Compton & Downlands Weekly News, Thursday 15 February 2024

Compton & Downland Weekly News header

Thursday 15 February 2024 

Our usual round-up of  local news includes: donations, recycling, horses, bins and an electric bus – plus the latest newsletter from Downlands ward member Carolyne Culver and a look at some of the issues with the Pen Meadow proposal in East Ilsley.  See also below for community notices and news from your local council.

Upcoming Compton area events include: a quiz night and live music. See below for details, plus regular events and group activities

• A ward member writes

Carolyne Culver is the ward member for Ridgeway. This comprises the parishes of West Ilsley, East Ilsley, Compton, Hampstead Norreys, Yattendon and Frilsham (so that’s quite a lot of meetings to attend). Here’s her latest (14 February 2024) report which covers her take both on ward matters and on some district-wide issues which have recently been on the WBC radar. If you need to contact her, you can do so on carolyne.culver1@westberks.gov.uk.

“It’s good to see the first signs of spring but I feel slightly uncomfortable about how early the daffodils have appeared bearing in mind Easter is still two months away. There are lapwing in the waterlogged fields between East Ilsley and Compton but unfortunately I’ve failed to spot any of the waxwing that have visited the district recently.

“The biggest issue at the Council now is the budget for 2024/25. The draft budget was discussed in detail at Scrutiny Commission in early February and will be debated and voted on at Full Council on 29 February. There was a good response to the public consultation and, as a result, WBC has decided not to go ahead with cutting funds for bins and gully clearance. I think the flooding concentrated people’s minds when it came to the latter proposal.

“There is still a longer-term debate to be had about the bins. There is some support among town and parish councils to take over the litter and dog bin arrangements because of dissatisfaction with the company running the WBC litter-bin contract. I made the point at Scrutiny Commission that, if this happens, it needs to be planned for so that town and parish councils have time to factor it into their annual precept setting.

“WBC also decided not to close one of its three care homes but it is still considering offloading them all to a private company. I have heard claims that the private sector can run them more efficiently: but the case against is that if the council has no care homes of our own in the future, we’ll have no choice but to pay whatever the private sector decides to charge. The budget for adult social care already far outstrips what the council spends on any other service. I often talk to councillors from other parts of the country and they’ve told me we should keep hold of our care homes because, if we don’t, we’ll pay the price in the long term. This is the challenge for councils across the country – funds are tight so there is a pressure to cut spending now, even if that creates challenges for the future.

“The Council has started work on documenting the damage caused by the recent flooding and learning lessons for the future. It’s still trying to identify at least 50 properties that were affected by internal flooding so that it can qualify for a government grant to distribute to those houses. The irony is that some people could really benefit from such funding, while others don’t declare that they were affected because they don’t want it to increase their insurance premiums. If there weren’t the 50-property threshold for the district set by the government, it wouldn’t be a problem. More information can be found here.

“If you own property next to a ditch in an area liable to flooding, it is worth reading the ‘Ditches Explained’ pdf on this page.  I admit it doesn’t sound terribly exciting but you might be surprised to learn that you might have some responsibility for the ditch maintenance. This doesn’t necessarily come up in house surveys and residents can be happily oblivious to this issue until there is a problem with flooding and they find out that they should have been looking after the ditch.

“You can report a range of issues (such as unemptied bins, potholes and abandoned vehicles on public highways) by visiting WBC’s report a problem page.

“For information about road works (such asutility companies digging up roads) please look at One Network which contains a map where you can search for details of what is happening in your area.”

• Pen Meadow

We frequently hear that there’s a severe shortage of affordable and social-rent homes in the district and that the private sector can’t provide these. When, therefore, an application emerges that seems to promise more such low-rent homes than the planning authority’s policy demands, and which claims that these will be sustainable, this surely should be grabbed with both hands?

Or perhaps not. Such a scheme – application reference 23/02681/FULMAJ for “Erection of 14 no. dwellings, public open space, a shared office space and associated infrastructure on Land West Of High Street” – has been proposed in East Ilsley and has so far attracted about forty objections. Why might this be?

A quick skim through the emails against the plan produce one over-riding objection: flooding. Any application which is coming up for determination (the deadline is 9 April, but this may not be met) so soon after the recent flood incidents can be guaranteed a bit of a rough ride. I won’t quote from any of these objections (you can see themselves on the above link) but will from ward member Carolyne Culver’s comment on the application.

She stresses that this is “not a letter of support or objection. I have heard from many residents and will likely hear from many more before a decision is made about this application. I will reserve judgement until I have heard all the arguments. However, I want to point out that the flood risk assessment document says the following:

  • 2.4 Risk of groundwater flooding
  • 2.4.1 We do not have any records of groundwater flooding within the vicinity of the site. We therefore consider the risk of ground water flooding to be low.

“The definition of “vicinity” is “the area near or surrounding a particular place”. I would recommend that the applicant asks for their money back from the consultant who wrote this report. This link includes maps of East Ilsley from the 2014 groundwater flooding event, indicating that there was internal property flooding on the eastern boundary of the proposed development, and ground water emerged from cracks in the surface of the road that runs along the northern boundary of the proposed development.”

She adds that “since the first weekend of January 2024 a property on the eastern boundary of the site has been pumping out their cellar. The proposed SuDS scheme will be directly behind and at a higher elevation than their house. The Crown and Horns on the High Street was shut for several days in early January because the cellar flooded and they lost several thousand pounds of stock.”

There’s also the question of the need for affordable housing. There seem to have been two local housing needs assessments produced. One, in 2018, resulted in 146 replies from 60 households, described as being a 32% overall response. This has been cited in one objection as showing that there were “only eight people” in the survey who wanted affordable housing “out of 1,500”. I find the results of the survey slightly hard to follow and can’t see where the eight people are mentioned. Nor am I sure about the 1,500 people as this is several times more than the village’s population and considerably more than the number of people (461) to whom the survey was sent.

The covering letter from the applicant’s consultants, dated 16 November 2023 (also available on the above WBC link) refers to another housing needs survey which was undertaken in March 2020 (which I haven’t been able to locate). This is claimed to have “identified a need for more homes for local people in the village” and it adds that public consultation events were held by the Parish Council in August 2021 and October 2021.

These two summaries are not as far apart as might at first appear. Eight (with or without the “only”) is the number of people who, it seems, expressed a desire for housing and the applicants’ agents have described this as “a need”. A recent statement from East Ilsley PC on its FB page confirms that this is exactly the number that the development is planning to provide. It’s hard to believe that this won’t increase, indeed may already have done so since 2020.

These points may, however, fall away in the face of the objections predicated on flooding (and some other issues including traffic). Given the number of these, the decision will go to planning committee if the officers are minded to accept it. There’s still time to make your comments, for or against.

• Other news

Compton Pre-School is looking for your help. They are in need of donations of some small matchbox vehicles, a basketball hoop and a football goal. Contact  Dominique Barton on facebook to arrange drop-off or collection.

• The Downs School is excited to report, that in their pursuit of sustainability, the school is now fully equipped with new recycling bins.

Claire Armstrong   is keen to highlight the fact that residents should be mindful of the new signs on the old institute footpath. She has pointed out that if you are riding a horse or are 6ft tall, you will be in danger of bumping your head. The issue has been reported and Claire is awaiting a response from the council. In the meantime, mind your head, especially in the dark.

Jane Gartshore reports that her dad has moved on from his famous bird boxes and now is making some  brilliant bird tables and for a donation to the pre-school or the local food bank, they could be yours. Go to 18 Newbury Lane, to bag one.

• A reminder that the Downland Volunteer Group has recently launched a new fully electric and fully accessible HandeBus. Anyone For those wishing to use the HandeBus or volunteer to help the DVG’s work, contact 07713 813 523; dvg.handebus@btinternet.com; or at www.downlandvolgroup.org. More information can also be found 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.

• Quick reminder that The Living Rainforest in Hampstead Norreys is appealing for donations to help with the rocketing cost of energy. They report that they are struggling to cover electricity and heating costs for the animals and plants that live there. No support is available from government sources so they reply on public support to help. Click here to learn more or donate.

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.

• The Rural Business Grant Scheme is now open for applications and it’s aimed at providing funding to micro and small businesses located in rural areas across West Berkshire to help facilitate growth, diversify, and support the rural economy. See details here and how to apply.

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

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.

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

U6, U7 and U16 footballers are welcome at FC Cougars. Please contact graham on graham@fccougars.com.

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

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

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

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


Local events and activities

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

• Dates for the diary

• Wed 21 Feb Quiz Night The Swan East Ilsley.

• Sat 9 Mar Live Music with Fubar The Swan East Ilsley.

• Regular events and groups 

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

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

• Marcham Cricket Club welcomes new cricket players and officials.

Tea and a Chat on Mondays from 9.30am to 11am at the Wilkins Centre in Compton: all welcome

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

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

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

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

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

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

• Quiz night at The Crown and Horns in East Ilsley every Thursday from 7pm with prizes to be won. You can reserve a table by calling 01635 281545 and see more information here.

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

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

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

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

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

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


News from your local council

Note: “the most recent meeting” refers to the most recent one for which minutes (in some cases draft) or some other summary is available. Other meetings may have taken place since. Some councils publish minutes more promptly than do others. 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 Peasemore Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 24 January and you can download the minutes here. Items covered included: the parish plan; thew Village Hall; repairs and maintenance; financial matters; and planning matters.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here

• The most recent meeting of Brightwalton Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 15 January and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: Community co-ordinator; the Church; a new clerk needed; planning matters; financial matters; and the Millennium Green Trust.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here

• The most recent meeting of Compton Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 8 January and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: a report from the ward member; planning matters; financial matters; dog bins; D-day; and a litter pick planned for April or May.
To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here. To see the minutes click herePlease click here for the latest on Compton’s neighbourhood development plan (which has now been ratified).

• The most recent meeting of Beedon Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 4 January and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: a report from the ward member; planning matters; parish council assets; speeding; the Victor Pocock bequest; repairs and maintenance; financial matters; and the precept (£10,500) and the budget.
To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click hereTo see minutes from past meetings please click here. Please click here for details of the planning applications currently active in the parish.

.• The most recent meeting of West Ilsley Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 18 December and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees) please click here.

• The most recent meeting of East Ilsley Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 14 November and you can download 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 Aldworth Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 13 November and you can download the minutes here.
To see the dates, agendas and mintues for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Chaddleworth Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 7 November and you can read the minutes here. (There was also a meeting on 19 December to consider one planning application, the minutes of which you can read here.)
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Hampstead Norreys Council for which minutes are available  took place on 28 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 meetings of Ashampstead Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 22 May and you can read the minutes here.
To see the dates, agendas and minutes for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.


News from other areas

Penny Post area – please see the following separate sections: Hungerford area; Lambourn ValleyNewbury area; Thatcham area; Burghfield area; Wantage area; Marlborough area.

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

Archives

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

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