Compton & Downlands Weekly News, Thursday 9 November 2023

Compton & Downland Weekly News header

Thursday 9 November 2023

Our usual round-up of  local news includes: a neighbourhood plea, murder mystery football and closures – plus differing views on Thames Water’s plans to bring forward work on its Hampstead Norreys sewage station. See also below for community notices and news from your local council.

Upcoming Compton area events include: A candlelit market and a chance to get creative with some clay. See below for details, plus regular events and group activities.

This week’s news

• A local Compton resident has posted the following request on facebook regarding the utilities work in Newbury Lane: “The trenches have been covered over with large plates so that traffic is still able to pass through. Unfortunately, they are not seated on the road very well, and when cars go over them they make a fair bit of noise. If you are not a resident of Newbury Lane, or visiting a resident there, could you please find another route to help minimise the disruption. This will also help to keep students safe as they make their way to and from school. Much appreciated.”

Compton Parish Council is notifying residents that Downs Road will be closed from Tuesday 14 to Thursday 16 November. As there is no alternative route, access for residents will be maintained. The purpose of this closure is for Thames Water to carry out repairs to their network. Residential and blue light access will be maintained throughout. All enquiries should be directed to: Thames Water on 0800 316 9800 or 07747 648 658.

Eco Friends West Berkshire are looking for donations of old Christmas paper, brown delivery paper, twine, string, reusable gift bags, paper, maps, paper tape, amazon (or other) parcel boxes, or material that could be used to wrap parcels or make into ribbons. They plan to use the materials as part of a plastic free gift wrapping service at the Hampstead Norreys Candlelit Market on Saturday 18 November, to help promote a ‘plastic free Thatcham and Newbury’ initiative. Click here to find out where to drop of donation and learn more.

• Compton Players invite you to their one night only, fundraising Victorian Christmas Murder Mystery Evening in Compton Village Hall on Friday 15 December. The audience will be seated at tables with the action taking place around them so it sounds like an evening not to be missed. Tickets cost £15 and include food. Book here.

Spirit of the Vale invites you to their famous Christmas Fair in aid of West Berks Mencap on Thursday 16 November in a gorgeous 16th century barn in Sparsholt.  Have a lovely time browsing 30 carefully selected stalls between 10am and 7.30pm while Childrey Stores serves delicious refreshments all day and cocktails and canapes are served in the barn from 6pm. And take advantage of the new Wish List Service where you do your shopping and fill out your Spirit Wish List as you go, get your partner/mother/sister/friend to come and they will get your list so you get what you want on Christmas Day too. Free parking and free entry.

• A reminder that The Wee libraries/book exchanges in Compton are still full of great books. The one in Newbury Lane has lots of Clive Cussler at the moment and some vintage Isaac Asimov. Feel free to borrow books and put in good quality books.

• FC Cougars currently have spaces for footballers U6s, U7s and Under 16s. If you are interested contact graham on graham@fccougars.com

• For road closures and other news visit Hampstead Norreys Parish Council‘s facebook page.

• Dealing with the sewage in Hampstead Norreys

The river Pang is, like the Lambourn, one of West Berkshire’s chalk streams. These are rare things, only being found in three places in the world. Unlike the Lambourn, the River Pang has, as Action for the river Kennet (ARK) explains, ” no protected status although there are small sites of SSSI in the wider catchment including Sulham and Tidmarsh Woods and Meadows and Coombe Wood in Frilsham.” You can read more about the river on the ARK website here.

SSSI it may not be but it still needs protecting. One of the ways this can happen is for Thames Water to ensure that its sewage works that sit on the river are in tip-top condition. I was therefore interested to see a recent press release from Laura Farris announce that Thames Water will upgrade its Hampstead Norreys sewage treatment works “earlier than planned following Newbury MP Laura Farris asking the utility to do so.” The statement goes on to say that she “wrote to Thames last month with concerns about pollution in the River Pang that has seen it downgraded from good to poor in just seven years.”

She added that she understood that “significant upgrades were coming to the treatment works in 2025 but called for them to be brought forward to 2024 due to the seriousness of the problem.” It’s since been announced that work is expected to start by this time next year and will take about eleven months.

Looks like good news. Here, it seems, we have a story of people power operating through our elected representative and a large corporation bowing to the popular will. I thought I’d send the statement to Peter Devery, the Secretary of the Tidmarsh Fly Fishing Syndicate (who spoke at the Scrutiny Commission meeting last month which Thames Water attended) to see if he had anything to add.

“While Ms Farris’s newfound activism is appreciated,” he told me on 7 November, “it seems a little disingenuous to claim her letter of 18 September influenced the long-planned and much-needed upgrades to the Hampstead Norreys sewage works. Following pressure from local clean water campaigners and councillors, along with extensive publicity regarding the ecological decline of the Pang earlier this year, Thames Water had already confirmed in August that the upgrades were scheduled for completion in 2025.”

He added that Laura Farris “was one of 292 Conservative MPs who, on 8 February 2023, voted to let water companies continue disposing of untreated sewage in rivers and seas for another 15 years. It was the Conservatives who originally privatised the water industry and from 2010 to 2020, successive Conservative governments reduced the Environment Agency budget by over 50%. Conservative governments, ministers, MPs, toothless regulators,and a hamstrung Environment Agency have allowed water companies to profiteer from pollution through decades of illegal sewage dumping in rivers and seas. When the next general election arrives, I sincerely hope the good people of West Berkshire will keep this in mind when they cast their votes.”

He also takes issue with the reasons offered by TW for the decline in the official status of the river – as he did at the Scrutiny Commission meeting – which were referred to in Laura Farris’ statement. Writing to her on 20 October, in reply to her letter to them on 18 September, TW’s Sustainability Director said that “only one component of the assessment has changed from the previous assessment in 2019, with all the other components of ecological status remaining the same. The assessment that has changed is for Fish, which has declined from Moderate to Poor.” He added that this verdict, which derived “from a single survey at one location, could have been influenced by the exceptionally hot and dry weather in the summer of 2022.” (You can see the correspondence on this matter on Laura Farris’ website.)

I put this point to Peter Devery as well. “The decline in the ecological status of the River Pang over the past decade cannot be attributed solely to ‘a single survey at one location,’ as Thames Water repeatedly claims,” he said. “This decline is based on multiple tests conducted by the Environment Agency over the last nine years. These tests have revealed a significant deterioration in the ecological rating of the Pang, from ‘Good’ between 2014 and 2016 to ‘Moderate’ in 2019, and ultimately reaching its current ‘Poor’ status as announced in August 2023.

“Despite the thousands of hours of sewage pouring into the river and the confirmation of an ongoing Environment Agency investigation into these sewage spills, Thames Water continues to try to downplay the disastrous effects of their sewage pollution whenever possible.” These sentiments will be shared by many other residents and pressure groups in the area.

They were certainly shared by Newbury Town Councillor Steve Masters who had organised a petition on the matter which he said had received “huge support” across the district. “The news that improvements at the Hampstead Norreys Sewage treatment works will commence earlier than previously planned has little if anything to do with Ms Farris’s letter,” he told Penny Post on 9 November. “It does, however, have more to do with public outcry at the state of our rivers. The work of River Action and ARK has been crucial. Ms Farris, like her Conservative colleagues, appreciates that sewage in our rivers is a vote-loser and is doing what she can to rewrite history.”

History is, we are often told, written by the victors. Who the victors will be in this battle remains to be seen. At present, the waterways seem to be the losers. Although this decision by Thames Water is welcome, there’s still a lot more that needs to be done. The campaign continues…

Latest local newsletters

Community notices

Have your say on current consulations by West Berkshire Council. Parish and town councils also run consultations from time to time: see the appropriate website/s below under Council contacts.

• See Compton Parish Council’s website for a list of current scams going around in the area that you should be aware of.

Drop-in café at St Mary & St Nicholas, Compton on the last Wednesday afternoon of the month at Compton Village Hall. Refreshments and friendly chit-chat. Open to anyone.

• Compton Parish Council is keen to remind residents to please take rubbish home with them if litter bins are full.

• Compton Karate based at Aldworth Village Hall is a small and friendly dojo that welcomes new members.

• More local hosts are needed for people escaping the war in Ukraine. If you could consider hosting a Ukrainian refugee or family, please get in contact with the local support group or visit westberks.gov.uk/homesforukraine.

• For how to avoid scams and what to do if you unluckily get caught, please see important advice here from Citizen’s Advice. There is no shame if you do get caught out by scammers (Penny has) and you must seek help and warn others.


Local events and activities

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

• Dates for the diary

• Sat 18 Nov Candlelit Market, Hampstead Norreys Community Shop

• Sun 19 Nov Pottery Painting Afternoon The Downs School

• Sun 3 Dec Christmas Market, The Swan, Compton

Fri 15 Dec Murder Mystery Fundraiser Evening Compton Village Hall

• Regular events and groups 

• Stay, Play and Learn at Compton Village Hall on Thursday mornings during term for children 0-4 years to socialise with others, exploring a variety of play activities and crafts. Book online with West Berkshire Council here.

• The Handybus service to Wantage picks up Chaddleworth and Leckhamstead residents from their homes on the second and fourth Tuesday morning. The round trip will cost £4. See here for more details and how to book.

• Marcham Cricket Club welcomes new cricket players and officials.

• All are welcome to enjoy Tea and a Chat on Mondays from 9.30am to 11am at the Wilkins Centre in Compton.

Wellbeing and mental health free one hour introduction session with Recovery in Mind and The Downland Practice. Please contact pm.downland@nhs.net to book your place.

• Drop Off/Drop In Coffee Morning every Wednesday during term time at Brightwalton Church from 8.45 to 10am.

Free coffee and cake morning at The Wilkins Centre in Compton from 9.30 am to 11 am every Monday.

• The Aldworth Saturday Market at Aldworth Village Hall, RG8 9SE from 10.30am to midday sells fresh fruit and vegetables, groceries, stamps and cards; tea and coffee. Contact Kathy on 01635 578090 or e-mail kathyneville@outlook.com

Brightwalton footballers on the field next to Brightwalton Village Hall on Wednesday evenings. Kick off at 7pm for all players over 15 years old.

• The Gents Breakfast Club created by The Downland Practice – Social Prescribing is proving popular. If you would like more information please contact nicky.ager@nhs.net.

• Compton Tots on the first and third Thursday of every month at Compton Village Hall from 9.30am to 11am. Providing a safe, fun and educational space, in partnership will Compton Pre-school for 0-5 years and costs £2 per family (cash only).

• Quiz night at The Crown and Horns in East Ilsley every Thursday from 7pm with prizes to be won. You can reserve a table by calling 01635281545 and see more information here.

• Brickleton Babes Baby and Toddler Group in Brightwalton Village Hall. Join their facebook group for details.

• Autumn Group regular meetings include the Hobbies Club at the Wilkins Centre, Compton. Visit their facebook page for details. Anyone from surrounding villages very welcome.

• Aldworth Art/Painting Group at the Aldworth Village Hall on first and third Tuesday of every month from 9.30am to noon. Details on the East Ilsley Communicator (issue 105, p 21) here.

 Aldworth Craft Group meet at Aldworth Village Hall on the second and fourth Monday of every month (within the school term time) from 10am to noon. More details in the East Ilsley Communicator (issue 105, p 16), which you can download here.

• Hampstead Norreys Village Hall club and event information is on Hampstead Norreys Community website.

• Ilsley Under Fives meet every Wednesday between 10am to 11.30am at various locations throughout the Ilsley villages. Please join their Facebook group or see details here.


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 Compton Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 2 October and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: reports from the working parties; planning matters; financial matters; grants; lamp-post poppies; anti-social behaviour; a bin dispute with WBC; and bramble clearance.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here. To see the minutes click herePlease click here for the latest on Compton’s neighbourhood development plan (which has now been ratified).

• The most recent meeting of Chaddleworth Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 12 September and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: planning matters; financial matters; repairs and maintenance; highways; local flooding; and reports from councillors and the Clerk.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Aldworth Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 11 September and you can download the minutes here. Items covered included: an introduction to the recently elected ward member, Laura Coyle; potholes; ward surgeries; matters arising; the future use of the Shoulder of Mutton; rights of way; speeding; and financial matters.
To see the dates, agendas and mintues for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Brightwalton Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 11 September and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: community c0-ordinator update; the Village Hall; the Village Working Party; local housing; rights of way; road signs; financial matters; member’s bids; and a possible parish NDP.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here

• The most recent meeting of Beedon Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 6 September and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click hereTo see minutes from past meetings please click here. Please click here for details of the planning applications currently active in the parish

.• The most recent meeting of West Ilsley Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 5 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. To see minutes from past meetings please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Hampstead Norreys Council for which minutes are available  took place on 27 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of East Ilsley Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 11 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Peasemore Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 11 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here

• The most recent meetings of Ashampstead Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 22 May and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• Compton & Downlands area council contacts

Parishes: Hampstead Norreys Parish Council, Compton Parish CouncilAshampstead Parish CouncilBeedon Parish CouncilChaddleworth Parish CouncilBrightwalton Parish CouncilPeasemore Parish Council, Aldworth Parish CouncilWest Ilsley Parish Council and East Ilsley 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 ValleyNewbury area; Thatcham area; Burghfield area; Wantage area; Marlborough area.

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


Archives

To see earlier Compton & Downlands & Surrounding Area Weekly News columns, please click here.

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