Hungerford Town Council Update March/April 2022

These notes incorporate some but not all of the matters discussed at the Full HTC meeting on 4 April 2022, the agenda for which can be found here. The official minutes of the meeting will in due course be found on the HTC site. Any references below to ‘the meeting’ refer to this event unless specified otherwise. Any such issues are not necessarily covered here in the order in which they were discussed.  This report may also include information about HTC’s activities which were not discussed at the meeting. See the foot of this post for more information.

Full Council Meetings take place generally at 7.00pm in the Library on the first working Monday of every month except August (when there is no meeting). The agenda for the next one (as well as for the Council’s various committee meetings) can be found in this section of the HTC website

See the foot of this post for more information.

HTC = Hungerford Town Council; WBC = West Berkshire Council; WAPC = WBC’s Western Area Planning Committee. NDP = Neighbourhood Development Plan. H2036 = Hungerford’s NDP. DC = District Councillor.

For HTC updates from previous months, please visit the archives here.

Police report

No members of the local police attended the meeting and no report was provided.

The local police team

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

Local events

If you have any community events for which you would like representation from your local NHPT, please contact us via the above email address. While we cannot guarantee we will always be able to attend, we will make every effort to do so (the local team did at the Hungerford Town meeting in March 2022). 

General information (including contacts)

  • Please report all incidents to the Police or otherwise they will not be officially recorded – news travels fast round a community but if no one tells reports incidents the police may not know about it. Mentioning an incident on social media does not count as reporting the crime.
  • People are encouraged to sign up for Thames Valley Alerts. As well as local crime information, you can receive details of the latest scams.
  • Thames Valley Police has a Facebook page.
  • The local policing team also wants to draw attention to the ‘what three words’ app which is used to help with the prevention of rural crime by locating people. The app provides a three-word code for each grid which is mapped over the world. By ringing 999 and quoting it the police can locate you.
  • You can report incidents online but if it is urgent please continue to call on 101 (non-emergency) and 999 in an emergency.
  • If you would like to report anonymously you can do so via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or online.
  • The team’s email address is HungerfordandDownlandsNHPT@thamesvalley.pnn.police.uk  This is not monitored 24/7 and should not be used to report a crime.
  • The local police team is keen to promote the Herbert Protocol initiative which helps us all to try to keep vulnerable members of our community safe.

The co-option of a new councillor

Following the resignation of Rupert Mills for work reasons announced at the March meeting, a vacancy thus arose which which could be filled by co-option. Fortunately, HTC had a replacement-in-waiting: Mark Greenwell had offered his services at the January meeting but was narrowly defeated in the vote that followed, Keith Carlson being elected on that occasion. The Mayor said at the time she was sorry that both excellent candidates could not be appointed. This has now come to pass as Mark Greenwell was unanimously co-opted to HTC at the meeting.

Mayor’s report

All in all, another very busy month…

Deputy Town Clerk

HTC sadly said farewell to its Deputy Town Clerk Sarah Hennessey, Sarah left the team on Friday a April and will now enjoy a well- earned early retirement. HTC would like to thank Sarah for her dedication and commitment to the HTC family. We will miss her immensely and hope to see her pop in for a catch up soon.

I would also like to thank Sarah’s partner, Bruce, who has been busy working on a lovely surprise for the HTC team – an incredible platform stand for the Hungerford Christmas Light switch-on event. It even has a light-up count-down button and a twinkly Christmas tree decoration. Bruce, I absolutely love it – can’t wait for Christmas now…!

Town Meeting

I was thrilled to welcome Hungerford residents back to the annual town meeting, following an absence of two years due to Covid restrictions. The meeting was well attended and lively. I was pleased to welcome a younger group within the audience who had a particular interest in the skate park project, they have expressed an interest to join the working party and play an active role. It was nice to have WBC in attendance, and nice to receive their praise, to the extent that Hungerford’s annual town meeting should be held up as a shining example of community engagement. I would like to thank all those who participated and attended and give a special thanks to all councillors and staff for their commitment on the evening.

Fundraising

I mentioned at the town meeting how impressed I was with local fundraising efforts to support the Ukraine crisis. Christian Alba raised over £5,000 with a BBQ held outside the store and Hungerford Rotary also raised over £4,000. What a fantastic effort! Huge congratulations to you all.

Care home visit

Once the Covid restrictions had been relaxed I was finally able to visit Hungerford Care Home and celebrated International Women’s Day with the residents and staff, I had a really enjoyable afternoon chatting with the residents, I was presented with a hand-made tissue paper bouquet as a thank you for my visit. It is always a treat to visit the care home.

Sadly, I learned of the passing of a Hungerford lady who I’d grown very attached to over the years as a resident. I was honoured to attend her funeral with staff a few days after my visit.

HTC’s residential property

I attended a meeting with the tenants of HTC’s property alongside Councillor Downe. We shared some aspirations with the tenants on HTC’s plans to look at improving the current heating system, also to see how recent works carried out at the property had impacted the tenants. The improvements have made a positive impact and the tenants were happy with the improvements to date.

The jubilee

Plans are progressing well, with acts now booked for the event. Meetings will be held regularly to ensure the event goes off smoothly. Thanks to all the volunteers who are supporting and organising this community event.

WBC Meeting

I was delighted to meet the new Consultation and Engagement Officer at WBC, Amanda Povey. Amanda kindly filled me in on her new role, we hope Amanda will help spread Hungerford’s news far and wide and also offer support within our community by helping to signpost grants and funding opportunities available to residents and HTC, also to help spread Hungerford’s news through WBC’s newsletters. I hope to invite Amanda to a full council meeting in the near future. I’m sure many of you will have met Amanda at the town meeting. I know she enjoyed meeting the many groups and organisations present on the evening.

Ron Tarry

I attended the funeral of former Mayor Ron Tarry. Dear Ron was well loved and respected within the town. I was pleased to see such a wonderful turnout for Ron on the day of his funeral. Hungerford is certainly poorer without Ron’s devoted commitment to Hungerford and its residents spanning many decades.

Meetings

It has been a busy month for meetings, I’ve attended meetings with H2036 neighbourhood plan team and with solicitors as we finalise a lease on HTC hired assets. The Hungerford and Camburn Educational Trust (I’m a trustee) held a meeting to discuss this year’s trust activities: this is a wonderful charity which looks to support pupils in further education by considering grant funding to support student learning. I hope those eligible will submit an application for grant funding this year.

Town & Manor

After quite a long delay due to Covid, the Deputy Mayor Councillor Winser and I were finally able to meet with the Constable Peter Joseph and trustee Greg Furr. We historically held these meetings to share calendar events and news about the organisations we represent. I was delighted to be able to meet again and discuss current plans. April is a busy month for the charity and I’m very much looking forward to attending Hocktide lunch and the Ale tasting evening in April.

Hungerford Rugby Club – Schools tournament

I was thrilled to be asked to attend the school’s tag rugby tournament and to present the medals following the event. The event was extremely well attended, everyone had a lovely afternoon. It was the first time HRFC was able to host this event since Covid. The atmosphere was electric, the children had a wonderful time. Congratulations HRFC on a brilliant event for the primary school children in and around West Berkshire. I think I’ve finally thawed out now!

District councillors’ reports

Two DCs, Dennis Benneyworth and James Cole, were present at the meeting (Claire Rowles sent her apologies but was attending a WBC meeting). The points they raised included the following:

  • Pavements in Clark’s Gardens, Coldharbour Road and Bulpit Lane. All agreed (as have all at WBC) that this work was done to an exceedingly poor standard. Questions were asked as to how this had got signed off, whether the contractors had apologised and what needs to be done to stop a repeat elsewhere. The DCs promised to enquire. Remedial work was due to start on 18 April. See the 31 March 2022 section of this post (“Hungerford’s pavements”) for more on this.
  • Hungerford Nursery School. This continues to operate under a cloud of uncertainty regarding its funding, as it (and all other maintained nursery schools) have had to do for the last five years. The DCs have arranged a meeting with the portfolio holder and the the senior education officer at WBC to discuss what might be done at that level. See this post for more on this issue.
  • Meeting with the H2036 team working on the town’s neighbourhood development plan (NDP). One issue that came up was the complex one of demographic change in the town and how the NDP might help address this. For more on H2036, see below for the month’s update or this post for this and all previous reports.
  • Train service cuts. WBC would be making a response and the DCs advised HTC to do likewise, both collectively and individually. They reported that Laura Farris MP was also engaged in the campaign. DC Cole mentioned the Bedwyn Train Passenger Group as being an effective advocate on this matter and urged people to sign up to its newsletters and follow its recommended actions of whom to contact (see this post for more information and for BTPG’s latest news). The issue was described by one councillor as “possibly the biggest issue facing the town” and by another as “an existential threat.” The new and considerably diminished timetable is due to come into effect on 1 May 2022.
  • A masterplan for Hungerford. This has been agreed and funded by WBC, probably for 2023. A similar exercise was conducted in Newbury in 2021 and one for Thatcham is also planned. This would mainly look at business development and retention and the aim is that those running the project “work with existing stakeholders.” More on this to follow.

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

EV charge points

Councillor Downe suggested that WBC’s repeated failure to provide any specific information about the proposed charge points in the town was now “beyond a joke.” (It has been agreed what is to be installed and where: this was changed, at HTC’s request, to a different combination involving both “fast” and “rapid” charge points. HTc’s mounting frustration is over the installation date. This was to have been June 2021 but is currently completely unknown.) The DCs promised to raise the matters with the officer at WBC as a matter of urgency.

The Triangle Field

The Mayor reported t the meeting that, after long discussions with the Rugby Club, the lease had been signed by HTC and now only awaited the signatures of representatives from the Rugby Club.

Wildflower planting

The Mayor was pleased to report that a meeting with Paul Hendry from WBC had led to a promise to install a wildflower display (similar to that at the Speen roundabout) at the Co-op garage roundabout in Hungerford. This will be done soon, at no cost to HTC. Assuming this is a success – and it was stressed that WBC had admitted that the displays can vary considerably from year to year – HTC is considering other locations in the town that might be suitable. These would have to be funded by HTC and could be the subject of a members’ bid by the DCs.

The platinum jubilee celebrations

As the Mayor’s report above mentions, the arrangements are proceeding well. As mentioned last month, the main event will take place from 2pm until 7pm on Sunday 5 June in the Croft Green with stalls on the Croft Field. All are welcome. Bring a picnic and chairs: refreshments and food will be available from various vendors. Please don’t bring your pets, although service and assistance dogs are welcome. There will be musical and other forms of entertainment with sing-a-longs and flag-waving likely to feature prominently. Planning is still ongoing  – please contact the committee on jubileehungerford@gmail.com if you would like to help in any way or to suggest further ideas.

More information on this and other events planned over the jubilee weekend will be widely publicised as the details are confirmed.

Two other jubilee-related matters were agreed at the meeting. The first was that £2,000 would be allocated to matters such as marshalling, first-aid and insurance at the events. £1,300 of this would be covered by the unused part of the Mayor’s 2021-22 expenses: an unexpected Covid windfall. The other was that HTC would not be paying for any commemorative items such as plates or mugs as it felt it had already done as much as its time and finances permitted by organising the event and didn’t wish to take away this opportunity from local retailers.

The 2022 town meeting

As mentioned in the mayor’s report (see above), this event on 30 March in the Croft Hall was very successful and well attended. The following organisations had stalls (and representatives of several others were there as attendees):

HEAT (Hungerford Environmental Action Team), Youth & Community Centre, Skate Park working group, Football Club, Hungerford Primary School, Bedwyn Train Passenger Group, John O Gaunt School, Hungerford Nursery, Police, Community Markets, Chamber of Commerce, Hungerford Hub, Arts for Hungerford, Smarten Up Hungerford, Hungerford Surgery, Hungerford Allotment Holders Association, Defibrillators and RBFRS.

The Mayor reported that a meeting had recently taken place with the Town and Manor, which had apologised for its late cancellation of the use of the Corn Exchange for the Town Meeting. As a gesture of goodwill, the Town and Manor agreed to offer the Corn Exchange for the next town meeting at no cost to HTC.

The Mayor added that she was particularly gratified to see younger people at the meeting, several of whom had been involved in the re-develeopment of the skate park in Victoria Park in Newbury and who were happy to get involved in the plans for the one in Hungerford. The Clerk reported that they have been in touch with HTC since the meeting to suggest further ideas.

It had been suggested that a public Q&A session might form part of future meetings and it was agreed that this should be considered. The idea of regular councillors’ surgeries – agreed just before the pandemic and obviously much disrupted by it – should resume as soon as possible, with one of these perhaps taking place at the next town meeting.

Hungerford 2036 (neighbourhood development plan)

The Project Team, assisted by Navigus Planning, met in March for further evaluation of potential sites for housing to be included in the neighbourhood development plan. Key considerations have been how best to further the town’s aims and objectives as previously researched and consulted upon with residents as well as ensuring the requirements of WBCs local plan are able to be satisfied.

The project team will be briefing and consulting with the Town Council on its recommendations during April.

For more information, see the Hungerford 2036 post here.

The Croft Field Activity Centre

After various discussions in committees it was decided that the original August 2021 plans for this should be reverted to. This will not include the “changing places” facility for the disabled and those with young children that had been considered: this was not because HTC does not accept the need for this in the town but because it was felt not only that this was the wrong location for this but also that accommodating it would compromise the other intended purposes of the improvements, for which planning permission had already been obtained. This decision was approved at the meeting.

As regard the future provision of a changing places facility, HTC would look at other possible locations in town and prepare for the opportunity for funding this that would be presented by the next round of CIL bids from WBC (whereby a proportion of the developer contributions across the district are allocated to local infrastructure products as a result of pitches made by the ward members).

Direct train services between Hungerford and Paddington

As reported above, the Bedwyn Train Passenger Group (BTPG) provides regular information about how these are threatened to be considerably reduced from May 2022 as a result of cost cuts which have been demanded by the DfT of GWR. HTC agreed at the meeting that every effort should be used to lobby for these to be reversed. Some of these are suggested in the BTPG’s most recent message.

The BTPG has proved itself to be an effective advocate for rail services in the area. It also provides timely and comprehensible information about any service disruptions. Anyone who uses these services, even occasionally, is recommended to subscribe to its newsletters and to respond to any advice it gives about improving the services.

The see-saw at the Smitham Bridge playground

The preferred design was agreed at the meeting, the feeling being after having examined other quotes that this – although not the cheapest – would require less maintenance and would be used by a wider age group.

Lateral-flow tests for HTC

The Mayor pointed out that, as she was clinically vulnerable, she would get these free, though this would not apply to other HTC members and officers unless they were similarly classified. As long as the government continues to insist that council meetings happen in-person if the voting is to be beyond legal challenge, she felt that the members (all of whom are volunteers), and the officers, should be protected. Bulk deals had so far proved difficult to source (though this might change). In the meantime, a reasonable price for lateral-flow tests (LFT) had been identified at a local retailer. It was proposed, and accepted, that HTC should spend up to £100 on procuring the best deal it could for buying LFTs for members and officers to use in advance of meetings to which they had been summoned.

Ukraine

It was noted at the meeting that the Town and Manor had flown the Ukraine flag outside the Town Hall and that HTC is flying it outside the Library.

A statement condemning the situation in the country was also agreed at the meeting, as was a donation of £1,000 by HTC to the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC).

Street lights

As previously reported, the ownership of the various street lights in the town is split between WBC and HTC. WBC is happy to adopt most of them (see next paragraph for the exceptions) and pay for all future costs providing that HTC first brings these up to a suitable standard, including the installation of low-energy bulbs. In round numbers, this costs £1,000 each. This is part of a rolling programme and at the meeting HTC agreed a committee’s recommendation that a further £31,500 be spent on upgrading 31 streetlights, after which WBC will adopt them.

31 remain and these are problematic. WBC has advised HTC that these are not suitable for adoption due to reasons including their “not being located on the highway, or being in a rural location that does not warrant a full street lighting scheme.” HTC has asked WBC for further clarification on this point. If some or all of these are not adopted by WBC then HTC will need to decide what level of investment will be appropriate given that it will be continuing to bear the costs of their maintenance. 

The Bridge Street war memorial

It was announced at the meeting that progress has recently been made towards transferring the land on which the war memorial is situated from a trust to HTC.

Hungerford Environmental Action Team (HEAT)

This increasingly influential local organisation has recently been awarded a significant Lottery Community Fund “Together for our Planet” grant to help the community address the challenge of steeply rising home energy costs while reducing climate-damaging emissions. One aspect of this involved access to anonymised data from OfGen about local energy use. OfGen has insisted that a statutory organisation such as HTC enters an agreement with it for the release of such data and that suitable agreements are put in place with HEAT for it to receive and use it. Subject to some minor conditions, HTC agreed to do this at the meeting.

National Association of Local Councils (NALC) Quality Control Awards

NALC is currently asking for nominations from local councils which have achieved excellence in a number of areas. At the meeting, HTC announced that, having felt it “had jumped through all the hoops”, it would be putting itself forward for this accolade. It’s early days, so further information will follow. This may involve public engagement and support, in which case readers of previous editions of this post will doubtless find plenty of aspects of HTC’s work for the community which it can commend.

HTC’s committees

The following committee meetings have recently taken place:

  • Environment and Planning. (Last meeting 14 March – click here to see the minutes.) Items covered included: updates on previous actions and two new applications.
  • Highways and Transport. (Last meeting 28 March – click here to read the minutes.) Items covered included: committee membership; lamp posts; re-cycling; Hungerford in Bloom; traffic speed signs; parking at the station; footpaths; pavement work; pigeons; and rubbish bins.
  • Recreation, Amenities and War Memorials. (Last meeting 22 March – click here to read the minutes.) Items covered included: the allotments; the Smitham Bridge playground; the Cemetery; the Croft Field Activity Centre; the skate park; the Triangle Field; trees; and the establishment of a Hungerford Youth Working Party.
  • Finance & General Purposes. (Last meeting 16 March – click here to read the minutes.) Items covered included: annual water testing at HTC sites; the war memorial; and various financial matters.

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

Contacting HTC

HTC can be contacted in the following ways:

  • By email to townclerk@hungerford-tc.gov.uk
  • By post to The Town Clerk, Hungerford Town Council, The Library, Church Street, Hungerford RG17 0JG.
  • In person at the above address between 10am and 2pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
  • By phone on 01488 686 195.

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

Members of the public are also welcome to attend any meetings.

Contacting WBC in an emergency

You can also contact West Berkshire Council out of office hours for emergencies. These are considered to include:

  • Major incidents such as major accidents or significant flooding.
  • Fallen trees and other debris blocking or restricting roads or causing potential danger to road users.
  • Traffic lights not working (West Berkshire Council only manages fixed traffic lights, not temporary ones).
  • Emergency repairs to council-owned temporary accommodation (tenants of properties should contact their housing association, landlord or agent).

 

The sections above cover the main issues with which HTC has recently been involved or concerned: it by no means describes all of HTC’s activities. Nor is this an official record of any meeting nor of any other aspect of HTC’s activities. Links to the official minutes of this and other meetings are provided in this post. For more information on HTC, please click here.

If there’s anything that you’d like to see addressed by HTC, and perhaps also covered in this way in future editions of Penny Post Hungerford, please email claire.barnes@hungerford-tc.gov.uk. Any such suggestions should be received at least four working days before the end of the month (and preferably sooner) if they are to be included in the corresponding post for the following month. That is not, of course, to say that HTC will not in any case give the matter its attention and respond personally if appropriate.

This information has been compiled by Penny Post from information supplied by HTC and others. Every reasonable effort has been made to provide a clear and dispassionate summary of the points covered but these may contain expressions of opinion which may not accord with HTC’s official view on the matter. Links have been provided to other posts, on the Penny Post site or elsewhere, to give additional information where this has been judged useful or necessary. The presence of such a link should not be taken to imply that HTC necessarily agrees with, endorses or supports any of the material contained therein.

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