Hungerford Town Council Update March/April 2024

These notes incorporate some but not all of the matters discussed at the HTC meeting on 2 April 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

No police report was provided for the meeting but one was supplied the following day.

“March has been another quiet month crime-wise for the town.

“Jo and Lee along with Tracie, who is our Neighbourhood administrator attended the Annual Town Meeting on 2o March. We had many visitors to our stand, asking lots of questions and seeking advice. We look forward to this annual event as it is a great opportunity for us to engage with the Hungerford community.”

The report added that in March there had been no reports of anti-social behaviour, two reports of criminal damage, one of theft and one of burglary

Scams

A reminder about some scams that have been highlighted by the police over the last couple of months.

  • 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

Town Meeting

I was delighted to see another great turnout for the annual town meeting. It was good to have so many groups and organisations represented, giving residents a real opportunity to ask questions and speak to councillors in person. I believe we had around 120 residents in attendance. Thank you to staff and councillors for supporting the event and to all those who participated. I was surprised we didn’t have any questions at the end of the evening, hopefully this means questions were answered throughout the evening’s discussions.

Royal British Legion Women’s section Tea Party

I was delighted to be invited to a gathering of the women’s section, hosted at the Hungerford branch. This gave me the opportunity to donate the funds raised at the Mayor’s Christmas carol concert. The group were thrilled with the donation and look forward to supporting the women’s sections many activities over the coming year. Thank you for making me feel so welcome.

Poetry Competition

It has been nice to read many of the poems located within the library as part of the poetry festival. Well-done to all those who participated. What a very clever community, so full of talent.

Neighbourhood Development Plan

The Hungerford Neighbourhood plan pre-submission regulation 14 consultation and SEA (strategic environment assessment) has now closed. The data will now be looked at closely by the NDP team. See also the separate section below.

Steering Group meeting

The group held another meeting to discuss projects to be considered within the steering group. At our next meeting we are looking at parking in more detail. Information has been requested from WBC to assist with our discussions. See also the separate section below.

Paving in the High Street

I know from the many discussions held with residents, paving on our high street has become a real concern.

Many of you know our high street is paved in York Stone. Works completed by a contractor last year were sub-standard, the paving has not been replaced with York stone in parts, reinstating the paving on poor foundations has led to some of the paving to rock. Secondary to this, large delivery vehicles have been driving onto the paving causing the poorly laid paving to crack. WBC is aware and have/will be addressing. WBC council needed to fill some urgent areas with tarmac (easier to remove when correct paving is available). The contractor is finding it difficult to source the York stone and was looking to compromise and install concrete slabs.

I think it’s important to ensure our town paving looks as it did before it was poorly reinstated/damaged by vehicles. WBC service director Jon Winstanley agrees and has given me reassurances the towns paving will be completed in York stone and will assist in considering measures to stop vehicles from driving onto the pavements for deliveries in future.

Charnham Park

This week I met with Business and Facilities Executive Manager for Charnham Park, Mark Ransom. Mark has recently been promoted into his role and has been appointed to manage the day-to-day activities within Charnham Park. Being aware the site has been a little neglected over time, Mark is looking to bring the park back to its former glory.

Works planned include management of the many trees (sadly, some have signs of ash dieback and will need to be felled). Mark is looking to bring the canopy down to recommended legal height. All signage at the entrance of the park will be deep cleaned along with other signage throughout the park. Reinstatement of the circles at each of the openings to the roads. The works will take place as the growing season allows. Mark is also speaking to WBC about lowering the speed limit to 20mph throughout the business park.

There are also some bigger more community-based projects being considered within the site; these are in the very early stages and couldn’t be discussed yet. Thank you for your time, HTC looks forward to seeing the improvements at this important gateway to the town.

Garry Poulson’s retirement

I was delighted to be invited to Garry’s retirement party hosted in Newbury. It was nice to see so many people attending to say a personal thank you to him for 25 years dedicated to the Volunteer Centre West Berkshire. HTC sends its warmest regards to Garry and wishes him a long and healthy retirement. We would also like to offer our congratulations to Rachel Peters who has become the new chief executive.

Term ending

This is the last full council meeting before May. I would like to thank all the 2023-24 chain gang for their warmth, friendship, and guidance throughout the year. We’ve attended some wonderful events and celebrations within our communities. It was a pleasure sharing the year with you.

Finally

I would like to wish my deputy, Claire a speedy recovery – get well soon.

Co-option of a new councillor

Following a vote, Gordon Montgomery was co-opted onto HTC.

Chestnut Walk

DC Bennyworth recently contacted Sovereign about this long-delayed project as follows:

“The Chestnut Walk project is one I’m really keen to see movement on and I have been in regular touch with WBC’s Service Lead for Housing , Development and Regulation to see what can be done.”

He received the following response:

“Apologies for the delay in responding to you on this matter. At present, Sovereign on behalf of the joint venture, is about to commence the tender exercise. Once the actual tender price is confirmed this will enable a revised financial assessment to be undertaken, including a prospective indicative offer to the Council. “

DC Gaines told the meeting that the tenders for constructing the homes had recently been issues by Sovereign and that a thirteen-week period would be allowed for these. She was unable to confirm how soon after the expiry of this a decision would be taken, nor whether this would necessarily result in the project being green-lighted. It appears that – despite this being a joint venture between Sovereign and WBC and despite WBC having an interest in the matter through being the planning authority, having responsibility for providing housing, being a landowner and being a financial contributor to the project – WBC’s role in deciding what goes forward here is secondary.

It was suggested by Councillor Fyfe that WBC should send an officer to the next HTC meeting to explain what was going on and why the project had been so delayed. After some discussion, DC Gaines suggested that until the results of the tender process are known it was unlikely that any useful information would be forthcoming. The delay in this project is thus likely to last for at least another three months.

Bewley Homes at Lancaster Park

As reported last month, 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.

Subsequent discussions – with the Mayor described as “positive” and Bewley as something that it “welcomed” – produced what seemed to have been a schedule of work on the landscaping in particularly, with weekly monitoring. This is important for two reasons: first, because the tree-planting season then only had about a month to run (and so is now over); and second because the responsibilities of the management company which will be set up to look after the common parts – and, with it, the costs that the residents might need to pay – can’t be finalised until all the planning conditions including this condition are discharged.

It was reported at the meeting that, unfortunately, the work had not proceeded as planned. In some cases small whips rather than saplings had been planted; in others, it seemed that the planting had not even started. It was announced at the meeting that a letter to WBC had been agreed that very evening and that this would be sent to Denise Gaines, in her capacity of both ward member and portfolio holder.

In the light of this, it seems worth repeating the last three paragraphs of the report on this item from last month’s HTC update:

“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-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 told the meeting that the Hungerford Town Centre Steering Group (HSG) had met most recently on 14 March.

As a result of comments made previously, it now has a new member – Ed Mills, who lives on the High Street. There were views that another Commoner should not be selected but Councillor Cole said that he had spoken to him beforehand and felt that “he cannot be said to have already made up his mind about the issues involved.”

Councillor Cole summarised the meeting’s main achievements as being as follows:

  • Councillor Fyfe kindly provided some more information about the poor condition of the Hungerford end of the Canal towpath. There is a project going already in respect of the Canal more towards Newbury. involving West Berks, Sustrans and others. The HSG asked to be represented on that and the WBC representative will request that we are.
  • The HSG had an update on some of the options outside the Town Hall. This was helpful but needs more work.
  • The HSG an update about some other issues relating to the look of the High Street.
  • Councillor Cole asked all to remember that “the HSG is an advisory group – if things are to be done that require sign off by this Council then they will come to this Council.”

“At our last Full Council,” he added, “there was some discussion about the representation on the HSG. Since then I have had a very positive and constructive meeting with one interested party and I hope that good will come out of that.”

Councillor Cole said that minutes will appear in due course and thanked Marlborough Law for suppling a very useful first draft of these; also for “hosting us and for agreeing to put up with us for the next meeting on 9 May.”

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

District Councillors’ reports

DC vickers and Gaines attended the meeting but, aside from some district-wide matters and initiatives, there were no ward matters reported on.

The changing places facility

This has now had its first user although it’s yet to be officially opened. Now all the formalities of construction and handover have been completed, i t’s hoped that a brief ceremony will be arranged in the near future.

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 again discussed at the meeting. This has deteriorated into a very dangerous condition. The Mayor reported that a discussion with a representative for WBC;s Highways team at the recent Town Meeting will hopefully result in the necessary repairs taking place sooner rather than later.

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. A page is expected to be added to the HTC website in the near future.

Fencing at the skate park

It was agreed at the meeting that this and the associated hedge work, would cost about £21,300. The funding for this, mainly from external grants, is already in place. It was confirmed that the  hedging contractor was well aware of the regulations concerning not disturbing birds during the nesting season.

Street lights

Over the last few years, HTC has been engaged in a rolling programme of upgrading the street lights in the town which it owns (others have long been the property of WBC). This costs about £1,000 per light. The objective was to get these into a suitable condition for WBC to adopt them, whereupon HTC would be shed of all responsibility (and cost) for their future maintenance and energy costs.

This has happened with all bar about thirty-one. WBC has recently announced that for various reasons (such as their location or spacing) it will not be prepared to adopt these remaining lights: nor will it be prepared to maintain them after April 2025. After this date, all aspects of the lights will be HTC’s sole responsibility. This leaves HTC with a decision to make. In each case it can either (a) leave the light as it is and deal with any problem as it emerges; (b) upgrade it, so providing a better light with cheaper running costs but with up-front investment; or (c) remove it.

HTC is currently looking at the implications of each of these options, which include financial, insurance, logistical and societal considerations. More news on this will be provided as the information is available.

The Hungerford neighbourhood development plan (HNP)

March saw a major milestone passed in the HNP’s journey with the completion of the Regulation 14 consultation. This produced 93 responses from the public and also several from statutory consultees. Of these, the most welcome was a detailed submission from WBC. There had previously been concerns that this might be delayed due to the pressure of work caused by the district’s local plan examination. The steering group could not have started considering the responses in earnest without this input but is now in a position to do so.

Key next actions are to analyse the Regulation 14 consultation comments and draw up potential changes based on these; and then update plan and submit to WBC for the Rule 16 Consultation. This stage is run by WBC and so its timing is largely out of the steering group’s control. None the less, early 2025 still seems to be the likely date for the final adoption.

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

D-Day wreaths

At the meeting, Councillor Keates said that the the RBL has created a number of D-Day poppy-related items: these include wreaths, pins and plaques to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the Normandy landings. The Mayor confirmed HTC will be purchasing a wreath that will be laid at the commemorative stone-laying at 6pm on Saturday 29 June on the common adjacent to the Downgate. Other local organisations and individuals are invited to do likewise. Wreaths will be moved to the war memorial after the service and commemoration.

Please contact the RBL ASAP to order. Examples of what is available can be seen by clicking here.

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 meetings relating to the Hungerford neighbourhood Plan and the Town-centre Strategy.

  • Highways and Transport. (Last meeting 25 March – click here to read the minutes.) Items covered included: update on actions from previous meetings; a possible 40mph limit of the A4; SIDs and speeding; EV charge points; streetlights; CCTV search charges; protection for the Plume building; the High Street taxi rank; footpaths and signage; parking on verges; potholes; paving slabs; overgrown vegetation; and lorry parking in Charnham Park.
  • Recreation, Amenities and War Memorials. (Last meeting 18 March – click here to read the minutes.) Items covered included: actions from the previous meeting; maintenance list; the RoSPAreport; the skate park fence; grass matting; Saturday interments and St Saviours; potholes; memorial headstones; plaques on benches; war-memorial cleaning; and health and safety checks.
  • Environment and Planning. (Last meeting 11 March – click here to see the minutes.) Items covered included: a presentation form Archel Homes regarding the Station Road site; and five planning applications (three no objection, one objection, one retrospective granted by WBC).
  • Finance and General Purposes. (Last meeting 6 March – click here to read the minutes.) Items covered included: updates on actions from the previous meeting; electricity at the Croft Field; D-Day costs; the Tennis Courts lease; and the lease at the War Memorial Gardens.

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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