Hungerford Town Council Update May/June 2023

These notes incorporate some but not all of the matters discussed at the HTC meeting on 5 June 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 WBC’s Western Area Planning Committee. NDP = Neighbourhood Development Plan. H2036 = Hungerford’s NDP. DC = District Councillor; TVP = Thames Valley Police.

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

Good Hope Farm

Before the start of the meeting, Karine Giannamore of Good Hope Farm in Hamstead Marshall made a presentation to the councillors.

She explained that Good Hope Farm (formerly Elm Farm) is being designed as a small organic farm growing vegetables, fruits, flowers and herbs. The farm is also a day centre offering work experience for adults with learning disabilities and difficulties, “where they can learn and engage in purposeful, stimulating activities while connecting with nature and interacting with peers and the surrounding community.”

She added that “we intend to offer a safe, stimulating and nurturing environment for adults with special needs. The aim is to help build confidence and self-expression and promote well-being throughout outdoor activities and the forging of a connection with the outside world. We will provide an easily managed structure where our farmers can access individually targeted tasks. The will be working in small, supported groups, engaging in activities that benefit their well-being and their physical health and which enable them to build and strengthen practical and vocational skills. They will also learn about healthy food and the rhythm of the seasons.”

The work so far has been led by Karine, her disabled son and his carer and with the help from volunteers and friends. They have already planted over 1,000 trees (including 30 fruit trees), converted a shed into an office, fundraised for a polytunnel, put in a deer fence and a rabbit fence and created beds for vegetables, herbs and flowers.

Good Hope has recently formally opened. Adults with learning difficulties can be referred  through social services or the Adult Social Care at WBC. You can also get in touch directly: see the contact page on the website for more details.

Police report

No report was provided for the meeting. See the separate section below, however, for more on policing in Hungerford, including the results of some recent discussions.

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:

  • Inspector Alan Hawkett.
  • Sergeant Dan Lond.
  • Police Constables Luke Smith, Josh Harrop and Sean Morris.
  • Police Community Support Officers Joanna King, Lee Bremner, Sarah Preston, Sally Joyce and Paul Smith.

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 pointed out that this did not include any reference to the burglary at The Plume which had resulted in the theft of about £6,000-worth of goods from it premises.

The Mayor’s report 

Firstly, I’d like to note that I was mis-quoted in the NWN last week and have received an apology. A correction will be issued in this week’s edition.

Improvements to the Police presence in Hungerford

Many of you will be aware of a meeting I held on 3 May 2023 with the Police & Crime Commissioner, District Councillors, key stakeholders and the Thames Valley Police (TVP) Superintendent (Area Commander – West Berkshire Local Police Area). As I mentioned previously, this was very productive. A summary can be found in the HTC Update for April/May 2023.

I followed this with a communication outlining key points raised at the meeting and any required actions. I was very pleased to have received two replies: one from the Superintendent and the other from TVP’s new Assessment and Investigation Unit (AIU) team. I also accepted an invitation to visit the Police call centre in Abingdon. Further information on all of this can be found in this separate post.

I am very pleased with the progress that has been made in the last month. Not only do I now have a better understanding of how the AIU system works but – more importantly for Hungerford – we have managed to secure not only the immediate return of two PCSOs to the Tri-station but hopefully also having the whole Hungerford team based there, as well as the recruitment of two new officers. I feel that real progress has been made and I, HTC and the district councillors will be doing our best to ensure that this translates into a genuine and permanent improvement in all aspects of policing in the town.

The Town Band

Thank you to Hungerford Town Band for their invite to their annual concert. I am always thrilled to listen to their incredible talent. Fabulous concert, I’m already looking forward to the next one.

Hungerford Blind Club

Thank you inviting me to the Blind Club Gathering. A member of T&M was talking about the wetland project. It was great to hear all the questions around the project and interesting to hear members ideas about how their experience of the wetlands could be improved with special options for partially sighted and blind visitors. We then helped to judge their Coronation crowns.

Croft Field

Work is progressing on the renovations of the Croft Field Centre: costs are continuing to escalate. HTC is currently looking at outstanding works still required and will try to forecast any unforeseen costs to complete the project.

Skatepark

HTC has now received its certificate of lawfulness so are now able to meet with contractors to schedule a start date. A new project will need careful consideration before commencing due to budget allocation and overspend on the Croft Field project. Grants have been applied for and we hope to proceed without any delay.

Sovereign and Aster

Sadly, I have received a resident complaint about anti-social behaviour (intimidation and criminal damage) whilst occupying a social housing property  I will contact the housing officer at Sovereign to escalate an urgent response.

There has also been a complaint about drug use, loud music, and aggressive behaviour in the LEAP (local Equipped Area for Play) at Lancaster Park/Kennedy Meadow. The district councillors are aware, and I will see what steps can be taken to address the concerns.

District Councillors’ reports

DC Denise Gaines was present at the meeting and her report included the following points.

  • The accident-damaged building at the top of the High Street. The cracks in the structure are being monitored. It’s likely that the traffic contraflow will remain in place for some time yet, particularly to protect the building when the large grain trucks use the A338 following the harvest.
  • Solar panels at the Nursery School. The planning permission for these have been granted.
  • Portfolio positions. DC Gaines confirmed that she was the portfolio holder for Highways, Housing and Sustainable Travel while her colleague Tony Vickers had been given Planning and Community Engagement. Contact information for them and all the other WBC councillors can be found here.
  • Signage on footpaths. She said she would contact the relevant officer to see if HTC members, rather than WBC’s staff, could replace some of the many broken or damaged signs which a working part of councillors had identified.
  • Overflowing cardboard recycling bin. This has been reported and should be emptied soon.
  • Payment machines in the Library car park. Amazement was expressed by HTC members that a third payment machine had been installed which, for no obvious reason, has resulted in the removal of a parking space. HTC had not been consulted or even notified about this. DC Gaines promised to look into the matter.
  • EV charge points in the Library car park. DC Gaines said that the new administration was actively looking at how many chargers and of what kind should be installed. It was suggested that studying what the Vale of White Horse Council has installed in Wantage would be a good starting point.
  • Members bids. The next round of this funding source (by which ward members can, individually or collectively, bid for projects in their ward) would take place in September.

The Neighbourhood development plan (H2036)

There has been some progress that in summary includes:

  • The assessments for the new sites. All consultations have now been received and the evaluation is being completed by Navigus Planning.
  • The Plan text is progressing. The Plan Committee has responded with detailed comments to Navigus.  This includes information received from a request to key organisations in the town about the main issues challenges and opportunities over the coming years.  Navigus has confirmed that it will respond in the week starting 5 June.
  • An updated programme has been produced. The schedule has slowed up as we have been delayed by the above tasks and we had missed out or underestimated some activities. The end date is now expected in October 2024: long process!
  • Key next actions are (a) to complete site assessments; and (b) complete draft of the Plan

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

Boots, Royal Mail and Gigaclear

The recent performances of all these three organisations, which have been less than satisfactory of late, were discussed at the meeting.

  • The Mayor said that she had spoken to Manager at Boots who had explained that the firm was experiencing staff shortages, so much so that the senior pharmacist needs to travel in each day from London. It was also hoped that the non-pharmacy till near the door could be re-activated. The Mayor would be keeping an eye on the situation and hoped that she could report on an improvement by the time off the next meeting.
  • There appear to be similar staffing problems ay the local Royal Mail depot, including the recent resignation of five staff members. Local MP Laura Farris (who intervened in a similar issue in Thatcham earlier this year) has been contacted agrees that “it seems that something irregular is going on which I am trying to get to the bottom of.” She has “raised all the points made to me with senior staff at Royal Mail HQ and have asked for an urgent meeting with a senior manager.”
  • The reasons for the many and various problems being experienced by Gigaclear’s customers seem harder to identify. These include long periods of outage and do not seem to be restricted to the Hungerford area.  There is a limit to what HTC can do but it will be asking WBC if it can intervene to help resolve the issues.

The Skatepark

As mentioned in the Mayor’s report, the certificate of lawful development (essentially, an approval from WBC, the local planning authority, that the work can proceed without planning permission) has been granted and the contractors have now been appointed. The project is expected to last about 13 weeks and is scheduled to start on 3 July.

The Croft Field Centre

Also as mentioned in the Mayor’s report, the costs are continuing to rise but HTC hopes that an end is now in sight. It also hopes that the work would be completed within a month.

The Big Issue salesman

There have been claims by some of the High Street shops that they are loosing trade when he is on his pitch because of his manner. If anyone has any comments to make about this or any other Big Issue vendor, please call 0121 230 1555 or email vendor.comments@bigissue.com.

Dog bins by the canal

It was reported at the meeting that, in a bid to save annual costs of about £2,000pa, the Canal and River Trust had announced that it planned to withdraw the four dog-waste bins from the Hungerford stretch off the canal. HTC is concerned about this, which seems inconsistent with the Trust’s ambitions, which HTC supports, to promote the canal and the surrounding area as a tourist destination. HTC will be working with the Canal and River Trust and others to try to find a solution to this.

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.

  • Highways and Transport. (Last meeting 30 May 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; speed indicator devices; the verges at Sanham Green; a proposed changing-place facility; footway and footpath works; and CCTV cameras.
  • Finance and General Purposes. (Last meeting 23 May 2023 – click here to read the minutes.) Items covered included: updates on actions from the previous meeting; grants; the tennis courts’ lease; the Leisure Centre; hire charges for the Croft Field Centre; the freehold of the Bridge Street War Memorial; and solar panels ar The Hub.
  • Recreation, Amenities and War Memorials. (Last meeting 22 May 2023 – click here to read the minutes.) Items covered included: update on actions from previous meetings; the Triangle Field; repairs and maintenance; the Croft Field Activity Centre; and the Skatepark.
  • Environment and Planning. (Last meeting 18 May 2023 – click here to see the minutes.) Items covered included: twelve planning applications (eight no-objections, one no-objection with a condition, one object, one support and one strongly support); 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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