Hungerford Town Council Update November/December 2023

These notes incorporate some but not all of the matters discussed at the HTC meeting on 4 December 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 for November was provided for the meeting. The post will be updated when it is.

The accident in the High Street in December 2022

[This appeared in the October report but we feel is worth repeating in view of the continuing publicity surrounding the incident.] “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.

The Mayor’s report

Poppy Appeal

Huge congratulations Di Loft for another hugely successful poppy appeal in Hungerford. It is always a pleasure to play a small part in the appeal. Thank you to everyone who gave up their time for such a worthy cause. Thank you also to REME for supporting the town on Remembrance Sunday, your presence on the parade makes us all remember the reason we come together. Derek, thank you for keeping organised and on-time.

This year Hungerford supported Poppies to Paddington. Deputy Lieutenant Sarah Scrope, DC Gaines, DC Drummond, Di Loft and I were met by a veteran on the London-bound train who took our wreaths to lay at Paddington station.

West Berkshire Council consultations

Many of you will already be aware of the current WBC consultations. These are hugely important and you need to make your voices heard. Please don’t waste the opportunity. You have until 11 January 2024 to respond.

I have added below links to ones that caught my eye. The full list can be found on the WBC site.

I know CHAIN will be hugely challenged if the cuts to community transport go ahead. The impact on communities by reducing services will leave holes in services and extra costs to us all. New parking charges to include evenings and Sundays will hugely impact local trade and deter visitors on Sundays.

Chestnut Walk

I think its utterly disgraceful that the partnership project for Chestnut Walk between Sovereign Housing and WBC has been delayed for another year. This project was started over six years ago. HTC were instrumental in determining environmental changes to the plans ensuring a lower cost of living for the new tenants. The S106 has finally been agreed. HOW can it take six years to build a few homes on a derelict site?

One immediate step is that the site should be cleared and left in a tidy condition for nearby homeowners who’ve been forced to live near what is now considered a local eyesore. Hungerford needs affordable social housing urgently. This was meant to be an exemplar development which has now been tainted by further delays. The environmental improvements will need yet further improvements if the project takes any longer to deliver.

Accident in Hungerford High Street

I am appalled a conviction has not been made, despite clear video footage evidencing what took place. The accident has resulted in WBC paying traffic management costs of over £100,000 a year.

I sent a written complaint to Thames Valley Police to express the town’s outrage that the case had been closed with no further action. Below is the formal response received from the Chief Constable.

Dear Ms Mayor

You recently raised concerns with my office in respect of an incident that occurred in Hungerford High Street in December 2022.

Following a review of the case by our Roads Policing Department it has been established that the officer in the case (OIC) did not pursue the investigation in a timely manner and failed to complete his enquiries within the six-month statutory time limit.

This is of course wholly unacceptable and gives a poor reflection on the Roads Policing Department who have offered an apology on behalf of his department for this poor level of service.

The officer in the case will be subject of reflective practice which is used where mistakes have been made and there are opportunities for officers to reflect and learn.

The officer’s supervisor will also be subject of reflective practice for failing to be diligent in his supervisory reviews of the case.

A formal record will be made on their Personal Development Record to reflect this intervention.

Whilst I accept this is far from satisfactory for yourself or the residents of Hungerford I hope it goes some way to providing you with an explanation as to why no prosecution was brought and reassurance that action has been taken to address the failures of those involved.

Thank you TVP for the formal response. Although it explains the failings on this case, it doesn’t make it any easier to accept. I feel sorry for the officer who made the mistake and I’m sure their workload was extremely heavy. The outcome is, however, unacceptable. Hungerford residents have been extremely let down by TVP on this occasion.

I’d like to stress that tour local Police team was not involved in this matter which was handled by a separate section at TVP.

Neighbourhood plan

Thank you to all the neighbourhood plan team who were present at the recent informal consultations. I’ve been told by many residents that the consultation was extremely helpful, they were appreciative of the opportunity to ask questions. Special thanks to Richard for his continued dedication to the plan.

Vacation

Thank you to Claire W for stepping in as my deputy for the light switch-on while I was away. I’m really pleased it went well despite the rain. It was lovely coming home to the beautiful lights. Jerry thanks for being MC again, very appreciated. Thanks to all councillors who helped with road closures.

Christmas lights funding

HTC now has a live application on the good exchange to help with funding of our beautiful Christmas lights. The good exchange reference is 20265. Please support the application if you can.

Victorian Extravaganza 2023

Please come and support the incredible efforts made by the Chamber of Commerce to bring you this year’s Extravaganza on Friday 8 December from 5pm. I look forward to seeing you all there.

Chestnut Walk

There was discussion at the meeting, arising from the Mayor’s report (see above) about the unacceptable delays to this long-standing and much-needed projected. DC Gaines said that she would be having a meeting on 8 December about this and would report back thereafter.

More information can be found in this article on Penny Post, which will be updated as required.

District Councillors’s report

DC Gaines was present at there meeting and her report covered the following points:

  • There would be free bus journeys in West Berkshire on Saturday 16 and Saturday 23 December.
  • The Rural Business Forum met on 6 November 2023.
  • A Rural Community Forum would take place in Chieveley on Tuesday 5 December.
  • She referred to rural exception sites, “small sites used for affordable housing in perpetuity where sites would not normally be used for housing.” One currently exists in Hungerford and others might be created.
  • Theale will be trailing a 20mph speed-limit zone which might, if successful, be extended to other areas.
  • Internal works on the building damaged in the accident last December have started. Concern was expressed at the meeting as to whether the building remained safe, particularly given the passage of seam engines as a result of the Extravaganza and it was agreed that HTC would make further enquiries. DC Gaines pointed out that once the external works started, the current £9,000-per-month cost of the contraflow (which it was hoped that WBC would re-coup from the insurance company/ies) would pass to the contractors.
  • Highway gritting had taken place recently in accordance with WBC’s policies.
  • Members’ bids had secured £4,000 towards the cost of the Skate Park and £845 for Good Hope Farm.
  • WBC’s consultations: see separate section immediately below…

WBC’s financial consultations

DC Gaines stressed at the meeting that WBC was, in common with many councils, short of money and that a series of consultations had been launched into how this might be redressed. The full list can be found on the WBC site. You have until 11 January 2024 to respond to these.

The Mayor’s report above highlights those that were in her view likely to be particularly relevant to Hungerford.

The Mayor also stressed that as many people as possible should respond to these as each response would be influential. Nothing will definitely decided on these matters until all the responses have been received and evaluated.

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. See the Police report, the District Councillor’s report and the Mayor’s report above for more on this.

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 following update was provided by Councillor James Cole at the meeting:

“In the original town-centre project under the last WBC administration, consultants went to consultation on it and in Hungerford this resulted in about 800 responses. That gave us some views on what should be done.

“We have at last started the new town-centre project. Delays to this resulted from the change of administration at WBC following the May 2023 election and negotiation of the Terms of Reference (we are indebted to Julie Lloyd of the Town and Manor for her work on these).

“The result is a more balanced set of terms of reference with a committee run by Hungerford. That committee is now called the Hungerford Town Centre Steering Group and has representatives from the Town Council, the Town and Manor, the Chamber of Commerce, the antiques trade, Hungerford Youth Centre and the Heritage side. It is sponsored and backed by WBC. A similar approach is now being used in Thatcham.

“We have taken the results of the original consultation and have consolidated these into a number of potential projects. The priorities will be set by the Town Centre team. We know there will be a balance between what can be achieved quickly and what may take a year, or two, or more. Money also has to be found. When the priorities have been set there will be a press release.”

The Hungerford neighbourhood development plan (HNP)

Good progress again in November:

  • The informal consultation took place on site allocations: – at the Town Hall and an on line questionnaire.
  • Analysis of results completed and a report produced and agreed by the HNP Committee. This report is submitted to Part 2 of Full Council for consideration.
  • HNP Team met on 17 October.
  • The Plan is being updated with proposed allocations.
  • The progamme below has been revised, and still a chance of completing by late 2024. The main risks are delays from WBC and the referendum.

Key next actions are: agree the consultation recommendations; finalise the draft HNP for consultation; Start Reg 14 formal consultation (six weeks from January 2024).

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

West Berkshire Heritage Forum

The following update was provided by Councillor James Cole at the meeting:

“I have been a member of the West Berks Heritage Forum since becoming West Berks Heritage Champion a few years ago; when I announced that I was quitting WBC, the Forum chairman attempted to encourage me to continue on this Forum, and when I agreed to attend the most recent meeting they put me on the agenda as representing Hungerford Town Council. I therefore asked our Mayor whether that was OK and she agreed to that.

“What this group does is “to encourage heritage and history groups to come together and share activities, events and experience.” Its work covers:

  • updating the Historic Environment Action Plan (HEAP).
  • the local listing of heritage assets throughout West Berkshire.
  • creating a template for a Blue Plaque process which has been made available to Parish Councils.
  • WBC’s Conservation Area Appraisals process: the Forum secretary did the training that a Hungerford team attended.

“This group currently meets in Thatcham. The new Conservation Officer (that’s Heritage Conservation not nature and wilfdlife) came to the most recent session, as did WBC’s Archaeologist Sarah Orr.

“I reported that I intended to resuscitate the Hungerford Conservation Area Appraisal process – now that WBC has a second person involved in Heritage Conservation there is backup so that should be possible. For personal reasons I cannot realistically do much this side of April but the aim will be to attempt to do the job in summer 2024.

“Hungerford has a considerable heritage – Newbury and Thatcham are represented so it would seem appropriate that Hungerford should be represented on a longer-term basis. If this Council is happy that I continue to represent Hungerford I will continue to do so, but I would like to see someone else involved. I am no expert – I just have an interest in things old – and there is no tearing hurry, but if any current councillor is interested enough please tell me.”

You can contact Councillor James Cole at Cllr.james.cole@hungerford-tc.gov.uk.

2023 Christmas lights

Councillor Jerry Keates said that the feedback from the switch-on event had been unanimously positive. Several councillors and DC Gaines echoed this sentiment. Jerry Keates said that he wanted to in particular to thank all the local residents who turned up, despite the heavy rain, most of whom stayed to the end. He added the that everyone seemed to agree that the sound system and the stage were better than in previous years and gave a good platform for the many people who’d been invited to perform. He was congratulated for his work in leading the organisation of the event.

Regarding the lights themselves, he stressed that the LED ones were the same colour and brightness as before. Regarding the timing of their switching on and off, it was agreed that comments to HTC were welcome and that these would be considered for 2024.

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.

  • Finance and General Purposes. (Last meeting 29 November 2023 – click here to read the minutes.) Items covered included: updates on actions from the previous meeting; and the provisional HTC budget for 2024-25. There was also a longer meeting of the same committee of 13 November 2023 – click here to read the minutes.
  • Recreation, Amenities and War Memorials. (Last meeting 20 November 2023 – click here to read the minutes.) Items covered included: RoSPA report; play areas; the Youth Council; tree works; Gigaclear; the committee’s budget; Swimming Pool House; and health and safety checks.
  • Environment and Planning. (Last meeting 13 November 2023 – click here to see the minutes.) Items covered included: a co-option of a new member; outcome of actions; six planning applications (five no-objections, one support); and WBC case officers’ reports.
  • 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. Note that the last meeting of this committee took place on 27 November but that the minutes have not yet been published. These will appear here when they are.

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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