Hungerford Town Council Update September/October 2023

These notes incorporate some but not all of the matters discussed at the HTC meeting on 2 October 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 either no meeting or, as in 2023, a short one to conduct necessary or formal business). Meetings normally take place on the first Tuesday if the first Monday is a bank holiday. 

The agenda for the future meetings (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.

Police report

The following report was provided for the meeting by the local TVP team:

“On 18 August we held another Scam and Fraud Awareness event on the steps of the Town Hall with colleagues from Trading Standards. We had lots of questions, comments and handed out lots of advice leaflets. We will be looking to hold another one hopefully before the end of the year.”

Crimes

“For the month of September there were three reports of anti-social behaviour, three reports of criminal damage and four reports of theft. On 5 September following a collision on Church Way a person was arrested and charged with driving a vehicle whilst under the influence of alcohol.

“A further plea to anyone experiencing anti-social behaviour or who is a victim of crime to report it. In recent weeks we have had various people in conversation, come and tell us about crimes but these are not appearing on our crime data and so are going unreported and meaning our patrol areas (which we decide on from crime data) are taking us elsewhere. The easiest and quickest way is our online reporting tool on our website.”

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 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 in an emergency or 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.

Everyone Active

Sally Thomas-Ellis and Steve Salwa of Everyone Active (EA) gave a brief presentation to the meeting. EA has recently completed its first quarter of managing all the leisure centres in West Berkshire, including Hungerford’s, on a ten-year contract. EA manages 235 leisure centres nation-wide in conjunction with 67 local councils and employs over 15,000 staff.  Some local statistics include the fact that 70% of the staff at Hungerford leisure Centre are from the RG17 area, 65% are female and their average age is 42. The Hungerford Leisure Centre is currently used about 10,000 times a month.

The EA representatives highlighted various schemes and initiative including apprenticeships, free membership for Parkinsons’ sufferers and cared-for children and the Sporting Champions scheme which aims to support athletes in the early stages of their career. They also reaffirmed EA’s commitment to encouraging an active lifestyle to promote physical and mental health and social inclusiveness.

The next major improvement at Hungerford will be the long-planned new modular fitness studio (which will in the currently un-used piece of land between the pool, the southern edge of Lancaster Park, John O’Gaunt School and the reception area). Work on this WBC-funded is expected to have been completed within the next 12 months. The EA team explained that further investment at Hungerford was not likely to take place for another few years.

The Mayor pointed out that HTC makes a significant contribution of about £35,000pa to the Leisure Centre and needed to have a seat at the table in any discussions. There had been a Joint Advisory Board involving all the stakeholders but this had fallen into abeyance several years ago. A representative from WBC stressed that she was aware that this was something that needed to be addressed and that a letter was being drafted with the aim of helping to re-kindle this.

Peter Whiteside

Peter Whiteside works for WBC’s street maintenance team and over the years HTC has received numerous comments from residents on how he goes above and beyond his role. The Mayor wished to recognise Peter’s hard work for the town by presenting him with a Mayor’s community Champion certificate and coin. Thank you, Peter, for doing an excellent job for Hungerford.

The Mayor’s report

Awards

September started with the grant awards ceremony and Hungerford in Bloom presentations. This was the first event held in our newly re- furnished Croft Field Centre. Everyone was excited to see all the changes made. As always, the grant awards ceremony gives an opportunity for awardees to share news and let us know how they plan to spend their grants. It is also a lovely opportunity to network and share experiences.

The Hungerford in Bloom competition wasn’t as well supported as in previous years. HTC has some new ideas to make the competition bigger and better next year.  I want to say thank you to everyone who entered. Your gardens were a joy to judge, we’d like to congratulate all those who took part.

Freedom of the Town

Congratulations to this year’s awardees Charlie Barr, Tony Drewer-Trump and Stuart Hofgartner. It was a wonderful evening with the medals being awarded by The High Sheriff of Berkshire Simon Muir. It is always an honour to award such deserving individuals. They all give so much to our community and their dedication and commitment as volunteers within Hungerford is humbling. Congratulations!

Please see this separate post for more on the recipients and the ceremony.

Croft Field Activity Centre

The Croft Field Centre works are finished. We’ve had a few teething problems which are being addressed. Molly from HTC has been busy buying the smaller bits and pieces to make the centre look more inviting. HTC will be creating an opening video for social media platforms – we felt the reach may be wider than a smaller ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Skatepark

The new skate park is absolutely thriving. I have been receiving so many comments from parents whose children are really enjoying the challenging new course. Please take note of all the safety rules at the entrance of the park and encourage each other to wear helmets and appropriate safety clothing. We will do a similar opening video for this site to.

We have received a couple of comments regarding the late use of the park. Fencing will be the final part of the build; this is extremely expensive, and HTC will be looking for funding opportunities to help us achieve this final part of the build. We now have CCTV located on site covering the park and surrounding areas.

Anti-social behaviour

Sadly, Hungerford is again experiencing escalating levels of anti-social behaviour. Hungerford Town Council was a recent victim of this. Youths entered the library building and disrupted a meeting, they then went on to flood the public disabled toilet and rip the decals from the library doors. Town and Manor had a similar incident a couple of evenings later. A report has been made through 101 and is currently being investigated.

If you witness anti -social behaviour, please report through 101. It is very important to log all incidents (see the Police section above). The more incidents recorded the more resources will be sent. I will be addressing my concerns with the local police team and it’s expected that there will be a partnership meeting taking place soon

The Big Issue

I have been informed by The Big Issue that the Hungerford vendor is no longer licensed to sell the big issue magazine in the town.

Royal Mail

I know many Hungerford residents are still struggling with the lack of service from Royal Mail. MP Laura Farris recently posted on social media. Laura has written to head office for an explanation and plan moving forward.

Boots

Sadly, I am still receiving complaints about the service levels and stock of medication in Hungerford. I am still in contact with the area manager who is convinced the store is improving, new staff members are currently being trained. I will be escalating your concerns to our MP if there is no further improvement.

In the meantime, please do not take your frustrations out on the hard-working staff, they are doing the best they can, please be patient and ensure you give adequate time to prepare your prescriptions.

Social Event

Hungerford Town Council would like to thank Hungerford Town and Manor for hosting a social event recently. Thank you for your warm hospitality. This was a wonderful opportunity for Town Councillors and Trustees to network, building strong working relationships which benefit Hungerford and its residents.

Holiday

Thank you to Deputy Mayor Claire Winser for stepping up whilst I was away. HTC was in very safe hands…

Damaged building in the High Street

It’s now nearly a year since the serious accident at the top (south) end of the High Street seriously damaged the building used by Snippit’s Barbers but a final resolution to the problem seems as far away as ever. The contraflow – maintained at some expense by WBC – remains in force and it appears that discussions between the insurance companies and possible building contractors have not yet produced any results. Nor is it clear what if any charges have been brought as a result of the accident. Meanwhile, in the opinion of the Mayor and other HTC members the cracks in the building seem to be getting bigger, DC Gaines has been pressing WBC’s Highways team for what the quantity surveyor believes the situation to be and when the building will be made safe.

All in all, the situation is unsatisfactory and, as the Mayor said at the meeting, “people are concerned, as am I, that the onset of winter is likely to cause further and perhaps catastrophic damage to the building as water enters and then freezes in the exposed brickwork.” The question could thus be asked whether it’s safe for pedestrians to walk next to it. It was suggested that this pavement should perhaps be closed.

DC Gaines told the meeting that if she had not heard from WBC this week she would attempt to get the details of the quantity surveyors in the next week and contact them herself.

District Councillors’s report

DC Gaines was present at the meeting and reported on the following matters.

  • New WBC strategy. A new Council Strategy and Performance has been published setting out the priorities and direction for West Berkshire Council over the next four years. The strategy is set to be adopted next week subject to approval by full Council when it meets on Thursday 5 October. 
  • Thames Water. WBC had recently recovered its costs as a result of permit breaches committed by Thames Water on two occasions earlier this year.
  • Parking consultation. This is now live and will remain so until midnight on Sunday 12 November 2023.
  • Rights of Way consultation. This is now live and will remain so until 5pm on Thursday 25 November 2023.
  • Planning matters. WBC has obtained some grant funding to help with the well-reported backlog in dealing with planning applications. From later this year, notification letters will again be sent to the neighbours of people lodging planning applications.
  • The local plan. The 77 questions posed by the Planning Inspectorate arising from WBC’s request to review the draft local plan that was submitted by the pervious administration just before the May elections (which the new administration believes to be flawed, mainly in regard to NE Thatcham) have been responded to.
  • Community forums. These public events, which are designed to “ensure that positive engagement is undertaken, and information and views are gathered that will help to inform Council decisions”, have been re-activated. The first one took place last month on the subject of the Faraday Road football ground in Newbury. Future ones are planned, perhaps every quarter. If you have any suggestions as to what these might cover, please email Denise.Gaines1@westberks.gov.uk.

Road signs and pavements

It was mentioned at the September meeting that several street signs had become overgrown and/or effectively defaced by dirt and mildew and that several paving stones in the High Street had been damaged as a result of utility works and inadequate replacements provided, DC  Gaines promised to address these issues and reported at the October meeting that she had asked WBC to try to find some budget for dealing with what were often instances of signs being confusingly or even dangerously obscured by vegetation or dirt.

Regarding the pavements, several examples were provided by HTC councillors at the meeting of paving stones that were dangerously loose or cracked and reference was made to one potentially serious accident which took place in the summer. It was agreed that a senior member of WBC’s Highways team would be invited to visit Hungerford to assess matters for themselves.

The Skatepark and the Croft Field Activity Centre

As mentioned in the Mayor’s report (see above), work on these has now been completed. It was agreed that the official openings for these would be virtual rather than one-off events, in order to save money and to provide a more lasting record.

The neighbourhood development plan (H2036)

Progress continues and includes:

  • Team met on 20 September.
  • The Plan text is all but completed except that we need to add photos.
  • We hope to consult and meet with HTC in October (meeting 18 October) and public in November.

Key next actions are: set out site options for consultation; complete the first full draft of the Plan for consultation (to add photos); prepare for informal public consultation in November 2023.

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

The town-centre strategy

As mentioned in the last report, this project was started in late 2022 and paused before the May 2023 elections. See this post for information on the progress so far.

The 25 March entry said that “It’s expected that during the summer of 2023 the new West Berkshire Council will, in conjunction with the main organisations in the town, agree how the work will continue.” Councillor James Cole announced at the meeting that terms of reference had been provided and that these were being discussed by HTC, WBC and other local stakeholders.

It was announced at the October HTC meeting that the first meeting of the steering group would take place on 16 October. Two issues that were likely to be discussed were the terms of reference and grant funding.

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. Environment & Planning generally meets once a month and the others every other month. See the separate section above for the H2036 (NDP) committee.

  • Highways and Transport. (Last meeting 25 September 2023 – click here to read the minutes.) Items covered included: update on actions from previous meetings; safety on High Street (including the continued contraflow) and consideration of traffic calming measures; EV charge points; street lighting; SIDs and speeding; litter bins; footpath signage;  flood risks; and a response to WBC’s consultation on improvements to rights of way.
  • Recreation, Amenities and War Memorials. (Last meeting 18 September 2023 – click here to read the minutes.) Items covered included: update on actions from previous meetings; maintenance issues; RoSPA report; play parks; the Youth Council; the Croft Field Activity Centre; the skate park; Gigaclear; and health and safety issues.
  • Finance and General Purposes. (Last meeting 13 September 2023 – click here to read the minutes.) Items covered included: updates on actions from the previous meeting; the Youth and Community Centre; the tennis courts’ lease; the Bridge STreet Memorial Gardens; the Croft Field Centre;  and a review of the effectiveness of safeguarding public money.
  • Environment and Planning. (Last meeting 11 September 2023 – click here to see the minutes.) Items covered included: outcome of actions; a WBC planning consultation; five planning applications (three no-objections, one support and one for notification only); WBC case officers’ reports; and agreement to send the planning consultation response prepared by Councillor Coulthurst to WBC.

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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