Hungerford Town Council Update February/March 2024

These notes incorporate some but not all of the matters discussed at the HTC meeting on 4 March 2024, the agenda for which can be found here. The official minutes of the meeting will in due course be found on the HTC site. Any references below to “the meeting” refer to this event unless specified otherwise. Any such issues are not necessarily covered here in the order in which they were discussed.  This report may also include information about HTC’s activities which were not discussed at the meeting. 

Full Council Meetings generally take place at 7.00pm in the Library on the first working Monday of every month except August (when there is either no meeting or, as in 2023, a short one to conduct necessary or formal business). Meetings normally take place on the first Tuesday if the first Monday is a bank holiday. 

The agenda for the future meetings (as well as for the Council’s various committee meetings) can be found in this section of the HTC website

See the foot of this post for more information.

HTC = Hungerford Town Council; WBC = West Berkshire Council; WAPC = WBC’s WBC’s Western Area Planning Committee. NDP = Neighbourhood Development Plan. H2036 = Hungerford’s NDP (so-called until October 2023). HNP = Hungerford’s NDP (from October 2023). DC = District Councillor; TVP = Thames Valley Police.

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

Police report

A police report for February was provided before the meeting.

“February has flown by with little to report. Our Scam and Fraud Awareness event in Dobbies on 5 Jan was well attended. We have more events in our area booked in over the coming months. There were four reports of anti-social behaviour, one report of criminal damage and three reports of theft during the month.”

Scams

Last month’s report listed a few (of the many) that are doing the rounds. These are the top three below. Underneath that are some others which the Police team has recently been made aware of.

  • Phone calls and emails asking for your bank sort code and account numbers seem to be doing the rounds again. Banks will never ask you for this information over the phone or by email so never give it out.
  • We are also getting a lot of reports regarding Microsoft wanting you to log on to your computers so they can gain access to your accounts.
  • In addition we are aware of some scams relating to delivery couriers. Do not click on links in these emails or reply with your personal details.
  • Great Western Railway has advised that a scam post on Facebook offering UK residents a year’s free travel for £3 is nothing to do with GWR.  Do not click on any link.
  • There have been reports of fraudsters sticking phoney QR codes on parking meters, redirecting people to fake payment apps.
  • Another scam that has been shockingly effective has involved the sending of texts or WhatsApp messages to parents, claiming to be from their children and in financial distress. Ask questions that the scammer wouldn’t be able to answer such as the name of a pet or of a sibling and make clear that money won’t be sent until they are answered correctly.

If you believe you have been a victim of fraud or cybercrime, please report it to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040, or visiting www.actionfraud.police.uk.

The local police team

The current set-up of the team is one Inspector, one Sergeant, three Police Constables and five PCSOs to cover the Hungerford and Downlands area. Please see below for how to contact them.

Local events

If you have any community events for which you would like representation from your local NHPT, please contact them via the email address below. While local TVP representatives cannot guarantee always to be able to attend, they will make every effort to do so. 

General information (including contacts)

  • Please report all incidents to the Police or otherwise they will not be officially recorded – news travels fast round a community but if no one reports incidents the police may not know about it. Mentioning an incident on social media does not count as reporting the crime.
  • People are encouraged to sign up for Thames Valley Alerts. As well as local crime information, you can receive details of the latest scams.
  • Thames Valley Police has a Facebook page.
  • The local policing team also wants to draw attention to the ‘what three words’ app which is used to help with the prevention of rural crime by locating people. The app provides a three-word code for each grid which is mapped over the world. By ringing 999 and quoting it, the police can locate you.
  • You can report incidents online but if it is urgent please continue to call on 101 (non-emergency) and 999 in an emergency.
  • If you would like to report anonymously you can do so via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or online.
  • The team’s email address is HungerfordandDownlandsNHPT@thamesvalley.pnn.police.uk  This is not monitored 24/7 and should not be used in an emergency or to report a crime.
  • The local police team is keen to promote the Herbert Protocol initiative which helps us all to try to keep vulnerable members of our community safe.

The Mayor’s report

Resignation

Sadly, Councillor Mark Greenwell has decided to step down as a town councillor with immediate effect. I would like to thank Mark for his help, support and commitment to our team.

Sovereign Network Briefing

Councillor Fyfe and I attended the on-line bite size briefing. This was focused mostly on an introducing Darryl MacAndrew (community investment and partnership lead). Darryl’s aim is to build relationships with organisations and communities, working with them to help sustain activities and services provided to customers and helping them also to launch new projects.

Hungerford Theatre Company

I was delighted to be invited to see the wonderful production of Oliver. Congratulations to all the cast and crew. I know how much work goes into theses productions. Oliver is one of my favourites and this production did not disappoint. Well done everyone. I’m already looking forward to the next one.

Lancaster Park site visit

This matter is also covered in a separate section below.

Several members of HTC and district councillors met on site at Lancaster Park and at Bewley’s offices over the last month.

Residents remain concerned about landscaping, which is still not completed as there are still a significant number of trees missing. Residents are also concerned there’s been limited information on the management agreement. Adoption of the roads was also discussed with residents present. I understood the concern and promised to try and reach MD Andrew Brookes.

Andrew did agree to meet me and Councillor Coulthurst, at the Bewley’s office. The meeting was positive and we received assurances the planting would be complete by the end of March. Promises were also made to address hedging which has now become unmanageable in parts. This will be given a tidy before addressing properly when the ground is firmer. Larger machinery will be required on site.

James Clark (adoption manger) will be playing a bigger part on site which will give residents more access to Bewley. I think there is still considerable work to be done, HTC will continue to watch closely and hopefully WBC will play their part in relation to planning policy commitments.

Matt Ratana Foundation

Many of you will know the story of the Police sergeant who was shot by a prisoner whilst in custody who hadn’t been searched properly. Matt was just months away from retirement. The foundation was set up in his memory due to Matt’s love of rugby and coaching youth teams.

Each year, the foundation takes part in a sponsored walk. This year Matt’s friends walked from Reading to Bristol stopping off at various rugby clubs along the way. I was delighted to welcome them after their first day, arriving in Hungerford and hosted by HRFC. The dedication and commitment to their friend, continuing his work to support youth in sport, was completely heart-warming. Huge congratulations to all the walkers and it was a pleasure to listen to such inspirational stories of the foundation.

Chamber of Commerce

I was pleased to attend the meeting which was held at the newly adapted BMW garage (formerly Peter Stirland) in Bridge Street. MD Chris Taylor gave a speech to the group and expressed his gratitude to HTC for its continued support of the business. Chamber Chair Karen Salmon also shared some new images of the Visit Hungerford tourism website. Funds have been secured to support the on-going maintenance of the site for five years. New members to the chamber were also introduced.

Youth and Community Centre

I attended the Youth and Community Centre tea party which was held to celebrate the successful national lottery funding bid. Congratulations to all the Y&CC team who’ve worked so hard to put the bid application together and achieve such vital funding. Thanks also to the youth who spent lots of time with me on the craft table – I really enjoyed chatting with you.

Bewley Homes

There have recently been a few snagging and teething problems with the Lancaster Park development. This is referred to in the Mayor’s report and you can also see statements from the Mayor and Bewley Homes in the 29 February column of Penny Post’s Hungerford Area Weekly News. At the meeting, Stella Coulthurst (who is both an HTC Councillor and a resident of Lancaster Park) gave a summary of the meetings which had taken place in February.

There was a walk-around on 15 February involving two ward members, three HTC councillors, Stella Coulthurst and other residents along with a representative from Bewley, its Adoption Manager (new to the site and a role so-called because, after a development is completed, the various common parts need to be adopted – ie taken over – by the appropriate bodies like the highways authority or handed over to a management company).

This followed various site visits and walk-arounds involving councillors and residents since March last year which had identified a number of problems with the landscaping, with quite a large number of trees and shrubs having died as a result of having been planted poorly, at the wrong time, not correctly maintained or not planted at all.  Under one of the conditions of the planning permission, this needs to be put right.

There was a subsequent site meeting on 20 February which established that some of the specifics of the landscaping schedule were impossible to fulfil, for example because of the available space. Compromises were agreed, which seemed to be to the liking of residents and affected neighbours. As mentioned above, Bewley has agreed that the tree planting will be finished by the end of March. There are a further 40 or so trees (the priority, given the soon-to-be closed planting season) and about 3,200 whips (which can go in as late as April) still to be planted across the site.

A further meeting was arranged on 23 February involving Hungerford’s Mayor Helen Simpson, Stella Coulthurst (in her capacity as a Lancaster Park resident) and representatives from Bewley Homes including its MD. “The meeting proved to be positive,” Helen Simpson told Penny Post afterwards. “with reassurances that the planting will be complete by the end of March. A more robust maintenance contract will be shared soon for comment. We look forward to continued progress and remain committed to ensuring the landscape plan is achieved.”

Bewley’s Head of Customer Services, Chloe Willman, agreed saying that Bewley had “welcomed the meeting” which had covered “a number of key points” regarding the landscaping. “Weekly monitoring” of the site to ensure matters remain on track was also promised.

There is further dialogue on related issues, such as a landscape management plan, and other site issues in process of resolution.  One such issue is the management agreement which will govern the future work on all the common parts of the site. This includes ensuring that as many as possible of the aspects like roads, streetlights, flood mitigation measures and sewerage connections are adopted by the appropriate authority. In order for this to happen, these authorities need to ensure that these match their specified standards.

This is important for residents as they will otherwise need to pay for them as part of the estate management charges, in addition to the normal council tax, water bills and other charges. It seems that a full resolution of all the issues, including the composition and pathway to hand-over of the management company (which is currently a Bewley subsidiary, with Bewley appointed directors) to residents, will take at least a year. The aim, as Bewley’s Chloe Willman said, was to provide “a seamless transition in the future to the resident management company.”

HTC and the three ward members will continue to monitor the situation closely (as will Penny Post). It will do its best to ensure that all the planning conditions are only discharged if they adhere as closely as is practicable to what was specified; that all snagging problems in the properties are addressed; and the eventual responsibilities and structure of the management company are arranged to provide the maximum protection and security for the residents. Further updates on progress will be provided when available.

The Town Meeting

This will take place on Wednesday 20 March at the Corn Exchange. Refreshments will be available from 6.30 and the event itself will start at 7pm.

As in previous years this will follow an exhibition-style format and will give people the opportunity to meet representatives from a number of local organisations. There are still a few spaces left for any organisations that want to take part: please email claire.barnes@hungerford-tc.gov.uk as soon as possible if you’re interested.

The town-centre strategy

As mentioned previously, the Town-centre Strategy (TCS) project was started in late 2022 and paused before the May 2023 elections. See this post for information on the progress so far.

Councillor James Cole gave the following report for the meeting:

“There is no report as such but I can say that I was tasked to find another Steering Group member.

  • We want the Steering Group to be as broadly based as possible
  • There are already representatives from Town Council, Town and Manor, the Chamber of Commerce, the antiques trade, Hungerford’s heritage and Hungerford’s Youth Centre but it was felt that we need a resident of the High Street that is not tied too closely to one of those groups.
  • It’s not easy to find someone who will do the job and does not already represent one of those groups, but I have what I believe to be a suitable candidate – we will see whether the committee agree.”

There was subsequently a discussion initiated by Councillor Nick Schlanker about whether the Steering Group was sufficiently broadly based and whether more representatives from amongst High Street residents should be included.

Councillor Cole pointed out that this was a WBC project, not an HTC one, but that HTC had spent some time and effort ensuring that the project would be led by Hungerford (as opposed to WBC, or HTC). WBC had, however, insisted on a reduction in the Steering Group’s numbers in order to make it functional. he added that the candidate he had tentatively identified would address this exact issue.

The Mayor explained that the project (which was started in the autumn of 2022) had from the outset involved a wide range of groups and that the projects being considered were ones which the public consultation had shown were ones that residents felt were potential areas for improvement.

Councillor Richard Hudson, the Chair of the Hungerford Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group also pointed out that the projects were not only long-term – a concept which his HNP role would make him very familiar with – but also that the Steering Group would not itself make any decisions but that all matters would be passed to HTC and WBC for agreement.

Councillor Cole added that it was never easy to find representatives for any such group (or for organisation like town or parish councils) and that the composition would change over time. This churn had already started and would be expected to continue.

Everything is also dependent on funding being found. Without such an exercise, organised for this WBC project in a way that WBC is happy with, the chances of securing this are considerably reduced. It’s a long road, in other words: but the Steering Group is travelling on paths which the residents have identified and according to rules which WBC has agreed.

For more information on the history of Hungerford’s town-centre strategy, see this separate post.

District Councillors’ reports

No DCs were able to attend the meeting and no updates were provided.

Chestnut Walk

No updates have been provided about this although HTC is actively pressing for further information, as is Penny Post.

The changing places facility

This is now all installed, aside from a few finishing touches such as a bollard. The official handover with be on 12 March and there’s likely to be a short ribbon-cutting ceremony shortly thereafter. “This is a really significant improvement for the town to have,” the Mayor said at the meeting.

Highways

The lay-by or parking area at the top of the High Street, more or less opposite the building that was crashed into in December 2022, was discussed at the meeting. This has deteriorated into a very dangerous condition. WBC had previously planned top repair this but was unable to do so because of the contraflow. HTC will be pressing WBC for an update on this, including on whether the funding is in the 2024-25 budget.

D-day

Councillor Jerry Keates thanked the former Hungerford Summer Festival for a grant of £500 towards this event which will take place over the weekend of 29 and 30 June 2024. Further funding is needed and local businesses are being contacted. If anyone would like to find out more about sponsorship or get involved in the event in any way, please contact claire.barnes@hungerford-tc.gov.uk

Hungerford’s Got Talent

This event, which has emerged from the work that’s been done by the Youth Council Working Group, will be held at John O’Gaunt on Saturday 6 July 2024. Pupils and JOG and the Primary School are currently designing posters. More information will be available nearer the time.

The Hungerford neighbourhood development plan (HNP)

There has been good progress in February and the finishing line is now in sight.

  • The Strategic Environmental Assessment has been completed after pressing AECOM.
  • WBC wanted to delay the Regulation 14 consultation but this has been avoided.
  • The draft plan and the SEA are now out out for Rule 14 Consultation. This is being publicised online, through direct emails, in the Library, through local media groups and at the Town Meeting. Please do comment and encourage others to – anyone can take part in the consultation, whether they live in Hungerford or not.

How to see and comment on the plan and the SEA:

Several aspects are out of our control which will mean that 2025 likely for adoption. WBC has resource problems due to its local plan and may be late commenting on our plan. We also rely on them for the Rule 16 Consultation.

Key next actions are: complete the Regulation 14 formal consultation ending on 29 March 2024, update the plan and submit it to WBC.

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

HTC’s committees 

The following committee meetings have recently taken place (“last meeting” refers to the last meeting for which minutes were available on the day this post was published). Environment & Planning generally meets once a month and the others every other month. See the separate section above for the HNP committee.

  • Environment and Planning. (Last meeting 12 February – click here to see the minutes.) Items covered included: outcome of actions; five planning applications (four no-objections, one support); one licensing application (strong objection); and WBC case officers’ reports.
  • Highways and Transport. (Last meeting 22 January – click here to read the minutes.) Items covered included: update on actions from previous meetings; safety on HighStreet; Kerbo Charge EV charging gullies; SIDS and speeding; the changing places facility; rubbish bin removal; EV charge points; footpath, signage and highway works; and bollards.
  • Recreation, Amenities and War Memorials. (Last meeting 15 January – click here to read the minutes.) Items covered included: actions from the previous meeting; RoSPA report; risk assessments; skatepark improvements; the Youth Council; the war memorial; potholes at the Football Club; and health and safety checks.
  • Finance and General Purposes. (Last meeting 10 January – click here to read the minutes.) Items covered included: updates on actions from the previous meeting; committee budgets; a recommendation of a precept request of £364,585; the tennis courts lease; the local council risk system; and the leasehold of the Bridge Street war memorial garden.

Note: if the links above don’t work, this may be because they were linked to unadopted (draft) minutes which have since been replaced by adopted ones. If so, please visit this page of HTC’s website for the most up-to-date information on meetings past and the agendas of those yet to come.

For details on HTC’s committees, including membership, agendas and minutes, please click here (and go to the “Town Council” tab).

Contacting HTC

HTC can be contacted in the following ways:

  • By email to townclerk@hungerford-tc.gov.uk
  • By post to The Town Clerk, Hungerford Town Council, The Library, Church Street, Hungerford RG17 0JG.
  • In person at the above address between 10am and 2pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
  • By phone on 01488 686 195.

Any questions for an HTC meeting need to arrive by 2pm on the day (please allow more time if you have left this on the ansafone).

Members of the public are also welcome to attend any meetings.

Contacting WBC in an emergency

You can also contact West Berkshire Council out of office hours for emergencies. These are considered to include:

  • Major incidents such as major accidents or significant flooding.
  • Fallen trees and other debris blocking or restricting roads or causing potential danger to road users.
  • Traffic lights not working (West Berkshire Council only manages fixed traffic lights, not temporary ones).
  • Emergency repairs to council-owned temporary accommodation (tenants of properties should contact their housing association, landlord or agent).

 

The sections above cover the main issues with which HTC has recently been involved or concerned: it by no means describes all of HTC’s activities. Nor is this an official record of any meeting nor of any other aspect of HTC’s activities. Links to the official minutes of this and other meetings are provided in this post. For more information on HTC, please click here.

If there’s anything that you’d like to see addressed by HTC, and perhaps also covered in this way in future editions of Penny Post Hungerford, please email claire.barnes@hungerford-tc.gov.uk. Any such suggestions should be received at least four working days before the end of the month (and preferably sooner) if they are to be included in the corresponding post for the following month. That is not, of course, to say that HTC will not in any case give the matter its attention and respond personally if appropriate.

This information has been compiled by Penny Post from information supplied by HTC and others. Every reasonable effort has been made to provide a clear and dispassionate summary of the points covered but these may contain expressions of opinion which may not accord with HTC’s official view on the matter. Links have been provided to other posts, on the Penny Post site or elsewhere, to give additional information where this has been judged useful or necessary. The presence of such a link should not be taken to imply that HTC necessarily agrees with, endorses or supports any of the material contained therein.

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