Hungerford Town Council Update October/November 2023

These notes incorporate some but not all of the matters discussed at the HTC meeting on 6 November 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 (so-called until October 2023). HNP = Hungerford’s NDP (from October 2023). DC = District Councillor; TVP = Thames Valley Police.

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

Police report

No police report was provided for the meeting though this was supplied later and is provided below.

Out and about

On 12 November we were invited to the Scout Hut to run a session with the Cubs towards their Personal Safety Badge. They participated in various games and discussions covering how to be safe online and how certain behaviours have different consequences. We finished the session with a fun quiz around safety on the railway.

On 26 November we hosted residents from a local supported living establishment at Hungerford library in which Trading Standards presented a short film and took questions on fraud and scams. Despite the weather it was great to see soo many children (and parents) out trick or treating for Halloween. We were impressed by the effort some residents had gone to decorating their properties, and we are pleased to report that we received no reports linked to Halloween for Hungerford.

Crimes and incidents in October

In October there were four reports of anti-social behaviour, four reports of Criminal damage, four reports of theft and three reports of burglary.

The burglary and theft reports relate to garages and/or sheds being broken into in the town and bicycles or garden tools being the items targeted. The team carried out some follow-up prevention work into some of these thefts recently and were able to reunite one young lady with her bicycle.

Overnight on 3 October Hungerford Football club was broken into. This investigation is currently ongoing.

The Big Issue seller

Following the continuous reports of bad language and rudeness from the Big Issue seller the team have been in frequent contact with Big Issue. Last week in partnership with them, The Hungerford seller had his licence revoked so he should not be returning to the town.

The accident in the High Street in December 2022

Last December a vehicle hit the Snippets Barbers building on the High Street causing extensive structural damage and the need for temporary traffic lights.As the incident was a road traffic collision the investigation sat with our Roads Policing department and as a Neighbourhood team we had little involvement. We are aware that the case has been filed and cannot comment further on this – the investigation is under review by senior management in Roads Policing.

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.

Swings and Smiles

Before the meeting proper there was a presentation from Rhonda Nicklin, the CEO of Swings and Smiles. This is a Thatcham-based charity that “offers support for disabled children and their families in a unique and accessible environment. Our services include respite, family play sessions, youth clubs, sibling support and outreach.” Despite its location, S&S has for several years been supported by HTC and Rhonda pointed out that about seven per cent of the families it works (and plays) with are in the Kintbury and Hungerford area.

The main work that S&S does in the town is through currently one – soon to be increased to two – monthly sessions at The Nursery School. The current one is free and for the second there will be a notional charge of £5 per family. To put this in context, to run each outreach  session costs about £220: if six families attend, as is typical, only £30 of this will be recouped. This is a good example of the gap between the cost of supplying a service and the direct revenue it produces with which most charities have to contend. This gap needs to be filled by grants and donations.

S&S needs about £440,000 to keep going as it is; and the demand for its services is increasing. In response to a question from Councillor Mark Cusack, Rhonda said that this had increased since the pandemic. The charity also firmly believes that it should, where possible, visit the communities in which it provides support. As the above Hungerford example shows, such a service comes at a cost. S&S also has ambitions to provide support for people of use to 25, rather than 19 at present.

Rhonda also played a video which provided several heartfelt testimonials from families who benefit from the service. She ended by thanking HTC for its continued support and issued an invitation to any councillor to visit one of its sessions, in Hungerford or elsewhere.

The Mayor’s report

Great West Way (GWW)

Hungerford Town Council has ambassador status with the GWW. Claire and I were visited by a representative to discuss new ways to engage and raise publicity within their publications. Claire is going to send the link from our new Visit Hungerford page. HTC will look to promote the D-Day events planned for next year. The new changing places facility will also be an asset to promote.

Remembrance Sunday

Key parties met to plan for this annual parade. This year HTC will take part in “Poppies to Paddington.” Di Loft (Poppy appeal) and I will be meeting the Paddington train and handing over a wreath which will then be laid at the Cenotaph for Hungerford.

If you would like to take part in this year’s parade, please meet at the Town Hall for 10.30am Sunday 12 November. Thank you to REME who will be joining us again this year. Special thanks to Derek and Di Loft for all their support this year. Lest we Forget…

Partnership meeting

A partnership meeting has taken place involving Police, Children Social Services, Housing, Youth Offending Team, Hungerford Town Council and the local safeguarding team. The group has set several actions around education, intervention, safeguarding and enforcement to tackle anti-social behaviour from individuals within the community.

HRFC School’s tournament

I was delighted to be asked again to hand out medals to all the pupils who took part in the Rugby School’s tournament. This year’s was bigger than ever and it was so good to see pupils participating with such enthusiasm. Congratulations to HRFC: this event takes huge effort to organise but is so rewarding for all involved.

Opening the Judiciary

I was delighted to attend this annual event in Reading Minster. It’s quite a parade when the chain gang get together to support this annual service. Thank you to Reading Mayor Tony Page for hosting us. It is always such an uplifting service to attend.

RBL Women’s Section County Conference

I was delighted to be asked to this year’s county conference, this was the first time I’ve attended the women’s section conference. It was humbling to hear all about the amazing work the women’s section does to support all our armed forces and their families. Thank you for the inclusion. This year I will be passing my share of donations collected at the mayor’s carol concert to the RBL Women’s Section.

Annual Report

HTC’s annual report went out with last week’s Adviser. Thanks to the office for co-ordinating, especially to Molly who managed the project to conclusion. It’s been an extremely busy year for HTC with lots of projects.

Footway survey

Nick, Denise, and I met with representatives from WBC to discuss the dreadful condition of paving in the high street. We walked the full length of the High Street locating areas which were left unsatisfactory following street works from contractors and from damage from delivery vehicles driving onto the pavement. WBC had hoped works promised had been completed but sadly this wasn’t the case. A two-hour response on some urgent works was actioned. York stone is currently difficult to source and it was agreed all the concrete slabs should be removed and replaced with stone slabs once available. An interim fix of tarmac was agreed to address any urgent areas needing attention. Nick will be following up at H&T committee.

Retirement party for James Puxley

I attended the former Lord Lieutenant’s retirement party at Welford Park with Councillor Fyfe accompanied me. The evening was the launch of the “Spectacle of Light” and although the weather wasn’t favourable, the lights were beautiful and led us through the grounds of Welford Park to the marquee.

Lord Lieutenants leave the role on their seventy-fifth birthdays. It was lovely to hear many of the stories from Mr Puxley’s appointment, which started in 2015. The baton has now passed to Mr Andrew Try. HTC wishes to thank Mr and Mrs Puxley for their service and welcome Mr Try to the role. HTC look forward to the many engagements to follow.

Greenham Trust

I was thrilled to be asked to present an award at the first Greenham Trust Charity Awards ceremony hosted by Reverend Richard Coles. The evening was extremely upbeat and very humbling. Hungerford’s own Y&CC were amongst the nominations and Charlie Barr was nominated for best trustee of the year. Congratulations to all the volunteers who work incredibly hard to support charities in West Berkshire.

Neighbourhood Plan Informal Consultation

Thank you to everyone who attended one of the three sessions held. Your views are incredibly important. The survey has also been made available online for those unable to attend in person. The Chair, Councillor Richard Hudson, will have feedback from the sessions soon. See also the separate section below on this.

Changing places

Hungerford has been selected to house a new Changing Places facility. WBC will fund the project and use the awarded grant plus a contribution from CIL funding. HTC will be required to take on on-going maintenance and energy costs. This will be discussed at full council.

Admin Assistant

On Friday HTC said a sad farewell to our admin assistant Molly Monro. Molly, thank you for your dedication to the role. Good luck on your adventures in New Zealand. HTC will welcome two new members of staff in November.

District Councillors’s report

DC Benneyworth was present at the meeting and DC Gaines had sent a written report, which covered the following points:

The accident in the High Street

As mentioned last month, 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. The continuing contraflow, the costs resulting from this (about £9,000 a month to WBC, though it’s hoped this will be recovered from the insurance companies), the different opinions as to whether the building is safe and the length of time it has taken for the insurers to agree terms and instruct a contractor have all been widely reported, including in the Adviser, the NWN and Penny Post. However, the issue raised by DC Benneyworth – which the Mayor described as “the talk of the High Street” – was why it was recently announced that no criminal prosecution was likely to result.

The circumstances and consequences of the accident make this a mystifying decision. Both HTC and DC Benneyworth have pursued this matter with the higher echelons of Thames Valley Police up to the level of Chief Constable and Police and Crime Commissioner. Laura Farris MP has also been copied on much of the correspondence. It appears that the matter was not handled by the local TVP team. There has recently been an admission that the matter was not dealt with correctly by whichever TVP team was responsible and that the case will be looked at again.

Pavements, highways and footpaths

Councillor Nick Schlanker reported that he, the Mayor, DC Gaines and WBC officers had recently walked the High Street to assess the state of the pavements and kerbs. See the Mayor’s report above for more on this.

He also reported that HTC had proposed two traffic-calming measures: some bollards at the junction with the High Street and Park Street; and a pedestrian crossing at the top (south) end of the High Street, near the contraflow. He explained that WBC had said that these were not practicable. The reasons included, for the bollards, the lack of space for foundations: and, for the crossing, the apparent lack of footfall and the loss of parking spaces. HTC intends to continue to look at traffic-calming measures and to continue discussing these with WBC.

Proposals for providing a pavement in Croft Road leading down to the Surgery were also discussed with WBC. It appears that an additional local consultation may be required (the first one was overwhelmingly supportive).

WBC has also agreed to repair the access to two footpaths off the A4 to the west of the town.

Hungerford Hub

The Library building (know known as the Hungerford Hub) was, as a result of a successful campaign by HTC during the library-funding crisis, in 2018 passed from WBC to a charitable trust. There have been many benefits of this. HTC insisted that a number of repairs and improvements be carried out prior to the handover. Rental costs to WBC for the HTC office have stopped. The WBC Library Service has been retained, supported by volunteers. The building is now used for a far wider range of activities, which produce about £9,000 of rental income a year. With the benefit of a long lease from WBC, the trustees have seen fit to invest in improvements, notably an air-source heat pump in 2022.

None the less, the building still relies on grants, principally from HTC. Given various factors, including the increase in fuel costs, the decline in revenue from The Curve (compared to a post-Covid boost in 2022-23) and the usage of the Hub for HTC meetings at times when rental could otherwise be obtained, it was proposed by the trustees that the grant for 2023-24 be increased from £9,000 to £12,000.

After some discussion it was agreed that, while the principle of HTC’s support for the Hub remained, any discussion about the request should be considered at the next Finance and General Purposes Committee within the context of HTC’s wider financial situation.

It was also agreed that the doors needed to be repaired. A decision on the problems with the roof, the cause of which had so far resulted in several different suggestions from experts, would be deferred until a clearer assessment could be obtained.

The Hungerford neighbourhood development plan (HNP)

Good progress in October and early November:

  • HNP Team met on 11 October.
  • The Plan text and photos version 8 is completed. Its to 2041 to tie in with WBC’s Local Plan.
  • Town Council Meeting 18 October about the HNP and site consultation.
  • Site consultation planned, arranged and part completed.
  • Still a chance of completing by late 2024.

Three consultation meetings took place in early November to consider the options for the site allocations (which you can see here). An online consultation will run until 13 November 2023 (which you can complete here).

Key next actions are: completing site consultation and agree the preferred sites; finalising the draft NDP; sending to WBC and holding the first formal consultation.

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

Changing Places Pod

It has recently been announced that WBC is now able to fund the entire cost of the Pod planned for Hungerford rather than, as previously, only half. HTC would, however, be responsible for the maintenance and cleaning costs. It was agreed at the meeting that more clarity was needed on what these were likely to be. A show of hands at the meeting showed that there was wide support for continuing to investigate this opportunity.

Skate Park fence

The funding for this is now in place through a combination of a members’ bid, match funding from the Good Exchange and HTC’s own funds.

The town-centre strategy

As mentioned previously, 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 first meeting of the Hungerford Town Centre steering group, chaired by Councillor James Cole, met in October and a further meeting is planned for 9 November. This will be a long-term project and progress will depend on how well WBC (or HTC) can access funds. WBC officers have said that funds may be available, and in the past West Berks Council has proved adept at being able to access grants. Councillor Cole also suggested that parking must be considered in conjunction with any projects.

CCTV

Approval was given at the meeting for expenditure (already provided for in the budget) for three new CCTVs or changes to existing ones (at Crown Mead, the Skate Park and the Rugby Club). A fourth, at the Croft Field, would be considered at a future meeting.

2023 Christmas lights

All the work by the contractors for installing the lights is proceeding well and is on schedule. The switch-on ceremony, organised by Councillor Jerry Keat,s will be on Sunday 26 November outside the Town Hall. The finishing touches are being put to the various arrangements on the day.

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

  • Environment and Planning. (Last meeting 9 October 2023 – click here to see the minutes.) Items covered included: a presentation by ward member (and WBC planning portfolio holder) Tony Vickers; questions relating to planning recently asked of him at WBC’s Full Council meeting, and his responses; outcome of actions; seven planning applications (three no-objections, two support, one objection and one withdrawn); WBC case officers’ reports; and a discussion “in some detail” about application 23/00826/FUL by Churchill Retirement Living.
  • 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.

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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