berks Food Bank on their website.

Starting next Monday 18 July, West Berkshire Hospital will be implementing a new ‘pay on exit’ parking chargesystem.  The current ‘pay and display system’ will be replaced with Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology, which will read vehicle registrations on entering the car park. Then when leaving, pay at the machine by reception. You will still have the option to pay on arrival by mobile or via the Parkonomy app, if you prefer.

Earlier this month members of Newbury’s Hundu community gathered to celebrate Shikshak Vandan Divas, also known as Teacher’s Appreciation Day. Several teachers from local schools attended the event to be praised by their pupils. Newbury Mayor and Deputy Mayor and West Berkshire Council’s head of education services were also in attendance and pleased to see the support and recognition being awarded to teaching staff. See full story on page 5 of this week’s Newbury Weekly News.

Congratulations to Newbury Town Council for resolving to request that all new developments in Newbury include a 13 cm hole in the bottom of a fence that allows hedgehogs to move freely between gardens to access food and mates, widely known as hedgehog highways. At the last Planning & Highways Committee meeting, on 11 July, the Council resolved to adopt a policy of requiring hedgehog-friendly fencing in all housing developments on which the Council is consulted. Councillor Nigel Foot, Chair of the Planning & Highways Committee said that “although the Town Council has already signed up to the British Hedgehog Preservation Society’s “Hedgehog Heroes” scheme, we felt that more needed to be done to help protect this iconic animal.” See more details here.

Newbury Town Council’s grants to local charities has just been announced, totalling £10,440 to 12 local charities to support their work for the local community. The projects to benefit include: Newbury Family Counselling Services, Newbury Soup Kitchen, West Berkshire Homeless and Newbury Riding for the Disabled. All the projects are registered on The Good Exchange, where the Council’s contribution will be match funded by Greenham Trust. See here for the full list of charitieswhich have received funding.

• Newbury Youth Theatre will be returning to Arlington Arts, with a preview performance of The Lost Letters, ahead of their run at the Edinburgh Fridge Festival. Newbury Today describes it as a “collection of heart-warming modern fables for older children and their families connects people across warzones; exposes poorly executed scams; and shines a light on the impact of industrial action in heaven.” Book your tickets on the Arlington Arts website.

West Berkshire Council have extended their Bus Improvement Plan survey deadline. It is vital they hear from passengers and potential passengers to ensure they are meeting needs. If you would like your views heard regarding Berkshires bus services, then take the surveybefore midnight on Sunday 31 July.

Over at the University Centre Newbury, the Engineering students have just completed their exhibition, showcasing their projects which were assessed by industry experts. There was a high bar for projects this year, but winners for various categories were chosen. Well done to everyone who exhibited. You can read more about the showcase and a list of winners here. If you would like to know more about courses offered by UCN, see here.

You might have noticed some colourful posters popping up all around the town centre. This is all part of the ‘Newbury’s Calling: Summer Daycation’, a new campaign by BID (Newbury’s Business Improvement District) and Visit Newbury to help increase footfall and brighten up the town. You can read more about the initiative here.

The latest (June 2022) edition of the Hamstead Hornet, which covers life in the village of Hamstead Marshall, can be seen here.

A financial and political football

The two football grounds in Newbury – one of which has been closed and the other has yet to be built – continue to excite a good deal of comment and controversy and to an extent greater than could ever be generated by any on-field encounters. The latest contribution has been a proposal by the Newbury Community Football Group (NCFG) to create “two full sized 3G pitches including a scalable/future-proofed new football stadium which will save local taxpayers over £10m.” This document, sent to Penny Post, the NWN and doubtless others earlier this week, is the subject of this article in Newbury Today.

(Anyone coming new to this story might want to see the two archives of this column – see link below to take to to the first one – and search for “Monk” or “Faraday”.)

In essence, the NCFG proposal appears to suggest that there is nothing inherently wrong with the Monks Lane proposal except that (i) it’s not a replacement for Faraday Road, (ii) it’s far too expensive and (iii) it provides a disproportionate benefit to the Rugby Club, on whose land it sits. WBC, on the other hand, see this as offering a “first-class facility which will benefit Newbury and the whole of West Berkshire.” At least WBC admits it does have a responsibility for finding a replacement for the Faraday Road ground which, for no good reason, it closed in June 2018: for a long time, the then CEO Nick Carter denied that this was WBC’s problem at all. After having done the wrong thing, and then nothing, the accusation is that the new proposal by WBC is both wrong and expensive. If one includes construction costs, a one-off payment to the Rugby Club, a sinking fund for repairs and a subsidy for the running of the facility for the foreseeable future, the costs have been estimated as being between £10 and £14.5m, although it must be pointed out that this is over the 30-year lifetime of the project and includes loan repayments to the Public Works Loans Board.

The NCFG proposes, as it always has done, that football should return to Faraday Road (it already has planning permission for this) which can be accomplished, it claims, for a WBC outlay of £1.5m on land which WBC itself owns. It goes on to suggest that a similar grant to the Rugby Club could enable it to build a 3G pitch there which it would own and run, with suitable guarantees for community use. WBC would, the NCFG’s proposal continues, then contribute about £35,000pa as a sinking fund towards replacement costs. The Monks Lane facility would then be owned by the Rugby Club which would assume the risks and benefits. There are even suggestions that the area beneath the Faraday Road pitch could be used as an attenuation measure with regard to the flooding problems to which the area is prone.

This proposal certainly seems simple: too simple according to portfolio holder Howard Woollaston (who has, unlike his predecessor, at least managed to address this issue) which claims that the plans “haven’t been thought through.” He also refers, as quoted in the Newbury Today article that 3G pitches cost between £0.8 and £1.3m. A quick (and unscientific) internet search suggested that £60 per sq m for the pitch itself (so about £450,000) seemed do-able: a quick call a local football expert unrelated to either WBC or NCFG revealed that one ground in east Berkshire had about five years ago been created for about half that. That said, prices do seem to be rising, as they are everywhere, for everything. Aside from the costs there are questions about matters including pitch sizes, access, parking, location, sustainability, flooding, community buy-in, the initial facilities and the extent to which these could be upgraded, on which now one proposal and now the other scores more highly (although the two parties often seem unable to agree on these points).

In their main aspect, the two points of view are mutually exclusive to an extent that admits of no compromise. The NCFG believes that football should be returned to Faraday Road: WBC believes that this option is completely off the table. WBC’s entire justification for closing the Faraday Road ground in 2018 – and thus this rift – was predicated on the assumption, so far unrealised, that its redevelopment was essential. It’s therefore worth having yet another look at this rather unhappy tale and the recent new vision which will, WBC hopes, re-start it.

Defining a vision

Councillor Howard Woollaston told Newbury Today, as quoted in in the above-mentioned article, that WBC has “very clear plans for the London Road Industrial Estate” (LRIE) which will involve “bringing a lot of jobs to Newbury.” I’m afraid there is nothing clear about WBC’s plans for the LRIE. For about 15 years, it was an article of faith that the area would be home to an ambitious mix of homes and commercial units, provided both by WBC and private developers. This proved impossible to get off the ground and the project turned into a legal, financial and PR nightmare; or at least a bad dream, one of those Alice in Wonderland ones in which you run and run but don’t get anywhere. In June 2022 WBC pressed the re-set button (see below) . Any clarity cannot therefore be more than five weeks old.

Even more ambiguous is the position of Faraday Road itself. This is not currently a protected employment area but designated as green infrastructure (as well as being as such as asset of community value). As I understand matters, either a new local plan (which is looking an increasingly long way off) or a clear demonstration that the a replacement facility had been provided (which by many good opinions Monks Lane is not) would be required before any permission could be granted for commercial development at Faraday Road. The lack of such permission would not encourage any private company to make a commitment to relocate there. The football ground was closed to enable development: but, more than four years on, WBC still seems no nearer to accomplishing this.

Court cases, disputes with developers, an unexpected level of opposition to the closure of the football ground, problems raised by local residents about drainage issues, new flood-risk regulations and the possible changes to the demand for office space caused by there pandemic all combined to frustrate any serious progress during this administration (which was elected in May 2019). Throughout this, the re-development of the area remained an important but increasingly inconvenient priority.

In June 2022, WBC went for a re-boot with a jobs-only approach (although third-party projects like Gateway Plaza, if it ever happens, will provide housing). This new vision sees the LRIE as an ideal venue “at the crossroads of south east England” for high-tech companies particularly in the life-science sector. At present it’s mainly filled with businesses connected with the motor trade. There are plenty of other towns that could out-compete Newbury. Many would have the advantage of having suitable buildings that actually exist (the LRIE doesn’t); or where planning permission has been applied for (the LRIE doesn’t, even after four years, at Faraday Road); or where the council had unencumbered access to the land (WBC doesn’t at the LRIE, most of the small part that it owns being occupied by commercial tenants with long leases); or where there is some clarity about the possible flooding issues (which there isn’t); or where there is a widespread sense of cross-party and community support (ditto). There’s also an election looming, in May 2023, at which all the issues at the LRIE are likely to figure. All in all, the project calls to mind the old chestnut about the visitor to Ireland who asks a local for directions to Dublin. “Well, if I were you,” the Irishman replies, “I wouldn’t start from here.”

Of course you need to have a plan, a vision, call it what you will, if you’re going to accomplish anything. Yogi Berra put his finger on it when he said is his wise-mangled way “You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you are going, because you might not get there.” However, the concern about the LRIE is despite this having been on WBC’s vision list for well over a decade, very little has been accomplished towards making it achievable. Even the seeming low-hanging fruit of the football ground has yet to be plucked. The new aspiration requires a huge amount of work and the life-science ship may have sailed before it’s completed (and a lot of unglamorous but necessary businesses moved out in the process). It is, by any standards a long-term plan.

The cynic in me might say that a long-term plan is merely a fancy name for a short- or medium-term plan which has gone wrong. In the same vein, a vision is perhaps merely a fancy name for a development project that doesn’t have either land or planning permission.

NADAS’s conditions

As we reported on numerous occasions last year (see archive section, the link for which is at the foot of this post), the Newbury and District Agricultural Society had quite a turbulent 2021. In summary, the previous board felt that the society was no longer viable as it stood and decided to sell the Showground. To this a group of members objected and, after a number of meetings and discussions, some of them verging on the acrimonious, the opposition group took over promising not to proceed with the sale. The finances were indeed in a parlous, though not terminal, state and steps have been taken to improve them. One task involved modifying the conditions of the section 106 agreement in April 2013, entered into after the cattle shed was built and which prevented NADAS from engaging in a number of potentially profitable activities. I’m not clear why WBC felt it necessary to impose such restrictive conditions nor why the then NADAS board agreed to fall in with them. Anyway, there it was: not the only reason why the society was struggling but certainly not helping.

In order to get WBC to modify the S106 it was necessary for NADAS to obtain the support of Hermitage and, in particularly, Chieveley Parish Councils (which has happened). The revised application was validated on 20 June 2022 and will need to go through the planning system in the normal way. The matter has already come before Chieveley PC in its capacity as a consultee, which has confirmed its support. If agreed, the association will be able to host a wider range of events for up to 180 days a year (which includes set-up and break-down time) and will have removed a particularly onerous condition which stipulated that the site could not be used at all between 1 December and 31 March.

One objection has already been received which refers to a number of issues including nutrient neutrality and the site’s presence within an AONB. The first issue has been holding up planning applications across the western part of the district for months and the objection claims that the events contemplated will increase this risk. I would have thought this is unlikely: the primary test ion wither a development falls foul of the new rules is if it will increase the number of overnight stays, which clearly this will not. Also, I imagine that toilet facilities will be of the portable kind and so won’t discharge into the local network.

As regards the AONB, it is true that this needs to be protected: but nothing is proposed which will add any permanent structures. This is in stark contrast to the plans floated last year whereby the entire site would be sold and then probably concreted over and turned into a distribution centre. Indeed, this consideration probably tested high with the local parish councils, for whom a bit more evening activity on the site probably seemed a fair price to pay for helping NADAS survive and thus reducing the risk of a sale. I suspect a huge commercial site would be far more distasteful to them than a few concerts. For, let it not be forgotten, this is NADAS’s land. The current board has pledged to retain the Showground but, in order for this to happen, the site needs to pay its way. If the S106 is modified that will help it accomplish this.

You can see details of the application here on WBC’s website.

Community notices

• Do you have a friendly nature? The ability to chat with people easily? Good listening skills and knowledge of your local area? Local charity Eight Bells is currently looking to recruit Community Navigator Volunteers in Greenham to provide community support, with a focus on looking after mental health and reducing social isolation. Volunteers will be fully trained and by giving as little as two hours a week you could make a huge difference in someone’s life. Please click here to find out more.

• Eight Bells charity is also looking for male volunteers across the area to join their team of Community Navigators. The organisation is dedicated to creating pillars of strength and support in the community, and to prevent social isolation and loneliness. To register your interest in the role fill in the form here, and to find out more about what the Eight Bells do, visit their website here.

• Action for River Kennet is currently seeking volunteers over the next few weeks as part of the Love the Lambourn project that cleans up the River Lambourn around the area of the Riverside Community Centre. The dates and more information can be found here.

• Did you know you can raise concerns with Newbury Town Council at a Saturday Surgery between 10 am and 12 noon any week at the steps of the Town Hall?

• If you would like to host Ukrainian refugees, please contact 01635 503579 or [email protected] or visit this page to find out more information. Another way you can help is by making a donation here. Please also join the Newbury Ukraine Support facebook group.

• The Fair Close Centre on Newtown Road in Newbury provides a vital social hub and meals on wheels for over 65s, many of whom live on their own. Please support them here. Goodness knows we might all need their services in years to come.

•  Newbury Library offers free IT support sessions eg filling out online forms, how to Zoom, downloading e-magazines or sorting out pictures. Bookable 30 or 60 min sessions. To find out more or book a slot, email [email protected].

• There is still plenty of time to plan your entry for Newbury in Bloom 2022  which will take place the week commencing 18 July. Competition guidelines can be seen here.

Local events and activities

For more information on events and activities across the Penny Post area, see the website calendar.

• Dates for the diary

• Until end of 2022 West Berkshire Museum’s Hope and Pride Exhibition, Newbury.

Sat 23 Jul Shaw House Summer Fair, Shaw House, Newbury.

Sat 23 Jul Berkshire Balloon Fiesta & Action Extravaganza, Newbury Showground.

Sat 23 Jul Summer of Soul Reason Concert, The Phoenix Centre, Newbury.

Sat 23 Jul Newbury Youth Theatre’s Love Letters, Arlington Arts, Newbury.

Sun 24 Jul Beating the Bounds By Bike, meet at Newbury Town Hall.

Tue 26 Jul Town Heritage Walk, Newbury.

Sat 30 Jul Town Hall Family Open Day, Newbury.

Sat 6 to Sun 7 Aug Newbury Tattoo Convention, Corn Exchange, Newbury.

• Regular events

Open Mic Night at The Newbury Pub every Thursday evening with the Newbury Social Club.

• Newbury Park Run at Greenham Common at 9am every Saturday morning. All welcome to run/walk/jog the 5km. See details here.

• ACE Space on St Nicholas Road hosts live acoustic performances. Join their Facebook group or follow them on Twitter.

• Newbury Community Larder every Tuesday 2pm to 4pm at the Waterside Centre (down the canal from Costa Coffee on Northbrook Street).  For more details please contact [email protected] or call 01635 018500.

• Educafé’s weekly Community Café runs 11am to 2pm at Newbury Library. All are welcome to enjoy free refreshments, arts and crafts, knitting table, chatty corners, dominoes, seated yoga and more.

Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesdays 2pm to 4pm. Drop in for a chat or a cuppa, knitting and craft activities. You don’t have to live in Speen to join in (Penny goes quite regularly and enjoys playing crib). Follow them on facebook here.

• Club Quiz nights every second Wednesday of the month at The Club Bar and Bistro. Registration from 6.30pm and quizzes starting at 7.30pm. See more here.

• Berkshire Youth‘s Waterside Centre in Newbury hosts various clubs and activities for local children and can provide volunteering opportunities for adults too.

 The Base, Greenham organise many artistic-focused events for people of all ages to let their creative sides go wild.

News from your local council

Note: “the most recent meeting” refers to the most recent one for which minutes (in some cases draft) or some other summary is available. Other meetings may have taken place since. Some councils publish minutes more promptly than do others.

• The most recent meeting of Newbury Town Council took place on 11 May and you can download the minutes here. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) Items covered included: ownership of public areas at Sandleford (see also The common parts above); the Mayor’s report; the CEO’s report; committee reports; the nomination of the Mayor and Deputy and of the Leader and Deputy; and formal matters. To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council took place on 15 June and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: a councillor co-option; vandalism; financial matters; planning matters; a review of the jubilee; the site of the old school; and speeding. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council took place on 14 June and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: an objection from a member of the public to application 21/02113; aggressive dogs; speeding; planning matters; footpath signs; Marsh Pond; the minerals and waste local plan; financial matters; a report on the jubilee event (click here for some photos); Curridge honorary citizens; anti-social behaviour; the Tommy memorial; and reports from councillors and the Clerk.To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here to download the meeting schedule. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council took place on 9 June and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: speeding; financial matters; donations to St Mary’s Church, Greener Greenham and Readibus; planning matters; and environmental issues.  To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.=

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council took place on 25 May and you can read the minutes here. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council took place on 23 May and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: the election of the Chair and Deputy; formal business; the solar farm; planning matters; Enborne School; speeding; financial matters; the jubilee; and litter. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council took place on 16 May and you can read the minutes here. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Hamstead Marshall Parish Council took place on 20 January and you can read the minutes here.  To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• Please click here for Hamstead Marshall.net, which provides an excellent round-up of what’s going on in and around the village. This also publishes the quarterly Hamstead Hornet.

• Newbury area council contacts

Parishes: Newbury Town CouncilGreenham Parish CouncilChieveley Parish CouncilEnborne Parish CouncilBoxford Parish CouncilSpeen Parish Council,  Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council, and Hamstead Marshall Parish Council.

West Berkshire Council: click here to visit the website.

News from other areas

Penny Post area – please see the following separate sections: Hungerford area; Lambourn ValleyThatcham area; Compton and DownlandsTheale area; Wantage area; Marlborough area; Swindon area.

News and views from across the area and beyond: please see the most recent Weekly News with Brian column.

Thursday 7 July 2022

This week we look back at the recent Pride march and forward to the beating of the bounds, which this year can be done on foot or by bike. We have an arduous-sounding fundraiser by the Town Council’s Leader, a placing award and  take a look at some colourful posters: plus our usual round-up of local news, local events and activities (including jubilee-related ones) and news from your local councils.

This week’s news

• Last weekend, the streets of Newbury were lined with rainbows in celebration of West Berkshire’s very first Pride march. Hundreds came out to parade through the town centre on Saturday 2 July, ending with a disco of classic club anthems. You can re-live the excitement through our post of photos and highlights from the day. Don’t worry if you missed it through, as a new exhibit ‘Hope and Pride’ is also launching at West Berkshire Museum and will be running for the rest of the year. See here for museum opening times.

Newbury Town Council‘s July newsletter includes the success of Beating the Bounds and the welcome return of Art in the Park.

• Congratulations to local Police Community Support Officer, Sue Gillespie, who has been awarded  in the 2022 Community Policing Awards Berkshire PCSO. Sue has been working with the force for nearly two decade, having joined Thames Valley Police in 2004. Since then she has become an integral part of the local team and has had major positive impact on the community. You can read more about Sue and her story in the Newbury Today. A massive well done to her and the other awardees and thank you for all your hard work.

• West Berkshire Council have extended their Bus Improvement Plan survey deadline. It is vital they hear from passengers and potential passengers to ensure they are meeting needs. If you would like your views heard regarding Berkshires bus services, then take the survey before midnight on Sunday 31 July.

• If you would like to find out what services are out there for yourself or someone you care about, and enjoy a chat, free tea, coffee, cake and more, drop into the Local Services Information Day on Tuesday 12 July from 10am to 4pm at the Fair Close Centre in Newbury. Services to include: Newbury and Thatcham Handybus; fun, food and friendship at Fair Close; Meals on Wheels, information and advice; foot care and hairdressing, Newbury and Thatcham volunteer car services; Newbury Shopmobility and West Berkshire Council Adult Social Care services information. If you live more than a quarter of a mile away and need help with transport on the day, a Handybus service is available.  Call 01635 37111 to arrange your free transportation or call Louise on 07496587904 from 9am to 3pm for more information.

• Do you have a friendly nature? The ability to chat with people easily? Good listening skills and knowledge of your local area? Local charity Eight Bells is currently looking to recruit Community Navigator Volunteers in Greenham to provide community support, with a focus on looking after mental health and reduce social isolation. Volunteers will be fully trained and by giving as little as two hours a week you could make a huge difference in someone’s life. Please click here to find out more.

• Eight Bells charity is also looking for male volunteers who would be able to join their team of Community Navigators. The organisation is dedicated to creating pillars of strength and support in the community, and to prevent social isolation and loneliness. To register your interest in the role fill in the form here, and to find out more about what the Eight Bells do, visit their website here.

• Caroline Dallas from Luna Boutiques thanks all their wonderful customers and supporters. After 10 long, hard years of risking everything for the business she believes in, their boutiques in Newbury Parkway, Marlborough and Devizes are now busy and full of compliments all day long from people of all ages and sizes and walks of life who love what they do and stand for. If you are looking to refresh your wardrobe this summer, Luna Boutiques offers a lovely range of colourful, comfortable clothes for all sizes and you can shop online as well as in-store.

• Over at the University Centre Newbury, the Engineering students have just completed their exhibition, showcasing their projects which were assessed by industry experts. There was a high bar for projects this year, but winners for various categories were chosen. Well done to everyone who exhibited. You can read more about the showcase and a list of winners here. If you would like to know more about courses offered by UCN, see here.

• You might have noticed some colourful posters popping up all around the town centre. This is all part of the ‘Newbury’s Calling: Summer Daycation’, a new campaign by BID (Newbury’s Business Improvement District) and Visit Newbury to help increase footfall and brighten up the town. You can read more about the initiative here.

• The latest (June 2022) edition of the Hamstead Hornet, which covers life in the village of Hamstead Marshall, can be seen here.

Beating (and cycling) the bounds

As part of its 25th Anniversary celebrations, Newbury Town Council has hosted two events to learn more about Newbury’s history walking the town boundaries. Beating the Bounds is an historic method of formally recognising parish boundaries before maps were in existence. The town boundaries would be walked, boundary markers placed and any incursions (which were more common in past times than they are now) dealt with.

The South boundary walk took place on Sunday 26 June, led by Dave Stubbs, and the North boundary walk on Saturday 2 July, led by David Peacock. Around 30 people came along to enjoy each walk. The Mayor of Newbury, Gary Norman, took part in the South Walk and met with those who took part in the North Walk upon their return to the Town Hall.

The Council will also be hosting ‘Beating the Bounds by Bike’ where you can cycle the full town boundary. This will be around 23km long and will be taken at a relaxed pace – suitable for all ages and abilities.This event will take place on Sunday 24 July, meeting in the Market Place at 2pm with refreshments upon return in the Council Chamber. This route will be led by the Leader of the Council, Martin Colston. If you would like to take part you are welcome to arrive at the meeting point on the day. Comfortable and appropriate clothing, cycle helmets and footwear should be worn. Facilities on all routes will be limited, so all attendees are encouraged to bring a bottle of water.

It’s unlikely that Martin Colston will find this itinerary taxing. The week before, on Friday 15 July, he and three friends will attempt to ride 500km (300 miles) in 24 hours in aid of Eight Bells for Mental Health. The four – Sean Bird, Martin Colston, Rog Davis and Bart Kuijten – all met through Team Kennet Triathlon and have raced together for many years. More information can be found here.

Community notices

• Free Singing for Recovery classes at the Learning Centre at The Corn Exchange on Fridays as part of the Corn Exchange’s Link to Thrive programme for mental health and you can drop in on a weekly basis. There are also Art for Wellbeing classes continuing on Mondays until 4 July. See details here for how to self-refer or be referred to either class by your GP or Social Prescriber.

• Action for River Kennet is currently seeking volunteers over the next few weeks as part of the Love the Lambourn project that cleans up the River Lambourn around the area of the Riverside Community Centre. The dates and more information can be found here.

• Did you know you can raise concerns with Newbury Town Council at a Saturday Surgery between 10 am and 12 noon any week at the steps of the Town Hall?

• If you would like to host Ukrainian refugees, please contact 01635 503579 or [email protected] or visit this page to find out more information. Another way you can help is by making a donation here. Please also join the Newbury Ukraine Support facebook group.

• The Fair Close Centre on Newtown Road in Newbury provides a vital social hub and meals on wheels for over 65s, many of whom live on their own. Please support them here. Goodness knows we might all need their services in years to come.

•  Newbury Library offers free IT support sessions eg filling out online forms, how to Zoom, downloading e-magazines or sorting out pictures. Bookable 30 or 60 min sessions. To find out more or book a slot, email [email protected].

• There is still plenty of time to plan your entry for Newbury in Bloom 2022  which will take place the week commencing 18 July. Competition guidelines can be seen here.

Local events and activities

For more information on events and activities across the Penny Post area, see the website calendar.

• Dates for the diary

• See here for information and events in Parkway, Newbury.

Sat 9 July Fundraiser Concert for Newbury Cancer Care, the Methodist Church, Northbrook Street, at 3pm.

Sun 10 July Charity Wellbeing and Fitness Event, at Trinity School Newbury, between 9am and noon.

Sat 23 July Berkshire Balloon Fiesta & Action Extravaganza, Newbury Showground, 11am to 10:30pm.

Sat 23 July Summer of Soul Reason Concert, The Phoenix Centre, 7.30pm to 9.30pm.

Sun 24 July Beating the Bounds By Bike, meeting outside Newbury Town Hall, at 2pm.

Tues 26 July Newbury Town Heritage Walk

• Regular events

Open Mic Night at The Newbury Pub every Thursday evening with the Newbury Social Club.

• Newbury Park Run at Greenham Common at 9am every Saturday morning. All welcome to run/walk/jog the 5km. See details here.

• ACE Space on St Nicholas Road hosts live acoustic performances. Join their Facebook group or follow them on Twitter.

• Newbury Community Larder every Tuesday 2pm to 4pm at the Waterside Centre (down the canal from Costa Coffee on Northbrook Street).  For more details please contact [email protected] or call 01635 018500.

• Educafé’s weekly Community Cafe is runs 11am to 2pm at Newbury Library. All are welcome to enjoy free refreshments, arts and crafts, knitting table, chatty corners, dominos, seated yoga and more.

Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesdays 2pm to 4pm. Drop in for a chat or a cuppa, knitting and craft activities. You don’t have to live in Speen to join in (Penny goes quite regularly and enjoys playing crib). Follow them on facebook here.

• The Club Quiz nights every second Wednesday of the month at The Club Bar and Bistro. Registration from 6.30pm and quizzes starting at 7.30pm. See more here.

• Berkshire Youth‘s Waterside Centre in Newbury hosts various clubs and activities for local children and can provide volunteering opportunities for adults too.

 The Base, Greenham organise many artistic-focused events for people of all ages to let their creative sides go wild.

News from your local council

Note: “the most recent meeting” refers to the most recent one for which minutes (in some cases draft) or some other summary is available. Other meetings may have taken place since. Some councils publish minutes more promptly than do others.

• The most recent meeting of Newbury Town Council took place on 11 May and you can download the minutes here. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) Items covered included: ownership of public areas at Sandleford (see also The common parts above); the Mayor’s report; the CEO’s report; committee reports; the nomination of the Mayor and Deputy and of the Leader and Deputy; and formal matters. To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council took place on 15 June and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: a councillor co-option; vandalism; financial matters; planning matters; a review of the jubilee; the site of the old school; and speeding. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council took place on 14 June and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: an objection from a member of the public to application 21/02113; aggressive dogs; speeding; planning matters; footpath signs; Marsh Pond; the minerals and waste local plan; financial matters; a report on the jubilee event (click here for some photos); Curridge honorary citizens; anti-social behaviour; the Tommy memorial; and reports from councillors and the Clerk.To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here to download the meeting schedule. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council took place on 9 June and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: speeding; financial matters; donations to St Mary’s Church, Greener Greenham and Readibus; planning matters; and environmental issues.  To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.=

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council took place on 25 May and you can read the minutes here. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council took place on 23 May and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: the election of the Chair and Deputy; formal business; the solar farm; planning matters; Enborne School; speeding; financial matters; the jubilee; and litter. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council took place on 16 May and you can read the minutes here. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Hamstead Marshall Parish Council took place on 20 January and you can read the minutes here.  To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• Please click here for Hamstead Marshall.net, which provides an excellent round-up of what’s going on in and around the village. This also publishes the quarterly Hamstead Hornet.

• Newbury area council contacts

Parishes: Newbury Town CouncilGreenham Parish CouncilChieveley Parish CouncilEnborne Parish CouncilBoxford Parish CouncilSpeen Parish Council,  Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council, and Hamstead Marshall Parish Council.

West Berkshire Council: click here to visit the website.

News from other areas

Penny Post area – please see the following separate sections: Hungerford area; Lambourn ValleyThatcham area; Compton and DownlandsTheale area; Wantage area; Marlborough area; Swindon area.

News and views from across the area and beyond: please see the most recent Weekly News with Brian column.

Thursday 30 June 2022

This week we look at plans to re-open a local pub (no, not The Bell at Boxford, whose future is still unclear), welcome a deputy mayor and a new footpath and look at a couple of familiar planning issues, on this occasion in Speen. We also have our usual round-up of local news, local events and activities (including jubilee-related ones) and news from your local councils.

This week’s news

• Celebrate this Saturday at West Berkshire’s first Pride march starting at Victoria Park in Newbury at 1pm. Visit the Newbury Pride website or FaceBook page for more information about the event or read more in our article here. A new exhibit ‘Hope and Pride’ is also launching at West Berkshire Museum on Saturday and running for the rest of 2022, looking at the history of Pride in the UK, as well as contributions from our local LGBTQIA+ community. See here for museum opening times.

• Newbury Town Council invites you to join them in beating the bounds on the town’s north route this Saturday 2 July to celebrate its 25th anniversary. The walk is about 6 miles and suitable for all ages and walking abilities. The event is based on the traditional way councils used to mark out the town’s boundaries, by walking the perimeters and checking that the neighbours hadn’t done any encroaching. There will also be also be a bike ride around the whole 23-kilometre trail on Sunday 24 July. All events start at 2pm outside Newbury Town Hall and will have refreshments at the end. For more information please see here.

• This weekend will also see the return of the Newbury Waterway Festival, following a three-year absence due to the pandemic. On Sunday 3 July, come along to Victoria Park to enjoy a whole host of activities put on by the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust, including a flotilla of narrowboats, stalls, live music and entertainment, boat trips, food and drink, there’s something for all ages. Click here for more information.

• This is your last chance to contribute your input to the West Berkshire Bus Improvement Plan. If you would like your views heard regarding Berkshires bus routes, then take the survey issued by West Berkshire Council before midnight on Sunday 3 July.

• Last weekend, crowds gathered in Newbury town centre to witness an epic dominoes display, on Saturday 25 June. The event arrange by Outdoor Arts 101, saw local volunteers spending the whole morning setting up a staggering 4,500 large domino bricks. The trails wound its way zig-zagging through the town centre, even through the Kennet Centre and into St Nicholas’s church, before the final brick fell from a tall platform at Victoria Park, into the pond. The event was in aid of celebrating the Greenham Trust’s 25th Anniversary and the money raised will go towards supporting young people in the area.

• This week Newbury Town Council invested Cllr Nigel Foot as Deputy Mayor of Newbury. Cllr Foot was originally elected as Deputy Mayor of Newbury at the Annual Meeting of Newbury Town Council in May, however he was unable to attend due to testing positive for Coronavirus. At the meeting of Full Council on Monday 27 June The Mayor of Newbury, Councillor Gary Norman, invested Cllr Foot with the Deputy Mayor’s badge of office, and the Council received the Deputy Mayor’s Declaration of Office for the post at the Full Council meeting. See more details on Newbury Town Council’s website here.

• Newbury local, Rob Coster, will be cycling the first leg of the Tour De France to raise money for prostate cancer research. The Grand Départ Classic is a 100 mile charity ride organised by Prostate Cancer UK that follows the first road stage of the iconic race, the day before the professionals. Rob’s father-in-law died after a long battle with the disease six years ago, and other family members have also been affected by cancer. Rob and the other cyclists will be setting off on Friday 1 July, from this year’s starting point, the Danish city of Roskilde (around 40km west of Copenhagen) and will finish in the the town of Korsør. We wish Rob the best of luck on his ride, and if you would like to donate to the fundraiser and help him meet his target, then donate to the JustGiving page here.

• The first Newbury Town Heritage Walk is at 10:30am this Tuesday 5 July and will focus on the First Battle of Newbury. These ‘Explore Newbury‘ walking tours are suitable for all ages, with the aim of teaching the rich and colourful history of our town and its inhabitants, with proceeds from ticket sales going towards the Council’s heritage work.  Click here for information regarding future dates and times.

• The Lockdown Woods project, run by Newbury Friends of the Earth, is currently seeking more land locally for their fifth and final Lockdown Wood for 100 to 200 home-grown saplings looking for a new home. Any parish land, or any sympathetic landowners happy to host a community commemorative wood on an area up to two acres. If you can help please click here for more details.

• Are you a fan of soul music? Then why not go along to Soul Reason, Newbury’s Soul & Groove Choir’s first ‘proper’ concert ‘Summer of Soul Reason’. The group started on zoom in early 2021, while feeling the effects of isolation and met online once a fortnight. The concert will feature music by Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield, Carole King and many more groovy tunes.  The performance will take place on Saturday 23 July, at The Phoenix Centre, Newtown Road, from 7:30. Be sure to book your ticket here.

• Do you know about the Fair Close Centre Social Hub? They’re a social group for those over 65, offering ‘fun food & friendship’. They run weekly activities, live entertainment events, do hairdressing and foot health, as well as offer transport and welfare support. The Hub was set up as a way to prevent social isolation and create a network of support of Newbury’s senior residents. If you or someone you know might be interested in the services provided, see here for more information.

• More local hosts are needed for people escaping the war in Ukraine. According to the Newbury Today, there currently around 170 hosts in West Berkshire, but a total of 390 Ukrainians have applied for visas to stay in the area – with 228 refugees having already arrived. With more still to arrive, there is a real struggle to find enough hosts to meet the demand. If you could consider hosting a Ukrainian refugee or family, please get in contact with the local support group or visit westberks.gov.uk/homesforukraine.

• I understand that work on the government-funded footpath along the B4000 between Speen and Stockcross is progressing well, a site meeting having recently taken place and the project (which should also include a cycle lane) now entering the design phase. I don’t know how long will elapse before work starts and the Speed PC councillor I spoke didn’t want to commit themselves either. Matters seem to be progressing as quickly as these things ever do and with no problems encountered (yet).

• The latest (June 2022) edition of the Hamstead Hornet, which covers life in the village of Hamstead Marshall, can be seen here.

The sun also rises

The trend is for pubs to close: about one in four that were open in 2000 have since shut. One that seemed set to join it was the Rising Sun in Stockcross which seemed to have pulled its last pint several years ago. The expected re-development did not, however, happen and a local campaign group managed to have the pub declared an asset of community value (ACV). This effectively place a six-month pause on any development and gives any local group that wishes to own and run it the chance to get a bid together.

It seems that in this case, this has so far proved successful. “Our offer to buy the freehold at a price significantly less than the price sought for it as a development site has been accepted,” a spokesperson for save The Rising Sun told Penny Post on 30 June. “Our offer is necessarily conditional upon community support and we believe we should be eligible to apply for a match-funded grant from the government’s Community Ownership Fund for half the full amount of the purchase price as well as refurbishment and other costs, including start-up costs.”

A public meeting will take place at 7.30pm on Monday 4 July at The Sutton Hall in Stockcross at which more information will be provided. The group expects to have received confirmation (or otherwise) of its eligibility to apply by the time of the meeting which will then enable it “to present the specific requirements which we, together with the community, need to fulfil to make all this happen.”

If you are unable to attend the meeting, we’ll hope to have more information in this column next week. You can also email [email protected] to find out more.

A consultee at work

Parish councils don’t get to decide planning applications but they do need to be asked what they think of them (whether the planning authority agrees is its call). In the case of contentious applications and/or where the parish council is energetic and informed, the responses can be long and detailed. This is how things ought to be: a development might change the character of the parish for ever and so this is a once-only opportunity to make sure it’s done in a way which benefits the community or, at least, where any negative features are minimised.

One such discussion is currently taking place between Speen Parish Council and David Wilson Homes concerning the proposed construction of 100-odd homes to the north of the A4 near the Hare and Hounds, the development being known as the covered reservoir. I have been given to understand that Speen PC is supportive of the scheme in general and welcomes the need for more housing in the parish. This has not, however, stopped it from doing what it should be doing and going toe-to-toe with the developers on a number of points. You can see all the documents on WBC’s planning portal here. So far the PC has made two responses, one on 24 February and one on 15 June and a third is expected to be added soon as a result of a recent PC meeting. The amendment schedule (17 May) shows that some of these points have been addressed.

Some, but not all. One concerns the sustainable aspects of the development. SPC’s February comments included the observation that “sustainability, with particular regard to use of power and power sources appears not to have been specifically addressed as part of the permitted proposal and is certainly noticeable by its absence from this variation.” The reply from the developers says that “there is very limited scope to address this issue but it is worth noting that the proposed homes are designed to enable working from home – with ground floor studies or flexible use of the third bedroom. This will help reduce the need to travel.”

I’m not sure how the response addresses the concerns; which were, let us remember, about power sources. The reference to people being able to work from home seems completely vacuous to me and could mean nothing more that using it as an excuse to make the homes even bigger (which all developers want as they’re more profitable). Developers are only obliged to provide features which are demanded by local or national policy, both of which currently fall some way short of what many believe should apply. We shall have to see what is eventually agreed and (not quite the same thing), actually built. None the less, the PC has made its point and can do no more.

Another question, which was raised in its 15 June comments, was “who will be responsible for the management and upkeep of what appears to be communal areas (west and south elements of the site) and how will that be overseen to ensure that it is maintained to an acceptable standard?” Based on numerous other cases across the country, I think the answer to this is that, if it chooses to retain these rights, the developer will be responsible, at least until such time as it decides to sell these on to some third party which may have no particular connection with, knowledge of or interest in the area. The residents will have to pay any charges that fall due. You might imagine that the planning authority would check that these works were carried out properly but it seems that this doesn’t happen. If it turns out they’ve not been done or done badly or if the company involved goes bust and if problems which resulted that needed to be fixed then wither the residents or the planning authority would have to sort it out. This system is wrong on so many levels: far better for the planning authority to have the first refusal on managing these tasks. That, like robust environmental standards, is not however how things are currently arranged so we – and the parish council – have to put up with it until it can be changed.

Community notices

• Free Singing for Recovery classes at the Learning Centre at The Corn Exchange on Fridays as part of the Corn Exchange’s Link to Thrive programme for mental health and you can drop in on a weekly basis. There are also Art for Wellbeing classes continuing on Mondays until 4 July. See details here for how to self-refer or be referred to either class by your GP or Social Prescriber.

• Action for River Kennet is currently seeking volunteers over the next few weeks as part of the Love the Lambourn project that cleans up the River Lambourn around the area of the Riverside Community Centre. The dates and more information can be found here.

• Did you know you can raise concerns with Newbury Town Council at a Saturday Surgery between 10 am and 12 noon any week at the steps of the Town Hall?

• If you would like to host Ukrainian refugees, please contact 01635 503579 or [email protected] or visit this page to find out more information. Another way you can help is by making a donation here. Please also join the Newbury Ukraine Support facebook group.

• The Fair Close Centre on Newtown Road in Newbury provides a vital social hub and meals on wheels for over 65s, many of whom live on their own. Please support them here. Goodness knows we might all need their services in years to come.

•  Newbury Library offers free IT support sessions eg filling out online forms, how to Zoom, downloading e-magazines or sorting out pictures. Bookable 30 or 60 min sessions. To find out more or book a slot, email [email protected].

• There is still plenty of time to plan your entry for Newbury in Bloom 2022  which will take place the week commencing 18 July. Competition guidelines can be seen here.

Local events and activities

For more information on events and activities across the Penny Post area, see the website calendar.

• Dates for the diary

• See here for information and events in Parkway, Newbury.

Sat 2 July Beating the Bounds: North Walking Route, meeting outside Newbury Town Hall, at 2pm.

Sat 2 July Newbury Pride March, meeting at Victoria Park, 1pm.

Sun 3 July Newbury Waterways Festival, Victoria Park, 10:30am to 4:30pm.

Sat 9 July Fundraiser Concert for Newbury Cancer Care, the Methodist Church, Northbrook Street, at 3pm.

Sat 23 July Berkshire Balloon Fiesta & Action Extravaganza, Newbury Showground, 11am to 10:30pm.

Sat 23 July Summer of Soul Reason Concert, The Phoenix Centre, 7:30pm to 9:30pm.

Sun 24 July Beating the Bounds By Bike, meeting outside Newbury Town Hall, at 2pm.

• Regular events

Open Mic Night at The Newbury Pub every Thursday evening with the Newbury Social Club.

• Newbury Park Run at Greenham Common at 9am every Saturday morning. All welcome to run/walk/jog the 5km. See details here.

• ACE Space on St Nicholas Road hosts live acoustic performances. Join their Facebook group or follow them on Twitter.

• Newbury Community Larder every Tuesday 2pm to 4pm at the Waterside Centre (down the canal from Costa Coffee on Northbrook Street).  For more details please contact [email protected] or call 01635 018500.

• Educafé’s weekly Community Cafe is runs 11am – 2pm at Newbury Library. All are welcome to enjoy free refreshments, arts and crafts, knitting table, chatty corners, dominos, seated yoga and more.

Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesdays 2pm to 4pm. Drop in for a chat or a cuppa, knitting and craft activities. You don’t have to live in Speen to join in (Penny goes quite regularly and enjoys playing crib). Follow them on facebook here.

• The Club Quiz nights every second Wednesday of the month at The Club Bar and Bistro. Registration from 6.30pm and quizzes starting at 7.30pm. See more here.

• Berkshire Youth‘s Waterside Centre in Newbury hosts various clubs and activities for local children and can provide volunteering opportunities for adults too.

 The Base, Greenham organise many artistic-focused events for people of all ages to let their creative sides go wild.

News from your local council

Note: “the most recent meeting” refers to the most recent one for which minutes (in some cases draft) or some other summary is available. Other meetings may have taken place since. Some councils publish minutes more promptly than do others.

• The most recent meeting of Newbury Town Council took place on 11 May and you can download the minutes here. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) Items covered included: ownership of public areas at Sandleford (see also The common parts above); the Mayor’s report; the CEO’s report; committee reports; the nomination of the Mayor and Deputy and of the Leader and Deputy; and formal matters. To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council took place on 15 June and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: a councillor co-option; vandalism; financial matters; planning matters; a review of the jubilee; the site of the old school; and speeding. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council took place on 14 June and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: an objection from a member of the public to application 21/02113; aggressive dogs; speeding; planning matters; footpath signs; Marsh Pond; the minerals and waste local plan; financial matters; a report on the jubilee event (click here for some photos); Curridge honorary citizens; anti-social behaviour; the Tommy memorial; and reports from councillors and the Clerk. To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here to download the meeting schedule. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council took place on 9 June and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: speeding; financial matters; donations to St Mary’s Church, Greener Greenham and Readibus; planning matters; and environmental issues.  To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.=

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council took place on 25 May and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: the election of the Chair and Deputy; councillor co-options; formal matters; speeding; parking; a report from ward member Lynne Doherty; the parish improvement plan; the war memorial; a contribution of £1,292 to the WBC Library Service (ring-fenced for the Speed mobile library service but “noting that further discussion will be required if SPC wish to continue to fund that service in the future”); and the Stockgross School fête. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council took place on 23 May and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: the election of the Chair and Deputy; formal business; the solar farm; planning matters; Enborne School; speeding; financial matters; the jubilee; and litter. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council took place on 17 January and you can read the minutes here. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Hamstead Marshall Parish Council took place on 20 January and you can read the minutes here.  To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• Please click here for Hamstead Marshall.net, which provides an excellent round-up of what’s going on in and around the village. This also publishes the quarterly Hamstead Hornet.

• Newbury area council contacts

Parishes: Newbury Town CouncilGreenham Parish CouncilChieveley Parish CouncilEnborne Parish CouncilBoxford Parish CouncilSpeen Parish Council,  Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council, and Hamstead Marshall Parish Council.

West Berkshire Council: click here to visit the website.

News from other areas

Penny Post area – please see the following separate sections: Hungerford area; Lambourn ValleyThatcham area; Compton and DownlandsTheale area; Wantage area; Marlborough area; Swindon area.

News and views from across the area and beyond: please see the most recent Weekly News with Brian column.

Thursday 23 June 2022

This week we have the latest news from the proposed solar farm in Enborne, get some assurances about the “goodies” being offered at Watermill Bridge, pay our latest visit to the Bell in Boxford and welcome the resolution of a rotten borough. We also have our usual round-up of local news, local events and activities (including jubilee-related ones) and news from your local councils.

This week’s news

• To celebrate its 25th anniversary, Newbury Town Council will be ‘Beating the Bounds’ on the south route this Sunday 26 June and the north route on Saturday 2 July. Everyone is invited to join these walks that are both about 6 miles and suitable for all ages and walking abilities. The event is based on the traditional way councils used to mark out the town’s boundaries, by walking the perimeters and checking that the neighbours hadn’t done any encroaching. There will also be also be a bike ride around the whole 23-kilometre trail on Sunday 24 July. All events start at 2pm outside Newbury Town Hall and will have refreshments at the end. For more information please see here.

• We’ve recently received this request from Newbury Friends of the Earth (via the Hamstead Marshall Wildlife Group): “Our Lockdown Woods project, run by Newbury Friends of the Earth, see here and here, is currently seeking more land locally for our fifth and final Lockdown Wood. We anticipate having between 100 and 200 home-grown saplings looking for a new home! On the off chance, I wondered if you know of any parish land, or any sympathetic landowners in your area who might be happy to host a community commemorative wood on their land. I anticipate we will need one to two acres, although smaller areas might be OK if necessary. I am throwing the net wide as West Berkshire Council cannot offer us any land this side of Theale, which is too far away for ongoing management and care.” Please click on the links about for contact details if you can help.

• This weekend, Newbury town centre will be host to an epic Dominoes display, on Saturday 25 June. The event arrange by Outdoor Arts 101 will see an amazing 4,500 Dominoes wind their way through the town centre before the spectacular Domino fall at 3pm. There are no tickets or bookings, just come along to take to look. More info, plus a map of the route can be found here. Its also not too late to volunteer to lay out and look after the route, sign-up today by emailing: [email protected].

• The wonderful North Wessex Downs Walking Festival finishes this Sunday 26 June so click here if you want to book place on one of the last remaining walks.

• West Berkshire Council’s June Business news includes recruitment support for employers, low carbon workspace grants to save on energy bills, online networking and an appeal to eco-conscious independent cafes, restaurants and pubs to be part of a sustainable eateries campaign. Click here to read more.

• You may be aware already of the railway strikes that are taking place this weekend, which will impact a lot of travel routes across Berkshire. A full list of details and affected routes can be found hereBerkshire Live also have a survey on how the strikes will be affecting you, which can be completed via the same link. It is also worth noting that any fares affected will be refunded in full. A full timetable of the strikes is also available here on the GWR site.

• There is a new reason to celebrate this summer, as this July will see West Berkshire’s first Pride march. Originally planned for 2020 but postponed due to the pandemic, Newbury Pride will be West Berkshire’s very first Pride celebration of its kind. It will take place on Saturday 2 July, starting at Victoria Park at 1pm. The march will be a celebration of LGBTQIA+ identify, individuality and community and everyone from all identities are welcome to join in and support our friends and neighbours. Visit the Newbury Pride website or FaceBook page for more information about the event or read more in our article here.

• On the day of the Pride march, a new exhibit ‘Hope and Pride’ will open at West Berkshire Museum. Running for the rest of 2022, the exhibition will take a look at the history of Pride in the UK, as well as contributions from our local LGBTQIA+ community. Come along to learn something new about the incredible people in our diverse community. See here for museum opening times.

• More local hosts are needed for people escaping the war in Ukraine. According to the Newbury Today, there currently around 170 hosts in West Berkshire, but a total of 390 Ukrainians have applied for visas to stay in the area – with 228 refugees having already arrived. With more still to arrive, there is a real struggle to find enough hosts to meet the demand. If you could consider hosting a Ukrainian refugee or family, please get in contact with the local support group or visit westberks.gov.uk/homesforukraine.

• Newbury Town Council and the Corn Exchange have teamed up to run Town Heritage Walks, led by local historians. These ‘Explore Newbury‘ walking tours are suitable for all ages, with the aim of teaching the rich and colourful history of our town and its inhabitants, with proceeds from ticket sales going towards the Council’s heritage work. Some tours focus on particular areas of history, such as local architecture or the town during wartime. The first one will be start at 10:30am on Tuesday 5 July and will focus on the First Battle of Newbury. Click here for information regarding future dates and times.

• The renown Watermill Theatre is currently looking for a part-time Box Office Assistant. The deadline is 5pm on Thursday 30 June, click here to find out more about the role and how to apply.

• Congratulations to members of the Hindu organisation Bharati Shakha Newbury who raised an incredible £1,670 for the Castle School and Children in Need at their coffee morning on 11 June, in Newbury Town Hall at which they sold homemade Indian food, both sweet and savoury. Read the full story in Newbury Today.

City Arts Newbury have an exciting regular volunteering opportunity opening up at their lovely new café. If that sounds like it could be of interest to you, see here to find out more about the role and how to apply.

• The latest (June 2022) edition of the Hamstead Hornet, which covers life in the village of Hamstead Marshall, can be seen here. Items covered include news of jubilee celebrations, the Craven Keep quarry, break-ins, parish council matters, the Wildlife Group, the village hall, Good Hope Farm, the new-style quiz at the White Hart, Plumb’s Farm Home-from-Home scheme, a stile campaign, planning applications and what’s on.

Sheep, flowers and panels

As mentioned previously (see the archive of this column and scroll down to 10 March 2022) plans have been lodged to build a 2MW solar farm in Enborne. This has been met with opposition, mainly on the grounds of increasing flooding risk. However, this seems to be a pre-existing problem and one the work on the solar far should help solve. The problems that currently exit seem to be down to shortcomings in the maintenance work over the last 20-odd years since the homes at Spring Gardens were built. However, due to the insane system which permits developers, rather than the planning authority, to manage the common parts of developments such as drainage schemes, it’s proving hard to establish what maintenance work should have been done, by whom, how often and indeed whether it was in fact done at all. The fact there are flooding issues suggest some deficiencies. WBC (ie us, as council tax payers) will be probably be picking up the bill.

The decision will need to be made by the Western Area Planning Committee (the application was called in by the three ward members way back on 16 February) but as some reports are still awaited from WBC it’s likely to be months rather than weeks before the matter is determined. By the time it gets decided there should be further news from Calleva Community Energy, which is running the project in association with the Parish Council, about whether battery storage on-site is likely to be viable. If so, this is likely to strengthen the case for approval as it will increase the likelihood that the energy generated can be used for local needs. Calleva has also been investigating the flood-mitigation options and believes it now has a clearer understanding of the issues and options.

Also as mentioned, the presence of solar panels does not preclude the site being shared by grazing sheep and insect-friendly plants. This would seem to make for a visually pleasing and environmentally beneficial combination of uses and a lot better than some of the alternatives. The verdict of Western Area, when the matter eventually gets onto its agenda, is awaited with interest.

An assurance at Watermill Bridge

Late last year, Bewley Homes submitted a planning application for 350 homes in Wash Water. The Enborne River Valley Protection Society (ERVPS, formerly Keep Wash Water Rural) has a website dedicated to opposing this scheme. The planning application 21/03394/OUT can be viewed here (on Basingstoke and Deane’s website, note, as the site is just the other wide of the border, even though most of the impact will be felt in West Berkshire).

One point of note in the application was the number and extent of sustainable features. “I’ve never seen so many goodies being offered by the developer,” WBC Councillor Tony Vickers said. “It would all be wonderful if it ends up delivering everything.” The implication here is that it’s one thing to promise and another to deliver. Applications can take years just to pass through the approvals process, never mind get built (look at Sandleford) and it’s not unknown for eye-catching features to be dropped along the way if these threaten the profitability of the scheme. I therefore contacted Bewley earlier this month to see how set in stone these assurances were.

“Over the last few years, Bewley has been investigating how it can respond to the climate emergency challenge and amend our house types and new proposals accordingly,” the company’s Strategic Land Director Andy Morris told me on 13 June. Heat-exchange systems rather than gas boilers have, for instance, been identified “as the most effective solution” and that a “fabric-first approach” would be taken to reduce heat loss. Solar panels are also mentioned: Bewley admits that – as residents of Hungerford will recall – it has in the past “described solar panels as not being particularly effective” but admits that the technology has improved in recent years. The plans also include community buildings and “a significant package of sustainable transport measures.”

To return to Councillor Vickers’ question as to whether all these aspects will in fact materialise, Bewley assets that “each property will be constructed in accordance with the higher efficiency we are proposing for insulation etc and will all have the air-source heating system. Most will also have the solar array on the roofs to provide additional power source but this will be an individual design reflective of the roof area and the orientation to maximise benefit.  All the plots will have electric vehicle charging points; or, if a flat, will have access to common charging in parking areas private to the flats.  There will also be provision of the public transport contribution agreed with the bus company on day one to fund the route. We will be funding the cycle and pedestrian link towards Newbury up front too.” The statement goes on to say that “it is prudent to ensure that the remaining community benefits will come on stream as the scheme progresses and the number of residents on site increases and there is an income from unit sales to support these.”

Increasingly, developers will need to provide such features to propitiate local opposition and to accord with national and local policies. The day will also come (though it hasn’t come yet) when purchasers of new builds will shirk at paying top dollar for homes which lack these features as they might have difficulty in selling them on. Even if all the features aren’t included, the ability easily to retro-fit them might be sufficient. This is perhaps what is referred to by Andy Morris when he said that “now is the time to take on the much-needed initiatives to begin helping our customers to further exercise their own climate challenge response.”

The next step is to “set up meetings and engage with councillors on our proposal so we can hear what they would like to be delivered. We would be happy to commit those agreed community benefits within a binding legal agreement to ensure their delivery.” This would seem to offer the assurances that Councillor Vickers and others require. If any of the promised features so seem to be disappearing from the plans in the meantime, councillors and residents are invited to send this article to Bewley Homes and remind them…

The statement concludes with what seems to be a more general observation: “We genuinely believe that we can no longer offer a standard product. Part of the solution is we all need to change our expectations and way of living to secure a sustainable future for generations to come.” These are fine sentiments which, rightly I think, encourage everyone to make adjustments – the residents to different energy sources, some of which (like solar panels) may be visible; the developers to different construction methods and, in the short-term at least, perhaps slightly lower or slower profits; and the planning authorities to ensuring that policies about sustainability are unambiguous and consistent and that legal agreements are enforced. Government regulation would not go amiss, either, though if death came from Whitehall we should all live to a very old age.

As mentioned above, the market has a role to play as well. Developers make their profits from building homes that people want to buy and the more sustainable features are seen as the expected standard, the more homes will be built that include these. Whether all this will happen fast enough is another question.

Boxford’s Bell

Still no firm news on this issue, which we’ve covered several times over the last few months (see previous columns in the archive post – see link at the foot of this post). The problem here arises from the refusal in April of a planning application to rebuild the derelict pub on the grounds that it offended the new nutrient neutrality regulations which were introduced by DeFRA in conjunction with Natural England (NE) in mid March. Many have argued, however, that it did not in fact infringe these regulations, passing the very first test on NE’s flowchart by dint of the fact that the development would not increase the number of overnight stays (the reverse, indeed, as the current pub technically has six guest rooms whereas the proposed one would have none).

It seems clear to pretty much everyone that the new regulations were not sufficiently well understood by WBC’s planners when the decision was taken two months ago. Indeed, it appears that this uncertainty persists. A statement from WBC on 16 June concerning the delay to the local plan says that the extra time will allow “a number of technical issues to be resolved” which includes “the implications of the recent nutrient neutrality designation in the Lambourn Catchment Area.” As the new timetable for the local plan involves this being submitted to Full Council in December 2022, five months later than planned, it’s possible that these nutrient issues will not have been fully considered until then. What will happen to planning applications in the catchment area which might have an impact on nutrient neutrality? Indeed, until the regulations are understood, how will it be known which applications do involve nutrient neutrality and which do not? What will happen to this application, and that at the Wheelwright’s Arms in Lambourn which was refused for the same reason with, it would appear, as little cause? Will they be given a revised application at no cost?

I understand that there have recently been meetings between WBC’s officers and the applicant’s agents though I’m not sure with what result. I’m told that the applicant has plenty of other projects on the go and so may lose interest if it seems like an uphill struggle. Having been refused first for housing (under the previous owner) and, more recently, for re-conversion back to a pub, the site is effectively un-developable. This doesn’t seem suit anyone’s interests.

Fixing a rotten borough

As mentioned in previous columns, Greenham parish has the dubious distinction of having voting arrangements which bear no relation to demographic realities. A Sandleford ward was created in 2018 in the mistakenly optimistic expectation that the housing development of that name would start producing more residents, and this more voters. This was never going to happen by the election the following year, which therefore resulted in six electors voting for a possible five councillors. Nothing has been built in Sandleford since then either, so (slightly belatedly) a consultation has been launched with four proposals to address this. You can read more about this issue in our separate post on the subject.

You can click here to see details of the options and to have your say (which you need to have done by 4 July). This also sets out the timetable for the matter to be decided and implemented in time for the May 2023 council elections, the aim being for Greenham’s electoral processes to be in line with modern realities rather than reflecting the situation that often prevailed in the early 19th century.

This slightly surreal story also inspired a short story I wrote called, logically enough, A Rotten Borough.

Community notices

• Throughout May and June, the first Educafé Wellbeing Festival is organising free or low-cost yoga, nature walk, bellydancing, pilates and gardening in Thatcham, Newbury, Highclere and Bucklebury. Click here for the full schedule.

• Free Singing for Recovery classes at the Learning Centre at The Corn Exchange on Fridays as part of the Corn Exchange’s Link to Thrive programme for mental health and you can drop in on a weekly basis. There are also Art for Wellbeing classes continuing on Mondays until 4 July. See details here for how to self-refer or be referred to either class by your GP or Social Prescriber.

• Action for River Kennet is currently seeking volunteers over the next few weeks as part of the Love the Lambourn project that cleans up the River Lambourn around the area of the Riverside Community Centre. The dates and more information can be found here.

• Did you know you can raise concerns with Newbury Town Council at a Saturday Surgery between 10 am and 12 noon any week at the steps of the Town Hall?

• If you would like to host Ukrainian refugees, please contact 01635 503579 or [email protected] or visit this page to find out more information. Another way you can help is by making a donation here. Please also join the Newbury Ukraine Support facebook group.

• The Fair Close Centre on Newtown Road in Newbury provides a vital social hub and meals on wheels for over 65s, many of whom live on their own. Please support them here. Goodness knows we might all need their services in years to come.

•  Newbury Library offers free IT support sessions eg filling out online forms, how to Zoom, downloading e-magazines or sorting out pictures. Bookable 30 or 60 min sessions. To find out more or book a slot, email [email protected].

• There is still plenty of time to plan your entry for Newbury in Bloom 2022  which will take place the week commencing 18 July. Competition guidelines can be seen here.

Local events and activities

For more information on events and activities across the Penny Post area, see the website calendar.

• Dates for the diary

• See here for information and events in Parkway, Newbury.

On now ‘To the Heavens’ Art Exhibition, Greenham Common Control Tower, until 25 June.

On now Educafé Wellbeing Festival until 26 June.

Sat 25 June Epic Dominos, Around Newbury Town Centre, 3pm.

Sun 26 June Beating the Bounds: South Walking Route, meeting outside Newbury Town Hall, at 2pm.

Thurs 30 June Charity Race Day, Newbury Racecourse, 3pm.

Sat 2 July Beating the Bounds: North Walking Route, meeting outside Newbury Town Hall, at 2pm.

Sat 2 July Newbury Pride March, meeting at Victoria Park, 1pm.

Sun 3 July Newbury Waterways Festival, Victoria Park, 10:30am to 4:30pm.

Sat 9 July Fundraiser Concert for Newbury Cancer Care, the Methodist Church, Northbrook Street, at 3pm.

Sat 23 July Berkshire Balloon Fiesta & Action Extravaganza, Newbury Showground, 11am to 10:30pm.

Sun 24 July Beating the Bounds By Bike, meeting outside Newbury Town Hall, at 2pm.

• Regular events

Open Mic Night at The Newbury Pub every Thursday evening with the Newbury Social Club.

• Newbury Park Run at Greenham Common at 9am every Saturday morning. All welcome to run/walk/jog the 5km. See details here.

• ACE Space on St Nicholas Road hosts live acoustic performances. Join their Facebook group or follow them on Twitter.

• Newbury Community Larder every Tuesday 2pm to 4pm at the Waterside Centre (down the canal from Costa Coffee on Northbrook Street).  For more details please contact [email protected] or call 01635 018500.

• Educafé’s weekly Community Cafe is runs 11am – 2pm at Newbury Library. All are welcome to enjoy free refreshments, arts and crafts, knitting table, chatty corners, dominos, seated yoga and more.

Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesdays 2pm to 4pm. Drop in for a chat or a cuppa, knitting and craft activities. You don’t have to live in Speen to join in (Penny goes quite regularly and enjoys playing crib). Follow them on facebook here.

• The Club Quiz nights every second Wednesday of the month at The Club Bar and Bistro. Registration from 6.30pm and quizzes starting at 7.30pm. See more here.

• Berkshire Youth‘s Waterside Centre in Newbury hosts various clubs and activities for local children and can provide volunteering opportunities for adults too.

 The Base, Greenham organise many artistic-focused events for people of all ages to let their creative sides go wild.

News from your local council

Note: “the most recent meeting” refers to the most recent one for which minutes (in some cases draft) or some other summary is available. Other meetings may have taken place since. Some councils publish minutes more promptly than do others.

• The most recent meeting of Newbury Town Council took place on 11 May and you can download the minutes here. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) Items covered included: ownership of public areas at Sandleford (see also The common parts above); the Mayor’s report; the CEO’s report; committee reports; the nomination of the Mayor and Deputy and of the Leader and Deputy; and formal matters. To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council took place on 15 June and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: a councillor co-option; vandalism; financial matters; planning matters; a review of the jubilee; the site of the old school; and speeding. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council took place on 9 June and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: speeding; financial matters; donations to St Mary’s Church, Greener Greenham and Readibus; planning matters; and environmental issues.  To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.=

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council took place on 25 May and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: the election of the Chair and Deputy; councillor co-options; formal matters; speeding; parking; a report from ward member Lynne Doherty; the parish improvement plan; the war memorial; a contribution of £1,292 to the WBC Library Service (ring-fenced for the Speed mobile library service but “noting that further discussion will be required if SPC wish to continue to fund that service in the future”); and the Stockgross School fête. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council took place on 23 May and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: the election of the Chair and Deputy; formal business; the solar farm; planning matters; Enborne School; speeding; financial matters; the jubilee; and litter. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council took place on 1o May and you can read the minutes here.To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here to download the meeting schedule. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council took place on 17 January and you can read the minutes here. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Hamstead Marshall Parish Council took place on 20 January and you can read the minutes here.  To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• Please click here for Hamstead Marshall.net, which provides an excellent round-up of what’s going on in and around the village. This also publishes the quarterly Hamstead Hornet.

• Newbury area council contacts

Parishes: Newbury Town CouncilGreenham Parish CouncilChieveley Parish CouncilEnborne Parish CouncilBoxford Parish CouncilSpeen Parish Council,  Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council, and Hamstead Marshall Parish Council.

West Berkshire Council: click here to visit the website.

News from other areas

Penny Post area – please see the following separate sections: Hungerford area; Lambourn ValleyThatcham area; Compton and DownlandsTheale area; Wantage area; Marlborough area; Swindon area.

News and views from across the area and beyond: please see the most recent Weekly News with Brian column.

Thursday 16 June 2022

This week we take a closer look at the new vision for the London Road Industrial Estate and have information on the forthcoming ceremony of beating bounds to celebrate the Town Council’s 25th anniversary. We also have our usual round-up of local news, local events and activities (including jubilee-related ones) and news from your local councils.

This week’s news

• The Coxedd & Pearce & Kimber’s Almshouses Charity have an accomodation vacancy and invite applications from residents who have lived within the Newbury parishes for at least two years and who meet the charity’s criteria regarding income and assets. Located in Kennet Road, Newbury, the two-storey accommodation includes a double bedroom, shower room, large sitting/dining room, kitchen and larder. There are also communal south-facing gardens.  Click here for how to apply by 19 June.
• This Saturday 18 June is the Speen Fete run by the Lions Club of Newbury who offer support to members of the community. There will be all sorts of exciting activities including an assault course, a bouncy castle, a giant slide, classic fairground games, competitions, crafts, a BBQ, cakes.  The fete will take place on the Speen Recreation Ground, from 12:30pm to 4:30pm. For more information, or if you would like to get involved yourself, check out their website.
• The North Wessex Downs Walking Festival is going really well with something for everyone, from family friendly and wheelchair accessible guided walks to 9 mile hikes. See here for how to book your walks including Big Skies over Ladle Hill and Sydmonton Court Estate this Saturday 18 June.
• If you need some last minute Father’s Day gift ideas for Sunday, see our quick guide here to some simple, eco-friendly options.

• A new art exhibition at the Greenham Common Control Tower, to check out an art exhibition by artist Jane Oldfield. ‘To the Heavens” asks you to look up and consider your relationship with our skies. The exhibit will be running until Saturday 25 June. For more about the artist and her inspirations, check out our article here.

• As mentioned last week, former Newbury Mayor Margo Payne and the Ukrainian refugees currently living with her have set up a Recharge Chernhiv appeal for generators and windows to send back to their hometown, which has been devastated by the Russian invasion. They want to thank everyone for the multiple donations. Due to unforeseen circumstances, they now need a vehicle and driver to transport these much needed supplies to the northern Ukraine border. If you think you could help, or know anyone who can, please read more here.

Students at Newbury College have been having a very busy summer term, with departments putting on special events to make learning exciting. The catering course hosted an exquisite wine tasting fine dining event with help from one of the nation’s top sommeliers, which you can read more about here. Meanwhile students from the Engineering and Uniformed Public Services courses had a visit from the Army Air Corps, learning about what kind of career opportunities the Armed Services can offer. More about what they got up to here. If you would like to know more about the different courses and opportunities offered by Newbury college, take a look at their website.

• Speaking of Newbury Town Council, we have a lovely summary, complete with pictures, of the recent Family Fun Day, which they hosted in Victoria Park last weekend. With tennis tournaments, Punch and Judy shows, climbing walls and golf, and so much more – it sounds like great fun was had by all. Read our article here for more details. For more news from the council see their June newsletter here.

City Arts Newbury have an exciting regular volunteering opportunity opening up at their lovely new café. If that sounds like it could be of interest to you, see here to find out more about the role and how to apply.

• Another fun volunteering opportunity is with 101 Outdoors Arts to help with the epic Dominoes display, coming to Newbury on Saturday 25 June. The event will see 4500 Dominoes will wind their way through the town centre before the spectacular Domino fall at 3pm. If you would like to volunteer, sign-up today by emailing: [email protected]

• The Greenham Trust ’25k in a day’ event raised over £30,000 each for Age Concern Newbury & District and Newbury Riding for the Disabled. Both charities are still fundraising and the scheme is still open for other charitable organisations to apply to for fundraising events this autumn. If you are interested in donating, or want to find out more about Greenham Trust’s 25k in a day events, visit their website. The deadline for applications is Friday 15 July.

• Did you know the Corn Exchange is running Newbury Town Walks, throughout July and August? These walking tours are suitable for all ages, with the aim of teaching the rich and colourful history of our town and its inhabitants. Some tours focus on particular areas of history, such as local architecture or the town during wartime. Click here for information regarding dates and times.

• The latest (June 2022) edition of the Hamstead Hornet, which covers life in the village of Hamstead Marshall, can be seen here. Items covered include news of jubilee celebrations, the Craven Keep quarry, break-ins, parish council matters, the Wildlife Group, the village hall, Good Hope Farm, the new-style quiz at the White Hart, Plumb’s Farm Home-from-Home scheme, a stile campaign, planning applications and what’s on.

All change at London Road

As mentioned a couple of weeks ago, on 30 May WBC announced that it had re-booted its plans for the London Road Industrial Estate and “gone right back to basics.” In fairness this was not hard as, aside from the creation of the access road (which should have been paid for by a developer) nothing has really happened there: that is, if you don’t count a ground closure, arson attacks, fall-outs with developers, court cases and disputes about drainage. The new plan is to do away with any housing (at least in the part that WBC owns) and concentrate on its redevelopment for commercial property. In other words, after 20-odd years, the vision is to turn the industrial estate into an industrial estate.

This dropping of the housing component seems odd as, for many years, it was an article of faith at WBC that the Faraday Road ground would be built with houses, the profits from which would help fund the rest of the development: indeed, this was the central justification for the closure of the ground back in 2018. Whether because of the increased awareness of the flood risk or for some other reason, this now won’t be happening. That’s not to say that the LRIE won’t have housing: Ressance’s long-delayed Gateway Plaza scheme (which, if preceded with when it was agreed would now be completed, probably with Beyer installed as the main tenant) has housing as part of its mix. This commercial-only policy only seems to apply to the part of the site that WBC owns. Exceptions, with suitable mitigation, can be made for third-party developers.

This change of tack might perhaps be be due to increased nervousness about the refresh of the local plan which has been beset by delays and may now not be ready for its regulation 19 (pre-inspection) consultation in July. The main hold-up has been caused by the need for a 30-year vision for the proposed NE Thatcham housing site. As such work has not been done before by WBC and as there seem to be serious doubts as to whether the consultants appointed to look at this were requested to look at all the possible options in Thatcham, there might now be concern as to what the inspector’s reaction will be. Perhaps it was felt that allocating housing on a flood-risk area in the LRIE might provoke a question too many and an unnecessary risk as the district already has an adequate housing-land supply. Maybe this housing-free vision was an attempt to keep the local plan simple: or as simple as such elephantine documents ever can be.

Of course, there may yet be more housing on the LRIE. Commercial developments can, under permitted development rights, be converted into accommodation with no planning permission or CIL payment required after only two years of commercial use followed by three months of not being occupied.  Opponents claim that it encourages sub-standard housing in inappropriate locations and does nothing much to help address the housing crisis and the need for more family homes. It could be worse, though: at least under new PDR regulations introduced last year all such conversions have to have windows, which tells you all you need to know about some of the conversions that were done. Although the new rules now mandate more floorspace (a Local Government Lawyer report in 2020 released that only 22% of PRD conversions met national requirements in this regard), the problem of location still remains: after all, if there is officially to be no housing in the area it’s unlikely that there’ll be much ion the way of facilities or amenities. The same LGL report said that many such conversions suffered from “extremely poor residential amenity.” If more commercial space is put up than the town actually needs, this could yet be what the new LRIE vision actually provides: and, of course, for anyone who does live there, there won’t even be a football pitch to have a kick-around on…

Beating the bounds

To celebrate its 25th anniversary, Newbury Town Council will be ‘Beating the Bounds’ and is inviting everyone to join. The event is based on the traditional way councils used to mark out the town’s boundaries, by walking the perimeters and checking that the neighbours hadn’t done any encroaching. NTC will be holding two walking events, suitable for all ages and walking abilities. The first is on Sunday 26 June to walk the south route; the next is Saturday 2 July, to walk the north one. There will also be also be a bike ride around the whole 23-kilometre trail on Sunday 24 July. All events start at 2pm outside Newbury Town Hall and will have refreshments at the end. For more information please see here.

Community notices

• Throughout May and June, the first Educafé Wellbeing Festival is organising free or low-cost yoga, nature walk, bellydancing, pilates and gardening in Thatcham, Newbury, Highclere and Bucklebury. Click here for the full schedule.

• Free Singing for Recovery classes at the Learning Centre at The Corn Exchange on Fridays as part of the Corn Exchange’s Link to Thrive programme for mental health and you can drop in on a weekly basis. There are also Art for Wellbeing classes continuing on Mondays until 4 July. See details here for how to self-refer or be referred to either class by your GP or Social Prescriber.

• Action for River Kennet is currently seeking volunteers over the next few weeks as part of the Love the Lambourn project that cleans up the River Lambourn around the area of the Riverside Community Centre. The dates and more information can be found here.

• Did you know you can raise concerns with Newbury Town Council at a Saturday Surgery between 10 am and 12 noon any week at the steps of the Town Hall?

• If you would like to host Ukrainian refugees, please contact 01635 503579 or [email protected] or visit this page to find out more information. Another way you can help is by making a donation here. Please also join the Newbury Ukraine Support facebook group.

• The Fair Close Centre on Newtown Road in Newbury provides a vital social hub and meals on wheels for over 65s, many of whom live on their own. Please support them here. Goodness knows we might all need their services in years to come.

•  Newbury Library offers free IT support sessions eg filling out online forms, how to Zoom, downloading e-magazines or sorting out pictures. Bookable 30 or 60 min sessions. To find out more or book a slot, email [email protected].

• There is still plenty of time to plan your entry for Newbury in Bloom 2022  which will take place the week commencing 18 July. Competition guidelines can be seen here.

Local events and activities

For more information on events and activities across the Penny Post area, see the website calendar.

• Dates for the diary

• See here for information and events in Parkway, Newbury.

On now ‘To the Heavens’ Art Exhibition, Greenham Common Control Tower, until 25 June.

On now Educafé Wellbeing Festival until 26 June.

Sat 18 June Speen Fete, at the Speen Recreation Ground, from 12:30pm to 4:30pm.

Sun 26 June Beating the Bounds: South Walking Route, meeting outside Newbury Town Hall, at 2pm.

Thurs 30 June Charity Race Day, Newbury Racecourse, 3pm.

Sat 2 July Beating the Bounds: North Walking Route, meeting outside Newbury Town Hall, at 2pm.

Sun 3 July Newbury Waterways Festival, Victoria Park, 10:30am to 4:30pm.

Sat 23 July Berkshire Balloon Fiesta & Action Extravaganza, Newbury Showground, 11am to 10:30pm.

Sun 24 July Beating the Bounds By Bike, meeting outside Newbury Town Hall, at 2pm.

• Regular events

Open Mic Night at The Newbury Pub every Thursday evening with the Newbury Social Club.

• Newbury Park Run at Greenham Common at 9am every Saturday morning. All welcome to run/walk/jog the 5km. See details here.

• ACE Space on St Nicholas Road hosts live acoustic performances. Join their Facebook group or follow them on Twitter.

• Newbury Community Larder every Tuesday 2pm to 4pm at the Waterside Centre (down the canal from Costa Coffee on Northbrook Street).  For more details please contact [email protected] or call 01635 018500.

• Educafé’s weekly Community Cafe is runs 11am – 2pm at Newbury Library. All are welcome to enjoy free refreshments, arts and crafts, knitting table, chatty corners, dominos, seated yoga and more.

Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesdays 2pm to 4pm. Drop in for a chat or a cuppa, knitting and craft activities. You don’t have to live in Speen to join in (Penny goes quite regularly and enjoys playing crib). Follow them on facebook here.

• The Club Quiz nights every second Wednesday of the month at The Club Bar and Bistro. Registration from 6.30pm and quizzes starting at 7.30pm. See more here.

• Berkshire Youth‘s Waterside Centre in Newbury hosts various clubs and activities for local children and can provide volunteering opportunities for adults too.

 The Base, Greenham organise many artistic-focused events for people of all ages to let their creative sides go wild.

News from your local council

Note: “the most recent meeting” refers to the most recent one for which minutes (in some cases draft) or some other summary is available. Other meetings may have taken place since. Some councils publish minutes more promptly than do others.

• The most recent meeting of Newbury Town Council took place on 11 May October and you can download the minutes here. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committe