Newbury Area Weekly News – 2024 Archive

To see the current Newbury Area Weekly News section, please click here.

Please note that this section is presented as an archive of past columns and is not updated (except by the addition of the previous post every week). Some web links may no longer be active (usually indicated by a score-through), for instance when draft parish council minutes are replaced by adopted ones or when a consultation has closed.

Click here for the 2022 archive

Click here for the 2023 archive

Thursday 2 May 2024

Our usual round-up of  local news includes the park, the river, the festival, blooms and volunteers – plus a new nature corridor, a possible magic roundabout, dates for a judicial review and a call for councillors. See also below for community notices and news from your local council.

Upcoming Newbury events include nature corridor launch and silver band in the park, . See below for details, plus regular events and group activities.

• New nature corridor

• This Saturday sees the Guided Walk & Grand Opening of the exciting new Newbury Nature Corridor. The 2.5 mile route runs between two Lockdown Woods that Newbury Friends of the Earth have planted in Barn Crescent and Goldwell Park. This is great opportunity for local residents in the area to discover what they can do to help nature thrive in their streets and gardens, including keep a wild corner of long grass and wildflowers, cutting a hole in any solid garden fences to create a hedgehog highway or creating small ponds or even shallow dishes of water. There will be experts and ecologists to talk to and the chance to visit the ponds being restored at John Rankin School and St Bartholomew’s School.

At 10am there will be an introduction by local ecologist Justine Whitehead at Barn Crescent Field (off Elizabeth Avenue, RG14 6HD, easily accessible by the Number 2 bus). Then a Guided Walk to Goldwell Park for the opening ceremony by Newbury Town Council Leader, Gary Norman around 12.30pm with light refreshments. Visitors will receive a free pack of wildflower seeds. Please wear sturdy waterproof boots and weather-appropriate clothing, and bring water and snacks if required. See more details here.

• Magic in Newbury

Now that I’ve got used to it, I find the Magic Roundabout in Swindon rather easy to use. This is perhaps because time tends to slow down and everyone proceeds at about five mph: no bad thing, perhaps.

This experience might be useful at it seems that something like this may be coming to Newbury at the twin roundabouts near the retail park where Monks Lane, Newtown Road, Pinchington Lane and the A339 meet. This FB post suggested what it might look like. I await a response from WBC’s highways team, including when this might be built. According to one version, 2034 is one possible date so it’s not something we have to worry about immediately.

The wider question is whether it might be needed sooner. Now that Mayfield Point and Sandleford (east and west) have all been green-lighted as regards outline permission, at some point construction traffic is going to start and will carry on for some time, overlapping the extra traffic generated by the first waves of residents. One can’t help wondering if work ought to start sooner, certainly shortly after the necessary full permissions have been granted.

These will probably be partly funded by developer contributions. CIL tends to be charged quite early in the process but Section 106 agreements often aren’t. Hopefully there won’t be a log-jam there as a result of the roundabout works (which will themselves cause disruption) starting too late in order to suit the cash-flow needs of the developers.

If we’re going to consider the impact of other possible developments on the junction, both during and after construction, the Monks Lane sports hub must be added to the list. Although the new administration said that this would not be proceeded with, the planning application has not been withdrawn and the budget line is still allocated to it. One must therefore assume that this too may in fact be built. I wonder if WBC’s pans for the roundabouts have taken that into account.

If nothing else, the proposals are proof of how much this area will change. The area to the south-west of these roundabouts will in time become completely filled in, something that many will be distressed by. The magic roundabout, if it comes to pass, will thus be a completely urban animal, hemmed in all four sides by tarmac and concrete: as is its big cousin in Swindon.

• A date with the judge

As mentioned last week, a date has been agreed for the judicial review into the decision by the Planning Inspector to allow Bewley Homes’ Watermill Bridge development at Wash Water. This will take place on 2 and 3 July with a decision expected about a month thereafter.

“I’m relieved and pleased that a date has been set,” one of the local ward members for Basingstoke and Deane John Izett told me last week. “This hearing will give the judge an opportunity to reverse the travesty of the decision to allow a wholly inappropriate 270-home suburban development in the rural area of Wash Water.”

Unsurprisingly, Bewley Homes took a different view. “We are very surprised and disappointed,” Andy Morris, Bewley’s Head of Strategic Land said,”about the council’s decision to lodge a Judicial Review at Watermill Bridge, based on the findings of the Inspector at the appeal which set out very clearly why the overall benefits of the scheme outweighed the council’s decision to refuse consent.

“We are equally disappointed the High Court has decided to proceed with a statutory review of the Inspector’s decision given the Secretary of State’s robust rebuttal. We will be supporting the Secretary of State leading up to and throughout the hearing.”

Even if the hearing goes Basingstoke and Deane’s way, this will only annul the decision, not the appeal. The Judge will not be looking at the planning issues but merely at whether the Inspector’s decision was correctly arrived at according to law and process. There is therefore little I can see to stop Bewley from mounting another appeal.

• Councillors wanted

Speen Parish Council is looking for Parish Councillors. The Council needs, as most recent WBC Residents’ Bulletin puts it,”ordinary people who are ready to do an extraordinary job. People who want to make a difference, give something back to their community and help shape the future of the parish.” Parish Councillors are, the article continues, “an integral part of local government, from deciding how public funds will be spent to consulting on planning applications, helping at community events or being involved in Community Speed Watch initiatives, the role is varied and rewarding.”

If this could be you, contact the Clerk on: 07584 435 656 or by emailing clerk@speenpc.org.uk for more details.

• Other news

• There’s quite a few events on at Victoria Park this month, starting on Sunday with the Wroughton Silver Band, followed by the Hungerford Band on Sunday 12 May, Family Day on Sunday 19 May and Art on the Park, along with the North Swindon Big Band on Sunday 26 May. Click here to see the full list of activities.

• The popular annual Open Studios season starts this Saturday 4 May with their flagship exhibition INSIGHT 2024 featuring over one local hundred artists at The Base, Greenham until Monday 27 May 2024. This is where traditionally the public begin their open studios experience before enjoying the opportunity of visiting artists at work in their own studios across West Berkshire and North Hampshire. See the venues map of artists’ open studios, including in Newbury, Thatcham, Stockcross, Woolton Hill, Hungerford, Kintbury Holt, Bucklebury, Bradfield and Brimpton, Lambourn, East Ilsley and Wilton. There is also an exhibition of three artists at West Berkshire Museum open Wednesday to Sunday from 10am – 4pm and a Trio of Talents exhibit drawing, printing, ceramics, sculpture, woodwork and textiles every weekend in May at the Bowls Pavilion at Stockcross House.

• Our rivers are in trouble and ARK – Action for the River Kennet is asking for your help by joining the The Rivers Trust #BigRiverWatch this Bank Holiday weekend between Friday 3 and Monday 6 May. By reporting what you see in your local river, you’ll be contributing to the citizen science survey and help paint a big picture of the health of our rivers in the UK and Ireland. The more that we know about them, the better we can restore our vital waterways and demand action for rivers. Search for ‘Big River Watch’ in your app store or click here, to download and get started.

• Need advice for how to start writing your will? On the morning of Thursday 9 May Alex Poole from law firm Gardner Leader will be at Newbury Library, will be holding drop-in session to offer free informal advice about making a will, what to include and how to set about writing it. For more information on West Berkshire Library events visit their website.

• The Newbury Spring Festival 2024 is just around the corner – marking the event’s 45th anniversary. From Saturday 11 May to the 25 May, top international musicians join local artists from the Newbury area to treat the town to two weeks of world-class performance. Click here to see the full schedule of events on offer.

Newbury and Thatcham Repair Cafe is going from strength to strength and there are often fascinating stories to tell about the artefacts brought in for repair. At last Sunday’s Repair Cafe in Newbury this 1896 phonograph with quite a history was fixed by a kind volunteer so it can remain a family heirloom.

• Sound Newbury facebook page promotes live gigs in the local area – see here for the line-up over this long Easter weekend. And get in touch with the facebook page if your event isn’t included.

• Quick reminder that closing date for Newbury in Bloom 2024 is Sunday 26 May and the judging for the competition will take place week commencing 17 June. Click here for further details.

• The Newbury Spring Festival runs from Sat 11 to Sat 25 May and public booking for events is now open: click here to see the full list of musical treats on offer. Tickets are available free to under 30s thanks to support from Greenham Trust.

• The Volunteer Centre West Berkshire is offering a range of courses for volunteers, trustees, and anyone in the charity sector. Too see what courses they’re offering and to book a place, click here.

• Would you like to volunteer your business expertise to help Education Business Partnership prepare our local young people? Please see here for more details.

• If you need to let off steam about Newbury’s current roadworks, join the Newbury Happening Now facebook group. See West Berkshire Council’s list of roads prioritised for improving here.

• The Green Hub on West Berkshire Council’s website is focused on helping people make more sustainable choices collectively along our journey to Net Zero, whether you live, work or learn in West Berkshire or are a business owner or visitor. The information covers energy efficiencytaking climate actioncommunity work and sustainable business.

• For support and advice with any flooding issues in Newbury please join the Newbury Flood and Drainage Action Facebook Group.

• Have your say

Have your say on current consultations being run by West Berkshire Council:

Proposed nominations for the Local List of Heritage Assets (March 2024) Deadline 12 May.
Draft Domestic Abuse Strategy 2023-2027  Deadline 19 May.
Theale Village: Proposed 20mph Speed Limit  Deadline 6 June.

Parish and town councils also run consultations from time to time: see the appropriate website/s below under Council contacts.

• Latest local newsletters

• Newbury Town Council.
• Hamstead Hornet (the March 2024 issue has just been published)


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.

• The Corn Exchange café bar on Thursday mornings between 10.30am and 12.30pm hosts Coffee Companions to meet new people and have a chat.

• Loose Ends drop-in centre at Newbury Cricket Ground welcome volunteers to join its friendly team. They offer hot meals and a safe and friendly environment for vulnerable people. More details and how to apply can be found here.

• Roadworks seem to be ongoing across the town…For up to date news and discussion it’s worth joining the Newbury.Happening now facebook group and its Newbury Traffic Live Updates chat group (on facebook messenger).

• Printer ink cartridges can be recycled at the Waterside Youth Centre, which will help them raise money to fund local youth activities. You can find the donation box next to the blue reception desk. – 01635 018500.

• Northcroft Lido swimming timetable is published here.

• Wash Common Library is open 2pm to 4pm Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10am to 12pm Friday and Saturdays. Contact

• For the low-down on the local live music scene follow Sound Newbury’s facebook page.

• Donations of second-hand bikes welcome at the Community Furniture Project in Newbury where they refurbish the bikes and sell them at affordable prices to people in need. Call 01635 43933.

• Newbury Market welcomes small business interested in having a pitch in the Market Place get in contact with them at towncouncil@newbury.gov.uk or call 07399 122964 to find out more.

• Newbury Town Council Saturday Surgery between 10 am and noon any week at the steps of the Town Hall.

• Newbury’s two friendly community cafés on Wednesdays: Educafe Community Café in Newbury Library 11am to 2pm and Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate Pub 2pm to 5pm.

• Fair Close Centre on Newtown Road in Newbury provides a vital social hub and meals on wheels for over 65s, many of whom live on their own. Please support them here. Goodness knows we might all need their services in years to come.

• Local charity Eight Bells is seeking enthusiastic volunteers to support them with food collections from local supermarkets. For more information and to register your interest please call 07387 962220 or email coordinator@eightbellsnewbury.co.uk.

 The Community Larder at the Waterside Centre is open every Tuesday afternoon, 2pm to 4pm to provide members with surplus food, discounts for local businesses, access to other services and support, as well as a friendly community environment.

• Dignity in Dying local West Berkshire group meets in Newbury Library.

Newbury Library offers free IT support sessions including filling out online forms, how to Zoom, downloading e-magazines or sorting out pictures. Bookable 30- or 60-minute sessions. To find out more or book a slot, email rav.gopal@westberks.gov.uk.

• West Berkshire Library’s friendly At Home service delivers books in person on a three-weekly basis, free of charge if you can’t get into your local branch. Contact the At Home service on 01635 519827 or email library@westberks.gov.uk.


Local events and activities

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

• Dates for the diary

 Every WedEducafe 11am to 2pm, Newbury Library

 Every WedSpeen Community Cafe, 2pm to 5pm The Starting Gate.

Sat 4 May Newbury Nature Corridor Launch, Barn Crescent to Goldwell Park.

Sat 4 May Family Disco, Royal British Legion, Newbury.

 Sun 5 May Wroughton Silver Band, Victoria Park Bandstand.

Sat 11 to 25 May Newbury Spring Festival, various locations.

• Sun 19 May Victoria Park Family Day, Victoria Park.

• Sun 26 May Art on the Park, Victoria Park.

Wed 29 May Bill Clinic at Educafe in Newbury Library

Sun 30 June Summer Fayre, Carboot & Cars, Mary Hare School, Newbury.

Mon 8 July Newbury Antiques Fair, Newbury Racecourse.

 Regular events

• A wide range of activities for over 55 year olds is offered by The Corn Exchange in its Ageing Creatively programme.

Community Kitchen Garden meets every Thursday from 10am to 12:30pm. Drop-in to get involved with the planting and maintenance of flowers, fruit and vegetables, learn new skills and meet new people inside the beautiful walled garden of Shaw House. To learn more contact Amy on 07553 810133 or amy.bosley1@westberks.gov.uk.

• Ukulele group workshops for all levels with the UTeam in Wash Common. Call 07963 647087 to enquire.

• Salsa in Newbury courses for beginners and level 2/3 on Wednesday evenings at Newbury British Legion.

 Regular youth activities at the Waterside Centre in central Newbury.

• Wash Common Library hosts Knit & Knatter, 3pm on third Monday/mth and Rhymetime for Toddlers every Thurs at 3pm, Book Club on 2nd Thursday/month (contact Julia  07901 633333).

 Thatcham & Newbury Town Ladies and Girls FC Wildcats programme for girls aged 5 to 11 to get involved in football, promoting skill development, health, confidence and friendship. 6 to 7pm every Wednesday at Lower Way playing fields in Thatcham. Email thatcham.newbury.girls.fc.fdo@gmail.com to get involved.

• Newbury Park Run at Greenham Common at 9am every Saturday morning. Folks of all ages welcome to run/walk/jog the 5km. They also have volunteering opportunities. See details here.

 Newbury Women Football Club always welcomes new players. For more details click here or contact newburywomenfc@gmail.com.

• ACE Space on St Nicholas Road hosts live acoustic performances. Join their Facebook group or follow them on Twitter.

• Newbury Community Larder every Tuesday 2pm to 4pm at the Waterside Centre (down the canal from Costa Coffee on Northbrook Street). For more details please contact waterside@berkshireyouth.co.uk or call 01635 018500.

• Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesdays between 2pm to 5pm. Drop in for a chat or a cuppa, knitting and craft activities. You don’t have to live in Speen to join in. Follow them on facebook here.

• Educafe’s Community Cafe at Newbury Library every Wednesday between 11am and 2pm. If you would like to pop along for a friendly chat or to volunteer in the cafe please see their website for more details.

• Berkshire Youth‘s Waterside Centre in Newbury hosts various clubs and activities for local children and can provide volunteering opportunities for adults too.

 The Base, Greenham organise many art-focused events for people of all ages to let their creative sides go wild.


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. If the link is scored through this may be because draft minutes have been replaced by approved ones and the drafts file deleted. If so, please follow the links provided to the council’s website.

• The most recent meeting of Newbury Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 18 March and you can download the minutes here. Note that many matters are delegated to committees.
To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 17 April and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: matters arising; trees; dog bins; ANPR cameras at the David Wilson Homes site; financial matters; planning matters; road safety; repairs and maintenance; the annual parish meeting (1 May); D-Day; and the Donnington Village Fete.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 9 April and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: matters arising; planning matters; financial matters; the neighbourhood development plan; the burial ground; the Newbury Showground; D-Day; the parish assembly (1 May); reports from the Clerk and from councillors; speeding; and dog bins
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here to download the meeting schedule. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 13 March 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 Enborne Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 4 March 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 Speen Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 24 January and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 7 November 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 Hamstead Marshall Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 21 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click hereTo see minutes, please click here.

• Newbury area council contacts

Parishes: Newbury Town CouncilGreenham Parish CouncilChieveley Parish CouncilEnborne Parish CouncilBoxford Parish CouncilSpeen Parish Council,  Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council, and Hamstead Marshall 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 ValleyThatcham area; Compton and DownlandsBurghfield area; Wantage area; Marlborough area.
• News and views from across the area and beyond: please see the most recent Weekly News with Brian column.

Thursday 25 April 2024

Our usual round-up of  local news includes Matilda, wool, meals with Max, gigs and a nature corridor – plus battle fatigue at Sandleford, getting through to a human, Newbury Show on the radio, a date for Wash Water, decisive action demanded and no opposition in Hamstead Marshall.  See also below for community notices and news from your local council.

Upcoming Newbury events include Matlida Jr, Plant Sale and Repair Cafe. See below for details, plus regular events and group activities.

• Battle fatigue at Sandleford

The Western Area Planning Committee met on 24 April to consider the outline application for Sandleford West. To quote from the summary, this was for “Outline application for the phased delivery of up to 360 dwellings; demolition of Warren House and other buildings; widening of Warren Road to provide access through to Andover Road to the west; emergency access via Kendrick Road; provision of open space; drainage, walking, cycling, green and other associated infrastructure, including 40% affordable housing provision. All matters to be reserved, except access into the site for vehicles, pedestrians and cycles along the Warren Road corridor.”

The committee was also to have considered two other matters including the Enborne solar farm but, wisely as it turned out, these two were postponed. As it was, the Sandleford discussion lasted a few minutes shy of four hours. This is, of course, only a tiny fraction of the time that has been spent on discussing the whole scheme over the last decade or so. With three more reserved-matters applications to come forward for this part and pretty much everything still awaited for the larger Sandleford east, the talking and document reading sure ain’t done yet.

The approval was granted by six votes to three. When in opposition, the Lib Dems had been against the plans but several of them, including the Chair who’s also a ward member, voted in favour. Perhaps battle fatigue was involved. The matter didn’t feature in the manifesto and there are signs that the party’s distaste for Sandleford has been toned down.

Certainly the officers – many of whom will have had more than enough of this – seemed very keen on it. I very much doubt that there was any stomach for an appeal. Given the approval granted of Sandleford east, the result could not have been anticipated with any confidence. It was suggested to me on 25 April that, from a purely planning point of view, approval of both sites was very logical. There now seems a chance that over-arching conditions can be applied and work can start on preparing for the various mitigation measures that the development will demand.

One of the main ones is the entrance via Warren Road. A lot of concern was expressed at the meeting about the dangers and congestion that this would cause at the junction of Andover Road. However, the Highways team didn’t think these problems were insuperable so it’s now up to them to solve the problems that this creates, aided by whatever they can get out of the developers by way of contributions. As both parts of the site could use this, one imagines that both developers will be expected to contribute. WBC’s planners will need to ensure that there’s less bickering between the two sides on such matters than there has been on many occasions in the past.

More bizarrely, as matters stand, Warren Road will have a narrow choke point just east of the junction with Sunley Close which may require a permanent contraflow. This was briefly sold as an advantage at the meeting but, on pressing, it was accepted that this was because it hadn’t been possible to conclude a sale of the property on the junction. Whether this aspect acts as an effective traffic calming measure and a disincentive to use the road or whether it results in hideous delays and frayed tempers remains to be seen. Once again, this seems to be an issue that Highways feels it can live with.

Roads and air (the quality of) was discussed at some length. What got less time in the sun was the matter of water, something which is on everyone’s minds right now. The 2015 Supplementary Planning Document for Sandleford refers in clause 129 to the fact that “In order to secure the infrastructure requirements of the development as a whole there is a requirement for a single planning application for the entire site (either outline or full) which is to be accompanied by an Infrastructure Delivery Plan (IDP)… Planning applications for only part of the site, or planning applications which are not accompanied by such an IDP, are likely to be unacceptable as they would not ensure the comprehensive development of the site.” 

We are now some way past the point where a single application could be expected so perhaps this point is now otiose. However, the fears that give rise to it are surely as valid as ever. There do indeed seem to be some concerns about the supply of fresh water and the disposal of foul across the whole site.

The SPD goes on to say (clause 132) that “An overarching utilities plan should also form part of the submitted IDP. This should set out the strategy for the installation and delivery of services including electricity, gas, water supply, waste, foul water and information technology.” So far, there doesn’t seem to be any sign of this either. I

‘m sure we can rely on the officers and the committee members to ensure that no reserved matters applications are approved until these matters are addressed. It’s also worth noting that these very issues will form part of the examination of WBC’s draft local plan on 23 May.

The main point from all of this is that the decision means that, in conjunction with the successful appeal on the east site in 2022, the  principle of development across the whole site has now been established. The detailed bits come next…

• Wash Water’s review

Thanks to Basingstoke and Deane Councillor and local ward member John Izett who contacted me on 26 April to say that a date has been agreed for the judicial review into the decision by the Planning Inspector to allow Bewley Homes’ Watermill Bridge development at Wash Water. This will take place on 2 and 3 July with a decision expected about a month thereafter.

“”I’m relieved and pleased that a date has been set,” John Izett told me. “This hearing will give the judge an opportunity to reverse the travesty of the decision to allow a wholly inappropriate 270-home suburban development in the rural area of Wash Water.”

We’ll have more on this next week.

• How to talk to a human

I had a phone call from a long-time PP subscriber this week who sorrowfully told me that, as of next week, another Newbury bank – Lloyds – will, in his words, cease to have anyone working there who knows anything much about the products of services it offers. I haven’t managed to contact Lloyds to confirm this but, if true, it’s part of a seemingly inexorable decline in high-street banking services. Indeed, I think Newbury is now the only place in the district that still has any conventional banks at all. The way things are going, there soon won’t be any left there either.

Although I pointed out that organisations like Post Offices and others like the Newbury Building Society are trying to plug the gap as regard the use of existing services, that’s of no use if you want to find out, say, what kind of deposit account would be best for you. My caller pointed out that he’d been advised there were three ways Lloyds could be contacted.

The first was online: which was, he suggested, a no-no for a small but significant minority of people, mostly in the old age bracket. In any case, as we all know, corporate websites and in particular the FAQs sections have the unerring knack of answering every question except the one you’re enquiring about.

The second method offered was the post. The service in parts of the district is so poor that to send a letter, have this considered by a large corporation and then receive a reply could take a week or more, even assuming both the letters actually arrive. By that time, you may well have forgotten what the question was.

The third option was the phone. The problem here, he pointed out, was that you could hang on for ages pressing a range of buttons and at the end still not get what you want. As it happened, I’d caught the tail end of R4’s You and Yours earlier this week during which someone from a large call centre was explaining how he realised that AI needs to be trained faster and better. The day may come when this happens but it hasn’t happened yet. There are, however, some humans still involved in the process: the trick is getting to talk to them.

The strategy we’ve developed is, on being confronted with a call-centre question that requires a verbal reply, either to say “I want to talk to a human”, or to say some gibberish, or to say nothing at all. This seems quickly to wear the system down and quite soon you should hear the lovely words “I’m just transferring you yo a customer advisor.” It’s not an ideal solution but, in these imperfect times, a successful work-around is another small victory.

Newbury’s Show (and Shefford’s scheme)

Last week on 4 LEGS Radio I was delighted to interview Steve Ackrill who as many will know was and remains the prime mover behind the Great Shefford Flood Alleviation Scheme. You can listen to the programme here. He talked us through the history of the project over the last ten years (yes, that’s how long these things can take).

The aspects we covered included identifying the solution, the first engagements with WBC and the Environment Agency, setting up the GSFAA charity, raising the money and finally – by far the longest and most stressful part, and which is only recently reaching its conclusion – getting the EA to allocate the rest of the funds and formally adopt the project. The interview will be instructive for anyone from anyone in any part of the country who is seeking to get a similar project off the ground. We also touched on the Eastbury flood scheme, which has been operational (very successfully) for several years and which took a similar amount of effort.

For Shefford, the upshot is that work should start once the groundwater levels have receded a bit and should thereafter take about three months to complete.

In the last seven minutes of the 30-minute interview, Steve put on another of his hats, that of the Chair of Trustees of the Newbury and District Agricultural Society (NADAS0, which runs the Newbury Show. We briefly discussed the recent history of NADAS (including a change of management) and of the Show (which didn’t happen between 2020 and 2022), its successful return in 2023 and some of the things to look forward to at this year’s event on 21 and 22 September. More information on this can be found here.

• Decisive action

Newbury Town Councillor and Green Party prospective parliamentary candidate for Newbury, Steve Masters, has requested that West Berkshire Council take “decisive action” against Thames Water for polluting our communities.

“Under Section 79e and section 80 of the Environmental Protection Act (1990) there is a requirement for local authorities to serve an abatement notice where a statutory nuisance exists,” he points out. Section 79e states that this is applicable where there is “any accumulation or deposit which is prejudicial to health or a nuisance”. He asserts that this box is emphatically ticked by the regular discharge of sewage onto the streets and into the rivers in the Pang Valley, Lambourn Valley and Newport Road area, “resulting in the deposit of faecal material, toilet paper, wet wipes and sanitary products.”

He also refers to Section 80 which states that “where a local authority is satisfied that a statutory nuisance exists, or is likely to occur or recur, in the area of the authority, the local authority shall serve a notice (“an abatement notice”) imposing all or any of the following requirements— (a) requiring the abatement of the nuisance or prohibiting or restricting its occurrence or recurrence; (b) requiring the execution of such works, and the taking of such other steps, as may be necessary for any of those purposes, and the notice shall specify the time or times within which the requirements of the notice are to be complied with.”

Local councils, he points out, have an obligation to issue an abatement notice, notwithstanding any powers that any other regulators may have. There is legal precedent, namely Regina v Carrick District Council ex parte Shelley dated 3 April 1996.

Councillor Masters added that “as a flood warden and town councillor I have been supporting residents experiencing flooding and sewage pollution over the past four months. Thames Water’s failure to act is prejudicial to health. Residents in villages in the Pang and Lambourn Valleys have been sprayed with sewage by passing cars and have experienced back-up of sewage into toilets, showers and kitchen sinks. The company’s actions are also prejudicial to users of the waterways including me as the occupant of a narrowboat on the Kennet. It’s time that the authorities stop passing the buck and take the action that is legally available to them, and indeed is their obligation, to demand that Thames Water stops polluting our neighbourhoods and poisoning our residents.”

In 2022, Steve Masters presented a public petition to West Berkshire Council, signed by more than 1,700 residents, requesting that the council ask our local MPs why they failed to vote for stronger measures against sewage discharges when debating the then Environment Bill (now an Act). The petition was rejected by Full Council on 17 March 2022.

As no response has yet been received from West Berkshire Council, Councillor Masters has said that he “will now consider all avenues available to him on behalf of concerned stakeholders and residents across West Berkshire up to and including judicial review.” 

• No opposition

A meeting of Hamstead Marshall PC on 24 April considered the proposed change of use of the White Hart pub. The planning documents can be seen here, on which you may comment until the matter has been determined. For more on this, see “Change of use” in the 11 April edition of this column.

I understand that familiar assertions that the pub was in fact viable were raised, despite the failure of recent attempts at re-opening and the evidence to the contrary supplied in the design statement. Also, if the pub remains viable then no one else appears to share this view as, despite various efforts to market it, no one has come forward to take it over.

• Other news

Lots going on this Friday to Sunday (see details below) including Newbury YoungStars’ Matilda Jr at Arlington Arts, Plant Sale and Seed Swap at City Arts Newbury, Newbury & Thatcham Repair Cafe at Newbury Methodist Hall, and Farmers Market at The Watermill.

• This Friday 26 and Saturday 27 April also sees the return of another Wool and Fabric Bargain Sale at Newbury’s Kennet Centre, from 10am to 4pm. Some of the Newbury Stitch Fair favourites are returning for this two-day event, including Stitch Fabrics, Geoff Rosenberg’s fabulous range of dress-making fabrics, Brian’s Best Wools from Yorkshire and Village Fabrics, with great discounts on offer at many stalls. The net proceeds of the sale will go to West Berkshire Mencap. See here for more details.

• The first ‘Bill Clinic‘ at Educafe in Newbury Library went well this week, helping several residents to reduce their gas, electricity, broadband and phone bills. The next one will be 11am to 2pm next on Wed 29 May and you just need to take your recent bills along. Listen here to Graham Pocock explain all about it.

Max McCann, famous for his Meals with Max social media following, has been a passionate cook since the age of three, encouraged by his chef father. He now sells a range of seasonings and funds meals for people in need. His latest challenge is to create a coffee shop in 30 days – in Newbury’s Kennet Centre.

• Local resident Richard Garvie has created an online public meeting at 7pm this Friday 26 April for concerned residents to discuss the issue of sewage in West Berkshire, and to discuss what action could and should be taken to protect public health and put pressure on Thames Water, West Berkshire Council and the Government.

• The peregrins nesting on the top of Newbury’s BT building have a clutch of four eggs which observors expect will hatch before the end of the month. You can follow NewburyPeregrins on twitter/X here.

• Newbury Friends of the Earth invite you to the Guided Walk & Grand Opening of the new Newbury Nature Corridor on Saturday 4 May. The 2.5 mile route runs between two Lockdown Woods that they have planted in Barn Crescent and Goldwell Park. Explore what we can do to help nature thrive in our streets and gardens, chat with experts and visit the ponds being restored at John Rankin School and St Bartholomew’s School. At 10am there will be an introduction by local ecologist Justine Whitehead at Barn Crescent Field (off Elizabeth Avenue, RG14 6HD). Then a Guided Walk to Goldwell Park for the opening ceremony by Newbury Town Council Leader, Gary Norman around 12.30pm and light refreshments. Visitors will receive a free pack of wildflower seeds. Please wear sturdy waterproof boots and weather-appropriate clothing, and bring water and snacks if required. See more details here.

• Local charity Eight Bells for Mental Health is asking for donations of raffle or tombola prizes? Whether it’s a product, service, or voucher, every donation counts and makes a huge difference in supporting them to raise vital funds. If you would like to help, get in touch at coordinator@eightbellsnewbury.co.uk.

• Sound Newbury facebook page promotes live gigs in the local area – see here for the line-up over this long Easter weekend. And get in touch with the facebook page if your event isn’t included.

• Quick reminder that closing date for Newbury in Bloom 2024 is Sunday 26 May and the judging for the competition will take place week commencing 17 June. Click here for further details.

• The Newbury Spring Festival runs from Sat 11 to Sat 25 May and public booking for events is now open: click here to see the full list of musical treats on offer. Tickets are available free to under 30s thanks to support from Greenham Trust.

• The Volunteer Centre West Berkshire is offering a range of courses for volunteers, trustees, and anyone in the charity sector. Too see what courses they’re offering and to book a place, click here.

• Would you like to volunteer your business expertise to help Education Business Partnership prepare our local young people? Please see here for more details.

• If you need to let off steam about Newbury’s current roadworks, join the Newbury Happening Now facebook group. See West Berkshire Council’s list of roads prioritised for improving here.

• The Green Hub on West Berkshire Council’s website is focused on helping people make more sustainable choices collectively along our journey to Net Zero, whether you live, work or learn in West Berkshire or are a business owner or visitor. The information covers energy efficiencytaking climate actioncommunity work and sustainable business.

• For support and advice with any flooding issues in Newbury please join the Newbury Flood and Drainage Action Facebook Group.

• Do you have teenagers who are experiencing anxiety or exam stress? Educafe has organised some free Create SPACE sessions for teens in Newbury Library. Each week can be booked separately and the dates are 2, 6 and 30 May and 13 June.

• Have your say

Have your say on current consultations being run by West Berkshire Council:

Proposed nominations for the Local List of Heritage Assets (March 2024) Deadline 12 May.
Draft Domestic Abuse Strategy 2023-2027  Deadline 19 May.
Theale Village: Proposed 20mph Speed Limit  Deadline 6 June.

Parish and town councils also run consultations from time to time: see the appropriate website/s below under Council contacts.

• Latest local newsletters

• Newbury Town Council.
• Hamstead Hornet (the March 2024 issue has just been published)


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.

• The Corn Exchange café bar on Thursday mornings between 10.30am and 12.30pm hosts Coffee Companions to meet new people and have a chat.

• Loose Ends drop-in centre at Newbury Cricket Ground welcome volunteers to join its friendly team. They offer hot meals and a safe and friendly environment for vulnerable people. More details and how to apply can be found here.

• Roadworks seem to be ongoing across the town…For up to date news and discussion it’s worth joining the Newbury.Happening now facebook group and its Newbury Traffic Live Updates chat group (on facebook messenger).

• Printer ink cartridges can be recycled at the Waterside Youth Centre, which will help them raise money to fund local youth activities. You can find the donation box next to the blue reception desk. – 01635 018500.

• Northcroft Lido swimming timetable is published here.

• Wash Common Library is open 2pm to 4pm Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10am to 12pm Friday and Saturdays. Contact

• For the low-down on the local live music scene follow Sound Newbury’s facebook page.

• Donations of second-hand bikes welcome at the Community Furniture Project in Newbury where they refurbish the bikes and sell them at affordable prices to people in need. Call 01635 43933.

• Newbury Market welcomes small business interested in having a pitch in the Market Place get in contact with them at towncouncil@newbury.gov.uk or call 07399 122964 to find out more.

• Newbury Town Council Saturday Surgery between 10 am and noon any week at the steps of the Town Hall.

• Newbury’s two friendly community cafés on Wednesdays: Educafe Community Café in Newbury Library 11am to 2pm and Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate Pub 2pm to 5pm.

• Fair Close Centre on Newtown Road in Newbury provides a vital social hub and meals on wheels for over 65s, many of whom live on their own. Please support them here. Goodness knows we might all need their services in years to come.

• Local charity Eight Bells is seeking enthusiastic volunteers to support them with food collections from local supermarkets. For more information and to register your interest please call 07387 962220 or email coordinator@eightbellsnewbury.co.uk.

 The Community Larder at the Waterside Centre is open every Tuesday afternoon, 2pm to 4pm to provide members with surplus food, discounts for local businesses, access to other services and support, as well as a friendly community environment.

• Dignity in Dying local West Berkshire group meets in Newbury Library.

Newbury Library offers free IT support sessions including filling out online forms, how to Zoom, downloading e-magazines or sorting out pictures. Bookable 30- or 60-minute sessions. To find out more or book a slot, email rav.gopal@westberks.gov.uk.

• West Berkshire Library’s friendly At Home service delivers books in person on a three-weekly basis, free of charge if you can’t get into your local branch. Contact the At Home service on 01635 519827 or email library@westberks.gov.uk.


Local events and activities

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

• Dates for the diary

 Every WedEducafe 11am to 2pm, Newbury Library

 Every WedSpeen Community Cafe, 2pm to 5pm The Starting Gate.

Fri 26 Apr Newbury Wool and Fabric Bargain Sale, Kennet Centre, Newbury.

• Fri 26 Apr Newbury Youngstars: Matilda Jr, Arlington Arts.

• Fri 26 Apr Farmers Market, Watermill Theatre.

Sat 27 Apr Newbury Wool and Fabric Bargain Sale, Kennet Centre, Newbury.

• Sat 27 Apr Newbury Youngstars: Matilda Jr, Arlington Arts.

• Sat 27 Apr Plant Sale & Seed Swap, City Arts, Newbury

• Sun 28 Apr Newbury & Thatcham Repair Cafe, Methodist Church Hall, Newbury.

• Sun 28 Apr Plant Sale & Seed Swap, City Arts, Newbury

• Sat 11 to 25 May Newbury Spring Festival, various locations.

• Sun 26 May Art on the Park, Victoria Park.

Mon 8 July Newbury Antiques Fair, Newbury Racecourse.

 Regular events

• A wide range of activities for over 55 year olds is offered by The Corn Exchange in its Ageing Creatively programme.

Community Kitchen Garden meets every Thursday from 10am to 12:30pm. Drop-in to get involved with the planting and maintenance of flowers, fruit and vegetables, learn new skills and meet new people inside the beautiful walled garden of Shaw House. To learn more contact Amy on 07553 810133 or amy.bosley1@westberks.gov.uk.

• Ukulele group workshops for all levels with the UTeam in Wash Common. Call 07963 647087 to enquire.

• Salsa in Newbury courses for beginners and level 2/3 on Wednesday evenings at Newbury British Legion.

 Regular youth activities at the Waterside Centre in central Newbury.

• Wash Common Library hosts Knit & Knatter, 3pm on third Monday/mth and Rhymetime for Toddlers every Thurs at 3pm, Book Club on 2nd Thursday/month (contact Julia  07901 633333).

 Thatcham & Newbury Town Ladies and Girls FC Wildcats programme for girls aged 5 to 11 to get involved in football, promoting skill development, health, confidence and friendship. 6 to 7pm every Wednesday at Lower Way playing fields in Thatcham. Email thatcham.newbury.girls.fc.fdo@gmail.com to get involved.

• Newbury Park Run at Greenham Common at 9am every Saturday morning. Folks of all ages welcome to run/walk/jog the 5km. They also have volunteering opportunities. See details here.

 Newbury Women Football Club always welcomes new players. For more details click here or contact newburywomenfc@gmail.com.

• ACE Space on St Nicholas Road hosts live acoustic performances. Join their Facebook group or follow them on Twitter.

• Newbury Community Larder every Tuesday 2pm to 4pm at the Waterside Centre (down the canal from Costa Coffee on Northbrook Street). For more details please contact waterside@berkshireyouth.co.uk or call 01635 018500.

• Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesdays between 2pm to 5pm. Drop in for a chat or a cuppa, knitting and craft activities. You don’t have to live in Speen to join in. Follow them on facebook here.

• Educafe’s Community Cafe at Newbury Library every Wednesday between 11am and 2pm. If you would like to pop along for a friendly chat or to volunteer in the cafe please see their website for more details.

• Berkshire Youth‘s Waterside Centre in Newbury hosts various clubs and activities for local children and can provide volunteering opportunities for adults too.

 The Base, Greenham organise many art-focused events for people of all ages to let their creative sides go wild.


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. If the link is scored through this may be because draft minutes have been replaced by approved ones and the drafts file deleted. If so, please follow the links provided to the council’s website.

• The most recent meeting of Newbury Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 22 January and you can read the minutes here. Note that many matters are delegated to committees.
To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 17 April and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: matters arising; trees; dog bins; ANPR cameras at the David Wilson Homes site; financial matters; planning matters; road safety; repairs and maintenance; the annual parish meeting (1 May); D-Day; and the Donnington Village Fete.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 9 April and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: matters arising; planning matters; financial matters; the neighbourhood development plan; the burial ground; the Newbury Showground; D-Day; the parish assembly (1 May); reports from the Clerk and from councillors; speeding; and dog bins
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here to download the meeting schedule. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 13 March and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: planning matters; financial matters; drones; uncontrollable dogs; the parish assembly (25 April); D-Day; a report from the Clerk; and a councillor resignation.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 29 January 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 Speen Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 24 January and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 7 November 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 Hamstead Marshall Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 21 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click hereTo see minutes, please click here.

• Newbury area council contacts

Parishes: Newbury Town CouncilGreenham Parish CouncilChieveley Parish CouncilEnborne Parish CouncilBoxford Parish CouncilSpeen Parish Council,  Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council, and Hamstead Marshall 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 ValleyThatcham area; Compton and DownlandsBurghfield area; Wantage area; Marlborough area.
• News and views from across the area and beyond: please see the most recent Weekly News with Brian column.

Thursday 18 April 2024

Our usual round-up of  local news includes a gym, a sale, bills, gigs and blooms – plus three decisions (two quite large) to be taken by WBC, a sewage protest, the latest on Faraday Road and local support for the homeless over the winter.  See also below for community notices and news from your local council.

Upcoming Newbury events include Educafé and a bargain sale. See below for details, plus regular events and group activities.

• Three decisions

WBC’s Western Area Planning Committee (WAPC) will be meeting on 24 April to consider three matters. One of these involved the demolition of some buildings including a pigsty in Cheiveley. The other two are rather more significant.

The first involves The Return of Sandleford, a soap opera with a long and tangled plot that has been running for at least the last fifteen years. There are two parts to the site. The larger, eastern, part was the subject of a successful appeal in 2022. The application under consideration by the WAPC is for the smaller, western part:

“Outline application for the phased delivery of up to 360 dwellings; demolition of Warren House and other buildings; widening of Warren Road to provide access through to Andover Road to the west; emergency access via Kendrick Road; provision of open space; drainage, walking, cycling, green and other associated infrastructure, including 40% affordable housing provision. All matters to be reserved, except access into the site for vehicles, pedestrians and cycles along the Warren Road corridor.”

The second involves another matter that we’ve covered many times before, the proposed solar farm in Enborne. This was first applied for about three years ago; opposed (on what I felt to be slightly specious grounds); and then resubmitted with a number of modifications. The summary of the project is as follows:

“The installation and operation of a solar farm with ancillary equipment including inverter and substation house, security cameras, deer fence, new highway access and landscaping scheme.”

In all three cases, the recommendation is that the application be approved subject to conditions. The WAPC is able to go against this advice if it wishes but the members will be reminded that to do so might leave grounds for an appeal.

• Faraday Road

Progress is slowly happening here. Finally – so satisfying another Lib Dem election pledge – a steering group has been set up involving WBC and the Newbury Community Football Group (which represents most of the clubs in the town) and the first meeting is scheduled for 30 April. Whether the minutes will be published or not isn’t clear. However, I’ve asked for a joint statement from the two groups. If provided, it will will offer evidence of a rapprochement after a very divisive five years during which nothing useful was accomplished.

One of the matters that will doubtless be discussed is the plan for a 3G pitch. Assuming its feasible – and there’s been ample time to establish this – this would seem to address pretty much the top priority of any playing-pitch strategy in the area. A complicating factor may be WBC’s plans, so far unexpressed, for the wider development of the site and whether the area under the pitch might be used as a flood attenuation area.

The NCFG was granted planning permission for a redevelopment of the site in 2021 but, without any start on this, it will lapse in the autumn. It remains to be seen if any new plans for the site can be accommodated within this or whether the process needs to start again. If it does, this will lead to further delays.

There’s also the matter of WBC’s obligations to Sport England which requires that any closed facility be replaced by one of at least an equivalent standard. This WBC has been in breach of since June 2018 when the then administration so idiotically closed the ground without any plan as to what it was going to do next. As matters stand, it’s still in breach. Sport England doesn’t seem too bothered about pressing this point, None the less, the Newbury football community does. Something better is needed. Hopefully this steering group will plot a rapid way forward. We’ll be interested spectators to this match, which hopefully will be conducted in a better spirit than have the recent fixtures between these two teams.

• Sewage protest

There was an excellent show of support in Newbury last Sunday 14 April for the Kennet Catchment River Keepers End Sewage Pollution Protest, supported by Action for the River Kennet and the Angling Trust and opened by actor and angling activist James Murray.

The speakers objected to the “totally unacceptable” 23,740 hours of untreated sewage that poured into the Kennet catchment rivers during 2023; the decades of under investment from Thames Water; the postponement of plans for sewage treatment works improvements; the “deeply concerning” water quality results; and the manholes pouring sewage down our streets and into our chalk streams. The River Kennet is a ‘Site of Special Scientific Interest’ (SSSI), as is the Lambourn which is also designated as a ‘Special Area of Conservation’ (SAC). The Pang, the inspiration for The Wind in the Willows, flows through several SSSI areas. These are three of only 260 chalk streams in the world, and they are facing an environmental crisis.

According to ARK, there is now sewage fungus on the bank of the River Lambourn where sewage is pouring straight out of a manhole into the SSSI and SAC chalk stream. “Sewage fungus thrives in water that is polluted by sewage and consumes oxygen potentially suffocating aquatic life,” Charlotte Hitchmough from ARK explained. “Fish eggs can get smothered and therefore do not hatch. Invertebrate populations can also be affected. Your river, its wildlife and communities deserve better. Please write to your local political representatives and let them know how you feel about what is happening to your rivers.”

A number of local politicians, including Green Party candidate Steve Masters, spoke at the protest. Despite all these and other efforts, it appears that everything is being done at the speed that Thames Water can afford and that the Environment Agency is prepared to insist upon. Most would agree that this is not remotely fast enough.

One local resident, Richard Garvie, is hosting an online public meeting at 7pm on Friday 26 April to discuss what action could and should be taken to protect public health and put pressure on Thames Water, West Berkshire Council and the government.

• Support for homeless last winter

Local homeless support charities came together in the autumn of 2023 to provide people who would otherwise have been street homeless in West Berkshire with access to a safe place to sleep during the winter months.

The project focused on supporting homeless people in West Berkshire who are categorised as ‘non-priority’. As such, the local authority does not have a duty to accommodate them but during the winter period, the risk to the health and well-being of people rough sleeping is considerably higher.

Emergency accommodation in local hotels and bed and breakfasts provided a break for rough sleepers to get some essential respite from the harsh reality of their daily lives on the streets, as well as providing time for people who were newly homeless to put together a moving-on plan. A total of 37 people were supported by the project, with a total of 1,324 beds/nights provided.

The project, which came to an end on Monday 15 April, was a partnership between local charities The Newbury Community Resource CentreWest Berkshire HomelessNewbury Soup KitchenLoose Ends Newbury and West Berkshire Council’s Rough Sleeper Team. Funding was provided by the Greenham Trust, Sheepdrove Trust and the Government’s Household Support Fund.

See here for more details.

• Other news

A brand new outdoor gym has just been unveiled this week at Victoria Park. The gym features many piece of state-of-the-art fitness equipment, selected to cater to a variety of exercise preferences and fitness goals. Click here to learn more and make sure you swing by to take a look.

 Would you like to reduce your utility bills? Pop into the new ‘Bill Clinic’ at Educafe in Newbury Library 11am to 2pm next Wed 24 April and Wed 29 May with your recent bills (electricity, gas, phone or broadband etc). Listen here to Graham Pocock explain all aboout it.

• Fancy a bargain on fabric and yarn? Marion Scott-Baker, awarded Singer Sewing hero for 2023 for her work in bringing stitching to local communities, is running another Wool and Fabric Bargain Sale in Newbury’s Kennet Centre on Friday 26 and Saturday 27 April 10am to 4pm. The big fabric shows offer good prices but they are expensive to get to and park. So Marion likes to bring the show discounts to our local community by inviting the traders to Newbury. Some of the Newbury Stitch Fair favourites are returning for this two-day event, including Stitch Fabrics, Geoff Rosenberg’s fabulous range of dress-making fabrics, Brian’s Best Wools from Yorkshire and Village Fabrics range of attractive patchwork fabrics and over 60 styes of Tessuti patterns of tops, bottoms, dresses and coats. The net proceeds of the sale will go to West Berkshire Mencap. See here for more details.

• Next Friday 26 April will see the Watermill’s first ever Farmers Market, offering a range of fresh, artisanal food, drink and other natural produce, all in the beautiful grounds as they come into bloom. The bar and restaurant will also be open, as well as the opportunity to get a backstage tour of the theatre. To see the full list of local businesses attending, click here.

• Local charity the Eight Bells are preparing charity fundraisers and are looking for help from the local community. Are you able to donate a prize for one of their tombola or raffle events? Whether it’s a product, service, or voucher, every donation counts and makes a huge difference in supporting them to raise vital funds. If you would like to help, get in touch at coordinator@eightbellsnewbury.co.uk.

• The Fair Close Centre run by Age Concern Newbury currently has a vacancy for a Meals on Wheels coordinator. As one of two Meals on Wheels Co-ordinators, you will ensure the boxes are ready for the volunteers to pick up and also be responsible for all admin. See here for how to apply.

• Sound Newbury facebook page promotes live gigs in the local area – see here for the line-up over this long Easter weekend. And get in touch with the facebook page if your event isn’t included.

• Quick reminder that closing date for Newbury in Bloom 2024 is Sunday 26 May and the judging for the competition will take place week commencing 17 June. Click here for further details.

• The Newbury Spring Festival runs from Sat 11 to Sat 25 May and public booking for events is now open: click here to see the full list of musical treats on offer. Tickets are availabl free to under 30s thanks to support from Greenham Trust.

• The Volunteer Centre West Berkshire is offering a range of courses for volunteers, trustees, and anyone in the charity sector. Too see what courses they’re offering and to book a place, click here.

• Would you like to volunteer your business expertise to help Education Business Partnership prepare our local young people? Please see here for more details.

• If you need to let off steam about Newbury’s current roadworks, join the Newbury Happening Now facebook group. See West Berkshire Council’s list of roads prioritised for improving here.

• The Green Hub on West Berkshire Council’s website is focused on helping people make more sustainable choices collectively along our journey to Net Zero, whether you live, work or learn in West Berkshire or are a business owner or visitor. The information covers energy efficiencytaking climate actioncommunity work and sustainable business.

• For support and advice with any flooding issues in Newbury please join the Newbury Flood and Drainage Action Facebook Group.

• Do you have teenagers who are experiencing anxiety or exam stress? Educafe has organised some free Create SPACE sessions for teens that start on Thursday 18 April in Newbury Library. Each week can be booked separately and the dates are 18 April, 2, 6 and 30 May and 13 June.

• Have your say

Have your say on current consultations being run by West Berkshire Council:

Proposed nominations for the Local List of Heritage Assets (March 2024) Deadline 12 May.
Draft Domestic Abuse Strategy 2023-2027 Deadline 19 May.

Parish and town councils also run consultations from time to time: see the appropriate website/s below under Council contacts.

• Latest local newsletters

• Newbury Town Council.
• Hamstead Hornet (the March 2024 issue has just been published)


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.

• The Corn Exchange café bar on Thursday mornings between 10.30am and 12.30pm hosts Coffee Companions to meet new people and have a chat.

• Loose Ends drop-in centre at Newbury Cricket Ground welcome volunteers to join its friendly team. They offer hot meals and a safe and friendly environment for vulnerable people. More details and how to apply can be found here.

• Roadworks seem to be ongoing across the town…For up to date news and discussion it’s worth joining the Newbury.Happening now facebook group and its Newbury Traffic Live Updates chat group (on facebook messenger).

• Printer ink cartridges can be recycled at the Waterside Youth Centre, which will help them raise money to fund local youth activities. You can find the donation box next to the blue reception desk. – 01635 018500.

• Northcroft Lido swimming timetable is published here.

• Wash Common Library is open 2pm to 4pm Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10am to 12pm Friday and Saturdays. Contact

• For the low-down on the local live music scene follow Sound Newbury’s facebook page.

• Donations of second-hand bikes welcome at the Community Furniture Project in Newbury where they refurbish the bikes and sell them at affordable prices to people in need. Call 01635 43933.

• Newbury Market welcomes small business interested in having a pitch in the Market Place get in contact with them at towncouncil@newbury.gov.uk or call 07399 122964 to find out more.

• Newbury Town Council Saturday Surgery between 10 am and noon any week at the steps of the Town Hall.

• Newbury’s two friendly community cafés on Wednesdays: Educafe Community Café in Newbury Library 11am to 2pm and Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate Pub 2pm to 5pm.

• Fair Close Centre on Newtown Road in Newbury provides a vital social hub and meals on wheels for over 65s, many of whom live on their own. Please support them here. Goodness knows we might all need their services in years to come.

• Local charity Eight Bells is seeking enthusiastic volunteers to support them with food collections from local supermarkets. For more information and to register your interest please call 07387 962220 or email coordinator@eightbellsnewbury.co.uk.

 The Community Larder at the Waterside Centre is open every Tuesday afternoon, 2pm to 4pm to provide members with surplus food, discounts for local businesses, access to other services and support, as well as a friendly community environment.

• Dignity in Dying local West Berkshire group meets in Newbury Library.

Newbury Library offers free IT support sessions including filling out online forms, how to Zoom, downloading e-magazines or sorting out pictures. Bookable 30- or 60-minute sessions. To find out more or book a slot, email rav.gopal@westberks.gov.uk.

• West Berkshire Library’s friendly At Home service delivers books in person on a three-weekly basis, free of charge if you can’t get into your local branch. Contact the At Home service on 01635 519827 or email library@westberks.gov.uk.


Local events and activities

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

• Dates for the diary

 Every WedEducafe 11am to 2pm, Newbury Library

 Every WedSpeen Community Cafe, 2pm to 5pm The Starting Gate.

 Wed 24 Apr ‘Bill Clinic’ at Educafe, 11am to 2pm, Newbury Library

Fri 26 Apr Newbury Wool and Fabric Bargain Sale, Kennet Centre, Newbury.

• Fri 26 Apr Newbury Youngstars: Matilda Jr, Arlington Arts.

• Fri 26 Apr Farmers Market, Watermill Theatre.

Sat 27 Apr Newbury Wool and Fabric Bargain Sale, Kennet Centre, Newbury.

• Sat 27 Apr Newbury Youngstars: Matilda Jr, Arlington Arts.

• Sat 27 Apr Plant Sale & Seed Swap, City Arts, Newbury

• Sun 28 Apr Newbury & Thatcham Repair Cafe, Methodist Church Hall, Newbury.

• Sun 28 Apr Plant Sale & Seed Swap, City Arts, Newbury

• Sat 11 to 25 May Newbury Spring Festival, various locations.

• Sun 26 May Art on the Park, Victoria Park.

Mon 8 July Newbury Antiques Fair, Newbury Racecourse.

 Regular events

• A wide range of activities for over 55 year olds is offered by The Corn Exchange in its Ageing Creatively programme.

Community Kitchen Garden meets every Thursday from 10am to 12:30pm. Drop-in to get involved with the planting and maintenance of flowers, fruit and vegetables, learn new skills and meet new people inside the beautiful walled garden of Shaw House. To learn more contact Amy on 07553 810133 or amy.bosley1@westberks.gov.uk.

• Ukulele group workshops for all levels with the UTeam in Wash Common. Call 07963 647087 to enquire.

• Salsa in Newbury courses for beginners and level 2/3 on Wednesday evenings at Newbury British Legion.

 Regular youth activities at the Waterside Centre in central Newbury.

• Wash Common Library hosts Knit & Knatter, 3pm on third Monday/mth and Rhymetime for Toddlers every Thurs at 3pm, Book Club on 2nd Thursday/month (contact Julia  07901 633333).

 Thatcham & Newbury Town Ladies and Girls FC Wildcats programme for girls aged 5 to 11 to get involved in football, promoting skill development, health, confidence and friendship. 6 to 7pm every Wednesday at Lower Way playing fields in Thatcham. Email thatcham.newbury.girls.fc.fdo@gmail.com to get involved.

• Newbury Park Run at Greenham Common at 9am every Saturday morning. Folks of all ages welcome to run/walk/jog the 5km. They also have volunteering opportunities. See details here.

 Newbury Women Football Club always welcomes new players. For more details click here or contact newburywomenfc@gmail.com.

• ACE Space on St Nicholas Road hosts live acoustic performances. Join their Facebook group or follow them on Twitter.

• Newbury Community Larder every Tuesday 2pm to 4pm at the Waterside Centre (down the canal from Costa Coffee on Northbrook Street). For more details please contact waterside@berkshireyouth.co.uk or call 01635 018500.

• Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesdays between 2pm to 5pm. Drop in for a chat or a cuppa, knitting and craft activities. You don’t have to live in Speen to join in. Follow them on facebook here.

• Educafe’s Community Cafe at Newbury Library every Wednesday between 11am and 2pm. If you would like to pop along for a friendly chat or to volunteer in the cafe please see their website for more details.

• Berkshire Youth‘s Waterside Centre in Newbury hosts various clubs and activities for local children and can provide volunteering opportunities for adults too.

 The Base, Greenham organise many art-focused events for people of all ages to let their creative sides go wild.


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. If the link is scored through this may be because draft minutes have been replaced by approved ones and the drafts file deleted. If so, please follow the links provided to the council’s website.

• The most recent meeting of Newbury Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 22 January and you can read the minutes here. Note that many matters are delegated to committees.
To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 9 April and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: matters arising; planning matters; financial matters; the neighbourhood development plan; the burial ground; the Newbury Showground; D-Day; the parish assembly (1 May); reports from the Clerk and from councillors; speeding; and dog bins
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here to download the meeting schedule. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 20 March and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: matters arising; grants; tree planting; correspondence; financial matters; reports from the ward members; planning matters; road safety; amenities; dog bins; streetlights; the emergency plan; and repairs and maintenance.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 13 March and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: planning matters; financial matters; drones; uncontrollable dogs; the parish assembly (25 April); D-Day; a report from the Clerk; and a councillor resignation.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 29 January 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 Speen Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 24 January and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 7 November 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 Hamstead Marshall Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 21 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click hereTo see minutes, please click here.

• Newbury area council contacts

Parishes: Newbury Town CouncilGreenham Parish CouncilChieveley Parish CouncilEnborne Parish CouncilBoxford Parish CouncilSpeen Parish Council,  Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council, and Hamstead Marshall 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 ValleyThatcham area; Compton and DownlandsBurghfield area; Wantage area; Marlborough area.
• News and views from across the area and beyond: please see the most recent Weekly News with Brian column.

Thursday 11 April 2024

Our usual round-up of  local news includes fitness equipment, football, blooms, stress and pollution – plus a change of use in Hamstead Marshall, a change of plan in Pound Street, pharmacy news, the PCC election and an astronomers legacy.  See also below for community notices and news from your local council.

Upcoming Newbury events include Charity quiz night and sewage polluion protest. See below for details, plus regular events and group activities.

• Changes to Pound Street

In this column on 14 March, we provided news about proposed demolition works and the erection of about a hundred homes on the former Jewsons’ site at Pound Street in Newbury. This is application 23/02782/FULMAJ, the details of which can be seen here.

A number of objections were received, mainly concerning access issues, parking, the density of the scheme and the external appearance. It appears that the developers have taken these into consideration and that a revised application will be submitted within the next month. As soon as this has been validated and appears on WBC’s website (which can take a fortnight or so), we’ll publicise the link.

• Change of use

It’s well known that pubs are closing all over the country and they often eventually re-emerge as private dwellings. One that has has been in this corridor of uncertainty for rather longer than most is the White Hart in Hamstead Marshall.

Much, perhaps too much, has been said and written in the past about the previous attempts to get a change of use, and its subsequent re-opening and re-closure. Instead, I merely to draw your attention to the planning documents which can be seen here, on which you may comment until the matter has been determined. It’s also worth having a quick look at the planning statement (one of the documents in the digital pack).

This includes a a history of the recent applications relating to the property and touches several times on the question of whether it is viable as a pub. The planning statement notes (2.12) that this was the sole remaining reason why WBC might once again reduce the latest application, as it did in 2017. It adds (6.5 to 6.7) that although the White Hart was declared an Asset of Community Value in 2017, this has since lapsed and explains why this happened.

6.8 asserts that the pub has not actively been part of the life of the community since 2022 when it last closed. It could have added that it has not been a permanently active part of community life for many years before that; except, perhaps, as a bone of contention and thus only in a negative sense. The same clause adds the telling point that that there had been no offer from the community to take over the White Hart (something that ACVs are designed to facilitate). Attempts have also been made to find another tenant but these have also come to nothing.

The document concludes by saying (6.20) that the White Hart is no longer viable as a public house and (6.21) that its closure would not result in the loss of a community asset. Other opinions may exist on this point (and further evidence might be required to support it). However, all the evidence would seem to support this. Efforts have been made to re-open it and these have not succeeded. Some of these may be do with its location or other more specific factors. However, it’s beyond doubt that what viability problems existed at the time of the last application in 2017, these have considerably increased since due to Covid, cost increases, demographic changes and regulatory issues. It’s also unlikely that the current owner would be minded to invest yet more money in trying again.

As Einstein observed, the definition of stupidity is repeating the same experiment and expecting a different result. The last time, the result was a divisive debate and, at the end of it, no pub. The time might have come to call time and for everyone to move on.

• Pharmacy news

We wrote last month about the problems affecting pharmacies across the district: specifically, on that occasion, in Newbury but also, historically, in Thatcham. The main problem was queuing times and the associated problem of poor communication. People might therefore find themselves waiting in line for a long time only to be told that the medication that they’d been led to believe was ready was in fact. few things are more calculated to make people leap onto social media.

Discussions last month at the WBC’s Health and Wellbeing Board and and the Health Scrutiny Committee considered whether the problem was that, certainly in Newbury and perhaps in Thatcham, there needed to be more pharmacies. Provision here exists in a kind of half-world between the public and the private sector. On the one hand, pharmacy provision is regulated; on the other, private companies provide the services. One of the points made against an extra pharmacy in Newbury was that there was only so much funding available: an extra outlet would result in the same amount of jam being spread more thinly and so, perhaps, benefitting no one.

One of the points made was there was much that could be done with improving efficiencies and systems at the existing pharmacies before rushing in to set up new ones. The indications are that this has produced some improvements in the Northbrook Street Boots in Newbury over the last few months.

That’s certainly been the experience in Thatcham. WBC Councillor Owen Jeffery – who has regularly highlighted and campaigned against any shortcomings in Thatcham’s services of all kinds – told me on 10 April that he’d noticed a real improvement there, despite the fact that there are now only two pharmacies compared to four before Covid and three this time last year. “These four were run by chains, both of whom have since pulled out of the town,” he told me. “Problems with queueing and other issues were continuous and well documented. Now, however, we have two independents run by entrepreneurial people with good staff and these problems seem largely to have disappeared – as have the level of complaints I receive.” Quality, not quantity, thus seems to be the way forward.

• Why it matters who the next PCC is

Police and Crime Commissioners are elected by the public to ensure the policing needs of communities are met. PCCs set police budgets, priorities and appoint the Chief Constable. The next PCC election is 2 May and the deadline to register to vote is 16 April. Registering to vote takes just five minutes at gov.uk/register-to-vote. To decide who to vote for, see our local Thames Valley candidates’ manifestos here.

Nigel Lynn, Police Area Returning Officer (PARO) and Chief Executive of West Berkshire Council, said: “This election is your opportunity to influence how your police service works. The PCC’s job is to make sure that crime in our area is tackled effectively and according to our local priorities. They’re elected by you, to be your voice and to hold the police force to account.”

• The legacy of astronomer Francis Baily

The solar eclipse viewed from the USA this week sparked big interest in the shining jewels in the ring of light at full eclipse. These ‘Baily’s Beads‘ were discovered in 1836 by Newbury born and Grammar School-educated Francis Baily who earned a fortune on the stock exchange, retired in 1825 and devoted the rest of his life to astronomy, becoming President of the Royal Astronomical Society for several years. The lunar crater Baily was named after him, as was Baily’s metal, the rigid and thermally insensitive alloy used to cast the 1855 standard yard, and of course Francis Baily CofE Primary School in Thatcham. He is buried at St Mary’s Church in Thatcham Church. Thanks to Allan Mercado for bringing this story to our attention.

• Other news

• Victoria Park is set to become a hub for fitness enthusiasts and beginners too, with the unveiling of a new outdoor fitness facility. The Mayor of Newbury, Cllr Nigel Foot will be officially opening the new exercise equipment on Thursday 18 April at 11am and would like to encourage residents to come along and take a look. See here for more details.

• The Mayor of Newbury, Cllr Nigel Foot invites everyone to put their knowledge to the test at his Charity Quiz Night on Friday 12 April in aid of the Mayor’s nominated charity West Berkshire Homeless. Tickets cost £10 per person including a charcuterie grazing board. To book last minute please contact mayor@newbury.gov.uk or call 07538 334106. See more details here.

Volunteer Centre West Berkshire based in Newbury publishes a weekly newsletter that is packed of useful information about services, training, job opportunities, funding for a wide range of local individuals and groups – from mental health to lacrosse.

• Quick reminder about the peaceful protest about local river sewage pollution at 12pm this Sunday 14 April, in Victoria Park. Supported by ARK (Action for the River Kennet) this event invites you to show your support for the Kennet Catchment River Keepers and the environment that is being polluted. The River Kennet is a ‘Site of Special Scientific Interest’ (SSSI), as is the Lambourn which is also designated as a ‘Special Area of Conservation’ (SAC). The Pang, the inspiration for ‘The Wind in the Willows,’ flows through several SSSI areas. These are three of only 260 chalk streams in the world, and they are facing an undeniable environmental crisis. The continuous discharge of untreated sewage into these ecologically significant chalk streams, and several other rivers in the catchment by Thames Water presents a dire threat to river life and community health.

• The Fair Close Centre run by Age Concern Newbury currentl has a vacancy for a Meals on Wheels coordinator. As one of two Meals on Wheels Co-ordinators, you will ensure the boxes are ready for the volunteers to pick up and also be responsible for all admin. See here for how to apply.

• Do you have teenagers who are experiencing anxiety or exam stress? Educafe has organised some free Create SPACE sessions for teens that start on Thursday 18 April in Newbury Library.

• Sound Newbury facebook page promotes live gigs in the local area – see here for the line-up over this long Easter weekend. And get in touch with the facebook page if your event isn’t included.

• Free Gardening Master Class at the Community Kitchen Garden at Shaw House. Learn the best techniques for pricking out and potting on seedlings on Thurs 18 April. If you would like to spend more time outside in nature, learn new skills or meet new people why not contact Amy on amy.bosley1@westberks.gov.uk or 07553 810133 to see how you can get involved with the weekly sessions at Shaw House.

• Quick reminder that closing date for Newbury in Bloom 2024 is Sunday 26 May and the judging for the competition will take place week commencing 17 June. Click here for further details.

Woolton Hill Argyle are looking for children currently in Year 5 to join the U11 Football Team for the 24/25 season.  If you’re interested please contact John Bonas at jbonas@hotmail.com or phone 07513 71557.

• The Newbury Spring Festival runs from Sat 11 to Sat 25 May and public booking for events is now open: click here to see the full list of musical treats on offer.

• The Volunteer Centre West Berkshire is offering a range of courses for volunteers, trustees, and anyone in the charity sector. Too see what courses they’re offering and to book a place, click here.

• Would you like to volunteer your business expertise to help Education Business Partnership prepare our local young people? Please see here for more details.

• If you need to let off steam about Newbury’s current roadworks, join the Newbury Happening Now facebook group. See West Berkshire Council’s list of roads prioritised for improving here.

• The Green Hub on West Berkshire Council’s website is focused on helping people make more sustainable choices collectively along our journey to Net Zero, whether you live, work or learn in West Berkshire or are a business owner or visitor. The information covers energy efficiencytaking climate actioncommunity work and sustainable business.

• For support and advice with any flooding issues in Newbury please join the Newbury Flood and Drainage Action Facebook Group.

• Have your say

Have your say on current consultations being run by West Berkshire Council:

Proposed nominations for the Local List of Heritage Assets (March 2024) Deadline 12 May.
Draft Domestic Abuse Strategy 2023-2027 Deadline 19 May.

Parish and town councils also run consultations from time to time: see the appropriate website/s below under Council contacts.

• Latest local newsletters

• Newbury Town Council.
• Hamstead Hornet (the March 2024 issue has just been published)


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.

• The Corn Exchange café bar on Thursday mornings between 10.30am and 12.30pm hosts Coffee Companions to meet new people and have a chat.

• Loose Ends drop-in centre at Newbury Cricket Ground welcome volunteers to join its friendly team. They offer hot meals and a safe and friendly environment for vulnerable people. More details and how to apply can be found here.

• Roadworks seem to be ongoing across the town…For up to date news and discussion it’s worth joining the Newbury.Happening now facebook group and its Newbury Traffic Live Updates chat group (on facebook messenger).

• Printer ink cartridges can be recycled at the Waterside Youth Centre, which will help them raise money to fund local youth activities. You can find the donation box next to the blue reception desk. – 01635 018500.

• Northcroft Lido swimming timetable is published here.

• Wash Common Library is open 2pm to 4pm Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10am to 12pm Friday and Saturdays. Contact

• For the low-down on the local live music scene follow Sound Newbury’s facebook page.

• Donations of second-hand bikes welcome at the Community Furniture Project in Newbury where they refurbish the bikes and sell them at affordable prices to people in need. Call 01635 43933.

• Newbury Market welcomes small business interested in having a pitch in the Market Place get in contact with them at towncouncil@newbury.gov.uk or call 07399 122964 to find out more.

• Newbury Town Council Saturday Surgery between 10 am and noon any week at the steps of the Town Hall.

• Newbury’s two friendly community cafés on Wednesdays: Educafe Community Café in Newbury Library 11am to 2pm and Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate Pub 2pm to 5pm.

• Fair Close Centre on Newtown Road in Newbury provides a vital social hub and meals on wheels for over 65s, many of whom live on their own. Please support them here. Goodness knows we might all need their services in years to come.

• Local charity Eight Bells is seeking enthusiastic volunteers to support them with food collections from local supermarkets. For more information and to register your interest please call 07387 962220 or email coordinator@eightbellsnewbury.co.uk.

 The Community Larder at the Waterside Centre is open every Tuesday afternoon, 2pm to 4pm to provide members with surplus food, discounts for local businesses, access to other services and support, as well as a friendly community environment.

• Dignity in Dying local West Berkshire group meets in Newbury Library.

Newbury Library offers free IT support sessions including filling out online forms, how to Zoom, downloading e-magazines or sorting out pictures. Bookable 30- or 60-minute sessions. To find out more or book a slot, email rav.gopal@westberks.gov.uk.

• West Berkshire Library’s friendly At Home service delivers books in person on a three-weekly basis, free of charge if you can’t get into your local branch. Contact the At Home service on 01635 519827 or email library@westberks.gov.uk.


Local events and activities

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

• Dates for the diary

 Every WedEducafe 11am to 2pm, Newbury Library

 Every WedSpeen Community Cafe, 2pm to 5pm The Starting Gate.

Until Sun 14 Apr Easter Egg Hunt Trail

Fri 12 Apr Newbury Mayor Charity Quiz Night

Sun 14 Apr Love Local Artisan Fair, Shaw House, Newbury.

Sun 14 Apr Peaceful Protest about sewage pollution in local rivers, Victoria Park

• Fri 26 Apr Newbury Wool and Fabric Bargain Sale, Kennet Centre, Newbury.

• Fri 26 Apr Newbury Youngstars: Matilda Jr, Arlington Arts.

Sat 27 Apr Newbury Wool and Fabric Bargain Sale, Kennet Centre, Newbury.

• Sat 27 Apr Newbury Youngstars: Matilda Jr, Arlington Arts.

• Sat 27 Apr Plant Sale & Seed Swap, City Arts, Newbury

• Sun 28 Apr Newbury & Thatcham Repair Cafe, Methodist Church Hall, Newbury.

• Sun 28 Apr Plant Sale & Seed Swap, City Arts, Newbury

• Sat 11 to 25 May Newbury Spring Festival, various locations.

 Regular events

• A wide range of activities for over 55 year olds is offered by The Corn Exchange in its Ageing Creatively programme.

Community Kitchen Garden meets every Thursday from 10am to 12:30pm. Drop-in to get involved with the planting and maintenance of flowers, fruit and vegetables, learn new skills and meet new people inside the beautiful walled garden of Shaw House. To learn more contact Amy on 07553 810133 or amy.bosley1@westberks.gov.uk.

• Ukulele group workshops for all levels with the UTeam in Wash Common. Call 07963 647087 to enquire.

• Salsa in Newbury courses for beginners and level 2/3 on Wednesday evenings at Newbury British Legion.

 Regular youth activities at the Waterside Centre in central Newbury.

• Wash Common Library hosts Knit & Knatter, 3pm on third Monday/mth and Rhymetime for Toddlers every Thurs at 3pm, Book Club on 2nd Thursday/month (contact Julia  07901 633333).

 Thatcham & Newbury Town Ladies and Girls FC Wildcats programme for girls aged 5 to 11 to get involved in football, promoting skill development, health, confidence and friendship. 6 to 7pm every Wednesday at Lower Way playing fields in Thatcham. Email thatcham.newbury.girls.fc.fdo@gmail.com to get involved.

• Newbury Park Run at Greenham Common at 9am every Saturday morning. Folks of all ages welcome to run/walk/jog the 5km. They also have volunteering opportunities. See details here.

 Newbury Women Football Club always welcomes new players. For more details click here or contact newburywomenfc@gmail.com.

• ACE Space on St Nicholas Road hosts live acoustic performances. Join their Facebook group or follow them on Twitter.

• Newbury Community Larder every Tuesday 2pm to 4pm at the Waterside Centre (down the canal from Costa Coffee on Northbrook Street). For more details please contact waterside@berkshireyouth.co.uk or call 01635 018500.

• Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesdays between 2pm to 5pm. Drop in for a chat or a cuppa, knitting and craft activities. You don’t have to live in Speen to join in. Follow them on facebook here.

• Educafe’s Community Cafe at Newbury Library every Wednesday between 11am and 2pm. If you would like to pop along for a friendly chat or to volunteer in the cafe please see their website for more details.

• Berkshire Youth‘s Waterside Centre in Newbury hosts various clubs and activities for local children and can provide volunteering opportunities for adults too.

 The Base, Greenham organise many art-focused events for people of all ages to let their creative sides go wild.


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. If the link is scored through this may be because draft minutes have been replaced by approved ones and the drafts file deleted. If so, please follow the links provided to the council’s website.

• The most recent meeting of Newbury Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 22 January and you can read the minutes here. Note that many matters are delegated to committees.
To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 20 March and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: matters arising; grants; tree planting; correspondence; financial matters; reports from the ward members; planning matters; road safety; amenities; dog bins; streetlights; the emergency plan; and repairs and maintenance.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 12 March and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: matters arising; planning matters; financial matters; the Burial Ground; D-Day; the local plan; the parish assembly (1 May); a councillor co-option; and councillors’ reports.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here to download the meeting schedule. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 14 February 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 Enborne Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 29 January 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 Speen Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 24 January and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 7 November 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 Hamstead Marshall Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 21 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click hereTo see minutes, please click here.

• Newbury area council contacts

Parishes: Newbury Town CouncilGreenham Parish CouncilChieveley Parish CouncilEnborne Parish CouncilBoxford Parish CouncilSpeen Parish Council,  Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council, and Hamstead Marshall 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 ValleyThatcham area; Compton and DownlandsBurghfield area; Wantage area; Marlborough area.

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

Thursday 4 April 2024

Our usual round-up of  local news includes photos, water, stress, gardening, coding and blooms – plus a reminder about flood grants and a look back at the recent history of the Newbury Show (and forward to 2024’s).  See also below for community notices and news from your local council.

Upcoming Newbury events include Easter Fun and De-stash Craft Market. See below for details, plus regular events and group activities.

• Flood grants

West Berkshire Council would like to remind everyone that many of the grants have timescales for applications to be made. One has now closed (business recovery grant) with others closing this month including Community Recovery Grant (upto £500) which closes at 5pm on Friday 12 April 2024 and Property Flood Resilience Repair Grant Scheme (up to £5,000) closing on Tuesday 30 April 2024. The details of the grants are available on  Flood Grants – West Berkshire Council.

WBC has received a number of applications already but would like to ensure all who wish to apply have had the opportunity to do so – “so please do share this information within your community.” Any queries relating to these grants should be sent to floodgrants@westberks.gov.uk.

• Newbury Show and Showground

As most of you are aware, Newbury Show will be back again on 21 and 22 September – click here for more information on the discounted early bird tickets and also the range of sponsorship opportunities (starting from £150) which are available.

Last year’s show was the first one since 2019. The next two events were cancelled due to the pandemic. As it did for many organisations, this played havoc with the finances and led the organisers, the Newbury and District Agricultural Association (NADAS), to suggest that the only way out the problem was to sell the Showground. Although probably not suitable for housing due to its proximity to the M4 and A34, it did have considerable potential as an industrial park or distribution centre and a number of interested parties were soon sniffing around.

This irrevocable suggestion was not, however, to the liking of all the members. A substantial group challenged the then leadership and, after several bruising and at times divisive engagements, assumed control of NADAS in late 2021. This did not, however, allow enough time to organise a Show for 2022, particularly following two fallow years. I spoke to the new Chairman Steve Ackrill shortly after the decision was announced. He said that nothing would be worse, particularly after all the ructions of the previous year, to organise something that went off at half-cock. This seemed like a sensible decision.

The 2023 event made the waiting worthwhile. “There were over 32,000 visitors and this year we hope to attract more than 40,000 visitors,” NADAS’s Claire Jones told me earlier this year. “The feedback from the show in 2023 was very positive with it being a more ‘local show – as it used to be’ – and we are thrilled that Ramsbury Brewery has again decided to be the main sponsor this year.”

Not only the Show but also the Showground itself has therefore been saved. The challenge is and will continue to be to tread the line between keeping the faith with the traditional agricultural base but also to innovate where necessary to ensure that it remains attractive and relevant. It also has to be profitable – something that the Shows in the late 2010s increasingly were not – and that too seems to have been achieved in 2023.

Few people in the area would welcome the permanent loss of this valuable open space to tarmac and concrete. A constantly successful Newbury Show is the best way of ensuring that this doesn’t happen. So – book your tickets now…

• Other news

• The Corn Exchange is launching a new spring/summer season of Ageing Creatively courses and classes for over 55s across West Berkshire. See details here – there really is something for everyone.

• Last chance to see the wonderful Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibition at The Base which runs until Sunday 14 April. Book your tickets here.

• Talking of wildlife here’s a lovely video of reuniting lost ducklings with their parents this week on the canal in Newbury – thanks to the help of Swan Support who you can call on 07968 868172. You can also contact Katie’s Wildlife Rescue based in Headley.

• And talking of water in Newbury, there will be a local river sewage pollution protest at 1pm Sunday 14 April, in Victoria Park, supported by ARK (Action for the River Kennet) where you can show your support for the Kennet Catchment River Keepers and the environment that is being polluted.

• Do you have teenagers who are experiencing anxiety or exam stress? Educafe has organised some free Create SPACE sessions for teens that start on Thursday 18 April in Newbury Library.

• Sound Newbury facebook page promotes live gigs in the local area – see here for the line-up over this long Easter weekend. And get in touch with the facebook page if your event isn’t included.

• West Berkshire Council’s Nature for Health Project Support Officer, Amy Bosley, invites you to free Gardening Master Classes at the Community Kitchen Garden at Shaw House. Learn the best techniques for pricking out and potting on seedlings on Thurs 18 April. If you would like to spend more time outside in nature, learn new skills or meet new people why not contact Amy on amy.bosley1@westberks.gov.uk or 07553 810133 to see how you can get involved with the weekly sessions at Shaw House.

• Lots of Easter Fun at Code Ninjas, City Arts Newbury and VisitNewbury’s Easter Egg Hunt Trail. See our Penny Post Easter Guide for more details plus craft activities to enjoy at home.

• Crafters don’t miss the De-stash Market on Saturday 6 April for incredible deals on crafting supplies from fellow crafters, who will be selling their stash of new and pre-loved items. Free entry in St Nic’s Hall 10am to 3pm. Refreshments available.

• Registration for Newbury in Bloom 2024 is now open so time to start planning your entries.  The annual campaign aims to improve the appearance of the town and environment and making it a greener, cleaner and more pleasant place to live. The closing date for entries is Sunday 26 May and the judging for the competition will take place week commencing 17 June. Click here for further details.

Woolton Hill Argyle are looking for children currently in Year 5 to join the U11 Football Team for the 24/25 season.  If you’re interested please contact John Bonas at jbonas@hotmail.com or phone 07513 71557.

• The Newbury Spring Festival runs from Sat 11 to Sat 25 May and public booking for events is now open: click here to see the full list of musical treats on offer.

• The Volunteer Centre West Berkshire is offering a range of courses for volunteers, trustees, and anyone in the charity sector. Too see what courses they’re offering and to book a place, click here.

• Would you like to volunteer your business expertise to help Education Business Partnership prepare our local young people? Please see here for more details.

• If you need to let off steam about Newbury’s current roadworks, join the Newbury Happening Now facebook group. See West Berkshire Council’s list of roads prioritised for improving here.

• The Green Hub on West Berkshire Council’s website is focused on helping people make more sustainable choices collectively along our journey to Net Zero, whether you live, work or learn in West Berkshire or are a business owner or visitor. The information covers energy efficiencytaking climate actioncommunity work and sustainable business.

• For support and advice with any flooding issues in Newbury please join the Newbury Flood and Drainage Action Facebook Group.

• Have your say

Have your say on current consultations being run by West Berkshire Council:

Proposed Licensed Hackney Carriage (Taxi) Fares Deadline 11 April.
Proposed nominations for the Local List of Heritage Assets (March 2024) Deadline 12 May.

Parish and town councils also run consultations from time to time: see the appropriate website/s below under Council contacts.

• Latest local newsletters

• Newbury Town Council.
• Hamstead Hornet (the March 2024 issue has just been published)


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.

• The Corn Exchange café bar on Thursday mornings between 10.30am and 12.30pm hosts Coffee Companions to meet new people and have a chat.

• Loose Ends drop-in centre at Newbury Cricket Ground welcome volunteers to join its friendly team. They offer hot meals and a safe and friendly environment for vulnerable people. More details and how to apply can be found here.

• Roadworks seem to be ongoing across the town…For up to date news and discussion it’s worth joining the Newbury.Happening now facebook group and its Newbury Traffic Live Updates chat group (on facebook messenger).

• Printer ink cartridges can be recycled at the Waterside Youth Centre, which will help them raise money to fund local youth activities. You can find the donation box next to the blue reception desk. – 01635 018500.

• Northcroft Lido swimming timetable is published here.

• Wash Common Library is open 2pm to 4pm Tuesdays and Thursdays, 10am to 12pm Friday and Saturdays. Contact

• For the low-down on the local live music scene follow Sound Newbury’s facebook page.

• Donations of second-hand bikes welcome at the Community Furniture Project in Newbury where they refurbish the bikes and sell them at affordable prices to people in need. Call 01635 43933.

• Newbury Market welcomes small business interested in having a pitch in the Market Place get in contact with them at towncouncil@newbury.gov.uk or call 07399 122964 to find out more.

• Newbury Town Council Saturday Surgery between 10 am and noon any week at the steps of the Town Hall.

• Newbury’s two friendly community cafés on Wednesdays: Educafe Community Café in Newbury Library 11am to 2pm and Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate Pub 2pm to 5pm.

• Fair Close Centre on Newtown Road in Newbury provides a vital social hub and meals on wheels for over 65s, many of whom live on their own. Please support them here. Goodness knows we might all need their services in years to come.

• Local charity Eight Bells is seeking enthusiastic volunteers to support them with food collections from local supermarkets. For more information and to register your interest please call 07387 962220 or email coordinator@eightbellsnewbury.co.uk.

 The Community Larder at the Waterside Centre is open every Tuesday afternoon, 2pm to 4pm to provide members with surplus food, discounts for local businesses, access to other services and support, as well as a friendly community environment.

• Dignity in Dying local West Berkshire group meets in Newbury Library.

Newbury Library offers free IT support sessions including filling out online forms, how to Zoom, downloading e-magazines or sorting out pictures. Bookable 30- or 60-minute sessions. To find out more or book a slot, email rav.gopal@westberks.gov.uk.

• West Berkshire Library’s friendly At Home service delivers books in person on a three-weekly basis, free of charge if you can’t get into your local branch. Contact the At Home service on 01635 519827 or email library@westberks.gov.uk.


Local events and activities

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

• Dates for the diary

 Every WedEducafe 11am to 2pm, Newbury Library (except 3 & 10 April)

 Every WedSpeen Community Cafe, 2pm to 5pm The Starting Gate.

• Fri 29 Mar – Thur 14 Apr Easter Egg Hunt Trail

• Sat 6 Mar De-stash Craft Market, St Nic’s Hall

• Fri 26 & Sat 27 Apr Newbury Wool and Fabric Bargain Sale, Kennet Centre, Newbury.

• Fri 26 & Sat 27 Apr Newbury Youngstars: Matilda Jr, Arlington Arts.

• Sat 11 to 25 May Newbury Spring Festival, various locations.

 Regular events

• A wide range of activities for over 55 year olds is offered by The Corn Exchange in its Ageing Creatively programme.

Community Kitchen Garden meets every Thursday from 10am to 12:30pm. Drop-in to get involved with the planting and maintenance of flowers, fruit and vegetables, learn new skills and meet new people inside the beautiful walled garden of Shaw House. To learn more contact Amy on 07553 810133 or amy.bosley1@westberks.gov.uk.

• Ukulele group workshops for all levels with the UTeam in Wash Common. Call 07963 647087 to enquire.

• Salsa in Newbury courses for beginners and level 2/3 on Wednesday evenings at Newbury British Legion.

 Regular youth activities at the Waterside Centre in central Newbury.

• Wash Common Library hosts Knit & Knatter, 3pm on third Monday/mth and Rhymetime for Toddlers every Thurs at 3pm, Book Club on 2nd Thursday/month (contact Julia  07901 633333).

 Thatcham & Newbury Town Ladies and Girls FC Wildcats programme for girls aged 5 to 11 to get involved in football, promoting skill development, health, confidence and friendship. 6 to 7pm every Wednesday at Lower Way playing fields in Thatcham. Email thatcham.newbury.girls.fc.fdo@gmail.com to get involved.

• Newbury Park Run at Greenham Common at 9am every Saturday morning. Folks of all ages welcome to run/walk/jog the 5km. They also have volunteering opportunities. See details here.

 Newbury Women Football Club always welcomes new players. For more details click here or contact newburywomenfc@gmail.com.

• ACE Space on St Nicholas Road hosts live acoustic performances. Join their Facebook group or follow them on Twitter.

• Newbury Community Larder every Tuesday 2pm to 4pm at the Waterside Centre (down the canal from Costa Coffee on Northbrook Street). For more details please contact waterside@berkshireyouth.co.uk or call 01635 018500.

• Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesdays between 2pm to 5pm. Drop in for a chat or a cuppa, knitting and craft activities. You don’t have to live in Speen to join in. Follow them on facebook here.

• Educafe’s Community Cafe at Newbury Library every Wednesday between 11am and 2pm. If you would like to pop along for a friendly chat or to volunteer in the cafe please see their website for more details.

• Berkshire Youth‘s Waterside Centre in Newbury hosts various clubs and activities for local children and can provide volunteering opportunities for adults too.

 The Base, Greenham organise many art-focused events for people of all ages to let their creative sides go wild.


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. If the link is scored through this may be because draft minutes have been replaced by approved ones and the drafts file deleted. If so, please follow the links provided to the council’s website.

• The most recent meeting of Newbury Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 22 January and you can read the minutes here. Note that many matters are delegated to committees.
To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 20 March and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: matters arising; grants; tree planting; correspondence; financial matters; reports from the ward members; planning matters; road safety; amenities; dog bins; streetlights; the emergency plan; and repairs and maintenance.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 14 February 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 Chieveley Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 13 February and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here to download the meeting schedule. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 29 January 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 Speen Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 24 January and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 7 November 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 Hamstead Marshall Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 21 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click hereTo see minutes, please click here.

• Newbury area council contacts

Parishes: Newbury Town CouncilGreenham Parish CouncilChieveley Parish CouncilEnborne Parish CouncilBoxford Parish CouncilSpeen Parish Council,  Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council, and Hamstead Marshall 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 ValleyThatcham area; Compton and DownlandsBurghfield area; Wantage area; Marlborough area.

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

Thursday 28 March 2024

Our usual round-up of  local news includes a CEO, a race, early birds, Brownies, a crier and an appeal – plus slow progress at Faraday Road, additional considerations at the Aldi site and 119 new homes.  See also below for community notices and news from your local council.

Upcoming Newbury events include fundraising concert and jumble sale. See below for details, plus regular events and group activities.

• Faraday Road

Yes, folks: this subject is back again, by popular request…

The last time we covered this, matters were at a slight pause. The pitch had been re-opened with great fanfare last year bit hadn’t been used since. The future investment in the pitch (such as making it 3G) was being delayed by a review of the district’s playing pitch strategy which was first stated would be completed by the end of this year, though this was later changed to April 2024. The longer-term redevelopment of the whole site was still unclear and certainly no permission has been applied for.

More recently, it seems that the first of these at least has improved. Some concerns that WBC had about fencing, safety and access have been addressed and more games and training sessions are taking place there. Note that Faraday Road does not appear as a bookable option on WBC’s site but this is only because it’s currently only available to entrain clubs. The weather has certainly been very wet recently but I understand that this isn’t a major factor as the pitch drains pretty well.

There is, however, a growing sense of frustration in the football community at the slow progress with regard to the 3G. It’s not as if the town is over-burdened with pitches. Indeed, it’s hard to believe that review could avoid concluding that the football provision in Newbury is the number-one priority. I would have through that could be taken as read. The need for an all-weather pitch has been highlighted by the recent rain which can make may grass pitches unusable until they drain (which many don’t do as well as it seems Faraday Road does).

There’s also the matter of the application for the re-development of the ground which was made by the Newbury Community Football Group in 2021 and which will expire in late November unless a space is in the ground before then. This went through the planning process and was passed – the fact that the then administration had no intention of building it was not a planning consideration. If it does lapse then it will have to start again at square one, with all the costs for the applicant that this will involve. I don’t know if anything has changed since 2021 which is now making this approval now seem problematic to proceed with. If so, it would be interesting to know what this was so the matter could, hopefully, be addressed before 25 November.

• Permission granted

My comments on the recent planning permission which involved a new Aldi near Newbury College may have given the impression that the supermarket was the main component of this. Although this was the only aspect for which full permission was being sought, outline permission was also granted for about 70 dwellings and a care home. You can see the full details of the application here.

At such committees, the ward members are allowed their five minutes in the spotlight. One of them, David Marsh, told e recently that he had opposed it because the vast majority of local residents had expressed their concerns and he was duty-bound to express these on. There were not, however, that many objections on the website. Perhaps that tells us something useful about community engagement in local decision-making. It’s worth pointing out that telling your ward member about your concerns may carry some weight if the matter goes to committee and if they express them but it won’t otherwise. Contacting the planning authority through the methods specified on the application page is the way to accomplish this.

I understand that a lot of the concerns concerned disruption and construction traffic. It’s impossible to pretend there won’t be some. An unlikely but possible planetary alignment could see simultaneous traffic for the Aldi site (as I’ll call it for convenience); and for Sandleford East; and for the Monks Lane Sports Hub (the budget and permission for which are still in place). Further excitement could be provided by WBC feeling this would be a good time to rebuild the roundabout just to the east of the main junction with the A339, Thames Water deciding replace a sewer and Gigaclear installing some fibre optic cable; all of this coming to a climax on the dat there was a big semi-final at the Rugby Club and an open day at the College. Then again, I am a pessimist.

The Western Area Planning Committee clearly decided that this compound risk was worth it for the long-term gain. All such decisions involving weighing up many conflicting policies and precedents. It was possible that there was also another one at play here.

Developers are often criticised for the amount of money they make from schemes (though some may make very little and all of them exist to make profits). This can lead to, for example, the number of conditions that are insisted upon or a reluctance to see the issue from their point of view. On this occasion, however, the two organisations that sand most to benefit from the scheme are Newbury College and Greenham Trust. In different ways, both will plough their profits from the scheme back into the community in the way that doesn’t happen with a large company based elsewhere and almost everyone in the district will want them both to be as successful as possible. This might have influenced the committee members to take a more positive view.

• 119 homes

A new development of 119 affordable homes in Newbury has been completed with the first residents set to move in over the next few weeks.

A statement from WBC says that “Located at the former Sterling Cables site in Newbury, Sterling Gardens offers one, two and three-bedroom flats tailored to accommodate families on the housing list. There are 27 designated for social rent and 62 for affordable rent which will be available this week to those on West Berkshire Council’s Housing Register.”

• Other news

• Earlybird tickets (offering some great savings) are now on sale for the Newbury Show on 21 and 22 September and there are also sponsorship opportunities still available. See more here.

• Toby Miles-Mallowan has been appointed as the next CEO of Newbury Town Council, succeeding Hugh Peacocke, who stepped down at the end of December after 7 years of dedicated service. See more details here.

• Sound Newbury facebook page promotes live gigs in the local area – see here for the line-up over this long Easter weekend. And get in touch with the facebook page if your event isn’t included.

• West Berkshire Council’s Nature for Health Project Support Officer, Amy Bosley, invites you to free Gardening Master Classes at the Community Kitchen Garden at Shaw House. Learn the best techniques for pricking out and potting on seedlings on Thurs 4 or 18 April. If you would like to spend more time outside in nature, learn new skills or meet new people why not contact Amy on amy.bosley1@westberks.gov.uk or 07553 810133 to see how you can get involved with the weekly sessions at Shaw House.

• Lots of Easter Fun at Code Ninjas, City Arts Newbury and VisitNewbury’s Easter Egg Hunt Trail. See our Penny Post Easter Guide for more details plus craft activities to enjoy at home.

• Crafters don’t miss the De-stash Market on Saturday 6 April for incredible deals on crafting supplies from fellow crafters, who will be selling their stash of new and pre-loved items. Free entry in St Nic’s Hall 10am to 3pm. Refreshments available.

• Registration for Newbury in Bloom 2024 is now open so time to start planning your entries.  The annual campaign aims to improve the appearance of the town and environment and making it a greener, cleaner and more pleasant place to live. The closing date for entries is Sunday 26 May and the judging for the competition will take place week commencing 17 June. Click here for further details.

• Newbury Town Council is looking for a new Town Crier, as well as searching for a Mace Bearer as the current Town Crier Brian Sylvester, is retiring from his role after 25 years of service. Click here to learn more.

Woolton Hill Argyle are looking for children currently in Year 5 to join the U11 Football Team for the 24/25 season.  If you’re interested please contact John Bonas at jbonas@hotmail.com or phone 07513 71557.

• Congratulations to 5th Newbury Brownies who are planning their 50th anniversary celebrations this month. Troop leader Natasha Richardson invites anyone who had been part of the the troop over the years to contact her on natasha-richardson@sky.com

• If you’re looking for sustainable shopping opportunities from independent businesses, the next monthly SustainHUBle market at The Woodpecker in Washwater is on Thursday 28 March.

• There is still time to sign up for Newbury Athletic Club’s Newbury 10K race on Monday 27 May. Profits from this year’s race will be shared between Newbury Soup Kitchen and Loose Ends. See more details about the race here.

• The Newbury Spring Festival runs from Sat 11 to Sat 25 May and public booking for events is now open: click here to see the full list of musical treats on offer.

• The Volunteer Centre West Berkshire is offering a range of courses for volunteers, trustees, and anyone in the charity sector. Too see what courses they’re offering and to book a place, click here.

• Would you like to volunteer your business expertise to help Education Business Partnership prepare our local young people? Please see here for more details.

• If you need to let off steam about Newbury’s current roadworks, join the Newbury Happening Now facebook group. See West Berkshire Council’s list of roads prioritised for improving here.

• The Green Hub on West Berkshire Council’s website is focused on helping people make more sustainable choices collectively along our journey to Net Zero, whether you live, work or learn in West Berkshire or are a business owner or visitor. The information covers energy efficiencytaking climate actioncommunity work and sustainable business.

• For support and advice with any flooding issues in Newbury please join the Newbury Flood and Drainage Action Facebook Group.

• Have your say

Have your say on current consultations being run by West Berkshire Council:

Proposed Licensed Hackney Carriage (Taxi) Fares Deadline 11 April.
Proposed nominations for the Local List of Heritage Assets (March 2024) Deadline 12 May.

Parish and town councils also run consultations from time to time: see the appropriate website/s below under Council contacts.

• Latest local newsletters

• Newbury Town Council.
• Hamstead Hornet (the March 2024 issue has just been published)


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.

• The Corn Exchange café bar on Thursday mornings between 10.30am and 12.30pm hosts Coffee Companions to meet new people and have a chat.

• Loose Ends drop-in centre at Newbury Cricket Ground welcome volunteers to join its friendly team. They offer hot meals and a safe and friendly environment for vulnerable people. More details and how to apply can be found here.

• Roadworks seem to be ongoing across the town…For up to date news and discussion it’s worth joining the Newbury.Happening now facebook group and its Newbury Traffic Live Updates chat group (on facebook messenger).

• Printer ink cartridges can be recycled at the Waterside Youth Centre, which will help them raise money to fund local youth activities. You can find the donation box next to the blue reception desk. – 01635 018500.

• Northcroft Lido swimming timetable is published here.

• For the low-down on the local live music scene follow Sound Newbury’s facebook page.

• Donations of second-hand bikes welcome at the Community Furniture Project in Newbury where they refurbish the bikes and sell them at affordable prices to people in need. Call 01635 43933.

• Newbury Market welcomes small business interested in having a pitch in the Market Place get in contact with them at towncouncil@newbury.gov.uk or call 07399 122964 to find out more.

• Newbury Town Council Saturday Surgery between 10 am and noon any week at the steps of the Town Hall.

• Newbury’s two friendly community cafés on Wednesdays: Educafe Community Café in Newbury Library 11am to 2pm and Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate Pub 2pm to 5pm.

• Fair Close Centre on Newtown Road in Newbury provides a vital social hub and meals on wheels for over 65s, many of whom live on their own. Please support them here. Goodness knows we might all need their services in years to come.

• Local charity Eight Bells is seeking enthusiastic volunteers to support them with food collections from local supermarkets. For more information and to register your interest please call 07387 962220 or email coordinator@eightbellsnewbury.co.uk.

 The Community Larder at the Waterside Centre is open every Tuesday afternoon, 2pm to 4pm to provide members with surplus food, discounts for local businesses, access to other services and support, as well as a friendly community environment.

• Dignity in Dying local West Berkshire group meets in Newbury Library.

Newbury Library offers free IT support sessions including filling out online forms, how to Zoom, downloading e-magazines or sorting out pictures. Bookable 30- or 60-minute sessions. To find out more or book a slot, email rav.gopal@westberks.gov.uk.

• West Berkshire Library’s friendly At Home service delivers books in person on a three-weekly basis, free of charge if you can’t get into your local branch. Contact the At Home service on 01635 519827 or email library@westberks.gov.uk.


Local events and activities

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

• Dates for the diary

 Every WedEducafe 11am to 2pm, Newbury Library (except 3 & 10 April)

 Every WedSpeen Community Cafe, 2pm to 5pm The Starting Gate.

• Fri 29 Mar – Thur 14 Apr Easter Egg Hunt Trail

• Fri 26 & Sat 27 Apr Newbury Wool and Fabric Bargain Sale, Kennet Centre, Newbury.

• Fri 26 & Sat 27 Apr Newbury Youngstars: Matilda Jr, Arlington Arts.

• Sat 11 to 25 May Newbury Spring Festival, various locations.

 Regular events

• A wide range of activities for over 55 year olds is offered by The Corn Exchange in its Ageing Creatively programme.

Community Kitchen Garden meets every Thursday from 10am to 12:30pm. Drop-in to get involved with the planting and maintenance of flowers, fruit and vegetables, learn new skills and meet new people inside the beautiful walled garden of Shaw House. To learn more contact Amy on 07553 810133 or amy.bosley1@westberks.gov.uk.

• Ukulele group workshops for all levels with the UTeam in Wash Common. Call 07963 647087 to enquire.

• Salsa in Newbury courses for beginners and level 2/3 on Wednesday evenings at Newbury British Legion.

 Regular youth activities at the Waterside Centre in central Newbury.

 Thatcham & Newbury Town Ladies and Girls FC Wildcats programme for girls aged 5 to 11 to get involved in football, promoting skill development, health, confidence and friendship. 6 to 7pm every Wednesday at Lower Way playing fields in Thatcham. Email thatcham.newbury.girls.fc.fdo@gmail.com to get involved.

• Newbury Park Run at Greenham Common at 9am every Saturday morning. Folks of all ages welcome to run/walk/jog the 5km. They also have volunteering opportunities. See details here.

 Newbury Women Football Club always welcomes new players. For more details click here or contact newburywomenfc@gmail.com.

• ACE Space on St Nicholas Road hosts live acoustic performances. Join their Facebook group or follow them on Twitter.

• Newbury Community Larder every Tuesday 2pm to 4pm at the Waterside Centre (down the canal from Costa Coffee on Northbrook Street). For more details please contact waterside@berkshireyouth.co.uk or call 01635 018500.

• Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesdays between 2pm to 5pm. Drop in for a chat or a cuppa, knitting and craft activities. You don’t have to live in Speen to join in. Follow them on facebook here.

• Educafe’s Community Cafe at Newbury Library every Wednesday between 11am and 2pm. If you would like to pop along for a friendly chat or to volunteer in the cafe please see their website for more details.

• Berkshire Youth‘s Waterside Centre in Newbury hosts various clubs and activities for local children and can provide volunteering opportunities for adults too.

 The Base, Greenham organise many art-focused events for people of all ages to let their creative sides go wild.


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. If the link is scored through this may be because draft minutes have been replaced by approved ones and the drafts file deleted. If so, please follow the links provided to the council’s website.

• The most recent meeting of Newbury Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 22 January and you can read the minutes here. Note that many matters are delegated to committees.
To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 21 February and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: matters arising; financial matters; reports for the ward members; planning matters; road safety; amenities; repairs and maintenance; the Easter newsletter; and a report on a recent meeting with Action for the River Kennet.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 14 February 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 Chieveley Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 13 February and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here to download the meeting schedule. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 29 January 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 Speen Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 24 January and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 7 November 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 Hamstead Marshall Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 21 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click hereTo see minutes, please click here.

• Newbury area council contacts

Parishes: Newbury Town CouncilGreenham Parish CouncilChieveley Parish CouncilEnborne Parish CouncilBoxford Parish CouncilSpeen Parish Council,  Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council, and Hamstead Marshall 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 ValleyThatcham area; Compton and DownlandsBurghfield area; Wantage area; Marlborough area.

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

Thursday 21 March 2024

Gremlin update: our website migration to a dedicated server in the UK is scheduled for 11am on Monday 25 March so the website and emails might be down for a couple of hours. Hopefully after that all the problems we’ve recently had will be solved. It will double our hosting costs but should be money well spent if the website doesn’t crash any more. Huge thanks to those who’ve donated recently to help us keep the show on the road. If you are considering making a donation, please see here for the options.

Our usual round-up of  local news includes a concert, a crier, canal risks the Lido and roadworks – plus a look at the serious consequences of motorway run-off which is affecting the Lambourn downstream of Easton and the Mayfield Point application .  See also below for community notices and news from your local council.

Upcoming Newbury events include fundraising concert and jumble sale. See below for details, plus regular events and group activities.

• Mayfield Point

WBC’s Western Area Planning Committee met on 20 March to consider three applications, of rather different sizes: a shed in Cold Ash; a temporary dwelling in Hampstead Marshall; and a large development (mayfield Point) which includes an 1,800 square-metre supermarket in Newbury. Let no one say that the matters that come before WAPC are not varied.

The summary of the last item was:

“(1) Full planning permission for a food store with a floor area of 1800 square metres (Use Class E(a)) together with drainage, parking and associated access, infrastructure, and landscaping.

(2) Outline planning permission (matters to be considered: access) for up to 75 residential units (Use Class C3) high-capacity Electric Vehicle (EV) charging area, and residential care accommodation, containing up to 70 beds (Use Class C2), together with open space, play space, drainage, parking and associated access, infrastructure, landscape, bund on the eastern boundary with the A339, ancillary and site preparation works.”

You can see the full details of the application here. You can also click here to see the Mayfield Point website which provides an overview of the entire project (though I believe the hospice no longer forms part of the immediate plans).

The matter had been called in in November 2022 on the grounds that the application was at that time “premature” and needed to await more information on Sandleford’s ponderous progress and also further on the effect on the local roads. Discussions have since happened and the application has been amended: as a result, the call-in was still valid.

After discussion, it was concluded that there were no planning reasons for the proposal to be refused, so it was approved (by eight to one) with the usual raft of conditions. You can see the agenda of the meeting by clicking here: this also includes a video of the discussion. The minutes will be published here when available.

Some of the objections were from Tesco, which of course has a large supermarket nearby. Anyone can object to (or support) any application. The officers and, if it gets to that stage, the committee members need carefully to decide what weight if any should be given to any comments and to balance the various issues. Their job is to decide matters on grounds of planning policy and progress, not to act as arbitrators between different commercial interests.

On this occasion, the WAPC members clearly felt that, in planning terms, the matter was acceptable. (The same dispassionate consideration, though with rather less debate, was also applied to the matter of the shed.)

• A toxic cocktail

On 2 February, the BBC published an article about investigations by Charlotte Hitchmough from Action for the River Kennet (ARK) into the water that runs off from the M4 and ends up in the SAC and SSSI-protected River Lambourn, which it crosses at Easton. The Environment Agency (EA) doesn’t regularly monitor this pollution source but did do some testing up-and downstream of the ingress point, as did ARK.

There were, Charlotte Hitchmough explained, some “really scary pollutants in there – things like arsenic, lots of heavy metals, lots of things from oil, microplastics from tyres. We can be sure that the road is having a really negative effect on the ecology of this river.” This is one issue that can’t be laid at the door of Thames Water: Highways England (HE) is responsible for this.

I spoke to Charlotte Hitchmough about this on 20 March to see what had happened since then. Depressingly little, it appears. Despite being asked by the EA to sort the problem out, HE eventually said that it didn’t regard it as a high-priority problem and the EA decided not to push the matter. This rather makes one wonder what the purpose of a regulator is.

She also drew my attention to an excellent article published by the Chartered Institute of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM) and Stormwater Shepherds. This refers to “a quirk in the application of the Environmental Quality Standards Directive [which means that] no-one measures the level of these pollutants downstream of road crossings.” It also gloomily suggested that perhaps “this problem has been firmly lodged in the too-hard box for too long and no one wants to take it out.”

High time it was, for the issue is every bit as serious as that of sewage and slurry. At least with these two you can often see or smell the harmful results. With road run-off, you can’t.

CIWEM says that it will soon be publishing a report looking at the issue and suggesting a number of solutions, which will range from better management of the existing infrastructure to the creation of nature-based mitigation measures reed beds. (The matter should also be being addressed in the government’s updated National Chemical Strategy, when that finally appears). It recognises, however, that all of this comes with a huge price tag.

The problem, as we’re discovering with so many things, is that important decisions that seemed sensible or acceptable at the time are now realised to be anything but. I don’t know what environmental standards prevailed when the M4 was built in the 1970s, but I suspect that the Lambourn was seen as little more than a convenient ready-made ditch for dealing with the immediate problem of getting the water off the motorway. That’s certainly how it’s been treated since.

It’s now clear that the infrastructure was in many cases built in the wrong way. It’s as if every house in the country was designed to have its sewage outlet going into the bath and millions were built that way before it was realised that this wasn’t a great idea.

A new approach is now being promoted by the Sustainable Solutions for Water and Nature (SSWAN) – this article has more than its fair share of acronyms – which would “shift regulation towards catchment-based approaches to support cheaper, more innovative, more collaborative projects that more accurately reflect local priorities.” The precondition for this, Charlotte Hitchmough stressed, was a thorough survey of the entire water management system – natural, man-made, fresh, foul, run-off: the lot – of the catchment area.

This would involve Thames Water, the EA, the lead flood authority (WBC in this case), parish councils and local experts, and charities, pressure groups and rivers trusts such as ARK. Everyone would need to embark on the exercise in a sprit of co-operation and transparency that has not always been a feature of such discussions. The aim would have to be not to rake over past failures or broken promises but to arrive at a complete understanding of where all the water came from and where it went.

Only then can solutions be found and implemented. And this is just for one area: the exercise would need to replicated hundreds of time across the country so some common standards would need to be imposed, desired outcomes and timescales specified and a way found of sharing best practice.

In the Lambourn Valley, two groups which have recently been set up are already working towards a similar goal. These are, however, purely local initiatives and are basically adversarial to Thames Water, the EA and the government. That’s what’s needed now: but the trick will be to get everyone involved on board and pulling in the same direction in the future.

To accomplish this will be a truly formidable undertaking. One obvious criticism would be that, certainly at the start, there would be little in the way of practical results and so the whole thing could be dismissed as a cash-hungry talking shop. A piecemeal approach would, however, be both less effective and more expensive. In the current financial climate, no government will want to pump money into a scheme that promises no positive results by the time the next election comes round. However, the increasing public disquiet about the state of our broken water-management system suggests that a real effort to find a solution could be a vote-winner. That alone might be enough to move it up the agenda.

Pressure might also come from another direction. If individuals or organisations start bringing legal claims for damage to property or health caused by the negligence of one or more of the responsible bodies, and if the ensuring press coverage was sufficiently negative and the damages sufficiently high, it would soon become clear than doing nothing was actually the more expensive option.

The politicians, company directors and regulators have had three decades of trying to grapple with these issues, without any conspicuous success. Perhaps now is the time has now come for the lawyers and accountants to emerge as the unlikely saviours.

• Other news

• Last chance to grab your tickets for the The Mayor of Newbury‘s Fundraising Concert this Saturday 23 March in aid of West Berkshire Homeless and The Mayor’s Benevolent Fund charities. Tickets cost £10, including a welcome drink upon arrival and entry into a raffle. Click here to learn more.

• Registration for Newbury in Bloom 2024 is now open so time to start planning your entries.  The annual campaign aims to improve the appearance of the town and environment and making it a greener, cleaner and more pleasant place to live. The closing date for entries is Sunday 26 May and the judging for the competition will take place week commencing 17 June. Click here for further details.

• Great news for swimmers is that Northcroft Lido will be opening from Thursday 28 March. Their lane-swimming timetable is published here.

• Newbury Town Council is looking for a new Town Crier, as well as searching for a Mace Bearer as the current Town Crier Brian Sylvester, is retiring from his role after 25 years of service.. Click here to learn more.

• An important video demonstration about water safety from canoe and paddleboard instructor David Seward at The Waterside Centre after a toddler nearly fell into the fast flowing canal. Please don’t let your children get close to the edge which is incredibly slippery.

Eastfield House Surgery currently located in St John’s Road wishes to move to a new premises immediately south of Newbury College along the A339. The current surgery site is too small and they are working with Greenham Common Trust to provide the new facility, with support from Berkshire Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Integrated Care Board (BOB ICB). See here for details and how to have your say on the new surgery premises by Friday 12 April. There will also be a drop-in presentation at St John’s Church Hall, Newbury, RG14 7PY from 4.30pm to 6.45pm on Tuesday 26 March with staff and architects answering questions.

Woolton Hill Argyle are looking for children currently in Year 5 to join their U11 Football Team for the 24/25 season.  If you’re interested please contact John Bonas at jbonas@hotmail.com or phone 07513 71557.

• Congratulations to 5th Newbury Brownies who are planning their 50th anniversary celebrations this month. Troop leader Natasha Richardson invites anyone who had been part of the the troop over the years to contact her on natasha-richardson@sky.com

• If you’re looking for sustainable shopping opportunities from independent businesses, the next monthly SustainHUBle market at The Woodpecker in Washwater is on Thursday 28 March.

• There is still time to sign up for Newbury Athletic Club’s Newbury 10K race on Monday 27 May. Profits from this year’s race will be shared between Newbury Soup Kitchen and Loose Ends. See more details about the race here.

• The Newbury Spring Festival runs from Sat 11 to Sat 25 May and public booking for events is now open: click here to see the full list of musical treats on offer.

• The Volunteer Centre West Berkshire is offering a range of courses for volunteers, trustees, and anyone in the charity sector. Too see what courses they’re offering and to book a place, click here.

• Would you like to volunteer your business expertise to help Education Business Partnership prepare our local young people? Please see here for more details.

• If you need to let off steam about Newbury’s current roadworks, join the Newbury Happening Now facebook group. See West Berkshire Council’s list of roads prioritised for improving here.

• The Green Hub on West Berkshire Council’s website is focused on helping people make more sustainable choices collectively along our journey to Net Zero, whether you live, work or learn in West Berkshire or are a business owner or visitor. The information covers energy efficiencytaking climate actioncommunity work and sustainable business.

• For the low-down on the local live music scene follow Sound Newbury’s facebook page.

• For support and advice with any flooding issues in Newbury please join the Newbury Flood and Drainage Action Facebook Group.

• Have your say

Have your say on current consultations being run by West Berkshire Council:

National Wraparound Childcare Programme – Parent/Carer Survey 2024 Deadline 24 March.
Proposed Licensed Hackney Carriage (Taxi) Fares Deadline 11 April.

Parish and town councils also run consultations from time to time: see the appropriate website/s below under Council contacts.

• Latest local newsletters

• Newbury Town Council.
• Hamstead Hornet (the March 2024 issue has just been published)


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.

• The Corn Exchange café bar on Thursday mornings between 10.30am and 12.30pm hosts Coffee Companions to meet new people and have a chat.

• Loose Ends drop-in centre at Newbury Cricket Ground welcome volunteers to join its friendly team. They offer hot meals and a safe and friendly environment for vulnerable people. More details and how to apply can be found here.

• Roadworks seem to be ongoing across the town…For up to date news and discussion it’s worth joining the Newbury.Happening now facebook group and its Newbury Traffic Live Updates chat group (on facebook messenger).

• Printer ink cartridges can be recycled at the Waterside Youth Centre, which will help them raise money to fund local youth activities. You can find the donation box next to the blue reception desk. – 01635 018500

• Donations of second-hand bikes are always welcome at the Community Furniture Project in Newbury where they refurbish the bikes and sell them at affordable prices to people in need. Call 01635 43933.

• Newbury Market welcomes small business interested in having a pitch in the Market Place get in contact with them at towncouncil@newbury.gov.uk or call 07399 122964 to find out more.

• Newbury Town Council Saturday Surgery between 10 am and noon any week at the steps of the Town Hall.

• Newbury’s two friendly community cafés on Wednesdays: Educafe Community Café in Newbury Library 11am to 2pm and Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate Pub 2pm to 5pm.

• Fair Close Centre on Newtown Road in Newbury provides a vital social hub and meals on wheels for over 65s, many of whom live on their own. Please support them here. Goodness knows we might all need their services in years to come.

• Local charity Eight Bells is seeking enthusiastic volunteers to support them with food collections from local supermarkets. For more information and to register your interest please call 07387 962220 or email coordinator@eightbellsnewbury.co.uk.

 The Community Larder at the Waterside Centre is open every Tuesday afternoon, 2pm to 4pm to provide members with surplus food, discounts for local businesses, access to other services and support, as well as a friendly community environment.

• Dignity in Dying local West Berkshire group meets in Newbury Library.

Newbury Library offers free IT support sessions including filling out online forms, how to Zoom, downloading e-magazines or sorting out pictures. Bookable 30- or 60-minute sessions. To find out more or book a slot, email rav.gopal@westberks.gov.uk.

• West Berkshire Library’s friendly At Home service delivers books in person on a three-weekly basis, free of charge if you can’t get into your local branch. Contact the At Home service on 01635 519827 or email library@westberks.gov.uk.


Local events and activities

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

• Dates for the diary

 Every WedEducafe 11am to 2pm, Newbury Library.

 Every WedSpeen Community Cafe, 2pm to 5pm The Starting Gate.

Sat 23 Mar Mayor’s Fundraising Concert, Waterside Community Centre.

Sat 23 Mar Newbury Cats Protection Jumble Sale, Thatcham Catholic Hall.

• Fri 26 & Sat 27 Apr Newbury Wool and Fabric Bargain Sale, Kennet Centre, Newbury.

• Sat 11 to 25 May Newbury Spring Festival, various locations.

 Regular events

• A wide range of activities for over 55 year olds is offered by The Corn Exchange in its Ageing Creatively programme.

Community Kitchen Garden meets every Thursday from 10am to 12:30pm. Drop-in to get involved with the planting and maintenance of flowers, fruit and vegetables, learn new skills and meet new people inside the beautiful walled garden of Shaw House. To learn more contact Amy on 07553 810133 or amy.bosley1@westberks.gov.uk.

• Ukulele group workshops for all levels with the UTeam in Wash Common. Call 07963 647087 to enquire.

• Salsa in Newbury courses for beginners and level 2/3 on Wednesday evenings at Newbury British Legion.

 Regular youth activities at the Waterside Centre in central Newbury.

 Thatcham & Newbury Town Ladies and Girls FC Wildcats programme for girls aged 5 to 11 to get involved in football, promoting skill development, health, confidence and friendship. 6 to 7pm every Wednesday at Lower Way playing fields in Thatcham. Email thatcham.newbury.girls.fc.fdo@gmail.com to get involved.

• Newbury Park Run at Greenham Common at 9am every Saturday morning. Folks of all ages welcome to run/walk/jog the 5km. They also have volunteering opportunities. See details here.

 Newbury Women Football Club always welcomes new players. For more details click here or contact newburywomenfc@gmail.com.

• ACE Space on St Nicholas Road hosts live acoustic performances. Join their Facebook group or follow them on Twitter.

• Newbury Community Larder every Tuesday 2pm to 4pm at the Waterside Centre (down the canal from Costa Coffee on Northbrook Street). For more details please contact waterside@berkshireyouth.co.uk or call 01635 018500.

• Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesdays between 2pm to 5pm. Drop in for a chat or a cuppa, knitting and craft activities. You don’t have to live in Speen to join in. Follow them on facebook here.

• Educafe’s Community Cafe at Newbury Library every Wednesday between 11am and 2pm. If you would like to pop along for a friendly chat or to volunteer in the cafe please see their website for more details.

• Berkshire Youth‘s Waterside Centre in Newbury hosts various clubs and activities for local children and can provide volunteering opportunities for adults too.

 The Base, Greenham organise many art-focused events for people of all ages to let their creative sides go wild.


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. If the link is scored through this may be because draft minutes have been replaced by approved ones and the drafts file deleted. If so, please follow the links provided to the council’s website.

• The most recent meeting of Newbury Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 23 October and you can read the minutes here. Note that many matters are delegated to committees.
To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 21 February and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: matters arising; financial matters; reports for the ward members; planning matters; road safety; amenities; repairs and maintenance; the Easter newsletter; and a report on a recent meeting with Action for the River Kennet.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 14 February and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: poplar trees on Stroud Green; planning matters; financial matters; grants; drones; dog bins; litter; the Diamond Field; the Parish Assembly (25 April); D-Day; and reports from district and parish councillors.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 13 February and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: public participation; matters arising; planning matters; financial matters; speeding; the Recreation Ground; the PPG meeting; the Parish Assembly on 1 May; D-Day; the Clerk’s report; a councillor vacancy; and councillor reports.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here to download the meeting schedule. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 29 January 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 Speen Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 24 January and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 7 November 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 Hamstead Marshall Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 21 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click hereTo see minutes, please click here.

• Newbury area council contacts

Parishes: Newbury Town CouncilGreenham Parish CouncilChieveley Parish CouncilEnborne Parish CouncilBoxford Parish CouncilSpeen Parish Council,  Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council, and Hamstead Marshall 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 ValleyThatcham area; Compton and DownlandsBurghfield area; Wantage area; Marlborough area.

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

 

Thursday 14 March 2024

Gremlin update: we have started the process of migrating our whole website, emails and hosting to a new UK-based company – so, fingers crossed this goes smoothly next week but please bear with us if there any hiccups. Thanks again to those who have already helped cover our extra costs, including Joan from Newbury who says “I’ve learned so much from following your weekly bulletins over the years and I have at last arranged for a small monthly donation. Thank you so much for all you do.” This kind of feedback means the world to us. If you are considering making us a donation, please see here for the options.

Our usual round-up of  local news includes civic awards, a retiring crier, history, short stories and a creative space – plus a fairly detailed look at the issues involved in the Watermill Bridge judicial review, an update on the proposals for Pound Street and three challenges (or opportunities) for Newbury’s pharmacies.  See also below for community notices and news from your local council.

Upcoming Newbury events include Mother’s Day lunch and fundraising concert. See below for details, plus regular events and group activities.

• A judicial review

As mentioned last week, on 8 March Basingstoke & Deane Council (B&D) announced it was launching a judicial review (JR) into the application for 270 homes at Watermill Bridge, effectively in south Newbury, which were allowed on appeal by the Planning Inspector (HMPI) in January. “The council does not accept all of the conclusions in the Planning Inspector’s decision to allow the Watermill Bridge appeal,” the statement begins. “We have asked the High Court for permission to proceed with a statutory review of the inspector’s decision, on a point of law. We will be advised by the court whether permission has been granted to proceed with this review, but this process can take some months.”

The mention of “point of law” is important, for a JR does not re-examine the issues that were considered in the appal but merely considers if the matter was decided correctly in law: to see, as the law firm Ashurst puts it, if the process of making the decision involved any “illegality, irrationality or procedural impropriety.” The fact that it is only the decision that will be considered rather than the discussions that led up to it has potential important implications for what might happen if B&D is successful; to which I’ll turn in a moment.

The three B&D ward members are opposed to the scheme. One of them, John Izzett, told me on 11 March that “it was hard to comprehend HMPI’s decision and we’re very glad that the officers have identified grounds for seeking leave to appeal”. The Enbone River Valley Preservation Society (ERVPS), which has long campaigned against Watermill Bridge, also welcomes the appeal and “hopes for a successful outcome.”

In the opposite corner are the developers, Bewley Homes, and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. The latter was contacted by B&D in mid-February in which the council outlined its possible grounds for launching a JR. This was responded to in a five-page letter on 20 February which concluded that the claim was “without merit” and amounted to “a barely disguised attack on the planning judgment reached by the Inspector.” 

On 11 March, Bewley said it was “very surprised and disappointed” at the council’s decision and pointed out that the appeal “set out very clearly why the overall benefits of the scheme outweighed the council’s decision to refuse consent.” It added that “the Inspector gave significant weight to the provision of both market and affordable housing in the face ofop0000000000 the council failing to maintain a minimum five-year provision” and that this would assist people on B&D’s housing waiting list, currently “one of the worst records in the country.” The statement also questions whether the review, “which could run into hundreds of thousands of pounds” was a good use of local council-tax payers’ money.

B&D obviously felt that it was; and that there was “illegality, irrationality or procedural impropriety” involved in the decision. If the case passes its first hurdle – that of a judge deciding if it has merit – it then moves onto a longer and even more expensive stage of a full hearing. If the leave to appeal is granted, the final decision may not be known until the end of the year.

Appeals play a reasonably large part in the planning process. Today’s Conveyancer says that about 13% of applications were refused in 2022 while Appeal Finder’s figures suggest the chances of a successful appeal over the last five years have averaged at about 27%. It therefore follows that you’re pretty likely to have an application passed but that, if it isn’t, you have about a one in four chance of winning second time round. Watermill Bridge bucked both these trends, which makes it interesting in itself.

Appeals are more likely to succeed if the local planning authority’s (LPA) local plan is more than five years old (or, their lasting for fifteen years, has not started a formal procedure of updating and refreshment); and/or if the LPA cannot demonstrate a housing land supply figure of at least five years (a figure that must be refreshed annually). In B&D’s case, the local plan is currently nearly seven years old and its housing land supply just over four. This puts it on the wrong side of the line on both counts.

There are clearly powerful reasons to oppose this development. To all these views I’ve given expression. One former councillor I happened to meet in the supermarket today suggested that building nearly three hundred homes on a flood plain was not a good idea. The ERVPS has eloquently argued this point, and also ones relating to environmental damage. These are important issues.

However, Bewley has claimed – and HMPI has agreed – the the modelling work, hydrology reports and environmental impact assessments addressed these concerns. B&D is fully within its rights to defend its position, as are the ward members in representing the views of their residents if they feel that they oppose the plans. That’s what they’re all there to do. However, as mentioned above, the judicial review is not about the planning considerations but about the legality of the Inspector’s decision.

The important point about this, which I alluded to earlier, is that if B&D is successful it will not kill the application, nor even the appeal. Bewley could re-commence the latter from, as it were, the point where the Inspector started writing the decision notice and hope for a better result.

By an irony, this is exactly what might happen. As Bewley has full permission for about 30% of the homes, work could even now be starting on providing an improvement to B&D’s land-supply figures, so protecting it against future developments by appeal, some of which may have fewer merits than this one. Unless this improves, and work starts on updating the plan, it’s possible that any future re-appeal will find that the circumstances to be even more favourable.

Developers have deep pockets and serious skin in the game. The merits or otherwise of this plan are clearly finely balanced. Assuming it goes ahead, much will depend on how well B&D is able to ensure that the attractive aspects of the scheme Bewley has promised are translated into reality. We all know that once approval has been granted, there often follows a period of attrition during which the developers seek to turn the scheme into one that’s more profitable. Again, I repeat that I completely defend B&D’s legal right to have this decision looked at. However, spending some of the likely legal costs on a dedicated officer to enforce every aspect of every planning condition might perhaps have been a more pragmatic use of the money.

There’s also a final point. B&D, like all LPAs, has a housing allocation it needs to satisfy. An application for nearly 300 homes right on the edge of the district, the mitigations of which are largely the responsibility of another council (WBC), seems about as good as it gets. B&D gets the housing ticks and all the developer contributions but WBC has all the problems of schools, medical services and road use to solve. There’ll be some horse-trading about the allocation of funds and some aspects of the proposals (if enforced by B&D) will benefit WBC. None the less, I can’t help feeling B&D is slightly missing a trick here. The scheme isn’t perfect: but then what scheme is? The reality is that Bewley does not seem to be going away. Regardless of the pros and cons of the application – which have already been examined – that might be something that all those involved need to recognise.

• Queuing for the meds

We mentioned in this column on 22 February about concerns in Newbury and elsewhere about the queues at local pharmacies. This was raised that day at the Health and Wellbeing Board (HWB) which looked at the (very complex) matter of pharmacy provision in the area. One of the assertions was that, certainly Newbury, needed an additional town-centre pharmacy (Thatcham has already had some changes in the last year). The counter argument from the Health Trust was that there was currently only a limited amount to funding and that if this spread over an extra outlet the result could be that the overall level of service might diminish rather than increase.

The matter was given another airing at the West Berkshire Health Scrutiny Commission (HSC) on 12 March (you can see the agenda here: the minutes will be available here when published). I spoke to the HSC’s Chair Martha Vickers on 14 March and she confirmed the point above about the danger of the jam being spread too thinly. She added that, as a result, “the concentration has been on improving the efficiency of existing pharmacies.”

There was also discussion at the HSC about the Pharmacy First scheme which was announced in November and rolled out from early February. In my 22 February article, I suggested that this might be part of the problem. I also came up with a summary in favour of new pharmacies opening up, certainly in Newbury. Having spoken to Martha Vickers and others about this, I now see this to have been, at best, an over-simplification.

There seem to be three issues. The first is that the number of pharmacies nationally has been falling and there are now about 10% fewer than there were five years ago. This will in part have been due to failing business models, falling demand or perhaps the lack of government funding. The Pharmaceutical Journal refers to the last issue in this article in November 2023 and also points to “a shift in ownership from large multiples to small multiples and independents, mainly down to the sale or closure of most Lloyds Pharmacy’s branches.” The sector is clearly experiencing some churn and disruption.

Pubs have seen a similar attrition: but pubs aren’t regulated. Pharmacy provision is: so it’s reasonable to assume that complex and, to an outsider, opaque systems by which this is managed is ensuring, perhaps imperfectly, that there are in general the right number of outlets in the right places. Organisations like the HSC and HWB exist to keep an eye on this. And yet people in Newbury and Thatcham have been complaining. If a new pharmacy isn’t the solution, what can be done to fix this?

This leads to the second point, of efficiency. Several of the members of the HSC agreed that improvements in systems, staffing and communication in the local pharmacies produced very rapid improvements in the levels of service and a commensurate fall in the number of complaints. Recruitment and retention remains an issue although, as Martha Vickers pointed out to me, the number of pharmacists in the Bucks, Berks and Oxon area has gone up from 690 in 2021 to 727 in 2022. If these improvements can be maintained then the situation may improve. More money from Whitehall might help, though it’s dangerouns to assume that every problem will dissolve in the face of a larger pile of cash.

Thirdly, there’s the matter of Pharmacy First. I spoke to a well-established independent pharmacist in the area who told me – again, contrary to what I suggested on 22 February – that the funding is in place and would appear to be adequate. The aim, he explained, was that virtually all pharmacies would in time be part of this scheme, although a few (for example ones with no consulting room) may not. Moreover, in each case the roll-out may be varied, with some outlets not able to offer all the services immediately. I suggested that this seemed like a logical and pragmatic step given the lengthening waiting lists for GP appointments and the fact that (and I really wasn’t just saying this to flatter him), pharmacists are highly trained and competent people and they had perhaps been under-utilised.

He broadly agreed with this, adding that the new initiative was in some ways a return to the situation that prevailed before the NHS when pharmacists were essentially high-street physicians: a criticism of the post 1946 arrangements is that they became dispensing factories. He added that the change has been anticipated to the extent that all pharmacists now qualifying have to have prescribing qualifications. In the past they hadn’t because it wasn’t part of the job. Now it is, for a limited range of medicines (which do not, it’s worth stressing, include antibiotics). He suggested that he felt the list would increase once the system had bedded down.

The fact that Pharmacy First has appeared at the same time as has a recurrence of complaints about queueing times might suggest that one was the cause of the other. If the pharmacy is already running less well than it might, this wouldn’t have helped, particularly in these early stages of the new scheme. However, they seem to be different issues with different funding streams designed to address different but related needs.

• Pound Street

Last year we reported on a consultation being run by Archel Homes regarding the former Jewsons site in Pound Street in Newbury. The preamble stated that “Archel Homes is bringing forward proposals to redevelop the former Jewson’s yard, Newbury Bathrooms building and Nos. 26 & 28 Pound Street, Newbury to create approximately 100 new homes.”

You can click here to see the details of the project as it was initially envisaged (note that the consultation referred to has now closed). I understand that Archel has spent the last few months looking at the consultation responses and discussing with local residents and other stakeholders.

Contrary to what I wrote in the original version of this column, the application has in fact been lodged (23/02782/FULMAJ), the details of which can be seen here. There have currently been 52 letters of objection (as well as one impartial and one in support) and the application has also been called in by a ward member. This means that, if the officers are minded to accept it, the decision will be made by the Western Area Planning Committee. The determination deadline is 27 March so further comments should be received by then but should also be accepted after this date if it hasn’t been decided by then.

A quick glance at some of objections suggests that, as well as over-development, transport issues and in particular the matter of parking spaces seem to be a major concern. The response from WBC’s Highways team concluded by saying the following:

There is concern that the development does not comply with the Council’s car parking standards and has not sufficiently assessed the traffic impact of the development on the highway network especially the Bartholomew Street/Pound Street traffic signal junction. If these items are not resolved satisfactorily then this planning application will be recommended for refusal by the Local Highway Authority. A potential further reason for refusal could be concern regarding the proximity of the proposed access to the existing access to the cooperative store opposite. Should the above issues be resolved then some local improvements to the sustainable transport infrastructure along Pound Street should be considered.”

A statement from the applicant’s consultants stresses the availability of nearby amenities, its proximity to Newbury’s town centre, the availability of on-street parking and the various public-transport options available. Despite these assurances and the wealth of data provided to support them, if WBC’s Highways officers feels that these are serious objections which will, if not addressed, result in the application being refused (and so avoiding, in this round at least, the WAPC needing to be invoked). Further discussions seem therefore to be needed.

Despite these objections, this appears to be a sensible plan that will provided much-needed homes, revitalise a current eyesore and make use of brownfield land. It would seem, however, that a bit more compromise is needed before this can become a reality.

• Other news

• The annual Newbury Town Civic Awards presentation took place on Wednesday 13 March.  Congratulations to June Milsom winner of Newbury Town Civic Award, Daniel Udry winner of Young Person’s Civic Award, The Ugly Duckling, winner of the Business Civic Award, ARK Action for the River Kennt, winner of the Environmental Contribution Award, and Community United West Berkshire, winner of the Local Community Group Civic Award. Mayor of Newbury, Councillor Nigel Foot congratulated all of the nominees for their outstanding achievements. See more details here.

• The Newbury Town Crier will be retiring from his role after 25 years of service. Brian Sylvester began his tenure as Newbury Town Crier on 1 April 1999, and has been delivering community updates and announcements as part of his role ever since. Newbury Town Council will be looking for a successor to carry on the tradition of the Town Crier, as well as searching for a Mace Bearer. Click here to learn more about this story.

• Last chance to apply for the one-bedroom almshouse as the deadline is Friday 15 March. Available for Newbury resident/s who meet the Coxedd & Pearce & Kimber’s Almshouses Charity’s criteria regarding income and assets.. See here for how to apply.

• All welcome at the Family Silent Disco in Boxford Village Hall this Friday 15 March from 6.30pm to 8.30pm hosted by Friends of Welford & Wickham Primary School. Tickets available from friendsofwelford@gmail.com. See more details here.

• For anyone interested in Newbury history, Hungerford Bookshop is hosting a chat with Ruth D’Alessandro on Thursday 21 March about her book Calling Sergeant Crockford. Ruth writes the true story about her mother, a woman police sergeant at the top of her game, stationed in Newbury in the 1960s. Book here.

• The winning short stories have been selected for Laura Farris MP’s Short Story Competition to celebrate World Book Day. The winner for Years 1, 2 & 3 is Gracie Williams from Cold Ash St Mark’s CE Primary School, and Years 4, 5 & 6 is Tulullah Martin from Thatcham Park CE Primary School. Both of the winning stories can be read here.

• The Corn Exchange Newbury has launched a fundraising campaign to convert the Old Library on Cheap Street as a new creative space for the community. If you would like to learn more or make a donation, click here.

• The upcoming Open Event at Newbury College/University Centre Newbury on Wednesday 20 March from 4pm to 7pm is a great opportunity for school leavers to explore their further education and career options. See here for details and how to book.

• The potential of community food growing in Newbury and the truth about timber as a construction material are the topics of our latest Local Eco Podcast. Click here to listen anytime.

• The Mayor of Newbury will be holding a Fundraising Concert on Saturday 23 March. The line up will include a range of local artists and the funds raised will go towards West Berkshire Homeless and The Mayor’s Benevolent Fund charities. Tickets cost £10, including a welcome drink upon arrival and entry into a raffle. Click here to learn more.

• The Newbury Spring Festival runs from Sat 11 to Sat 25 May and public booking for events is now open: click here to see the full list of musical treats on offer.

• The Volunteer Centre West Berkshire is offering a range of courses for volunteers, trustees, and anyone in the charity sector. Too see what courses they’re offering and to book a place, click here.

• Would you like to volunteer your business expertise to help Education Business Partnership prepare our local young people? Please see here for more details.

• If you need to let off steam about Newbury’s current roadworks, join the Newbury Happening Now facebook group. See West Berkshire Council’s list of roads prioritised for improving here.

• The Green Hub on West Berkshire Council’s website is focused on helping people make more sustainable choices collectively along our journey to Net Zero, whether you live, work or learn in West Berkshire or are a business owner or visitor. The information covers energy efficiencytaking climate actioncommunity work and sustainable business.

• For the low-down on the local live music scene follow Sound Newbury’s facebook page.

• For support and advice with any flooding issues in Newbury please join the Newbury Flood and Drainage Action Facebook Group.

• Have your say

Have your say on current consultations being run by West Berkshire Council:

National Wraparound Childcare Programme – Parent/Carer Survey 2024 Deadline 24 March.

Parish and town councils also run consultations from time to time: see the appropriate website/s below under Council contacts.

• Latest local newsletters

• Newbury Town Council.
• Hamstead Hornet (the March 2024 issue has just been published)


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.

• The Corn Exchange café bar on Thursday mornings between 10.30am and 12.30pm hosts Coffee Companions to meet new people and have a chat.

• Loose Ends drop-in centre at Newbury Cricket Ground welcome volunteers to join its friendly team. They offer hot meals and a safe and friendly environment for vulnerable people. More details and how to apply can be found here.

• Roadworks seem to be ongoing across the town…For up to date news and discussion it’s worth joining the Newbury.Happening now facebook group and its Newbury Traffic Live Updates chat group (on facebook messenger).

• Printer ink cartridges can be recycled at the Waterside Youth Centre, which will help them raise money to fund local youth activities. You can find the donation box next to the blue reception desk. – 01635 018500

• Donations of second-hand bikes are always welcome at the Community Furniture Project in Newbury where they refurbish the bikes and sell them at affordable prices to people in need. – 01635 43933

• Newbury Market welcomes small business interested in having a pitch in the Market Place get in contact with them at towncouncil@newbury.gov.uk or call 07399 122964 to find out more.

• Newbury Town Council Saturday Surgery between 10 am and noon any week at the steps of the Town Hall.

• Newbury’s two friendly community cafés on Wednesdays: Educafe Community Café in Newbury Library 11am to 2pm and Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate Pub 2pm to 5pm.

• Fair Close Centre on Newtown Road in Newbury provides a vital social hub and meals on wheels for over 65s, many of whom live on their own. Please support them here. Goodness knows we might all need their services in years to come.

• Local charity Eight Bells is seeking enthusiastic volunteers to support them with food collections from local supermarkets. For more information and to register your interest please call 07387 962220 or email coordinator@eightbellsnewbury.co.uk.

 The Community Larder at the Waterside Centre is open every Tuesday afternoon, 2pm to 4pm to provide members with surplus food, discounts for local businesses, access to other services and support, as well as a friendly community environment.

• Dignity in Dying local West Berkshire group meets in Newbury Library.

Newbury Library offers free IT support sessions including filling out online forms, how to Zoom, downloading e-magazines or sorting out pictures. Bookable 30- or 60-minute sessions. To find out more or book a slot, email rav.gopal@westberks.gov.uk.

• West Berkshire Library’s friendly At Home service delivers books in person on a three-weekly basis, free of charge if you can’t get into your local branch. Contact the At Home service on 01635 519827 or email library@westberks.gov.uk.


Local events and activities

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

• Dates for the diary

 Every WedEducafe 11am to 2pm, Newbury Library

 Every WedSpeen Community Cafe, 2pm to 5pm The Starting Gate.

Sat 23 Mar Mayor’s Fundraising Concert, Waterside Community Centre.

• Sat 23 Mar Newbury Cats Protection Jumble Sale, Thatcham Catholic Hall.

• Sat 11 to 25 May Newbury Spring Festival, various locations.

 Regular events

• A wide range of activities for over 55 year olds is offered by The Corn Exchange in its Ageing Creatively programme.

Community Kitchen Garden meets every Thursday from 10am to 12:30pm. Drop-in to get involved with the planting and maintenance of flowers, fruit and vegetables, learn new skills and meet new people inside the beautiful walled garden of Shaw House. To learn more contact Amy on 07553 810133 or amy.bosley1@westberks.gov.uk.

• Ukulele group workshops for all levels with the UTeam in Wash Common. Call 07963 647087 to enquire.

• Salsa in Newbury courses for beginners and level 2/3 on Wednesday evenings at Newbury British Legion.

 Regular youth activities at the Waterside Centre in central Newbury.

 Thatcham & Newbury Town Ladies and Girls FC Wildcats programme for girls aged 5 to 11 to get involved in football, promoting skill development, health, confidence and friendship. 6 to 7pm every Wednesday at Lower Way playing fields in Thatcham. Email thatcham.newbury.girls.fc.fdo@gmail.com to get involved.

• Newbury Park Run at Greenham Common at 9am every Saturday morning. Folks of all ages welcome to run/walk/jog the 5km. They also have volunteering opportunities. See details here.

 Newbury Women Football Club always welcomes new players. For more details click here or contact newburywomenfc@gmail.com.

• ACE Space on St Nicholas Road hosts live acoustic performances. Join their Facebook group or follow them on Twitter.

• Newbury Community Larder every Tuesday 2pm to 4pm at the Waterside Centre (down the canal from Costa Coffee on Northbrook Street). For more details please contact waterside@berkshireyouth.co.uk or call 01635 018500.

• Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesdays between 2pm to 5pm. Drop in for a chat or a cuppa, knitting and craft activities. You don’t have to live in Speen to join in. Follow them on facebook here.

• Educafe’s Community Cafe at Newbury Library every Wednesday between 11am and 2pm. If you would like to pop along for a friendly chat or to volunteer in the cafe please see their website for more details.

• Berkshire Youth‘s Waterside Centre in Newbury hosts various clubs and activities for local children and can provide volunteering opportunities for adults too.

 The Base, Greenham organise many art-focused events for people of all ages to let their creative sides go wild.


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. If the link is scored through this may be because draft minutes have been replaced by approved ones and the drafts file deleted. If so, please follow the links provided to the council’s website.

• The most recent meeting of Newbury Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 23 October and you can read the minutes here. Note that many matters are delegated to committees.
To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 21 February and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: matters arising; financial matters; reports for the ward members; planning matters; road safety; amenities; repairs and maintenance; the Easter newsletter; and a report on a recent meeting with Action for the River Kennet.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 13 February and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: public participation; matters arising; planning matters; financial matters; speeding; the Recreation Ground; the PPG meeting; the Parish Assembly on 1 May; D-Day; the Clerk’s report; a councillor vacancy; and councillor reports.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here to download the meeting schedule. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 29 January 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 Speen Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 24 January and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 8 November 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 Boxford Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 7 November 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 Hamstead Marshall Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 21 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click hereTo see minutes, please click here.

• Newbury area council contacts

Parishes: Newbury Town CouncilGreenham Parish CouncilChieveley Parish CouncilEnborne Parish CouncilBoxford Parish CouncilSpeen Parish Council,  Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council, and Hamstead Marshall 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 ValleyThatcham area; Compton and DownlandsBurghfield area; Wantage area; Marlborough area.

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

Thursday 7 March 2024

Gremlin alert: some people have recently had problems loading our web pages. We believe we’re close to solving this but you may find, if you return to this page later, that it’s unavailable. Please accept our apologies and try again in a bit. The solution involves upgrading our website server which we have put off as it costs more money. But the time has come when we have no choice. So, as we’ve said before, any small monthly donation you can make towards this cost would be very much appreciated. See here for ways to donate. And thanks again to those who have already done so.

Our usual round-up of  local news includes plastic, food collections, a by-election, repairs and making a difference – plus the return of Sandleford, constructive discussion at Eagle Quarter, Watermill Bridge’s possible judicial review, a football update, Wash Common’s Library and all change at the station.  See also below for community notices and news from your local council.

Upcoming Newbury events include Mother’s Day lunch and fundraising concert. See below for details, plus regular events and group activities.

• Judicial review confirmed at Watermill Bridge

And still on the theme of things that might get built, we come to Watermill Bridge: not in West Berkshire but just across the border in Basingstoke and Deane (B&D). If proceded with, it will effectively be a southern suburb of Newbury.

The Watermill has a few bridges to cross first, however. The application had been refused by B&D but the developers, Bewley Homes, successfully appealled at the end of January. B&D potentially had another card to play and it was widely understood that it intended to launch a judicial review. This has not yet been officially confirmed. I contacted B&D’s press office on 7 March and, after a very prompt response, was told that a statement was being prepared. I received this as promised on 8 March.

“The council does not accept all of the conclusions in the Planning Inspector’s decision to allow the Watermill Bridge appeal,” the statement begins. “We have asked the High Court for permission to proceed with a statutory review of the inspector’s decision, on a point of law. We will be advised by the court whether permission has been granted to proceed with this review, but this process can take some months.”

The whole process will therefore now change down gear, moving from “planning speed” – already slow enough – to “legal speed”, in which forward motion can often not be detected by the naked eye at all.

The mere act of requesting a JR doesn’t automatically make it happen. First the grounds need to be reviewed by a judge in order to decide if there really is a serious case. Only if that hurdle is passed does the legal action kick off. I suggested last week some of the angles that B&D might be exploring and also the how long the process is likely to take.

• The return of Sandleford

The sleeping giant is stirring. After years as a hypothetical and almost legendary beast existing only in planning documents, aspirational websites and court records, one of the longest-running planning issues in the district is now showing signs of renewed life. The following statement about Sandleford was received from Bloor Homes (which owns the larger of the two Sandleford sites) on 7 March. We’re happy to reproduce this verbatim:

“Plans to deliver new homes along with a substantial new country park and a host of infrastructure improvements, are taking a step forward.

“Bloor Homes is holding a community drop-in event at Newbury Rugby Club, Monks Lane, RG14 7RW from 4pm to 8pm on Friday 15 March to update local people on the technical work that has been progressing since the grant of outline planning consent and explain the next steps. Sandleford Park East is identified as a strategic location for new homes and a Country Park by West Berkshire Council and was granted outline consent by the Secretary of State in May 2022.

“Outline Planning Consent was granted for new homes to include 40% affordable homes, a new local centre of shops and amenities, land for a new primary school and expansion land for Park House Academy School. A key feature of the proposals is also a country park, which represents around 70% of the site and will open-up a large new area of currently private land for the public to enjoy. At the same time, the areas of ancient woodland will be protected across the site.

“A spokesperson for Bloor Homes said: ‘We are excited to meet local people to update on progress since the grant of outline consent and share our next steps. This is an informal update event, and we will be consulting in the future as the plans evolve. Sandleford Park East will deliver significant benefits, including the creation of a considerable new country park for public use, which will enhance areas of the landscape and improve access to green space locally.

“‘We are committed to working with our neighbours and the wider community to ensure that we create the homes and environment that their family and friends want to call home. In the coming years, consultation with the local community on the detailed design will be key and we look forward to engaging.”

The drop-in event is intended to be an informal event, where Bloor Homes and the technical team will be on hand to answer questions. If you want to find out more, you can visit sandlefordeast.co.uk or email hello@sandlefordeast.co.uk

I have spoken to a few interested parties for comment but most have said that they preferred to reserve an initial judgment until after the meeting. However, David Cooper of SayNoToSandleford  (SNTS) did tell us that “SNTS has seen nothing to suggest that the Sandleford development, which has been forced on the local community by Westminster, has been improved in any significant way. However, we will listen to what Bloor Homes has to say.”

• The Eagle is landing?

Another large planning development – which would, in a different way to the above-mentioned Sandleford permanently change the face of Newbury – is also perhaps moving into its next phase. This is Eagle Quarter which is planned to be the replacement for the Kennet Centre. Planning permission was refused last year and the developers, Lochailort, contemplated (but then rejected) the idea of an appeal. Instead a fresh application was lodged in September 2023. Since then there has been, as Lochailort’s MD Hugo Haig told me on 7 March “a continuous process of constructive discussion with West Berkshire Council and others and, where possible, amendments being made to the proposals.”

The object of the exercise is to get to a situation where the planning officers accept that the revised plans represent the best result the town is going to get and which strike a satisfactory compromise between all the myriad conditions that need to be taken into account. If the officers are minded to approve the plans, with conditions, then it will harder (though not impossible) for the Western Area Planning Committee to turn them down. It would also, as the officers will be quick to remind them, almost certainly lead to an appeal which will be both difficult and expensive to defend.

Although the final result will completely please no one, it will hopefully be the best that all the parties can reasonably expect. The main point of conflict is the scale: objectors, led by the Newbury Society, say that the project is overbearing; the developers maintain that it is not and anyway that something of this size is necessary for them to be able to show a positive return on their investment. Both points of view have some merit.

Unlike with a greenfield development which, if refused, can be left as it is, inaction is not an option here. The Kennet Centre is some way past its prime and clearly currently cannot attract any long-term tenants. Something, therefore, will have to happen.

The matter will be decided by the Western Area Planning Committee. The above-mentioned discussions having gone on for many months it’s hoped that the views are reaching a point of convergence. As soon as the date is announced we’ll let you know. Given the scale of the project, it will probably be the only item on the agenda.

• All change

West Berkshire Council reports that the multi-million-pound redevelopment of Newbury train station is now finished. The transformation project “includes new customer facilities, new ticket gates, a multi-storey car park, cycle hubs and improved pedestrian access from the station to the town centre.

“We have worked closely with Great Western Railway, Berkshire LEP, Network Rail and Grainger Plc throughout the project to provide an enhanced customer experience and support economic development in the area. Some minor works, including car park resurfacing and cleaning of forecourt canopies and external station building walls, will now commence to complement the finalised scheme.”

More details can be found here.

• Football

Last week I wrote, not for the first time, about our old friend Faraday Road. The only thing I have to add to this at present is that the review in the district’s sports pitches will not, as the email I referred to said, take until the end of the year but should be complete by the end of next month (which makes a lot more sense) and a statement is expected thereafter. The project and its related issues are still beset with uncertainties and contradictions. None the less, next month should see the start of the next chapter in what’s proving to be a very long and complicated book.

• Wash Common’s Library

There was a strange letter in the NWN last week from Archna Datta, one of the candidates standing in the Wash Common by-election for Newbury Town Council, which repeated the odd claim that the Conservatives saved the district’s libraries in 2017. The letter also includes a startling and seemingly heartfelt hagiography of WBC Conservative Councillor Dominic Boeck.

My recollection of matters is rather different. In 2017, faced with a funding crisis at least as severe as the one that’s now unfolding, WBC decided that all the libraries apart from Newbury’s would close. As many pointed out during the consultations, this suggested a rather unimaginative binary thought process: either WBC would run the libraries as they had for decades, or they would close. There was, however, a third way, that of using volunteers and in some cases (as in Hungerford) changing the ownership of the building. A new Head of the Library Service, Paul James, embraced these ideas with more enthusiasm than had his predecessor and eventually a situation was arrived at by which all were saved.

Well, Wash Common’s was only partly saved as it is no longer part of WBC’s Library Service (as all the others are) and so needs to source its own books. Ms Datta makes no reference to this in her letter.

It was suggested to me at the time by a then member of the Executive that the whole business was in fact a cunning wheeze to test people’s affection for their libraries and prompt some new solutions. Although this is what happened, all the signs were that WBC felt that the libraries were a soft target. Ms Datta makes no mention of this slightly byzantine theory in her letter either.

None of this seems to have stopped local Conservative candidates regularly being snapped for election picture outside their local library. Everyone is entitled to their own interpretation of how that episode played out. This is mine.

• Other news

• Newbury Town Council has released its latest newsletter for March. This issue is a Mayor’s Fundraising special, focusing on the upcoming Fundraising Concert (see below) and also the Online Charity Raffle, which runs until Tuesday 2 April.

• The Corn Exchange Newbury have launched a fundraising campaign to convert the Old Library on Cheap Street as a new creative space for the community. If you would like to learn more or make a donation, click here.

• Do you know anyone looking for accomodation in Newbury? A one-bedroom almshouse is available for Newbury resident/s who meet the Coxedd & Pearce & Kimber’s Almshouses Charity’s criteria regarding income and assets. The two-storey accommodation includes a double bedroom, shower room, large sitting/dining room, kitchen and larder and communal gardens. See here for how to apply. Deadline is 15 March.

• Our condolences to the family and friends of Ruth Saunders, Newbury’s oldest resident who recently died aged an incredible 107 years old. She was born in 1916 in Shaw and the funeral will be on 18 March at St Mary’s Church in Shaw where she was christened and married. Ruth was a Quaker and Newbury Quakers will be planting a tree, surrounded by her favourite yellow roses in the meeting house garden.

• Have you signed up for The Big Plastic Count? For one week from Monday 11 until Sunday 17 March, people are coming together to count their plastic waste and report their findings online. Click here to learn more and register your interest.

• The upcoming Open Event at Newbury College/University Centre Newbury on Wednesday 20 March from 4pm to 7pm is a great opportunity for school leavers to explore their further education and career options. See here for details and how to book.

• The potential of community food growing in Newbury and the truth about timber as a construction material are the topics of our latest Local Eco Podcast. Click here to listen anytime.

• As mentioned previously, West Berkshire Council and Veolia are teaming up to provide residents with free soil conditioner (compost). On Saturday 16 and Sunday 17 March, between 10am and 4pm, you will be able to swing by the Padworth Waste Management Facility and grab some locally produced soil conditioner. No appointment is needed, just bring along an ID card and your own bags or boxes to carry the conditioner. Click here for details.

• Congratulations to the organisers of the re-vamped Newbury and Thatcham Repair Cafe. It was a huge success (see report here) and the next one is in Thatcham on Sunday 24 March in the morning in the Frank Hutchings Community Hall and then they will be back in Newbury Methodist Church Hall on Sunday 28 April in the afternoon.

• Would you like to spend more time outside in nature, learn some new skills and meet new people? Why not get involved in the Community Kitchen Garden at Shaw House. Every Thursday from 10am to 12:30pm, you can drop-in to get involved with the planting and maintenance of flowers, fruit and vegetables inside the beautiful walled garden. If you’d like to learn more contact Amy, the Nature for Health Project Support Officer at amy.bosley1@westberks.gov.uk.

• The Mayor of Newbury will be holding a Fundraising Concert on Saturday 23 March. The line up will include a range of local artists and the funds raised will go towards West Berkshire Homeless and The Mayor’s Benevolent Fund charities. Tickets cost £10, including a welcome drink upon arrival and entry into a raffle. Click here to learn more.

• It’s your last chance to get your nominations in for BBC Radio’s Make a Difference Awards, celebrating local people (or animals) who are going above and beyond. The deadline to make a nomination is Sunday 10 March.

• The Newbury Spring Festival runs from Sat 11 to Sat 25 May and public booking for events is now open: click here to see the full list of musical treats on offer.

• A by-election will take place on Thursday 14 March to choose a new Newbury Town Council member for the Wash Common wardClick here to see the notice of the election and a list of candidates.

• Local charity Eight Bells is seeking enthusiastic volunteers to support them with food collections from local supermarkets. For more information and to register your interest please call 07387 962220 or email coordinator@eightbellsnewbury.co.uk.

• The Volunteer Centre West Berkshire is offering a range of courses for volunteers, trustees, and anyone in the charity sector. Too see what courses they’re offering and to book a place, click here.

• Would you like to help inspire the future workforce? Education Business Partnership helps prepare our local young people for the world of work, and to do this EBP relies on the support of local businesses and professionals. If you would like to volunteer your expertise please see here for more details.

• If you have children who need swimming lessons, take advantage of swimming crash course with Jo at GR Swimming School. Jo is a multi award-winning teacher and the lessons take place in the pool at Brockhurst School in Hermitage.

• If you need to let off steam about Newbury’s current roadworks, join the Newbury Happening Now facebook group. See West Berkshire Council’s list of roads prioritised for improving here.

• The Green Hub on West Berkshire Council’s website is focused on helping people make more sustainable choices collectively along our journey to Net Zero, whether you live, work or learn in West Berkshire or are a business owner or visitor. The information covers energy efficiencytaking climate actioncommunity work and sustainable business.

• For the low-down on the local live music scene follow Sound Newbury’s facebook page.

• For support and advice with any flooding issues in Newbury please join the Newbury Flood and Drainage Action Facebook Group.

• Have your say

Have your say on current consultations being run by West Berkshire Council:

National Wraparound Childcare Programme – Parent/Carer Survey 2024 Deadline 24 March.

Parish and town councils also run consultations from time to time: see the appropriate website/s below under Council contacts.

• Latest local newsletters

• Newbury Town Council.
• Hamstead Hornet (the March 2024 issue has just been published)


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.

• The Corn Exchange café bar on Thursday mornings between 10.30am and 12.30pm hosts Coffee Companions to meet new people and have a chat.

• Loose Ends drop-in centre at Newbury Cricket Ground welcome volunteers to join its friendly team. They offer hot meals and a safe and friendly environment for vulnerable people. More details and how to apply can be found here.

• Roadworks seem to be ongoing across the town…For up to date news and discussion it’s worth joining the Newbury.Happening now facebook group and its Newbury Traffic Live Updates chat group (on facebook messenger).

• Printer ink cartridges can be recycled at the Waterside Youth Centre, which will help them raise money to fund local youth activities. You can find the donation box next to the blue reception desk. – 01635 018500

• Donations of second-hand bikes are always welcome at the Community Furniture Project in Newbury where they refurbish the bikes and sell them at affordable prices to people in need. – 01635 43933

• Newbury Market welcomes small business interested in having a pitch in the Market Place get in contact with them at towncouncil@newbury.gov.uk or call 07399 122964 to find out more.

• Newbury Town Council Saturday Surgery between 10 am and noon any week at the steps of the Town Hall.

• Newbury’s two friendly community cafés on Wednesdays: Educafe Community Café in Newbury Library 11am to 2pm and Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate Pub 2pm to 5pm.

• Fair Close Centre on Newtown Road in Newbury provides a vital social hub and meals on wheels for over 65s, many of whom live on their own. Please support them here. Goodness knows we might all need their services in years to come.

 The Community Larder at the Waterside Centre is open every Tuesday afternoon, 2pm to 4pm to provide members with surplus food, discounts for local businesses, access to other services and support, as well as a friendly community environment.

• Dignity in Dying local West Berkshire group meets in Newbury Library.

•  Newbury Library offers free IT support sessions including filling out online forms, how to Zoom, downloading e-magazines or sorting out pictures. Bookable 30- or 60-minute sessions. To find out more or book a slot, email rav.gopal@westberks.gov.uk.

• West Berkshire Library’s friendly At Home service delivers books in person on a three-weekly basis, free of charge if you can’t get into your local branch. Contact the At Home service on 01635 519827 or email library@westberks.gov.uk.


Local events and activities

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

• Dates for the diary

 Every WedEducafe 11am to 2pm, Newbury Library

 Every WedSpeen Community Cafe, 2pm to 5pm The Starting Gate.

• Sun 10 Mar Mother’s Day Lunch at the Watermill Theatre, Bagnor.

• Sat 23 Mar Mayor’s Fundraising Concert, Waterside Community Centre.

• Sat 23 Mar Newbury Cats Protection Jumble Sale, Thatcham Catholic Hall.

• Sat 11 to 25 May Newbury Spring Festival, various locations.

 Regular events

• A wide range of activities for over 55 year olds is offered by The Corn Exchange in its Ageing Creatively programme.

 Shaw House Community Garden drop-in gardening sessions Wednesday morning 9.30am to 12.30pm.. If you would like to join a session, please call Amy Bosley, 07553 810133 or email her.

• Ukulele group workshops for all levels with the UTeam in Wash Common. Call 07963 647087 to enquire.

• Salsa in Newbury courses for beginners and level 2/3 on Wednesday evenings at Newbury British Legion.

 Regular youth activities at the Waterside Centre in central Newbury.

 Thatcham & Newbury Town Ladies and Girls FC Wildcats programme for girls aged 5 to 11 to get involved in football, promoting skill development, health, confidence and friendship. 6 to 7pm every Wednesday at Lower Way playing fields in Thatcham. Email thatcham.newbury.girls.fc.fdo@gmail.com to get involved.

• Newbury Park Run at Greenham Common at 9am every Saturday morning. Folks of all ages welcome to run/walk/jog the 5km. They also have volunteering opportunities. See details here.

 Newbury Women Football Club always welcomes new players. For more details click here or contact newburywomenfc@gmail.com.

• ACE Space on St Nicholas Road hosts live acoustic performances. Join their Facebook group or follow them on Twitter.

• Newbury Community Larder every Tuesday 2pm to 4pm at the Waterside Centre (down the canal from Costa Coffee on Northbrook Street). For more details please contact waterside@berkshireyouth.co.uk or call 01635 018500.

• Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesdays between 2pm to 5pm. Drop in for a chat or a cuppa, knitting and craft activities. You don’t have to live in Speen to join in. Follow them on facebook here.

• Educafe’s Community Cafe at Newbury Library every Wednesday between 11am and 2pm. If you would like to pop along for a friendly chat or to volunteer in the cafe please see their website for more details.

• Berkshire Youth‘s Waterside Centre in Newbury hosts various clubs and activities for local children and can provide volunteering opportunities for adults too.

 The Base, Greenham organise many art-focused events for people of all ages to let their creative sides go wild.


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. If the link is scored through this may be because draft minutes have been replaced by approved ones and the drafts file deleted. If so, please follow the links provided to the council’s website.

• The most recent meeting of Newbury Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 23 October and you can read the minutes here. Note that many matters are delegated to committees.
To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 21 February and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: matters arising; financial matters; reports for the ward members; planning matters; road safety; amenities; repairs and maintenance; the Easter newsletter; and a report on a recent meeting with Action for the River Kennet.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 13 February and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: public participation; matters arising; planning matters; financial matters; speeding; the Recreation Ground; the PPG meeting; the Parish Assembly on 1 May; D-Day; the Clerk’s report; a councillor vacancy; and councillor reports.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here to download the meeting schedule. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 29 January 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 Speen Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 24 January and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 8 November 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 Boxford Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 7 November 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 Hamstead Marshall Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 21 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click hereTo see minutes, please click here.

• Newbury area council contacts

Parishes: Newbury Town CouncilGreenham Parish CouncilChieveley Parish CouncilEnborne Parish CouncilBoxford Parish CouncilSpeen Parish Council,  Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council, and Hamstead Marshall 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 ValleyThatcham area; Compton and DownlandsBurghfield area; Wantage area; Marlborough area.

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

Thursday 29 February 2024

Our usual round-up of  local news includes a festival, singing, volunteers, fundraising and elections – plus the controversial Watermill Bridge proposal seems set for a judicial review, joined-up thinking on water, the NDP, the latest from the Newbury Show and possible next steps at Faraday Road.  See also below for community notices and news from your local council.

Upcoming Newbury events include community cafés and orchard pruning. See below for details, plus regular events and group activities.

• A review at the Watermill

We mentioned on 1 February (see the archive section of this column) that the application for about 270 homes in Wash Water, which had been refused by Basingstoke and Deane Council (B&D), had succeeded on appeal. That was that, I suggested, unless someone was minded to launch a judicial review.

It seems now that they might be. B&D has unofficially said that it is prepared to fund this itself. I understand that the officers are now looking at this to see whether the grounds of appeal are likely to be strong enough. This must have been lodged within six weeks of the appeal decision (29 January), which gives them until 11 March to decide. The operation will cost the council probably at least £10,000 and possibly more depending on how much legal talent it wants to assemble. The documents are first considered by a judge to decide if the matter is not frivolous. If accepted, the decision can take as long as six months. The clocks will therefore have gone forward and perhaps also back again before the issue is determined.

The law firm Ashurst says that there are three grounds for a judicial review: illegality, irrationality, and procedural impropriety; which reads slightly like a list of moral defects from a cautionary Victorian novel. B&D’s officers will be carefully considering if their case ticks any of these boxes.

One aspect that might concerns B&D’s land-supply figure. This page on Gov.uk dating from 2019 define the five-year land supply, which was then the key length of time, as being “a supply of specific deliverable sites sufficient to provide five years’ worth of housing (and appropriate buffer) against a housing requirement set out in adopted strategic policies, or against a local housing need figure, using the standard method, as appropriate in accordance with paragraph 77 of the National Planning Policy Framework.”

Changes to the NPPF suggest that local authorities which have an emerging local plan need only demonstrate a four-year lad supply. B&D’s local plan refresh is still “at an early stage” so I wonder if this would qualify. There’s also the question, as the Planoraks website points out, as to whether the four-year supply is to measured against the target for four years or for five. At this point, the arguments descend into the kind of semantic soup on which lawyers and planning officers thrive. The new NPPF regulations have probably not been tested before, which lends an additional air of uncertainty to the proceedings. There are also concerns about flood mitigation measures and the damage to the AONB: and perhaps other matters which the people I’ve spoken to may be keeping up their sleeves.

If the officers decide that the case is strong enough, and if the judge agrees, then battle will be joined. Victory will go perhaps not to the righteous but to the party with the deeper pockets.

Looking ahead to the possible result of the JR either not being preceded with or failing at one of its hurdles, there are forty-four conditions which the developers, Bewley, will need to adhere to, in some cases before work can start and in others before any house are occupied. Should the JR runs the course then these may be changed. If the development does go ahead, I can be fairly certain – now that B&D’s attitude towards the application is clear – that the ward members will do all they can to ensure every one of these is scrutinised with the utmost care.

One approach to this has been adopted by Compton PC with regard to the conditions relating to the contaminated former Pirbright site. Here, CPC requests that pretty much any application to have these discharged (ie fulfilled) be called in to the planning committee so it can be given a proper looking at. This tends to increase the time that each matter takes to be resolved. It also given members the chance to go against officers’ recommendations.

Finally, I’ve mentioned before that a peculiar feature of this development is that, although in B&D, it is for all practical purposes in West Berkshire and it will, if built, form a new southern suburb of Newbury. B&D, however, makes the decision (though WBC is consulted) and also keeps the developer contributions. WBC will doubtless be making a case that this should be shared in order to contribute to extra medical and educational demands that Newbury would be expected to fulfil. Some of the promises by Bewley include things like cycleways which would involve WBC if they went onto the district. There’s an argument for saying that the map should be re-drawn to put the site in its logical place. However, if this happened even once there’s be no end it it. The administrative map of Britain is complex enough as it is. So, far that matter, is this application – and it’s not done yet.

• Newbury’s NDP

As I’ve mentioned several times before, neighbourhood development plans must be community-led exercises and must be able to demonstrate a high level of local engagement. The problem with them, though, is that not only are they often very dry and technical pieces of work but also for long periods they disappear from public view altogether. This may be because of fact-finding research, waiting for reports from consultants and studying the results or delays caused by parent authority or statutory consultees. It’s slightly like expecting people to be interested in a very complex and arcane legal case which, sometimes for months at a time, appears to adjourn its work. Many could be forgiven for thinking that the whole project had been abandoned altogether.

Newbury’s is at one such hiatus. At present, work is being done by the steering group’s consultants on looking at specific parts of the town where more work might need to be done. Once that’s been received (which is expected in March), the NDP team will consider the results and then go public on what help, opinions to volunteering help it requires. Until then, rest assured that the work continues. To put it another way, the train is in a tunnel; and moving forward, though perhaps at a slower speed than some might wish.

• All along the valley

I spoke to Nigel Foot on 28 February. He wears many hats, including being the acting Chair of the Newbury Flood Forum. Here in the Wild West of East Garston we see the flooding and sewage problems in the upper valley. They’ve been bad enough: but, further downstream, they’ve been even worse. The area of Clay Hill – between the Lambourn and the Kennet which meet close to the aptly-named Two Rivers Way – has suffered particularly badly. The recent sewage situation had turned into something approaching a major health hazard. The good news, Nigel Foot assured me, was that Thames Water was now on the case and pumping the worst of it away. As I’ve mentioned many times, though, this is not a long-term solution, merely a short-term remedy. The rains will return: will Thames Water’s infrastructure improvements be able to cope better next time round?

The fact that Thames Water turned up was I’m sure as a result of their monitoring work but probably owed more to the constant complaints and lobbying for residents, interest groups and councils. It’s both heartening and depressing to see how many groups have sprung up, even just along the Lambourn. It’s encouraging because groups like the Lambourn Flood Forum, the East Garston Flood and Pollution Forum, the Eastbury Village wardens and the Newbury Flood Forum have demonstrated real pace and energy and proved to be effective advocates. It’s depressing because they are to a large extent doing the job of the the three official actors in the drama – Thames Water, the Environment Agency and the lead flood authority, West Berkshire Council.

Tempers have been breaking along the whole length of the Lambourn valley, from the river’s source in Upper Lambourn right down to where the chalk stream tumbles into the Kennet to the east of Newbury. This flows through six of WBC’s wards – Lambourn, Downlands, Hungerford & Kintbury, Speen, Newbury Central and Clay Hill – and I’m pleased to report that the members from all of these are working on a plan, in conjunction with parish and town councils and local pressure groups, to lobby the three responsible organisations (and the government) to accomplish some positive change. We wish them well.

The flood forums have been accused of being no more than talking shops. This is an accusation I’d like to refute. First, they provide a way by which the local pressure groups can directly engage with the three main players. Secondly, having representatives of TW, the EA and WBC in the same room or Zoom link at the same times gives each nowhere to hide. Thirdly, even when the water sinks, the underlying problem remains. Having organisations in place helps make sure that the matter isn’t then forgotten. No one wants to think about sewage except when it’s lapping round their door: then, they can’t think of anything else. It’s good to know that there are people who’ve decided to think about the problem even when it can’t be seen or smelled.

• The Newbury Show

The NADAS team is delighted that Ramsbury Estates is the returning headline sponsor of the Newbury Show 2024. With a variety of sponsorship opportunities to suit any budget, this event offers local businesses the opportunity to promote themselves and support this much-loved event.

This year, there are two new high visibility initiatives promoting sustainability and biodiversity for which the organisers are looking for sponsors. One supports the engagement with West Berkshire Schools and the other local community voluntary groups which are committed to ensuring that West Berkshire addresses the issues of climate change.

With over 40,000 visitors anticipated this year, local businesses could benefit from booking a trade stand – see the “Local Producers” stand option. For those who would like to make a bigger impact, there is a variety of stand options on the Newbury Show booking pages.

The NADAS Trustees, volunteers and show team worked so hard to bring the much-loved Show back to West Berkshire in 2023,” Steve Ackrill NADAS Chairman said. “We were so proud of what was achieved and the positive feedback to the return of the Show last year. We’re all already working hard to make the 2024 event even better for traders and visitors alike and we look forward to many local businesses joining us at what is widely regarded as one of the best county shows in the country.”

• Football coming home?

Not every council progresses as smoothly as people would like and, by any standards, the long-promised return of football to Faraday Road is an example of this. There would seem to be two short-term problems, two medium-term ones and two long-term ones.

Very little has happened there since the much-vaunted re-opening in November. The weather since then has not helped but there have also been some problematic issues like fencing and security. More embarrassing has been the realisation that the temporary changing rooms do not meet FA standards for the league in which Newbury FC plays. These will either have to be replaced or added to. It’s still hoped that adult teams can use the ground in time for the start of the 2024-25 season.

Since the ground was so pointlessly closed in 2018, the stand has been sold or gifted, the clubhouse has been burnt down and the perimeter fence seemingly abducted by a passing spacecraft. The ground is therefore in a far poorer state than it was before. A replacement facility will, under Sport England regulations, have to be found. This could be at Faraday Road (if something can replace itself).  Nine months ago, hopes were high that the re-opening for football would lead to this happening.

This is where the medium-term problems come in. Not only does WBC find itself financially constrained but also it now feels that it needs to review the playing pitch strategy of the whole district before decisions can be taken, A email from Portfolio holder Janine Lewis to various councillors and stakeholders on 1 February referred to both these points and confirmed that there will now be “a pause on any further discussions and activity at Faraday Road.” The strategy work is expected to be completed by the end of the year (though nothing is likely to be delivered before 2027). How long the financial problems will continue to act as a brake is anyone’s guess. 

It’s hard to believe that any rational playing pitch strategy could come to any other conclusion than that Newbury needs at least one 3G pitch. The Monks Lane option (which presumably also is subject to this pause) might be reactivated: but that is not a complete replacement for the old facility at Faraday Road (it’s waiting in the wings though as the planning application has not been withdrawn and the funding not re-allocated). WBC would thus seem still to be in breach of Sport England’s regulations.

In the longer term, ambitious plans have been mooted for wider development around the football ground with a conference centre being mentioned. However, I’m not aware of any current proposal, scheme, vision or what you will for the site. Trying to decide between and reconcile a medium- and a long-term solution can lead to complete paralysis. Another reason why there might be a reluctance to do anything is that it would be crazy to build a 3G pitch, or anything else, if it might need to be ripped up to have an attenuation paid or other mitigation measure built underneath it.

This brings us to the second long-term issue, that of drainage. Any development in the area which might have any effect on downstream flooding problems for residents is likely, yet again, to be met with a judicial review. Knowing what mitigation measures are needed largely depend on having a plan of what’s going to put there and, as mentioned, there doesn’t seem to be one.

Adult football may therefore return next season, albeit in a sub-standard ground with no stand and no facilities. Aside from that, matters do not seem to be much further forward.

• Other news

The Mayor of Newbury will be holding a Fundraising Concert on Saturday 23 March, at the Waterside Community Centre. The line up will include local artists Bruce Hogg, Project Band and The Rokkits and will be raising money for West Berkshire Homeless and The Mayor of Newbury’s Benevolent Fund charities. Tickets cost £10 which includes a welcome drink upon arrival and entry into a raffle. Click here to learn more.

• The Newbury Spring Festival runs from Sat 11 to Sat 25 May and public booking for events opens at 10am on Tue 5 March: click here to see the full list of musical treats on offer.

• The February meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington PC reported that there has been “progress with English Heritage and the proposed new information panels at Donnington Castle, which will explain the whole history of the castle rather than just the period during the Civil War.” The artwork for the panels should be completed by May.

Growing Newbury Green ‘s next Orchard Pruning Events will take place on Saturday 2 March at Barn Crescent (South Newbury). The group has planted six community orchards across Newbury on Town Council managed land, to provide free fruit to anyone living locally as well as re-introduce old Berkshire bred varieties of apples. Everyone is welcome to come along and learn about how to prune, no experience nessicary. Click here to learn more get in touch at orchards@hammondt.plus.com.

• Local charity the Eight Bells are in need some volunteer photographer to create photos for their marketing materials. If you could occasionally spare just a couple of hours to take and edit photos, get in touch at coordinator@eightbellsnewbury.co.uk or call 07387 962220.

• A by-election will take place on Thursday 14 March to choose a new Newbury Town Council member for the Wash Common ward. Click here to see the notice of the election and a list of candidates.

• Local charity Eight Bells is seeking enthusiastic volunteers to support them with food collections from local supermarkets. For more information and to register your interest please call 07387 962220 or email coordinator@eightbellsnewbury.co.uk.

Newbury Town Council’s February newsletter is now available to read here.

• A one-bedroom almshouse is available for Newbury residents who meet the Coxedd & Pearce & Kimber’s Almshouses Charity’s criteria regarding income and assets. The two-storey accommodation includes a double bedroom, shower room, large sitting/dining room, kitchen and larder and communal gardens. See here for how to apply. Deadline is 15 March.

• The Volunteer Centre West Berkshire is offering a range of courses for volunteers, trustees, and anyone in the charity sector. Too see what courses they’re offering and to book a place, click here.

• A reminder that Newbury Rotary is welcoming back Cor Meibion De Cymru (The South Wales Male Choir) to perform a St David’s Day Grand Concert on Saturday 2 March to raise money for local charities including the West Berkshire Therapy Centre. Taking place at St Nicolas’ Church, you can book your tickets here.

• Would you like to help inspire the future workforce? Education Business Partnership helps prepare our local young people for the world of work, and to do this EBP relies on the support of local businesses and professionals. If you would like to volunteer your expertise please see here for more details.

• On the same theme, nominations are now open for BBC Radio’s Make a Difference Awards, celebrating local people who are going above and beyond. There are eight categories (including one for animals) and the deadline to make a nomination is Sunday 10 March.

• If you have children who need swimming lessons, take advantage of swimming crash course with Jo at GR Swimming School. Jo is a multi award-winning teacher and the lessons take place in the pool at Brockhurst School in Hermitage.

• If you need to let off steam about Newbury’s current roadworks, join the Newbury Happening Now facebook group. See West Berkshire Council’s list of roads prioritised for improving here.

The Green Hub on West Berkshire Council’s website is focused on helping people make more sustainable choices collectively along our journey to Net Zero, whether you live, work or learn in West Berkshire or are a business owner or visitor. The information covers energy efficiencytaking climate actioncommunity work and sustainable business.

• Quick reminder that local Ukraine support groups are appealing for candles to send to Ukraine, to be made into ‘trench candles’ to be sent to the frontline where they are for lighting, heating and cooking. If you can help, new or part-used candle donations can be dropped off at Waitrose in Newbury.

• Quick reminder about coping with winter weather: advice about flooding and how to stay safe in icy conditions and how to thaw frozen condensate pipe from your boiler.

• For the low-down on the local live music scene follow Sound Newbury’s facebook page

• For support and advice with any flooding issues in Newbury please join the Newbury Flood and Drainage Action Facebook Group.

• Have your say

Have your say on current consultations being run by West Berkshire Council:

Parish and town councils also run consultations from time to time: see the appropriate website/s below under Council contacts.

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.

The Corn Exchange café bar on Thursday mornings between 10.30am and 12.30pm hosts Coffee Companions to meet new people and have a chat.

• Loose Ends drop-in centre at Newbury Cricket Ground welcome volunteers to join its friendly team. They offer hot meals and a safe and friendly environment for vulnerable people. More details and how to apply can be found here.

• Roadworks seem to be ongoing across the town…For up to date news and discussion it’s worth joining the Newbury.Happening now facebook group and its Newbury Traffic Live Updates chat group (on facebook messenger).

Printer ink cartridges can be recycled at the Waterside Youth Centre, which will help them raise money to fund local youth activities. You can find the donation box next to the blue reception desk. – 01635 018500

• Donations of second-hand bikes are always welcome at the Community Furniture Project in Newbury where they refurbish the bikes and sell them at affordable prices to people in need. – 01635 43933

• Newbury Market welcomes small business interested in having a pitch in the Market Place get in contact with them at towncouncil@newbury.gov.uk or call 07399 122964 to find out more.

Newbury Town Council Saturday Surgery between 10 am and noon any week at the steps of the Town Hall.

Newbury’s two friendly community cafés on Wednesdays: Educafe Community Café in Newbury Library 11am to 2pm and Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate Pub 2pm to 5pm.

• Fair Close Centre on Newtown Road in Newbury provides a vital social hub and meals on wheels for over 65s, many of whom live on their own. Please support them here. Goodness knows we might all need their services in years to come.

The Community Larder at the Waterside Centre is open every Tuesday afternoon, 2pm to 4pm to provide members with surplus food, discounts for local businesses, access to other services and support, as well as a friendly community environment.

Dignity in Dying local West Berkshire group meets in Newbury Library.

•  Newbury Library offers free IT support sessions including filling out online forms, how to Zoom, downloading e-magazines or sorting out pictures. Bookable 30- or 60-minute sessions. To find out more or book a slot, email rav.gopal@westberks.gov.uk.

West Berkshire Library’s friendly At Home service delivers books in person on a three-weekly basis, free of charge if you can’t get into your local branch. Contact the At Home service on 01635 519827 or email library@westberks.gov.uk.


Local events and activities

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

• Dates for the diary

Every Wed: Educafe 11am to 2pm, Newbury Library

Every Wed: Speen Community Cafe, 2pm to 5pm The Starting Gate.

Sat 2 Mar Orchard Pruning Event, Barn Crescent, South Newbury, RG14 6HD.

Sat 2 Mar St David’s Day Concert with South Wales Male Choir, St Nic’s Church

Sat 23 Mar Mayor’s Fundraising Concert,  Waterside Community Centre.

 Regular events

A wide range of activities for over 55 year olds is offered by The Corn Exchange in its Ageing Creatively programme.

 Shaw House Community Garden drop-in gardening sessions Wednesday morning 9.30am to 12.30pm.. If you would like to join a session, please call Amy Bosley, 07553 810133 or email her.

Ukulele group workshops for all levels with the UTeam in Wash Common. Call 07963 647087 to enquire.

Salsa in Newbury courses for beginners and level 2/3 on Wednesday evenings at Newbury British Legion.

Regular youth activities at the Waterside Centre in central Newbury.

 Thatcham & Newbury Town Ladies and Girls FC Wildcats programme for girls aged 5 to 11 to get involved in football, promoting skill development, health, confidence and friendship. 6 to 7pm every Wednesday at Lower Way playing fields in Thatcham. Email thatcham.newbury.girls.fc.fdo@gmail.com to get involved.

• Newbury Park Run at Greenham Common at 9am every Saturday morning. Folks of all ages welcome to run/walk/jog the 5km. They also have volunteering opportunities. See details here.

 Newbury Women Football Club always welcomes new players. For more details click here or contact newburywomenfc@gmail.com.

• ACE Space on St Nicholas Road hosts live acoustic performances. Join their Facebook group or follow them on Twitter.

• Newbury Community Larder every Tuesday 2pm to 4pm at the Waterside Centre (down the canal from Costa Coffee on Northbrook Street). For more details please contact waterside@berkshireyouth.co.uk or call 01635 018500.

• Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesdays between 2pm to 5pm. Drop in for a chat or a cuppa, knitting and craft activities. You don’t have to live in Speen to join in. Follow them on facebook here.

• Educafe’s Community Cafe at Newbury Library every Wednesday between 11am and 2pm. If you would like to pop along for a friendly chat or to volunteer in the cafe please see their website for more details.

• Berkshire Youth‘s Waterside Centre in Newbury hosts various clubs and activities for local children and can provide volunteering opportunities for adults too.

 The Base, Greenham organise many art-focused events for people of all ages to let their creative sides go wild.


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. If the link is scored through this may be because draft minutes have been replaced by approved ones and the drafts file deleted. If so, please follow the links provided to the council’s website.

• The most recent meeting of Newbury Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 23 October and you can read the minutes here. Note that many matters are delegated to committees.
To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 21 February and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: matters arising; financial matters; reports for the ward members; planning matters; road safety; amenities; repairs and maintenance; the Easter newsletter; and a report on a recent meeting with Action for the River Kennet.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 29 January 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 Speen Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 24 January and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 16 January and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here to download the meeting schedule. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 8 November 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 Boxford Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 7 November 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 Hamstead Marshall Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 21 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click hereTo see minutes, please click here.

• Newbury area council contacts

Parishes: Newbury Town CouncilGreenham Parish CouncilChieveley Parish CouncilEnborne Parish CouncilBoxford Parish CouncilSpeen Parish Council,  Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council, and Hamstead Marshall 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 ValleyThatcham area; Compton and DownlandsBurghfield area; Wantage area; Marlborough area.

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

Thursday 22 February 2024

Our usual round-up of  local news includes a marathon, a by-election, floods, photos and sustainability – plus a look at the current row about pharmacy provision (or, as some would argue, the lack of it) in Newbury.  See also below for community notices and news from your local council.

Upcoming Newbury events include a repair café and a heritage fair. See below for details, plus regular events and group activities.

• Newbury’s pharmacies

There’s been a good deal of comment recently about the fact that, although there seems to be plentiful evidence that Newbury needs another town-centre pharmacy, plans for this are, it is alleged, being opposed by Boots. I’m not clear how formidable such opposition would be. There seems to be plentiful anecdotal evidence that one pharmacy is not enough, with reports of the queueing times sometimes being longer than at the Thatcham level crossing (which is saying something). There is someone ready and willing to open a new outlet. What can the problem be?

The matter was discussed at a meeting of the Health and Wellbeing Board on 22 February, the agenda for which you can see here. (There’s also a link to the recording of the event at the top of the agenda sheet and this discussion started at about 35′.) The main issue seems to be our old friend, central-government funding. There is, as with all things, only a limited pot of cash for pharmacies in each area. If too many new ones open, or so the argument runs, the risk is that all will become non-viable.

I find this rather hard to accept, for three main reasons. The first is that the demand is clearly there and one pharmacy is clearly not enough. The application made extensive reference to Boots being unable to cope with the number of customers and the lack of alternative provision. One is also an awkward number as it’s only one more than zero, which would be the number of outlets in the event of a burst pipe or damaged roof, if only for a few days.

Second, pharmacies can do more than just dispense medicines if they wish and so there’s surely an element of letting the market decide.

Finally, and most importantly, if the pot of money was adequate in the past (and many would say it wan’t) it certainly isn’t now. Under new the primary healthcare policy, pharmacies have an extra role to play in prescribing medicines and treating minor conditions, all in attempt to reduce the pressure on GPs. This in turn will lead to more people using them, and doing so for longer. More funding thus seems to be a necessity. You can’t expect someone to do two jobs but only get one salary.

The Health and Wellbeing Board supported the application. Community Pharmacy Thames Valley, however, objected on the grounds that there was no evidence that the application would secure unforeseen benefits and the PNA did not identify a gap in provision.

This has helped provide Boots with excellent grounds for objecting: there’s no need, it might argue; we’re worried that the jam may be spread too thinly if too many pharmacies open in which case we all risk closing; we are, in short, sticking up for the interests of the people of Newbury.

I’ve contacted Boots’ press team about this and will bring you their actual response when I get it. In the meantime, we’ll see if there’s any more cash available to ease the problem, which is not unique to Newbury. There’s an election coming up, so anything’s possible.

• Other news

• Do you have an interest in Berkshire’s history? The Berkshire’s Online Heritage Fair is being held on Saturday 24 February, with two drop-in sessions. Whether your focus is family history, local history, military history, business history or transport history – this informal event will help connect you will experts who will try and help answer your questions. It is free to attend and will be held on Zoom. Click here to learn more and find out how to register.

• A by-election will take place on Thursday 14 March to choose a new Newbury Town Council member for the Wash Common ward. Click here to see the notice of the election and a list of candidates.

• For those who regularly enjoy a stroll on Greenham Common, just be aware there is a Charity Half Marathon happening this Sunday, starting from the Control Tower. The run should be finished by 1pm, but expect the car parks to be very busy around that time. Click here to learn more.

The government issued a flood alert on 22 February: “River levels on the Lambourn and its tributaries [down to Newbury] remain high but stable due to recent rainfall combined with high groundwater levels. Flooding of low lying land, roads is expected to continue over the coming days. Property flooding is not currently expected.”

• The new Newbury and Thatcham Repair Cafe, will be holding it’s very first session this Sunday 25 February at Newbury Methodist Church Hall. Visitors can bring items which need repairing, such as electrical goods, clothes and textiles, crockery, wood items, toys, etc –  and their team of clever volunteers will endeavour to fix them, if feasible. The repairs are free but donations are appreciated to keep the Repair Cafe running. Refreshments will also be available. Click here to learn more.

• Are you a photography student or know of anyone who would like to practice their photography skills for a good cause? Local charity the Eight Bells are in need some stock photographs to use in marketing materials for their website, social media platforms and newsletters. If you could occasionally spare just a couple of hours to take and edit photos, get in touch at coordinator@eightbellsnewbury.co.uk or call 07387 962220.

• This weekend there is an Energy Sustainability and Eco Event, taking place at the Fieldgate Centre in Kingsclere. Alongside the regular monthly Repair Cafe and Clothes-Swap, there will also be local individuals and organisations. Come along to have an informal chat to answer your questions about household energy, to help you save money, cut carbon by using less energy, travel in greener ways to make our air cleaner and ways to buy less and reuse and repair more. To learn more about the event, click here.

• It’s your last chance to nominate a worthy local for the Newbury Town Civic Awards.  The closing date for nominations is Sunday 25 February. Click here for more information.

• Local charity Eight Bells is seeking enthusiastic volunteers to support them with food collections from local supermarkets. For more information and to register your interest please call 07387 962220 or email coordinator@eightbellsnewbury.co.uk.

Newbury Town Council’s February newsletter is now available to read here.

• The Volunteer Centre West Berkshire is offering a range of courses for volunteers, trustees, and anyone in the charity sector. Too see what courses they’re offering and to book a place, click here.

• A reminder that Newbury Rotary is welcoming back Cor Meibion De Cymru (The South Wales Male Choir) to perform a St David’s Day Grand Concert on Saturday 2 March to raise money for local charities including the West Berkshire Therapy Centre. Taking place at St Nicolas’ Church, you can book your tickets here.

• Would you like to help inspire the future workforce? Education Business Partnership helps prepare our local young people for the world of work, and to do this EBP relies on the support of local businesses and professionals. If you would like to volunteer your expertise please see here for more details.

• On the same theme, nominations are now open for BBC Radio’s Make a Difference Awards, celebrating local people who are going above and beyond. There are eight categories (including one for animals) and the deadline to make a nomination is Sunday 10 March.

• If you have children who need swimming lessons, take advantage of swimming crash course with Jo at GR Swimming School. Jo is a multi award-winning teacher and the lessons take place in the pool at Brockhurst School in Hermitage.

• If you need to let off steam about Newbury’s current roadworks, join the Newbury Happening Now facebook group. See West Berkshire Council’s list of roads prioritised for improving here.

• The snowdrops at Welford Park are now open Wednesday to Sunday with several plant sale dates up to Sunday 3 March. It makes a lovely local day out, especially when you pop into The Five Bells round the corner in Wickham for their special Snowdrops Menu.

The Green Hub on West Berkshire Council’s website is focused on helping people make more sustainable choices collectively along our journey to Net Zero, whether you live, work or learn in West Berkshire or are a business owner or visitor. The information covers energy efficiencytaking climate actioncommunity work and sustainable business.

• Quick reminder that local Ukraine support groups are appealing for candles to send to Ukraine, to be made into ‘trench candles’ to be sent to the frontline where they are for lighting, heating and cooking. If you can help, new or part-used candle donations can be dropped off at Waitrose in Newbury.

• Quick reminder about coping with winter weather: advice about flooding and how to stay safe in icy conditions and how to thaw frozen condensate pipe from your boiler.

• For the low-down on the local live music scene follow Sound Newbury’s facebook page

• A new Rhyme Time for pre-school children is under way at Wash Common Library every Thursday afternoon at 3pm from Thursday 22 February.

• For support and advice with any flooding issues in Newbury please join the Newbury Flood and Drainage Action Facebook Group.

• Have your say

Have your say on current consultations being run by West Berkshire Council:

Parish and town councils also run consultations from time to time: see the appropriate website/s below under Council contacts.

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.

The Corn Exchange café bar on Thursday mornings between 10.30am and 12.30pm hosts Coffee Companions to meet new people and have a chat.

• Loose Ends drop-in centre at Newbury Cricket Ground welcome volunteers to join its friendly team. They offer hot meals and a safe and friendly environment for vulnerable people. More details and how to apply can be found here.

• Roadworks seem to be ongoing across the town…For up to date news and discussion it’s worth joining the Newbury.Happening now facebook group and its Newbury Traffic Live Updates chat group (on facebook messenger).

Printer ink cartridges can be recycled at the Waterside Youth Centre, which will help them raise money to fund local youth activities. You can find the donation box next to the blue reception desk. – 01635 018500

• Donations of second-hand bikes are always welcome at the Community Furniture Project in Newbury where they refurbish the bikes and sell them at affordable prices to people in need. – 01635 43933

• Newbury Market welcomes small business interested in having a pitch in the Market Place get in contact with them at towncouncil@newbury.gov.uk or call 07399 122964 to find out more.

Newbury Town Council Saturday Surgery between 10 am and noon any week at the steps of the Town Hall.

Newbury’s two friendly community cafés on Wednesdays: Educafe Community Café in Newbury Library 11am to 2pm and Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate Pub 2pm to 5pm.

• Fair Close Centre on Newtown Road in Newbury provides a vital social hub and meals on wheels for over 65s, many of whom live on their own. Please support them here. Goodness knows we might all need their services in years to come.

The Community Larder at the Waterside Centre is open every Tuesday afternoon, 2pm to 4pm to provide members with surplus food, discounts for local businesses, access to other services and support, as well as a friendly community environment.

Dignity in Dying local West Berkshire group meets in Newbury Library.

•  Newbury Library offers free IT support sessions including filling out online forms, how to Zoom, downloading e-magazines or sorting out pictures. Bookable 30- or 60-minute sessions. To find out more or book a slot, email rav.gopal@westberks.gov.uk.

West Berkshire Library’s friendly At Home service delivers books in person on a three-weekly basis, free of charge if you can’t get into your local branch. Contact the At Home service on 01635 519827 or email library@westberks.gov.uk.


Local events and activities

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

• Dates for the diary

Every Wed: Educafe 11am to 2pm, Newbury Library

Every Wed: Speen Community Cafe, 2pm to 5pm The Starting Gate.

Sat 24 Feb Online West Berkshire Heritage Fair, Online.

Sun 25 Feb Newbury and Thatcham Repair Cafe, Newbury Methodist Church Hall.

Sun 25 Feb Eco Event, Fieldgate Centre, Kingsclere.

Sat 2 Mar Orchard Pruning Event, Barn Crescent, South Newbury, RG14 6HD.

Sat 2 Mar St David’s Day Concert with South Wales Male Choir, St Nic’s Church

 Regular events

A wide range of activities for over 55 year olds is offered by The Corn Exchange in its Ageing Creatively programme.

 Shaw House Community Garden drop-in gardening sessions Wednesday morning 9.30am to 12.30pm.. If you would like to join a session, please call Amy Bosley, 07553 810133 or email her.

Ukulele group workshops for all levels with the UTeam in Wash Common. Call 07963 647087 to enquire.

Salsa in Newbury courses for beginners and level 2/3 on Wednesday evenings at Newbury British Legion.

Regular youth activities at the Waterside Centre in central Newbury.

 Thatcham & Newbury Town Ladies and Girls FC Wildcats programme for girls aged 5 to 11 to get involved in football, promoting skill development, health, confidence and friendship. 6 to 7pm every Wednesday at Lower Way playing fields in Thatcham. Email thatcham.newbury.girls.fc.fdo@gmail.com to get involved.

• Newbury Park Run at Greenham Common at 9am every Saturday morning. Folks of all ages welcome to run/walk/jog the 5km. They also have volunteering opportunities. See details here.

 Newbury Women Football Club always welcomes new players. For more details click here or contact newburywomenfc@gmail.com.

• ACE Space on St Nicholas Road hosts live acoustic performances. Join their Facebook group or follow them on Twitter.

• Newbury Community Larder every Tuesday 2pm to 4pm at the Waterside Centre (down the canal from Costa Coffee on Northbrook Street). For more details please contact waterside@berkshireyouth.co.uk or call 01635 018500.

• Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesdays between 2pm to 5pm. Drop in for a chat or a cuppa, knitting and craft activities. You don’t have to live in Speen to join in. Follow them on facebook here.

• Educafe’s Community Cafe at Newbury Library every Wednesday between 11am and 2pm. If you would like to pop along for a friendly chat or to volunteer in the cafe please see their website for more details.

• Berkshire Youth‘s Waterside Centre in Newbury hosts various clubs and activities for local children and can provide volunteering opportunities for adults too.

 The Base, Greenham organise many art-focused events for people of all ages to let their creative sides go wild.


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. If the link is scored through this may be because draft minutes have been replaced by approved ones and the drafts file deleted. If so, please follow the links provided to the council’s website.

• The most recent meeting of Newbury Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 23 October and you can read the minutes here. Note that many matters are delegated to committees.
To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 29 January and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: planning matters; financial matters; the precept (£10,000) and budget; the neighbourhood development plan; and reports from the Councillors.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 24 January and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: financial matters; the budget and precept (£62,419); the Recreation Ground; the defibrillator; spear thistle in Stockcross; ward members’ reports; and flooding issues.
To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 17 January and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: matters arising; flooding; speeding; financial matters; reports from the ward members; planning matters; speeding; amenities, the litter pick (16 March); and the annual parish meeting (1 May).
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 16 January and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: actions from the previous meeting; planning matters; financial matters; the precept (£35,000) and the budget; the burial ground; a report from at the ward member; and damage at Oare Pond.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here to download the meeting schedule. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 8 November 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 Boxford Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 7 November 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 Hamstead Marshall Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 21 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click hereTo see minutes, please click here.

• Newbury area council contacts

Parishes: Newbury Town CouncilGreenham Parish CouncilChieveley Parish CouncilEnborne Parish CouncilBoxford Parish CouncilSpeen Parish Council,  Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council, and Hamstead Marshall 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 ValleyThatcham area; Compton and DownlandsBurghfield area; Wantage area; Marlborough area.

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

Thursday 15 February 2024

Our usual round-up of  local news includes an orchard, a choir, champions, apprentices, volunteers and snowdrops – plus welcome funding news for the Watermill and the launch of the Mayor’s raffle.  See also below for community notices and news from your local council.

Upcoming Newbury events include a retro show and a pruning event. See below for details, plus regular events and group activities.

• Funding the Watermill

The multi-award winning theatre in Bagnor – which was recently given the accolade of joint best theatre in the country at the 2024 Stage Awards – has recently received a major boost. The loss of Arts Council support last year led to a major fundraising drive. A recent statement announced that “Greenham Trust has added £20,000 to the match funding available via the Funding Alliance. The Alliance was established to support the Watermill following the news of its 100% funding cut by Arts Council, England.  Its support has underpinned the work in 2023

“This Alliance brings together The Headley Trust, The Bernard Sunley Foundation, Englefield Charitable Trust, Miss W E Lawrence 1973 Charitable Settlement, and Greenham Trust, to provide £78,000 of funding, pledged to match public donations made to The Watermill’s Communities Thriving through Culture campaign, via the funding alliance webpage on The Good Exchange.

PROPEL is The Watermill’s fundraising appeal supporting the theatre to continue its ambitious creative work and extensive community engagement programme as it transitions to an independent charity without statutory funding.” This campaign has raised over £42,000 to date – the next target, which Greenham Trust’s support will help it achieve, is to drive donations to reach the fundraising target of £116,000 by the end of March.

• Try your luck

Newbury Town Council has announced that the Mayor of Newbury has created an online raffle to help raise funds for the Mayor’s chosen charity, West Berkshire Homeless. “I would like to thank all the local businesses who have so generously donated some brilliant prizes,” Councillor Nigel Foot, the Mayor of Newbury said.

“By running this raffle, we are hoping to raise vital funds to support those in need in our community. Be in with a chance of winning some fantastic prizes, such as a speciality ‘Mayor’s tea & coffee hamper’, a day at the races for two at Newbury Racecourse, a bottle of bottle of Moet and Chandon Champagne, and more.”

The raffle will is now open and the draw will be made on Tuesday 2 April. Click here to take part – tickets cost £5 each. If you would like further information, or would like to enter and pay with cash, please contact the Mayor’s Office mayor@newbury.gov.uk or call 07538 334 106 or pop into the Town Hall.

• Other news

• Last week was National Apprenticeship Week and Newbury College celebrated by honouring the achievements of outstanding apprentices and employers in the area with their prestigious annual Apprenticeship Awards. This year also saw the launch of a vibrant new “Light the Way” campaign, featuring videos that aim to illuminate the path for future apprentices by showcasing real-life success stories. Click here to see the list of winners and learn more about the campaign.

Growing Newbury Green has announced new Orchard Pruning Events for 2024. The group has planted six community orchards across Newbury on Town Council managed land, to provide free fruit to anyone living locally as well as re-introduce old Berkshire bred varieties of apples. Their next pruning event will be at 10am on Saturday 17 February at Sayers Close Orchard (Greenham). Everyone is welcome to come along and learn about how to prune, no experience nessicary. Click here to learn more get in touch at orchards@hammondt.plus.com.

• As mentioned previously, West Berkshire Council’s announced the winners of its Community Champion Awards. The Council have uploaded some lovely photos of the the winners receiving their certificates as the award ceremony via their Facebook Page. Click here for more information.

• A new Rhyme Time for pre-school children is starting at Wash Common Library every Thursday afternoon at 3pm from Thursday 22 February.

Newbury Town Civic Awards have been launched for 2024 including a new Civic Award for Local Community.  The closing date for nominations is Sunday 25 February with the awards presentation taking place on Wednesday 13 March 2024. Click here for more information.

• The Volunteer Centre West Berkshire is offering a range of courses for volunteers, trustees, and anyone in the charity sector. Too see what courses they’re offering and to book a place, click here.

• A reminder that Newbury Rotary is welcoming back Cor Meibion De Cymru (The South Wales Male Choir) to perform a St David’s Day Grand Concert on Saturday 2 March to raise money for local charities including the West Berkshire Therapy Centre. Taking place at St Nicolas’ Church, you can book your tickets here.

Newbury Town Council’s February newsletter includes hedge planting success at Greenham House Gardens, launch of Newbury Town Civic Awards and a reminder that you can meet a councillor every Saturday 10am to 12noon on the Town Hall steps.

• Would you like to help inspire the future workforce? Education Business Partnership helps prepare our local young people for the world of work, and to do this EBP relies on the support of local businesses and professionals. If you would like to volunteer your expertise please see here for more details.

Congratulations to Newbury Town Council’s Green Spaces Working Group and HSS Sewa (Hindu Swayamesvak Sangh) who successfully planted 38 trees earlier this month at Hutton Close, including oak, goat willow, cherry, hornbeam and lime trees. See more details here.

• On the same theme, nominations are now open for BBC Radio’s Make a Difference Awards, celebrating local people who are going above and beyond. There are eight categories (including one for animals) and the deadline to make a nomination is Sunday 10 March.

• If you have children who need swimming lessons, take advantage of swimming crash course with Jo at GR Swimming School. Jo is a multi award-winning teacher and the lessons take place in the pool at Brockhurst School in Hermitage.

• Local charity the Eight Bells is on the hunt for enthusiastic volunteers to support them with food collections from local supermarkets. Volunteers would need to have access to a vehicle and be physically fit to load donations into your vehicle. The maximum time commitment would be roughly 1.5 hours per pick up. For more information and to register your interest please call 07387 962220 or email coordinator@eightbellsnewbury.co.uk.

• Richard Bobruki of Newbury Happening Now facebook group recently took a walk with his camera around the recently developed area of Weavers Yard between Market Street and the station.

• If you need to let off steam about Newbury’s current roadworks, join the Newbury Happening Now facebook group. See West Berkshire Council’s list of roads prioritised for improving here.

• For support and advice with any flooding issues in Newbury please join the Newbury Flood and Drainage Action Facebook Group.

• The snowdrops at Welford Park are now open Wednesday to Sunday with several plant sale dates up to Sunday 3 March. It makes a lovely local day out, especially when you pop into The Five Bells round the corner in Wickham for their special Snowdrops Menu.

The Green Hub on West Berkshire Council’s website is focused on helping people make more sustainable choices collectively along our journey to Net Zero, whether you live, work or learn in West Berkshire or are a business owner or visitor. The information covers energy efficiencytaking climate actioncommunity work and sustainable business.

• Quick reminder that local Ukraine support groups are appealing for candles to send to Ukraine, to be made into ‘trench candles’ to be sent to the frontline where they are for lighting, heating and cooking. If you can help, new or part-used candle donations can be dropped off at Waitrose in Newbury.

• Quick reminder about coping with winter weather: advice about flooding and how to stay safe in icy conditions and how to thaw frozen condensate pipe from your boiler.

• For the low-down on the local live music scene follow Sound Newbury’s facebook page

• Have your say

Have your say on current consultations being run by West Berkshire Council:

Parish and town councils also run consultations from time to time: see the appropriate website/s below under Council contacts.

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.

The Corn Exchange café bar on Thursday mornings between 10.30am and 12.30pm hosts Coffee Companions to meet new people and have a chat.

• Loose Ends drop-in centre at Newbury Cricket Ground welcome volunteers to join its friendly team. They offer hot meals and a safe and friendly environment for vulnerable people. More details and how to apply can be found here.

• Roadworks seem to be ongoing across the town…For up to date news and discussion it’s worth joining the Newbury.Happening now facebook group and its Newbury Traffic Live Updates chat group (on facebook messenger).

Printer ink cartridges can be recycled at the Waterside Youth Centre, which will help them raise money to fund local youth activities. You can find the donation box next to the blue reception desk. – 01635 018500

• Donations of second-hand bikes are always welcome at the Community Furniture Project in Newbury where they refurbish the bikes and sell them at affordable prices to people in need. – 01635 43933

• Newbury Market welcomes small business interested in having a pitch in the Market Place get in contact with them at towncouncil@newbury.gov.uk or call 07399 122964 to find out more.

Newbury Town Council Saturday Surgery between 10 am and noon any week at the steps of the Town Hall.

Newbury’s two friendly community cafés on Wednesdays: Educafe Community Café in Newbury Library 11am to 2pm and Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate Pub 2pm to 5pm.

• Fair Close Centre on Newtown Road in Newbury provides a vital social hub and meals on wheels for over 65s, many of whom live on their own. Please support them here. Goodness knows we might all need their services in years to come.

The Community Larder at the Waterside Centre is open every Tuesday afternoon, 2pm to 4pm to provide members with surplus food, discounts for local businesses, access to other services and support, as well as a friendly community environment.

Dignity in Dying local West Berkshire group meets in Newbury Library.

•  Newbury Library offers free IT support sessions including filling out online forms, how to Zoom, downloading e-magazines or sorting out pictures. Bookable 30- or 60-minute sessions. To find out more or book a slot, email rav.gopal@westberks.gov.uk.

West Berkshire Library’s friendly At Home service delivers books in person on a three-weekly basis, free of charge if you can’t get into your local branch. Contact the At Home service on 01635 519827 or email library@westberks.gov.uk.


Local events and activities

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

• Dates for the diary

Every Wed: Educafe 11am to 2pm, Newbury Library

Every Wed: Speen Community Cafe, 2pm to 5pm The Starting Gate.

Sat 17 Feb Newbury’s Premier Retro Show, Newbury Royal British Legion Club, Pelican Lane.

Sat 17 Feb Orchard Pruning Event, Sayer’s Close, Greenham, RG14 7UU.

Sat 24 Feb Online West Berkshire Heritage Fair, Online.

Sun 25 Feb Newbury and Thatcham Repair Cafe, Newbury Methodist Church Hall.

Sun 25 Feb Eco Event, Fieldgate Centre, Kingsclere.

Sat 2 Mar Orchard Pruning Event, Barn Crescent, South Newbury, RG14 6HD.

Sat 2 Mar St David’s Day Concert with South Wales Male Choir, St Nic’s Church

 Regular events

A wide range of activities for over 55 year olds is offered by The Corn Exchange in its Ageing Creatively programme.

 Shaw House Community Garden drop-in gardening sessions Wednesday morning 9.30am to 12.30pm.. If you would like to join a session, please call Amy Bosley, 07553 810133 or email her.

Ukulele group workshops for all levels with the UTeam in Wash Common. Call 07963 647087 to enquire.

Salsa in Newbury courses for beginners and level 2/3 on Wednesday evenings at Newbury British Legion.

Regular youth activities at the Waterside Centre in central Newbury.

 Thatcham & Newbury Town Ladies and Girls FC Wildcats programme for girls aged 5 to 11 to get involved in football, promoting skill development, health, confidence and friendship. 6 to 7pm every Wednesday at Lower Way playing fields in Thatcham. Email thatcham.newbury.girls.fc.fdo@gmail.com to get involved.

• Newbury Park Run at Greenham Common at 9am every Saturday morning. Folks of all ages welcome to run/walk/jog the 5km. They also have volunteering opportunities. See details here.

 Newbury Women Football Club always welcomes new players. For more details click here or contact newburywomenfc@gmail.com.

• ACE Space on St Nicholas Road hosts live acoustic performances. Join their Facebook group or follow them on Twitter.

• Newbury Community Larder every Tuesday 2pm to 4pm at the Waterside Centre (down the canal from Costa Coffee on Northbrook Street). For more details please contact waterside@berkshireyouth.co.uk or call 01635 018500.

• Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesdays between 2pm to 5pm. Drop in for a chat or a cuppa, knitting and craft activities. You don’t have to live in Speen to join in. Follow them on facebook here.

• Educafe’s Community Cafe at Newbury Library every Wednesday between 11am and 2pm. If you would like to pop along for a friendly chat or to volunteer in the cafe please see their website for more details.

• Berkshire Youth‘s Waterside Centre in Newbury hosts various clubs and activities for local children and can provide volunteering opportunities for adults too.

 The Base, Greenham organise many art-focused events for people of all ages to let their creative sides go wild.


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. If the link is scored through this may be because draft minutes have been replaced by approved ones and the drafts file deleted. If so, please follow the links provided to the council’s website.

• The most recent meeting of Newbury Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 23 October and you can read the minutes here. Note that many matters are delegated to committees.
To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 24 January and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: financial matters; the budget and precept (£62,419); the Recreation Ground; the defibrillator; spear thistle in Stockcross; ward members’ reports; and flooding issues.
To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 17 January and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: matters arising; flooding; speeding; financial matters; reports from the ward members; planning matters; speeding; amenities, the litter pick (16 March); and the annual parish meeting (1 May).
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 16 January and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: actions from the previous meeting; planning matters; financial matters; the precept (£35,000) and the budget; the burial ground; a report from at the ward member; and damage at Oare Pond.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here to download the meeting schedule. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 27 November 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 Greenham Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 8 November 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 Boxford Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 7 November 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 Hamstead Marshall Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 21 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click hereTo see minutes, please click here.

• Newbury area council contacts

Parishes: Newbury Town CouncilGreenham Parish CouncilChieveley Parish CouncilEnborne Parish CouncilBoxford Parish CouncilSpeen Parish Council,  Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council, and Hamstead Marshall 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 ValleyThatcham area; Compton and DownlandsBurghfield area; Wantage area; Marlborough area.

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

Thursday 8 February 2024

Our usual round-up of  local news includes making a difference, volunteers, 38 trees, snowdrops, flooding and sustainability – plus big congratulations to Speen Community Café, sponsorship opportunities for the Newbury Show and the Lions’ fireworks, and a sorry tale about local policing.  See also below for community notices and news from your local council.

Upcoming Newbury events include: Educafé and a retro show. See below for details, plus regular events and group activities.

• Policing in Newbury

An extraordinary story appeared on the BBC website on 30 January which was also picked up by Newbury Today. This concerned the case of police officers making “sickening comments about an assault victim while watching body-worn video showing her groin. The woman’s body was exposed when she was filmed suffering from a seizure. Three Thames Valley Police PCs later watched the footage without reason.”

The incident is bad enough: but what intrigues me is the fact that, according to the BBC, “none of the officers faced a misconduct hearing but a student officer who reported them was later dismissed.” The article described the pressure the student officer felt following reporting the incident and also that he was later “told he was not physically or mentally “fitted” to be a police constable and dismissed.”

I’m confused by this. The actions of the officers involved may not have broken any laws (although if this isn’t illegal perhaps it ought to be) but I can’t see any reason why they should not be reported. The Thames Valley Police seems to have at first adopted an excessively light-touch to the investigation. That has now changed, the BBC adding that “the policing regulator says Thames Valley Police should have reported the case for independent scrutiny. The force has now done so, following our investigation.”

I contacted the TVP Police and Crime Commissioner Matthew Barber on 7 February and received a very speedy response. “The allegations broadcast on the BBC on 30 January are incredibly concerning,” he told us, “not only about the misuse of body-worn video but the allegation that a whistle-blower was then dismissed for having made those reports. The Force’s position is that the officer was dismissed on entirely separate grounds having been given a different supervisor.” This qualification leaves open the question of whether this is also Matthew Barber’s view.

“These allegations run completely contrary to the culture I would expect from Thames Valley Police and will inevitably impact public confidence,” he continues. “I have asked the Chief Constable for a full written explanation of the events surrounding these allegations and the safeguarding of whistle-blowers. The matter has been referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC)”

I’m unclear what message this sends out. Aren’t we all regularly encouraged to report matters of public order or potential law-breaking to the Police? Do we expect to lose our jobs as a result? Yes, I know that the reporting and the sacking were not accepted as being connected by TVP but it’s hard to believe this. As for “not being mentally or physically fitted”, I can’t comment on what defects the student officer may have had. However, to report such an incident seemed like the action of a good cop. Whether there were any bad cops in this is for the IOPC to decide.

• Speen Community receives well deserved recognition

Big congratulations to Speen Community Café for its recent Community Group of the Year West Berkshire Champions Award.

“Speen is just far out of Newbury town centre to make it hard for less able residents and busy parents with young children to access resources and support,” organiser Kerry Bird told Penny Post. “I wanted to get people together, especially those who live alone, to help create a sense of community in Brummell Grove estate where I have lived for nearly 20 years. Thanks to getting to know each other at the cafe, people now recognise each other on the street and support each other by things like offering lifts to hospital.

“I’d like to thank Sian Cousins at The Starting Gate who has welcomed us with open arms, all the wonderful cafe volunteers who work tirelessly, week after week, after week. We regularly get 50 to 70 guests each Wednesday and are proud to be encouraging community connections. We offer crafts, refreshments, board games, cooking, crochet and sewing workshops, interesting and varied talks and music from the singers and musicians who perform. Speen St Mary’s Church is very supportive and we have had a generous grant from the Co-op.”

“Absolutely everyone of every age is welcome (you don’t have to live in Speen) at the cafe every Wednesday 2 to 4pm at The Starting Gate pub. We are always looking for donations of volunteer time, money or cake.” Please follow us on facebook or contact Kerry on speencommunitycafe@gmail.com or 07460 486162 if you can help.

• The future of fireworks

Newbury Lions annual fireworks event at Newbury Racecourse is its biggest fundraiser of the year. “In 2021 and 2022 the fireworks made £30,000 to £40,000 which has been given out in welfare fund grants requested by local organisations, social services and health visitors,” explains Lions president Margo Payne. “When I first started in Lions in 2018/19 we used to get four or five requests a month – now we get 15 and we have to prioritise them, for instance a family with pre-school children will get a carpet before families with school age children.

“Unfortunately 2023 saw a drop in our fireworks ticket sales, due to unforeseen circumstances. At the same time the cost of fireworks is going up so the running cost of the evening is £20,000. That’s why we are looking for £10,000 from corporate sponsors. The cost of the event sounds a lot and people may ask why we don’t just give the £20,000 away. But then that would be it, we wouldn’t be able to raise any more money from the fireworks event which could make us a profit of £20,000 every year to give away.”

If you can help with sponsorship, please contact Margo on president@newburylions.org.uk or 07748 765 759.

• Sponsoring the Show

The Newbury Show is back on 21 and 22 September and there are plenty of ways of getting involved.

“As well as the trade stands,” a recent statement from the organisers, NADAS, says, “we have various sponsorship opportunities to raise your profile with brand awareness to those gathered at the show across the weekend. To spread the reach even further, you could also benefit from various marketing activities associated with the event across various platforms and media outlets in the build up, during and post event with our marketing extending to Berkshire, Wiltshire, Hampshire, Oxfordshire and beyond.”

Please contact nadas@nadas.co.uk for a copy of the sponsorship brochure, which includes details of opportunities at a wide range of budgets.

• Other news

Newbury Town Council’s February newsletter includes hedge planting success at Greenham House Gardens, launch of Newbury Town Civic Awards and a reminder that you can meet a councillor every Saturday 10am to 12noon on the Town Hall steps.

Newbury Town Council’s Green Spaces Working Group, together with HSS Sewa (Hindu Swayamesvak Sangh), successfully planted 38 trees in early February at Hutton Close. These included oak, goat willow, cherry, hornbeam and limes. 30 of the trees planted were kindly sponsored by Greenham Trust, three ash trees were donated by members of the public and five of the hornbeam and limes were sponsored directly by HSS Sewa. Click here for more.

• Newbury Rotary is delighted to be welcoming back Cor Meibion De Cymru (The South Wales Male Choir) to perform a St David’s Day Grand Concert on Saturday 2 March to raise money for local charities including the West Berkshire Therapy Centre. Taking place at St Nicolas’ Church, the programme will include favourites of light, traditional and classical music. Book your tickets here.

Congratulations to Newbury Town Council’s Green Spaces Working Group and HSS Sewa (Hindu Swayamesvak Sangh) who successfully planted 38 trees last weekend at Hutton Close, including oak, goat willow, cherry, hornbeam and lime trees. See more details here.

Newbury Town Civic Awards have been launched for 2024 including a new Civic Award for Local Community Groups so that larger organisations involving many individuals can be thanked for their contribution to Newbury.  The closing date for nominations of individuals, businesses and groups is Sunday 25 February with the awards presentation taking place on Wednesday 13 March 2024. Click here for more information.

• On the same theme, nominations are now open for BBC Radio’s Make a Difference Awards, celebrating local people who are going above and beyond. There are eight categories (including one for animals) and the deadline to make a nomination is Sunday 10 March.

• If you have children who need swimming lessons, take advantage of swimming crash course this half term with Jo at GR Swimming School. Jo is a multi award-winning teacher and the lessons take place in the pool at Brockhurst School in Hermitage.

• Local charity the Eight Bells is on the hunt for enthusiastic volunteers to support them with food collections from local supermarkets. Volunteers would need to have access to a vehicle and be physically fit to load donations into your vehicle. The maximum time commitment would be roughly 1.5 hours per pick up. For more information and to register your interest please call 07387 962220 or email coordinator@eightbellsnewbury.co.uk.

• Many congratulations to the winners of West Berkshire Council’s Community Champion Awards. Click here to see the winners, and thank you for all your hard work in the community. 

• Richard Bobruki of Newbury Happening Now facebook group recently took a walk with his camera around the recently developed area of Weavers Yard between Market Street and the station.

• The Volunteer Centre West Berkshire is offering a range of courses for volunteers, trustees, and anyone in the charity sector. Upcoming courses/workshops include:  Suicide Prevention Course, Online Meet The Funder, Sovereign Network Group (formerly Sovereign Housing Association),  The National Lottery Community Fund presentation, Money Matters Workshop and The Media Clinic With Dynamiq. If any of these interest you, you can book a place here.

• If you need to let off steam about Newbury’s current roadworks, join the Newbury Happening Now facebook group. See West Berkshire Council’s list of roads prioritised for improving here.

• For support and advice with any flooding issues in Newbury please join the Newbury Flood and Drainage Action Facebook Group.

• The snowdrops at Welford Park are now open Wednesday to Sunday with several plant sale dates up to Sunday 3 March. It makes a lovely local day out, especially when you pop into The Five Bells round the corner in Wickham for their special Snowdrops Menu.

The Green Hub on West Berkshire Council’s website is focused on helping people make more sustainable choices collectively along our journey to Net Zero, whether you live, work or learn in West Berkshire or are a business owner or visitor. The information covers energy efficiencytaking climate actioncommunity work and sustainable business.

• Quick reminder that local Ukraine support groups are appealing for candles to send to Ukraine, to be made into ‘trench candles’ to be sent to the frontline where they are for lighting, heating and cooking. If you can help, new or part-used candle donations can be dropped off at Waitrose in Newbury.

• Quick reminder about coping with winter weather: advice about flooding and how to stay safe in icy conditions and how to thaw frozen condensate pipe from your boiler.

• For the low-down on the local live music scene follow Sound Newbury’s facebook page

• Have your say

Have your say on current consultations being run by West Berkshire Council:

Parish and town councils also run consultations from time to time: see the appropriate website/s below under Council contacts.

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.

The Corn Exchange café bar on Thursday mornings between 10.30am and 12.30pm hosts Coffee Companions to meet new people and have a chat.

• Loose Ends drop-in centre at Newbury Cricket Ground welcome volunteers to join its friendly team. They offer hot meals and a safe and friendly environment for vulnerable people. More details and how to apply can be found here.

• Roadworks seem to be ongoing across the town…For up to date news and discussion it’s worth joining the Newbury.Happening now facebook group and its Newbury Traffic Live Updates chat group (on facebook messenger).

Printer ink cartridges can be recycled at the Waterside Youth Centre, which will help them raise money to fund local youth activities. You can find the donation box next to the blue reception desk. – 01635 018500

• Donations of second-hand bikes are always welcome at the Community Furniture Project in Newbury where they refurbish the bikes and sell them at affordable prices to people in need. – 01635 43933

• Newbury Market welcomes small business interested in having a pitch in the Market Place get in contact with them at towncouncil@newbury.gov.uk or call 07399 122964 to find out more.

Newbury Town Council Saturday Surgery between 10 am and noon any week at the steps of the Town Hall.

Newbury’s two friendly community cafés on Wednesdays: Educafe Community Café in Newbury Library 11am to 2pm and Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate Pub 2pm to 5pm.

• Fair Close Centre on Newtown Road in Newbury provides a vital social hub and meals on wheels for over 65s, many of whom live on their own. Please support them here. Goodness knows we might all need their services in years to come.

The Community Larder at the Waterside Centre is open every Tuesday afternoon, 2pm to 4pm to provide members with surplus food, discounts for local businesses, access to other services and support, as well as a friendly community environment.

Dignity in Dying local West Berkshire group meets in Newbury Library.

•  Newbury Library offers free IT support sessions including filling out online forms, how to Zoom, downloading e-magazines or sorting out pictures. Bookable 30- or 60-minute sessions. To find out more or book a slot, email rav.gopal@westberks.gov.uk.

West Berkshire Library’s friendly At Home service delivers books in person on a three-weekly basis, free of charge if you can’t get into your local branch. Contact the At Home service on 01635 519827 or email library@westberks.gov.uk.


Local events and activities

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

• Dates for the diary

Every Wed: Educafe 11am to 2pm, Newbury Library

Every Wed: Speen Community Cafe, 2pm to 5pm The Starting Gate.

Sat 10 Feb No Mo Chemo Show (Charity Show), The Corn Exchange Newbury.

Wed 14 Feb The Little Mermaid Community Production, The Corn Exchange Newbury.

Sat 17 Feb Newbury’s Premier Retro Show, Newbury Royal British Legion Club, Pelican Lane.

Sun 25 Feb Newbury and Thatcham Repair Cafe, Newbury Methodist Church Hall.

Sun 25 Feb Eco Event, Fieldgate Centre, Kingsclere.

Sat 2 Mar St David’s Day Concert with South Wales Male Choir, St Nic’s Church

 Regular events

A wide range of activities for over 55 year olds is offered by The Corn Exchange in its Ageing Creatively programme.

 Shaw House Community Garden drop-in gardening sessions Wednesday morning 9.30am to 12.30pm.. If you would like to join a session, please call Amy Bosley, 07553 810133 or email her.

Ukulele group workshops for all levels with the UTeam in Wash Common. Call 07963 647087 to enquire.

Salsa in Newbury courses for beginners and level 2/3 on Wednesday evenings at Newbury British Legion.

Regular youth activities at the Waterside Centre in central Newbury.

 Thatcham & Newbury Town Ladies and Girls FC Wildcats programme for girls aged 5 to 11 to get involved in football, promoting skill development, health, confidence and friendship. 6 to 7pm every Wednesday at Lower Way playing fields in Thatcham. Email thatcham.newbury.girls.fc.fdo@gmail.com to get involved.

• Newbury Park Run at Greenham Common at 9am every Saturday morning. Folks of all ages welcome to run/walk/jog the 5km. They also have volunteering opportunities. See details here.

 Newbury Women Football Club always welcomes new players. For more details click here or contact newburywomenfc@gmail.com.

• ACE Space on St Nicholas Road hosts live acoustic performances. Join their Facebook group or follow them on Twitter.

• Newbury Community Larder every Tuesday 2pm to 4pm at the Waterside Centre (down the canal from Costa Coffee on Northbrook Street). For more details please contact waterside@berkshireyouth.co.uk or call 01635 018500.

• Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesdays between 2pm to 5pm. Drop in for a chat or a cuppa, knitting and craft activities. You don’t have to live in Speen to join in. Follow them on facebook here.

• Educafe’s Community Cafe at Newbury Library every Wednesday between 11am and 2pm. If you would like to pop along for a friendly chat or to volunteer in the cafe please see their website for more details.

• Berkshire Youth‘s Waterside Centre in Newbury hosts various clubs and activities for local children and can provide volunteering opportunities for adults too.

 The Base, Greenham organise many art-focused events for people of all ages to let their creative sides go wild.


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. If the link is scored through this may be because draft minutes have been replaced by approved ones and the drafts file deleted. If so, please follow the links provided to the council’s website.

• The most recent meeting of Newbury Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 23 October and you can read the minutes here. Note that many matters are delegated to committees.
To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 24 January and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: financial matters; the budget and precept (£62,419); the Recreation Ground; the defibrillator; spear thistle in Stockcross; ward members’ reports; and flooding issues.
To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 17 January and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: matters arising; flooding; speeding; financial matters; reports from the ward members; planning matters; speeding; amenities, the litter pick (16 March); and the annual parish meeting (1 May).
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 16 January and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: actions from the previous meeting; planning matters; financial matters; the precept (£35,000) and the budget; the burial ground; a report from at the ward member; and damage at Oare Pond.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here to download the meeting schedule. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 27 November 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 Greenham Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 8 November 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 Boxford Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 7 November 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 Hamstead Marshall Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 21 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click hereTo see minutes, please click here.

• Newbury area council contacts

Parishes: Newbury Town CouncilGreenham Parish CouncilChieveley Parish CouncilEnborne Parish CouncilBoxford Parish CouncilSpeen Parish Council,  Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council, and Hamstead Marshall 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 ValleyThatcham area; Compton and DownlandsBurghfield area; Wantage area; Marlborough area.

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

Thursday 1 February 2024

Our usual round-up of  local news includes music, teens, civic awards, candles and creativity – plus a look at the Watermill Bridge development just across the state line which has passed on appeal and flooding issues in Speen.  See also below for community notices and news from your local council.

Upcoming Newbury events include: books, jazz and The Little Mermaid. See below for details, plus regular events and group activities.

• Watermill Bridge

Earlier this week, it was announced that an appeal against Basingstoke & Deane (B&D) Council’s refusal of a planning application for Bewley Homes’ development at Watermill Bridge in Wash Water had been granted by the Planning Inspector. The plans were originally lodged in late 2021. You can see the details of the original application (21/03394/OUT) here and the Planning Inspector’s appeal decision notice here.

This development is complicated by the fact that, although it’s in B&D, the development will for all practical purposes form a southern suburb of Newbury in West Berkshire. WBC is expected to get about £2m of the CIL revenue to help mitigate the effects as well as other benefits (and obligations) as provided in a unilateral undertaking involving B&D and Hampshire CCC. “Unilateral” is a strange term to describe an agreement between three parties but, I guess, that’s the planning system for you.

As with all such applications, differing views exist. The Enborne River Valley Preservation Society’s reaction was one of “deep regret and profound disappointment” and a statement adds that it “starkly exposes a worrying neglect for the health and integrity of both our cherished local environment and community.” It claims that the development is “unsustainable and unnecessary.”

It also suggests that “the appeal should not be misconstrued as an endorsement of the project’s merits. Instead, it reflects the local council’s failure to demonstrate an adequate five-year land supply.” In section 114 (not a number that most councils enjoy seeing at present) of the the decision, the Inspector also said that B&D had fallen short of affordable housing target.

I put the point about the land supply to B&D Councillor John Izzet in whose ward this “calamitous” development as he describes it ,will be built. He was concerned that the inspector seemed to have ignored Michael Gove’s instruction in late 2023 that a four-year supply (which B&D has) should be used as the test of a planning authority’s ability to provide housing, rather than the previous five-year one; also that insufficient weight was accorded to the East Woodhay NDP which, now having been made, is part of B&D’s local plan. This is, he pointed out in the process of being refreshed and has reached the public consultation (Reg 18) stage.

This is, unfortunately for the objectors, not quite far enough round the track for the Inspector to regard its provisions as being material. Local plans are always at their most vulnerable in the later stages of their life – much as are elderly zebras or impalas when the lions start circling, and for much the same reasons. This is compounded if the the land-supply figures are at the bottom of the safe level, howsoever defined by Whitehall. For the developers, therefore, this appeal happened at just the right time.

John Izett was also concerned, as were others, about access and other highways issues, flooding and the threat to the AONB. This latter point is a contentious and subjective one, the main consideration being that development can only happen in “exceptional” circumstances.

By its nature, “exceptional” can’t be defined as it hasn’t happened before, which leaves planners, committees and inspectors considerable leeway in interpreting it. The experience in Hungerford with the Lancaster Park site (another Bewley project) suggests that the “exceptional” test can be met if the site is, although in the AONB, adjacent or very close to existing development (in the AONB or not). If so, this means that encroachment will happen by a slow extension of, as it were, an existing landmass of development rather than by the creation of islands. This provides some protection though not all that supporters of the AONB’s status would wish.

Understandably, the developers’ reaction to the decision was considerably more upbeat. “As a local housebuilder, we are delighted to be able to deliver this scheme which will be a flagship for Bewley in terms of our eco credentials,” the MD of Baughurst-based Bewley Homes told Penny Post. “The scheme not only provides much needed energy-efficient housing and community facilities, but also supports the economy and provides jobs for so many local people.”

The statement also refers to “over 20% increase in biodiversity”, a convenience store, community building, healthcare facility, homes for older people and “a 2km segregated footway and cycleway from the site to join the existing network in central Newbury.”

The statement also refers to B&D’s current land and housing performance, observing that “the Inspector gave significant weight in his decision to the provision of both market and affordable housing in the face of the council failing to maintain a minimum five-year supply of new housing.”

Whether or not the points that John Izett made about the Michael Gove’s change of policy and the West Woodhay NDP will constitute a grounds for a judicial review remain to be seen. The bar tend to be set quite low for entry to this part of the legal casino but is raised considerably when it comes to proving a case.

The opponents will be poring over the Inspector’s report for any possible weaknesses or inconsistencies and also wondering if or how the five-figure sum can be raised to launch a review. If this doesn’t happen then work could start quite soon. The appeal approval gives the green light for an initial 82 homes with an application for the remaining 190-odd expected to be made in the next few months.

• Flooding issues in Speen

Ward members Antony Amirtharaj and Martha Vickers recently sent a letter to Speen residents. This started off by expressing their “sorrow for the inconvenience, loss, and emotional toll of flooded houses and properties. We want to assure you that we are doing everything in our power to help.”

“While this natural disaster presented exceptional challenges, “the letter continues, “with pro-active measures, most of our existing infrastructure held strong, preventing widespread flooding in residential areas. However, there are lessons to be learned. West Berkshire Council, alongside the Environment Agency, will now undertake statutory Section 19 and Section 18 investigations under the Flood Risk Management Act. This investigation will delve into the root causes, impacted properties and potential mitigation strategies for the future.

They then list a number of flooding reports which they have received and ask resident to contact them if they have been affected by flooding: “please identify if this was internal living space flooding, or external flooding to property, outhouses, or gardens. Together, with the council officers and portfolio lead, we are determined to review the causes and, most importantly, look to champion effective mitigation measures to prevent future flooding through this investigation and flood forums.

“We will keep you updated on the investigation’s progress and any developments in flood mitigation strategies,” the letter concludes. “In the meantime, please take the opportunity to review the National Flood Forum’s website on what residents can do to best protect their property against the effects of flooding.”

You can contact Antony Amirtharaj and Martha Vickers – and any other WBC councillor/s – by visiting this page onWBC’s website.

• Other news

• The Newbury Town Civic Awards have been launched for 2024, celebrating achievements, honouring volunteers and recognising those who make a difference in our community. This year there will be five categories of awards including the new award of Local Community Group Civic Award. The closing date for nominations is Sunday 25 February with the awards presentation taking place on Wednesday 13 March 2024. Click here for more information.

• West Berkshire Council has announced the winners of the Community Champion Awards: Gillian Hornzee (Volunteer of the Year), Susan Cocker (Lifetime Achievement Award), Speen Community Café (Community Group of the Year) and Thrishathi Srinivasan (The Pat Eastop MBE Junior Citizen of the Year Award). Many congratulations to all the winners who will receive their awards at a ceremony at Shaw House on 5 February, and thank you for all your hard work in the community.
• Would you like to develop skills in AI and Machine Learning and understand how it can help your business? University Centre Newbury has a few free places still available on its a fully-funded, comprehensive 8-week course beginning on Thursday 8 February, structured to cater to the needs of both in-person and online learners. Book your free place here.

• The Volunteer Centre West Berkshire is offering a range of courses for volunteers, trustees, and anyone in the charity sector. Upcoming courses/workshops include:  Suicide Prevention Course, Online Meet The Funder, Sovereign Network Group (formerly Sovereign Housing Association),  The National Lottery Community Fund presentation, Money Matters Workshop and The Media Clinic With Dynamiq. If any of these interest you, you can book a place here.

• Does your teenager struggle with anxiety or stress? New drop-in Creative Relaxation for Teens sessions at Newbury Library might help. They start at 3.45pm on Wednesday 7 February and need to be pre-booked here. Suggested donation £5. The activities are led by qualified secondary school teacher Libby from Magpie and the Mob, and organised by Educafe.

Newbury Pride‘s first social of 2024 is on Friday 2 February, at the Bacon Arms from 7:30pm. The venue is accessible, safe and LGBTQT+ friendly. New faces are always welcome. Email hello@newburypride.org.uk to learn more.

• If you need to let off steam about Newbury’s current roadworks, join the Newbury Happening Now facebook group. See West Berkshire Council’s list of roads prioritised for improving here.

• For support and advice with any flooding issues in Newbury please join the Newbury Flood and Drainage Action Facebook Group.

• The snowdrops at Welford Park are now open Wednesday to Sunday with several plant sale dates up to Sunday 3 March. It makes a lovely local day out, especially when you pop into The Five Bells round the corner in Wickham for their special Snowdrops Menu.

The Green Hub on West Berkshire Council’s website is focused on helping people make more sustainable choices collectively along our journey to Net Zero, whether you live, work or learn in West Berkshire or are a business owner or visitor. The information covers energy efficiencytaking climate actioncommunity work and sustainable business.

• Quick reminder that local Ukraine support groups are appealing for candles to send to Ukraine, to be made into ‘trench candles’ to be sent to the frontline where they are for lighting, heating and cooking. If you can help, new or part-used candle donations can be dropped off at Waitrose in Newbury.

• City Arts Newbury are launching Creative Thursdays, a free 10 week art course aimed at over 65s who live alone, to boost creativity and meet local people. No previous experience is necessary. To book a place e-mail info@cityartsnewbury.org. The course starts on Thursday 8 February and continues until the end of May (although you don’t have to attend every session).

• Quick reminder about coping with winter weather: advice about flooding and how to stay safe in icy conditions and how to thaw frozen condensate pipe from your boiler.

• For the low-down on the local live music scene follow Sound Newbury’s facebook page

• Have your say

Have your say on current consultations being run by West Berkshire Council:

Parish and town councils also run consultations from time to time: see the appropriate website/s below under Council contacts.

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.

The Corn Exchange café bar on Thursday mornings between 10.30am and 12.30pm hosts Coffee Companions to meet new people and have a chat.

• Loose Ends drop-in centre at Newbury Cricket Ground welcome volunteers to join its friendly team. They offer hot meals and a safe and friendly environment for vulnerable people. More details and how to apply can be found here.

• Roadworks seem to be ongoing across the town…For up to date news and discussion it’s worth joining the Newbury.Happening now facebook group and its Newbury Traffic Live Updates chat group (on facebook messenger).

Printer ink cartridges can be recycled at the Waterside Youth Centre, which will help them raise money to fund local youth activities. You can find the donation box next to the blue reception desk. – 01635 018500

• Donations of second-hand bikes are always welcome at the Community Furniture Project in Newbury where they refurbish the bikes and sell them at affordable prices to people in need. – 01635 43933

• Newbury Market welcomes small business interested in having a pitch in the Market Place get in contact with them at towncouncil@newbury.gov.uk or call 07399 122964 to find out more.

Newbury Town Council Saturday Surgery between 10 am and noon any week at the steps of the Town Hall.

Newbury’s two friendly community cafés on Wednesdays: Educafe Community Café in Newbury Library 11am to 2pm and Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate Pub 2pm to 5pm.

• Fair Close Centre on Newtown Road in Newbury provides a vital social hub and meals on wheels for over 65s, many of whom live on their own. Please support them here. Goodness knows we might all need their services in years to come.

The Community Larder at the Waterside Centre is open every Tuesday afternoon, 2pm to 4pm to provide members with surplus food, discounts for local businesses, access to other services and support, as well as a friendly community environment.

Dignity in Dying local West Berkshire group meets in Newbury Library.

•  Newbury Library offers free IT support sessions including filling out online forms, how to Zoom, downloading e-magazines or sorting out pictures. Bookable 30- or 60-minute sessions. To find out more or book a slot, email rav.gopal@westberks.gov.uk.

West Berkshire Library’s friendly At Home service delivers books in person on a three-weekly basis, free of charge if you can’t get into your local branch. Contact the At Home service on 01635 519827 or email library@westberks.gov.uk.


Local events and activities

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

• Dates for the diary

Every Wed: Educafe 11am to 2pm, Newbury Library

Every Wed: Speen Community Cafe, 2pm to 5pm The Starting Gate.

Sat 3 Feb Fundraising Book Sale, Wash Common Library

Sun 4 Feb The Pete Allen Jazz Band, Newbury.

Sat 10 Feb No Mo Chemo Show (Charity Show), The Corn Exchange Newbury.

Wed 14 Feb The Little Mermaid Community Production, The Corn Exchange Newbury.

Sun 25 Feb Newbury and Thatcham Repair Cafe, Newbury Methodist Church Hall.

Sun 25 Feb Eco Event, Fieldgate Centre, Kingsclere.

 Regular events

A wide range of activities for over 55 year olds is offered by The Corn Exchange in its Ageing Creatively programme.

 Shaw House Community Garden drop-in gardening sessions Wednesday morning 9.30am to 12.30pm.. If you would like to join a session, please call Amy Bosley, 07553 810133 or email her.

Ukulele group workshops for all levels with the UTeam in Wash Common. Call 07963 647087 to enquire.

Salsa in Newbury courses for beginners and level 2/3 on Wednesday evenings at Newbury British Legion.

Regular youth activities at the Waterside Centre in central Newbury.

 Thatcham & Newbury Town Ladies and Girls FC Wildcats programme for girls aged 5 to 11 to get involved in football, promoting skill development, health, confidence and friendship. 6 to 7pm every Wednesday at Lower Way playing fields in Thatcham. Email thatcham.newbury.girls.fc.fdo@gmail.com to get involved.

• Newbury Park Run at Greenham Common at 9am every Saturday morning. Folks of all ages welcome to run/walk/jog the 5km. They also have volunteering opportunities. See details here.

 Newbury Women Football Club always welcomes new players. For more details click here or contact newburywomenfc@gmail.com.

• ACE Space on St Nicholas Road hosts live acoustic performances. Join their Facebook group or follow them on Twitter.

• Newbury Community Larder every Tuesday 2pm to 4pm at the Waterside Centre (down the canal from Costa Coffee on Northbrook Street). For more details please contact waterside@berkshireyouth.co.uk or call 01635 018500.

• Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesdays between 2pm to 5pm. Drop in for a chat or a cuppa, knitting and craft activities. You don’t have to live in Speen to join in. Follow them on facebook here.

• Educafe’s Community Cafe at Newbury Library every Wednesday between 11am and 2pm. If you would like to pop along for a friendly chat or to volunteer in the cafe please see their website for more details.

• Berkshire Youth‘s Waterside Centre in Newbury hosts various clubs and activities for local children and can provide volunteering opportunities for adults too.

 The Base, Greenham organise many art-focused events for people of all ages to let their creative sides go wild.


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. If the link is scored through this may be because draft minutes have been replaced by approved ones and the drafts file deleted. If so, please follow the links provided to the council’s website.

• The most recent meeting of Newbury Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 23 October and you can read the minutes here. Note that many matters are delegated to committees.
To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 24 January and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: financial matters; the budget and precept (£62,419); the Recreation Ground; the defibrillator; spear thistle in Stockcross; ward members’ reports; and flooding issues.
To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 17 January and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: matters arising; flooding; speeding; financial matters; reports from the ward members; planning matters; speeding; amenities, the litter pick (16 March); and the annual parish meeting (1 May).
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 27 November 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 Chieveley Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 11 November and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here to download the meeting schedule. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 8 November 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 Boxford Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 7 November 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 Hamstead Marshall Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 21 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click hereTo see minutes, please click here.

• Newbury area council contacts

Parishes: Newbury Town CouncilGreenham Parish CouncilChieveley Parish CouncilEnborne Parish CouncilBoxford Parish CouncilSpeen Parish Council,  Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council, and Hamstead Marshall 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 ValleyThatcham area; Compton and DownlandsBurghfield area; Wantage area; Marlborough area.

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

Thursday 25 January 2024

Our usual round-up of  local news includes fundraising, sandbags, AI, Newbury Show, creative Thursdays and candles – plus a look at recent road digging, Garry moves on from the VCWB, a new home for West Berkshire Action for Refugees , snowdrops and green-fingered volunteers.  See also below for community notices and news from your local council.

Upcoming Newbury events include: hedgerow planting and charity show. See below for details, plus regular events and group activities.

This week’s news

• West Berkshire Council has announced that it has secured a £1.3 million grant from the government to go towards highway maintenance. The funding is courtesy of the Department for Transport and will be used for various highways maintenance and improvement initiatives such as filling potholes, resurfacing, the installation of new road markings, and the replacement of traffic signs and signals. The council have a list of roads which they will be prioritising on improving, which can be found here.

• Newbury Show is back for 2024 on Saturday 21 and Sunday 22 September. For the latest news, including information about sponsorship opportunities, ticket offers and stall-holder bookings, please click here. Please note that Super Early Bird trade stand prices are only available until 31 January.

• Would you like to develop skills in AI and Machine Learning? University Centre Newbury has introduced a fully-funded, comprehensive 8-week course designed to equip adults with these cutting-edge digital skills. Beginning on Thursday 8 February, the course is structured to cater to the needs of both in-person and online learners. Book your free place here.

Wash Common Library is hosting a fundraising Book Sale on Saturday 3 February. Help them raise money to keep the library open by buying our excess stock books on sale including nearly new books, childrens books (fiction and non fiction), adult paperback (fiction) and adult hardback (fiction and non fiction). For more information please email friendsofwclibrary@gmail.com.

Newbury Pride will be holding its first social of 2024 on Friday 2 February, at the Bacon Arms from 7:30pm. The venue is accessible, safe and LGBTQT+ friendly. New faces are always welcome. Email hello@newburypride.org.uk to learn more.

• In the wake of Dame Esther Rantzen’s decision to join Dignitas, there has been a notable surge in both political and public interest surrounding the subject of assisted dying. More information is available from our local Dignity in Dying group that meets in Newbury Library.

West Berkshire Council will not be collecting sandbags resulting from the recent floods. The Council will, however, accept them at its Padworth and Newbury Household Waste Recycling Centres as follows: sand to Area 1 Soil and Hardcore Bin and empty bags to the Energy Recovery Bin in Area 2 (Padworth) or Area 3 (Newbury).

• Did you know that if someone is unable to get to one of West Berkshire Library’s Branches, their friendly At Home service delivers books in person on a three-weekly basis, free of charge? Whether it be because of personal circumstances, age, disability or for some other reason, please ring the At Home service on 01635 519827 or email library@westberks.gov.uk.

• If you need to let off steam about Newbury’s current roadworks, join the Newbury Happening Now facebook group.

• For support and advice with any flooding issues in Newbury please join the Newbury Flood and Drainage Action Facebook Group.

• Local Ukraine support groups are appealing for candles to send to Ukraine. Some candles will be sent direct to Ukraine, while others will be made into ‘trench candles’ to send to the frontline where they are used during the harsh winter weather for lighting, heating and cooking. If you can help, new or part-used candle donations can be dropped off at Waitrose in Newbury.

• City Arts Newbury are holding Creative Thursdays, a free 10 week art course aimed at over 65s who live alone to boost creativity and meet local people. No previous experience is necessary. To book a place e-mail info@cityartsnewbury.org. The course starts on Thursday 8 February and continues until the end of May (although you don’t have to attend every session).

• Quick reminder about coping with winter weather: advice about flooding and how to stay safe in icy conditions and how to thaw frozen condensate pipe from your boiler.

• Quick reminder that Thatcham Refillable is collecting empty sweet and cracker tubs until 3o January for the Tub2Pub scheme that raises money for Macmillan cancer. Contact Jenny and Tom at Thatcham Refillable to find out where to drop off your tubs or if they can collect they from you. The tubs will be taken to The Bear Hotel in Hungerford, part of the Greene King chain that organises the scheme.

• For the low-down on the local live music scene follow Sound Newbury’s facebook page

• Digging up the roads

Traffic jams in our towns and cities are bad enough even when there are no obvious roadworks. When there are, vehicles can slow to crawling speeds (if that fast). There are also the familiar frustrations of closures which seem to have no one working on them and of ones which over-run. This has been particularly an issue in Newbury. Motorists will not need reminding of the many weeks of closures in the King’s Road area over the last five months which caused a lot of delays and frustrations. Many felt that the repairs lasted far longer than they needed to.

In another government announcement calculated to catch the pre-election eye, the Minister for Roads Guy Opperman, has promised a plan to crack down on utility companies over-running. Increasing fines could, he claims, generate £100m a year “to resurface roads and tackle potholes left behind by utility companies, while helping tackle congestion, cutting down journey times and make driving a bit easier.” That’s not all. This is part of the government’s Plan for Drivers – a 30-point plan, no less – “to support freedom to use your cars, curb unnecessary enforcement and back drivers.” The Conservative party is clearly positioning itself as the motorist’s mate.

I spoke to WBC’s Environment Service Director Jon Winstanley to find out what the current regulations work is, about which many are unclear. “West Berkshire Council has a duty under the Traffic Management Act to coordinate activities on the Public Highway and we have a team of officers dedicated to this,” he told me. “We run a permit scheme to control when and how utilities access the highway and we cannot unreasonably deny access. To give you an idea of the scale of activity s, we receive on average about 1,000 permit requests a month. If utility companies do not comply with the permit scheme or the conditions we apply, or if they over-stay on the highway, we can fine them. These fines are set nationally.”

It is this level of fine which the Minister is seeking to change  Some feel that – as with the fines handed out to water companies – the penalties are no more than mild irritations to the large companies involved, meaning that it’s cheaper and easier for them to carry on as they are and pay the penalties when asked.

Utilities can claim an emergency situation if a property has a loss or interruption in service. Under an emergency the utility company has the right to enter the highway immediately and there is very little the council can do about it. Apparently this is where the majority of the coordination issues occur. Perhaps, if they had a bit more moneys in their highway coffers, councils might be able to investigate whether these really are emergencies or not. The Minister might consider an extra level of fines for utility firms who’ve claimed something was an emergency when was not. Much the same logic could be applied to the water firms.

Newbury and WBC Councillor Phil Barnett has also called for a “more joined-up approach” by the unities, developers and the council. This is long-standing beef from people up and down the country and is worth striving for, particularly at the start of large projects (such as the Stirling Cables one) which are likely to cause several waves of disruption. How much they can be adhered to or enforced is another question.

The other point is that our view of the necessity of roads being dug up depends on how this affects us. Someone stuck in traffic for twenty minutes at the end of a long day will be cursing the firms which have decided to dig up the road there and then. However, someone living or working nearby whose broadband or electricity has just been cut off won’t care how much disruption is caused, just as long as they get their service back in action. It’s these two competing needs that the system needs to satisfy.

(This has reminded me of a probably apocryphal story that happened somewhere or other back in the day in a university town during rag week when practical jokes and other stunts are played to raise money for charity. Some students saw a large team of workers getting ready to dig up a road junction and, in the guise of concerned residents, told the police that students dressed as workmen were pretending to dig up the road for a rag-week stunt and what were they going to about it? They then went back to the roadworks and told the team hat some students, dressed as police officers, would probably be coming to pretend to arrest them. The various versions of the story provide different accounts of the chaos that ensued. I really hope this is true…).

• Garry moves on

After twenty-five years at the helm of the Volunteer centre West Berkshire, Garry Poulson has decided he will retire in March 2024.

In his farewell letter he says that he has “managed to take the charity forward in several new directions and hopefully  have succeeded in maintaining the integrity of the charity without mission drift. He adds that   taking on the Council for Voluntary Service role seven years ago was “a major milestone and that has become a key and vital element of our work.”

You can click here to read his full valedictory statement as well as a tribute from the Chair of the VCWB’s trustees. We’d like to congratulate Garry and all his colleagues for the excellent work that the VCWB has done in the district. There have been many achievements particularly worthy of note: the work the organisation did during the pandemic is probably the one to single out.

• West Berkshire Action for Refugees moves on

Following the closure of the asylum ‘hotels’ in December, this charity lost its physical presence in the district. Fortunately, the Community Resource Centre has offered West Berkshire Action for Refugees (WABR) a meeting space and office: Karen Reeve from WABR said that this “has been a lifeline for us and now provides us with a physical location from which we can volunteer and offer support and a location refugees know they can trust.”

Having its own base now means we can provide an open house drop-in twice a week for a cuppa, support and advice as well as a meeting space to offer training, resources, access to on-line support and befriending and meet for pre-arranged get togethers.

“We are open to any refugees located in the area,” Karen explained. “This includes the people granted asylum who were living in the hotels and also the families who have arrived under the Governments Syrian and Afghan resettlement schemes. We don’t generally work with Ukrainians simply because they have access to a range of supports and wonderful groups locally already and are well provided for. We have a wonderful group of volunteers who have stayed with us and adapted to a range of challenges over the last couple of years and definitely couldn’t have done what we’ve been able to do without them.”

Funds for buying shoes and emergency provisions for people we assess as in need are always welcomed through the Good Exchange.

• Green fingers wanted

Newbury Town Council has announced that, following other successful community planting and pruning days in the town, Newbury Town Council’s Green Spaces Working Group, in partnership with Newbury in Bloom, is seeking volunteers to help seed a new native hedgerow at Greenham House Gardens (opposite the Burger King roundabout) on Saturday 27 January. Meet at the ‘Fame’ statue at 10am.

“We are inviting local residents to help plant the native hedgerow and take part in this community event,” said Councillor Gary Norman, Leader of the Council. “This follows our wildflower seeding that took place at Greenham House Gardens in the autumn in 2023. Newbury Town Council are sponsoring this event for the Community to enjoy in the future. Planting hedgerows such as these will increase the biodiversity and habitat for wildlife in the area, which continues to be part of the Town Council’s Strategy.”

Volunteers are welcome. No previous experience is necessary as our ground’s maintenance team will be there to advise what to do. Bring some gloves if you have them, but if not, there’ll be some on the day you can borrow.

Snowdrop season

Small and hardy, harbingers of spring, snowdrops bring hope of warmth and longer days to come. Here is our guide to local snowdrop sites, including the glorious Welford Park which is open Wednesday to Sunday from 31 January to 3 March.

Snowdrops can often be found in graveyards because monks first brought them to this country from Europe in the late 16th century and planted them in monastery gardens. It took them about 200 years to become a wild plant and our common wild snowdrop is called Galanthus nivalis.

Victorians also planted them extensively on graves as a symbol of eternal life. And snowdrops planted in ‘holy ground’ or graveyards have been undisturbed and able to flourish ever since.

Did you know snowdrop bulbs are a source of the alkaloid Galanthamine, which can help manage Alzheimer’s?

Please note that bees much prefer the single flower varieties (as they find it hard to extract the pollen from double flower varieties) – so do bear that in mind if you are buying snowdrops for your garden.

• Have your say

Have your say on current consultations being run by West Berkshire Council:

Parish and town councils also run consultations from time to time: see the appropriate website/s below under Council contacts.

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.

The Corn Exchange café bar on Thursday mornings between 10.30am and 12.30pm hosts Coffee Companions to meet new people and have a chat.

• Loose Ends drop-in centre at Newbury Cricket Ground welcome volunteers to join its friendly team. They offer hot meals and a safe and friendly environment for vulnerable people. More details and how to apply can be found here.

• Roadworks seem to be ongoing across the town…For up to date news and discussion it’s worth joining the Newbury.Happening now facebook group and its Newbury Traffic Live Updates chat group (on facebook messenger).

Printer ink cartridges can be recycled at the Waterside Youth Centre, which will help them raise money to fund local youth activities. You can find the donation box next to the blue reception desk. – 01635 018500

• Donations of second-hand bikes are always welcome at the Community Furniture Project in Newbury where they refurbish the bikes and sell them at affordable prices to people in need. – 01635 43933

• Newbury Market welcomes small business interested in having a pitch in the Market Place get in contact with them at towncouncil@newbury.gov.uk or call 07399 122964 to find out more.

Newbury Town Council Saturday Surgery between 10 am and noon any week at the steps of the Town Hall.

Newbury’s two friendly community cafés on Wednesdays: Educafe Community Café in Newbury Library 11am to 2pm and Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate Pub 2pm to 5pm.

• Fair Close Centre on Newtown Road in Newbury provides a vital social hub and meals on wheels for over 65s, many of whom live on their own. Please support them here. Goodness knows we might all need their services in years to come.

The Community Larder at the Waterside Centre is open every Tuesday afternoon, 2pm to 4pm to provide members with surplus food, discounts for local businesses, access to other services and support, as well as a friendly community environment.

•  Newbury Library offers free IT support sessions including filling out online forms, how to Zoom, downloading e-magazines or sorting out pictures. Bookable 30- or 60-minute sessions. To find out more or book a slot, email rav.gopal@westberks.gov.uk.


Local events and activities

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

• Dates for the diary

Every Wed: Educafe 11am to 2pm, Newbury Library
Every Wed: Speen Community Cafe, 2pm to 5pm The Starting Gate.

Sat 27 Jan Hedgerow Planting, Greenham House Gardens (opposite the ‘Burger King roundabout’).

Sat 10 Feb No Mo Chemo Show (Charity Show), The Corn Exchange Newbury.

Wed 14 Feb The Little Mermaid Community Production, The Corn Exchange Newbury.

Sun 25 Feb Newbury Repair Café, Newbury Methodist Church Hall.

 Regular events

A wide range of activities for over 55 year olds is offered by The Corn Exchange in its Ageing Creatively programme.

 Shaw House Community Garden drop-in gardening sessions Wednesday morning 9.30am to 12.30pm.. If you would like to join a session, please call Amy Bosley, 07553 810133 or email her.

Ukulele group workshops for all levels with the UTeam in Wash Common. Call 07963 647087 to enquire.

Salsa in Newbury courses for beginners and level 2/3 on Wednesday evenings at Newbury British Legion.

Regular youth activities at the Waterside Centre in central Newbury.

 Thatcham & Newbury Town Ladies and Girls FC Wildcats programme for girls aged 5 to 11 to get involved in football, promoting skill development, health, confidence and friendship. 6 to 7pm every Wednesday at Lower Way playing fields in Thatcham. Email thatcham.newbury.girls.fc.fdo@gmail.com to get involved.

• Newbury Park Run at Greenham Common at 9am every Saturday morning. Folks of all ages welcome to run/walk/jog the 5km. They also have volunteering opportunities. See details here.

 Newbury Women Football Club always welcomes new players. For more details click here or contact newburywomenfc@gmail.com.

• ACE Space on St Nicholas Road hosts live acoustic performances. Join their Facebook group or follow them on Twitter.

• Newbury Community Larder every Tuesday 2pm to 4pm at the Waterside Centre (down the canal from Costa Coffee on Northbrook Street). For more details please contact waterside@berkshireyouth.co.uk or call 01635 018500.

• Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesdays between 2pm to 5pm. Drop in for a chat or a cuppa, knitting and craft activities. You don’t have to live in Speen to join in. Follow them on facebook here.

• Educafe’s Community Cafe at Newbury Library every Wednesday between 11am and 2pm. If you would like to pop along for a friendly chat or to volunteer in the cafe please see their website for more details.

• Berkshire Youth‘s Waterside Centre in Newbury hosts various clubs and activities for local children and can provide volunteering opportunities for adults too.

 The Base, Greenham organise many art-focused events for people of all ages to let their creative sides go wild.


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. If the link is scored through this may be because draft minutes have been replaced by approved ones and the drafts file deleted. If so, please follow the links provided to the council’s website.

• The most recent meeting of Newbury Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 23 October and you can read the minutes here. Note that many matters are delegated to committees.
To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 17 January and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: matters arising; flooding; speeding; financial matters; reports from the ward members; planning matters; speeding; amenities, the litter pick (16 March); and the annual parish meeting (1 May).
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 27 November 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 Speen Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 22 November and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

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

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 8 November 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 Boxford Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 7 November 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 Hamstead Marshall Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 21 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click hereTo see minutes, please click here.

• Newbury area council contacts

Parishes: Newbury Town CouncilGreenham Parish CouncilChieveley Parish CouncilEnborne Parish CouncilBoxford Parish CouncilSpeen Parish Council,  Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council, and Hamstead Marshall 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 ValleyThatcham area; Compton and DownlandsBurghfield area; Wantage area; Marlborough area.

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

Thursday 18 January 2024

Our usual round-up of  local news includes Pongal, roadworks, hedgerows, pride and sudden moves – plus a look at Newbury’s non-Napoleonic poplars, some social housing that WBC is buying in Newbury, problems on the trains and a look back at the recent volunteering event.  See also below for community notices and news from your local council.

Upcoming Newbury events include: an exhibition, wassailing and hedgerow planting. See below for details, plus regular events and group activities.

This week’s news

• Newbury Tamil School thanks everyone who joined them in celebrating the Tamil Thai Pongal (Harvest) Festival with traditional games and events last Sunday 14 January at the Faraday Road Football Field. See their brief video here.

Click here for information about booking trade stands and early-bird discounts for the 2024 Newbury Show, which will take place on Saturday 21 and Sunday 22 September.

• Growing Newbury Green welcomes you to their third Newbury Apple Wassail, at the Community Orchard at City Recreation ground this Saturday 20 January. Bring along a pot/saucepan and something to hit it with, cider (or apple juice) and toast. Also find out about the orchards and they are pruned and how to get the best from your trees at home. Please contact orchards@hammondt.plus.com with any questions or go to growingnewburygreen.org.uk to find out about their projects growing free food in public spaces.

• If you need to let off steam about Newbury’s current roadworks, join the Newbury Happening Now facebook group.

• For support and advice with any flooding issues in Newbury please join the Newbury Flood and Drainage Action Facebook Group.

• Local Ukraine support groups are appealing for candles to send to Ukraine. Some candles will be sent direct to Ukraine, while others will be made into ‘trench candles’ to send to the frontline where they are used during the harsh winter weather for lighting, heating and cooking. If you can help, new or part-used candle donations can be dropped off at Waitrose in Newbury.

Would you like to find out about becoming Samaritan? Please pop into the informal Newbury Samaritans Information Evening 7pm Tues 23 Jan at at 58 West Street, Newbury – opposite the Lion pub.  Otherwise please visit www.Samaritans.org or email newbury.branchrecruitment@samaritans.org.

• Newbury Town Council’s Green Spaces Working Group are seeking volunteers to help plant a new native hedgerow at Greenham House Gardens (opposite the Burger King roundabout) on Saturday 27 January meeting at the ‘Fame’ statue at 10am. No previous experience is necessary as the grounds maintenance team will be there to advise what to do. Bring some gloves if you have them, but if not, there’ll be some on the day you can borrow. For more info click here.

• Newbury is lucky to have two community cafes every Wednesday – Educafe from 11am to 2pm at Newbury Library and Speen Community Cafe at The Starting Gate in Speen from 2pm to 5pm.

• The GENerate exhibition currently on display at The Base until Sunday 28 January, celebrates local students’ artistic achievements including from Newbury College and University Centre Newbury which nurtures creativity and provides real-world opportunities for their students. Visitors can explore the artistic expressions of these young talented artists from Wednesday to Sunday, 10am to 4pm. Admission is free, with a suggested donation at the door.

• It’s your last chance to catch the No Sudden Moves exhibition at West Berkshire Museum which closes this weekend. The exhibit features artwork from paintings to ceramics inspired by the local history of Newbury Warf. It’s open until Sun 21 January, click here for more details.

Newbury Pride will be holding their first social of 2024 on Friday 2 February, at the Bacon Arms from 7:30pm. The venue is accessible, safe and LGBTQT+ friendly. New faces are always welcome. Email hello@newburypride.org.uk to learn more.

• City Arts Newbury are holding Creative Thursdays, a free 10 week art course aimed at over 65s who live alone to boost creativity and meet local people. No previous experience is necessary. To book a place e-mail info@cityartsnewbury.org. The course starts on Thursday 8 February and continues until the end of May (although you don’t have to attend every session).

• Quick reminder about coping with winter weatheradvice about flooding and how to stay safe in icy conditions and how to thaw frozen condensate pipe from your boiler.

• Quick reminder that Thatcham Refillable is collecting empty sweet and cracker tubs until 3o January for the Tub2Pub scheme that raises money for Macmillan cancer. Contact Jenny and Tom at Thatcham Refillable to find out where to drop off your tubs or if they can collect they from you. The tubs will be taken to The Bear Hotel in Hungerford, part of the Greene King chain that organises the scheme.

• For the low-down on the local live music scene follow Sound Newbury’s facebook page

• Lopping the poplars

I’ve often heard it said that the poplar trees that one frequently sees along roads in France were first planted by Napoleon to give his armies some shade when on the march. I’ve never been completely sure about this but haven’t ever been moved to check it up. Even now, as I’m writing about it, I still haven’t. Thus it is that myths, legends and tall stories get turned into seeming fact – sloppy journalism once again, casually repeating a reasonably plausible story so many times that we all end up accepting it.

One thing I can be sure of, however, is the poplars in Stroud Green in Newbury were not planted by or on the orders of Napoleon. This is because (1) the way things panned out, he never got the chance to plant anything in England; and (2) because these were, so this statement from WBC assets, planted in the 1960s, some 140 years after he died. The reason these are in the news now is because it’s recently been discovered that some are damaged. Six will be felled in the near future and it’s likely that the rest will follow quite soon. Such trees have a lifespan of fifty to sixty years so their time is probably up.

The article explains that as the poplars mature, “the lower stems start to develop basal cavity formation with decay extending into the roots, leading to a reduction in structural stability and an increase in stem hollowing.” Sounds a bit like my teeth, which are about the same age (although a less loved part of the local landscape). The portfolio holder Janine Lewis has promised that new trees will be planted to replace them, so West Berkshire’s army and other road users can enjoy a bit of shade when they need it.

• Expanding the service

Now is probably a fairly good time to be a Postmaster. For much of the last 25 years, the profession has been under a serious cloud of vengeful litigation, so much so that I’m amazed that anyone would want to take the job on – fifty different forms and systems to understand and the threat of being sent to prison into the bargain. Now the second of these has been removed though the first remains. It’s a complex and technical job and one I couldn’t do. I reckon I could just about cope with selling a book of stamps or weighing a parcel but ask me to send something recorded delivery or make a savings withdrawal and I’d have to phone a friend.

This therefore seems a good moment to celebrate Ram Reddy, whose Post Office and convenience store in Chieveley has recently been renovated and which had its official re-opening on 18 January, the ribbon being cut by local councillor Paul Dick. Ram said that his initial focus was on serving Post Office customers during the busy Christmas period and now he has had time to greatly improve the retail range, including coffee and a bakery.

“I sincerely want to thank experienced Postmaster and retailer Ram Reddy for taking on Chieveley Post Office and store,” Paul Dick said. “The community is delighted that Ram has made this investment in the shop to maintain and to improve services to this community and with extended opening hours.”

Shops and their associated services are closing all over the district so it’s great to see this one bucking the trend. We wish him a happy, profitable and litigation-free tenure of the outlet.

• Volunteering

The most recent issue of the Volunteer Centre West Berkshire’s e-newsletter looks back at last week’s annually volunteering event, the fiftieth one (hence its name of V365-50). The article reports that “55 charities attended the day long event and 310 members of the public visited the event designed to inform and encourage people to volunteer.”

“We had a great turn out of charities and the weather was perfect for us,” VCWB’s Director Garry Poulson said. “My team were  brilliant  as ever. This work is particularly important at a time when poverty and the cost of living is having an impact on West Berkshire charities which are feeling the pressure and need more volunteers. For anyone not able to attend the day the Volunteer Centre recruits volunteers year round and free impartial information advice and guidance is available  by visiting www.volunteerwestberks.org.uk  or calling 01635 49004.”

• Long-term homes

Back in March 2023, West Berkshire Council launched a £6m scheme (£2.5m of which came from the government) to purchase 27 homes in in Calcot, Thatcham, Newbury and Hungerford which would, initially, be used “as part of WBC’s ongoing support for Ukrainian and Afghan families settling in the district.” In a welcome example of a project started by one administration being continued by another without repetition, hesitation or deviation, in June 2023 the new Lib Dem team decided to extend this.

The current scheme is now a £9m one, with £3.6m coming from Whitehall which WBC (as a condition of the grant) match-funding it to the tune of £5.4m. This money will probably be borrowed from the Public  Works Loan Board (PWLB) but I understand that WBC is also seeing if this can be funded from Section 106 contributions from developers. (Given that these are often expressly paid in order to compensate the district for social housing which developers have been unwilling to build as part of their obligations, I would imagine that this should be reasonably simple to organise. Each one is, however, a separate legal agreement which can be very specific about what the funds can be used for. WBC needs to be sure that this expenditure will satisfy all the conditions.)

The key aspect of this scheme is that it satisfies two objectives. Not only does it enable WBC to provide accommodation to people settling in the district but also, in the longer term, boosts its own social-housing stock. “Essentially, this is allowing us to increase the supply of affordable housing in the district,” a spokesperson told me on 18 January. This will be accomplished without putting “additional pressures on homes which are advertised through our choice-based lettings scheme to applicants on the Housing Register.”

WBC is therefore using grants from Whitehall and cheap(-ish) money from the PWLB to boost its housing supply, albeit with this first being used to discharge its obligations to help re-settle families. The first dwellings have now been purchased. The project also includes the refurbishment of West Point House in Newbury.

The Council could still borrow PWLB money, or use S106 payments, or the results of any commercial-property disinvestment to purchase homes for its own use and may yet decide to do this. Many would argiue that for WBC to buy such properties, or build its own, is long overdue. Under this scheme, the government is footing 40% of the bill but demanding that the properties first be used for resettling Ukrainian and Afghan families. 

What’s less clear is when these dwellings will pass from their use under the various government resettlement schemes and into the the general pool of WBC’s housing stock. The WBC spokesperson told me that there was “no timeframe” for this: as the various migration schemes diminish (see p123 of the agenda pack for the June 2023 WBC Executive meeting for details of which schemes will be included) then these will be allocated to the general housing need. It was suggested that this would be in the “medium to long term.”

• More pain on the trains

The indefatigable Bedwyn Train Passenger Group sent out its latest newsletter this week and you can read the main points of this in this separate post.

Two of the issues that are covered are all too familiar: the next wave of strikes; and the indifferent service levels on the Bedwyn to Newbury stretch of line. In fairness to GWR, there’s some good news as well. There’s also some encouraging news about the appointment of a travel co-ordinator at Newbury to help at times of disruption and replacement buses and news of a new return service from west of Bedwyn. The BTPG also passes on a request for passengers to treat GWR staff with respect, something that didn’t happen in one incident at Newbury shortly before Christmas.

The Bedwyn Train Passenger Group has been campaigning for improved rail services from Bedwyn, Hungerford, Kintbury and Newbury since 2006. If you use these stations, we recommend subscribing to the BTPG newsletters by emailing info@bedwyntrains.org.uk.

• Have your say

Have your say on current consultations being run by West Berkshire Council:

Parish and town councils also run consultations from time to time: see the appropriate website/s below under Council contacts.

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.

The Corn Exchange café bar on Thursday mornings between 10.30am and 12.30pm hosts Coffee Companions to meet new people and have a chat.

• Loose Ends drop-in centre at Newbury Cricket Ground welcome volunteers to join its friendly team. They offer hot meals and a safe and friendly environment for vulnerable people. More details and how to apply can be found here.

• Roadworks seem to be ongoing across the town…For up to date news and discussion it’s worth joining the Newbury.Happening now facebook group and its Newbury Traffic Live Updates chat group (on facebook messenger).

Printer ink cartridges can be recycled at the Waterside Youth Centre, which will help them raise money to fund local youth activities. You can find the donation box next to the blue reception desk. – 01635 018500

• Donations of second-hand bikes are always welcome at the Community Furniture Project in Newbury where they refurbish the bikes and sell them at affordable prices to people in need. – 01635 43933

• Newbury Market welcomes small business interested in having a pitch in the Market Place get in contact with them at towncouncil@newbury.gov.uk or call 07399 122964 to find out more.

Newbury Town Council Saturday Surgery between 10 am and noon any week at the steps of the Town Hall.

Newbury’s two friendly community cafés on Wednesdays: Educafe Community Café in Newbury Library 11am to 2pm and Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate Pub 2pm to 5pm.

• Fair Close Centre on Newtown Road in Newbury provides a vital social hub and meals on wheels for over 65s, many of whom live on their own. Please support them here. Goodness knows we might all need their services in years to come.

The Community Larder at the Waterside Centre is open every Tuesday afternoon, 2pm to 4pm to provide members with surplus food, discounts for local businesses, access to other services and support, as well as a friendly community environment.

•  Newbury Library offers free IT support sessions including filling out online forms, how to Zoom, downloading e-magazines or sorting out pictures. Bookable 30- or 60-minute sessions. To find out more or book a slot, email rav.gopal@westberks.gov.uk.


Local events and activities

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

• Dates for the diary

Until Sun 21 JanNo Sudden Moves exhibition inspired by Newbury Wharf, West Berkshire Museum.

Every Wed: Educafe 11am to 2pm, Newbury Library and Speen Community Cafe, The Starting Gate 2pm to 5pm.

Sat 20 Jan Apple Wassail and Pruning, City Recreation Grounds Newbury.

Sat 27 Jan Hedgerow Planting, Greenham House Gardens (opposite the ‘Burger King roundabout’).

Sat 10 Feb No Mo Chemo Show (Charity Show), The Corn Exchange Newbury.

Sun 25 Feb Newbury Repair Café, Newbury Methodist Church Hall.

 Regular events

A wide range of activities for over 55 year olds is offered by The Corn Exchange in its Ageing Creatively programme.

 Shaw House Community Garden drop-in gardening sessions Wednesday morning 9.30am to 12.30pm.. If you would like to join a session, please call Amy Bosley, 07553 810133 or email her.

Ukulele group workshops for all levels with the UTeam in Wash Common. Call 07963 647087 to enquire.

Salsa in Newbury courses for beginners and level 2/3 on Wednesday evenings at Newbury British Legion.

Regular youth activities at the Waterside Centre in central Newbury.

 Thatcham & Newbury Town Ladies and Girls FC Wildcats programme for girls aged 5 to 11 to get involved in football, promoting skill development, health, confidence and friendship. 6 to 7pm every Wednesday at Lower Way playing fields in Thatcham. Email thatcham.newbury.girls.fc.fdo@gmail.com to get involved.

• Newbury Park Run at Greenham Common at 9am every Saturday morning. Folks of all ages welcome to run/walk/jog the 5km. They also have volunteering opportunities. See details here.

 Newbury Women Football Club always welcomes new players. For more details click here or contact newburywomenfc@gmail.com.

• ACE Space on St Nicholas Road hosts live acoustic performances. Join their Facebook group or follow them on Twitter.

• Newbury Community Larder every Tuesday 2pm to 4pm at the Waterside Centre (down the canal from Costa Coffee on Northbrook Street). For more details please contact waterside@berkshireyouth.co.uk or call 01635 018500.

• Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesdays between 2pm to 5pm. Drop in for a chat or a cuppa, knitting and craft activities. You don’t have to live in Speen to join in. Follow them on facebook here.

• Educafe’s Community Cafe at Newbury Library every Wednesday between 11am and 2pm. If you would like to pop along for a friendly chat or to volunteer in the cafe please see their website for more details.

• Berkshire Youth‘s Waterside Centre in Newbury hosts various clubs and activities for local children and can provide volunteering opportunities for adults too.

 The Base, Greenham organise many art-focused events for people of all ages to let their creative sides go wild.


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. If the link is scored through this may be because draft minutes have been replaced by approved ones and the drafts file deleted. If so, please follow the links provided to the council’s website.

• The most recent meeting of Newbury Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 23 October and you can read the minutes here. Note that many matters are delegated to committees.
To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 20 December and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: matters arising; correspondence; a presentation from West Berkshire Draughtbusters (see separate section above); litter bins; trees and hedges; financial matters; ward members’ reports; planning matters; speeding; the recreation Ground; and Bill Graham’s bench.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 27 November 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 Speen Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 22 November and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

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

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 8 November 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 Boxford Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 7 November 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 Hamstead Marshall Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 21 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click hereTo see minutes, please click here.

• Newbury area council contacts

Parishes: Newbury Town CouncilGreenham Parish CouncilChieveley Parish CouncilEnborne Parish CouncilBoxford Parish CouncilSpeen Parish Council,  Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council, and Hamstead Marshall 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 ValleyThatcham area; Compton and DownlandsBurghfield area; Wantage area; Marlborough area.

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

Thursday 11 January 2024

Our usual round-up of  local news includes dating the inn, a newsletter, volunteers, music and sweet tubs – plus flood support information, a consultation in Enborne and two decisions for Newbury Town Council.  See also below for community notices and news from your local council.

Upcoming Newbury events include: adventure talk, volunteer recruitment event & digital WWII collection day. See below for details, plus regular events and group activities.

This week’s news

Newbury Tamil School invites everyone in the community to join them in celebrating the Tamil Thai Pongal (Harvest) Festival with traditional games and events this Sunday 14 January from 10am to 1pm at the Football Field, Faraday Road, Newbury. For more details please contact Anbu on 07916 728237.

The Monument Inn, on Northbrook Street, recently underwent a tree-ring dating survey, reliably dating the building to 1675. The date confirms previous estimates and it remains one of Newbury’s more complete old buildings the earliest known reference to it as a pub is dated 1735. To learn more about the survey click here.

• Newbury Town Council has released its latest newsletter for January 2024. This issue features the return of football tot Victoria Park, new trees planted at Hutton Close and the aforementioned Monument Inn.

• Quick reminder about the 50th Anniversary Volunteer Recruitment Event this Saturday 13 January at the Corn Exchange in Newbury. There will be a diverse range of charities and non-profits attending, so whatever your interests or skillsets are, there is sure to be something for you. Click here to learn more.

•  New Salsa in Newbury courses for beginners and level 2/3 start on Wednesday 17 January at the British Legion.

• Growing Newbury Green presents the 3rd Newbury Wassail, at the Community Orchard at City Recreation ground on Saturday 20 January. Traditionally a Wassail involves shouting and banging pots to drive away evil orchard spirits, hanging toast on branches and pouring cider on trees to encourage a good harvest in the coming year – so bring along a pot/saucepan and something to hit it with, cider (or apple juice) and toast. Also find out about the orchards and they are pruned and how to get the best from your trees at home. Please contact orchards@hammondt.plus.com with any questions or go to growingnewburygreen.org.uk to find out about their projects growing free food in public spaces.

• There is lots of support and information around the flooding situaton (see below). The Met Office also has tips on staying safe in icy conditions.

• Have you got any Second World War related diaries, letters, photos, memorabilia, stories and objects which you would like to preserve for future generations? On Wednesday 17 January from 10am to 2pm, West Berkshire Museum will be holding a Digital Collection Day, in which items will be recorded and added to the free-to-use digital online achieve theirfinesthour.org. To learn more get in contact with Gemma Taylor at gemma.taylor@westberks.gov.uk.

• Quick reminder that Thatcham Refillable is collecting empty sweet and cracker tubs until 3o January for the Tub2Pub scheme that raises money for Macmillan cancer. Contact Jenny and Tom at Thatcham Refillable to find out where to drop off your tubs or if they can collect they from you. The tubs will be taken to The Bear Hotel in Hungerford, part of the Greene King chain that organises the scheme.

• For the low-down on the local live music scene follow Sound Newbury’s facebook page

• Newbury’s decisions

The meeting of Newbury Town Council’s Policy and Resources Committee on 15 January has a number of decisions to make. Two of these appear as items 1 and 2 in the “2023-33 – Setting the Direction” heading in appendix 2.1.

The first of these concerns the café in Victoria Park. Originally planned to cost about £500,000, the cost estimates have sky-rocketed over the last year or so to the extent that the project may now cost double that: not really a viable outlay for a council of that size, particularly as borrowing rates, though falling, are far higher then they were when the project was first mooted. These largely unforeseen problems have afflicted organisations of all sizes up and down the country. NTC has embarked on a two-pronged approach, looking at both upgrades to the existing facilities and seeing it any external funding can be found for the new improved scheme. So, if you fancy bridging the funding gap so enabling the café to be built (naming rights may be available), get it touch with Newbury Town Council.

The second is to “explore options re the future of the Town Hall.” The agenda papers suggest that the sale of the building might raise £1m “with a payback of £80,000pa over ten years” with a new lease needing to be agreed after that. The document adds that “to refurbish/upgrade the Town Hall might be a better option.” I understand the the most immediate refurbishment required is of the roof, involving a possible six-figure sum. I also understand that the sinking fund for repairs (which should probably be at least £20,000 for a building of this size) has over the last couple of decades been inadequate. If so, this is a matter that the meeting will also be needing to look at.

• Enborne’s consultation

The parish of Enborne is in the early stages of producing a neighbourhood development plan and the Parish Council has organised an open evening at The Bowler’s Arms, RG14 6TW at 7.30pm on Tuesday 23 January. This will be an opportunity for residents to learn about what would be involved, what this can accomplish and to share their views. There will also be a talk by Penny Stokes on the history of Enborne.

• Flood support

The flooding situation is probably going to last for a few weeks. As the ground is already saturated with water it will take a while for surface water to drain away. Here is a video statement about the West Berkshire Council’s response to flooding by Stuart Gourley, Executive Portfolio Holder for Climate Action, Recycling & Biodiversity. This short video from the Environment Agency explains what groundwater flooding is. Please see here a range of support and advice for affected communities:

• Have your say

Have your say on current consultations being run by West Berkshire Council:

Parish and town councils also run consultations from time to time: see the appropriate website/s below under Council contacts.

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.

The Corn Exchange café bar on Thursday mornings between 10.30am and 12.30pm hosts Coffee Companions to meet new people and have a chat.

• Loose Ends drop-in centre at Newbury Cricket Ground welcome volunteers to join its friendly team. They offer hot meals and a safe and friendly environment for vulnerable people. More details and how to apply can be found here.

• Roadworks seem to be ongoing across the town…For up to date news and discussion it’s worth joining the Newbury.Happening now facebook group and its Newbury Traffic Live Updates chat group (on facebook messenger).

Printer ink cartridges can be recycled at the Waterside Youth Centre, which will help them raise money to fund local youth activities. You can find the donation box next to the blue reception desk. – 01635 018500

• Donations of second-hand bikes are always welcome at the Community Furniture Project in Newbury where they refurbish the bikes and sell them at affordable prices to people in need. – 01635 43933

• Newbury Market welcomes small business interested in having a pitch in the Market Place get in contact with them at towncouncil@newbury.gov.uk or call 07399 122964 to find out more.

Newbury Town Council Saturday Surgery between 10 am and noon any week at the steps of the Town Hall.

Newbury’s two friendly community cafés on Wednesdays: Educafe Community Café in Newbury Library 11am to 2pm and Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate Pub 2pm to 5pm.

• Fair Close Centre on Newtown Road in Newbury provides a vital social hub and meals on wheels for over 65s, many of whom live on their own. Please support them here. Goodness knows we might all need their services in years to come.

The Community Larder at the Waterside Centre is open every Tuesday afternoon, 2pm to 4pm to provide members with surplus food, discounts for local businesses, access to other services and support, as well as a friendly community environment.

•  Newbury Library offers free IT support sessions including filling out online forms, how to Zoom, downloading e-magazines or sorting out pictures. Bookable 30- or 60-minute sessions. To find out more or book a slot, email rav.gopal@westberks.gov.uk.


Local events and activities

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

• Dates for the diary

Until Sun 21 JanNo Sudden Moves exhibition inspired by Newbury wharf, West Berkshire Museum.

Sat 13 Jan Volunteer Recruitment Event, The Corn Exchange, Newbury.

Wed 17 Jan Digital WWII Collection Day, West Berkshire Library, Newbury.

Sat 10 Feb No Mo Chemo Show (Charity Show), The Corn Exchange Newbury.

Sun 25 Feb Newbury Repair Café, Newbury Methodist Church Hall.

 Regular events

A wide range of activities for over 55 year olds is offered by The Corn Exchange in its Ageing Creatively programme.

 Shaw House Community Garden drop-in gardening sessions Wednesday morning 9.30am to 12.30pm.. If you would like to join a session, please call Amy Bosley, 07553 810133 or email her.

Ukulele group workshops for all levels with the UTeam in Wash Common. Call 07963 647087 to enquire.

• Thatcham & Newbury Town Ladies and Girls FC Wildcats programme for girls aged 5 to 11 to get involved in football, promoting skill development, health, confidence and friendship. 6 to 7pm every Wednesday at Lower Way playing fields in Thatcham. Email thatcham.newbury.girls.fc.fdo@gmail.com to get involved.

 Waterside Centre’s Youth Café every Tuesday evening, during term time, between 4:30pm and 6pm for Years 7 to 13. For more details click here or contact waterside@berkshireyouth.co.uk.

• Newbury Park Run at Greenham Common at 9am every Saturday morning. Folks of all ages welcome to run/walk/jog the 5km. They also have volunteering opportunities. See details here.

• Newbury Women Football Club always welcomes new players. For more details click here or contact newburywomenfc@gmail.com.

• ACE Space on St Nicholas Road hosts live acoustic performances. Join their Facebook group or follow them on Twitter.

• Newbury Community Larder every Tuesday 2pm to 4pm at the Waterside Centre (down the canal from Costa Coffee on Northbrook Street). For more details please contact waterside@berkshireyouth.co.uk or call 01635 018500.

• Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesdays between 2pm to 5pm. Drop in for a chat or a cuppa, knitting and craft activities. You don’t have to live in Speen to join in. Follow them on facebook here.

• Educafe’s Community Cafe at Newbury Library every Wednesday between 11am and 2pm. If you would like to pop along for a friendly chat or to volunteer in the cafe please see their website for more details.

• Berkshire Youth‘s Waterside Centre in Newbury hosts various clubs and activities for local children and can provide volunteering opportunities for adults too.

 The Base, Greenham organise many art-focused events for people of all ages to let their creative sides go wild.


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 Newbury Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 23 October and you can read the minutes here. Note that many matters are delegated to committees.
To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 20 December and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: matters arising; correspondence; a presentation from West Berkshire Draughtbusters (see separate section above); litter bins; trees and hedges; financial matters; ward members’ reports; planning matters; speeding; the recreation Ground; and Bill Graham’s bench.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

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

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

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 8 November 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 Boxford Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 7 November 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 Enborne Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 25 September 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 Hamstead Marshall Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 21 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click hereTo see minutes, please click here.

• Newbury area council contacts

Parishes: Newbury Town CouncilGreenham Parish CouncilChieveley Parish CouncilEnborne Parish CouncilBoxford Parish CouncilSpeen Parish Council,  Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council, and Hamstead Marshall 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 ValleyThatcham area; Compton and DownlandsBurghfield area; Wantage area; Marlborough area.

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

Thursday 4 January 2024

Our usual round-up of  local news includes repairs, recruitment, consultations, cracker tubs. and music – plus the plans for Newbury’s wharf, the 2024 Newbury Show, reporting burst rivers, precept setting and Draughtbusters in Shaw-cum-Donnington.  See also below for community notices and news from your local council.

Upcoming Newbury events include: adventure talk, volunteer recruitment event & digital WWII collection day. See below for details, plus regular events and group activities.

This week’s news

• Is your new years resolution to do volunteer work and make a difference in your community? The Volunteer Centre West Berkshire is holding their 50th Anniversary Volunteer Recruitment Event on Saturday 13 January at the Corn Exchange in Newbury. There will be a diverse range of charities and non-profits attending, so whatever your interests or skillsets are, there is sure to be something for you. Click here to learn more.

• You might remember that a little while ago we mentioned that a new monthly Repair Café is coming to Newbury and Thatcham. The first one will be on Saturday 25 February at Newbury Methodist Church Hall and they are still looking for meeters and greeters, volunteer repairers (furniture, clothes, digital etc), PAT testers and knife sharpeners. If that could be you, please click here for more details and how to register your interest.

• There is still time to have your say about the future of Willows Edge Care Home in Newbury. Please fill out this council survey by 11 January 2024. See background information here and below for more council surveys that might affect you.

West Berkshire Libraries are offering new online support for students: secondary students can sign up to a fun, interactive way of learning via Brillder, an exciting online resource, and a free 12 week Library Code Club starts from Monday 8 January for 9 – 11 years to learn to code at home with Scratch.

• Our local hospitals are under extra pressure during the Junior Doctor strike until Tuesday 9 January. For latest updates and advice please follow Great Western Hospital’s facebook page and Reading’s Royal Berkshire Hospital’s facebook page here.

• Have you got any Second World War related diaries, letters, photos, memorabilia, stories and objects which you would like to preserve for future generations? On Wednesday 17 January from 10am to 2pm, West Berkshire Museum will be holding a Digital Collection Day, in which items will be recorded and added to the free-to-use digital online achieve theirfinesthour.org. To learn more get in contact with Gemma Taylor at gemma.taylor@westberks.gov.uk.

• For the third year running, Thatcham Refillable is collecting empty sweet and cracker tubs until 3o January for the Tub2Pub scheme that raises money for Macmillan cancer. Contact Jenny and Tom at Thatcham Refillable to find out where to drop off your tubs or if they can collect they from you. The tubs will be taken to The Bear Hotel in Hungerford, part of the Greene King chain that organises the scheme.

• Congratulations to Luke Humphries from Newbury who became the World Darts Champion this week beating Luke Littler 7-4 in the PDC World Darts Championship in London on Wednesday night. According to the BBC, Humphries began playing at the Crucible Sports Club in Newbury and will celebrate by putting money behind the bar there to thank his early supporters.

• For the low-down on the local live music scene follow Sound Newbury’s facebook page

• Newbury’s Wharf

West Berkshire Council has announced that “exciting proposals are progressing as we continue working on plans to revitalise some of our town centres.” The statement goes on to say that one of the “main visions is the Newbury Town Centre Masterplan which looks to broaden the leisure, community and cultural experience to help the town centre transform into a space for social interaction, economic growth, public engagement and community activities.” The word “transform” rather suggests that Newbury is accomplishing none of these things at present, which some might disagree with.

However bold its promises, no one can claim that the masterplan work on Newbury (or the similar projects being undertaken in Hungerford and Thatcham) are politically motivated as the work was started under the last (Conservative) administration and is continuing under the current (Lib Dem) one. All the projects (many of which are still to be confirmed) will be long-term and all will be dependant on funding. The more public engagement there is and the more evidence that can be provided to support the plans, the more likely it is that the necessary sums can be secured.

Phase one of Newbury’s work is the redevelopment of the Wharf and an application was lodged just before Christmas. You can view the details here. The works are summarised as being “Improvement works to Wharfside and Peace Garden, including the extension of public realm in both areas, introduction of rain gardens. new porous (SUDS) ground surfaces and water edge treatment. Extension of Peace Garden to increase green space. Removal of some parking spaces and signage. Introduction of new Peace Garden sign. New lighting and seating across all the areas. Areas of natural play.” WBC’s own summary, which employs less brutal syntax, is the project is will “improve and transform the current space into a more inviting and welcoming place.”

• Draughtbusters

The following is taken from the minutes of Shaw-cum-Donnington’s Parish Council meeting on 20 December regarding David Marson’s presentation on West Berkshire Draughtbusters.

“David is treasurer of the local Relief in Need charity, and also a trustee of West Berkshire Draughtbusters, which is currently being publicised. It is run by volunteers, including Steve Ardagh- Walter and Ken Neale. Volunteers go out and help those in need, which is not strictly defined, to improve insulation, especially draughts. This means fixing draughts through doors, windows, floorboards and holes in walls. Usually quick fixes that bring a dramatic difference.

“The charity provides the materials and labour free of charge. Contributions are requested if the householder is able to pay. They are happy to take on self-referrals, for those who rent and own, including Sovereign Housing and almshouse residents. Funded by Greenham Trust and WB Council’s Green Energy Scheme. The charity will also look for donations from building companies. To date demand has not been as high as anticipated. David has visited the Warm Spaces in Speen and at St Mary’s Church. It was recommended that David pass on information to the fire service and the Community Furniture Project.”

For more information on West Berkshire Draughtbusters, please click here.

• Watching the water

The River River gauge at Shaw measured 1.81m this week, the highest it has read since it was positioned under the A339 Bridge in Autumn of 2019.  If anyone knows of anywhere that the main River Lambourn has gone “out of bank”, Paula Saunderson requests you please report Location, date and time on the Newbury Flood and Drainage Action Facebook Group and photo if possible without endangering yourself.

If it is near residential property please report to the Environment Agency on the Floodline  0345 988 1188. Yourwill be reporting “a main river out of bank”. Please also report any flooding to West Berkshire Council here.

• Save the date

The Newbury Show – which didn’t happen on 2020, 2021 or 2022 due to, respectively, Covid, Covid and a change of management – was back with a bang last year, attracting over 32,000 visitors. The Newbury and District Agricultural Society (NADAS) which organises the event has recently confirmed that this year’s show will take place on Saturday 21 and Sunday 22 September. The latter is the date of the autumnal equinox, though I doubt that played a huge part in the decision.

The 2024 show will be introducing an area dedicated to the environment and sustainability and NADAS welcomes enquiries from interested sponsors and trade stands supporting this important initiative. All trade stands are now on sale with a Super Early Bird rate and Local Producers’ rate.

For more information, see this post.

• Setting the precept

The following has been adapted from Simon Kirby’s facebook post.

Newbury Town Council’s Planning & Highways Committee meets Monday 8 January. It’s at this time of year that parish councils along with other bodies who raise their revenue through a precept (such as the police and fire and rescue) review their budgets. Precepts are collected with council tax by the district council on behalf of these organisations. A precept is not itself council tax and increases are not capped by central government in the way council tax is: so while they have limited responsibilities, parish councils such as Newbury Town Council can levy whatever tax they please and this generally passes without comment.

If you’re interested in where the £1,200,000 of parish precept is spent you might like to go along to Monday’s committee meeting.

(It’s also worth bearing in mind that West Berkshire Council is proposing a number of service cuts. Some of these, including rubbish and dog bins and verge cutting, may be taken over by the town and parish councils. Unfortunately, they will need to set their budgets before the full results of WBC’s consultations are knows. Some towns and parishes may, therefore, be increasing their precepts to cover the cost of services that might otherwise disappear.)

• Have your say

Have your say on current consultations being run by West Berkshire Council:

Parish and town councils also run consultations from time to time: see the appropriate website/s below under Council contacts.

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.

The Corn Exchange café bar on Thursday mornings between 10.30am and 12.30pm hosts Coffee Companions to meet new people and have a chat.

• Loose Ends drop-in centre at Newbury Cricket Ground welcome volunteers to join its friendly team. They offer hot meals and a safe and friendly environment for vulnerable people. More details and how to apply can be found here.

• Roadworks seem to be ongoing across the town…For up to date news and discussion it’s worth joining the Newbury.Happening now facebook group and its Newbury Traffic Live Updates chat group (on facebook messenger).

Printer ink cartridges can be recycled at the Waterside Youth Centre, which will help them raise money to fund local youth activities. You can find the donation box next to the blue reception desk. – 01635 018500

• Donations of second-hand bikes are always welcome at the Community Furniture Project in Newbury where they refurbish the bikes and sell them at affordable prices to people in need. – 01635 43933

• Newbury Market welcomes small business interested in having a pitch in the Market Place get in contact with them at towncouncil@newbury.gov.uk or call 07399 122964 to find out more.

Newbury Town Council Saturday Surgery between 10 am and noon any week at the steps of the Town Hall.

Newbury’s two friendly community cafés on Wednesdays: Educafe Community Café in Newbury Library 11am to 2pm and Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate Pub 2pm to 5pm.

• Fair Close Centre on Newtown Road in Newbury provides a vital social hub and meals on wheels for over 65s, many of whom live on their own. Please support them here. Goodness knows we might all need their services in years to come.

The Community Larder at the Waterside Centre is open every Tuesday afternoon, 2pm to 4pm to provide members with surplus food, discounts for local businesses, access to other services and support, as well as a friendly community environment.

•  Newbury Library offers free IT support sessions including filling out online forms, how to Zoom, downloading e-magazines or sorting out pictures. Bookable 30- or 60-minute sessions. To find out more or book a slot, email rav.gopal@westberks.gov.uk.


Local events and activities

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

• Dates for the diary

Until Sun 21 JanNo Sudden Moves exhibition inspired by Newbury wharf, West Berkshire Museum.

Wed 10 Jan Adventure at the Extreme – Talk with Jordan Wylie MBE, The Presidents Room at the Bowlers Arms, Wash Common, Newbury.

Sat 13 Jan Volunteer Recruitment Event, The Corn Exchange, Newbury.

Wed 17 Jan Digital WWII Collection Day, West Berkshire Library, Newbury.

Sun 25 Feb Newbury Repair Café, Newbury Methodist Church Hall.

 Regular events

A wide range of activities for over 55 year olds is offered by The Corn Exchange in its Ageing Creatively programme.

 Shaw House Community Garden drop-in gardening sessions Wednesday morning 9.30am to 12.30pm.. If you would like to join a session, please call Amy Bosley, 07553 810133 or email her.

Ukulele group workshops for all levels with the UTeam in Wash Common. Call 07963 647087 to enquire.

• Thatcham & Newbury Town Ladies and Girls FC Wildcats programme for girls aged 5 to 11 to get involved in football, promoting skill development, health, confidence and friendship. 6 to 7pm every Wednesday at Lower Way playing fields in Thatcham. Email thatcham.newbury.girls.fc.fdo@gmail.com to get involved.

 Waterside Centre’s Youth Café every Tuesday evening, during term time, between 4:30pm and 6pm for Years 7 to 13. For more details click here or contact waterside@berkshireyouth.co.uk.

• Newbury Park Run at Greenham Common at 9am every Saturday morning. Folks of all ages welcome to run/walk/jog the 5km. They also have volunteering opportunities. See details here.

• Newbury Women Football Club always welcomes new players. For more details click here or contact newburywomenfc@gmail.com.

• ACE Space on St Nicholas Road hosts live acoustic performances. Join their Facebook group or follow them on Twitter.

• Newbury Community Larder every Tuesday 2pm to 4pm at the Waterside Centre (down the canal from Costa Coffee on Northbrook Street). For more details please contact waterside@berkshireyouth.co.uk or call 01635 018500.

• Speen Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesdays between 2pm to 5pm. Drop in for a chat or a cuppa, knitting and craft activities. You don’t have to live in Speen to join in. Follow them on facebook here.

• Educafe’s Community Cafe at Newbury Library every Wednesday between 11am and 2pm. If you would like to pop along for a friendly chat or to volunteer in the cafe please see their website for more details.

• Berkshire Youth‘s Waterside Centre in Newbury hosts various clubs and activities for local children and can provide volunteering opportunities for adults too.

 The Base, Greenham organise many art-focused events for people of all ages to let their creative sides go wild.


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 Newbury Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 23 October and you can read the minutes here. Note that many matters are delegated to committees.
To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas and minutes please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 20 December and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: matters arising; correspondence; a presentation from West Berkshire Draughtbusters (see separate section above); litter bins; trees and hedges; financial matters; ward members’ reports; planning matters; speeding; the recreation Ground; and Bill Graham’s bench.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

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

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

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 7 November 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 Greenham Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 11 October 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 Enborne Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 25 September 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 Hamstead Marshall Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 21 July and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click hereTo see minutes, please click here.

• Newbury area council contacts

Parishes: Newbury Town CouncilGreenham Parish CouncilChieveley Parish CouncilEnborne Parish CouncilBoxford Parish CouncilSpeen Parish Council,  Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council, and Hamstead Marshall 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 ValleyThatcham area; Compton and DownlandsBurghfield 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

Click here for the 2022 archive

Click here for the 2023 archive

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