Hungerford Town Council Update January/February 2023

These notes incorporate some but not all of the matters discussed at the HTC meeting on 6 February 2023, 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. 

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, although an extraordinary one may take place to conduct necessary or formal business). Sometimes meetings take place on the first Tuesday if the first Monday is a bank holiday. 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.

Presentation by Hungerford Nursery School Centre for Children and Families

The Head Teacher, Suzanne Taylor, made a brief presentation at the start of the meeting.

The School is in the odd position of providing a service of unparalleled excellence to Hungerford and the wider community (for which it has won serval awards and professional accolades) in the field of early-years provision and yet still finding itself needing to call for volunteers and sponsors. Moreover it is (as of 6 February) still unaware of the nature of its financial settlement from Whitehall after 1 April 2023.

Suzanne pointed out that that pupil numbers have been rising recently (104 currently) which is encouraging. Also rising have been the proportion of pupils who are considered vulnerable (29%), who receive free entitlement (26%) and who are SEND (28%). All these were, she reported, considerably higher than when she took over 14 years ago. The School is also  – in the absence of any DfE support – funding cooked lunches for 11 children a day: this costs about £2,200 a term but this could not continue unless it can be funded by other means in the future.

The School has also reported further spectacular successes. Hours and weeks of provision have been extended. Several awards have been won, including the GOLD Award for Learning Outside the Classroom and the Communication Friendly Spaces Award from Elklan. It is running Action Research projects with Universities of Oxford and Bristol. It is part of a successful bid to form a National Early Years Stronger Practice Hub. Suzanne herself is now Area Lead for the DfE Early Years Covid Recovery Programme in Wiltshire. The School has trained teachers. It is a facilitator for NPQEYL (National Professional Qualification in Early Years Leadership). Five staff are part of the National Early Years Covid Recovery Programme for the Department of Education and is supporting other settings all over the South. It has runs training for WBC on Outstanding EY Settings following its latest Outstanding Ofsted report (indeed, it’s never had any other rating than “outstanding”).

Despite all these achievements, financial threats remain to both the Nursery School and the Centre for Families. Many of these stem from the fact that they are catering for more children with special requirements than the funding is able to support. Juggling staffing numbers, applying for grants, grappling with new government schemes and appealing for, and inducting, volunteers all occupy a good deal of staff time. There is also the continued backdrop of the uncertainty for funding maintained nursery schools at all, which results in basic funding being allocated only annually. Nor have rising energy costs been kind to the finances. All in all, the report was one of continuing excellence in the face of considerable obstacles (which makes the excellence all the more remarkable).

Suzanne Taylor added  that what the School and Family Centre most badly needed at present were volunteers and sponsorships for free school meals and services’ costs. “Even though we are an outstanding setting,” she concluded, “achieve impressive outcomes for the children and are highly effective in all we do, we are still facing significant, and increasing financial challenges. Quality is no protection for us. In view of these challenges we are very grateful for any support or help during these challenging times.”

HTC offered, once again, its full support for the superb work that the School and Family Centre was doing.

Please see this separate post for more information on how you can help.

Repairs and Maintenance at Sovereign’s Redwood House

A member of the public expressed his deep and specific concerns about a number of unacceptable failures which had left elderly and vulnerable residents without heating, hot water and even drinking water in January. The Mayor was able to re-assure him that a meeting had taken place on 1 February on this very point involving HTC, Sovereign and ward member Dennis Benneyworth: “Sovereign has listened,” she said.

Aside from resolving the immediate issues, the main aim of the meeting was to establish better communication between HTC and Sovereign in the event of any future problems. (See “Sovereign’s Signposts” in the 2 February column of Penny Post’s Hungerford Area Weekly News for more.)

Police report

The following report was provided for the meeting:

“As in December, January has been a quiet month in Hungerford: one report of anti-social behaviour; one report of criminal damage; one report of shoplifting; and one burglary to a garage in Priory Close.

“We are continuing to experience rural burglaries to outbuildings in our rural areas across West Berkshire as well as further afield. The team have been focusing on target hardening – visiting targeted premises offering tool marking, crime prevention surveys and advice.

“23 to 29 January was Neighbourhood Policing Week. During this week the team hosted Have Your Say events across our area, visited schools, youth clubs, care homes and such like.

“We are aware that the Big Issue seller has been the subject of conversation recently.  We have already confirmed with Big Issue that he is a legitimate seller and that his ID is not fake. We have attempted to speak with him on a couple of occasions in the last week, but due to the language barrier we contacted his boss. Through an interpreter the Big Issue seller has been made aware of the complaints being made about his conduct and has been advised accordingly.

“There has been a slight increase in rogue traders targeting the town offering driveway or gutter cleaning, tree cutting and various other maintenance. This work is usually of a poor quality and the home owner is overcharged. Visit www.citizensadvice.org.uk for further information and how to report.

‘The Newbury Soup Kitchen has gone mobile and is currently trialling a weekly visit to Hungerford to see if it’s a service that is needed in our town. It is parked in the Library car park between 6pm and 7pm on Tuesdays. We popped along last week to say hello to the three wonderful ladies that were staffing it. This is a great addition to the town and an opportunity for those in our community who need a bit of extra help.”

The local police team

The current set-up of the team is one Inspector, one Sergeant, two 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 them via the email address below. While local TVP representatives cannot guarantee always to be able to attend, they will make every effort to do so. 

General information (including contacts)

  • Please report all incidents to the Police or otherwise they will not be officially recorded – news travels fast round a community but if no one 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 Mayor’s report January 2023

  • 3 Jan – Full Council Meeting.
  • 4 Jan – H2036 Meeting. A call for sites has now concluded and work will commence to assess each site using the same criteria used for the first call to sites.
  • 9 Jan – Planning meeting.
  • 10 Jan – First Soup Kitchen visit to Hungerford. Although uptake has been slow initially, the kitchen is now receiving a few regular visitors on a Tuesday evening. There may be a change of venue as it’s felt the van isn’t visible enough within the town. It’s a tough decision because they want to respect those who prefer privacy but be central enough that more residents will see them.
  • 10 Jan – Opening of Terrace View Restaurant located in Herongate Leisure Centre. The restaurant opening was very well attended, we were served with some delicious canapés. The restaurant is being run by a local family and I’d like to wish them every success in their new venture. Please pop in to welcome them.
  • 11 Jan – Finance and General purposes committee meeting.
  • 12 Jan – Site Visit for Planning: this application has now been discussed at WBC.
  • 14 Jan – Royal British Legion Committee Dinner.
  • 16 Jan – Recreation and Amenities meeting.
  • 18 Jan – H2036 Meeting.
  • 19 Jan – Town Strategy Meeting. The consultation closed and findings were presented with discussion. Work will now commence to produce the Town Strategy and be presented in due course. Thank you to all those who committed their time to the project so far.

Sadly, we lost my father-in-law following a long battle with lung cancer. My focus is currently with my family. I’d like to thank Councillors and staff for their understanding and support as my family comes to terms with our loss.

District Councillors’ report

All three DCs – Claire Rowles,James Cole and Dennis Benneyworth – were at the meeting. The matters they covered included the following:

  • The town centre masterplan (see this separate post): the final session on 19 January was felt to have been a useful session and the results would be awaited with interest.
  • Bus journeys in the district have been capped at £2 until the end of march. This is part of a national scheme.
  • WBC’s 2022-2239 local plan consultation is open until 3 March 2023. See here for more information.
  • WBC’s 2023-27 strategy consultation is open until 26 February 2023. See here for more information.
  • The 3G pitch at John O’Gaunt School should be in action during the summer.
  • The extension at the the Hungerford Leisure Centre should be completed by the end of August.
  • Chestnut Walk: see separate section below.

Chestnut Walk

The delayed and problematic re-development of the former care home by a joint venture between WBC and Sovereign Housing has been the subject of many discussions at HTC over the last few years. The following report was read by DC James Cole at the meeting:

“I talked at some length to the new Head of JVs & Partnerships at Sovereign on Thursday . The problem really has been the Section 106 agreement where there have been legal difficulties arising on both sides; each has taken its time over this. I see no point in apportioning blame. This has been compounded by changes within Sovereign – the person I was talking to was clearly new to this job and I cannot blame her for that.

“Nevertheless I was given a promise on Thursday to expect that Sovereign would be giving answers back to West Berks by about 9 February so the ball will then be back in WBC’s court. Sovereign has said – and I quote:

“’The specification at Chestnut Walk has been prepared to ensure that the homes will produce 75% less carbon emissions and more environmentally friendly than homes currently being built and that are being delivered under 2013 building regulations. This is the equivalent carbon reduction to that proposed in the Future Homes standard (the building regulations being introduced in 2025). We will achieve this by improved insulation, heating and hot water powered by air-source heat-pumps, and PV panels. This specification ensures that the homes will have a lower demand for energy and are more cost efficient for residents to live in. In terms of start on site, we are hoping to be on site in Autumn.’

“’Autumn’ makes sense – once the S106 element is dealt with they have no choice but to go out to tender and the nature of the tender process means that it will take time.

“So this is not the greatest piece of development history and I know we all share [WBC’s housing portfolio holder] Howard Woollaston’s undoubted frustration over the time taken: but it does sound as if things are now going to happen and Hungerford will end up with a good result at Chestnut Walk. My feeling is that if we have achieved anything by putting feet down and insisting on improvement it is that we have forced some clarification of the waffle in the amended design and access statement that reached the WBC system on 2 November 2021, and that they have made a commitment.”

Neighbourhood development plan (H2036)

There has been some good progress recently, including:

  • The call for sites ended on 31 December and we had six submissions. These ranged in size and location, both within and outside the existing settlement boundary. These new sites will now be assessed in a similar way to the previous sites to ensure consistency of assessment.
  • Tendered for a planning consultant to assist the team on writing and progressing the Plan. We went out to five consultants and only had two full responses. Navigus, with Chris Bowden who had been assisting us before was the preferred bidder.
  • The draft plan is being drafted by Navigus.
  • We need to comment on the Draft WBC Local Plan (this still has 55 dwellings for Hungerford).
  • The WBC local plan is to 2039, so we may need to extend ours to that date – “Hungerford 2039”?
  • There have been a few changes to the H2036 committee. John Downe has left and the Committee express a huge thank you to him for all the work he has done to date. Jon Shatford has stepped down as joint chair due to other commitments. Richard Hudson has agreed to become joint chair with Denise Gaines.
  • A draft programme has been produced which aims for the project to reach its referendum stage in January 2024. It may well be optimistic but it remains our target and is on schedule at the moment.

For more information on the H2036 project, see this separate post.

HTC’s environmental aims and objectives

Following various amendments by councillors, it was agreed at the meeting that this document would become part of HTC’s policies. You can see the document on HTC’s website here.

2023 Hungerford Town Meeting 

After a discussion, it was agreed that the current date of 29 March should be regarded as provisional until it’s been established if holding it during the pre-election purdah period would be problematic. HTC would seek clarification on this.

EV charge points in Hungerford

This matter was raised once again, this time in connection with the visit of WBC’s CEO Nigel Lynn to HTC’s March 2023 meeting: if it hasn’t been resolved by then, the matter will be raised by HTC at the meeting.

For more information on this, please see the HTC update for December 2022/January 2023.

The Skate Park

HTC’s Project Manager/Architect is progressing the application for a Certificate of Lawful Development and submitting this on HTC’s behalf during February. They are estimating eight weeks for WBC’s Planning Department to turn this around. Once the Certificate is in place, the detailed design drawings for construction will be completed. A JCT Minor Works contract will need to be agreed.

Only once the above is done will the programme for construction works be known: however, the aim is to have it completed before the end of 2023.

The Croft Field Centre

Work has been delayed by a couple of weeks but should start in late February and be completed by early April 2023

Newbury Soup Kitchen in Hungerford

Newbury Soup Kitchen is a local charity which provides more than soup for vulnerable people across the area. In response to the cost of living crisis, it is trialling a free weekly food provision in Hungerford. Starting on Tuesday 10 January, its mobile van in Hungerford Library car park on Tuesdays from 6pm to 7pm. Note that this location may be changed.

For more information, including on how to volunteer, click here.

HTC’s committees

The following committee meetings have recently taken place (“last meeting” refers to the last meeting for which minutes were available on the day this post was published). Note also that most committees do not meet in August. Note also that because of the period of mourning following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, any meeting scheduled for September 2022 were cancelled.

  • Highways and Transport. (Last meeting 23 January 2023 – click here to read the minutes.) Items covered included: update on actions from previous meetings; safety and traffic-calming measures on the High Street; parking on footways and verges; speeding; bus services to Lancaster Park; canal dredging issues; taxi ranks; CCTV; footpaths and footways; and traffic on Priory Road.
  • Finance and General Purposes. (Last meeting 11 January 2023 – click here to read the minutes.) Items covered included: updates on actions from the previous meeting; amended terms of reference; the local council risk system; the freehold of the Bridge Street war memorial; personnel matters; and contractors’ terms.
  • Recreation, Amenities and War Memorials. (Last meeting 16 January 2023 – click here to read the minutes.) Items covered included: update on actions from previous meetings; RoSPA report; maintenance list; the Youth Council; the Marsh Lane allotments; the Cemetery; the Triangle Field; the Croft Field Activity Centre; the skate park; the war memorials; and the health & safety walkabouts.
  • Environment and Planning. (Last meeting 9 January 2023 – click here to see the minutes.) Items covered included: updates on actions from the previous meeting; six planning applications (four no-objections and two objections); and WBC case officers’ reports.

Note: if the links above don’t work, this may be because they were linked to unadopted (draft) minutes which have since been replaced by adopted ones. If so, please visit this page of HTC’s website for the most up-to-date information on meetings past and the agendas of those yet to come.

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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