Newbury Area Weekly News sections – archive 1

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.

Thursday 12 May 2022

This week’s news

• West Berkshire Council has released a statement which starts “Our aspirations for the economic regeneration of the London Road Industrial Estate (LRIE) in Newbury continues to move forward with an aim to respond to current and future economic drivers that supports the local economy.” The aspirations may have moved forward since the project was first conceived but, apart from an access road and the closure of the football ground, very little else has.

• The Newbury Spring Festival 2022 is in full swing until Saturday 21 May with everything from classical choirs and orchestras, to Bollywood brass, Gahanna drums, Irish folk, jazz, poetry, musicals, ballet, opera, quartets, duos, soloists, as well as interviews, workshops, community projects and so much more: truly something for everyone. See more details and our personal top picks here.

• Have you seen the lovely new music-inspired mural at the cinema entrance to the Kennet Centre? It was created last weekend in tribute to Newbury Spring Festival by City Arts Newbury team of Isabel Carmona and Maria Lewis plus several volunteers who picked up a paint brush to help bring this art piece to life. Watch this charming video montage of the mural’s creation.

• West Berkshire Council and Newbury Town Council have pledged their support to efforts aiming to help victims of the crisis in Ukraine. They are offering grant funding and free use of council rooms to for support organisations. For more details see here. You can also contact Sarah Slack, Deputy Leader of the Council sarah.slack@newbury.gov.uk.

Newbury Council has just released its May newsletter which includes Newbury’s new blue plaque, new adventure golf park, some of the upcoming Jubilee celebration events, as well as many more events to look forward to.

• Congratulations to local teacher, Lucy Davey from Newbury College, who stunned ITV audiences this weekend with her incredible singing performances on the new talent show Romeo & Duet. You can read more about Lucy’s amazing experience here.

• Meet the dementia friendly team and find out what you can do to support others in the community on Wednesday 18 May outside the Corn Exchange in Newbury town centre as part of Age UK’s Dementia Action Week. The team will be there from 10am to 4pm. For more information email victoria.rowland@ageukberkshire.org.uk

• West Berkshire Council would like to hear from local independent businesses with strong environmental values who are offering green activities or events throughout summer (July- Sept) for residents to enjoy. Please click here to apply to be included in the digital Summer Magazine. The deadline for applications is 5pm on 27 May 2022.

• West Berkshire Council is hosting a Women in Politics webinar on Wednesday 1 June for women from all walks of life across the county, to encourage more women to get involved in local decision-making panels or becoming a Councillor. WBC also would like to invite any and all local residents interested in what happens behind the scenes at the Council or how decisions are made, to join them for this event. Details can be found on the council website.

• Did you know the first Educafé Wellbeing Festival is currently on? Throughout May and June, the Educafé 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.

• A proposal to develop a new grass playing pitch at Manor Park Recreation Ground, Stoney Lane, Newbury is out for public consultation. The deadline to have your say is Sunday 12 June.

• A brand new book-a-ride Handybus is fully-accessible and provides an opportunity to those who are unable to use public transport to access local town centres for shopping, attend appointments and meet friends. If you want to use this service or volunteer as a driver, please contact Newbury and Thatcham Handybus directly on: 01635 37111 between the hours of 9am to 1pm, Monday to Friday, or email: handybus@vcwb.org.uk. You can also read more about it on the council’s website.

• If you would like to host Ukrainian refugees, please contact 01635 503579 or ukraine@westberks.gov.uk 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.

Chieveley Parish Council held its annual meeting on 12 April and you can click here to read the opening statement from CPC’s Chair Mike Belcher. One item was the making Nicky Ager, Sarah Hutchison and Helen Singleton forewomen of the parish in recognition of their work in supporting the community during the pandemic.

• The latest edition of the Hamstead Hornet, which covers life in the village of Hamstead Marshall, can be seen here.

Sandleford’s green light

• 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: so, unless there’s a further appeal within six weeks, the development will go ahead though subject to up to 58 recommended conditions. This could be seen as something of a snub to WBC, which offered a detailed 14-point refusal in September 2020 after many years of disputes with, and between, the two developers. Click here to visit this separate post which includes a link to the refusal notice and the reactions of some of the interested parties at the time. The Secretary of State’s decision also without doubt adds to the workload of WBC’s already over-stretched planning team which will need to assimilate the 174-page report and decide on its response (whilst also finalising its revised local plan including the 30-year vision that Sandleford and the proposed 2,500-home plan for north east Thatcham require; and getting to grips with the recent nutrient neutrality regulations for the Lambourn Valley. There’s more on both these issues in the separate sections below).

I spoke to Peter Norman from the Say No to Sandleford (SNtS) campaign shortly after the decisions was announced. He said that he would be studying the document in detail soon but his immediate reactions was that “the decision makes a complete nonsense of the environmental protection afforded by the National Planning Policy Framework.” He also agreed that many of the problems which have bedevilled the scheme for the last 12 years still remain, despite this judgement. WBC’s options in the matter are in any case limited by the 2015 Supplementary Planning Document, to which the developers substantially agreed. He said that SNtS would be considering its next move. An appeal by this organisation, and/or others, cannot be ruled out.

“During our decade long campaign resisting this desecration of the English countryside, I was fortunate enough to meet the late Richard Adams, Author of Watership, who was appalled at this act of environmental vandalism,” Dr David Cooper of the same campaign group told Penny Post on 12 May. “The site is the home of ancient woodlands which have stood unchanged since at least the 16th century. The government’s inspector has deemed that only the minimum statutory protection should be given to these, ignoring the recommendations of Natural England – a government agency – for greater protection from large-scale developments. When he was Prime Minister, David Cameron spoke of “green crap.” At heart nothing has changed with the current administration. This development is driven by a major Conservative party donor and the government has trampled over its own environmental pledges to suit the bottom line of its paymasters.”

“This decision makes a mockery of the government’s claims to care about the environment,” WBC and NTC Green councillor David Marsh told Penny Post on 10 May. “It will mean years of misery and disruption for local residents, whose views have been completely ignored. It contravenes West Berkshire Council’s environment strategy and will seriously damage biodiversity, including five areas of ancient woodland. There is still a long way to go and the Green Party will continue to oppose this development and any further applications to build on Sandleford every inch of the way. We will also strongly oppose any proposals for vehicle access to Sandleford via Warren Road, which would be devastating for Wash Common.”

West Berkshire Council’s official responsecan be read here. This includes the comment from the portfolio holder Richard Somner that WBC is “disappointed with the outcome of the appeal Inquiry for Sandleford Park, which is an allocated strategic development site. However, in order to provide a sustainable urban extension to the south of Newbury, the Council is actively seeking and will continue to engage positively with the landowners/developers and interested parties on moving the site forward. This will ensure the delivery of a high quality residential-led development at Sandleford Park, along with the necessary infrastructure, within the context of this appeal decision.”

Tony Vickers, Lib Dem Planning Spokesman on West Berkshire Council, said: “This comes as no surprise. The die was cast over 12 years ago when the Conservative-run Local Planning Authority allocated the site for 2,000 homes. This is just the end of the beginning of the process.” He added that his party has “not given up on being able to stop the worst happening. All that has been decided is that ‘up to a thousand’ homes can be built on the main part of the site, which has direct access to A339 and Monks Lane in the north. There is no vehicle access to Andover Road in the west, which is where the main opposition to Sandleford comes from in Wash Common. There are numerous planning conditions to be dealt with by the applicants which must satisfy our planners before any work can start. We fight on.”

There is also extensive coverage given to the issue in this week’s Newbury Weekly News.

The appeal was on behalf of only one of the two developers, Bloor Homes, whose interest is in the eastern part of the site. The hearing therefore skated over the issue of the access from Warren Road on the west, which two of the comments above allude to, concern about which led to a considerable number of objections from local residents. The Secretary of State appears to have judged that the two sites can be developed independently. This asks the question as to why WBC spent so much time and energy on trying, and failing, to get an over-arching masterplan for the entire site. If the eastern part goes ahead first then the Warren Road issue will be parked for a while but won’t go away.

Another issue – and this is admittedly looking some way ahead – is the matter of the community spaces in the development. Someone needs to own and manage these. The default position is that the developer takes this on, the duties then often being sold on to a land management company which can charge what it likes and which may or may not do the work properly and which may or may not be easily contactable. The best solution would seem to be to ensure that the parish or town council is given first right of refusal to adopt these areas. In the case of Sandleford, however, this would lead to the question “which parish council?” That brings us to another matter…

The rotten borough

As we mentioned last month – see this separate post – plans are afoot to try to redress the bizarre situation in Greenham Parish where four electors are able to elect five parish councillors. This is not some 19th-century hangover of a rotten borough but a result of the optimism that existed back in 2010 when it was felt that the then 1,500-home Sandleford development would be mainly completed within the decade. As the development would span two parishes (Newbury and Greenham), one possibility would have been to have re-drawn the ward boundaries so that the new development was wholly within one parish. This would, however, have led to costs for WBC which it was unwilling to incur. The solution adopted was to create a new Sandleford ward in Greenham ready for the 2019 council elections.

In fact, as we all know, the Sandleford development has yet to create a single home but the matter of redressing this electoral muddle is far from simple. As Councillor Tony Vickers said in a speech to WBC’s Full Council on 10 May, the matter has already occupied time at Full Council and will eventually require a decision from central government. The clock is meanwhile ticking, with the next elections taking place in little under a year’s time. A year is not a long time when it comes to sorting out things like this. I’m not quite clear why this wasn’t dealt with after the 2019 election when the “rotten” nature of the Sandleford ward would have been fresh in everyone’s mind. Perhaps this is yet another delay that can be blamed on the pandemic.

Two other issues have complicated this. The first is that one development which has happened is at the Racecourse, most of which is in Greenham Parish. By next May, this might be home to about 2,000 voters, about a third of Greenham’s total, so there’s the possibility of creating a new ward for that. The other is that on 6 May the Secretary of State finally allowed the appeal by one of the Sandleford developers (see above), stirring the uneasily slumbering monster back into life. This will not change the situation for 2023, of course; nor probably for the election of that in 2027 as out will be a long time before any homes appear there. Indeed, Mayfield Court (between Newbury College and the A339) may, if approved, start work before Sandleford. In what ward will these homes be put?

In the circumstances, and given all the uncertainties, it would seem to be easier for Greenham not to have any wards at all. Very few parishes do. In Greenham’s case, the reason is that it spans two separate WBC wards. This also seems worth adjusting but would require WBC to do this, in conjunction with the Boundary Commission’s regulations and timetables, and at its own expense. Any re-drawing of ward or parish boundaries would, if done by WBC, inevitably become politicised. Parish boundaries are important because the parish receives 15% of CIL payments (25% if there’s a neighbourhood development plan in place) from developers. Greenham may thus become disproportionately wealthy, whereas it’s in Newbury that any mitigating infrastructure needs to be built.  A

ll in all, it’s a muddle on several levels and one that may take some time to sort out. Getting housing projects of the scale of Sandleford agreed at all is, as events continue to prove, a colossal feat in itself. Trying to get administrative boundaries to match these seems a bit much to expect. Certainly few issues do more dis-service to the effectiveness of local democracy than does a rotten borough.

Boxford’s pub

Please see below for the previous chapters in this story. Not a huge amount has visibly happened since but I mention it again in case anyone might think silence suggests that the matter has been resolved. It hasn’t.

I said nothing had “visibly” happened: but a number of questions have been asked, including by ward members and parish councillors, as to why the application was refused. I’ve mentioned in the sections below the two grounds for this and why both seem to be spurious. I also mentioned that such decision notices can’t be set aside, the only options being an appeal or a revised application. I would imagine that neither will happen until it’s clear exactly what national and WBC policy is and that, in the latter case, that this has been enshrined in the plan. Given the fact that it related to a new plank of national policy, it’s a shame that the officer didn’t not choose to call the application in to the Western Area Planning Committee, as there had the right to do. As well as allowing more time for the regulations to be understood – perhaps with the help of a dedicated officer for which DeFRA has made funding available but who has yet to be appointed – it would enabled the issues to be more carefully explored; and a decision reached which would not have fallen on one person’s shoulders.

If a new application is lodged, which seems the more likely of the two options, then it would be a handsome gesture for WBC to do this one at no cost. Of course, the possibility exists that the applicant (whom I understand has other interests elsewhere) may decide that dealing with WBC on this matter is too much trouble. The risk is that the building – which is in a pretty poor state – could start collapsing. As well as being dangerous, this could perhaps lead to some of the environmental damage which the officer was so keen to avoid.

Community notices

• 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.

•  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 rav.gopal@westberks.gov.uk.

• 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 Newbury Spring Festival 2022 various musical events all over Newbury. Until 21 May.

On now Educafé Wellbeing Festival until 26 June.

Sat 14 May Quiz Night, St George’s Church Hall Wash Common.

Sat 28 & Sun 29 May The Highclere Show

Weds 1 June Woman in Politics Webinar hosted by West Berks Council, 7pm.

Thurs 2 June Beacon Lighting Event for the Jubilee, Victoria Park, event starts at 7:30pm, lighting and 9:30pm.

Sun 12 June Family Day at Victoria Park in celebration of Newbury Council’s 25th Anniversary.

• 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 waterside@berkshireyouth.co.uk 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 18 October and you can download the minutes here. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) 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 20 April and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: the results of Joely Rice’s survey about the possible future uses for the old school (see also separate sections from earlier weeks below); financial matters; a report from one of the two ward members, Steve Masters; planning matters; the annual parish meeting (4 May); the Owen Road Field wildflower meadow consultation; the jubilee; the proposed Eling Way Sustrans cycle route; dog waste; and graffiti. 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 12 April and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: planning matters; financial matters; the Middle Farm Close woodland; Marsh Pond; speeding; a damaged wall; trees; potholes; thanks for Curridge School for a grants of £500 and £1,000; and The Pathfinder newsletter. 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 14 March 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 took place on 9 March 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 22 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 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 18 November and you can download 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 5 May 2022

This week’s news

• This weekend marks the beginning of the Newbury Spring Festival 2022, a full two weeks of world-class musical events, from 7 to 21 May. The annual festival has been on hiatus for three years due to the pandemic and will be returning with an incredible array of talent from around the world. There will be everything from classical choirs and orchestras, to Bollywood brass, Gahanna drums, Irish folk, jazz, poetry, musicals, ballet, opera, quartets, duos, soloists and so much more: truly something for everyone. There will also be community projects, workshops, interviews and several free events for people of all ages. Check out the festivals full broacher of events here and check out their website for more information and to buy tickets. You can also check out some of our personal top picks here.

• This is your last chance to take part in the Mayor of Newbury’s online charity raffle, in aid of raising funds for The Mayor’s Benevolent Fund and Newbury Speakability. There are 15 exciting prizes up for grabs, including a day at the races for two and a £150 voucher for Waitrose. Tickets are £10 for 10 entries and will be available until the Sunday 8 May. The winners will be drawn on Monday 9 May. If you would like further information see here, or contact the Mayor’s Office mayor@newbury.gov.uk. Click here if you would like to enter the raffle.

• Did you know the first Educafé Wellbeing Festival is currently on? Through May and June, the Educafé are organising free or low-cost yoga, nature walk, bellydancing, pilates and gardening in Thatcham, Newbury, Highclere and Bucklebury. Click here for the full schedule.

•  Newbury Town Council has announced details regarding one of the first events of the Jubilee weekend: the ceremonial lighting of the beacon. This is a long-standing tradition regarding royal events, and over 2,000 beacons around the country are estimated to be lit around the same time to mark the historic occasion. The event will take place in Victoria Park on the evening of Thursday 2 June. In addition to the beacon lighting, there will also be live music and entertainment. You can read more about this event here.

• Last week, Paralympian, Louise Sugden, officially opened the brand new Keevill Unit at Speenhamland School for children with physical disabilities. Facilities include two new classrooms, a dedicated Special Educational Needs therapy room, an accessible hygiene room, a designated outdoor learning zone, accessible toilet and hoist for and extra indoor and outdoor space, for all pupils to enjoy. Sugden herself was a former pupil at Speenhamland, and has since gone on to become a wheelchair basketball player, representing Team GB in the both the Beijing and London Paralympics. In addition to that, she is now also a professional powerlifter ranking highly in several other international competitions, such as a silver medallist at the Commonwealth Games and Manchester World Cup. You can read more about the Keevil Unit here.

• As mentioned last week, Newbury celebrates getting a new blue plaque in honour of local writer and disability campaigner Doris Page (1925-1991). The plaque has now been officially unveilled, as of the 5 May, by the Deputy Mayor, Gary Norman. You can read more here about the plaque and Doris’ fascinating story, as someone who contracted polio in 1955 when she was 30 years old and was confined to an iron lung for the rest of her life.

• A proposal to develop a new grass playing pitch at Manor Park Recreation Ground, Stoney Lane, Newbury is out for public consultation. The deadline to have your say is Sunday 12 June.

• A brand new Handybus has now been funded by West Berkshire Council, through the Council’s Capital Grant Fund. The new book-a-ride service, run by the Volunteer Centre West Berkshire (VCWB), will begin operating in the next couple of weeks. The bus is fully-accessible and provides an opportunity to those who are unable to use public transport to access local town centres for shopping, attend appointments and meet friends. If you want to use this service or volunteer as a driver, please contact Newbury and Thatcham Handybus directly on: 01635 37111 between the hours of 9am to 1pm, Monday to Friday, or email: handybus@vcwb.org.uk. You can also read more about it on the council’s website.

• West Berks Council is currently recruiting several roles for their Adult Social Care Team. They are particularly looking for Dementia Care Practitioners, Reablement Practitioners, Occupational Therapists and Social Workers. For more information and how to apply see here.

• Newbury Town Council‘s April newsletter includes news about the bandstand, civic award winners, Newbury in Bloom and upcoming meetings.

Ukrainian refugees are starting to arrive in our area. If you would be interested in offering your home, contact 01635 503579 or ukraine@westberks.gov.uk 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.

Chieveley Parish Council held its annual meeting on 12 April and you can click here to read the opening statement from CPC’s Chair Mike Belcher. One item was the making Nicky Ager, Sarah Hutchison and Helen Singleton forewomen of the parish in recognition of their work in supporting the community during the pandemic.

• The latest edition of the Hamstead Hornet, which covers life in the village of Hamstead Marshall, can be seen here.

Sandleford’s green light

• 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: so, unless there’s an appeal within six weeks, the development will go ahead though subject to up to 58 recommended conditions. This could be seen as something of a snub to WBC, which offered a detailed 14-point refusal in September 2020 after many years of disputes with, and between, the two developers. Click here to visit this separate post which includes a link to the judgment and the reactions of some of the interested parties. The Secretary of State’s decision also without doubt adds to the workload of WBC’s already over-stretched planning team which will need to assimilate the 174-page report and decide on its response (whilst also finalising its revised local plan including the 30-year vision that Sandleford and the proposed 2,500-home plan for north east Thatcham require; and getting to grips with the recent nutrient neutrality regulations for the Lambourn Valley. There’s more on both these issues in the separate sections below).

I spoke to Peter Norman from the Say No to Sandleford (SNtS) campaign shortly after the decisions was announced. He said that he would be studying the document in detail soon but his immediate reactions was that “the decision makes a complete nonsense of the environmental protection afforded by the National Planning Policy Framework.” He also agreed that many of the problems which have bedevilled the scheme for the last 12 years still remain, despite this judgement. WBC’s options in the matter are in any case limited by the 2015 Supplementary Planning Document, to which the developers substantially agreed. He said that SNtS would be considering its next move. An appeal by this organisation, and/or others, cannot be ruled out.

West Berkshire Council’s official response can be read here. This includes the comment from the portfolio holder Richard Somner that WBC is “disappointed with the outcome of the appeal Inquiry for Sandleford Park, which is an allocated strategic development site. However, in order to provide a sustainable urban extension to the south of Newbury, the Council is actively seeking and will continue to engage positively with the landowners/developers and interested parties on moving the site forward. This will ensure the delivery of a high quality residential-led development at Sandleford Park, along with the necessary infrastructure, within the context of this appeal decision.”

Tony Vickers, Lib Dem Planning Spokesman on West Berkshire Council, said: “This comes as no surprise. The die was cast over 12 years ago when the Conservative-run Local Planning Authority allocated the site for 2,000 homes. This is just the end of the beginning of the process.” The added that his party has “not given up on being able to stop the worst happening. All that has been decided is that ‘up to 1000’ homes can be built on the main part of the site, which has direct access to A339 and Monks Lane in the north. There is no vehicle access to Andover Road in the west, which is where the main opposition to Sandleford comes from in Wash Common. There are numerous planning conditions to be dealt with by the applicants which must satisfy our planners before any work can start. We fight on.”

We’ll be making a few calls about the whole business and will cover the subject in more detail next week.

Boxford’s nutrient neutrality

We reported last week about this issue which is very much ongoing.

The basic issue is that the new owner of The Bell at Boxford has had application refused to turn the existing derelict pub into a new one. The two reasons for refusal were problems with dealing with groundwater flooding and possible phosphate contamination of the nearby SSSI- and SAC-protected River Lambourn. I stand by the points I made last week: the first issue seems to be the result of a problem caused by West Berkshire Council, not The Bell; while the second doesn’t apply because the key test applied by Natural England (one of the partners to the new regulations) is whether or not the application is likely to lead to an increase in the number of overnight stays. I leave it to you to decide whether an application to convert a pub with six guest rooms to a pub with none is likely to trigger this condition or not.

The new DeFRA regulations, introduced on 16 March 2022, provided for authorities affected by this (of which West Berkshire was one) to receive £100,000 “to support cross-Local Authority work to meet Natural England requirements and enable development to continue. This money is funding dedicated catchment officers…” It seemed important to understand if the decision on The Bell was taken as a result of WBC having obtained such expert advice, the assumption of the generous grant being that WBC and other councils lacked it in-house. It appears that it wasn’t. Far from having accessed this expertise, it appears that the council has yet to hear from DeFRA on the progress of the application. Another question, which hasn’t been answered, is whether it would have therefore been wiser to have waited until the specialist advice that WBC would seem to lack were available.

Another way of looking at the the matter is that it’s a shame it wasn’t decided earlier. The application was validated on 8 November 2021 but wasn’t refused until 25 April, five and half months later. It’s been suggested this was because of planning officers being taken off the case to work on larger developments. Were the application to have been determined before 16 March 2022, as it should have been, the nutrient neutrality issue would not have figured (for the reasons suggested above, it shouldn’t have done in any case).

One of WBC’s reasons for refusal cited the applicant’s inability to provide information about the levels of phosphates which might result from the development, as a consequence of a government directive  – issued, as WBC correctly admits “with no warning” – which came into force several months after the application was validated and after it should have been determined. It’s worth repeating again that the key test here (phosphates being largely a result of sewage, as well as other factors like faming run-off which have no relevance to the application) is whether the number of overnight stays – and thus toilet flushes – are likely to increase as a result. Manifestly, they are not.

I get it that WBC’s planners wish to be correct. This takes two forms. The first is to decide any application promptly and not leave it at the mercy of other, larger, issues. The second is, if new regulations are issued and paid-for help offered, to wait until proper advice can be received on what, on WBC’s own admission, was an unexpected  announcement before arriving at a decision. Neither course seems to have been followed here and the decision seems perverse.

The refusal notice having been issued, nothing short of a successful appeal can alter that. Assuming there is not an appetite for this, the logical and equitable thing would be for the applicant to make a further application having obtained pre-planning advice from WBC at no cost. It would seem likely that the ward members would call in any new application to committee if the officers were minded to reject it. All the issues, including the advice (or lack of it) taken on the original application, would then be given a thorough airing. Let us remind ourselves again that the application is for replacing a pub with six rooms with a pub which has none. The owner could re-open the derelict pub tomorrow with all six rooms (and their toilets) active if they wished. The application makes sense on every logical, legal, economic and environmental level and is supported by the local community. Does it really have to be this hard?

An extension for Eagle Quarter

The proposed re-development of the Kennet Centre, which we’ve covered before, is still to be decided by West Berkshire’s planners and its Western Area Planning Committee (WAPC). I understand that a deadline of the end of April was provided to the developers for the supply of some additional documents. It seems that all bar one of these has been provided, so WBC has agreed a further extortion until the end of May. I imagine that if the document is not produced, or if it isn’t felt to be satisfactory, then the planners will recommend that the application be refused, something WAPC may choose to endorse. If it’s felt that this does address the issues, the planners would presumably consider this in conjunction with everything else and make whatever recommendation they decide. This would then be put before WAPC, probably some time in the summer.

You can see the developer’s website here and you can click here to visit WBC’s planning portal (then search for the references 21/00379/FULMAJ and 21/00380/FULMAJ). As I’ve mentioned before, the proposals seem to have several points of merit (though, as I don’t live in Newbury, perhaps my views aren’t so important). One of the problems with considering any new development is that virtually anything short of a coal-fired power station would be preferable to what’s there at the moment. The two main areas of objection have been the lack of affordable housing and, principally, the scale of the project and the permanent effect that this would have on the town centre. As with so many planning decisions, much will turn on whether the committee decides that the economic benefits trump concerns about environmental damage or conservation. I understand that this is the matter with which the missing document principally deals.

A community bus

This section is taken from last week’s Weekly News with Brian. In retrospect it would have been better to have run it here (and in the Thatcham News column) so I have now done so.

West Berkshire Council has recently announced that it has funded a new community bus for the Newbury and Thatcham Handybus service: you can read more here. The vehicle “has been adapted to be fully accessible and was successfully funded through the Council’s Capital Grant Fund, which is available for all local community transport operators to bid for. The new service will provide an opportunity for those who are unable to use public transport to access local town centres.”

From the Handybus’ inception in 1986 up until a few years ago, WBC provided all the vehicles so this could be seen as no more than a partial return to what had gone before. The statement also implies a commitment to supporting those unable to use conventional public transport. Until about four years ago, this was exactly the service being provided by Readibus. Since then, WBC has cut the community transport provider’s grant, thereby decimating the service. Last year, Penny Post was contacted by many Readibus customers who were upset and bemused by why this had happened, Readibus having previously been provided transport for about thirty years without any problems. The relationship has since sunk into legal wrangles over WBC’s insistence on a gagging clause (the council doesn’t like the term but that’s effectively what it is), a practice which has been exposed as wrong in many ways by many charitable groups as part of a nationwide campaign.

Well done to VCWB and Handybus for securing this grant. Hopefully the new vehicle will do something to redress the gap in this aspect of the council’s community-transport provision for its residents with mobility problems over the last few years.

 

Community notices

• 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.

•  Newbury Weekly News Young Photographer of the Year competition is open until 27 May. This year’s theme is Landscapes and the prize is a £50 Amazon gift voucher. The judging categories are: Junior (Years 3 to 6), Senior (Years 7-13) and judges choice (anyone from Years 3-13). Email your entry to phil.cannings@newburynews.co.uk with the child’s name, school name, year group, and contact details. Those under 16 should also have the name and contact details of a parent/guardian included as well.

•  West Berkshire Libraries Newbury branch is offering free IT support sessions. Whether you need help filling out online forms, figuring out how to Zoom, downloading e-magazines or sorting out pictures, Newbury Library is offering bookable 30 or 60 min sessions. To find out more or book a slot, email rav.gopal@westberks.gov.uk.

• 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 Educafé Wellbeing Festival until 26 June.

Sat 7 May Newbury Spring Festival 2022 various musical events all over Newbury. Until 21 May.

Sat 14 May Quiz Night, St George’s Church Hall Wash Common.

Sat 28 & Sun 29 May The Highclere Show

Thurs 2 June Beacon Lighting Event for the Jubilee, Victoria Park, event starts at 7:30pm, lighting and 9:30pm.

Sun 12 June Family Day at Victoria Park in celebration of Newbury Council’s 25th Anniversary.

• 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 waterside@berkshireyouth.co.uk 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.

Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesday afternoons between 2pm and 4pm welcomes anyone who would like to drop in for a chat or a cuppa, knitting and craft activities.

• 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 18 October and you can download the minutes here. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) 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 20 April and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: the results of Joely Rice’s survey about the possible future uses for the old school (see also separate sections from earlier weeks below); financial matters; a report from one of the two ward members, Steve Masters; planning matters; the annual parish meeting (4 May); the Owen Road Field wildflower meadow consultation; the jubilee; the proposed Eling Way Sustrans cycle route; dog waste; and graffiti. 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 12 April and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: planning matters; financial matters; the Middle Farm Close woodland; Marsh Pond; speeding; a damaged wall; trees; potholes; thanks for Curridge School for a grants of £500 and £1,000; and The Pathfinder newsletter. 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 14 March 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 took place on 9 March 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 22 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 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 18 November and you can download 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 28 April 2022

This week’s news

• There are just a few seats left for South Wales Male Choir this Saturday 30 April at St Nicolas’s Church in aid of Newbury Rotary. Their last perfomance before lockdown was a total success so this sounds like a great night out. Book your tickets here.

• A proposal to develop a new grass playing pitch at Manor Park Recreation Ground, Stoney Lane, Newbury is out for public consultation and will remain so until Sunday 12 June.

• This Saturday 30 April, The Castle Pub in Cold Ash is holding a real ale and live music festival on in aid of Newbury Cancer Care. Musical performances will start around 2pm and go on throughout the afternoon and evening. You can see the musician line-up here.

• West Berks Council is currently recruiting several roles for their Adult Social Care Team. They are particularly looking for Dementia Care Practitioners, Reablement Practitioners, Occupational Therapists and Social Workers. For more information and how to apply see here.

• Newbury’s latest blue plaque celebrates local writer and disability campaigner Doris Page (1925-1991). You can read more here about the plaque and Doris who contracted polio in 1955 when she was 30 years old and was confined to an iron lung for the rest of her life.

•  Congratulations to the performers Newbury Corn Exchange’s 2021 pantomime, who received notable recognition at the UK Pantomime Awards last week. The theatre’s Christmas show ‘Cinderella’ by Plested & Brown was nominated for best Digital Panto and won a Special Recognition award for actors Justin Brett, Susan Harrison and Ali James. The trio, who played the Dame-stepmother and stepsisters, won the award for their “skilled execution of fully improvised ‘front cloth’ sequences including songs created from audience participation, promoting innovation in content”. Penny loves going to the last perfomance of the Newbury panto each year and is already looking forward to the next one.

• The Mayor of Newbury is currently hosting an online charity raffle to help raise funds for The Mayor’s Benevolent Fund and Newbury Speakability. There are 15 exciting prizes up for grabs, including a day at the races for two and a £150 voucher for Waitrose. Tickets are £10 for 10 entries and will be available until the Sunday 8 May. The winners will be drawn on Monday 9 May. If you would like further information see here, or contact the Mayor’s Office mayor@newbury.gov.uk. Click here if you would like to enter the raffle.

• Educafé’s first Wellbeing Festival through April, May and June offers free or low-cost yoga, nature walk, bellydancing, pilates and gardening in Thatcham, Newbury, Highclere and Bucklebury. Click here for the full schedule.

• 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. The centre is re-launching after COVID at time when a vibrant connection for seniors has never been more important. They want to extend their reach in West Berkshire and North Hampshire and also support those living with early stages of dementia and their carers. They have a Good Exchange grant application to ensure that theirr service remains accessible and affordable for those who would most benefit. Please support them here. Goodness knows we might all need their services in years to come. See this short video Penny made recently at Fair Close.

• Having seen the terrible state of dog waste bins – especially on Greenham Common – Greenham Parish Council have been left with little choice but to fund extra dog bins and collections to try and mitigate the situation. They will be installing 5 additional extra-large dog bins and arranging for weekly extra collections at a cost of £2,000 in this fiscal year.  When the dog bins become full, please take your waste away to put in your black bin at home as adding more to the overflowing bin on the common  causes a health hazard for humans and animals.

• Not long now until Newbury Spring Festival 2022‘s full two weeks of world-class musical events from 7 to 21 May. The annual festival has been on hiatus for three years due to the pandemic and will be returning with an incredible array of talent from around the world. There will be everything from classical choirs and orchestras, to Bollywood brass, Gahanna drums, Irish folk, jazz, poetry, musicals, ballet, opera, quartets, duos, soloists and so much more: truly something for everyone. There will also be community projects, workshops, interviews and several free events for people of all ages. Check out the festivals full broacher of events here and check out their website for more information and to buy tickets.

Kings Road in Newbury is currently closed and will remain so until 3 May, due to a nearby connected construction site. There is a diversion in place for all vehicles and more information can be found here.

• Having seen the terrible state of dog waste bins – especially on Greenham Common – Greenham Parish Council have been left with little choice but to fund extra dog bins and collections to try and mitigate the situation. They will be installing 5 additional extra-large dog bins and arranging for weekly extra collections at a cost of £2000 in this fiscal year. It will be reviewed on an ongoing basis.

When the dog bins become full, please take your waste away to put in your black bin at home as adding more to the overflowing bin on the common  causes a health hazard for humans and animals.

• Newbury Town Council‘s April newsletter includes news about the bandstand, civic award winners, Newbury in Bloom and upcoming meetings.

Ukrainian refugees are starting to arrive in our area. If you would be interested in offering your home, contact 01635 503579 or ukraine@westberks.gov.uk 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.

Chieveley Parish Council held its annual meeting on 12 April and you can click here to read the opening statement from CPC’s Chair Mike Belcher. One item was the making Nicky Ager, Sarah Hutchison and Helen Singleton forewomen of the parish in recognition of their work in supporting the community during the pandemic.

• The latest edition of the Hamstead Hornet, which covers life in the village of Hamstead Marshall, can be seen here.

The bell tolls at Boxford

Normally when a planning application involves a pub there’s a change of use involved, the intention generally being to turn it into accommodation. How refreshing it therefore was to see an application for The Bell at Boxford (see the details here on WBC’s website) for the demolition of the existing and empty two-storey pub of no particular merit and in a parlous condition, with six bedrooms, to be replaced with a single-storey thatched pub, with no bedrooms. (The significance of the reference to the bedrooms will be clearer in a moment.) With a couple of exceptions on specific matters, one of which at least has been addressed, the reaction of the local community was positive. WBC has recently re-affirmed its desire to help communities recover from the pandemic and has recently launched a website promoting the district as a destination friendly to businesses. The design was sympathetic, environmentally aware and socially beneficial. What could possibly go wrong?

What went wrong was that on 25 April the decision was refused. This was on two grounds: “insufficient information has been submitted to demonstrate the proposed development can adequately manage surface water”; and that “the proposed development, either alone or in combination with other plans or projects, is likely to have a significant effect on the River Lambourn SAC.” Both seem specious and I understand that one of the ward members has immediately asked questions about how and why and on what grounds this decision was reached. Boxford Parish Council will be meeting in May to formulate its official response and to ask the executive and political powers at West Berkshire to explain this perplexing decision. More on this will doubtless follow.

While we’re waiting for those to play out, let’s have a quick look at the reasons given in the decision notice.

The surface-water matter is, I have been told, a long running issue which has nothing to do with the pub but a lot more to do with problems with the highway, which is WBC’s responsibility and one about which Boxford PC has long complained, though with little result.

The second issue touches on the question of nutrient neutrality which was, on 16 March 2022, announced to the affected planning authorities by DeFRA as being a specific matter which they needed to consider. (The problem is that phosphates, which come from a variety of sources including human faeces, create imbalances in the SAC and SSSI river Lambourn which flows through Boxford. Any development which is likely to make this problem worse will need to mitigate this (perhaps directly or through a S106 agreement) or will be refused.) Natural England, one of the parties involved in this agreement, helpfully provided a flow-chart which could be used by planning authorities as a template for constructing a policy – WBC is on record as being a “policy-led authority” with regard to planning – to accommodate these new regulations. I’m not aware that any such revision has yet been incorporated into WBC’s policy.

Even if it had been, the very first question in the Natural England flow chart is “does the development generate wastewater from overnight use?” If the answer to this is “no”, it continues, the methodology “does not apply.” By no stretch of logic can a pub with no rooms, as is proposed, generate overnight wastewater. It thus seems inexplicable why the matter of nutrient neutrality was referred to in the refusal notice at all. As regards WBC’s policy CS17 also cited in the refusal notice, it’s impossible to see any features of the application which affect this in an way differently from that which would apply were the pub to re-open tomorrow, as it would (subject to licensing approval) be able to do.

That’s the real point – there is a pub there now, albeit un-tenented. The previous owners had sought a change of use to accommodation, which was refused. The new owner has sought to turn the pub back into a pub, which has also been refused. What’s next? What kind of application is likely to be successful? An industrial park? An abattoir? Is any guidance available as to what might succeed? The current refusal seems to rely on a ground-water problem which is the planning authority’s fault and a nutrient-neutrality problem which will be improved, rather than worsened, by the proposed application. Meanwhile, of course, Thames Water continues to pour untreated sewage into the SSSI and SAC river that’s at issue with comparative impunity (an issue which is, admittedly, down to the Environment Agency and not WBC to enforce). WBC is also keen to stress that it is a business-friendly council and that it wants to help communities recover from the pandemic.

I’m aware that the new DeFRA regulations in March demanded that planning authorities paused to consider the implications of the new new regulations on their policies and decisions. They were also given £100,000 to appoint specialist officers to help with the issues and decisions that emerged. Has WBC appointed such an officer? It was also suggested to me by a local councillor shortly after the DeFRA regulations were introduced that a pause would be needed in planning applications while the implications of the policy were examined. Has this happened in this case?

The refusal of this application for the reasons stated seems to suggest that WBC’s planning department has parted company with reality. The pub could re-open tomorrow, as a pub with rooms, and cause far more phosphate issues than would the new proposal. The system seems here to have let down not only someone who is prepared to sink a good deal of money in re-purposing a village asset but also the overwhelming number of local residents who supported the idea. The proposal by its nature reduces the main issue of phosphate pollution and proposes other environmental improvements including tree-planting.

The refusal seems to rely on one issue which is actually WBC’s own problem to solve and on another which doesn’t apply in this case and which, even if it did, WBC doesn’t have a policy in place to refer to. If this decision is unchallenged, the building will slowly decay and collapse, causing god-knows what other problems. In addition, a local economic investor will have been rebuffed, the local residents will have had their stated wishes thwarted, WBC will have had its stated economic objectives unfulfilled and there will have been no benefit to to the local environment which the current proposals promise and which could be ensured by discussion or S106 agreements.

In retrospect, it’s a shame that the matter wasn’t called in to committee: then again, the ward members probably had little expectation that it would be refused. It has been. From everything I’ve heard, however, this isn’t the end of the story. Watch this space…

Surveying Newbury’s (and Thatcham’s) needs

I’ve mentioned before about a survey which has been doing the rounds on social media: surprisingly, it does not appear on WBC’s own website and isn’t the subject of any official communication that I’ve seen. Its purpose is to provide the additional evidence of a 30-year vision that was in July 2021 demanded by the government regarding any substantial developments (including ones whose completion time might exceed the 15-year lifespan of the local plan). Compared to the Newbury masterplan document last year, this shows all the signs of being a box-ticking exercise; something which WBC sees as an obstacle to be overcome rather than an opportunity to be grasped. It certainly has been launched in a very peculiar way and communication has been, to put it mildly, patchy.

The consultants were commissioned by WBC at the end of December 2021 and their report needs to be finalised by June. It would seem both prudent and logical, not to say polite, to make contacting the town councils one of the first orders of business. True, the consultants are commissioned by WBC not by these two councils; true, WBC and Thatcham and Newbury Councils don’t agree on everything. However, there’s a big difference between contacting someone and accepting everything they tell you. It seems that Newbury Town Council was only officially contacted by the consultants on 26 April. Thatcham Town Council wasn’t contacted by them at all but had to make the calls itself. Both these have over the years done a good deal of work on establishing how the towns might develop in the future. Thatcham, for example, produced a 180pp document in 2016 helpfully called “Thatcham Vision” which, by dint of its title alone, might possibly be relevant to anyone working on a vision of the community now. It seems, however, that the consultants were not even aware of this until Thatcham TC brought it to their attention.

I’m not sure what Newbury Town Council’s next move will be. In Thatcham’s case, meetings have taken place and a detailed reply has been made to many of the points raised in the survey (and other matters that were not). TTC elected not to respond to the questionnaire as it was presented, mainly because only two choices of aspects of particular concern or interest could be selected, whereas the reality is that anyone responding in a thoughtful and measured way would probably have something to say on all of them. I understand that the response also refers to flooding issues and to the strategic gap between Thatcham and Newbury, which TTC regards as very important (presumably because a number of its residents do) although it appears that these are of less interest to those drafting the survey.

When completed, the document will form part of WBC’s official submission as part of its local plan refresh. The National Planning Policy framework demands that consultation take place before the council’s strategy is finalised. I trust that the external examiner will be convinced that the work done represents a suitably robust and inclusive assessment of the various views that exist. if they don’t, then I suppose there may be a further delay. I’m not sure if a consultation which seems mainly to involve clicking on pictures could be so regarded.

It could be argued that the best thing would be to scrap what’s happened so far and start again properly and then communicate the consultation in the normal ways. The survey as it stands promises engagement with “stakeholders” but this is a conveniently vague word that can include or exclude more or less anyone. Such exercises risk being expensive wastes of time if they don’t include all the groups that might have useful knowledge and who will have to bear the consequences of the decisions. (In the same way, if a council were to be having a discussion about how, say, its planning procedures were to be reformed it would be insane to do this without getting the views of developers, district councillors, members of the public and parish and town councils. Not to do so would risk the inference that the matter had been pre-determined.) What view the inspector will take of the document that emerges from this survey remains to be seen.

Community notices

• 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 Weekly News Young Photographer of the Year competition is open until 27 May. This year’s theme is Landscapes and the prize is a £50 Amazon gift voucher. The judging categories are: Junior (Years 3 to 6), Senior (Years 7-13) and judges choice (anyone from Years 3-13). Email your entry to phil.cannings@newburynews.co.uk with the child’s name, school name, year group, and contact details. Those under 16 should also have the name and contact details of a parent/guardian included as well.

Newbury Soup Kitchen is currently looking for volunteers – particularly those who can help collect and sort donations and stock vans. The job requires a lot of lifting and carrying up and down stairs, but hours are flexible and can be made to suit your schedule. Please apply via their website.

•  West Berkshire Libraries Newbury branch is offering free IT support sessions. Whether you need help filling out online forms, figuring out how to Zoom, downloading e-magazines or sorting out pictures, Newbury Library is offering bookable 30 or 60 min sessions. To find out more or book a slot, email rav.gopal@westberks.gov.uk.

• 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.

• Newbury Liberal Democrats are campaigning to pedestrianise parts of  Newbury town centre, namely Northbrook Street and the Market Place. If you too would like to see parts of the town pedestrianised, then you can sign the petition here. If you would like to know more about the campaign, see here.

Newbury Shopmobility based in Northbrook Car Park provides scooters and wheelchairs for daily or weekly loan.  Membership is £12 per year and a daily loan is just £3.50. Call 01635 523854 Monday to Saturday 10am to 3pm to book or email newburyshopmobility@vcwb.org.uk

• Any comments, suggestions or feedback about the Council’s community transport services (including Readibus) should be sent to WBC’s Transport Services Team, Council Offices, Market Street, Newbury, RG14 5LD, email Transport@westberks.gov.uk or call 01635 519394.

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.

Educafé Wellbeing Festival until 26 June

Sat 30 Apr South Wales Male Choir at St Nicolas’s Church (fundraising for Newbury Rotary).

Sat 30 Apr Real Ale and Live Music Fundraiser at the Castle Inn, in Cold Ash.

Sat 7 May Newbury Spring Festival 2022 various musical events all over Newbury. Until 21 May.

Sat 14 May Quiz Night, St George’s Church Hall Wash Common

Sun 12 June Family Day at Victoria Park in celebration of Newbury Council’s 25th Anniversary.

• 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 waterside@berkshireyouth.co.uk 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.

Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesday afternoons between 2pm and 4pm welcomes anyone who would like to drop in for a chat or a cuppa, knitting and craft activities.

• 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 18 October and you can download the minutes here. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) 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 20 April and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: the results of Joely Rice’s survey about the possible future uses for the old school (see also separate sections from earlier weeks below); financial matters; a report from one of the two ward members, Steve Masters; planning matters; the annual parish meeting (4 May); the Owen Road Field wildflower meadow consultation; the jubilee; the proposed Eling Way Sustrans cycle route; dog waste; and graffiti. 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 8 March 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 Enborne Parish Council took place on 14 March 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 took place on 9 March 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 22 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 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 18 November and you can download 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 21 April 2022

This week’s news

Kings Road in Newbury is to be closed between April 25 and May 3, due to a nearby connected construction site. There will be a diversion in place for all vehicles and more information can be found here.

• Attention gin-lovers – City Arts Newbury and Berkshire Botanicals gin company are teaming up for an exciting fundraising event at the Globe pub. The event will include: gin tasting with Berkshire Botanicals, food from Fink Street Foods, a free drink from the bar, artist demonstrations and displays, as well as live sketching. The money raised will go towards improving the City Arts Newbury building and future art events. The event is being held on Wednesday 27 April, 7pm to 9pm. See here to find out more and book your tickets.

• The Mayor of Newbury is currently hosting an online charity raffle to help raise funds for The Mayor’s Benevolent Fund and Newbury Speakability. There are 15 exciting prizes up for grabs, including a day at the races for two at Newbury Racecourse and £150 voucher for Waitrose. Tickets are £10 for 10 entries and will be available until the Sunday 8 May. The winners will be drawn on Monday 9 May. If you would like further information see here, or contact the Mayor’s Office mayor@newbury.gov.uk. Click here if you would like to enter the raffle.

• Thank you to everyone who donated to Alzheimer’s at Newbury Tesco Extra, which thanks to your help has now raised an amazing £12,084. The money is going towards the charity, Alzheimer’s Research UK, which helps bring about life-changing treatments to those suffering from dementia.

• Next month we welcome back the Newbury Spring Festival 2022, for a full two weeks of world-class musical events from 7 to 21 May. The annual festival has been on hiatus for three years due to the pandemic and will be returning with an incredible array of talent from around the world. There will be everything from classical choirs and orchestras, to Bollywood brass, Gahanna drums, Irish folk, jazz, poetry, musicals, ballet, opera, quartets, duos, soloists and so much more: truly something for everyone. There will also be community projects, workshops, interviews and several free events for people of all ages. Check out the festivals full broacher of events here and check out their website for more information and to buy tickets.

• Newbury Town Council‘s April newsletter includes news about the bandstand, civic award winners, Newbury in Bloom and upcoming meetings.

Ukrainian refugees are starting to arrive in our area. If you would be interested in offering your home, contact 01635 503579 or ukraine@westberks.gov.uk 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.

Chieveley Parish Council held its annual meeting on 12 April and you can click here to read the opening statement from CPC’s Chair Mike Belcher. One item was the making Nicky Ager, Sarah Hutchison and Helen Singleton forewomen of the parish in recognition of their work in supporting the community during the pandemic.

• The latest edition of the Hamstead Hornet, which covers life in the village of Hamstead Marshall, can be seen here.

The survey, again

I made some comments in this column last week about a “survey” which had appeared on social media inviting “community members” in Newbury and Thatcham to “have their say on the future of West Berkshire.” My advice was then, and still is now, to have nothing to do with it until it’s been made clear on the survey itself who has initiated it and for what purpose the information is being gathered. I think this is an important point of principle for any survey, not just this one. Otherwise it’s like someone coming up to you in the street and saying “give me £20 for charity.” What charity? you ask. “I’m not going to tell you.” What will the money be used for? “None of your business.”

Whatever comparison one uses, it seems to be a pretty indifferent piece of work, a sentiment echoed by everyone to whom I’ve spoken. One person, who is experienced in such municipal matters, said they thought it looked a bit like one of theyr children’s school IT projects. Indeed, a survey done by 12-year-old Joely Rice concerning the possible uses for the old school in Shaw-cum-Donnington (see below) was in many ways better than this one. I see that the link has been provided in this week’s NWN (good luck with typing that lengthy url). I’m not going to link to is until the origin and purpose of this is specified and until I’ve had a couple of questions answered by West Berkshire Council (which are promised) including whether or not it’s happy with the inference that the residents of these two towns are on their own being asked to decide the future of the entire district. I’d also be more willing to promote it if Newbury and Thatcham Town Councils were happy with it. To date, it doesn’t appear that either is.

Joely’s survey (conclusion)

I’ve mentioned twice before (on 23 and 31 March, see below) about a survey that 12-year-old Shaw-cum-Donnington resident Joely Rice created to find out what residents wanted to see happen to the old school building. The survey closed on 18 April and two days later there was a meeting of the parish council at which the findings were reported. There were 112 new responses made since some new questions were added a few weeks ago with an overwhelming (97%) feeling that the building should be retained for the community. The most popular proposed uses were as a café and/or a multi-purpose space for hire (several local organisations including the Corn Exchange has already expressed an interest in hiring it). Other suggested uses included a community shop, a quiet study space and fitness classes for pensioners. In addition, 85% felt that the history of the school should be recorded and celebrated. I understand that Joely Rice is gathering some of these records and her next project may well be top publish some of these on-line.

This is only the first step, albeit a very important one. The main issue is seeing whether the Diocese of Oxford is willing to sell the old school and on what terms. The matter is complicated by the terms of the contract under which it was originally gifted the building. These specify that it must be used for educational purposes, something that would probably be satisfied were the proceeds to be given to WBC as a contribution towards the costs of the new primary school in the parish. A number of grants and low-interest loans are available for such purposes so it won’t all need to come from the Shaw-cum-Donnington piggy bank. One of the pre-conditions for any grant is proof that the community is behind the project. Thanks to Joley’s survey, this seems to have been established. The work isn’t over yet and further public engagement may be needed. At least the parish council now knows to whom it can to turn for help with this when the need arises.

Community notices

• 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 Weekly News Young Photographer of the Year competition is open until 27 May. This year’s theme is Landscapes and the prize is a £50 Amazon gift voucher. The judging categories are: Junior (Years 3 to 6), Senior (Years 7-13) and judges choice (anyone from Years 3-13). Email your entry to phil.cannings@newburynews.co.uk with the child’s name, school name, year group, and contact details. Those under 16 should also have the name and contact details of a parent/guardian included as well.

Newbury Soup Kitchen is currently looking for volunteers – particularly those who can help collect and sort donations and stock vans. The job requires a lot of lifting and carrying up and down stairs, but hours are flexible and can be made to suit your schedule. Please apply via their website.

•  West Berkshire Libraries Newbury branch is offering free IT support sessions. Whether you need help filling out online forms, figuring out how to Zoom, downloading e-magazines or sorting out pictures, Newbury Library is offering bookable 30 or 60 min sessions. To find out more or book a slot, email rav.gopal@westberks.gov.uk.

• 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.

• Newbury Liberal Democrats are campaigning to pedestrianise parts of  Newbury town centre, namely Northbrook Street and the Market Place. If you too would like to see parts of the town pedestrianised, then you can sign the petition here. If you would like to know more about the campaign, see here.

Newbury Shopmobility based in Northbrook Car Park provides scooters and wheelchairs for daily or weekly loan.  Membership is £12 per year and a daily loan is just £3.50. Call 01635 523854 Monday to Saturday 10am to 3pm to book or email newburyshopmobility@vcwb.org.uk

• Any comments, suggestions or feedback about the Council’s community transport services (including Readibus) should be sent to WBC’s Transport Services Team, Council Offices, Market Street, Newbury, RG14 5LD, email Transport@westberks.gov.uk or call 01635 519394.

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  Easter Egg Huntswith Swings & Smiles, Newbury town centre until 24 April.

•  Sat 23 April Exhibition: Wildlife Works!at City Arts Newbury, Hampton Road until 24 April.

Wed 27 Apr Music Centre ‘Have a Go’ evening at St Bartholomew’s School, 4:30pm.

Sat 30 Apr South Wales Male Choir at St Nicolas’s Church (fundraising for Newbury Rotary).

Sat 7 May Newbury Spring Festival 2022 various musical events all over Newbury. Until 21 May.

Sun 12 June Family Day at Victoria Park in celebration of Newbury Council’s 25th Anniversary.

• 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 waterside@berkshireyouth.co.uk or call 01635 018500.

• Educafe’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.

Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesday afternoons between 2pm and 4pm welcomes anyone who would like to drop in for a chat or a cuppa, knitting and craft activities.

• 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.

• Thatcham Refillable is in front of Debenhams in Newbury Parkway on the first Monday of every month & third Thursday of the month. From 9:30am to 5pm. See here for more.

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 18 October and you can download the minutes here. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) 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 16 March and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: Joely’s survey (see also separate section above); a litter pick; CCTV; the playing fields at the new school; the proposed Sustrans route from Hermitage to Newbury; financial matters; a letter to residents; planning matters; the parish plan refresh; and the jubilee. 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 8 March 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 Enborne Parish Council took place on 14 March 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 took place on 9 March 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 22 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 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 18 November and you can download 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 14 April 2022

This week’s news

• One of the strangest administrative anomalies in the district – the “rotten borough” of Sandleford – seems set to be resolved soon. This was created in expectation of the housing development of that name being completed before the 2019 elections. Nothing remotely like that happened, however, but the war survived with a grand total of three electors. Click here for a separate post describing (from the point of view of one of its ward members) more on this and what might happen next, as well as a link to a short story I wrote inspired by this fiasco.

• Newbuy’s Victoria Park has a fantastic new attraction just in time for the Easter Holidays. The wildlife-themed Newbury Adventure Golf opened last weekend, with 18-holes, full of obstacles and exciting features. The course is just £4.95 per person for all 18 holes and the facility will be open on weekends as well as school and bank holidays. If all goes well, this will be extended to 7 days a week. To book your round, visit the website here.

• The Berkshire Youth Waterside Centre is celebrating their award of £400,000 in funding from The National Lottery Community Fund. The money will go towards supporting a wide range of activities for local young people, particularly those who are vulnerable or disadvantaged, as well as the wider community. Right now the Waterside Centre is putting on a whole range of fun, free sport activities to enjoy over the Easter holidays, in collaboration with MNR Coaching. To see the full roster of activities, check here.

•  The Newbury EasterFest 2022 this weekend will be full of Alice in Wonderland-themed fun. The open event will take place on Northbrook and Bartholomew Street from the 15 to 17 April and you can find the activity schedule here and more information about the event here.

• Over Easter weekend (15 to 18 April) many bus services will be completely free thanks to West Berkshire Council, Reading Buses and Thames Travel. Check out the West Berkshire Council website for more details and check here to see a detailed list of which services will be applicable.

• There is still time to take part in the local Easter Egg Hunt, which is on-going until the 24 April. All you have to do is make a donation to Swings & Smiles children’s charity, which will let you download the trail sheet. Alternatively you can make your donation and pick up a trail sheet in-person from The Ugly Duckling in Newbury town centre.  Take a look at the Visit Newbury website for more information on these events.

• Massive congratulations to the St Bartholomew’s Senior Lacrosse team, who came out top of their division at the National Schools Lacrosse Championships. This was the first time in two years the usually annual competition took place, following a hiatus due to the pandemic.  The tournament was held at the Aldershot Garrison Sports Centre, with more than 3,000 girls playing for nearly 200 teams in eight divisions. The St Bart’s girls played spectacularly well, beating some of the best school lacrosse teams in the country. Also a special well done to those in the team who were titled ‘players of the tournament’: Georgia Humphreys, Izzy Duly, Gemma Moon and Anna Colston. You can read more details on this story here.

•  It’s time for the local youngsters to get their cameras out, now Newbury Weekly News have opened entries for this years’ Young Photographer of the Year competition. This year’s theme is Landscapes and the prize is a £50 Amazon gift voucher. The judging categories include: Junior (Years 3 to 6), Senior (Years 7-13) and judges choice (anyone from Years 3-13). To enter email your entry to phil.cannings@newburynews.co.uk along with the child’s name, school name, year group, and contact details. Those under 16 should also have the name and contact details of a parent/guardian included as well. The deadline for entry is the 27 May. Happy snapping!

The Lion, Newbury, has been awarded the title of The Campaign for Real Ale’s West Berks Pub of the Year 2022. Pub owners, father and son Kevin and Sam Archibald, took over The Lion in 2019 and since then the pub has become renowned for its quality selection of beer and ales. Earlier this year, the establishment was also included in the Good Beer Guide (2022), so it’s clear their efforts are being recognised. Congratulations to the both the owners and the staff team for their great work. For more details, see here.

• There is a vacancy for Parish Clerk at Hamstead Marshall Parish Council. See here for how to apply by the application deadline of 22 April.

Kings Road in Newbury is to be closed between April 25 and May 3 due to a nearby connected construction site. There will be a diversion in place for all vehicles and more informatiuon can be found here.

• Attention gin-lovers – City Arts Newbury and Berkshire Botanicals gin company are teaming up for an exciting fundraising event at the Globe pub. The event will include: gin tasting with Berkshire Botanicals, food from Fink Street Foods, a free drink from the bar, artist demonstrations and displays, as well as live sketching. The money raised will go towards improving the City Arts Newbury building and future art events. The event is being held on Wednesday 27 April, 7pm to 9pm. See here to find out more and book your tickets.

• Newbury Town Council‘s April newsletter includes news about the bandstand, civic award winners, Newbury in Bloom and upcoming meetings.

• Ukrainian refugees are starting to arrive in our area. If you would be interested in offering your home, contact 01635 503579 or ukraine@westberks.gov.uk 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 Liberal Democrats are campaigning to pedestrianise parts of  Newbury town centre, namely Northbrook Street and the Market Place. If you too would like to see parts of the town pedestrianised, then you can sign the petition here. If you would like to know more about the campaign, see here.

Chieveley Parish Council held its annual meeting on 12 April and you can click here to read the opening statement from CPC’s Chair Mike Belcher. One item was the making Nicky Ager, Sarah Hutchison and Helen Singleton forewomen of the parish in recognition of their work in supporting the community during the pandemic.

• The latest edition of the Hamstead Hornet, which covers life in the village of Hamstead Marshall, can be seen here.

Readibus emerges from the tunnel

It’s been quite some time since I last wrote about this. This isn’t because the problem has been solved or that I’ve got bored but because nothing much has happened (until this week). Like a train stuck in a tunnel it’s been more or less invisible, except to those directly involved in the issue (including the users of the service).

In brief summary, Readibus provides a specialist and, in West Berkshire at least, unique community transport service, mainly for those with mobility problems. After several decades of fruitful partnership with WBC, matters went badly off the rails a few years ago and haven’t been fixed yet. Until these issues are solved, funding from WBC has been cut and the many users of the service are thus finding it less useful and convenient than previously.

The main bone of contention has been a clause which would require Readibus to gain prior approval from WBC for any statements made. These “gagging clauses” – WBC dislikes the term though it’s hard to know what else to call them – are being opposed by charities across the country as representing a threat to charities’ independence and integrity and as a means by which the donors can effectively suppress criticism and purchase reputational advantage. The irony is that WBC has suffered reputational damage as a result of insisting on something that was in part designed to prevent this very thing.

Another point of friction was the omission from the Council’s 2019/20 budget proposals public consultation of the proposal for a 68% cut to ReadiBus’ funding, WBC deciding that a public consultation with service users on the proposals was “not appropriate” as “a significant number of them had learning difficulties.” Aside from any other considerations, this was simply not true. Shortly before Christmas 2021 the Local Government Ombudsman agreed with Readibus’ complaint on this point and found the council to be at fault. WBC was told to apologise, review its procedures and pay £300 in compensation (the maximum the LGO could impose). It was then hoped that discussions between the two parties would re-start with a view to trying to re-boot what had long been a popular and important service. With an ageing population, it’s likely to be more rather than less required in the future. I understand that, as of 14 April, no such meeting had taken place.

On that same date, I learned that a petition on the subject on the WB Lib Dem’s website recently received its 1,500th signature. The significance of this is that, under the WBC constitution, the matter must be debated (for up to 15 minutes) by WBC’s full council. This might be scheduled to happen during the summer. 15 minutes is not a long time but it at least gives the matter a public airing and prevents it sinking into the long grass where some at WBC might prefer it remained. It also shows that at least 1,500 people believe that the matter is of importance. As the clock ticks round to the next election in just over a year’s time, that consideration might carry increasing weight.

Hamstead Marshall’s gravel

It appears that the Craven Quarry in Hamstead Marshall, for many years inactive, will soon be re-opened. West Berkshire Council’s Minerals Evidence Paper in November 2020 notes that Craven Keep has “reserves of 55,000 tonnes, with two years remaining for extraction.” Questions the Parish Council has asked include: what has changed to make the previously inactive site now viable; where exactly the extraction will take place; if there are any risks that the works will destabilise nearby structures; what monitoring conditions regarding pollution will apply; and when the site was last inspected.

Then there’s the matter of the lorries. The route/s they will be permitted to use don’t seem certain but 55,000 tonnes would, assuming 20-tonne trucks, require about 2,750 journeys. There are about 500 working days in these two years, so that’s five to six journeys a day. Anyone who likes watching lorries may wish to check out house prices in Hamstead Marshall as there’ll be quite a few to see.

As the current permission appears to exclude adding any imported material to fill the 55,000-tonne gap, one assumes that the end result will be a pond or lake. This might prove to be an adornment to the village. Quite a bit of noise and dirt to get through first, though. If there’s any further news, HMPC has promised to keep us informed.

A strange survey

My attention was recently drawn to a very odd looking survey about the future of Newbury and Thatcham. There’s certainly plenty of debate about these matters at the moment. I’m not going to give you the link because, for the reasons I’m about to provide, I don’t think you should have anything to do with it, at least not until the many problems with it have been sorted out.

“Newbury and Thatcham community members! Shape the future of West Berkshire for 2050,” the heading reads, followed by the instruction to “answer this survey.” There are so many problems with just this bit that I hardly know where to start.

“Community members” is a wonderful example of the fatuous marketing-speak that now prevails (like the hideous phrase “having a conversation around” rather than “discussing”). The word the copywriters were groping for was “residents.” It also seems that residents of those two towns alone are being invited to “shape the future” of the district. What about the rest of us? Do we get a say in this? West Berkshire Council has long been accused, fairly or otherwise, of being less concerned with the areas away from its centre than it might be. It’s taken some steps to redress this. Comments like this risk putting matters back ten years.

And what does “shape the future” try to mean? What it really means is “contribute to a discussion about.” The residents, of these towns or of the whole district, aren’t going to shape anything on their own. Westminster and Whitehall will have a lot to say about that. They’re not mentioned either.

As for the photos, the less said about those the better. If the aim was to pick two that showed the towns in the most unattractive possible light then job done.

I’m not finished yet, not by a long chalk. What’s so special about 2050? If – as I suspect it might be – this has something to do with the new 30-year vision that’s demanded for large developments such as the 2,500-homes plans for Thatcham, then the date should be at least 2054 if we assume that the local plan refresh won’t be done before 2024 (even so, most of its decisions won’t last for more than 15 years). “2054” would require explanation, though. “2050” doesn’t. What this date is trying to convey is an aspirational future time about a generation hence, close enough to still be relevant to many yet living but far enough away to make it clear that momentous changes may be planned which you can help “shape.”

Then it says “answer the survey.” There’s no “please”, no “thanks in advance.” In any case, you can’t “answer” a survey. You can “respond to” or “participate in” it. You can “answer” a questionnaire, or questions in a survey: but a survey involves expressing opinions; and opinions aren’t answers. For anyone who thinks I’m being nit-picking, I’d say that we have different words to describe different things for a reason, just as there is all the difference in the world between the chords of A7 and A Maj7, between thirty-one and thirteen and between crimson and scarlet.

There are two other massive problems with the “survey” which are much more serious than these presentational issues. The first is that there’s no clue as to who is running it; the second is that there’s no information about to what use the findings will be put. These are fundamental. If you push on through the rather vacuous questions – the answers to which could be used to justify almost any conclusion – you come to a page where you have to enter your email address to proceed where you had to agree to T&C’s. The latter are only revealed when you click on the question about why the email address is needed, which seems less than straightforward (best practice should surely be that the T&Cs are clickable from the page on which you’re asked to agree to them, not hidden away somewhere else). I stopped at this point.

I put some of these points to the communications team at WBC on 13 April and received the biggest surprise of all: they said they knew nothing about it. Why anyone would want to run a “survey” about the “future” of the district, as “shaped” only by the “community members” of the two largest towns, without the knowledge of the district council is beyond me. Until these anonymities, ambiguities and solecisms are fixed (or, better still, the whole thing is re-done and launched properly), I’d advise you not to waste your time in completing it or passing it on to anyone else: should you come across it at all, of course. You won’t be getting any link to this from us.

Community notices

• St Nicolas Church in central Newbury is open for prayer for people of Ukraine every weekday lunchtime 12.30pm till 1.30pm until Easter. At 1pm there will be 10 minutes of prayer led by a different church minister each day organised by Christians Together in the Newbury Area.

• 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 Soup Kitchen is currently looking for volunteers – particularly those who can help collect and sort donations and stock vans. The job requires a lot of lifting and carrying up and down stairs, but hours are flexible and can be made to suit your schedule. Please apply via their website.

•  West Berkshire Libraries Newbury branch is offering free IT support sessions. Whether you need help filling out online forms, figuring out how to Zoom, downloading e-magazines or sorting out pictures, Newbury Library is offering bookable 30 or 60 min sessions. To find out more or book a slot, email rav.gopal@westberks.gov.uk.

• 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.

• Find out how to help here Newbury Town Council save the bandstand that has been in Victoria Park since 1937.

• For more details on the new technology Befriend Bus for older residents in Newbury and Thatcham, contact Handybus Coordinator Paul Wilding on 01635 37111 or email handybus@vcwb.org.uk.

Newbury Shopmobility based in Northbrook Car Park provides scooters and wheelchairs for daily or weekly loan.  Membership is £12 per year and a daily loan is just £3.50. Call 01635 523854 Monday to Saturday 10am to 3pm to book or email newburyshopmobility@vcwb.org.uk

• Any comments, suggestions or feedback about the Council’s community transport services (including Readibus) should be sent to WBC’s Transport Services Team, Council Offices, Market Street, Newbury, RG14 5LD, email Transport@westberks.gov.uk or call 01635 519394.

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  The Festival of Arts & Crafts The Base, Greenham. Until Mon 18 April.

• On now  Easter Egg Huntswith Swings & Smiles, Newbury town centre. Until 24 April.

• Fri 15 Apr  Newbury EasterFest 2022, with Alice in Wonderland themed festival, Northbrook street, until 17 April.

• Sun 17 Apr Newbury Garden Show & All About Dogs at Newbury Showground. Until 18 April.

Sat 30 Apr South Wales Male Choir at St Nicolas’s Church (fundraising for Newbury Rotary).

• 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 waterside@berkshireyouth.co.uk or call 01635 018500.

• Educafe’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.

Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesday afternoons between 2pm and 4pm welcomes anyone who would like to drop in for a chat or a cuppa, knitting and craft activities.

• 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.

• Thatcham Refillable is in front of Debenhams in Newbury Parkway on the first Monday of every month & third Thursday of the month. From 9:30am to 5pm. See here for more.

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 18 October and you can download the minutes here. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) 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 16 March and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: Joely’s survey (see also separate section above); a litter pick (10 to 12.30 on 26 March); CCTV; the playing fields at the new school; the proposed Sustrans route from Hermitage to Newbury; financial matters; a letter to residents; planning matters; the parish plan refresh; and the jubilee. 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 8 March and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: planning matters; financial matters; the Newbury SHowground S106 agreement; the Middle Farm Close open space; play equipment; rights of way; Marsh Pond; finding for Curridge School; the annual parish meeting (12 April); trees; speeding; and parking. 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 14 March and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: congratulations from a member of the public about the level of consultation and information regarding the solar farm; questions about the solar farm (which will be answered “at the next meeting or before”); further questions answered on this matter (see also separate section above); planning matters; traffic calming; the jubilee; and financial matters. 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 March and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: the Control Tower; access to the Common (or lack of); financial matters; grants; the jubilee; planning matters; and health and safety. 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 22 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 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 18 November and you can download 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 areaMarlborough areaNewbury areaThatcham areaCompton and DownlandsTheale areaWantage areaSwindon area.

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

Thursday 7 April 2022

This week’s news

• You won’t be short of eggciting things to do this Easter holiday. There will be a craft pop-up at Mint Velvet in Parkway, between 11 and 13 April and Easter Egg Hunts between 9 and 24 April . To take part in the Egg Hunt, all you have to do is make a donation to Swings & Smiles children’s charity, which will let you download the trail sheet. Alternatively you can make your donation and pick up a trail sheet in-person from The Ugly Duckling in Newbury town centre.  Take a look at the Visit Newbury website for more information on these events.

•  If that’s not enough Easter entertainment for you, then Newbury EasterFest 2022 will also be a weekend full of Alice in Wonderland-themed fun. The open event will take place on Northbrook and Bartholomew Street and activities will include: Easter eggs hunts, meet-and-greets with Alice and her Wonderland friends, live music, street food, artisan market stalls, various craft workshops and all sorts of games and activities. The free event will take place from the 15 to 17 April and you can find the activity schedule here and more information about the event here. There’s something there for all ages so you won’t want to miss out.

• Penny was pleased to be invited to visit The Fair Close Centre on Newtown Road this week to find out about this vibrant social hub for senior citizens that offers fun, food, friendship, hairdressing and a men’s shed carpentry workshop. They also run a weekly Dementia Cafe and deliver hundreds of meals of wheels every week. Everyone was so friendly and the food looked so tempting that she ended up staying for lunch. See their website here for more details about what Fair Close offers to independent residents over 65.

• Newbury Town Council‘s April newsletter includes news about the bandstand, civic award winners, Newbury in Bloom and upcoming meetings.

Newbury Town Council may have to close playground at Digby Road as vandals have caused considerable damage to the play equipment this week. Two children’s slides have been vandalised and sprayed with graffiti. The slides are most likely beyond repair, and it is in question as to whether they can be replaced due to the costs of such equipment. In the last week there has been a wave of graffiti and damage throughout Newbury, including some of the Town Council’s plays areas and in Victoria Park.

• As mentioned previously, the next Hamstead Marshall Wildlife Group’s April meeting is on How to Live Gently on Earth at the White Hart Inn in Hamsptead Marshall, on Thursday 14 April from 6.30pm til 9.25pm. Enborne Primary School will discuss how to help young people help the environment. BBOWT will give a presentation about its work at Snelsmore and Greenham Common, there will be a talk by West Berkshire Council Leader Lynne Doherty and an invitation to the audience to give opinions on priorities in the community. Finally there will be updates by Anne Budd from HMWG. Book your place with anne.budd1@btinternet.com.

  Good news that over the Easter weekend (15 to 18 April) many bus services will be completely free thanks to West Berkshire Council, Reading Buses and Thames Travel. Check out the West Berkshire Council website for more details and check here to see a detailed list of which services will be applicable.

•  Attention gin-lovers – City Arts Newbury and Berkshire Botanicals gin company are teaming up for an exciting fundraising event at the Globe pub. The event will include: gin tasting with Berkshire Botanicals, food from Fink Street Foods, a free drink from the bar, artist demonstrations and displays, as well as live sketching. The money raised will go towards improving the City Arts Newbury building and future art events. The event is being held on Wednesday 27 April, 7pm to 9pm. See here to find out more and book your tickets.

• Looking for a new way to help the community? The Newbury Soup Kitchen is currently looking for volunteers – particularly those who can help collect and sort donations and stock vans. The job requires a lot of lifting and carrying up and down stairs, but hours are flexible and can be made to suit your schedule. If that sounds like it could be you then apply via their website.

• West Berkshire Council’s Household Waste Recycling Centre (HWRC) on Newtown Road, Newbury, is extending its Thursday opening hours over the summer period. The new opening hours will be Thursday 9am to 8pm. All other days will have the regular opening hours of 9am to 6pm. More info here.

•  So far, over 50 households from West Berkshire have offered to share their homes with refugees fleeing Ukraine. The Ukrainians have not yet arrived in Berkshire, due to on-going administration issues and safeguarding checks, but they are hopefully due to arrive in the coming weeks. If you would be interested in offering your home, contact 01635 503579 or ukraine@westberks.gov.uk or visit this page to find out more information. Also if you want to help, but cannot offer you home, you can also make a donation here. Please also join the Newbury Ukraine Support facebook group.

• Newbury Liberal Democrats are campaigning to pedestrianise parts of  Newbury town centre.  The group is petitioning West Berkshire Council to “experiment” with pedestrianising Northbrook Street, between the hours of 10am to midnight, as well as Market Place for 24 hours a day. If you yourself would like to see parts of the town pedestrianised, then you can sign the petition here. If you would like to know more about the campaign, see here.

•  In line with the changes outlined in the UK government’s Environmental Act 2021, West Berkshire Council will be introducing a free, weekly food waste collection across the region. This aims to massively reduce the waste going landfill and the food will instead be composted for use by local farmers. In order to prepare for the changes, aiming to come into place this autumn, the council has released a new survey regarding Food Waste Habits and would like as many locals as possible to contribute. Please click here to learn more about the Councils food waste collection plans and click here to take the survey for yourself. The survey will be available until the 3 May.

• As mentioned previously, The West Berkshire Muslim Centre is appealing for transport for asylum seekers and refugees in the local area. As the holy month of Ramadan continues over the course of April, volunteers are needed to drive those that observe Ramadan to and from the local mosques so they can break their fast with others. For more information on how to help, call 01635 725825 or email hello@communityunited.uk.

Kings Road in Newbury is to be closed between April 25 and May 3 due to a nearby connected construction site. There will be a diversion in place for all vehicles and more informatiuon can be found here.

• And another thing that you perhaps didn’t know, that Shaw Cemetery holds the secret to Newbury’s connection with the Endurance? Click here for the story of Shackleton’s engineer Lewis Rickinson.

•  Newbury’s Toby Carvery is asking for donations of Easter Eggs. The restaurant is working alongside local social services to get goodies to vulnerable children within their care, to ensure every child has a happy Easter. If you would like to help, just drop off your donation at the Toby Carvery on London Road.

• The March edition of the Hamstead Hornet, which covers life in the village of Hamstead Marshall, has recently been published. Items covered include an upcoming election (“possibly the parish’s first ever”), speeding, the forthcoming jubilee, the wildlife group, Good Hope farm, planning applications and Gary the Postie.

• There is a vacancy for Parish Clerk at Hamstead Marshall Parish Council. See here for how to apply by the application deadline of 22 April.

Educafé

There’s an article on p6 of this week’s NWN about this wonderful exercise in connectivity which was the brainchild of Colline Watts (of Colline’s Kitchen) and Clare Middleton (of the Berkshire School of English) and first opened its doors at The Globe in Newbury in the summer of 2021. Since then its grown, had a Christmas break and now found a new home in Newbury Library. Educafé runs from 11 am to 2pm every Wednesday and is free. Over 200 people now attend each week, participating in a wide range of activities from English conversation classes to knitting and from games of dominos to advice from local support groups.

Penny’s been involved in this pretty much from the outset, so most Wednesdays see her get on the bus to Newbury (this absence partly explains why Penny Post is published a bit later on Thursdays). The time she spends there is, however, very productive. She helps make blankets for the Newbury Soup Kitchen and always returns with stories of people she’s met, ideas that have been exchanged, projects discussed or concerns expressed, all of which helps inform what she writes in the newsletters, so reaching a still wider group of people.

Educafe’s expansion across the district is planned with taster sessions confirmed at three other WBC libraries: Thatcham Library, noon to 2.30pm on Friday 20 and 27 May; Hungerford Library, noon to 2.30pm on Friday 17 and 24 June; and Theale Library, noon to 2pm on Friday 1 and 8 July (I bet WBC is glad now that it was persuaded not to close these). If these prove as successful as Newbury’s, the plan is then to make these regular and permanent. The use of other venues is also being considered.

“This has really caught the imagination of the West Berkshire community,” Clare Middleton told Penny Post on 7 April. “Our aim is to create safe spaces for people to meet, learn and make new friends and to maintain health and wellbeing. Our community café is growing fast, reaching and benefitting hundreds of people each week. It has been described by some as a new social movement. Our priority is to protect and sustain what we’ve started and to continue to evolve and grow to reach a wider community.” Specific aims, many of which are already being realised, include supporting those with mental-health and loneliness issues, provide free English-language learning, helping to level-up health inequalities and sharing important news from WBC and other key local organisations in a range of languages and platforms.

If you haven’t been down yet but fancy a quick peek at some of the many things that go on, have a look at this video which Penny has recently made.

Although the idea was conceived by two local people who continue to run it as a community interest company, WBC has become an important partner. Not only does it provide the venues and equipment such as IT kit – and books, of course – which form part of the activities but it also has a pre-existing clientele (the library doesn’t cease its normal operation during the Educafés). To this is added the people whom Educafé itself has attracted, many of whom might not normally visit a library at all. I spoke to a member of staff at Newbury Library who told me that the venture was particularly welcome as it helped fulfil a number of objectives (including increasing footfall, improving social connectivity and providing education) of the Library Service’s policy. “Some of these things we were providing anyway,” I was told, “but Educafé has brought even more, and in a different way. All the staff here are very enthusiastic about it.” It seems that this is one of these happy situations where the interests of two different organisations are closely aligned but not competing. The result seems to be that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts: it’s certainly not possible to say that about every venture. Long may it continue to grow and spread. For my part, I shall continue to reconcile myself to the fact that Penny will be away from her desk for most of Wednesdays, but we’ll do our best to make sure the Penny Postnewsletters aren’t too late as a result. If they are, though, this might be why…

Community notices

• St Nicolas Church in central Newbury is open for prayer for people of Ukraine every weekday lunchtime 12.30pm till 1.30pm until Easter. At 1pm there will be 10 minutes of prayer led by a different church minister each day organised by Christians Together in the Newbury Area.

• 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?

•  West Berkshire Libraries Newbury branch is offering free IT support sessions. Whether you need help filling out online forms, figuring out how to Zoom, downloading e-magazines or sorting out pictures, Newbury Library is offering bookable 30 or 60 min sessions. To find out more or book a slot, email rav.gopal@westberks.gov.uk.

• 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.

• Find out how to help here Newbury Town Council save the bandstand that has been in Victoria Park since 1937.

• For more details on the new technology Befriend Bus for older residents in Newbury and Thatcham, contact Handybus Coordinator Paul Wilding on 01635 37111 or email handybus@vcwb.org.uk.

Newbury Shopmobility based in Northbrook Car Park provides scooters and wheelchairs for daily or weekly loan.  Membership is £12 per year and a daily loan is just £3.50. Call 01635 523854 Monday to Saturday 10am to 3pm to book or email newburyshopmobility@vcwb.org.uk

• Any comments, suggestions or feedback about the Council’s community transport services (including Readibus) should be sent to WBC’s Transport Services Team, Council Offices, Market Street, Newbury, RG14 5LD, email Transport@westberks.gov.uk or call 01635 519394.

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 Apr The Festival of Arts & Crafts The Base, Greenham until Mon 18 Apr.

• Sat 9 Apr Easter Egg Hunts with Swings & Smiles, Newbury town centre, until 24 April.

• Mon 11 Apr Pop-Up Craft with Swings & Smiles, at the Mint Velvet Unit, Parkway, Newbury. Until 13 April.

• Fri 15 Apr  Newbury EasterFest 2022, with Alice in Wonderland themed festival, Northbrook street, until 17 April.

• Sun 17 Apr Newbury Garden Show at Newbury Showground.

Sat 30 Apr South Wales Male Choir at St Nicolas’s Church (fundraising for Newbury Rotary).

• 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 waterside@berkshireyouth.co.uk or call 01635 018500.

• Educafe’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.

Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesday afternoons between 2pm and 4pm welcomes anyone who would like to drop in for a chat or a cuppa, knitting and craft activities.

• 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.

• Thatcham Refillable is in front of Debenhams in Newbury Parkway on the first Monday of every month & third Thursday of the month. From 9:30am to 5pm. See here for more.

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 18 October and you can download the minutes here. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) 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 16 March and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: Joely’s survey (see also separate section above); a litter pick (10 to 12.30 on 26 March); CCTV; the playing fields at the new school; the proposed Sustrans route from Hermitage to Newbury; financial matters; a letter to residents; planning matters; the parish plan refresh; and the jubilee. 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 8 March and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: planning matters; financial matters; the Newbury SHowground S106 agreement; the Middle Farm Close open space; play equipment; rights of way; Marsh Pond; finding for Curridge School; the annual parish meeting (12 April); trees; speeding; and parking. 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 14 March and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: congratulations from a member of the public about the level of consultation and information regarding the solar farm; questions about the solar farm (which will be answered “at the next meeting or before”); further questions answered on this matter (see also separate section above); planning matters; traffic calming; the jubilee; and financial matters. 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 February and you can read the minutes hereTo 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 22 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 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 18 November and you can download 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.

Thursday 31 March 2022

This week’s news

•  As mentioned last week, a campaign has been re-launched by the Newbury Liberal Democrats to pedestrianise parts of  Newbury town centre.  The group is petitioning West Berkshire Council to “experiment” with pedestrianising Northbrook Street, between the hours of 10am to midnight, as well as Market Place for 24 hours a day. They have proposed that this would make Newbury a safer and greener place to live. If you yourself would like to see parts of the town pedestrianised, then you can sign the petition here. If you would like to know more about the campaign, see here.

• The Action for the River Kennet’s Thames Eels project has identified over two hundred barriers that are preventing eels, and other fish, from migrating safely along the River Kennet and River Pang. They have identified priority sites for eel passage and are now planning projects to carry out the practical work to remove the barriers.

• Last week’s Ukraine Fundraiser at Englefield House raised over £30,000 thanks to a raffle hosted by local celebrity Chris Tarrant. The event was organised by Beenham resident, Melissa Jones who also owns the Pop-Up Kitchen. For the full report and list of special guests, have a look here on Newbury Today.

The West Berkshire Muslim Centre is appealing for transport for asylum seekers and refugees in the local area. With the holy month of Ramadan starting on Saturday 2 April and with the help of Community United West Berkshire, volunteers are needed to drive those that observe the month of Ramadan to and from the local mosques so they can break their fast with others. For more information on how to help, call 01635 725825 or email hello@communityunited.uk.

Kings Road in Newbury is to be closed between April 25 and May 3 due to a nearby connected construction site. There will be a diversion in place for all vehicles and more informatiuon can be found here.

Healthwatch West Berkshire is appealing for local survey responses, regarding your thoughts on covid-19 testing and vaccination. The survey can be found here.

• The next Hamstead Marshall Wildlife Group‘s April meeting is on How to Live Gently on Earth at the White Hart Inn in Hamsptead Marshall, on Thursday 14 April from 6.30pm til 9.25pm. Enborne Primary School will discuss how to help young people help the environment. BBOWT will give a presentation about their work at Snelsmore and Greenham Common, there will be a talk by West Berkshire Council Leader Lynne Doherty and an invitation to the audience to give opinions on priorities in the community. Finally there will be updates by Anne Budd from HMWG. Book your place with anne.budd1@btinternet.com.

• Did you know that West Berkshire Libraries Newbury branch is now offering free IT support sessions? Whether you need help filling out online forms, figuring out how to Zoom, downloading e-magazines or sorting out pictures, Newbury Library is offering bookable 30 or 60 min sessions. To find out more or book a slot, email rav.gopal@westberks.gov.uk.

• And another thing that you perhaps didn’t know,  that Shaw Cemetery holds the secret to Newbury’s connection with the Endurance? Click here for the story of Shackleton’s engineer Lewis Rickinson.

•  Newbury’s Toby Carvery is launching its Easter appeal, asking for donations of Easter Eggs. The restaurant is working alongside local social services to get goodies to vulnerable children within their care, to ensure every child has a happy Easter. If you would like to help, just drop off your donation at the Toby Carvery on London Road.

• The March edition of the Hamstead Hornet, which covers life in the village of Hamstead Marshall, has recently been published. Items covered include an upcoming election (“possibly the parish’s first ever”), speeding, the forthcoming jubilee, the wildlife group, Good Hope farm, planning applications and Gary the Postie.

• There is a vacancy for Parish Clerk at Hamstead Marshall Parish Council. See here for how to apply by the application deadline of 22 April.

Enborne’s solar farm

This matter, which has been mentioned before (see below) and doubtless will again was discussed at the meeting of Enborne PC on 14 March. The minutes of the meeting reported on the answers given to questions asked at the January meeting of the Poor’s Charity Trustees. One of these questions was: “What does the Parish Council intend to do about the ditches on the southern end of the Poor’s Allotment to alleviate the existing flooding in Spring Gardens?” As the answer to this seems to address many of the objections to the scheme, it seems worth quoting this in full:

“The Trustees [of the Poor’s Charity] have spent a good deal of their valuable, voluntary time on this question in trying to better understand all aspects of the “existing water” problem. We have written to West Berkshire Council as the Lead Local Flood Authority (LLFA) with our conclusions. We have copied the residents. The situation is complicated by:

“Multiple water sources related to the topography, geology and hydrology of the area; the ownership of the land within the Spring Gardens estate and the relationship between the various landowners and parties responsible for maintenance within the estate; the land drain installed within the estate, presumably with the intention to mitigate the existing water overflow and questions over whether this is being maintained as it may not be working as intended.

“There is no doubt that water flows from the Parish Field onto the adjacent part of the Spring Gardens estate. The water follows the contours downhill as it always has, probably since the last ice age and certainly from before Spring Gardens existed. This outflow could easily be directed into the land drain on the Spring Gardens estate, and we would suggest that the owners of the land drain look at building a more direct inflow than currently exists. Currently, the land drain relies on water dropping through a gravel layer on top of the drain and through perforations in the drain.

“The Trustees are more than willing to work with the various stakeholders in the Spring Gardens estate and will consider all reasonable, practical and achievable solutions.”

Joely’s survey (continued)

What do the Bishop of Oxford, the homebuilders Taylor Wimpey and David Wilson, two local councils and a 12-year-old girl in Shaw-cum-Donnington have in common? The answer, as mentioned last week, is that all are one way or another involved in the fate of the former school in the village. The land-ownership issue is a slightly complex one involving the original conditions of the gift of the building to the diocese of Oxford and, if it is now sold, what will happen to the proceeds and the building itself (a matter in which West Berkshire and ScD Parish Councils have an interest). This might be worth going into later: for now, I was more concerned with finding out more about what had prompted Joely Rice to decide that an online consultation needed to be set up and that she was the person to do this.

“Joely went to the school,” her mother Kelly told me this week. “When the news broke just before Christmas that the building was threatened she decided that she needed to do something. We were really keen to support her.” Joely is home-educated so the work ended up being a pretty comprehensive cross-curricular project. English, maths, IT, design, history and geography were all involved: so too was something school projects rarely provide, the knowledge that the work would be of immediate local relevance. 170 responses had been received by 28 March so it’s to be expected there have been more since. The consultation will run until 20 April, on which date the parish council will study the results and consider its next move.

What other things might Joely get involved with next? There’s certainly plenty that needs sorting and asking people what they think is a very important step. Organising an online consultation seems very easy until you start doing one yourself. You’re never too young (or, let it not be forgotten, too old) to learn skills like this. Knowing you can do one new thing also makes it easier to embark on other different ones with confidence. If I’d done something like this when I was 12 I’m sure I’d now be a better and more accomplished person.

Sandleford’s delay

The words “Sandleford” and “delay” are often seen adjacent to each other as this large project in south Newbury has seen plenty of delays. Indeed, it has been nothing but delays for nothing has yet been built despite the project having been conceived over a decade ago. The two developers have found it hard to agree on anything of substance and West Berkshire Council has tried, and failed, to get them to provide an over-arching masterplan for the project. Opposition to the scheme has continued throughout this period, spearheaded by the Say No to Sandleford group. This calls on West Berkshire Council “to develop smaller more sustainable mixed use brownfield sites and sustainable housing in the surrounding villages.” Very similar sentiments have been voiced in respect of the rather larger 2,500-homes plan for NE Thatcham (in which not two but four developers will be involved so, one might argue doubling – or perhaps quadrupling – the risk of similar friction).

In October 2020, WBC refused the applications which had been lodged in May of that year, citing 14 separate reasons which spanned just about every aspect of planning policy. The applicants appealed to the Planning Inspectorate and the Secretary of State then announced that he was calling the matter in for him to decide. The appeal hearing was something of a marathon, lasting for almost a month in May 2021. The report was sent to the new Secretary of State, Michael Gove, on 29 November 2021 and a decision promised “no later than 28 February 2022.” On 9 February this was changed to “no later than 28 March 2022.” On 24 March this was changed to “on or before 9 May 2022.” One wonders when all this will end.

Even if Michael Gove finds in favour of the applicants, WBC will still be faced with much the same problems as before. I don’t know if a compulsory purchase has been considered but that seems the only way out of the impasse. If WBC did own the land, it would provide a wonderful opportunity to build – perhaps on a smaller scale than envisaged – some homes of the kind that the district really needs and with exemplar environmental features. Many, including the Say No group, feel that it is in wrong place regardless of its composition and design. Mind you, that’s always the problem with planning – everyone agrees that homes need to be built as long as they’re put somewhere else.

Community notices

• St Nicolas Church in central Newbury is open for prayer for people of Ukraine every weekday lunchtime 12.30pm till 1.30pm until Easter. At 1pm there will be 10 minutes of prayer led by a different church minister each day organised by Christians Together in the Newbury Area.

• 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?

• 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.

• Find out how to help here Newbury Town Council save the bandstand that has been in Victoria Park since 1937.

• For more details on the new technology Befriend Bus for older residents in Newbury and Thatcham, contact Handybus Coordinator Paul Wilding on 01635 37111 or email handybus@vcwb.org.uk.

Newbury Shopmobility based in Northbrook Car Park provides scooters and wheelchairs for daily or weekly loan.  Membership is £12 per year and a daily loan is just £3.50. Call 01635 523854 Monday to Saturday 10am to 3pm to book or email newburyshopmobility@vcwb.org.uk

• Any comments, suggestions or feedback about the Council’s community transport services (including Readibus) should be sent to WBC’s Transport Services Team, Council Offices, Market Street, Newbury, RG14 5LD, email Transport@westberks.gov.uk or call 01635 519394.

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 Apr The Cromwell Singers present: As Long as I Have Music, Newbury Baptist Church.

• Until 3 Apr 57th Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibition at The Base, Greenham.

•  Sun 3 Apr Spring Food and Craft Fair, 11am to 4pm, Shaw House.

• Sat 9 Apr The Festival of Arts & Crafts The Base, Greenham until Mon 18 Apr.

• Fri 15 Apr  Three day EasterFest, starting with an Alice in Wonderland themed festival.

• Sun 17 Apr Newbury Garden Show at Newbury Showground.

Sat 30 Apr South Wales Male Choir at St Nicolas’s Church (fundraising for Newbury Rotary).

• 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 waterside@berkshireyouth.co.uk or call 01635 018500.

• Educafe’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.

Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesday afternoons between 2pm and 4pm welcomes anyone who would like to drop in for a chat or a cuppa, knitting and craft activities.

• 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.

• Thatcham Refillable is in front of Debenhams in Newbury Parkway on the first Monday of every month & third Thursday of the month. From 9:30am to 5pm. See here for more.

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 18 October and you can download the minutes here. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) 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 16 March and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: Joely’s survey (see also separate section above); a litter pick (10 to 12.30 on 26 March); CCTV; the playing fields at the new school; the proposed Sustrans route from Hermitage to Newbury; financial matters; a letter to residents; planning matters; the parish plan refresh; and the jubilee. 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 14 March and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: congratulations from a member of the public about the level of consultation and information regarding the solar farm; questions about the solar farm (which will be answered “at the next meeting or before”); further questions answered on this matter (see also separate section above); planning matters; traffic calming; the jubilee; and financial matters. 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 February and you can read the minutes hereTo 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 8 February 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 Speen Parish Council took place on 22 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 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 18 November and you can download 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 areaMarlborough areaNewbury areaThatcham areaCompton and DownlandsTheale areaWantage areaSwindon area.

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

Thursday 24 March 2022

This week’s news

•  A campaign has been re-launched by the Newbury Liberal Democrats to pedestrianise parts of  Newbury town centre.  The group is petitioning West Berkshire council to “experiment” with pedestrianising Northbrook Street, between the hours of 10am to midnight, as well as the Market Place for 24 hours a day. They have proposed that this would make Newbury as safer and greener place to live. If you yourself would like to see parts of the town pedestrianised, then you can sign the petition here. If you would like to know more about the campaign, see here.

The Newbury Town Civic Awards recognise the town’s unsung heroes who go above and beyond to help make an exceptional contribution to the Newbury community on a voluntary basis. Congatulations to the 2022 winners: Sukey Russell-Hayward, Newbury Town Civic Award; Soorya Anbumurasoli, Young Person’s Civic Award; The Globe Pub, Business Civic Award; and Tony Hammond, Environmental Contribution Civic Award. For more details please visit Newbury Town Council webpage.

•  On Sunday, the year 2 children of Francis Bailey School were out singing at Newbury’s Parkway shopping centre. The delightful sing-song event raised over £200 which will go toward the children’s trip to Wembley’s OVO Arena for the Voice in a Million concert. Francis Bailey, along with many other schools from across West Berkshire, will be joining other children from around the country in this spectacular choir which will consist of over 5,000+ pupils.

• Although news regarding Covid-19 has taken a backburner in the last few weeks, it is still very much among us. Since the lifting of restrictions, cases have begun to rise again in many areas, particularly in West Berkshire. Many local schools have started to feel the effects of pupil and staff absences. St Bartholomew’s school in Newbury has begun to ask its students to return to wearing masks in the classroom, and other schools may be due to join them. Some schools in the West Berkshire area have already had to return back to online learning due to staff shortages. More information can be found here.

• On that note, Healthwatch West Berkshire is appealing for local survey responses, regarding your thoughts on on covid-19 testing and vaccination. The survey can be found here.

•  Congratulations to Newbury local, seven-year-old Sienna from The Willows School, Greenham, who has won a competition with the Public Protection Partnership. The competition is part of a campaign to help raise awareness for illegal money lending, so you’ll soon see Sienna’s loan shark design on posters across the area. You can see her winning deign and more of the story here.

•  Newbury’s Toby Carvery is launching its Easter appeal, asking for donations of Easter Eggs. The restaurant is working along-side local social services to get goodies to vulnerable children within their care, to ensure every child has a happy Easter. If you would like to help, just drop off your donation at the Toby Carvery on London Road.

•  Did you know that West Berkshire Libraries Newbury branch is now offering free IT support sessions? Whether you need help filling out online forms, figuring out how to Zoom, downloading e-magazines or sorting out pictures, Newbury Library is offering bookable 30 or 60 min sessions. To find out more or book a slot, email rav.gopal@westberks.gov.uk.

• See This Week with Brian for some thoughts on not only the demonstration outside the Council offices last week concerning sewage discharges into our waterways (see Newbury Today’s report here) but also what took place inside the Council office when two motions on the subject were debated. One of these was accused of being political but I think that the epithet could more accurately be ascribed to the other one.

• St Nicolas Church in central Newbury is open for prayer for people of Ukraine every weekday lunchtime 12.30pm till 1.30pm until Easter. At 1pm there will be 10 minutes of prayer led by a different church minister each day organised by Christians Together in the Newbury Area.

• A little heartwarming story here as Newbury Today writes about Charlie the 22-year-old donkey who visited Diamond Quality Care in Greenham. I, for one, never would have assumed that donkeys lived that long or could be a good therapy animal however, the smiles and feedback notes left from the carers say otherwise. See the photos and full story here.

• The March edition of the Hamstead Hornet, which covers life in the village of Hamstead Marshall, has recently been published. Items covered include an upcoming election (“possibly the parish’s first ever”), speeding, the forthcoming jubilee, the wildlife group, Good Hope farm, planning applications and Gary the Postie.

• There is a vacancy for Parish Clerk at Hamstead Marshall Parish Council. See here for how to apply by the application deadline of 22 April.

Birchwood Care Home

We mentioned last week (see below) about the problems here and included some thoughts from portfolio holder Joanne Stewart about the nature of these and what measures were being taken to address them. I spoke to her again on 24 March to see how things were going.

She told me that a new Interim Registered Manager had recently been appointed who had already identified some immediate areas for improvement and started implementing them. As mentioned last week, the main issue concerns record-keeping, particularly with regard to the use of medicines. Joanne Stewart also confirmed that the first recovery plan meeting would be taking place on 31 March and that progress would be measured regularly thereafter.

As it happens, another (private) care home in the area, Alice Bye in Thatcham, recently received its latest CQC report, as reported on p23 of this week’s NWN. It was rated “good” but, as the article reports, very similar problems were identified with regard to errors or potential errors with medication. The report noted that these had improved since the last inspection. This is doubtless something that all care homes will want to take a look at before their turn in the CQC’s spotlight comes round.

Joanne Stewart also pointed out that, as with schools, it’s one thing to get a “good” (or better) ranking but another to maintain it. A change in management, an intake of pupils or residents with particular issues or new regulations which aren’t fully reflected in day-to-day practice can all help send the place back down the snakes-and-ladders board. For Birchwood, it’s perhaps good that there’s not only a new Interim Registered Manager at the home but also a new Service Manager at WBC. Both will be able to look at the issues with fresh eyes. Experience in a job can be good but it can also lead to complacency. New people at the helm are less likely to accept the “that’s how we’ve always done it” justification.

Joely’s survey

There’s a great story on p4 of this week’s NWN. There has been some discussion in Shaw-cum-Donnington about what uses might be found for the former Primary School which is, it appears, under threat of being bought and re-developed. 12-year-old Joely Rice decided that she wouldn’t wait for the grown ups to get their act together so decided to launch a survey herself. You can visit it here.

I called the parish’s Clerk Gillian Durrant to find out a bit more. “I’ve been involved in local councils at several levels for many years and I’ve never before seen something so well thought-out created by by someone so young, ” she told me. “This will also be really helpful for the Parish Council as it will provide solid evidence about what local residents would like to see happen.” Solid evidence, as well as being important to help reach the right decision, is also going to be the first thing that anyone approached for funding will ask to see. Shaw-cum-Donnington is also refreshing its parish plan and the information will doubtless also be useful for that.

The survey had produced over 70 results by 16 March when its findings so far were considered at the meeting of the Parish Council (see below for more on this). The minutes report that “The public overwhelmingly (84%) want the building to be used for the community, and the favourite use is as a café, with an estimated 3,500 visits per annum. Other popular uses are as additional space for Trinity School (perhaps for SEND pupils), a youth club, book exchange and movie club. Other ideas are pilates/yoga classes, adult education, knit and natter groups and eco education.”

Hats off to Joely for coming up with this. Anyone can have ideas but doing something about making them happen is more rare. She has clearly already absorbed an important fact of life, that if you want to get something done you often have to do it yourself. We’re perhaps looking at a future Chair of Donnington-cum-Shaw PC: and, after that, anything’s possible…

A green light for the Lido

A proposal to ensure the future of the Lido at Northcroft Leisure Centre in Newbury was given the go-ahead at a meeting of the Council’s Executive on 24 March.

A WBC statement said that the £5 million proposal was approved “following extensive consultation with local people on how they would like to see their Lido developed and updated. Without this investment, the Lido would have been at risk of closure as it needs important structural work. Residents favoured the creation of a new 50-metre Olympic-sized pool. This will now be developed alongside additional interactive water-play features for children and young people. There will also be improved and accessible changing facilities and more changing cubicles within the grounds.”

The new pool profile will enable “a greater range of water-based exercise to increase fitness and wellbeing. It will also allow competitive swimmers to train in an Olympic-sized pool.” The aim is to increase the duration of the outdoor swimming season from its current ten to twelve weeks per year to a period of six months, from Easter to September.

The investment is projected to increase usage from the current levels of 15 to 20,000 visits per annum to over 50,000 across the six month opening period. This will provide further opportunities for physical activity across West Berkshire.

“This is very exciting news,’ West Berkshire’s Executive Member for Leisure and Culture Howard Woollaston said. “We had a great response from local people and now we’re in a position to move forward with the improvement plan, making the best of this unique facility for future generations. Unfortunately, to achieve the plans, the pool will need to close for the 2022 summer period so that work can be completed and it can reopen, fully refurbished, for summer 2023.”

The Council’s Leisure Strategy for 2022-2032 was also approved at the meeting. The updated Strategy is also “the result of extensive consultation with local people.”

Community notices

• 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?

• 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.

• Find out how to help here Newbury Town Council save the bandstand that has been in Victoria Park since 1937.

• For more details on the new technology Befriend Bus for older residents in Newbury and Thatcham, contact Handybus Coordinator Paul Wilding on 01635 37111 or email handybus@vcwb.org.uk.

Newbury Shopmobility based in Northbrook Car Park provides scooters and wheelchairs for daily or weekly loan.  Membership is £12 per year and a daily loan is just £3.50. Call 01635 523854 Monday to Saturday 10am to 3pm to book or email newburyshopmobility@vcwb.org.uk

• Any comments, suggestions or feedback about the Council’s community transport services (including Readibus) should be sent to WBC’s Transport Services Team, Council Offices, Market Street, Newbury, RG14 5LD, email Transport@westberks.gov.uk or call 01635 519394.

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.

• Until 3 Apr 57th Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibition at The Base, Greenham.

Thu 24 Mar Iain Stirling at the Corn Exchange.

•  Sun 3 Apr Spring Food and Craft Fair, 11am to 4pm, Shaw House.

• Sat 9 Apr The Festival of Arts & Crafts The Base, Greenham until Mon 18 Apr.

• Fri 15 Apr  Three day EasterFest, starting with an Alice in Wonderland themed festival.

• Sun 17 Apr Newbury Garden Show at Newbury Showground.

Sat 30 Apr South Wales Male Choir at St Nicolas’s Church (fundraising for Newbury Rotary).

• 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 waterside@berkshireyouth.co.uk or call 01635 018500.

• Educafe’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.

Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesday afternoons between 2pm and 4pm welcomes anyone who would like to drop in for a chat or a cuppa, knitting and craft activities.

• 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.

• Thatcham Refillable is in front of Debenhams in Newbury Parkway on the first Monday of every month & third Thursday of the month. From 9:30am to 5pm. See here for more.

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 18 October and you can download the minutes here. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) 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 16 March and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: Joely’s survey (see also separate section above); a litter pick (10 to 12.30 on 26 March); CCTV; the playing fields at the new school; the proposed Sustrans route from Hermitage to Newbury; financial matters; a letter to residents; planning matters; the parish plan refresh; and the jubilee. 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 February and you can read the minutes hereTo 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 8 February 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 Enborne Parish Council took place on 24 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 Speen Parish Council took place on 22 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 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 18 November and you can download 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; Marlborough area; Newbury area; Thatcham area; Compton and Downlands; Theale area; Wantage area; Swindon area.

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

Thursday 17 March 2022

This week’s news

• This week, we would like to shine a light on the wonderful work being done by the Phoenix Lacrosse Club at St Bartholomew’s School. St Bart’s has a long and successful history competing in interschool lacrosse competitions. However, following a difficult decision by the school to discontinue competitive lacrosse, a group of passionate parents have since decided to form a new club, carrying on the tradition and allowing students to continue participating in this beloved sport.

The Phoenix Lacrosse Club was officially formed in late 2021 and began practice in January this year having so far gained 53 members, aged 11 to 18. Since then, the club has enjoyed much success, competing against several independent schools across the region. It has also received enormous support from students, parent, local dignitaries and even secured funding from several charitable bodies.

Lacrosse is typically practiced by and associated with independent schools, with St Bart’s having been one of the very few state schools in the country to participate in the sport competitively. While the Phoenix Club is still attended by St Bartholomew’s students, by separating from the school, now students from anywhere can join – the club now has members from all around West Berkshire. Alan Moon, club chair says “Lacrosse is a fantastic sport, and we want to ensure it is open to everyone in the local area. Ultimately, we hope to see one of our members go all the way to the 2028 Olympics.”

If you would like to learn more about this fabulous club, you can read our extended article about it here. If you would like to find out about how you can be involved, please contact Chris Winchester, Schools Liaison Officer, 07803 196998, chris@double-bass.org.

• The Corn Exchange Newbury’s Cinderella Pantomime has been nominated for Best Digital Pantomime in the ⁦‪UK award. Directed by  Claire Plested and Adam Brown,  Cinderella 2021/22 was the second pantomime by the Corn Exchange to be offered as a live broadcast, following Aladdin 2020/21 (also a Plested and Brown show). The pandemic forced theatres to find new innovative ways to reach audiences and the Corn Exchange has excelled in this transition.  The winners of the award will be announced at a ceremony in April. We’ll keep our fingers crossed for them.

A new Honesty Coffee Shop has opened this week in Newbury’s Parkway. The first 100 people who pop in and buy any hot drink will receive a yummy free Honesty brownie.

• A proposal has been submitted to West Berkshire Council for River View House, a vacant office building located at the Newbury Business Park, to be turned into a new school for children with special needs. The application was submitted by the Hillcrest Children’s Services and if approved, the school will have an intake of around 50 pupils, ages 11 to 18, with complex learning needs. The school could employ up to 37 people and the proposal includes plans redevelop the carpark into a playground.

• Massive congratulations to Mary Hare School boys’ football team which took home the first place trophy at The English Schools’ Football Association (ESFA) deaf schools’ finals in Derby.

• Good news that Newbury Building Society has installed sensory operated lights in the walkway by the Lock, Stock and Barrell pub. Hopefully the pathway will now feel safer, more friendly and less hazardous in dim conditions. If you have used the services of NBS please vote for them in the finals of the British Bank Awards.

• Newbury Town Council continues its appeal to save the bandstand that has been in Victoria Park since 1937. After some emergency repairs, it was decided that a new roof is needed to accommodate the new café and summer concerts. The aim is to have both the new café and bandstand roof repairs completed by summer 2023. You can find out how to help here.

• Congratulations to Shubham Tripartri and Aryan Argawala for becoming the undefeated winners of the Newbury & District Badminton Association’s Year 11 and under tournament at Elstree School.

• 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.

• A reminder that the TSB branch on Northbrook Street is to close from 7 June. Reportedly, if TSB customers cannot get the services they need via telephone or internet banking, the bank will help you switch to an alternative provider. You can pay in cash and cheques at other local branches in Wantage and Reading or at a Post Office.

• The latest Newbury TC newsletter can be found on its website here. Their March newsletter includes how to get your ticket for the Mayor’s black-tie Fundraising Banquet on Saturday 9 April.

•  As the conflict in Ukraine unfortunately continues, here is our summary of local and national appeals as well as the Homes for Ukraine scheme to support.

• The March edition of the Hamstead Hornet, which covers life in the village of Hamstead Marshall, has recently been published. Items covered include an upcoming election (“possibly the parish’s first ever”), speeding, the forthcoming jubilee, the wildlife group, Good Hope farm, planning applications and Gary the Postie.

Birchwood Care Home

There’s an article on p6 of this week’s NWN concerning West Berkshire Council’s (WBC) Birchwood Care Home in Newbury which has been graded as “requires improvement” by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in its report published on 10 March. As the article states, the home had previously enjoyed a “good” rating in June 2021 having been “inadequate” when WBC took it over from a private company a few years previously. It also included a statement from portfolio holder Joanne Stewart describing what action was now being taken.

The impression I got from the piece was that this report had come as something of a surprise to WBC. I therefore called Joanne Stewart on 17 March to see if this was the case. She assured me that, on the contrary, WBC had been aware of issues there for some months and had already shared these with the CQC. WBC has its own care quality team which has been working with the CQC and staff at the Birchwood Care Home to resolve the problems.

One of the key issues raised in the report concerns the lack of clear documentation of when medication has been given, although she stressed that there was “absolutely no evidence” of any harm having been caused – the issue seems rather to be a procedural and evidence-based problem involving poor record-keeping. Writing down what you do is boring and, if not insisted upon, tends to get dropped. The processes are there for a reason, however, as it’s clearly important to record what medicine or treatment is given and when. It’s also easy to see that any investigation into a problem involving poor record-keeping is, for that very reason, going to be problematic.

She also told me that the staff were aware that the inspection was happening and equally aware that serious change is needed there. The patients and their families had also been contacted about the matter. A new Service Manager has been appointed with responsibility for care homes and “shared lives”. Monthly briefing meetings focussing just on WBC’s three care homes have been set up. A care home strategy is being developed with WBC working in conjunction with various partners including private care providers. All these actions pre-date the official announcement from the CQC last week.

“I can only function as the portfolio holder if I see myself as part of the team,” Joanne Stewart told me. “I celebrate the highs and feel the lows. We’ve been working very hard to resolve this and also to ensure that our other two care homes (Notrees in Kintbury and Willows Edge in Newbury) retain their “good” CQC grade, as do our other two regulated services Reablement and Shared Lives. These are personal commitments from me.”

Community notices

• 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?

• For more details on the new technology Befriend Bus for older residents in Newbury and Thatcham, contact Handybus Coordinator Paul Wilding on 01635 37111 or email handybus@vcwb.org.uk.

Newbury Shopmobility based in Northbrook Car Park provides scooters and wheelchairs for daily or weekly loan.  Membership is £12 per year and a daily loan is just £3.50. Call 01635 523854 Monday to Saturday 10am to 3pm to book or email newburyshopmobility@vcwb.org.uk

• Any comments, suggestions or feedback about the Council’s community transport services (including Readibus) should be sent to WBC’s Transport Services Team, Council Offices, Market Street, Newbury, RG14 5LD, email Transport@westberks.gov.uk or call 01635 519394.

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.

• Until 3 Apr 57th Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibition at The Base, Greenham.

• Sat 19 Mar Newbury Symphony Orchestra Spring Concert, at St Nicholas Church, Newbury.

• Sun 20 Mar Newbury Vegan Market, at Newbury Market Place, 10am – 3pm.

Thu 24 Mar Iain Stirling at the Corn Exchange.

• Sat 9 Apr The Festival of Arts & Crafts The Base, Greenham until Mon 18 Apr.

• Fri 15 Apr  Three day EasterFest, starting with an Alice in Wonderland themed festival.

• Sun 17 Apr Newbury Garden Show at Newbury Showground.

Sat 30 Apr South Wales Male Choir at St Nicolas’s Church (fundraising for Newbury Rotary).

• 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 waterside@berkshireyouth.co.uk or call 01635 018500.

• Educafe’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.

Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesday afternoons between 2pm and 4pm welcomes anyone who would like to drop in for a chat or a cuppa, knitting and craft activities.

• The Club Quiz nights every 2nd Wednesday of every 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.

• Thatcham Refillable is in front of Debenhams in Newbury Parkway on the first Monday of every month & third Thursday of the month. From 9:30am to 5pm. See here for more.

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 18 October and you can download the minutes here. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) 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 16 February and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: a resignation; streetlight dimming (deemed too expansive); the parish litter pick (26 March); play equipment checks; the emergency plan; dogs on the recreation ground; financial matters; a reminder from ward member Steve masters about members’ bids; a review of ScDPC’s policy documents; a proposed new defibrillator; planning matters; the jubilee; the annual parish meeting (4 May); and “a reaffirmation of ScDPC’s apolitical stance” (I’m not sure whether this was prompted by any specific issue or discussion or whether it was just a general reassurance). 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 8 February 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 Enborne Parish Council took place on 24 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 Speen Parish Council took place on 22 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 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 Greenham Parish Council took place on 12 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 18 November and you can download 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; Marlborough area; Newbury area; Thatcham area; Compton and Downlands; Theale area; Wantage area; Swindon area.

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

 

 

Thursday 10 March 2022

This week’s news

• There was a good turn out to the Candlelit Vigil for Ukraine in Newbury Marketplace last Friday. : “I offer my most sincere thoughts and sympathies to the people of Ukraine and Newbury’s Ukrainian community during this difficult time,” Newbury  Mayor Billy Drummond said. “As a council, we would like to offer our solidarity with those who are struggling, and will work to do all that we can, as a local council, to support those affected.” Here is our summary of local and national appeals to support.

• Newbury Town Council has released an appeal to save the bandstand that has been situated in Victoria Park since 1937. After some emergency repairs, it was decided that to accommodate the new cafe and summer concerts, a new roof is needed. The aim is to have both the cafe and bandstand completed by summer 2023. You can find out how to help here.

• The Council has also revealed that Newbury in Bloom is back for 2022, and will take place the week commencing 18 July. After a couple missed years due to the pandemic, the rewards have been boosted also and all the competition guidelines can be seen here.

• Did you know that Newbury College offers a commerical printing and laminating service for the public and local businesses and charities at great prices during termtime? They are perfect for short runs of posters, leaftlets, booklets, photographs, architectural prints for builders, architects and estate agents. It also offers recycled paper and recycled toner cartridges and a laminating up to A1.

• The TSB branch on Northbrook Street is to close on 7 June. According to the letter we have received, if TSB customers cannot get the services they need via telephone or internet banking, the bank will help you switch to an alternative provider. You can pay in cash and cheques at other local branches in Wantage and Reading or at a Post Office. Regarding these, it’s worth remembering that these aren’t free from the threat of closure either. Hungerford, for example, came mighty close to losing its PO a few years back and the threat was only averted as a result of prompt and decisive action by the Town Council to maintain an outreach facility in the Library until a longer-term solution could be found. There is, or certainly was then, a widespread belief that a town the size of Hungerford somehow “had to have” a Post Office. This is not the case. The Post Office currently has an obligation to operate about 11,500 counters but there’s no stipulation as to where these need to be: so, if the PO wished it, they could all be in the Dartmoor or the Isle of Skye. So, if your local PO seems threatened with closure, follow Hungerford Town Council’s lead and take this very seriously. Once closed, these kind of services are very hard to get re-opened.

• The controversy surrounding the decision by West Berkshire Council to proceed with the new sports hub at Monks Lane refuses to go away. Certainly the Newbury Community Football Group has not given up the fight to see football return to Faraday Road. The matter is likely soon to move to the courts as it’s likely that a legal challenge will be mounted. This turns on whether Monks Lane is or is not a replacement facility for Faraday Road, the various WBC documents being unclear on these points. If it is a replacement then it needs to pass the “equal or better” test compared to the old facility; if it is not a replacement, then the situation remains unchanged regarding WBC needing to find one. It certainly seems impossible that something can both be a replacement and not a replacement and the accusation in being made by the NCFG that the planning system has been “deliberately manipulated.” As I’ve mentioned numerous times before, the real problem with this issue is that it started off badly in 2018 and more or less everything since has been done in the wrong order.

In the midst of this miasma of accusations, emails, call ins and legal action, it’s easy to lose sight of two things: first that the new sports hub may, despite its somewhat expensive price tag, prove to be a valuable facility; and second that years on, we are no further forward with the plans for re-developing Faraday Road, which was always the premise by which the whole messy exercise was justified. The entirety of this WBC administration has been spent grappling with this self-inflicted muddle. With the next elections just over a year away, it seems likely that it will prove to be a live issue in that campaign.

Click here to read the latest newsletter from the Newbury and District Agricultural Society.

Newbury Town Council holds Saturday Surgeries every week where two Town Councillors listen to residents’ concerns and answer questions every Saturday between 10 am and 12 noon at the steps of the Town Hall.

• The latest Newbury TC newsletter can be found on their website here. Their March newsletter includes how to get your ticket for the Mayor’s black-tie Fundraising Banquet on Saturday 9 April.

• Congratulations to Newbury Building Society for raising £40,000 for their charity partners including £11,660 for the Alzheimer’s Society. Thanks to employee quiz nights, office dress down days and bake sales, the Alzheimer’s Society can now bounce back after the pandemic.

The Corn Exchange’s new fundraising campaign begins its journey towards the aim of carbon neutrality by 2050. Their ‘Green Shoots Appeal’ is looking to raise over £50,000 for electric vehicle charging points, digital poster signs, installing LED light bulbs and much more. They are relying on support from the local community in order to achieve this important step forward in sustainability and protecting the environment. To find out how you can help, please visit their website.

• Temporary three-way traffic lights are putting Andover Road and St John’s Road in a bit of a sticky situation as traffic is piling up. Expect delays if travelling along the A339.

• Newbury Macular Support Group supports residents with any kind of eyesight condition and is pleased to be re-starting their face-to-face meetings this Tuesday 15 March at 2 pm at Newbury Library. Family members and friends also very welcome to join. For more details please contact Wilma on wilmaandian@yahoo.co.uk or 07544 014533.

• Voting is now open for the 2022 British Bank Awards and Newbury Building Society has been shortlisted for Best Building Society, Best Savings Provider and Best Specialist Mortgage Provider. If you have experienced great service from them, vote for them to become a finalist and you’ll be eligible to enter a prize draw for £1,000. Voting closes on 13 March 2022.

• If you grew up and/or live in and around Newbury Berkshire as an LGBTQIA+ person, Newbury Pride would be grateful if you complete this anonymous survey by mid March in preparation for an exhibition they are planning at West Berkshire Museum.

Enborne’s solar farm

The planning application for the proposed solar farm in Enborne has been lodged and validated and you can see the details here. You can also see this separate section on Enborne PC’s website for more on the project, the origins of which date back to 2017.

Newbury Today and the Newbury Weekly News (on p9) both refer to this application and some of the reactions to it although you’ll get a very different idea of local feelings depending on which headline you read first. The online  edition says that the “Solar farm planned for ‘Poors Field’ is condemned” whereas the print version says “Enborne divided on solar plans.” The article itself, which seems identical in both cases, gives roughly equal weight to the views of the opponents and the supporters. Currently there are about twice of many of the former as the latter but that’s quite normal for planning applications.

One of the main concerns, which is picked up in the article and supported my own random glance of some of the objections, concerns flooding. The area of the field and the houses to the south certainly does have a problem with this and probably always has had. The houses in Spring Gardens – note the name – were built between 2003 and 2005 and it’s possible that the flood mitigation measures provided here proved to be inadequate. It also seems likely that these have not been properly maintained. This long-standing issue has become conflated with the solar application. Contrary to what some residents fear, the solar farm is likely to make the situation better, not worse. A planned attenuation pond and other drainage works proposed by WBC should improve matters. In any case, if WBC feels that this won’t happen then the application won’t get passed.

Another concern is the “electromagnetic radiation” the panels will emit. I’ve spoken to several people who know about such things and have had a look online and can see absolutely nothing to substantiate this concern.

It’s also been suggested that the site is not suitable for solar panels. A spokesperson for Calleva Community Energy, on the other hand, said that the site was in many ways ideal as it was south-facing, had no footpaths or other rights of way and was not substantially overlooked. It is true that some houses will have their view changed (which isn’t a planning consideration) but Calleva has said that all possible measures will be taken to mitigate this with vegetation.

The accusation has been made that it would be environmentally destructive as trees and hedges would be removed. Again, Calleva refutes this, saying that this won’t happen and that in fact more hedges and trees would be planted.

One objection claims that the land was “never intended to be used as a solar farm” but was for “agricultural use for the parish.” Leaving aside that the charity was founded in the 19th century long before solar panels (or the climate emergency) existed, this is not what the Poor’s Allotment Charity’s aims and objectives on the Charity Commission’s website specify. These are “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.” Given the low yield which the field currently realises from grazing, it’s hard to see how the charity’s aims are offended by this proposal.

In his letter of support, the Charity’s Chair John Leeson points to some other benefits of the scheme. It would kill of the possibility of the field being developed. The soil, which is too poor for any arable purpose could still be used for grazing post-panels and could also support a planned wildflower meadow. Much of his submission addresses the flooding issue, stressing that the proposed measures should alleviate this. He also refers to the loss of income for charitable causes which taking no action would lead to, which does not fulfil the charity’s aims. About 2.5MW would be generated, enough to power about 700 homes. The ambition also therefore contributes to the climate emergency which WBC has declared and the aspiration – which the Ukraine crisis has made very clear – that as well as being sustainable, new power sources should encourage self-sufficiency for countries, districts and communities.

The three ward members have called the matter in to be considered (probably some time after mid-May) by the Western Area Planning Committee. This will happen regardless of whether the officers are minded to approve the application or not. As this has some district-wide implications in terms of setting precedents and possibly a conflict with the current policy (which is in the process of being refreshed) it may go to the District Planning Committee. Either way, the matter will be given a thorough examination and all interested parties will be able to have their say.

The question of the maintenance of the existing drainage scheme mentioned above opens up a separate issue which I’ll cover in more detail in the future. It seems odd to me that such duties are left to the developers tol perform them, or not, and in any case charge the homeowners. These estate management charges have been criticised elsewhere. Any rational system would surely involve the planning authority setting up an arm’s-length maintenance company which would handle all such works at a standard charge; and that a condition of any planning application would be that the developer handed these obligations over. That way all this work would be done in an accountable way by a local organisation that wouldn’t go bust or otherwise vanish from the scene. It would also make the charges more transparent and accountable and make it easier to engage local involvement in any maintenance work. This last point may be called upon in any case: one of WBC’s officers recently pointed out that “a full solution [to the drainage issue] is likely to require the co-operation of a number of the residents and possibly the neighbouring landowner/s.” This would seem to apply regardless of whether or not the solar farm were built. Indeed, if it were, this would prove a catalyst for resolving the problem. All in all, it seems like a pretty good scheme to me.

Community notices

• The Corn Exchange is offering art DIY workshops throughout spring for those who wish to access their creative side this year. See here for a full range.

• If you are interested in keeping bees, Newbury Beekeepers Association welcomes you to their monthly meetings at Newbury Rugby Club. Next meeting is Friday 18 March.

City Arts Newbury in the former Wesleyan Chapel on Hampton Road (off Pound Street) are raising funds to launch a Community Art Cafe with art/craft teachers on hand to offer support to those suffering from isolation, loneliness and the mental health fallout of Covid-19.

• A new technology Befriend Bus for older residents in Newbury and Thatcham is kitted out with a laptop, screen and speakers, and will drive out to residents who need tech support. For more details contact Handybus Coordinator Paul Wilding on 01635 37111 or email handybus@vcwb.org.uk.

Newbury Shopmobility based in Northbrook Car Park provides scooters and wheelchairs for daily or weekly loan.  Membership is £12 per year and a daily loan is just £3.50. Call 01635 523854 Monday to Saturday 10am to 3pm to book or email newburyshopmobility@vcwb.org.uk

• Newbury Town Council is looking for volunteers to be a part of a Steering Group for its Neighbourhood Development Plan. More information here or email NDP@newbury.gov.uk.

• Any comments, suggestions or feedback about the Council’s community transport services (including Readibus) should be sent to WBC’s Transport Services Team, Council Offices, Market Street, Newbury, RG14 5LD, email Transport@westberks.gov.uk or call 01635 519394.

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.

• Until 3 Apr 57th Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibition at The Base, Greenham.

Sat 12 Mar Civil War Living History, Shaw House.

Sun 13 Mar Grow Newbury Green’s Community Planting at Barn Crescent

Thu 24 Mar Iain Stirling at Corn Exchange.

• Fri 15 Apr  Three day EasterFest, starting with an Alice in Wonderland themed festival

• Sun 17 Apr Newbury Garden Show at Newbury Showground.

Sat 30 Apr South Wales Male Choir at St Nicolas’s Church (fundraising for Newbury Rotary)

• 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 waterside@berkshireyouth.co.uk or call 01635 018500.

• Educafe’s weekly Community Cafe is pleased to now run 11am – 2pm at Newbury Library. All are welcome to enjoy free refreshments, arts and crafts, knitting table, chatty corners, dominos, seated yoga and more.

Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesday afternoons between 2pm and 4pm welcomes anyone who would like to drop in for a chat or a cuppa, knitting and craft activities.

• The Club Quiz nights every 2nd Wednesday of every 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.

• Thatcham Refillable is in front of Debenhams in Newbury Parkway on the first Monday of every month & third Thursday of the month. From 9:30am to 5pm. See here for more.

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 18 October and you can download the minutes here. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) 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 16 February and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: a resignation; streetlight dimming (deemed too expansive); the parish litter pick (26 March); play equipment checks; the emergency plan; dogs on the recreation ground; financial matters; a reminder from ward member Steve masters about members’ bids; a review of ScDPC’s policy documents; a proposed new defibrillator; planning matters; the jubilee; the annual parish meeting (4 May); and “a reaffirmation of ScDPC’s apolitical stance” (I’m not sure whether this was prompted by any specific issue or discussion or whether it was just a general reassurance). 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 8 February and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: an address by a representative from Greenham Trust; an address by representatives of the Newbury and District Agricultural Society concerning the proposed easing of the Section 106 agreement which currently places limitations on the way the Newbury Showground site can be used; planning matters; financial matters; funding for the Primary School; the jubilee; Remembrance Day 2022; bus shelters; WBC’s Minerals and Waste examination hearing; trees; playground inspections; speeding; and footway improvements. 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 24 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 Speen Parish Council took place on 22 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 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 Greenham Parish Council took place on 12 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 18 November and you can download 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; Marlborough area; Newbury area; Thatcham area; Compton and Downlands; Theale area; Wantage area; Swindon area.

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

Thursday 3 March 2022

This week’s news

• Newbury Town Council is flying the Ukrainian flag from the Town Hall. Please join the Candlelit Vigil in support of Ukraine at 6.30pm this Friday 4 March in the marketplace.

Click here to read the latest newsletter from the Newbury and District Agricultural Society.

• Click here for the latest (February 2022) newsletter from Newbury Town Council.

• The vaccination centre in the Kennet Centre will be open again this weekend, Sunday 6 March, for boosters for those over 16 years old.

• There has been a considerable outpouring of support for Ukraine. Here is our summary of local and national appeals to support.

• A reminder that this year will mark the 10th anniversary of Grow Newbury Green‘s first Community Orchard at Barn Crescent. On Sunday 13 March there will be a Community Planting Event starting at 10am and volunteers are very welcome. The event is in partnership with Newbury Town Council and is supported by Newbury in Bloom. The event will also be followed by a short ceremony to thank all of the hard workers who have kept the orchard prim and proper over the years.

• As part of his final charity event of being mayor, Town Mayor Billy Drummond will be holding what sounds like an event fit for a king – a black-tie fundraising banquet in aid of Newbury Speakability and the Mayor’s Benevolent Fund. The banquet will take place on Saturday 9 April at the Chequers Hotel.

Newbury Pride is collaborating with West Berkshire museum and creating an exhibit showcasing what it has been like to grow up and/or live in and around Newbury Berkshire as an LGBTQIA+ person. If this applies to you, please complete this survey.

Newbury Rotary has invited the wonderful South Wales Male Choir back to Newbury to perform a fund-raising concert at St Nicolas’s Church on Saturday 30 April. Last time their performance sold out so we recommend you get your tickets now.

City Arts Newbury in the former Wesleyan Chapel on Hampton Road (off Pound Street) has a free retrospective exhibition this week until Saturday from 10am to 4pm that showcases 15 artists ranging from ceramics to textiles. They are also raising funds to launch a Community Art Cafe with art/craft teachers on hand to offer support to those suffering from isolation, loneliness and the mental health fallout of Covid-19.

•  The Antiques & Brocante market will be back at Shaw House this summer and will host up to 40 traders. The markets will be running on 29 May and 14 August between 10am and 4pm. For further information click here or you can email jackieedwardsmarketing@gmail.com regarding stall information.

• As part of good ol’ Shrove Tuesday celebrations, Beenham Primary School had, as Newbury Today reports, a “flipping” good time as the pupils took part in bushcraft sessions as part of St David’s day. Two sessions were held for year 1 and year 2 pupils and you can see some heartwarming photos of pancake fun here.

• Good news that Newbury BID (Business Improvement District) is to continue for another five years. But what does it do? The BID provides the local business community with a collective voice for lobbying and organises free events to increase footfall to the town centre. It also runs the Visit Newbury website and manage the town centre CCTV and town centre BusinessWatch schemes.

• Newbury BID’s next event is a free three day EasterFest, starting with an Alice in Wonderland themed festival on Good Friday 15 April which will feature street actors, activities for children and live music.

• Click here to keep up to date with what’s happening at Newbury Racecourse.

Newbury’s Sports Hub

This long-running and tangled affair came before the District Planning Committee (DPC) on 2 March. The application was passed, the voting unsurprisingly following party lines.  You can see a recording of the event here.

One of the issues which has clouded the debate throughout is whether or not this is a replacement facility for the one that was so unwisely closed in June 2018. WBC didn’t admit at the time, but since has, that it is responsibility for finding a replacement. Sport England does not regard it as a like-for-like replacement although it has long long presented as being just that by WBC and was still being so in the officer’s report for the December meeting of the Western Area Planning Committee. It now seems that is, according to the portfolio holder Howard Woollaston, in fact “a partial replacement.” He said that WBC also needs to produce a new grass pitch which has been “identified in WBC’s ownership and a planning application will be submitted shortly.”

The uncertainty appeared to extend into the meeting itself. “I could not vote for the planning application,” DPC member Carolyne Culver (Green Party) told Penny Post, ” because of the confusing advice regarding whether or not it was a replacement for Faraday Road. We were told it was a ‘Step 4’ application. The FA’s ‘National Ground Grading – Category D’ document says ‘To maintain its position at Step 4 a club must achieve Grade D by 31 March in its second season after promotion’. Grade D is 1,300 spectators with the potential for 1,950. The agent at the meeting said the facility could not accommodate 1,950. A ‘competent person’ has to assess facilities using the FA’s Green Guide. I was going to ask for this to be an explicit planning condition but the agent said it had already been carried out. When I asked the officer why the resulting report was not in the agenda pack for councillors to scrutinise, I was told there was no report. Again, inconsistency of information. I could not vote for a planning application for a Step 4 that cannot achieve Step 4 according to the FA’s rules.”

The Newbury Community Football Group produced its own application for re-developing Faraday Road, which has been listed as an Asset of Community Value. This was, seemingly paradoxically, approved by WBC but this was simply because there was no planning reason to refuse it. As matters stand, this will not be preceded with as the current administration has long had the re-development of the pitch as a central (and cash-generating) part of its wider plans to re-vamp the whole London Road Industrial Estate (LRIE). However, no application has been submitted for this and it’s now less certain than previously that such a development will be profitable, or even possible. One problem is that the LRIE is prone the flooding: although the ground itself is less so as it’s been raised, it seems that more work needs to be done to establish what lies beneath and the effect that development would have on the flood risks elsewhere. All of this might require expensive mitigation measures. There is no planning-policy imperative to built anything there and the view of the Council may change after the elections next year. It seems unlikely that any irrevocable development will happen before then so the site may yet have a different destiny. Much would seem to depend on what and where this extra grass pitch is and whether, combined with the hub, this is seen by Sport England (and others) as a full replacement. They might; or they might not.

There was also some confusion as to how big the new pitch would be compared to Faraday Road. A planning document appears to confirm that, touchline to touchline, Monks Lane is 100m x 64m, with actual pitch area (allowing for the linesmen, the nets and so on) 106.1m x 70.1m. Data provided by the NCFG put these dimensions slightly higher (110m x 73m) and stated that the Faraday Road ground length was 123m x 95m (there are currently no pitch markings to measure). I’m still not sure if these are exactly comparable dimensions but will seek clarification. In any event, as a WBC officer acknowledged on 28 February in response to complaint about the matter, “the grass pitch at Faraday stadium is a larger pitch than the proposed 3G pitch at Newbury Rugby club and the overall ground is larger than the ground of the Newbury sports hub.” By exactly how much, though, I’m still not sure. However, if I look at another drawing of a football pitch this week I think my brain is going to explode. others involved in this may fee the same way.

This isn’t the last we’ve heard of this application: a member of the public has said that in the light of the Committee’s decision to approve they will launch a judicial review. The issues to be considered include, according to the barrister’s letter, clearing up whether or not it is a replacement facility and also “an appraisal of the high level of public investment in the Monks Lane site and whether it can be justified by the purely public advantages which are predicted to accrue from the site in its developed state.” It’s uncertain how long all this will take to resolve but it’s likely to be some months. A recent statement from WBC hailed the decision as being “a step forward.” Time will tell. The original timescale for the project (which I don’t think anyone seriously believed) was that it would be open for business by the end of this month.

So, in conclusion, a facility which may or may not be be a full, or perhaps a partial, replacement for an existing one may or may not get built. This may need to be viewed in conjunction with another proposed facility (location and nature currently not publicly available) which Sport England and other bodies may or may not regard as collectively suitable. The old pitch may or may not be redeveloped for homes (which may or may not be profitable to the extent hoped for), or may be returned to football use pursuant to a planning application which has been approved but which the landowner currently has no desire to proceed with. A judicial review, which may or not actually take place at some unspecified date, may or may not resolve these and other points to everyone’s satisfaction, or it may raise other problems which no one has yet considered. All or some of these things may or may not be resolved before the election in May 2023. This may or may not result in a change of administration, which may or may not decide to do all or any of the above, or possibly something quite different. I hope that’s cleared matters up.

All of this should have happened four years ago and in pretty much reverse order. The old facility should not have been closed until a replacement had been located (Sport England’s regulations are unfortunately unspecific on this point) and a definite plan for what was to happen to the old ground should have been presented. The football club might also have reacted rather more proactively to what was expressed 20 years ago as a risk to its tenure there. All the subsequent debate (some of it quite robust and divisive) would have been avoided. The transition could have been conducted in a less adversarial, and probably cheaper, way and not conflated with the wider problem of the LRIE. If anyone ever writes a book on how to manage the successful transition of a football facility, this episode is unlikely to feature.

 

Community notices

• The Corn Exchange is offering art DIY workshops throughout spring for those who wish to access their creative side this year. See here for a full range.

• A new technology bus for older residents in Newbury and Thatcham is launching in March. Befriend Bus, kitted out with a laptop, screen and speakers, will drive out to residents living in sheltered housing, social housing developments and other areas submitted through referrals. For more details contact Handybus Coordinator Paul Wilding on 01635 37111 or email handybus@vcwb.org.uk.

Newbury Shopmobility based in Northbrook Car Park provides scooters and wheelchairs for daily or weekly loan.  Membership is £12 per year and a daily loan is just £3.50. Call 01635 523854 Monday to Saturday 10am to 3pm to book or email newburyshopmobility@vcwb.org.uk

• The vaccination centre in the Kennet Centre will be open again this weekend, Sunday 6 March, for boosters for those over 16 years old.

• Boots on Northbrook Street now has a walk-in covid vaccination clinic for the 12 to 15-year-olds 9am to 5pm Monday to Saturday and 11am to 4pm on Sunday (closed between noon and 1pm).

• Newbury Town Council is looking for volunteers to be a part of a Steering Group for its Neighbourhood Development Plan. More information here or email NDP@newbury.gov.uk.

• Any comments, suggestions or feedback about the Council’s community transport services (including Readibus) should be sent to WBC’s Transport Services Team. You can write to them at Council Offices, Market Street, Newbury, RG14 5LD, email Transport@westberks.gov.uk or call 01635 519394.

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.

• Until 3 Apr 57th Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibition at The Base, Greenham.

• Fri 4 Mar Guns 2 Roses – Guns N’ Roses Tribute Band at Hive Newbury.

Fri 4 Mar Newbury Astronomical Society monthly meeting at The Catholic Church of Saint Francis of Sales.

Fri 4 Mar Candlelight Vigil for Ukraine, Newbury Market Place.

Sat 5 Mar Spontaneous Potter comedy at Corn Exchange Newbury.

Sun 6 Mar Downe House Music Showcase at St John’s Church.

• Sun 6 Mar Friends of Lockdown Woods meeting in Goldwell Park at 10am.

Sat 12 Mar Civil War Living History, Shaw House.

• Sun 10 Apr Newbury 4×4, Land Rover & Vintage Spares Day at Newbury Showground.

• Sun 17 Apr Newbury Garden Show at Newbury Showground.

• 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 Beekeepers Association

• 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 waterside@berkshireyouth.co.uk or call 01635 018500.

• Educafe’s weekly Community Cafe is pleased to now run 11am – 2pm at Newbury Library. All are welcome to enjoy free refreshments, arts and crafts, chatty corners, seated yoga and more.

Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesday afternoons between 2pm and 4pm welcomes anyone who would like to drop in for a chat or a cuppa, knitting and craft activities.

• The Club Quiz nights every 2nd Wednesday of every 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.

• Thatcham Refillable is in front of Debenhams in Newbury Parkway on the first Monday of every month & third Thursday of the month. From 9:30am to 5pm. See here for more.

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 18 October and you can download the minutes here. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) 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 16 February and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: a resignation; streetlight dimming (deemed too expansive); the parish litter pick (26 March); play equipment checks; the emergency plan; dogs on the recreation ground; financial matters; a reminder from ward member Steve masters about members’ bids; a review of ScDPC’s policy documents; a proposed new defibrillator; planning matters; the jubilee; the annual parish meeting (4 May); and “a reaffirmation of ScDPC’s apolitical stance” (I’m not sure whether this was prompted by any specific issue or discussion or whether it was just a general reassurance). 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 8 February and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: an address by a representative from Greenham Trust; an address by representatives of the Newbury and District Agricultural Society concerning the proposed easing of the Section 106 agreement which currently places limitations on the way the Newbury Showground site can be used; planning matters; financial matters; funding for the Primary School; the jubilee; Remembrance Day 2022; bus shelters; WBC’s Minerals and Waste examination hearing; trees; playground inspections; speeding; and footway improvements. 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 24 January and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: planning matters; a possible solar farm; the proposed Watermill Bridge development; the playing field gate; two donated benches; the title and ownership of the Parish Field; financial matters, including the 2022-23 budget (the precept was fixed at £8,750, half of its previous figures, the plan being that the PC would spend some of its reserves in this period); delegated powers for the Clerk; the jubilee; speeding; and the co-option of a new councillor.  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 22 January and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: financial matters, including the 2022-23 budget; speeding; a proposed brainstorming meeting to consider WBC’s emerging local plan; a possible parish NDP; and play equipment. 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. Items covered included: the parish plan; the new dog bin; footpaths; Holder’s Meadow; Greenway; the Conservation Area consultation; planning matters; financial matters; the jubilee; 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 Greenham Parish Council took place on 12 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 18 November and you can download 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.

Thursday 24 February 2022

This week’s news

• Click here for the latest (February 2022) newsletter from Newbury Town Council.

• I’ve been shared in quite a lot of email correspondence about the imminent new football pitch at Monks Lane being considerably smaller than the previous one at Faraday Road and that this is in breach of government policy. The matter was raised in the letters page of this week’s NWN. I asked portfolio holder Howard Woollaston about this and he said that he had already forwarded details of the issue to the appropriate officers at WBC and would let me know what their view was.

• Just announced here is that The Antiques & Brocante market is back for two visits in 2022. The markets will be held at Shaw house and will host up to 40 traders. The markets will be running on 29 May and 14 August between 10am and 4pm. For further information click here or you can email jackieedwardsmarketing@gmail.com regarding stall information.

• This year will mark the 10th anniversary of Grow Newbury Green‘s first Community Orchard at Barn Crescent. On Sunday 13 March there will be a Community Planting Event starting at 10am and volunteers are very welcome. The event is in partnership with Newbury Town Council and is supported by Newbury in Bloom. The event will also be followed by a short ceremony to thank all of the hard workers who have kept the orchard prim and proper.

• As part of his final charity event of being mayor, Town Mayor Billy Drummond will be holding what sounds like an event fit for a king – a black-tie fundraising banquet in aid of Newbury Speakability and the Mayor’s Benevolent Fund. The banquet will take place on Saturday 9 April at the Chequers Hotel.

• Leading housing association Sovereign has supported the launch of a new technology bus for older residents in Newbury and Thatcham. It gave £3,000 from its community fund with The Good Exchange to Volunteer Centre West Berkshire (VCWB) and Age Concern Newbury and District’s Befriend and Activate Partnership. When it launches in March, Befriend Bus, kitted out with a laptop, screen and speakers, will drive out to residents living in sheltered housing, social housing developments and other areas submitted through referrals in Newbury and Thatcham. The Befriend Bus coordinator will help them connect with their loved ones using FaceTime, which they can do from the comfort of the bus or their home. The coordinator will also encourage social interaction with fellow residents and make arrangements for them to become regular shopping trip passengers. The bus plans to do weekly visits and hopes to support around 50 people in the community.

Greggs fans will be delighted to hear that their Northbrook Street store is re-opening this Sunday after several months closure due to staff shortages.

• To celebrate Easter this year, Newbury will be hosting an Alice in Wonderland themed festival along Northbrook street upwards to Bartholomew Street. The festival, set up by Newbury BID, is to take place on 15 April and will feature street actors, activities for children and live music. See more here on Newbury Today‘s page.

Newbury Today reports of some brave residents from Falklands Grange Care Home completed a sponsored walk around the common at RAF Greenham which raised £200 for the British Heart Foundation. Not only did the residents of the care home complete the walk but there was an afternoon tea event to raise further money for the BHF. Well done to everyone involved from us at Penny Post.

• The next five years will see huge housing developments in West Berkshire. As reported by Newbury Today, the impact this will have on schools will cost approximately £10m to be able to accommodate the new pupils. You can see a full roadmap here of where and what schools the money will be put towards. Some of this money is, however, contingent on the long-delayed Sandleford development getting the green light. The matter still rests with the Housing Secretary as the matter was called in last year and was the subject of a lengthy appeal. If even if Michael Gove does approve it, many of the problems which have stalled the project so far (such as two developers which seem to have at times mutually incompatible agendas) will remain.

• City Arts Newbury in the former Wesleyan Chapel on Hampton Road (off Pound Street), is raising money to create a Community Art Cafe with art/craft teachers on hand to offer support, introduce to mindful/art activities. Open to all, but hoping to reach those suffering from isolation, loneliness and the mental health fallout of Covid-19. Please support this wonderful venture here. And check out their upcoming creative classes for February here.

• Click here to keep up to date with what’s happening at Newbury Racecourse.

Walking experiments

The results of Newbury’s Masterplan survey have been approved by WBC’s Executive. You can see the document in full here.

In the last couple of weeks (see below), we’ve looked at some of the issues that this has addressed. On many of them, it seems that WBC and Newbury Town Council (NTC) are in broad agreement. On the matter of pedestrianisation, however, opinions remain more divided. I contacted WBC and NTC’s Lib Dem Councillor Tony Vickers, who is also WBC’s shadow portfolio holder for Highways and Transport, about this.

“The WBC Lib Dem Group supports NTC on this,” he told Penny Post on 21 February. “We also agree that in the medium term an even more ambitious pedestrianisation – as proposed by the Town Centre Master Plan consultants – should be achievable and is desirable. That would involve 24/7 making the current “vehicle restricted” streets no-through roads with arrangements for access to properties within the area by emergency services and deliveries, through a one-way system with some lay-bys within the scheme. In the coming year, WBC’s capital budget includes making further changes to A339 through Newbury which will are aimed at improving east-west traffic across it (including by bike and on foot) while deterring through traffic north-south. This should release capacity on this section of  north-south strategic route for vehicles to accommodate peak hour traffic that currently (allegedly) has to go through the town centre.

“There is a myth that cars are customers: the presence of cars in a shopping street detracts from what makes Newbury an attractive destination for both local residents and visitors in a modern society. That’s fine for local convenience shopping in a suburban housing estate. It isn’t what will enable the forward-looking vision to succeed. “Experience” and “dwell time” is what will succeed, as the BID largely recognises.

“Some immediate changes are possible through an Experimental Traffic Order (ETO). This needs no prior consultation. The Highway Authority just does it (after giving prior notice, of course) and after six months experiment there should be enough evidence for it to be fully consulted on prior to making permanent. This was done for the Station Road closure.”

As mentioned before, this is a difficult and divisive matter, as many other towns have found. No one solution will work for every one of the groups which uses the town. I’d say that six months is probably the bare minimum that would be needed for any experiment. Ideally it should be a year to enable people to get used to the new arrangements and to use them throughout an entire cycle of seasons.

Community notices

• The Corn Exchange is offering art DIY workshops throughout spring for those who wish to access their creative side this year. See here for a full range.

• Do you or does someone you know have a mobility issue and would like to get around the town? Newbury Shopmobility based in Northbrook Car Park provides scooters and wheelchairs for daily or weekly loan. ID is required and if you haven’t used a scooter before, you will be given free tuition. Membership is £12 per year and a daily loan is just £3.50. Call 01635 523854 Monday to Saturday 10am to 3pm to book or email newburyshopmobility@vcwb.org.uk

• The vaccination centre in the Kennet Centre will be open again this weekend, Sunday 20 February, for boosters for over 16 years olds.

• Boots on Northbrook Street now has a walk-in covid vaccination clinic for the 12 to 15-year-olds 9am to 5pm Monday to Saturday and 11am to 4pm on Sunday (closed between noon and 1pm).

• Newbury Town Council is looking for volunteers to be a part of a Steering Group for its Neighbourhood Development Plan. More information here or email NDP@newbury.gov.uk.

• Any comments, suggestions or feedback about the Council’s community transport services (including Readibus) should be sent to WBC’s Transport Services Team. You can write to them at Council Offices, Market Street, Newbury, RG14 5LD, email Transport@westberks.gov.uk or call 01635 519394.

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.

• Until 3 Apr 57th Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibition at The Base, Greenham.

Tue 22 Feb to Sat 26 Feb Inflatable fun at the Kennet Centre.

• Sat 26 Feb Lucy Porter: Be Prepared at Arlington Arts.

• Sun 27 Feb Newbury Artisan Market (last Sunday of the month)

• Mon 28 Feb Art Course for Kids Mondays.

• Sun 6 Mar Friends of Lockdown Woods meeting in Goldwell Park at 10am.

• Sun 10 Apr Newbury 4×4, Land Rover & Vintage Spares Day at Newbury Showground.

• Sun 17 Apr Newbury Garden Show at Newbury Showground.

• Regular events

• Open Mic Night at The Newbury Pub every Thursday evening with the Newbury Social Club.

• Newbury Park Run at Greenham Common. All welcome to run/walk/jog 5km at 9am on a Saturday morning. See details here.

• ACE Space on St Nicholas Road hosts live acoustic performances. To find out about their upcoming events 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 waterside@berkshireyouth.co.uk or call 01635 018500.

• Educafe’s weekly Community Cafe is pleased to have re-started 11am – 2pm in the new location of Newbury Library. All are welcome to enjoy free refreshments, arts and crafts, chatty corners, seated yoga and more.

• The friendly Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesday afternoons between 2pm and 4pm welcomes anyone who would like to drop in for a chat or a cuppa. There are also knitting and craft activities to get involved with.

• The Club Quiz nights every 2nd Wednesday of every 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.

• Thatcham Refillable is in front of Debenhams in Newbury Parkway on the first Monday of every month & third Thursday of the month. From 9:30am to 5pm. Here for more.

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 18 October and you can download the minutes here. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) 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 16 February and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: a resignation; streetlight dimming (deemed too expansive); the parish litter pick (26 March); play equipment checks; the emergency plan; dogs on the recreation ground; financial matters; a reminder from ward member Steve masters about members’ bids; a review of ScDPC’s policy documents; a proposed new defibrillator; planning matters; the jubilee; the annual parish meeting (4 May); and “a reaffirmation of ScDPC’s apolitical stance” (I’m not sure whether this was prompted by any specific issue or discussion or whether it was just a general reassurance). 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 24 January and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: planning matters; a possible solar farm; the proposed Watermill Bridge development; the playing field gate; two donated benches; the title and ownership of the Parish Field; financial matters, including the 2022-23 budget (the precept was fixed at £8,750, half of its previous figures, the plan being that the PC would spend some of its reserves in this period); delegated powers for the Clerk; the jubilee; speeding; and the co-option of a new councillor.  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 22 January and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: financial matters, including the 2022-23 budget; speeding; a proposed brainstorming meeting to consider WBC’s emerging local plan; a possible parish NDP; and play equipment. 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 12 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 Chieveley Parish Council took place on 14 December and you can read the minutes hereTo 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 Hamstead Marshall Parish Council took place on 18 November and you can download 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.

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

Thursday 17 February 2022

This week’s news

• Click here for the latest (February 2022) newsletter from Newbury Town Council.

• Newbury Town Council is moving forward with the next stage of its new Community Café project for Victoria Park.  At the meeting of Full Council on Monday 31 January, it was confirmed that, following planning approval, the detailed design is now ready, and the next stage is to issue tender documents inviting suitably qualified contractors to bid for the project build. More information can be found here.

• We recently published a statement from Lochailort, the owners of the Kennet Centre, about the proposed Eagle Quarter redevelopment. We’ve since had a response from the Chair of Newbury Town Council’s Planning Committee. You can read both statements here.

• A recent (3.20pm on 17 February) announcement from GWR says that the red warning concerning storm Eunice will lead to “significant changes to rail services” from 4am on Friday. This is expected to last throughout the day and will result in some cancelled services. Passengers are advised to consult Journey Check before setting out. GWR is also accepting rail tickets booked for Friday 18 February for travel over the weekend or on Monday and will issue full refunds to anyone choosing not to travel at all. GWR will also need to check for any damage before re-opening so there could therefore be further delays and changes to services over the weekend.

• There are a few days left to make nominations for the 25th annual Newbury Town Civic Awards. Nomination forms are available for collection from Newbury Town Hall, can be completed online or can be printed off from the Newbury Town Council website by 20 February. These awards celebrate achievements, honour volunteers and recognise those who make a difference in our community so it’s definitely worth going to the trouble of making a nomination.

• Congratulations to the organisers and volunteers of the Newbury Park Run at Greenham Common which has just celebrated it’s 10th anniversary. Anyone is welcome to participate in the 5km run/walk/jog at 9am on a Saturday morning. See details here.

Newbury Building Society has been nominated for three awards in the British Bank Awards 2022. They are asking customers to vote for them here. It takes less than 2 minutes and all voters will be entered into a prize draw to win £1,000 (T&Cs apply). Last year NBS won Best Building Society and Best Specialist Mortgage Provider which was very impressive. We have heard of many local residents who have been very grateful for NBS’s help with mortgages.
• If you would like to reduce the carbon footprint of your home, it’s worth finding out about Newbury Building Society’s GoGreen Further Advance Mortgage or GoGreen Self-Build Reward

• Newbury College‘s Study Online programme offers a wide range of flexible free Level 2 & 3 online courses for over 18 year olds to study from home, at work or on the go. See here to select a course in Business Skills; Childcare, Education & Teacher Training; and Health, Social Care and Counselling. The courses are funded by the Skills Funding Agency and include the main qualification and a short, additional workbook.

• Congratulations to the students at Newbury College for hosting a very successful Valentine’s Dinner Dance this week. It was strictly good times as loved-up couples enjoyed the unique experience of a professionally-led ballroom dance, followed by an exquisite seven-course meal. You can book lunch at The Restaurant at Newbury College any Wednesday or Friday during termtime.

• Following this, the next 5 years will see huge housing developments within West Berkshire. As reported by Newbury Today, the impact this will have on schools will cost over approximately £10m to be able to accommodate for the new pupils. You can see a full roadmap here of where and what schools the money will be put towards.

• Quite literally some good news from The Willows Primary School as it has been rated “Good” by Ofsted inspections. This is an improvement upon the 2018 rating of “requires improvement”. According to the report, headteacher Joanna MacArthur and staff are to be credited for this rapid improvement and quick turnaround.

• Sticking with Newbury schools, Year 1 and 2 pupils at Fir Tree school witnessed their favourite stories come to life as part of National Storytelling Week. Merry-go-Round storyteller Amanda Kane-Smith kept engagement high by including the pupils in a series of fun story activities. See here for further information on the informal celebration and photos.

• City Arts Newbury in the former Wesleyan Chapel on Hampton Road (off Pound Street), is raising money to create a Community Art Cafe with art/craft teachers on hand to offer support, introduce to mindful/art activities. Open to all, but hoping to reach those suffering from isolation, loneliness and the mental health fallout of Covid-19. Please support this wonderful venture here. And check out their upcoming creative classes for February here.

• As we reported last week, the Newbury and District Agricultural Association has, after much discussion decided not to hold a Newbury Show this year (though there will be what’s described as an “extended ploughing match” on 17 September, with some stalls). Members should be receiving a newsletter soon with more information on these points.

• Click here to keep up to date with what’s happening at Newbury Racecourse.

Enborne’s time in the sun

Earlier this month, Calleva Community Energy submitted a planning application for a “proposed solar photovoltaic farm and associated infrastructure with ancillary equipment including substation, security cameras, deer fence, attenuation basin, access track and soft landscaping scheme” to the north of Spring Gardens in Enborne. This would be a 2.5MW system, enough to provide power for perhaps about 600 homes. Enborne (population 735) currently has about 300 homes so this would be enough for them and also – if it goes ahead – for the Watermill Bridge Scheme (which would be very close by although over the county border in Basingstoke and Deane). You can see more on the application, and make any comments, by clicking here to visit WBC’s planning portal.

A slight complication is that the land is administered by the Poor’s Allotment Charity on behalf of the Parish Council but that the ownership is in the process of being transferred to a new incorporated charity. This will create a clearer separation between the PC and the charity. The more immediate issue, however, is that – as is to be expected with any significant application – a number of residents seem minded to object (as they are entitled to do). A survey in January 2020 indicated that two thirds of the residents of Enborne who voted supported the scheme. The West Berkshire Council pre-planning application advice was that the project “would have an urbanising impact.” This seems an odd judgment, given that solar farms are by their nature generally rural beasts. “Urbanisation” would imply homes so the objection could be more fairly made of Watermill Bridge. In any case, the declared climate emergency has made this observation seem rather behind the times. The site is certainly suitable for development so there are, in terms of spoiling the view or changing the nature of the area, many worse things that could go there.

The three ward members (James Cole, Claire Rowles and Dennis Benneyworth) have decided that, whatever view the officers seem likely to take, the matter should be called in to be considered at planning committee. Perhaps rather like the Chestnut Walk development in Hungerford, the application goes to the root of what West Berkshire Council can or ought to do to help achieve its climate-change goals. In Chestnut Walk, WBC is the (co-)landowner whereas in Enborne it is not but in both cases the decision will set precedents for how the approval of similar projects are handled in the future. It’s also possible that WBC’s current local plan, which was approved long before the climate emergency, has little to say about the council’s policy on solar farms. There might be a bit more about this matter in the refresh that’s currently being worked on.

Walking the streets

I mentioned last week (see below) about some of the possible improvements for Newbury which have been suggested in the recently published masterplan. Though this seems to have been well received, some points of disagreement remain. One of these concerns the question of pedestrianising (or not) some (or all) of the town centre all (or part ) of the day.

Newbury Town Council’s leader Martin Colston told Penny Post on 17 February that NTC’s strategy “is for the Market Place to be permanently pedestrianised except for Mansion House Street so traffic can flow down Wharf Street but not through the main body of the Market Place. This would enable the Market Place to become much more of a public space at all times of day.”

He added that NTC also supported a proposal by the Newbury BID last year to extend the current period of pedestrianisation from its current 10am to 5pm, to 9.30am to 11pm. That would, he said, “allow for the evening economy to be unhindered by traffic and still allow deliveries overnight and up to 9:30am before the town starts to get busy with pedestrians. This was turned down by WBC despite the fact that the six-month 24-hour pedestrianisation during the first lockdown proved very popular.”

The masterplan proposes an evening one-way system (though it’s not clear in which direction). “This does not go far enough in my view,” Martin Colston added, ” although it would be a marginal improvement compared to now. I believe that extending the hours of pedestrianisation is a really important step and would help the night-time economy and use of the Market Place.”

As mentioned last week, any such changes are going to involve compromises between the competing needs of the various town-centre users. Any trial also needs to be for a decent period of time as for the first couple of months people will often be be uncertain about the new regulations and so conclude that the scheme has been poorly thought out. The current roadworks and road closures in Northbrook Street (which seem set to last for the rest of the month) are providing a kind of brief test and there doesn’t seem to have been any major bottle-necking on alternative routes, as some opponents of pedestrianisation fear will be the case with a permanent closure.

No such scheme will please everyone. If all the major proposals in the masterplan are followed through there may be a few other compromises to be made as well and a certain amount of short-term confusion. If the long-term decision is right that’s a price worth paying. With regard to pedestrianisation, however, there doesn’t yet seem to be any clear consensus on what the right decision should be.

Community notices

Honesty Cookery School just south of Newbury has a few places still available for their Fabulous Fish Course on 22 Feb. Learn how to select your fish, make the best confit and fish stock, as well as smoking, brining and poaching techniques.

• The Corn Exchange is offering art DIY workshops throughout spring for those who wish to access their creative side this year. See here for a full range.

• Do you or does someone you know have a mobility issue and would like to get around the town? Newbury Shopmobility based in Northbrook Car Park provides scooters and wheelchairs for daily or weekly loan. ID is required and if you haven’t used a scooter before, you will be given free tuition. Membership is £12 per year and a daily loan is just £3.50. Call 01635 523854 Monday to Saturday 10am to 3pm to book or email newburyshopmobility@vcwb.org.uk

• The vaccination centre in the Kennet Centre will be open again this weekend, Sunday 20 February, for boosters for over 16 years olds.

• Boots on Northbrook Street now has a walk-in covid vaccination clinic for the 12 to 15-year-olds 9am to 5pm Monday to Saturday and 11am to 4pm on Sunday (closed between noon and 1pm).

• Newbury Town Council is looking for volunteers to be a part of a Steering Group for its Neighbourhood Development Plan. More information here or email NDP@newbury.gov.uk.

• Any comments, suggestions or feedback about the Council’s community transport services (including Readibus) should be sent to WBC’s Transport Services Team. You can write to them at Council Offices, Market Street, Newbury, RG14 5LD, email Transport@westberks.gov.uk or call 01635 519394.

Local events and activities

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

• Regular events

• Open Mic Night at The Newbury Pub every Thursday evening with the Newbury Social Club.

Newbury Park Run at Greenham Common. All welcome to run/walk/jog 5km at 9am on a Saturday morning. See details here.

• ACE Space on St Nicholas Road hosts live acoustic performances. To find out about their upcoming events 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 waterside@berkshireyouth.co.uk or call 01635 018500.

• Educafe’s weekly Community Cafe is pleased to have re-started 11am – 2pm in the new location of Newbury Library. All are welcome to enjoy free refreshments, arts and crafts, chatty corners, seated yoga and more.

• The friendly Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesday afternoons between 2pm and 4pm welcomes anyone who would like to drop in for a chat or a cuppa. There are also knitting and craft activities to get involved with.

• The Club Quiz nights every 2nd Wednesday of every 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.

Thatcham Refillable is in front of Debenhams in Newbury Parkway on the first Monday of every month & third Thursday of the month. From 9:30am to 5pm. Here for more.

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 18 October and you can download the minutes here. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) 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 Enborne Parish Council took place on 24 January and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: planning matters; a possible solar farm; the proposed Watermill Bridge development; the playing field gate; two donated benches; the title and ownership of the Parish Field; financial matters, including the 2022-23 budget (the precept was fixed at £8,750, half of its previous figures, the plan being that the PC would spend some of its reserves in this period); delegated powers for the Clerk; the jubilee; speeding; and the co-option of a new councillor.  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 22 January and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: financial matters, including the 2022-23 budget; speeding; a proposed brainstorming meeting to consider WBC’s emerging local plan; a possible parish NDP; and play equipment. 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 19 January and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: the dog poo poster competition; proposed streetlight dimming; speeding; parking on yellow lines; financial matters; a report from ward member Lynne Doherty; planning matters; village amenities; welcome packs for new residents; litter picking; sewage; and the jubilee. 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 12 January and you can read the minutes here. items covered included: the proposed development at Crookham Golf Club; the resignation of a councillor; dog bins; financial matters including the 2022-23 budget; proposed donations; planning matters; the proposal that the Racecourse estate become a separate ward before the next election; and the wildlife garden. 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 December and you can read the minutes hereTo 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 Hamstead Marshall Parish Council took place on 18 November and you can download 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.

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

Thursday 10 February 2022

This week’s news

• Click here for the latest (February 2022) newsletter from Newbury Town Council.

• Newbury Town Council is moving forward with the next stage of its new Community Café project for Victoria Park.  At the meeting of Full Council on Monday 31 January, it was confirmed that, following planning approval, the detailed design is now ready, and the next stage is to issue tender documents inviting suitably qualified contractors to bid for the Project build. More information can be found here.

• If you want to take part in the quiz at the Bowler’s Arms in aid of the Friends of Wash Common Library on 15 February, there will be one round of questions that should appeal to any students of our PM’s rhetoric. Called fake news, this will comprise several pairs of preposterous statements: in each case, one was a prime-ministerial utterance and one wasn’t. All you have to do is guess which was which. I’ll bet that not even seasoned Westminster hacks will get them all right. Go along and prove me wrong…

• One aspect of the Eagle Quarter (redevelopment of the Kennet Centre) debate that seems to have been overlooked, in the opinion of one of our correspondents, is  that”the last thing Newbury needs is any more coffee shops.” For more on this controversial development, see Not Reading or Basingstoke below.

• Funnily enough, Newbury Today has released a poll that asks “do you think Newbury has too many coffee shops?” (It’s clear from the paragraph above that at least one person does.) You can take part here. There certainly doesn’t seem to be enough employees to staff them all at the moment

• The Lockdown Woods group, organised by Newbury Friends of the Earth, has been busy installing 250 mulch mats around young saplings. Susan Millington of the group stated “I am amazed that we got it done so quickly, but we had a good team of seven working very efficiently, with plenty of time for chatting as well.” You can see photos on the Lockdown Woods facebook group here. The next Friends of Lockdown Woods meeting in Goldwell Park will be on Sunday 6 March at 10am, when they might plant some snowdrops at the southern edge of the lower portion of the new woodland area.  Plus tending the Woodland Trust whips in that segment, where there are no bulbs to get trampled.

• Quick reminder about the public meeting at the Sutton Hall in Stockcross at 7.30pm on Friday 11 February to discuss how to save The Rising Sun pub.

• This week saw the 79th anniversary of the tragic WWII bombing of Newbury on Wednesday on 10 February 1943. Allan Mercado was 10 years old at the time and shares his memories with us here.

Newbury College‘s Study Online programme offers a wide range of flexible free Level 2 & 3 online courses for over 18 year olds to study from home, at work or on the go. See here to select a course in Business Skills; Childcare, Education & Teacher Training; and Health, Social Care and Counselling. The courses are funded by the Skills Funding Agency and include the main qualification and a short, additional workbook.

• Residents near the construction site along London Road in Newbury claim that pollution that was allowed to enter the River Lambourn has devastated the wildlife, or what is left of it. The residents have remarked about the smell of sulphur and triggering eye irritation. Due to pressure from Action for the River Kennet and local press, the source of the pollution has been stopped but the wildlife have yet to return to the area.

• Newbury Town Councillor, Vaughan Miller is supporting a new law which requires all employers to pass on tips to workers, without any deductions. With 80% of all tips now being paid for by cashless payment, a form of tipping which is currently not legally required to be passed onto staff, these sensible regulations are now more urgent than ever. After the council meeting on 31 January, Vaughan Miller got the unanimous support of the Council for this section of the upcoming Employment Bill, which would make this a legal requirement.

• News here of a whopping £38m investment will be put all into the development of roads in West Berkshire over the next 5 years. The A4 Faraday Road Junction, the Burger King roundabout and the Robin Hood roundabout are amongst the list of developments planned for improvement.

• 105 year-old Shaw resident Ruth Saunders received a well-deserved MBE last December for raising thousands of pounds for Thames Valley Air Ambulance. Now she’s being recognised as Sainsbury’s oldest customer. This was commemorated with a bouquet of flowers which was gifted by cashier Gladys Thom. See here for lovely photos on the Newbury Today page.

• Last week’s NWN reported that organisers of the proposed Christmas Carnival at Newbury Racecourse have been assuring residents that they have “taken on board” comments made as a result of the previous application, which was refused, and are trying again. You can take part in a consultation here.

• The Newbury Town Civic Awards, with four categories, have been launched for 2022. Nomination forms are available for collection from Newbury Town Hall, can be completed online or can be printed off from the Newbury Town Council website. The nomination deadline is 20 February. These awards celebrate achievements, honours volunteers and recognise those who make a difference in our community. 2022’s will be the 25th such event.

• So lovely to be in snowdrop season now and Greenham House Garden (adjacent to the Burger King Roundabout, on the west side) is a great place to find them in Newbury. Please send photos and locations of your favourite snowdrop spots to penny@pennypost.org.uk to add to our local snowdrop guide here.

City Arts Newbury in the former Wesleyan Chapel on Hampton Road (off Pound Street), is raising money to create a Community Art Cafe with art/craft teachers on hand to offer support, introduce to mindful/art activities. Open to all, but hoping to reach those suffering from isolation, loneliness and the mental health fallout of Covid-19. Please support this wonderful venture here. And check out their upcoming creative classes for February here.

• As we reported last week, the Newbury and District Agricultural Association has, after much discussion decided not to hold a Newbury Show this year (though there will be what’s described as an “extended ploughing match” on 17 September, with some stalls). Members should be receiving a newsletter in the next few days with more information on these points.

• Click here to keep up to date with what’s happening at Newbury Racecourse.

The vision at the crossroads

The results of Newbury’s Masterplan survey have been published and will go before WBC’s Executive on 10 February and thereafter be discussed and doubtless agreed at Full Council. You can see the document in full here. It’s over a hundred pages long so there’s a certain amount to digest and discuss and, thereafter, a number of strategic decisions to be taken.

The Executive Summary describes Newbury as a “crossroads” town, metaphorically referring to its, in many ways, enviable location and the actual crossroads of M4’s J13 where the A34 intersects the motorway. The section also sets out nine additional guiding principles which state that the town centre should be broader, more walkable, more welcoming, greener, more sociable, more cultural, more independent, more balanced and more entrepreneurial.

Any of these could be looked at in considerable detail but I’ll just take a quick glance at two.

On p62, the report states that “over two thirds of survey respondents wanted more local and independent shops in Newbury town centre, whilst over 45% would like to see more local, independent cafés and restaurants.” The rest of the page talks of “improving the prominence and the connectivity of local and independent businesses” through methods such as “public realm improvements, wayfinding and a coordinated ‘branding’ strategy for these areas.” The real issue, though, is not finding these shops but how they are going to be encouraged to set up in the first place.

Unless WBC is the landlord, it can’t do much to encourage this directly except, as the report suggests, through reductions in business rates (which, however, represent an important part of WBC’s income). There’s also the question of defining what constitutes an “independent” shop. At what point does a small but expanding chain cease to be independent? I also suspect that the term “independent” is used to describe a kind of state of mind, taking in its ethos, its level of engagement with local suppliers and its historical connections with the area. These things aren’t easy to measure. Being independent is not in itself enough unless you can also offer what people want at the right price. Perhaps Newbury’s best defence against being even more over-run with multiples (that some claim it already is) is not to get too large.

There’s also the question of provision for pedestrians, a word which appears 64 times in the report. The question of if, and when, and where traffic should be banned from parts of towns and cities has convulsed everywhere from London downwards. Newbury is no exception. The current regulations provide, in summary, a central barrier-controlled no-vehicle zone between 10am and 5pm. The masterplan envisages something that goes a bit further than this with one-way traffic at other times in Northbrook Street that would facilitate more al fresco life. I understand that an Experimental Traffic Order could come in without consultation, effectively being a trial period for a possible permanent (but as yet unfunded) change in the street scene.

However, others feel that the measures could go further still, with traffic being prevented from using the Northbrook Street and Market Square area 24/7, except for deliveries at certain times and blue-light access. There was a trial of something very similar in the summer of 2020 but this was in exceptional circumstances and, at three months, was probably not long enough to enable the arrangements to be fully evaluated (at least a year is probably needed for such a scheme). Changes like this will never please everyone as the needs and wishes of shoppers, retailers, drivers, cyclists, delivery firms and the emergency services are rarely aligned. The masterplan, however, provides a perfect opportunity for more strategic thinking about how the town will evolve.

Many of the other proposals it contains will also demand compromises between competing interests. All parties agree that change is required although effecting this won’t be to everyone’s liking, at least at first. A new pair of smart shoes may not be comfortable for the first few days and you might be tempted to go back to the old ones: then you look at the scratched leather, worn heels, leaking soles and perhaps outmoded design and remember why you decided to go for an upgrade. You made your choice and there’s a bit of short-term pain – but you have got to have faith in what you decide, particularly now you’ve spent all that money.

Speaking of which, I have asked WBC several times in the last two days how much the masterplan has cost but have yet to receive a reply.

Not Reading or Basingstoke

This leads onto the question of the proposed re-development of the Kennet Centre (to be known as the Eagle Quarter). We’ve covered this several times and it continues to attract criticism, mainly on grounds of scale and the housing mix. On the former point, it’s been pointed out that the development would be more suitable for somewhere like Reading or Basingstoke: and yet it also contains plans for flexible office and retail units which the town sorely lacks and which would help Newbury become, in this regard, less like Reading and Basingstoke rather than more. The proposed new access through the centre of the site would also jive with the stated demands both for more open spaces and more pedestrian access. I can see both sides of this argument. It’s to be hoped that, if this plan goes ahead that these beneficial features will remain, even if the scale of the development needs to be reduced to obtain approval.

Many, however, remain unconvinced about the plans as they stand. The Newbury Society has been particularly vocal in its criticism; while Newbury Town Council has recently re-stated to Penny Post its objections from its Planning Committee meeting on 25 October 2021 – “(i) the Town Centre Conservation Area Appraisal and Masterplan Vision document [this has, of course, recently happened – see above] are not yet published and 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. (iv) The blocks as amended are still too high.” The discussion on this will continue. Please let me know your views by emailing brian@pennypost.org.uk. You can also click here to see a recent statement by the developers, Lochailort.

Community notices

• The Corn Exchange is offering art DIY workshops throughout spring for those who wish to access their creative side this year. See here for a full range.

• The Starting Gate in Speen collects crisp packets for recycling by Speen Terracycle Recycling Group which has a drop-off point near the Shell garage in Speen.

• The vaccination centre in the Kennet Centre will be open again this weekend, Sunday 13 February, for boosters for over 16 years olds.

• Boots on Northbrook Street now has a walk-in covid vaccination clinic for the 12 to 15-year-olds 9am to 5pm Monday to Saturday and 11am to 4pm on Sunday (closed between noon and 1pm).

• Newbury Town Council is looking for volunteers to be a part of a Steering Group for its Neighbourhood Development Plan. More information here or email NDP@newbury.gov.uk.

• Any comments, suggestions or feedback about the Council’s community transport services (including Readibus) should be sent to WBC’s Transport Services Team. You can write to them at Council Offices, Market Street, Newbury, RG14 5LD, email Transport@westberks.gov.uk or call 01635 519394.

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 18 October and you can download the minutes here. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) 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 Enborne Parish Council took place on 24 January and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: planning matters; a possible solar farm; the proposed Watermill Bridge development; the playing field gate; two donated benches; the title and ownership of the Parish Field; financial matters, including the 2022-23 budget (the precept was fixed at £8,750, half of its previous figures, the plan being that the PC would spend some of its reserves in this period); delegated powers for the Clerk; the jubilee; speeding; and the co-option of a new councillor.  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 22 January and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: financial matters, including the 2022-23 budget; speeding; a proposed brainstorming meeting to consider WBC’s emerging local plan; a possible parish NDP; and play equipment. 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 19 January and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: the dog poo poster competition; proposed streetlight dimming; speeding; parking on yellow lines; financial matters; a report from ward member Lynne Doherty; planning matters; village amenities; welcome packs for new residents; litter picking; sewage; and the jubilee. 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 8 December and you can read the minutes hereTo 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 December and you can read the minutes hereTo 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 Hamstead Marshall Parish Council took place on 18 November and you can download 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.

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

Thursday 3 February 2022

This week’s news

• The Newbury and District Agricultural Association has, after much discussion decided not to hold a Newbury Show this year (though there will be what’s described as an “extended ploughing match” on 17 September, with some stalls). This is probably a wise decision. As mentioned before, organising an event of this size takes the best part of a year and much of the period has been lost as a result of the election of the new trustees. Work is still being done on establishing the state of NADAS’s finances and what form its future activities will take. Most agree that the show was getting too large and needed some changes: planning a new event, even a smaller one, can take even longer than repeating the same format. There would have been nothing worse than a show which went off at half-cock. Members should be receiving a newsletter in the next few days with more information on these points.

• The village of Stockcross has been without a pub for some time (it used to have two) but a campaign is under way to save The Rising Sun, which has been empty for several years, from being converted to housing. You can find out more about the campaign here. There will be a public meeting at the Sutton Hall in Stockcross, 7.o0 for 7.30pm, on Friday 11 February to discuss how this goal might be achieved. Many such campaigns have been required in recent years: some have succeeded, others not. I would have thought that Stockcross was a large enough place to support a pub, if there’s sufficient local support. One result of the pandemic may have been making people realise how important such places are. We’ll let you know how the campaign progresses.

• This week’s Newbury Weekly News reports on p5 that a new CCTV system has been installed in Newbury: people visiting the town can now feel more safe, or more spied upon, depending on their point of view.

• This week’s NWN also reports, also on p5, that organisers of the proposed Christmas Carnival at Newbury Racecourse have been assuring residents that they have “taken on board” comments made as a result of the previous application, which was refused, and are trying again. You can take part in a consultation here.

• The Newbury Town Civic Awards, with four categories, have been launched for 2022. Nomination forms are available for collection from Newbury Town Hall, can be completed online or can be printed off from the Newbury Town Council website. Nomination is deadline is 20 February. These awards celebrate achievements, honours volunteers and recognise those who make a difference in our community. 2022’s will be the 25th such event.

• So lovely to be in snowdrop season now and St Lawrence’s Churchyard is a great place to find them in Hungerford. Did you know that snowdrops can often be found in graveyards because monks first brought them to this country from Europe in the late 16th century and planted them in monastery gardens? It took them about 200 years to become a wild plant and our common wild snowdrop is called Galanthus nivalis. Victorians also planted them extensively on graves as a symbol of eternal life. And snowdrops planted in ‘holy ground’ or graveyards have been undisturbed and able to flourish ever since. Please send photos and locations of your favourite snowdrop spots to penny@pennypost.org.uk to add to our local snowdrop guide here.

City Arts Newbury in the former Wesleyan Chapel on Hampton Road (off Pound Street), is raising money to create a Community Art Cafe with art/craft teachers on hand to offer support, introduce to mindful/art activities. Open to all, but hoping to reach those suffering from isolation, loneliness and the mental health fallout of Covid-19. Please support this wonderful venture here. And check out their upcoming creative classes for February here.

• Click here for the latest (January 2022) newsletter from Newbury Town Council.

• Following Newbury Town Council’s latest Full Council meeting on 31 January, the Council is to apply for a £300,000 loan from the Public Loans Work Board to help develop the community café in Victoria Park.

• Great news from Newbury BID as new CCTV cameras has been installed in and around Newbury Town Centre. This is all thanks to funding from Thames Valley Police and Newbury Town Council.

• The Corn Exchange is offering art DIY workshops throughout spring for those that wish to endeavour in their creative side this year. See here for a full range.

• The Starting Gate in Speen collects crisp packets for recycling by Speen Terracycle Recycling Group which has a drop-off point near the Shell garage in Speen.

Educafe’s weekly Community Cafe is pleased to have re-started this Wednesday 2 February 11am – 2pm in the new location of Newbury Library. All are welcome to enjoy free refreshments, arts and crafts, chatty corners, seated yoga and more.

• This week’s Newbury Weekly News looks back at how the paper covered the death of King George VI and the Queen’s accession to the throne in February 1952. While looking through the 1952 editions, they spotted old ads and announcements from local companies and organisations, some of which are still in Newbury today. Enjoy a trip down memory lane here.

• Some bin collection days are changing from week commencing Monday 7 February. Visit West Berkshire Council’s website here to check how your street is affected.

• As mentioned last week, those of you who work within Greenham Business Park should expect four new bus shelters soon after a recent investment as part of a commitment to promote sustainable transport. Newbury Today assures that bus routes 103/103A/103B will be connecting these stops within usual working hours for a cheap price of £1 a ticket.

• Click here to keep up to date with what’s happening at Newbury Racecourse.

• The vaccination centre in the Kennet Centre will be open again this weekend, Sunday 6 February, for boosters for over 16 years olds.

• Boots on Northbrook Street now has a walk-in covid vaccination clinic for the 12 to 15-year-olds 9am to 5pm Monday to Saturday and 11am to 4pm on Sunday (closed between noon and 1pm).

• Newbury Town Council is looking for volunteers to be a part of a Steering Group for its Neighbourhood Development Plan. More information here or email NDP@newbury.gov.uk.

• Any comments, suggestions or feedback about the Council’s community transport services (including Readibus) should be sent to WBC’s Transport Services Team. You can write to them at Council Offices, Market Street, Newbury, RG14 5LD, email Transport@westberks.gov.uk or call 01635 519394.

A three-course meal

Did you know that there is a top class restaurant at Newbury College? Penny was invited to have lunch there last week and was very impressed by the three-course lunch prepared and served by professional catering students under the watchful eye of industry tutors. Listen to her live streamed radio show from the restaurant.  You just have to remember the restaurant is only open on Wednesdays and Fridays in termtime but at £13.95 per head it’s a steal and you are also helping to train the next generation of employees in our local restaurants and pubs. You can also book the restaurant for an evening event on a date of your choice. Find out how to book here.

Intuition Hair and Beauty Salon at the college also offers a real working environment for students to provide a wide range of competitively priced treatments including cuts, colours, massages, manicures and facials. So you can pamper yourself or treat a friend while supporting the students.

The college is very keen to collaborate with the community and local businesses to offer the best work experience for its students.

Will the eagle land?

You can click here to read a letter from Lochailort Investments, owners of the Kennet Centre in Newbury, which was sent to Penny Post and other local media outlets this week. Lochailort plans a wholesale redevelopment of the jaded and tatty Kennet Centre which will be known as Eagle Quarter. As might be expected, opinions differ on how acceptable these plans are. This post currently contains only Lochailort’s opinion but we welcome comments from others which can show matters in a different light. Please see the first paragraph of the post for more on this.

The main objection can be summed up in one word – scale. The buildings are tall but, as the letter points out, no more so than exist elsewhere in Newbury. The bigger question is whether this is appropriate for the town centre. It could be argued that some of the representations made about Newbury’s historic centre are slightly rose-tinted, the moment having passed, probably in about 1960, when it still had the market-town character which is often attributed to it. I concede that Newbury is not Basingstoke or Bracknell and most of its residents have no desire to see it become like these places. The question is perhaps rather not what Newbury is, or might once have been, but what it wants to become. Is this development out of step with its civic aspirations or will it help realise them?

Another issue that has been flagged is that the housing component will offer little to attract families and, it being rent-only, nothing at all for those who want to buy. Does the town already have more than enough flats of the kind which might be attractive for well-heeled professional needing easy access to the station and the M4 but not for people in need of affordable or family-friendly properties? Given its location, houses with gardens here are clearly out of the question. The number of flats (and thus the development’s height) is probably economically necessary to provide a sufficient income. The developers will be hoping that, by the time the project is completed, the market for these properties will not be over-saturated.

There are also many things to recommend it. These the opening up of a new open-air through route, the emphasis on flexible-lease work spaces and the environmental credentials. It’s also true that virtually anything short of a maximum-security prison or an open-air recycling centre would be more attractive than what’s there now. This isn’t, of course, an argument for building simply anything. The plans are constrained by geography and economics but seem to have been carefully thought out. Whether they accord with what Newbury wants, or wants to be, is ultimately a matter for WBC’s planners and councillors decide: or possibly, if matters go that far, for the Secretary of State. Residents can influence these decisions through the usual channels.

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.

• Fri 4 Feb to 3 Apr 57th Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibition at The Base, Greenham.

• Mon 28 Feb Art Course for Kids Mondays.

Sun 10 Apr Newbury 4×4, Land Rover & Vintage Spares Day at Newbury Showground.

Sun 17 Apr Newbury Garden Show at Newbury Showground.

• Regular events

• Click here to keep up to date with Newbury Town Council’s diary of events.

• The Newbury Pub opens its terrace every Thursday evening to the Newbury Social Club, hosting an open mic night. Running from 8pm till late.

• ACE Space on St Nicholas Road hosts live acoustic performances. To find out about their upcoming events join their Facebook group or follow them on Twitter.

• Newbury Community Larder is now open every Tuesday 2 – 4pm at the Waterside Centre (down the canal from Costa Coffee on Northbrook Street).  For more details please contact waterside@berkshireyouth.co.uk or call 01635 018500.

• The friendly Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesday afternoons between 2pm and 4pm welcomes anyone who would like to drop in for a chat or a cuppa. There are also knitting and craft activities to get involved with.

• The Club Quiz nights every 2nd Wednesday of every 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, Newbury host 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 18 October and you can download the minutes here. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) 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 19 January and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: the dog poo poster competition; proposed streetlight dimming; speeding; parking on yellow lines; financial matters; a report from ward member Lynne Doherty; planning matters; village amenities; welcome packs for new residents; litter picking; sewage; and the jubilee. 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 8 December and you can read the minutes hereTo 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 December and you can read the minutes hereTo 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 Hamstead Marshall Parish Council took place on 18 November and you can download 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.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council took place on 15 November and you can read the minutes hereTo 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 8 November and you can read the minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• Speen PC currently has vacancies for five parish councillors – click here for more.

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

Thursday 27 January 2022

Scroll down for local events and activities and news from your local councils.

This week’s news

• The Newbury Town Civic Awards, with four categories, have been launched for 2022. Nomination forms are available for collection from Newbury Town Hall, can be completed online or can be printed off from the Newbury Town Council website. Nomination is deadline is 20 February. These awards celebrate achievements, honours volunteers and recognise those who make a difference in our community. 2022’s will be the 25th such event.

Click here for the latest (January 2022) newsletter from Newbury Town Council.

The Watermill Theatre needs help accomodating actors and stage managers for two large productions this spring, The Wicker Husband and Our Man in Havana. If you live within walking distance of The Watermill or short driving distance (max 10 miles) and would be willing to accommodate one of their team, or know someone who does, please contact Clare at clare@watermill.org.uk

• Volunteers at the Speen Community Cafe have completed a lovely blanket for Newbury Soup Kitchen. The community cafe is at The Starting Gate pub on Wednesdays 2 – 4pm and anyone is welcome (you don’t have to live in Speen). You can enjoy a chat, a cuppa and a cake and if you like help sew squares together or learn how to knit or crochet.

• The Starting Gate also collects crisp packets for recycling by Speen Terracycle Recycling Group which has a drop-off point near the Shell garage in Speen.

Educafe returns from an extended Christmas break with lots of exciting news for 2022 including more free exercise classes, English for maternity and job support, She’s Ready programme for strong empowered female social and physical action programme.

Educafe’s weekly Community Cafe is pleased to be re-starting next Wednesday 2 February 11am – 2pm in the new location of Newbury Library. All welcome to enjoy free refreshments, arts and crafts, chatty corners, seated yoga and more.

• Take a look here for a stunning photo shoot of a red kite enjoying roadkill just outside Snelsmore Common, courtesy of Bev Hiller on Newbury Today.

• Some bin collection days are changing from week commencing Monday 7 February. Visit West Berkshire Council’s website here to check how your street is affected.

• The closure of St John’s Road for Thames Water works is set to be reopened on Saturday 29 January.

• Greenham Business Park is to accommodate four new bus shelters after a recent investment as part of a commitment to promote sustainable transport. Newbury Today assures that bus routes 103/103A/103B will be connecting these stops within usual working hours for a cheap price of £1 a ticket.

• Still in Greenham, twelve young trees have been planted in the front gardens of houses in Westwood Road and New Road Greenham under an ‘adopt a tree’ scheme organised by the Greener Greenham Group.  This ‘streets where we live’ project was funded from donations via the Good Exchange and can be extended to other streets in the area as further trees are available for planting up to the end of March 2022. Anyone interested please contact Alison Blackborow on 07766558849 or aandpblackborow@virginmedia.com

• The vaccination centre in the Kennet Centre will be open again this weekend, January 28 and 29, for boosters for over 16 years olds.

Boots on Northbrook Street now has a walk-in covid vaccination clinic for the 12 to 15-year-olds 9am to 5pm Monday to Saturday and 11am to 4pm on Sunday (closed between noon and 1pm).

• Newbury Town Council is looking for volunteers to be a part of a Steering Group for its Neighbourhood Development Plan. More information here or email NDP@newbury.gov.uk.

Hamstead Marshall Parish Council, which recently has been going through some challenges out of all proportion to the parish’s size or population, recently issued the following statement:

“After many years of service, John Handy and Peter Benest have stepped down from Hamstead Marshall Parish Council. My fellow parish councillors wish to thank both gentlemen for the years of service to our community. I (Anne Budd) have agreed to take on the role as Chairperson and Maryn Oppenheim has kindly agreed to take on the role as Vice-Chairperson. Rob Manser has agreed to continue the role of Lead Councillor in various projects such as ‘SID’ training for volunteers as well as HMPC’s website re-design and management of the new website.

“There are two vacant parish councillor positions, and we are reviewing the two options of either a community wide election or, a co-option process. A further update on this matter will be forthcoming very soon.

“Our current Parish Clerk has also resigned, and we are in the process of recruiting a suitable candidate. Maryn, Rob, and I ask for your patience and support as we go through the transitional processes. The scheduled HMPC meeting at 8pm on 17 March will proceed; I hope you will be able to join us.”

• Any comments, suggestions or feedback about the Council’s community transport services (including Readibus) should be sent to WBC’s Transport Services Team. You can write to them at Council Offices, Market Street, Newbury, RG14 5LD, email Transport@westberks.gov.uk or call 01635 519394.

Newbury’s Champions

Our congratulations to Dr Susan Millington for winning West Berkshire’s Volunteer of the Year Award 2021. Susan is the founder and driving force behind the Lockdown Woods project which worked with West Berkshire Council, Newbury Town Council and the Town and Manor of Hungerford to identify three separate areas where more than 1,500 young saplings were planted, including donated trees from the Woodland Trust. The judging panel felt that her nomination really stood out and was able to demonstrate both positive environmental as well as health and wellbeing benefits.

Other Newbury-based winners from the 2021 awards were West Berkshire Young Carers’ Project and Newbury Road Club, who both shared the Community Group of the Year Award.

  • The Young Carers Project supports children and young people under the age of 18 that provide regular ongoing care and emotional support to another who is physically or mentally ill, disabled or who misuses substances. The judging panel found the Young Carers Project to be a worthy winner, as it provides an excellent service supporting young carers and the panel was impressed with the feedback from young people and the impact it has had on their lives.
  • The Newbury Road Club (NRC) elected a cohort of NRC female members to a newly established committee and decided to develop the NRC Women’s Ride Group to encourage more female participation within the group. Historically, NRC only saw a handful of ladies cycling regularly with the Club but their efforts to challenge this were commended by the judging panel for bringing people together, improving health and wellbeing and having a positive impact on those taking part.

More details about the Community Champions 2021 winners can be seen here.

Football under scrutiny

Anyone looking for reasons why they should not become a district councillor could do a lot worse than watch the YouTube recording of the first two hours (from about 10 minutes) of the meeting of WBC’s Oversight and Scrutiny Management Commission on 25 January. The Lib Dems sprung something of a trap on the Chairman, who didn’t handle the surprise very well, and questions were asked of the legal officer, who didn’t seem to give clear answers. The whole thing went downhill from there. Tempers got frayed, eyes were rolled, heads shaken and eyebrows raised, people spoke over each other, accusations flew around, points of order were raised – and still the clock ticked on as the car crash unfolded.

I can assure you that, in my personal one-to-one dealings with them, most are much better people, and WBC a more functional organisation, than this might imply. None the less, all the most unedifying consequences of a politically divided council debating one aspect of a complex and divisive issue were there for all to see. The length of a football match, plus extra time ,was expended before the matter was voted on and the exhausted and bruised commission members moved to the next item.

The football comparison is not a random one, for this agenda item was to scrutinise the awarding of the construction contract for the proposed new sports hub at Monks Lane. It was not convened to look at the overall decision, nor the situation at the Faraday Road ground, nor the future of the LRIE development. Different views exist as to the wisdom of these decisions but this meeting was just to look at the contract, which it eventually did (this will now be rubber-stamped at the next meeting of the Executive).

(Note: the “steps” mentioned below describe the level of the non-league pyramid that the ground can be used for. Step 1 is the first level (National League), step 2 the second (National Leagues North and South) and so on. The higher the number, the lower the league. Hungerford Town is currently step 2, Thatcham Town step 4, AFC Aldermaston step 6 and Newbury FC step 7.)

All these matters are closely connected but have become conflated. I’ve written about this many times and I sense this won’t be the last outing. One issue is whether the Monks Lane is a replacement facility for Faraday Road: opinions differ on this, not helped by contradictions between WBC’s planning application and statements made at the above-mentioned meeting. Another is the cost. Portfolio-holder Howard Woollaston told Penny Post on 26 January that this will, including the loan repayment, be about £290,000pa over the 40-year term (the capital cost will be about £3.35m, funded by a loan from the Public Works Loan Board). He also confirmed that this could be upgraded to step 4 “without any further expenditure” and I understand that the design spec and building contract will be for step 4. He also assured me that it was “ahead of the curve” in terms of sustainability, with the specifications including air-source heating, hedge widening, a bank of bee-friendly wildflowers and the planting of about 100 trees.

A spokesperson for the Newbury Community Football Group told Penny Post on 26 January that the costs for a 3G football pitch, clubhouse, pavilion and stands at Faraday Road (for which permission has been granted, as there was no plannignreason to refuse it) would be about £2.1m (this includes a 20% inflation uplift since the figures were first prepared in 2021), about £600,000 of which might be expected from WBC in line with similar previous commitments. The NCFG also estimates that revenue from the site will generate £720,000 over the following 40 years. The spokesperson added that “this would provide at least a step 4 with the ability to easily scale up to step 2 and above as required (there may be incremental costs associated with scaling) .” He added that one of the step 4 requirements was having “250 seats located in one stand.” This had, he pointed out been the situation at Faraday Road until that stand was removed and gifted, sold or leased (I’m not sure which) to Hungerford Town FC, which is punching way above its weight as an established team in the National League South with a step 2 facility.

We’re clearly dealing with two very different proposals: in Monks Lane, the rent (£41,000pa) would be going out, whereas with Faraday Road, revenue would be coming in. The problem with retaining football at Faraday Road however is that this offends a central plank of WBC’s policy with regard to the regeneration of the London Road Industrial Estate, that the site would be re-developed for housing, the profit from which (roughly estimated at £3m) would help fund the other development plans in an area which most agree needs it.

That assumption, however, is looking a lot less certain than it might have been. Planning approval, in the light of new flood regulations, cannot be guaranteed. If granted, mitigation measures for this and additional sustainable features will eat into the profit. If we assume that £2m will be realised, and that it might take seven years from now for the last house to be sold, this is the sum that would already have been spent on Monks Lane. The benefit to the council is thus zero. If planning permission can’t be obtained or proves too complex or expensive then I’m not sure what the plan B is. This should have been established first.

Another dilemma may lie in wait in May 2023 if there is change of political control at WBC – I make no predictions and have no pre-disposition but it’s a possibility – then the Lib Dems will be faced with the choice of what to do with the ground.  If Monks Lane is operational, as it should be, and thriving, as I hope it will be, this might be a hard question to answer. Unless work on the long-awaited Faraday Plaza has started by the time of the election, the whole LRIE project may seem too abstract a concept for most voters to grapple with: nothing but the creation of the access road off the A339 and the closure of the football ground has so far been accomplished there. It is from this latter ill-timed and ill-considered decision that so many problems have flowed. Even if football ever returns there, it’s unlikely that any of the matches it hosts will create as much acrimony, partisan rivalry and heated arguments as have ensued in the three and a half years since it was closed. Until something is definitely decided as to its future, these debates will rage on.

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.

• Jan 2022 Arlington Arts events (until June).

Sat 29 Jan Livewire The AC/DC Show at Arlington Arts.

• Until 30 Jan Decoding Braille Exhibition at The Base, Greenham.

Mon 28 Feb Art Course for Kids Mondays.

• Fri 4 Feb to 3 Apr 57th Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibition at The Base, Greenham.

• Regular events

• Click here to keep up to date with Newbury Town Council’s diary of events.

• The Newbury Pub opens its terrace every Thursday evening to the Newbury Social Club, hosting an open mic night. Running from 8pm till late.

• ACE Space on St Nicholas Road hosts live acoustic performances. To find out about their upcoming events join their Facebook group or follow them on Twitter.

Newbury Community Larder is now open every Tuesday 2 – 4pm at the Waterside Centre (down the canal from Costa Coffee on Northbrook Street).  For more details please contact waterside@berkshireyouth.co.uk or call 01635 018500.

• The friendly Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesday afternoons between 2pm and 4pm welcomes anyone who would like to drop in for a chat or a cuppa. There are also knitting and craft activities to get involved with.

• The Club Quiz nights every 2nd Wednesday of every 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, Newbury host 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 18 October and you can download the minutes here. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) 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 19 January and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: the dog poo poster competition; proposed streetlight dimming; speeding; parking on yellow lines; financial matters; a report from ward member Lynne Doherty; planning matters; village amenities; welcome packs for new residents; litter picking; sewage; and the jubilee. 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 8 December 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 Chieveley Parish Council took place on 14 December 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 Hamstead Marshall Parish Council took place on 18 November and you can download 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.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council took place on 15 November and you can read the minutes hereTo 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 8 November and you can read the minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• Speen PC currently has vacancies for five parish councillors – click here for more.

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

Thursday 20 January 2022

This week’s news

• We all need some heartwarming news, especially in January, and this week it comes from a nurse at Falkland Veterinary Clinic who is looking after a little spineless hedgehog who has been named Maggot after the Pogues’ song Fairytale of New York. Luckily young Maggot is growing his fur and spines back and will hopefully be released back into the wild before long.

• Newbury has recently welcomed a new community larder at the Waterside Centre, which opened this Tuesday after a successful mock larder was trialled. Penny Post contacted the Operations Director at Waterside Community Centre, Sarah Emery about this. “The mock larder was great,” she told us, “as it allowed those who are worried about landfills to feel better and for those that needed the food to know what to expect in the future.” This week’s NWN states that “the larder will be open from 26 January onwards”: however, it will be open on Tuesday 25 January from 2pm to 4pm and every Tuesday after that. Sarah also stated that those who wish to volunteer are welcome to by either dropping into the Centre or signing up on the Sofea website.  For more details please contact waterside@berkshireyouth.co.uk or call 01635 018500

Click here for the latest (January 2022) newsletter from Newbury Town Council.

• The Newbury Town Civic Awards, with four categories, have been launched for 2022. Nomination forms are available for collection from Newbury Town Hall, can be completed online or can be printed off from the Newbury Town Council website. These celebrate achievements, honours volunteers and recognises those who make a difference in our community. 2022’s will be the 25th such event.

• Six new electric vehicle charge points are now live across West Berkshire public car parks including two 22kW Fast Chargers at Newbury Library Car Park capable of charging two vehicles at once and one 50kw DC Rapid Charger (capacity for one vehicle only) at Newbury Central Car Park next to KFC. For more details please see West Berkshire Council’s website. Please note, users will be required to pay for their parking space whilst charging their vehicle.

• A number of pharmacies and other vaccination centres in the area are now offering sessions which can be booked locally (as well as through the NHS website) as well as being available for drop-in patients. As many have limited indoor space and as wit times can vary, people are advised to book in advance. One such takes place at Strawberry Hill in Newbury, on Wednesday 26 January which is doing a specific after-school session for secondary school and further-education students. They are open for 18 plus from 9.30am to 1pm and 1.30pm to 5.30pm. They also have clinics for 12 plus, and 16 plus between 3.30pm and 6.30pm. Remember you need 12 weeks gap since your first, or second dose and 28 days since any positive covid-19 test.

• The vaccination centre in the Kennet Centre will be open again this weekend, January 22 and 23, for boosters for over 16 years olds .

Boots on Northbrook Street now has a walk-in clinic for the 12 to 15 year olds 9am to 5pm Monday to Saturday and 11am to 4pm on Sunday (closed between noon and 1pm).

• If you want to take advantage of the 20% discount off the à la carte menu at  The Hartley Arms, Donnington on Wednesdays and Thursdays there is still time until the end of January. And if you want to work up an appetite first this walk from Donnington Castle to Snelsmore Common should do the trick.

• Eight Bells Community Strength is appealing to volunteers for a community navigator role. You can sign up for their team here, or otherwise, can email them at cs@eightbellsnewbury.co.uk

• Newbury Town Council is looking for volunteers to be a part of a Steering Group for its Neighbourhood Development Plan. More information here or email NDP@newbury.gov.uk.

• See here for information and events in Parkway, Newbury.

• An NHS research exhibition is on display at West Berkshire Library in Newbury. Opening times and more can be found here.

Hamstead Marshall Parish Council has now registered with West Berkshire Council to use a Speed Indicator Device (SID). The SID will display the speed of approaching vehicles, hopefully encouraging drivers to abide by its 30mph speed limit. All vehicle speeds are also recorded for later analysis by West Berkshire Council. Anyone within the Parish can now register to use the SID: contact the Parish Council for details. Registered SID operators must complete a short online training course and then supervise the SID during its deployment for an hour at a pre-registered location in the village.

• Any comments, suggestions or feedback about the Council’s community transport services (including Readibus) should be sent to WBC’s Transport Services Team. You can write to them at Council Offices, Market Street, Newbury, RG14 5LD, email Transport@westberks.gov.uk or call 01635 519394.

The utmost integrity

West Berkshire Council held an extraordinary full council meeting on 18 January to debate some motions which were held over from the last meeting in December due to lack of time. The first item was tabled by Councillor Jess Brooks: this is considered in detail in this separate post which includes a link to the Zoom recording of the event.

The motion was a cleverly worded one as it asked for the members to agree to following a set of self-evidently correct principles while at the same time allowing there to be a debate on some matters where Councillor Brooks felt WBC’s conduct had fallen short of these ideals. The motion was, he explained, phrased in this way as it provided the only way by which these matters could be given a proper public airing. On several previous occasions when the matter had been raised it had been deferred to the Executive (like the government’s cabinet) and no further scrutiny was possible.

The two most important matters raised – both of which have been covered on many occasions and in some detail in Penny Post – concerned two disputed Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) charges; and the continuing tale of Readibus’ funding. It is the latter which is likely to be of more interest to Newbury residents as it’s from here, from Thatcham and from some of the communities to the east that the majority of the award-winning community transport company’s clients are to be found.

Or, in some cases, “were to be found”, for the three-year-long dispute has resulted in some of its services being curtailed and fewer people thus being able to use it. Hopefully this will be resolved and matters returned to the harmonious conditions which prevailed for more than 30 years before this mysterious rift. It’s not too late for this to happen. Certainly the demand still exists and the more people can remain independent and self-reliant the less likely they are to need to call on West Berkshire Council’s adult social care budget, which is already by far the council’s biggest single area of expenditure.

Local events and activities

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

• Dates for the diary

• Jan 2022 Arlington Arts events (until June)

• Until 30 Jan Decoding Braille Exhibition at The Base, Greenham

• Fri 21 Jan One Off Comedy at Bacon Arms.

Mon 28 Feb Art Course for Kids Mondays.

• Fri 4 Feb to 3 Apr 57th Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibition at The Base, Greenham.

• Regular events

• Click here to keep up to date with Newbury Town Council’s diary of events.

• The Newbury Pub opens its terrace every Thursday evening to the Newbury Social Club, hosting an open mic night. Running from 8pm till late.

• ACE Space volunteer-run community hall on St Nicholas Road hosts live acoustic performances including their monthly Unplugged open mic nights. To find out about their upcoming events join their Facebook group or follow them on Twitter.

• The friendly Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesday afternoons between 2pm and 4pm welcomes anyone who would like to drop in for a chat or a cuppa. There are also knitting and craft activities to get involved with.

• The Club Quiz nights every 2nd Wednesday of every 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, Newbury host 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 18 October and you can download the minutes here. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) 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 December and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: the school poster competition; cherry trees in the churchyard; dog bins; the give-way sign in Love Lane; financial matters; planning matters; repairs and maintenance around the parish; footpaths; the Community Steering Group; and the co-option of a new councillor 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 8 December 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 Chieveley Parish Council took place on 14 December 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 Hamstead Marshall Parish Council took place on 18 November and you can download the minutes here. This appears to have been a stormy affair, particularly during AOB at the end. Matters raised included enforcement, or lack of, of planning conditions by West Berkshire Council, inquorate meetings, accusations of illegal aerial photography, communication problems, unanswered emails and the PC’s alleged “intolerance” of new developments in the parish. 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 Enborne Parish Council took place on 15 November and you can read the minutes hereTo 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 8 November and you can read the minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• Speen PC currently has vacancies for five parish councillors – click here for more.

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

Thursday 13 January 2022

This week’s news

• This week’s Newbury Weekly News has, on p3, an article about West Berkshire Council’s welcome change of mind over its decision to allow volunteers at the Kennet Centre vaccination clinic to get free car parking. At a media briefing on 7 December at which I was present, WBC’s Leader Lynne Doherty said that this was being introduced as a temporary measure in the run up to Christmas but seemed doubtful that it would be extended. She also ruled out offering retrospective refunds. An article in the NWN on 9 December confirmed these points and also pointed out that, as Ms Doherty had said two days before, volunteers could ask for refunds from the charities or organisations for which they were working. The NWN’s articles, an intervention from Laura Farris MP, doubtless continued pressure from volunteers and charities and perhaps a period of reflection at WBC HQ has resulted in a change of tack: the period of free car parking (at the Station Road Car Park) is now described as “open ended” and will be kept under review. If you are a volunteer you should contact, or will be contacted by, the organisation that’s recruited you for details of how this works.

None of us get every decision right first so WBC is to be congratulated for changing course on this one. The report in today’s paper was, however, slightly clouded by accusations from WBC that the original NWN article on 9 December involved “inaccurate reporting”. Enquiries with WBC and NWN failed to reveal what these were beyond the point, which the paper accepted, that the article had said that Lynne Doherty had had her booster jab at the Kennet Centre whereas it had in fact been at the nearby branch of Boots. This doesn’t seem to undermine any of the points the article was making. The messages we all get loud and clear, though, is that WBC’s Leader has had her booster and that if you go to have yours in the Kennet Centre then the staff there will be that much happier for not being out of pocket. Two good reasons to go and get yours if you haven’t already done so.

• There’s a letter in this week’s NWN from David Peacock of The Newbury Society which criticises the way in which the various images of the proposed Eagle Quarter redevelopment of the Kennet Centre have been presented. I contacted the developers, Lochailort, on 13 January to draw this to their attention and ask if they had any comment and was provided with a statement, as well as two part preview images, which you can see in this separate post. This statement also clarifies Lochailort’s position on affordable housing and stresses again its commitment to including a number of sustainable features. If David Peacock or anyone from The Newbury Society or anyone else has any comment on these, please feel free to use the “Leave a reply” box at the foot of the post, or to email me on brian@pennypost.org.uk.

• Last week (see section below) I wrote about the latest episode in the saga of Readibus and West Berkshire Council. This one was largely scripted by the Local Government Ombudsman who partially upheld Readibus’ complaint that consultation on which the current dispute is partly based was flawed. The Ombudsman has limited powers to enforce subsequent action and so was unable (even if so minded) to insist that discussions be re-commenced to try to resolve the matter for the benefit of the local residents who have for about 35 years been enjoying the benefits provided by this award-winning community transport charity. An email to WBC on the morning on 13 January enquiring whether anyone was planning on picking up the phone has so far not received a reply. The story is also covered in this story on Meridian News. Hopefully there won’t be too many more episodes: what’s needed now is a drawing of the proverbial line and them hopefully, the proverbial happy ending.

• Six new electric vehicle charge points are now live across West Berkshire public car parks including two 22kW Fast Chargers at Newbury Library Car Park capable of charging two vehicles at once and one 50kW DC Rapid Charger (capacity for one vehicle only) at Newbury Central Car Park next to KFC. For more details please see West Berkshire Council’s website. Please note, users will be required to pay for their parking space whilst charging their vehicle.
• The new cafe at the Waterside Centre, run by Colline’s Kitchen (which used to be next to the Town Hall in the market place) opens Friday 14 January and is open 8.30am to 4.30pm Tuesday to Saturday with a delicious range of cakes, coffee, buddha bowls, toasted sourdough sandwiches, soups and more. Follow them on facebook to find out more.

• The Corn Exchange re-opens to visitors this Friday 14 January. Their first event of 2022 is a Pink Floyd tribute night this Sat 15 Jan.

• Newbury Town Council has paid tribute to Esther Jane Luker by erecting a blue plaque in her honour at Luker Hall. From 1904 to 1933 Luker was the first headmistress of Newbury Girls’ School, the first school in Newbury to offer secondary education for girls to university standard.

• Looking to meet new people, save money on your food bills and prevent food going to land fill? Check out the new community larder opening at the Waterside Centre in Newbury (behind Costa Coffee) on Tuesday 18 January. The Larder will be open every Tuesday 2pm to 4pm when people can come and select their items of food and other household products as well as access other support services on site. For more details please contact waterside@berkshireyouth.co.uk or call 01635 018500.

St Bartholomew’s School are still looking for entries to their title-art banner competition which would be featured on their newly-designed BartholoNews newsletters. The secondary school has requested for any keen local artists to submit “an eye-catching title design” to the new extended deadline of Monday 17 January.

• Local artists are certainly in-demand, as another request for “paintings, photographs, drawings or any medium of your choice” this time coming from Arlington Arts for their “community art exhibition A Winter’s Tale”. A Newbury Today article further explains the T&Cs of the competition which starts on 19 January and continues until 26 February.

• The year 9 group at The Clere School were asked to study from home this week, due to a Covid surge amongst the school’s staff. Friday remains a teacher training day and normal schedule is expected to resume in the near future. See more on the Newbury Today here.

• To all of the incredible NHS staff out there who love tattoos or would like a permanent reminder that they are appreciated: local tattoo artist, Lee Priddy is offering free badge of honour tattoos, from his four flash designs to the NHS staff who have put other people before themselves throughout these challenging times. A truly permanent reminder of the amazing work that the NHS has put in throughout the last couple of years. All tattoos will be held in his studio, Full Power Studios, on 16 February starting at 10am til late, will allow the staff to claim their free tattoo from Lee. To anyone wanting to book this tattoo, you can email Lee at fullpowerstudios@outlook.com or DM him on Instagram @leepriddytattoo a photo of your NHS Blue light card for verification.

• Eight Bells Community Strength is appealing to volunteers for a community navigator role. You can sign up for their team here, or otherwise, can email them at cs@eightbellsnewbury.co.uk

• Newbury Town Council is looking for volunteers to be a part of a Steering Group for its Neighbourhood Development Plan. More information here or email NDP@newbury.gov.uk.

• See here for information and events in Parkway, Newbury.

• An NHS research exhibition is on display at West Berkshire Library in Newbury. Opening times and more can be found here.

• Any comments, suggestions or feedback about the Council’s community transport services (including Readibus) should be sent to WBC’s Transport Services Team. You can write to them at Council Offices, Market Street, Newbury, RG14 5LD, email Transport@westberks.gov.uk or call 01635 519394.

• 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.

NADAS – to show or not to show

As many of you will be aware, we covered in some detail the Newbury and District Agricultural Society’s rather tumultuous 2021 (see earlier sections below) which culminated in an AGM in November at which a new board of trustees was elected. Much of their time since then has been spent examining the details of what they’ve taken over. They have also created a newsletter which has recently been sent to all the members, the intention being that this will be a quarterly publication. In this issue, the new Chairman Steve Ackrill says that he is “really looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead” and also points to a number of rebranding tasks and changes to the website. He also reports that the accounts for the year to 31 December 2021 should show a profit of “close to £100,000” and that, despite a debt of £320,000 the cash position is a fairly healthy £220,000. I also understand that discussions are being pressed forward with re-negotiating the Section 106 agreement which currently places restrictions on how and when the site can be used.

The big uncertainty at present is what will happen about the Newbury Show in 2022 which, for many people, is why they joined NADAS in the first place. Here the new board is in a difficult position. For some time it’s been clear that the Show as it was organised was losing money and the new trustees need carefully to consider what needs to be changed and what retained and how large it should be.  There would be no point in doing a Show just for the sake of avoiding a third fallow year if it’s not going to at least break even: on the other hand, many members might expect or demand that some kind of event take place. There’s also the question of time. Events of this size and complexity take a year to plan properly and, through no fault of its own, the new board is already into the third month. Whatever form the new event takes will form the template for future ones so it’s important that this be got right. A final decision has yet to be made but the timescale is not in favour of a decision to proceed. The shadow of Covid still hangs over every piece of planning. If NADAS decides not to hold a show this year then that will allow more time to plan something for 2023.

Many people who are not members of NADAS (though may wish to join – email accounts@nadas.co.uk for more information) will have been following the story because of concerns as to whether the ground will be sold and, as at one time seemed possible, turned into a distribution centre. The current board was elected on the platform of preventing this and retaining the site, or at least the large majority of it. It may take further time to establish how best this can be done. If that involves waiting another year for the return the Show then that might be a price worth paying.

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 18 October and you can download the minutes here. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) 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 December and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: the school poster competition; cherry trees in the churchyard; dog bins; the give-way sign in Love Lane; financial matters; planning matters; repairs and maintenance around the parish; footpaths; the Community Steering Group; and the co-option of a new councillor 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 8 December and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: an update from Greenham Trust about the development near Newbury College in partnership with Feltham Construction; trees planting; financial matters including the 2022-23 budget; possible donations and grants; planning applications (including at Newbury Rugby Club); dog bins; footpaths; EV charge points; and the wildlife garden. 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 December and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: a licensing application; financial matters; the 2022-23 budget; delegated powers to the Clerk; local historical research; light pollution at the Showground; and a vacancy on the council. 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 Hamstead Marshall Parish Council took place on 18 November and you can download the minutes here. This appears to have been a stormy affair, particularly during AOB at the end. Matters raised included enforcement, or lack of, of planning conditions by West Berkshire Council, inquorate meetings, accusations of illegal aerial photography, communication problems, unanswered emails and the PC’s alleged “intolerance” of new developments in the parish. 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 Enborne Parish Council took place on 15 November and you can read the minutes hereTo 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 8 November and you can read the minutes hereTo 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 7 September and you can read the minutes here.  To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

Thursday 6 January 2022

This week’s news

• Green bin (garden and food waste) collection service has been “temporarily suspend” by West Berkshire Council until 8 January, with the services resuming from Monday 10 January.

• A new community larder is opening at the Waterside Centre in Newbury (behind Costa Coffee). The Larder will be open every Tuesday 2pm to 4pm with the first Mock Larder on Tuesday 11 ahead of Tuesday 18 launch. people can come and select their items of food and other household products as well as access other support services on site. Working with Sofea and Fareshare, they take supermarket warehouse excess and re-distribute it in the community. If you require any further information or have any further questions please contact waterside@berkshireyouth.co.uk 01635 018500.

St Bartholomew’s School, Newbury are looking for any applications towards their title-art banner competition which would be featured on their newly-designed BartholoNews newsletters. The secondary school have requested for any keen local artists to submit “an eye-catching title design” to the new extended deadline of Monday 17 January.

• Remaining on the topic of secondary schools, students at Park House school have donated 26 boxes of food to the West Berks Foodbank. This was just in time for the Christmas donations appeal sent out by the Foodbank before the holiday season to help those in need.

• Newbury’s Luke Humphries reached his third PDC World Championship quarter final but sadly was defeated by ‘The Flying Scotsman’ Gary Anderson at Alexandra Palace on 1 January. A Newbury Today article highlights what a fantastic year the 26 year-old had, “he finished runners-up to James Wade in the UK Open” as well as “two last-16 appearances in the World Matchplay and Grand Prix followed, as well as reaching the semi-final of the Hungarian Darts Trophy” which currently leaves Luke within the top 20 in the world.

• Local artists are certainly in-demand, as another request for “paintings, photographs, drawings or any medium of your choice” this time coming from Arlington Arts for their “community arts exhibition A Winter’s Tale”. A Newbury Today article further explains the T&Cs of the competition which starts on 19 January to 26 February.

• A new scheme by National Highways addressing safety and congestion on the A34 has been introduced which will explore opportunities to relieve traffic congestion and make it safer for drivers on the road between the M40 and the M4 junctions. Earlier last year Laura Farris MP called for National Highways to prioritise safety upgrades to this “dangerous” stretch of the A34 and it was an issue that her predecessor frequently raised as well. See more here on Newbury Today.

Information here from the invaluable Bedwyn Train Passenger Group about changes to rail services between Bedwyn and Newbury, mainly as a result of Covid-related staff shortages.

• The Base at Greenham new exhibition titled Decoding Braille which will be open 7 to 30 January 2022. The next exhibition after that is based on the the 57th instalment of the wildlife photography competition and will be held between 4 February and 3 April 2022. See here for more.

• A reminder that the Corn Exchange will remain closed for in-person visits until 14 January. During this time tickets can still be bought on-line. See more here.

• Newbury Town Council is looking for volunteers to be a part of a Steering Group for its Neighbourhood Development Plan. More information here or email NDP@newbury.gov.uk.

• See here for information and events in Parkway, Newbury.

• An NHS research exhibition is on display at West Berkshire Library. Opening times and more can be found here.

• The Winter 2021 Ullage magazine is available to read here.

• Click here for information about lateral flow tests available in West Berkshire.

• Click here for the December 2021 issue of the Hamstead Hornet Newsletter.

• Any comments, suggestions or feedback about the Council’s community transport services (including Readibus) should be sent to WBC’s Transport Services Team. You can write to them at Council Offices, Market Street, Newbury, RG14 5LD, email Transport@westberks.gov.uk or call 01635 519394.

• Community larders are running in Newbury, Thatcham and Wantage – click here for details.

Readibus and West Berkshire Council: the Ombudsman’s decision

Regular readers of this column will be aware that we have been covering the problems that have arisen between the award-winning community transport company Readibus and WBC (this affects people other than just in Newbury but this is where most of the users of the service live). One of the issues was a consultation about funding cuts in 2018 which was not extended to Readibus’ customers on the peculiar grounds that many of them had learning disabilities (the charity in fact provides transport for people with mobility issues).

Readibus raised this issue with the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) who, in the judgement finally published just before Christmas, found that WBC was in several cases at fault (though some claims were not upheld). WBC was asked to make an apology and pay £300 to Readibus to cover the “uncertainty” caused by the matter (the maximum fine that the LGO can issue in such cases). You can see a link to the LGO’s report and recent statements from WBC and Readibus in this separate post.

Among the comments the LGO makes (para 49) is that “I cannot say on balance whether carrying out a public consultation for the cuts to community transport grants would have changed the Council’s view.” Such a statement could apply to any event in the past which did not happen: the wider point is that you can’t exclude certain groups from consultations on a whim. It also seems odd that at least one person in a decision-making position at WBC didn’t appear to understand who were the beneficiaries of this service that WBC and its predecessor had been funding for over 30 years. The need for such a service has certainly not diminished in that time: indeed, given an increasingly ageing population, it’s probably increased.

What happens next? A decision made by the LGO is not lightly to be set aside. The decision was that WBC was at fault in several ways. It’s therefore reasonable to expect that related decisions may also have been flawed. Other matters, such as a contentious confidentiality clause (not part of the LGO’s investigation) remain as obstacles. The LGO specified three agreed actions: an apology, the payment of £300 and a review of consultation procedures. However, WBC would unwise to assume that everything else about the matter has therefore been handled in the best possible way. Meanwhile, the service is operating at a lower level than it might be, the would-be customers being the losers. The services which Readibus offers are part of the complex fabric of adult social care (ASC) and improve the lives of people in many ways. On a purely financial level, the more self-reliant and independent people are, the less of a charge they become on the public service. If all the effects of the reduction in the service are translated into additional ASC costs then the whole divisive and time-consuming exercise could in fact be costing money rather than saving it. A lot has changed since 2018. Hopefully, this judgment will help draw a proverbial line and enable discussions to re-start. It would seem that the ball is in WBC’s court on this one.

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 18 October and you can download the minutes here. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) 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 December and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: the school poster competition; cherry trees in the churchyard; dog bins; the give-way sign in Love Lane; financial matters; planning matters; repairs and maintenance around the parish; footpaths; the Community Steering Group; and the co-option of a new councillor 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 December and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: a licensing application; financial matters; the 2022-23 budget; delegated powers to the Clerk; local historical research; light pollution at the Showground; and a vacancy on the council. 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 Hamstead Marshall Parish Council took place on 18 November and you can download the minutes here. This appears to have been a stormy affair, particularly during AOB at the end. Matters raised included enforcement, or lack of, of planning conditions by West Berkshire Council, inquorate meetings, accusations of illegal aerial photography, communication problems, unanswered emails and the PC’s alleged “intolerance” of new developments in the parish. 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 Enborne Parish Council took place on 15 November 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 8 November and you can read the minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• Speen PC currently has vacancies for five parish councillors – click here for more.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council took place on 13 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 Boxford Parish Council took place on 7 September and you can read the minutes here.  To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

Thursday 23 December 2021

A look back at 2021

We’ve covered a lot of stories in this area in 2021, several on more than one occasion as things have changed or new facts come to light. We’ve listed and summarised a handful of these below. More information can be found by searching for the respective phrases in this post (and any for coverage of this area for earlier periods, which will be linked to at the foot of the post). 

• The football grounds. One of these, Faraday Road, is an ex-ground (though many disagree that it should be); the other, Monks Lane, will be a new ground (ditto). The full saga – which involves a premature closure decision, the changing views of several national sporting bodies, WBC’s long-held plans for regenerating the London Road Industrial Estate, a vocal opposition group, differing views about the meaning of the phrase “like-for-like replacement”, several planning applications, several pieces of vanishing infrastructure, a lot of letters and emails, a 50-year lease and an arson attack – is virtually impossible to summarise succinctly. One thing the matter proves is that when something starts in the wrong way it can be increasingly hard to get it back on track; and that the more time passes the fewer good routes out of the problem there are.

• The Newbury Showground. This came to local prominence earlier this year when its owners, the Newbury and District Agricultural Society (NADAS), announced that the 150-acre site would need to be sold in order to address the parlous state of NADAS’s finances in part caused, it was claimed, by the fact that the Newbury Show had been losing money for several years. The Showground, “conveniently situated” as an estate agent might put it, to M4 J14 and the A34, is worth upwards of £20m and it at one point seemed likely that it would be turned into a large distribution centre. An opposition group was formed in the summer which objected to this proposal: what followed was a protracted debate between the two sides, some of which was acted out in public, culminating in an AGM in November at which the members voted in favour of the opposition group’s plans. A new board of trustees has since been appointed which is looking at how NADAS can adapt and survive in the future (and without selling the entirety of the ground).

• Pedestrianisation. In the summer of 2020, WBC agreed that parts of Newbury Town Centre, including Northbrook Street, would be pedestrianised 24/7 to assist hospitality venues recovering from the first lockdown. This measure ended on 31 August and there have since been calls from Newbury Town Council and others to have this revived and made permanent. WBC, however, doesn’t agree. In the light of the climate emergency this issue is unlikely to go away. It’s complex and divisive as the views of retailers, shoppers, motorists, cyclists and the emergency services are often very different and such changes are often unwelcome and confusing when first introduced. Many other towns, including Wantage, are grappling with this very issue.

• Readibus. Although relevant to the wider area, this mainly affects Newbury as it is from there that the majority of the community transport company’s clients come (or “came”– despite having offered a valuable service to residents with mobility problems for over 25 years, Readibus has in recent years seen its subsidy from WBC cut dramatically which resulted in service curtailments). For reasons which many find hard to understand, the charity has also during 2021 and before found itself locked in a dispute with the council. This has resulted in half its current remaining grant being withheld. The matter turns on the details of a confidentiality clause in the proposed new agreement which, despite WBC’s assertions to the contrary, effectively gives the Council a veto on any statement relating to the service that the charity wishes to make. There is clearly little wrong with Readibus’ service, as in November is was named as one the country’s three best providers of community transport during the pandemic. Many local residents who need to access it, however, still can’t. There are number of other excellent community-transport groups in the area but none offer exactly what Readibus can. Hopefully 2022 will produce a better result than the impasse of 2021. The dozen or more users of the service who have contacted us about this would concur – for many, it’s a lifeline.

This week’s news

• For the latest news from Newbury Town Council see their December 2021 newsletter here.

• Green bin (garden and food waste) collection service has been “temporarily suspend” by West Berkshire Council between 28 December till 8 January, with resumption of the services starting again from Monday 10 January. The council explained the reasoning behind the suspension as needing to “free up more drivers and operatives to ensure your rubbish (black bin) and recycling (green boxes and bag) service continues as scheduled throughout the busy Christmas period and into the New Year.”

• Dates for Newbury Markets during late-December and New Year were announced on 20 December. Both 25 December and 1 January won’t host any markets, however a small market will be open on Thursday 30 December.

St Bartholomew’s School, Newbury are looking for any applications towards their title-art banner competition which would be featured on their newly-designed BartholoNews newsletters. The secondary school have requested for any keen local artists to submit “an eye-catching title design” before the deadline of Wednesday 5 January at noon.

• Local artists are certainly in-demand, as another request for “paintings, photographs, drawings or any medium of your choice” this time coming from Arlington Arts for their “community arts exhibition A Winter’s Tale”. A Newbury Today article further explains the T&C’s of the competition which starts on 19 January to 26 February.

• Corn Exchange, Newbury re-started (as of 21 December) hosting their festive pantomime of Cinderella after cancelling four performances over the weekend of 18 and 19 December, as reported by Newbury Today. You could probably guess why the pantos were forced to be cancelled, but for all of our subscribers who have (perhaps fortunately) been living under a rock for the past two years, the article explains that “following the identification of a positive case of Covid-19 in someone who had had close contact with the Corn Exchange pantomime company” the venue was forced to cancel four performances of Cinderella over the weekend. Oh no, they didn’t? Oh yes, they did.

• A new scheme by National Highways addressing safety and congestion on the A34 has been introduced which will explore opportunities to relieve traffic congestion and make it safer for drivers on the road between the M40 and the M4 junctions. Earlier this year Laura Farris MP called for National Highways to prioritise safety upgrades to this “dangerous” stretch of the A34 and it was an issue that her predecessor frequently raised as well. See more here on Newbury Today.

• As reported last week, there’s a campaign to prevent The Rising Sun in Stockcross (which has been closed for some time) from being turned into housing. The Save The Rising Sun group hoped to host an open meeting on 21 December, but had to postpone due to “rising number of Covid-19 cases”. The meeting is hoped to be hosted at some point in 2022: however a presentation can be downloaded on the group’s website which includes “details of the current situation with The Rising Sun and suggestions for saving it”. You can also view how you can support the pubphotos of the pub today, and an article on six-month moratorium on the sale which could be accomplished if it were declared an Asset of Community Value.

• All the Christmas Services at St Nic’s this year, except the Midnight Communion on Christmas Eve, need to be pre-booked here to ensure enough space for social distancing. This includes the Crib Service on Christmas Eve and the Communion Service on Christmas Day. Alternatively, you can watch the services at home as they will be live-streamed on www.st-nics.org.

• There are still lots of festive fun to enjoy each day up to Christmas with Newbury’s Living Advent Calendar. See the programme here of real advent window reveals across the town.

• Newbury Soup Kitchen will be serving bacon butties in the marketplace at 9.30am on Christmas Day to make sure no one gets left out of the festivities.

• West Berkshire Foodbank is appealing for Christmas donations. See more here on how to donate and what has been requested.

• Speen Community Café is continuing to run on Wednesday afternoons 2 to 4pm at The Starting Gate pub over the Christmas and New Year period. So if you know anyone who fancies a chat, cuppa and slice of cake please assure them of a warm welcome by Kerry and her team. See their new Facebook page here.

• As we have mentioned in recent weeks, there are proposals for a new development between Newbury College and the A339 (see last week’s section below for more), a joint venture between Greenham Trust, Aldi Stores and Feltham Group. More information can be found on the project’s website.

• More developments are underway along London Road. A Lidl store is being introduced to the London Road retail park, just opposite Tesco. The aim is to finish this by the first quarter of 2022. A little further on the road, a Costa drive-through (another coffee shop that we so desperately need) is being placed in the B&Q car park. This is to be the fourth Costa in Newbury alone.

• Newbury Town Council is looking for volunteers to be a part of a Steering Group for its Neighbourhood Development Plan. More information here or email NDP@newbury.gov.uk.

• See here for information and events in Parkway, Newbury.

• An NHS research exhibition is on display at West Berkshire Library. Opening times and more can be found here.

• The Winter 2021 Ullage magazine is available to read here.

• Click here for information about lateral flow tests available in West Berkshire.

• Click here for the December 2021 issue of the Hamstead Hornet Newsletter.

• Any comments, suggestions or feedback about the Council’s community transport services (including Readibus) should be sent to WBC’s Transport Services Team. You can write to them at Council Offices, Market Street, Newbury, RG14 5LD, email Transport@westberks.gov.uk or call 01635 519394.

• Community larders are running in Newbury, Thatcham and Wantage – click here for details.

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 18 October and you can download the minutes here. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) 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 December and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: the school poster competition; cherry trees in the churchyard; dog bins; the give-way sign in Love Lane; financial matters; planning matters; repairs and maintenance around the parish; footpaths; the Community Steering Group; and the co-option of a new councillor 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 December and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: a licensing application; financial matters; the 2022-23 budget; delegated powers to the Clerk; local historical research; light pollution at the Showground; and a vacancy on the council. 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 15 November and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: pre-planning advice; one planning application; the proposed Watermill Bridge development (see also above); the village website; a broken sign; staffing; the 2022-23 budget; wildflowers; road safety at the school; and repairs around the parish. 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 8 November and you can read the minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• Speen PC currently has vacancies for five parish councillors – click here for more.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council took place on 13 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 Boxford Parish Council took place on 7 September 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 29 July and you can download the minutes hereTo 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 and you can click here to read the September 2021 edition which has recently been published.

Thursday 16 December 2021

This week’s news

• For the latest news from Newbury Town Council see their December 2021 newsletter here.

• A new scheme by National Highways addressing safety and congestion on the A34 has been introduced which will explore opportunities to relieve traffic congestion and make it safer for drivers on the road between the M40 and the M4 junctions. Earlier this year Laura Farris MP called for National Highways to prioritise safety upgrades to this “dangerous” stretch of the A34 and it was an issue that her predecessor frequently raised as well. See more here on Newbury Today. The real problem with the A34 is that it has delusions of grandeur, behaving as if it were a motorway but with A-road style furniture, signage and slipways which are inappropriate for the volume of traffic and the speed at which much of it travels. Having been tail-ended on this road a few years back, I speak from experience. (As related here, this episode had a couple of ironical consequences.) Many others have not escaped accidents on it as lightly as we did.

• On that same note, the National Highways has revealed that 900 miles of roadworks are to be lifted over the Christmas period to help with traffic. See more here on which areas are to be eased.

• An article on p10 of this week’s NWN refers to the continuing impasse between the recent-decorated community transport company Readibus and West Berkshire Council. This strange dispute has been covered regularly in this column, most recently on 2 December (see below). Once again, our congratulations to Readibus for its award which appears to be well deserved (although it’s clear that for some reason WBC doesn’t seem to agree).

• I’ve just had another dip into Penny Stokes’ Georgian Newbury (see here for for more information on this book) and have come across a section which the town’s current chain-wearer, Billy Drummond, might want to be aware of. It seems that there’s something of a tradition (possibly not unique to Newbury) of sending threatening letters to the Mayor. These were backed up with a certain amount of waving around of firearms and at least one attempt to burn down the Town Hall. I don’t know how badly online abuse, of which he and his fellow councillors must get their fair share, stands by comparison to these. As several MPs have recently discovered, violence against elected representatives is by no means a thing of the past. Perhaps those who say they are going to do something awful are less dangerous than those who keep their rage to themselves until it boils over.

• Many villages have recently been cast into the condition of publessness (let’s pretend that’s a real word), one being Stockcross. The Lord Lyon has long been converted into housing and there’s now a campaign to prevent The Rising Sun (which has been closed for somer time) from going the same way. The Save The Rising Sun group is hosting an open meeting at Sutton Hall, Stockcross on Tuesday 21 December from 8pm, in which anyone wishing to share their opinions regarding “the future of the last remaining pub in Stockcross” can attend. The group’s website includes; its aims, how you can support the pub, photos of the pub today, and an article on six-month moratorium on the sale which could be accomplished if it were declared an Asset of Community Value.

• All the Christmas Services at St Nic’s this year, except the Midnight Communion on Christmas Eve, need to be pre-booked here to ensure enough space for social distancing. This means the Carol Service on Sunday 19 December, the Crib Service on Christmas Eve and the Communion Service on Christmas Day. Alternatively, you can watch the services at home as they will be live-streamed on www.st-nics.org.

• A service to commemorate US forces at Greenham Control Tower took place last Sunday which remembered a glider carrying American soldiers that crashed in Greenham, killing all 33 on-board on 12 December 1944. See Newbury Today‘s page for photos and more.

Newbury Friends of the Earth’s Lockdown Woods team and about 40 local people brought festivities to Goldwell Park on Tuesday 14 December for the unveiling of their Advent event as part of Newbury’s Living Advent Calendar.

• There are still lots of festive fun to enjoy each day up to Christmas with Newbury’s Living Advent Calendar. See the programme here of real advent window reveals across the town.

Newbury Soup Kitchen will be serving bacon butties in the marketplace at 9.30am on Christmas Day to make sure no one gets left out of the festivities.

• West Berkshire Foodbank is appealing for Christmas donations. Starting with a 12-days-of Christmas themed donation tree, members of the public are being asked to donate festive treats. See more here on how to donate and what has been requested.

• Speen Community Café is continuing to run on Wednesday afternoons 2 – 4pm at The Starting Gate pub over the Christmas and New Year period. So if you know anyone who fancies a chat, cuppa and slice of cake please assure them of a warm welcome by Kerry and her team. See their new facebook page here.

• As we have mentioned in recent weeks, there are proposals for a new development between Newbury College and the A339 (see last week’s section below for more), a joint venture between Greenham Trust, Aldi Stores and Feltham Group. More information can be found on the project’s website.

• More developments are underway along London Road. A Lidl store is being introduced to the London Road retail park, just opposite Tesco. The aim is to finish this by the first quarter of 2022. A little further on the road, a Costa drive-through (another coffee shop that we so desperately need) is being placed in the B&Q car park. This is to be the fourth Costa in Newbury alone.

Click here to keep up to date with Newbury Town Council’s diary of events.

• Newbury Town Council is looking for volunteers to be a part of a Steering Group for its Neighbourhood Development Plan. More information here or email NDP@newbury.gov.uk.

• See here for information and events in Parkway, Newbury.

• An NHS research exhibition is on display at West Berkshire Library. Opening times and more can be found here.

• The Winter 2021 Ullage magazine is available to read here.

• Click here for information about lateral flow tests available in West Berkshire.

Click here for the December 2021 issue of the Hamstead Hornet Newsletter.

• Any comments, suggestions or feedback about the Council’s community transport services (including Readibus) should be sent to WBC’s Transport Services Team. You can write to them at Council Offices, Market Street, Newbury, RG14 5LD, email Transport@westberks.gov.uk or call 01635 519394.

• Community larders are running in Newbury, Thatcham and Wantage – click here for details.

Click here for the results from the Newbury Photography Club’s latest competition.

Monks Lane and Faraday Road

These two sites  are, of course, the proposed new sports hub and the the former football ground. Linking them together, as my heading has done, would have offended the official view of the  recent WBC Western Area Planning Committee which considered (and passed) the application for Monks Lane on 15 December: the matter needed, it was reminded by officers, to be decided on its planning merits. However, de-conflation proved impossible. The extent to which Monks Lane is, or is not, a replacement for the rotting hulk of Faraday Road is impossible to ignore: and also rather important.

In purely planning terms, there is no reason why Faraday Road cannot be redeveloped. A recent (and much delayed) application to do just this by the Newbury Community Football Group (NCFG) was recently approved. Portfolio holder Howard Woollaston, however, claimed that the application amounted to being vexatious as it stood no chance of being implemented. In planning terms, this isn’t the case. Unless there are some constraints not to be in the public domain, the decision not to retain football there is a purely political one. The political will of the council may change after May 2023.

Both these issues – to develop Monks Lane and not to develop Faraday Road – depend on each other. The mounting expense of Monks Lane is only justified if it can be proved that housing on the old ground is in every way viable. This forms no part of the emerging local plan and we’re a long way from any planning application. Given the new flood-protection regulations and the new sustainable features that would be required, this is looking less certain and (if approved) less profitable that it once did. In turn, not to continue with Faraday Road depends upon WBC being able to find a suitable replacement ground elsewhere. Monks Lane (which, unlike Faraday Road, it doesn’t own) is the best it’s managed to come up with, but many claim that it isn’t a replacement facility. If profitable houses can’t be built on Faraday Road then the case for Monks Lane collapses: if Monks Lane isn’t a viable and sustainable alternative to the old ground then the case for not developing Faraday Road collapses. If Faraday Road had been re-developed then presumably Monks Lane would never have been proposed. It’s also hard to be sure, when all the bills are totted up, that even if houses are built on the old ground, and sold, that they will produce sufficient profit to offset the costs of the new hub. These latter costs will, moreover, continue for up to 50 years. That’s the lifetime of the next administration from May 2023 and the eleven ones after that.

As I’ve mentioned before, I have some sympathy for Howard Woollaston in this. He inherited a toxic muddle in which just about everything had been done in the wrong order and has at least accepted – which former the CEO Nick Carter for a long time did not – that WBC has an obligation to find a replacement. If this point had been recognised more clearly in June 2018 when the ground was closed, and if research had revealed just how hard it was going to be to find a new site, then a different decision would probably have been taken.

As for the meeting itself, it was described to me by one opposition member as “disgracefully run and seemingly stage-managed.” I understand that an appeal is being considered. Matters now move to the meeting of the Executive on 16 December when when what seems like a slightly rushed decision to appoint the developers will be taken.  (Other challenges and debates, involving the NCFG, FA and Sport England amongst others, are also ongoing.) I cannot believe that WBC still thinks it’s possible that the ground can be ready by the FA’s deadline of 31 March 2022 (so permitting Newbury FC to play matches there in the 2023-24 season). Rushing things costs more and is likely to lead to errors. If there are such issues then it would certainly be fully in keeping with the way everything seems to have gone thus far.

(This week’s Newbury Weekly News refers to the costs of this project in an article on p9. It refers to “leaked council documents…which have been kept secret from the press and the public.” That’s not quite the case: I was aware of these in the late summer and wrote about them in this column on 16 September (see below).)

Watermill Bridge

Let’s now have a look at a development on the other side of town which, by comparison with the above issue, is is of almost startling simplicity. True, it’s right on the edge of Basingstoke and Deane but the effects will almost entirely be felt in West Berkshire; true, it’s for 350 homes, which poses its own problems; true, there’s already a vocal opposition group which is expressing a number of concerns ranging from road access to schools to flood risks. These have been referred to in previous editions of this post, including last week (see below). There are two aspects of this which have more recently been in the news.

The first concerns whether developers in general, and Bewley Homes in particular, live up to their promises. Newbury TC and WBC Councillor Tony Vickers recently accused Bewley of having a “track record” of not delivering on some stated benefits. In a statement sent to Penny Post, Bewley claimed that this assertion was “entirely wrong” and that it “is proud of its legacy of sites, including the stunning scheme at the Douai Abbey.” Tony Vickers was quoted in this week’s NWN (p6) as saying that he wasn’t “picking on” Bewley specifically but rather on developers generally. He may have been thinking of Bewley’s attempts to set aside the provision for social-rent homes at Lancaster Park in Hungerford earlier this year (as was widely reported in the Hungerford area section of Penny Post, this attempt failed and produced what’s probably now seen as an unfortunate PR fall-out, though relations there have since been repaired.) Tony Vickers is, however, correct in his revised assessment that developers tend to take a grandmother’s-footsteps approach to planning, first putting in an application for what they think they can get and then whittling this down to what they actually want to build. Why does this happen? Because developers exist to make a profit and because the planning system permits it. Bewley’s attempt to change the agreement in Hungerford was commercially logical and legally correct. It didn’t work out for them but, to their credit, they appear to have accepted this and got on both with building actual houses and with repairing metaphorical fences.

The second concerns the number of sustainable features which the development promises. “I’ve never seen so many goodies being offered by the developer,” Tony Vickers  said. “It would all be wonderful if it ends up delivering everything.” Although Bewley has yet to confirm this point expressly, I understand that these features are ones it intends to stick to. As the above-mentions statement says, “we understand the concerns of residents that our Watermill Bridge scheme will need to be monitored to ensure that it provides all of the proposed community enhancements and we would welcome a meeting with Councillor Vickers to propose that this can be captured within a legal agreement.” There’s an increasing and welcome trend for developers to offer such features at an early stage (Lochailort has done the same with its proposed Eagle Quart re-development at the Kennet Centre and has assured me it intends to abide by them. WBC and Sovereign may yet be persuaded to do the same with Chestnut Walk in Hungerford.) While this could cynically be seen as a ploy to smooth the path to planning approval, developers seem to be sensing that they need to take these matters seriously. New regulations will at some point to be in place to compel this. Perhaps more importantly, market forces may soon dictate that a buyers will be reluctant to pay top whack for a house if the lack of such feature might make it harder for them to sell it on unless the4y expensively retro-fit these themselves. When that happens, installing these from the off will be a no-brainer, just as central heating is. There’s also the possibility that, despite the bad-guy role in which they’re often case, some of them at least want to do the right thing. If Bewley is able to offer any still more comprehensive assurances on this, we’ll welcome this and let you know.

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 18 October and you can download the minutes here. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) 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 17 November and you can read the minutes here. items covered included: a dog-fouling poster; a presentation from WBC’s Highways Department concerning Love Lane; Morris dancers; financial matters; reports from District Councillors Lynne Doherty and Steve Masters; planning matters; footpaths; a contribution of £1,600 to the WBC Library Service; the Christmas parish letter; and possible street-light dimming. 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 15 November and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: pre-planning advice; one planning application; the proposed Watermill Bridge development (see also above); the village website; a broken sign; staffing; the 2022-23 budget; wildflowers; road safety at the school; and repairs around the parish. 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 9 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, please click here.

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

• Speen PC currently has vacancies for five parish councillors – click here for more.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council took place on 13 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 Boxford Parish Council took place on 7 September 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 29 July and you can download the minutes hereTo 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 and you can click here to read the September 2021 edition which has recently been published.

Thursday 9 December 2021

This week’s news

• The Mayor, Billy Drummond is inviting the town’s elderly residents to join him for a festive afternoon tea on Thursday 16 December. Tickets are free but are limited and need to be booked in advance.

• For the latest news from Newbury Town Council see their December 2021 newsletter here.

• If you missed the Christmas Lights Switch-On here is a fun video of the night from Visit Newbury.

• This year, in order to monitor capacity and to get in touch with participants directly regarding any changes to Government event guidelines, The Corn Exchange is asking everyone to book their spectator place to view the Festival of Light procession on Sunday 12 December. All tickets for this event have now been booked. Please contact the Box Office to add your name to the waiting list.

• The NHS Health on the Move van will be in and around West Berkshire, offering first, second and booster Pfizer Covid vaccines and will be at the Riverside Community Centre, Newbury, 17 December 2021 from 10am to 5pm. Residents aged 16 and over can drop in for their first, second or booster Pfizer vaccine – no booking is necessary.

• All the Christmas Services at St Nic’s this year, except the Midnight Communiun on Christmas Eve, need to be pre-booked here to ensure enough space for social distancing. This means the Carol Service on Sunday 19 December, the Crib Service on Christmas Eve and the Communiun Service on Christmas Day. Alternatively you can watch the services at home as they will belivestreamed on www.st-nics.org.

Newbury’s Living Advent Calendar is going well See the programme here of real advent window reveals across the town. Just a little heads up about the reveal in the magical setting of the Lockdown Wood at Goldwell Park, RG14 1RS at the end of Northcroft Lane on Tuesday 14 December at 6pm. Please meet at the playground and bring a torch and your wellies, the organisers are inviting you to bring a lantern and a star.

• As we have mentioned in recent weeks, there are proposals for a new development between Newbury College and the A339 (see last week’s section below for more), a joint venture between Greenham Trust, Aldi Stores and Feltham Group. More information can be found on the project’s website.

• More developments are underway along London Road. A Lidl store is being introduced to the London Road retail park, just opposite Tesco. The aim is to finish this by the first quarter of 2022. A little further on the road, a Costa drive-through (another coffee shop that we so desperately need) is being placed in the B&Q car park. This is to be the fourth Costa in Newbury alone.

• Leader of West Berkshire Council Lynne Doherty is hosting a talk on social care on Tuesday 14 December at 5pm. If you have a question to ask about adult social care in West Berkshire you can send it in ahead of this Ask Lynne online session now here at pr@westberks.gov.uk.

• A home in Wickham has been the cause of festive cheer around the area as of late. After their first child was born on Christmas Day 2017, Lauren Quine dedicates their home to a wonderful display of lights and festive characters. This year they are asking for donations in aid of the Swings & Smiles charity in Thatcham that supports children and young people with special needs.

Click here to keep up to date with Newbury Town Council’s diary of events.

• Newbury Town Council is looking for volunteers to be a part of a Steering Group for its Neighbourhood Development Plan. More information here or email NDP@newbury.gov.uk.

• See here for information and events in Parkway, Newbury.

• An NHS research exhibition is on display at West Berkshire Library. Opening times and more can be found here.

• The Winter 2021 Ullage magazine is available to read here.

• Click here for information about lateral flow tests available in West Berkshire.

Click here for the December 2021 issue of the Hamstead Hornet Newsletter.

Hamstead Marshall Wildlife Group has been successful in its application to Greenham Trust for some saplings which will be planted in the Hamstead Marshall Village Hall Field. A spokesperson said that that the trees should arrive this week and a planting date has been fixed for Saturday 11 December. Contact anne.budd1@btinternet.com or join their facebook group if you’d like to help.

• Any comments, suggestions or feedback about the Council’s community transport services (including Readibus) should be sent to WBC’s Transport Services Team. You can write to them at Council Offices, Market Street, Newbury, RG14 5LD, email Transport@westberks.gov.uk or call 01635 519394.

• Community larders are running in Newbury, Thatcham and Wantage – click here for details.

Click here for the results from the Newbury Photography Club’s latest competition.

• The popular My Wild Life’ photography competition is returning to The Base, Greenham, inspired by the return of the Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year 57. For information on the competition and deadlines, click here.

• As mentioned last week, Enborne Parish Council currently has plans to site solar panels on a 20-acre field in the parish and is working with Cavella Community Energy in Aldermaston on the project. This is currently at the feasibility-study stage.

• Congratulations to the Hamstead Hornet on reaching its 100th edition, published last week. Click here to read it.

Life on the road

Speaking of the Hamstead Hornet, its author Penny Stokes has recently written a book about (and called) Georgian Newbury which is available from bookshops in the area or direct from her (see the above-mentioned Hornet link for details). Flicking through it the other day I was on several occasions struck by sometimes how depressingly similar and other times how utterly different life was back then compared to today. Some aspects of human behaviour haven’t changed much, alcohol, money, lust and politics still messing us up just as much as they did our 18th century forbears.

One thing that does seem less risky now is public transport which, back then, was pretty much limited to coaches. Nowadays public transport is for many of us totally safe, if only because as there’s increasingly little of it so we can’t use it. Those who do now venture onto the buses or trains are unlikely to encounter the raft of problems that seemed commonplace back then. Highwaymen – either hardened criminals or bored local rakes – were a constant threat, particularly on the London to Bath road. So too was the weather, with passengers expected to get out and dig when the coach got stuck in mud or snow. They were often also required to dismount on steep hills to give the horses a breather. Other perils she lists included wheels falling off or catching fire (though it’s not specified how this might happen), horses bolting and coachmen dying on the job. All in all, not the kind of perils you might expect now on the number 4 bus or the 8.55 from Bedwyn.

Being almost exactly half-way between London and Bath, Newbury was a popular stop-off point for coaches breaking the two-day journey. The bustle and jostling and bribing and pickpocketing that must have gone on at the many inns in the town when coaches arrived, with everyone trying to secure their luggage, get a room that wasn’t too verminous and organise some food, all the while beating off the attentions of local thieves, whores and scammers, must have been something to behold. The 18th century is seen by some as a golden age for England: the country was just starting to grow fat on its colonial interventions and for the first time there was something approaching a transport network that connected the main towns and cities. The journeys themselves, however, seem like nightmares. One thing’s for certain: with all those horses stabled overnight, Newbury’s Georgian gardeners would never have been short of manure.

A speculative watermill

• At Enborne Parish Council’s meeting on 15 November (see section below for more on this), the Chairman, Councillor Garrett, said that he “proposed to contact WBC to discuss the concerns over protecting the Enborne Valley from over-development and to emphasise the importance of the river and the landscape character of the area. East Woodhay and Highclere Parish Councils have been involved in conversations with Enborne Councillors regarding the Watermill Bridge development who also share EPC’s concerns. Councillor Garrett suggested he would try to have a meeting with WBC to oppose the Watermill Bridge development even though this planning application will fall under the Hampshire border.”

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). Any comments should be made by 16 December.

The matter was also referred to in an article on p9 of this week’s Newbury Weekly News. It quotes the NW Hampshire MP Kit Malthouse as saying that the problem was partly due to speculative development (also known as planning on appeal) due to the planning authority (Basingstoke and Deane in this case) not having an updated local plan: as a result, he says, developers – including by implication this developer, Bewley Homes – “see a window which they are rushing to exploit.” A mangled metaphor, but one gets his point. As to why so many local plans, certainly including West Berkshire’s and doubtless B&D’s, are being delayed, Kit need look no further than his colleagues in the Ministry of Housing who decided in the summer to change an aspect of the National Planning Policy Framework which required councils to go away and envisage a 30-year (rather than a 15-year) vision for any significant developments.

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 18 October and you can download the minutes here. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) 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 17 November and you can read the minutes here. items covered included: a dog-fouling poster; a presentation from WBC’s Highways Department concerning Love Lane; Morris dancers; financial matters; reports from District Councillors Lynne Doherty and Steve Masters; planning matters; footpaths; a contribution of £1,600 to the WBC Library Service; the Christmas parish letter; and possible street-light dimming. 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 15 November and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: pre-planning advice; one planning application; the proposed Watermill Bridge development (see also above); the village website; a broken sign; staffing; the 2022-23 budget; wildflowers; road safety at the school; and repairs around the parish. 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 9 November and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: planning applications; financial matters; speeding; flooding in Oare; verge cutting; free trees from Greenham Trust; night-security lighting at the Showground; an injury from a falling tree; a resignation; congratulations to the new board at the Newbury and District Agricultural Association; and the unknown Tommy. 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 Speen Parish Council took place on 8 November and you can read the minutes here. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• Speen PC currently has vacancies for five parish councillors – click here for more.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council took place on 8 September 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 7 September 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 29 July and you can download the minutes hereTo 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 and you can click here to read the September 2021 edition which has recently been published.

Thursday 2 December 2021

This week’s news

• The Mayor, Billy Drummond is inviting the town’s elderly residents to join him for a festive afternoon tea on Thursday 16 December. Tickets are free but are limited and need to be booked in advance.

• For latest news from Newbury Town Council see their December 2021 newsletter here.

• Well done to the Greener Greenham Group for planting 22 mixed variety trees in the cold weather last weekend on Stroud Green.

• If you missed the Christmas Lights Switch-On here is a fun video of the night from Visit Newbury.

• This year, in order to monitor capacity and to get in touch with participants directly regarding any changes to Government event guidelines, The Corn Exchange is asking everyone to book their spectator place to view the Festival of Light procession on Sunday 12 December.

• Congratulations to St Bart’s School for their outstanding Ofsted Section 5 inspection in all categories. St Bart’s is understood to be only the second non-selective secondary school in the country to achieve this result this academic year.

• On the topic of schools, Speenhamland Primary was granted funding by West Berkshire Council for a new £250,000 project that would see two new classrooms, a designated outdoor learning zone, plus accessible toilets and hoists for children with physical disabilities. The project has been completed and The Pelican Room is now in action. For more, visit Newbury Today‘s coverage here.

Newbury’s Living Advent Calendar kicked off to a great start at Willow and Blooms florists on Wednesday 1 December. See the rest of the programme here of real advent window reveals across the town.

Newbury Today reported that Greenham Trusts offered match funding as part of Giving Tuesday which took part this Tuesday. You can see the full list of fundings which have been offered here.

• The friendly Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesday afternoons between 2pm and 4pm welcomes anyone who would like to drop in for a chat or a cuppa. There are also knitting and craft activities to get involved with.

• As we have mentioned in recent weeks, there are proposals for a new development between Newbury College and the A339 (see last week’s section below for more), a joint venture between Greenham Trust, Aldi Stores and Feltham Group. More information can be found on the project’s website.

• More developments are underway along London Road. A Lidl store is being introduced to the London Road retail park, just opposite Tesco. The aim is to finish this by the first quarter of 2022. A little further on the road, a Costa drive through (another coffee shop that we so desperately need) is being placed in the B&Q car park. This is to be the fourth Costa in Newbury alone.

Click here to keep up to date with Newbury Town Council’s diary of events.

• Newbury Town Council is looking for volunteers to be a part of a Steering Group for its Neighbourhood Development Plan. More information here or email NDP@newbury.gov.uk.

• See here for information and events in Parkway, Newbury.

• An NHS research exhibition is on display at West Berkshire Library. Opening times and more can be found here.

• Click here for information about lateral flow tests available in West Berkshire.

Click here for the December 2021 issue of the Hamstead Hornet Newsletter.

Hamstead Marshall Wildlife Group has been successful in its application to Greenham Trust for some saplings which will be planted in the Hamstead Marshall Village Hall Field. A spokesperson said that that the trees should arrive this week and a planting date has been fixed for Saturday 11 December. Contact anne.budd1@btinternet.com if you’d like to help.

• Any comments, suggestions or feedback about the Council’s community transport services (including Readibus) should be sent to WBC’s Transport Services Team. You can write to them at Council Offices, Market Street, Newbury, RG14 5LD, email Transport@westberks.gov.uk or call 01635 519394.

• Community larders are running in Newbury, Thatcham and Wantage – click here for details.

Click here for the results from the Newbury Photography Club’s latest competition.

• The popular My Wild Life’ photography competition is returning to The Base, Greenham, inspired by the return of the Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year 57. For information on the competition and deadlines, click here.

Enborne Parish Council currently has plans to site solar panels on a 20-acre field in the parish and is working with Cavella Community Energy in Aldermaston on the project. This is currently at the feasibility-study stage. Once that’s signed off and approved the next hurdles will be a planning application, fundraising, tendering and construction. Other parish councils which own land which, like Enborne’s, currently produces only a small annual income and which wish to both reduce their carbon footprint and provide a lasting legacy will be following the progress of the scheme with interest. We’ll bring more news on any developments as they become available.

• There’s a letter in this week’s Newbury Weekly News from the Secretary of the Enborne River Valley Protection Society (ERVPS, formerly Keep Wash Water Rural) on the subject of the proposed development on the Hampshire/Berkshire border in Wash Water (the triangle of land between the A343, the A34 and the Rive Enborne). I spoke to another member of the group on 2 December who confirmed that the main concerns about flooding, traffic and mitigating infrastructure. In the 18 November section (see below) we included a statement from the developers Bewley Homes about this. You can see more on the ERVPS website here. 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 om the impact will be felt in West Berkshire). Any comments should be made by 16 December.

• Congratulations to the Hamstead Hornet on reaching its 100th edition, published a few days ago. Click here to read it.

Readibus

As mentioned last week, this community transport charity has recently been recognised as one of the three best organisations of its kind in the country in relation to its response to the pandemic, providing safe transport to elderly, disabled and clinically extremely vulnerable people for food shopping, medical appointments, respite or any other reason. You can read more on this here. Our congratulations to all involved.

Well-deserved though the award is, this wouldn’t be worthy of particular remark were it not for the fact that Readibus has been locked for several years in a dispute with West Berkshire Council. You’ll see from the many comments on the above-mentioned post that public reaction to this ranges from mystification to anger. The issue turns on the introduction of a proposed provision into the service agreement that says that Readibus “shall not make any press announcement except with the prior written consent of the Council.” WBC doesn’t like the term “gagging clause” to describe this but it’s hard to find a better one. The trustees have said that they cannot sign this agreement as it stands because, as recently reported in Third Sector, “it is inconsistent with the duties of trustees to sign such clauses.” The most immediate result of this has been WBC’s withholding of half the promised grant payment for 2020-21 and more than half of 2021-22’s. This is on top of a massive funding cut of 68% in 2019-20. Given that WBC or its predecessor has been funding Readibus for nearly 40 years, this all seems very odd.

We’ve referred to this several times. In the 22 to 29 April column (see the Newbury Area section) we looked in detail at some statements made by the ruling Conservative group on WBC, none of which were particularly convincing. Discussions have taken place since then but do not appear to have been pressed forward with as much urgency as the above-mentioned current or former users of the service would wish. I understand there have been some small movements in WBC’s position but not enough to enable the trustees to sign the agreement. Readibus’ client-base, meanwhile has been virtually decimated. There were between 500 and 600 users of the service before the cuts with a peak of over 29,000 journeys in 2013-14. This has since shrunk to between 70 and 80 making about 2,800 journeys between April 2020 and March 2021. It’s impossible to believe that this is because the demand for the services has reduced. Because of the funding squeeze, Readibus has had to make cuts, so making its services less available. There having been no major medical breakthroughs in restoring lost mobility and no other providers emerging who choose or are even able to offer the same service, it must be assumed that there are currently about 500 people in the area who would benefit from this service but cannot currently access it.

Readibus is not alone in this. Third Sector has recently reported on a campaign dating back seven years to do away with these “gagging clauses.” It quotes the Chief Executive of Children England as saying that that “these contracts aim to shut us up and belittle the work we do”, adding that criticism (if merited) should be welcomed: in any case, few charities would go public on a grievance unless they’d first discussed resolving it in private. Chloe Hardy, director of policy and communications at the Sheila McKechnie Foundation adds that “if you want charities to deliver services you have to accept that you are commissioning independent organisations.” The Director of the think tank Rogare, Ian MacQuillin, agrees: “on a point of principle, charities ought to reject donations that compromise how they could discuss or frame the cause they serve.” The article’s author suggests that “the idea of donors using their gifts to buy reputational capital and silence potential criticism from charities seems deeply retrograde.” A high-profile example of this recently occurred when the Science Museum signed a gagging clause with Shell in return for funding. This was slightly different in that it specified certain things that the Museum couldn’t do or say but the net result is the same: as well as providing a service, the recipient is in effect acting an adjunct of the donor’s PR department.

Time will tell whether and how this gets resolved. Winter is closing in, which is always likely to increase demand for transport services. The area’s population is growing, and ageing. Meanwhile, WBC is currently preparing its 2022-23 budget. This will include a provision for adult social care which will only increase if people are needlessly trapped at home. The first thing is to solve the problem of this “gagging clause”. Recognising it for what it is would be a useful first step.

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 18 October and you can download the minutes here. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) 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 17 November and you can read the minutes here. items covered included: a dog-fouling poster; a presentation from WBC’s Highways Department concerning Love Lane; Morris dancers; financial matters; reports from District Councillors Lynne Doherty and Steve Masters; planning matters; footpaths; a contribution of £1,600 to the WBC Library Service; the Christmas parish letter; and possible street-light dimming. 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 9 November and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: planning applications; financial matters; speeding; flooding in Oare; verge cutting; free trees from Greenham Trust; night-security lighting at the Showground; an injury from a falling tree; a resignation; congratulations to the new board at the Newbury and District Agricultural Association; and the unknown Tommy. 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 Speen Parish Council took place on 8 November and you can read the minutes here. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• Speen PC currently has vacancies for five parish councillors – click here for more.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council took place on 20 September and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: SID training; The Rising Sun in Stockcross; financial matters; speeding; parish communications; the parish improvement plan; relations with WBC; and the frequency of Speen PC meetings in the future. 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 8 September 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 7 September 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 29 July and you can download the minutes hereTo 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 and you can click here to read the September 2021 edition which has recently been published.

Thursday 25 November 2021

This week’s news

• The Mayor, Billy Drummond is inviting the town’s elderly residents to join him for a festive afternoon tea on Thursday 16 December. Tickets are free but are limited and need to be booked in advance.

• Congratulations to Readibus which has been named as one of three best community transport services nationwide during the pandemic. You can read the full statement here as well as some background to its local activities. I’m sure everyone at West Berkshire Council is very grateful that it has such an organisation on its doorstep.

• If you haven’t seen the acclaimed Hockney and Hollywood exhibition at The Base Greenham yet, now is your last chance as it closes at 5pm this Sunday 28 November.

• In recent reassuring news, Thames Valley Police started a new initiative to help tackle knife crime. Amnesty bins have now been installed around West Berkshire, one of those locations being at Newbury Police Station.

• For latest news from Newbury Town Council see their November 2021 newsletter here.

Newbury’s Living Advent Calendar is pleased to be returning to its pre-pandemic format whereby people can turn up for the daily “reveal” of an advent display or activity at various locations across the town. See the programme here for 1 – 24 December of established favourites with some interesting newcomers: City Arts, the Lockdown Wood and Secret Garden, Educafe, Pots of Hope, Colline’s Kitchen, Berkshire Youth and St Joseph’s Primary School.

• Some heart-warming news here, Cooper the sniffer dog has been a certified good boy. He’s sniffed out some illegal tobacco in West Berkshire and has also assisted officers in Wokingham and Bracknell. See here for photos of Cooper.

• Healthwatch West Berkshire is encouraging Covid testing as people return to work, school and college. They report that Community Covid-19 testing continues to play a major role protecting your friends and family. Even if you’re double vaccinated, you can still pass the virus on despite being asymptomatic. The Time2Test initiative aims to provide the correct testing equipment to members of the public. For more information on this and the coverage so far, visit healthwatchwestberkshire.org.uk.

• The popular Educafe Community Café at The Globe is taking a long Christmas break in December and will return mid-January. In the meantime you are welcome to pop into another community café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesday afternoons between 2pm and 4pm.

• On the final leg of the Newbury Real Ale Festival saga, Newbury Today shows that the festival has recently had its license renewed. This renewal came with a warning from West Berkshire Council about the noise complaints.

• As we have mentioned in recent releases, there are proposals for a new development between Newbury College and the A339 (see last week’s section below for more), a joint venture between Greenham Trust, Aldi Stores and Feltham Group. More information can be found on the project’s website.

• More developments are underway along London Road. A Lidl store is being introduced to the London Road retail park, just opposite Tesco. The aim is to finish this by the first quarter of 2022. A little further on the road, a Costa drive through (another coffee shop that we so desperately need) is being placed in the B&Q car park. This is to be the fourth Costa in Newbury alone.

• Some road closures as Boundary Road is currently shut between the mini roundabout at Racecourse Road and the junction with York Road due to water leaks. The road is expected to reopen as of Monday.

Click here to keep up to date with Newbury Town Council’s diary of events.

• Newbury Town Council is looking for volunteers to be a part of a Steering Group for its Neighbourhood Development Plan. More information here or email NDP@newbury.gov.uk.

• This month’s edition of Visit Newbury Loves Local is all about autumn fun.

• See here for information and events in Parkway, Newbury.

• An NHS research exhibition is on display at West Berkshire Library. Opening times and more can be found here.

• Click here for information about lateral flow tests available in West Berkshire.

• Mayor Billy Drummond’s Christmas card competition has come to an end and the winner has been announced. A congratulations to Victoria Stolyarova who designed the winning card this year. You can see the design and other information here.

• Newbury Town Council is appealing for volunteers for spring bulb planting. Newbury in Bloom are working with the council to further enhance Newbury’s open spaces by planting vivid purple crocus bulbs at Blossom’s Field, Old Hospital Green, City Recreation Ground and Walton Way play area in November. For the volunteering dates and more information, click here.

Hamstead Marshall Wildlife Group has been successful in its application to Greenham Trust for some saplings which will be planted in the Hamstead Marshall Village Hall Field. A spokesperson said that that the planting date had yet to be agreed but that this will be publicised. Volunteers may be needed.

• Any comments, suggestions or feedback about the Council’s community transport services (including Readibus) should be sent to WBC’s Transport Services Team. You can write to them at Council Offices, Market Street, Newbury, RG14 5LD, email Transport@westberks.gov.uk or call 01635 519394.

• Community larders are running in Newbury, Thatcham and Wantage – click here for details.

Click here for the results from the Newbury Photography Club’s latest competition.

• The popular My Wild Life’ photography competition is returning, inspired by the return of the Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year 57. For information on the competition and deadlines, click here.

A political football

Anyone with a taste for the surreal or the ironic would not have been disappointed by the meeting of the Western Area Planning Committee on 24 November. Two of the applications being considered were long-standing ones from the Newbury Community Football Group for the re-development of the clubhouse and the installation of a new pitch at Faraday Road. There were no planning grounds on which the applications could be refused and so they were unanimously passed. As a result, all the members needed to vote in favour, including Howard Woollaston, the portfolio holder for sport and wellbeing. This was despite continuation of football on the site being contrary to the current policy of the administration of which he is a member. In these circumstances, it seems odd that a substitute wasn’t used (as they should be to replace an Executive member in any application in which WBC is the applicant and/or the landowner). This would not only ensure that the decision could later be proved as having been impartial but would also have avoid the risk of the irritated expression of non-planning aspects. This did indeed happen, at about 41′ (see the Zoom recoding here).

Councillor Woollaston described the applications as “vexatious.” The word is (when used in such a context) defined by the Cambridge Dictionary as describing an action “having little chance of succeeding in law, but intended to annoy someone or cause problems for them.” As the applications did succeed they could not therefore under this definition be described as “vexatious.”.The NCFG may well have annoyed or caused problems for WBC but only because it wanted to retain football on the site and WBC did not. As regards whether the decisions can be implemented, Councillor Woollaston said that WBC “has no intention” of realising the site for this purpose as it conflicts with its wider plans. This was picked up by Lib Dem Councillor Tony Vickers who pointed out that were there to be a change of administration (the next local elections will be in about 18 months time) there might also be a change of policy: one can therefore never say never. At this point the discussion was halted by the Chairman.

The wider vision for the site, and the current administration’s stated aim, is for homes to be built there, the proceeds from which would help fund the wider regeneration of the area (the general need for which seems to be widely agreed). What should happen to the ground is, however, more contentious. Moreover, new regulations on building in areas of flood risk may make this plan unlikely to pass or certainly be more expensive to build. New and more costly environmental standards will also be in force by the time any works start. Plenty of other flats will have been built in the town which would depress the prices. The project should also surely bear the costs both of the relocation of the football ground and money that will have been spent on Faraday Road since the facility was closed in June 2018 in the unfulfilled expectation that work would soon start on .

All in all, this housing may not be the cash generator that was once hoped. I would argue that if flats are to be built there then they should be affordable ones. Councils are obliged to maximise the value from the land they own but “value” can and should be widened to include more than just a cash return. A sustainable and flood-proofed development would certainly provide value to the community as a whole. That would be a legacy of which any councillor would be proud. Certainly no private developer is going to build that number of affordable dwellings.

Another option, advocated by the NCFG and others, is that the area be retained as a football ground. The planned scheme at Monks Lane may yet prove to be a valuable, if pricey, addition to the town’s assets but many argue that it’s not a like-for-like replacement. As it’s highly unlikely that anything major will happen at Faraday Road in the next 18 months, this seems set to be a live issue at the election in 2023.

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 (also the annual meeting) of Newbury Town Council took place on 18 October and you can download the minutes here. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) 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 17 November and you can read the minutes here. items covered included: a dog-fouling poster; a presentation from WBC’s Highways Department concerning Love Lane; Morris dancers; financial matters; reports from District Councillors Lynne Doherty and Steve Masters; planning matters; footpaths; a contribution of £1,600 to the WBC Library Service; the Christmas parish letter; and possible street-light dimming. 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 12 October and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: parking on School Road; the have-you-say meetings hosted by the Neighbourhood Policing Team; planning matters; financial matters; bus shelters; the dog-waste bin in the recreation field; and flooding in Oare 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 Speen Parish Council took place on 28 September and you can read the minutes here. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• Speen PC currently has vacancies for five parish councillors – click here for more.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council took place on 20 September and you can read the minutes hereTo 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 8 September 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 7 September 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 29 July and you can download the minutes hereTo 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 and you can click here to read the September 2021 edition which has recently been published.

Thursday 18 November 2021

This week’s news

• The Mayor, Billy Drummond is inviting the town’s elderly residents to join him for a festive afternoon tea on Thursday 16 December. After two missed years, the Mayor wanted the opportunity to be able to give back to Newbury’s oldest residents during his year in office. Tickets are free but are limited and need to be booked in advance.

The popular Educafe Community Cafe at The Globe is taking a long Christmas break in December and will return mid-January. In the meantime you are welcome to pop into another community café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesday afternoons between 2pm and 4pm.

• Following coverage of the noise complaints made by local residents regarding the Newbury Real Ale Festival, the organisers admit that they could and should have turned the music down. The full report from Newbury Today show that this apology was in a bid to try and save the festival and that the organisers gave an “unreserved apology” to the WBC Licensing Committee which will now decide if a licence will be granted for 2022.

• Work continues apace on removing the fences from the football ground at Faraday Road. The ones on the southern side at least were, WBC assured Penny Post, deemed to be dangerous as a result of a safety inspection. It’s less clear what was wrong with the other ones. WBC decided in 2019 to convert this to an informal area of grassland for general sports and recreational use pending its redevelopment.” This has been a slow process and has cost a fair bit: the latest works, when completed, will have cost over £84,000. This is in addition to other costs, including maintenance and security since the ground was closed, £5,790 on the application to demolish the clubhouse and £22,389 on doing just this following the fire in August 2021. The value of this work will last only until the site is developed. No one knows when this might happen but any developer will certainly have been saved the cost of clearing the area. Let’s hope WBC will recoup what it’s spent so far when the deal with the developer (whoever that proves to be) is done. WBC has said that there was no formal change of use required as the land was, and remains, under the F2 Local Community Uses for outdoor sport and recreation. None the less, it is a major change of its effective function. The removal of the high fences make the ball games a much less viable option. What else might it be used for?

Indeed, does Newbury needs such a recreation area? Newbury Town Councillor Vaughan Miller told Penny Post on 17 November that there had been “no public consultation about this.” Indeed, in a WBC document which is effectively an FAQ about the issue, point 15 poses the question of what data was used to determine if such an open-space facility was needed. The reply was that there was “no available data” (I’m not sure if this means that the matter wasn’t looked into or that it was but the data for some reason isn’t available). The three options WBC identified were (i) this recreational space; (ii) closure (which it “did not want to do”); and (iii) re-opening it for football (“not a reasonable proposition”). The latter is certainly the case now, given the disrepair into which the ground has been allowed to sink. The impression is that the ground was closed in June 2018 on the assumption that development would soon start (which it didn’t) and with no plan B. For two years, the situation drifted, the ground decayed and no replacement was found. At least in the last 18 months the new portfolio holder has actually tried to get something done but he didn’t have many cards to play with. It could be argued the the current solution to Faraday Road and (if approved) Monks Lane is an expensive and messy compromise that satisfies no one. Moreover, each is not the result of a clear policy but the forced adoption, at the last possible moment and largely as the result of external circumstances and pressures, of the least bad solution.

If such a space is needed now then presumably it also was in June 2018 when the ground was closed. Why did this conversion of purpose therefore not take place then, or at lease as soon as it became clear that the St Modwen deal had collapsed? As is so often the case with anything to do with the LRIE or the football ground, there are more questions than answers.

• There’s recently been some controversy about the proposed major re-development of the Kennet Centre which would then be known as Eagle Quarter. Several objections have referred to the character of Newbury’s historic town centre which this would (or so it’s claimed) destroy. I’m not sure that this character survives to quite the extent that’s claimed but it’s certainly unfortunate that these sentiments weren’t more prominent in the years leading up to the opening of the Kennet Centre in 1972. According to Penny Stokes’ recently published book, Georgian Newbury, one of the casualties was the “magnificent” Old King’s Head pub in the Market Place which had a frontage of 45 feet and dated back to the 15th century. Grade II* it may have been: but down it came, and up went the shopping centre that we all know and loathe today. Click here for more information on the book.

Thames Valley Police has started a new initiative to help tackle knife crime. There are amnesty bins now installed around West Berkshire, one of those locations being at Newbury Police Station.

• For latest news from Newbury Town Council see their November 2021 newsletter here.

• The Jurassic Bark Pack walk will be meeting for a walk around Penwood Forest this Saturday at noon. The car park can be found on the same road as Penwood Nurseries, approximate post code RG20 9EW. For more information see the events section.

• It was reported last week on Newbury Today that residents of Pond Close were successful in their battle to stop a new development. Fourteen of them objected on grounds including road safety, parking issues and noise pollution. The matter was decided by the Western Area Planning Committee (overturning the officers’ recommendation to approve it). The members criticised the developers for reducing the number of dwellings below the threshold of 10 which required a provision for affordable homes.

• A new award has been created by the Newbury auctioneers Dreweatts in collaboration with Historic Houses. It’s reported by Newbury Today that this is to celebrate the importance and evolution of the rich collections that can be found in Britain’s independently-owned historic houses.

• Now to the big C word, there will be a Christmas Fair at The Chequers Hotel on 28 November. Stalls are yet to be announced however, if you are a stall holder and are interested, please contact 01635 38000 to book your slot. See more below in the events section.

• The Churches of St John and St George in south Newbury have undergone training from the UK charity CAP (Christian Against Poverty) and offer free money-advice courses on how best to take control of expenditure. The current course is now underway and the next one will start in January. See more information here.

• Healthwatch West Berkshire is encouraging Covid testing as people return to work, school and college. There is a new initiative in the works called Time2Test. For more information on this and the coverage so far, see here.

• The Base at Greenham is hosting a David Hockney exhibition until Sunday 28 November. More information can be found below in the events section.

• Newbury school Speenhamland Primary was recently visited by triathlete James Ketchell. Newbury Today writes that this was an inspiring opportunity for pupils. You can read the pupil’s own feedback and more on this here.

• As we have mentioned in recent releases, there are proposals for a new development between Newbury College and the A339 (see last week’s section below for more), a joint venture between Greenham Trust, Aldi Stores and Feltham Group. More information can be found on the project’s website.

Click here to keep up to date with Newbury Town Council’s diary of events.

• Newbury Town Council is looking for volunteers to be a part of a Steering Group for its Neighbourhood Development Plan. More information here or email NDP@newbury.gov.uk.

• This month’s edition of Visit Newbury Loves Local is all about autumn fun.

• See here for information and events in Parkway, Newbury.

• An NHS research exhibition is on display at West Berkshire Library. Opening times and more can be found here.

• Click here for information about lateral flow tests available in West Berkshire.

• Newbury Town Council is appealing for volunteers for spring bulb planting. Newbury in Bloom are working with the council to further enhance Newbury’s open spaces by planting vivid purple crocus bulbs at Blossom’s Field, Old Hospital Green, City Recreation Ground and Walton Way play area in November. For the volunteering dates and more information, click here.

Hamstead Marshall Wildlife Group has been successful in its application to Greenham Trust for some saplings which will be planted in the Hamstead Marshall Village Hall Field. A spokesperson said that that the planting date had yet to be agreed but that this will be publicised. Volunteers may be needed.

• Any comments, suggestions or feedback about the Council’s community transport services (including Readibus) should be sent to WBC’s Transport Services Team. You can write to them at Council Offices, Market Street, Newbury, RG14 5LD, email Transport@westberks.gov.uk or call 01635 519394.

• Community larders are running in Newbury, Thatcham and Wantage – click here for details.

Click here for the results from the Newbury Photography Club’s latest competition.

• The popular My Wild Life’ photography competition is returning, inspired by the return of the Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year 57. For information on the competition and deadlines, click here.

Watermill Bridge

This week’s NWN reports that Bewley Homes’ application for 250 homes in Wash Water, to be known as Watermill Bridge if it goes ahead, has been submitted to (though not yet validated by) Basingstoke and Deane Council. Concerns have been raised about the scheme, starting at an open event at The Woodpecker inn earlier in the year and continuing ever since. The paper quotes one local resident’s concerns about flooding, traffic and the lack of mitigating infrastructure. These kind of objections are to be expected but in this case appear to be widespread: Councillor James Cole told Penny Post that he understands that there is “no support for the scheme from any of the neighbouring parishes on either side of the country border.” The project has a website which you can visit here. The opponents also have a website, Keep Washwater Rural, which you can visit here.

Bewley Homes contacted Penny Post on 18 November with a statement about the development. This describes the project as “a low carbon scheme with a high biodiversity net gain. The development’s first phase will provide an average improvement of 95% in carbon efficiency compared to 2013 Building Regulations with a commitment for the whole site to be, on average, at least a 75% improvement.” Specific features promised include improved insulation, in-line solar panels, air-source heat pumps, rainwater harvesting, EV charge points and a community building which will be powered by a waterwheel. 40% of the homes will be affordable and there will be some properties reserved for older people. The site will include “diverse environmental compartments” including formal and informal open spaces, children’s play areas, community allotments, wetland habitats and woodland. There will also be a health and wellbeing centre and a convenience store and a 2km cycle and footway to Newbury.

On the question of flooding, the statement had this to say: “We met many local residents, some of whom held concerns relating to the flood plain of the river Enborne. Extensive modelling undertaken in collaboration with the Environment Agency confirms that new homes as proposed at Watermill Bridge would not be at risk of flooding. The new sustainable drainage systems will withstand a 1 in 100 year storm event plus an additional 40% allowance for increases in rainfall due to climate change, and will not worsen flooding for existing residents.”

If approval is granted, Bewley claims this will be “an exemplar development for the area showcasing innovation in sustainable and environmentally conscious construction. We are not only proposing to meet the Government’s targets, but this site will surpass biodiversity net gain requirements and Future Home Standards.”

If all these features survive into the final construction then there would be much to welcome. The “if” is always a big one in planning matters. These aspects may sway the views of Basingstoke and Dean’s planners and committee members but it’s not unknown for such aspects to be jettisoned along the way through viability assessments. None the less, the aspirations are now a matter of record. Let’s see how any reality compares to this.

The first hurdle, of course, is getting approval. It’s not known at present what B&CD’s view on this is. A cynic might argue that a planning authority might see the ideal location for a development as beings right on the edge of its district and away from its main centres of population, as this one is: it counts towards its housing targets and it gets the developer contributions but a neighbouring authority, West Berkshire in this case, has to deal with all the consequences. In such cases there’s normally some horse trading between the councils to share the CIL or S106 money. Given its proximity to Newbury, it’s likely that West Berkshire’s infrastructure will bear almost all the impact and that it should therefore have almost all the money. This almost certainly won’t happen.

Once the application has gone live we’ll publish the link on B&D’s website. If you have any comments, good or bad, about the project then that is to where these should be addressed.

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 (also the annual meeting) of Newbury Town Council took place on 22 June and you can download the minutes here. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) 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 October and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: parking on School Road; the have-you-say meetings hosted by the Neighbourhood Policing Team; planning matters; financial matters; bus shelters; the dog-waste bin in the recreation field; and flooding in Oare 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 Speen Parish Council took place on 28 September and you can read the minutes here. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• Speen PC currently has vacancies for five parish councillors – click here for more.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council took place on 20 September and you can read the minutes hereTo 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 8 September 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 7 September and you can read the draft 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 29 July and you can download the minutes hereTo 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 and you can click here to read the September 2021 edition which has recently been published.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council took place on 16 June and you can read the minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

Thursday 11 November 2021

This week’s news

• Volunteers at the weekly Educafe Community Cafe at The Globe have been busy knitting and sewing blankets for Newbury Soup Kitchen. During lockdown a lot of people have been knitting squares and the team have turned them into blankets and scarves for people in need. They were gratefully collected by Meryll Praill from the soup kitchen on Wednesday. For more about knitting squares please see here.

• Newbury Friends of the Earth and Lockdown Wood volunteers planted a fourth lockdown wood at Stroud Green in Newbury last Saturday 6 November 2021. An impressive 90 home-grown trees were planted that had been tended in pots by local residents since the first lockdown in May 2020. Local teacher Sue Ridgard, said “Our oak tree appeared in our garden some years ago following our son’s interest in planting acorns, conkers and other items in the hope that they might grow. It’s important for young children to be aware of how they can help reduce our impact on the Earth’s resources. The boys were thrilled to be able to take part on Saturday and I’m sure that they will be regular visitors to Stroud Green to check on the progress of their tree”. See here for more about the Lockdown Woods across West Berkshire.

• The deadline of Newbury Mayor Billy Drummond’s Christmas card competition draws closer. The final submission date is Sunday 14 November and you can see more information and how to enter here.

• And still with The Mayor, Billy Drummond is inviting the town’s elderly residents to join him for a festive afternoon tea on Thursday 16 December. With the Mayor’s Drive and Tea Party unable to take place for two summers in a row due to coronavirus, the Mayor wanted to make the most of the opportunity to be able to give back to Newbury’s oldest residents during his year in office. Tickets are free but are limited and need to be booked in advance.

• This week’s NWN has on p12 an article about the controversy surrounding the recent Newbury Real Ale Festival. The paper reports over a hundred letters of support for the renewal of its licence but also accusations that it encourages criminal activity. One could, of course, make the same charge against almost any public event. In any case, I’m not sure where this is just a personal observation or one backed up with evidence. The accuser goes on to suggest that it’s “unacceptable to use alcohol to raise money for children.” If that were followed there’d be no money for local kids’ charities raised by the likes of pub quizzes. The suggestion was also made that the event sold flowers or non-alcoholic drinks “and be inclusive for everyone.” This seems to miss the point completely: it’s a real ale festival. It’s inclusive for those who like real ale and therefore not for those who don’t. How deadeningly dull life would be were every event have to be watered down to cater for the lowest common denominator. I contacted the festival’s organisers but was told that no comments would be provided on the licence review until the process has concluded next week.

• I put in a call to the Newbury and District Agricultural Society (NADAS) today to see how the new regime was settling in after its first full week at the helm. “It’s still early days,” Nick Wallis, one of the new trustees, admitted. “We are all optimistic about the future and also fully aware that the road ahead will have some twists in it.” He added that they had been “very encouraged by the support we’ve so far received. We’re very keen to help build on the legacy gifted to the society by all the efforts of generations of members and friends of NADAS in the past.”

• The November 2021 newsletter from Newbury Town Council is available: click here to read it.

• Two Newbury eateries, Greggs and Cobrizo Lounge on Northbrook Street recently saw early or full closures due to staffing issues. Reports show that these two shops are now reopened and back to usual opening times.

• A slightly odd yet revealing story regarding The Hatchet Inn in Newbury: their toilets  have been presented a platinum award as part of the Loo of the Year awards. I never knew such things existed. You can find the whole story here.

• It has been reported on Newbury Today that residents of Pond Close have been succesful in their battle to stop new developments being built. Fourteen local residents objected with fair reason regarding road safety, parking issues and noise pollution.

• As we have mentioned previously, there are proposals for a new development between Newbury College and the A339 (see last week’s section below for more), a joint venture between Greenham Trust, Aldi Stores and Feltham Group. More information can be found on the project’s website.

• You may have seen in one of our recent reports of the Calendar Girls where a group of women joined together to create a calendar to raise money for Newbury Cancer Care. The most recent endeavour of the Newbury Cancer Care group saw a group called “Boys in Bras” walk the streets of Newbury on Saturday 6 November in nothing but a bra to raise money for the charity. A total of £7,000 has been raised so far.

• The Churches of St John and St George in south Newbury have undergone training from the UK charity CAP (Christian Against Poverty) and offer free money-advice courses on how best to take control of expenditure. The current course is now underway and the next one will start in January. See more information here.

• Healthwatch West Berkshire is encouraging Covid testing as people return to work, school and college. There is a new initiative in the works called Time2Test. For more information on this and the coverage so far, see here.

• The Base at Greenham is hosting a David Hockney exhibition until Sunday 28 November. More information can be found below in the events section.

Newbury’s Remembrance Sunday proceedings will commence with the main parade stepping off on Sunday 14 November at 10.25am from Pelican Lane and marching the length of Northbrook Street turning into Mansion House Street where the Mayor of Newbury, Cllr Billy Drummond, will take the salute prior to continuing to the Market Place where the Remembrance Service will take place. For more information you can click here.

• Newbury Town Council is looking for volunteers to be a part of a Steering Group for its Neighbourhood Development Plan. More information here or email NDP@newbury.gov.uk.

• This month’s edition of Visit Newbury Loves Local is all about autumn fun.

• See here for information and events in Parkway, Newbury.

Russell Road in Newbury is to close on 17 November for the day. The closure will last from 9am to 3pm. You can find more information here.

• Another closure at Newtown Road from the Pinchington Lane roundabout to The Swan roundabout. It will be shut from 7pm until 5am each night from Monday 8 November until Thursday 11 November. Further information here.

• An NHS research exhibition is on display at West Berkshire Library. Opening times and more can be found here.

• Click here for information about lateral flow tests available in West Berkshire.

• Newbury Town Council is appealing for volunteers for spring bulb planting. Newbury in Bloom are working with the council to further enhance Newbury’s open spaces by planting vivid purple crocus bulbs at Blossom’s Field, Old Hospital Green, City Recreation Ground and Walton Way play area in November. For the volunteering dates and more information, click here.

• Any comments, suggestions or feedback about the Council’s community transport services (including Readibus) should be sent to WBC’s Transport Services Team. You can write to them at Council Offices, Market Street, Newbury, RG14 5LD, email Transport@westberks.gov.uk or call 01635 519394.

• Community larders are running in Newbury, Thatcham and Wantage – click here for details.

Click here for the results from the Newbury Photography Club’s latest competition.

• The popular My Wild Life’ photography competition is returning, inspired by the return of the Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year 57. For information on the competition and deadlines, click here.

• A reminder that Enborne Parish Council recently considered and opposed the proposed 350-home development at Wash Water. There is also a local group which has been formed, Keep Washwater Rural.

Faraday’s fences

As mentioned last week, WBC  and Newbury Town Council had a bit of a stand-off at the Faraday Road football ground – if it can still be so-called given how little of it is left – after WBC staff arrived to start removing the tall fencing that surrounds it on two sides. It was first thought that this would be replaced with a lower fence: now, however, I’ve been told by a representative of Newbury Town Council that there will be no replacement; also that the hedge has (or will be) removed too, so leaving nothing between the grass area and the canal. The fence, I was told, needed some repairs but was otherwise in good condition.

I contacted Howard Woollaston, the District Councillor who was handed the problematic chalice of the football ground as one of his responsibilities last year. He suggested that “brambles and a few spindly trees” would be a better description than “hedge”. Moreover, he added, the fence posts were rotten and only being held up by the foliage (in which case the vegetation couldn’t have been that sparse or spindly, I’d have thought). Others, such as the Newbury Community Football Group (NCFG) and NTC, disagree that the fence was in that poor a condition.

He promised to get back to me with answers to my other questions including what if any fencing would be replacing it. WBC’s stated aim is that the ground be used as a recreational area until it’s re-developed. If it’s going to be left fenceless then it’s hard to see how any parent would, with a waterway nearby, be happy about using it with their children. Kids also like to play with balls and any that are kicked too far to the south are going to end up in the canal and thus, eventually, in Reading.

I also asked if this were not a matter that should be paid for by a developer. “No developer has been selected yet so WBC has a duty to keep the area safe.” Given the state the site was in, the Council “regarded it as a health-and-safety issue.” In the last three and a half years, a lot of money has been spent by WBC in reducing Faraday Road from a football ground to its current state of being a fire-damaged demolition site. Development still seems a long way off (and, given changes in flood-protection regulations, less certain than previously) so one wonders how many other costs might follow. The alternative would have been to have given the football club a one-year rolling lease and worked with them to find a new site. That’s all in the past. We are where are and Newbury Football Club is where it is (in Henwick): and, one suspects, likely to stay there for some time.

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 (also the annual meeting) of Newbury Town Council took place on 22 June and you can download the minutes here. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) 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 October and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: parking on School Road; the have-you-say meetings hosted by the Neighbourhood Policing Team; planning matters; financial matters; bus shelters; the dog-waste bin in the recreation field; and flooding in Oare 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 Speen Parish Council took place on 28 September and you can read the minutes here. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• Speen PC currently has vacancies for five parish councillors – click here for more.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council took place on 20 September and you can read the minutes hereTo 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 8 September 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 7 September and you can read the draft 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 29 July and you can download the minutes hereTo 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 and you can click here to read the September 2021 edition which has recently been published.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council took place on 16 June and you can read the minutes hereTo 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 areaMarlborough areaNewbury areaThatcham areaCompton and DownlandsTheale areaWantage areaSwindon area.

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

To see earlier Newbury & Surrounding Area Weekly News columns, please click here.

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