Hungerford Town Council Update May/June 2024

These notes incorporate some but not all of the matters discussed at the HTC meeting on 3 June 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. 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.

A Community Award

Before the meeting proper, the Mayor praised Jenny Allen for having raised nearly £1,500 for Alzheimer’s UK as a result of the sponsored Trek26 sponsored walk at Stonehenge on 11 May. She was presented with a Community Award and a Mayor’s coin.

The Hungerford Youth and Community Centre (HYCC)

Also before the meeting proper, Charlie Barr of the HYCC gave a brief summary of the history of the HYCC, its current situation and its future aspirations.

Founded in 1970, it was for several decades run and funded by WBC and its predecessors with its role including detached youth workers. All this changed as a result of the funding cuts of 2012 when all financial support was removed. For a while the future of the facility was in the balance but, thanks to funding from HTC, the Town and Manor, Greenham Trust and the National Lottery, the centre has survived and thrived. It now raises all its own funds.

The HYCC was always popular – having a hundred children turn up was not unknown – and over the last decade more staff, more volunteers and more sessions have been added. Some of these cater expressly for groups such as home-educated and SEN children which are, Charlie Barr stressed, “of enormous value to the children and their families.” These are welcomed from across the area, not just from Hungerford.

“We’re really starting to see HYCC fulfil its potential now,” she added. “This was always a long term project, as we knew the benefit would not become apparent immediately. It was always about young people starting with us from primary school so that we would know them and work with them as they transition to secondary school, where behaviour issues can become more problematic and our advice and support becomes even more useful. That’s starting to happen. It feels like we’re truly offering a strong and precious youth service to the families in Hungerford.”

She also summarised a couple of new projects:

  • The youth forum, “a group of young people who represent the different clubs at HYCC, their job will be to feedback to the staff, volunteers and trustees on how they thing the youth sessions should run; and on any improvements to the facilities. They might be able to conduct their own fundraising project for a particular piece of equipment or building improvements. We’d like them to collaborate with the Town Council at some point.”
  • Accreditation with the National Youth Agency, which regulates youth work in the UK. “This has been in part because it will show that we are a serious organisation which can be trusted by parents and other organisations, but also because it has been a useful exercise for us to reach the next rung on the ladder from delivering small-scale youth services to delivering ones involving a wider range of services for more children.”

She also played a short video which comprised a number of interviews with staff, volunteers and users of the HYCC.

After a few questions, the Mayor thanked Charlie for her presentation and re-confirmed HTC’s continued support for this excellent local facility.

Police report

The following report was supplied for the meeting:

  • Laura Farris MP hosted a local crime meeting at Herongate at the end of April which was attended by Sgt Lond and members of the team.
  • The team recently joined colleagues from Wiltshire Police for a late night rural operation to deter and detect those committing rural crime.
  • We have also been raising awareness and supporting the national campaign Operation Sceptre focusing on engagement and prevention of serious violence and knife crime. We took our mobile knife arch to Hungerford Railway Station and spoke with commuters.
  • Jo and Lee have held Have Your Say events at Lancaster Park and in our surrounding rural hard to reach areas. All of which have seen a good attendance.  We are now counting down to the D-Day events as well as the Young Farmers event at Newbury Showground where we will have a stand.
  • We said goodbye to PCSO Sarah Preston, who covered the Downlands side of the area. She has left Thames Valley Police onto a new challenge in a safeguarding role at a school.
  • In May there were four reports of anti-social behaviour, four of criminal damage, one of shoplifting, three of theft and three of burglary (all of which have been businesses).
  • 43240195789 relates to an attempt break in at Hungerford Jewellers in the early hours of the 29 April. Damage was caused to the store front but no entry was gained. If you have any information that might help the investigation please contact us quoting the above crime number.

The local police team

The current set-up of the team is one Inspector, one Sergeant, three Police Constables and four 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 Band Concert

I was delighted to attend the Town Band’s recent concert held in the Corn Exchange. This year’s concert was themed around movies. The concert was well attended, and the band played exceptionally well. James and Sandy’s duo was the highlight for me. Congratulations to musical director Tim Crouter.

Walk-around

Councillor Fyfe, DC Gaines and I visited sites in Hungerford which, Councillor Fyfe had identified as requiring some attention by WBC/Sovereign. There are many garage blocks within the town which are looking tired and in need of repairs. DC Gaines has noted the challenges and will report back to WBC. Whilst talking to a Sovereign representative, they mentioned another block of garages was flagged to them by a local resident. There will now be a visit at this location by Sovereign, I will feedback any actions.

Lancaster Park

See separate section below.

Play park in Ramsbury Drive

See separate section below.

Chestnut Walk

When speaking with a Sovereign contact last week, I was informed that the delay on the new housing development at Chestnut Walk was not due to them. They said that matters were in the hands of WBC’s legal team.

EV fast charging stations

Despite many reassurances that our rapid EV charges would be installed as a priority in Hungerford, we appear to be no further forward. Does it/should it really take this long? I am finding it increasingly embarrassing to still be having this conversation five years on. (See also the section about this under District Councillors’ reports).

Hungerford CHAIN reception

In the Chair’s absence I was asked to deliver a welcome speech and to express thanks to all the members of the CHAIN family. The charity continues to go from strength to strength. It was a pleasure to welcome everyone and enjoy a lovely afternoon tea with all the volunteers.

New civic year

HTC has now voted in all the committee chairs and deputies for the civic year. I look forward to working alongside all councillors throughout the year. Thank you for your continued commitment to HTC and the community.

D-Day 80

On 6 June at 8am the Bellman will read the proclamation from the town hall steps alongside Constable Julie Lloyd and Deputy Mayor James Cole.

Hungerford’s particular celebration off the event will take place on the weekend of 28 to 30 June, the details of which can be found here.

Lancaster Park

The various issues here were discussed at some length at he meeting. There were two main concerns.

The first was the long list of follow-up issues relating to landscaping which were running a month or so beyond the end of the planting season: and also the lack of a costed and specified management plan for the future management company which had not been provided.

The second concerned the far more serious problem of WBC not being able to adopt the roads. This was a result of the developer’s decision not to apply for a section 38 notice, under which the highways authority (WBC) would have satisfied itself that the roads had been built to an adoptable standard. This not having been done, no checks were performed on the construction of the “private roads” on the estate. The upshot is that any failures in these will not be fixed by WBC but by whichever organisation is responsible for maintaining them.

At present, this responsibility rests with Bewley as the developers. The intention is that the responsibility for the upkeep of the common parts be transferred to a third-party company. However, as mentioned above, in HTC’s opinion little progress has been made towards providing enough detail about what the various obligations will be for this to prove acceptable. The open-ended and perhaps massive matter of the roads was the most serious issue. There have been reports that weeds are already growing through parts of the edgings which doesn’t inspire confidence in the quality of the original construction.

WBC has said that it would need to charge about £100,000 to establish if the roads had been built to a standard which it was prepared to adopt. This is, however, only for investigation. Any remedial work might cost many times this much and may not be viable at all.

The question then arises as to who will maintain and pay for these. WBC has said it cannot. HTC has not the budget or the experience. The future managements company, which will have a local representative on its board, is unlikely to accept such an open-ended obligation. The question was also asked as to why the residents should be expected to take on this when WBC has already declined to do so. That seems to leave the responsibility with Bewley.

Play park in Ramsbury Drive

Following on from Councillor Fyfe’s observations of the play park in Ramsbury Drive, and the recent social media posts about the length of the grass in the park and surrounding areas. HTC has made direct contact with WBC.

The Mayor said that she was also aware residents contacted the MP to discuss these concerns on her recent surgery. WBC admitted the site had missed the last grass cut and have agreed this will be done by July. “I personally find this unacceptable as the grass is already at shin height,” The Mayor said. “Parents are concerned about ticks being present in the long grass. I think it’s a real shame this lovely green space which families (without gardens) have enjoyed previously, is currently now lost to our community. Councillor Reeves has a meeting with WBC’s countryside manager to discuss areas being missed by contractors.” Councillor Cole added that he felt WBC’s response to date to be “totally unacceptable.”

Although HTC has been assured the park is safe and has passed recent RoSPA inspections, the Mayor added that the play equipment is looking “extremely unloved”. HTC’s maintenance manager had told her that, if it belonged to HTC, both the condition of the grass and of the equipment would be sufficient to close it. HTC does not, however, have the power to do this. The Mayor had recently contacted WBC and the Council has agreed to undertake minor repairs shortly. If parents remain concerned, they are urged to report this using WBC’s report a problem page.

District Councillors’ reports

DC Vickers attended the meeting and referred to the following matters:

  • EV charge points. He reported that a feasibility study had been done for one rapid and one fast charger in the Library car park but that further information was required. There was no timescale for their implementation. This news was received with something approaching incredulity by HTC considering how long this matter had already been dragging on for.
  • Denise Gaines. He offered his apologies on behalf of Denise for not attending but pointed out that, as well as having some serious portfolios, she’s also Deputy Leader, and so effectively Leader for the next couple of weeks.
  • The Housing Support Fund. About £700,000 has been received from the government for this initiative which is designed to support anyone, particularly the elderly, those who care for others and those receiving free school meals, with a range of household costs. As before, the distribution of the money is being done in conjunction with a number of local charities and community groups. Anyone is entitled to apply. More information will be available soon on WBC’s website. This is a six-month extension of the 2023-24 scheme that closed in March so all money must be distributed by September 2024.
  • Two Vice-Chairs. DC Vickers said that he was honoured recently to have been elected as Vive-Chair of WBC and appointed Vice-Chair of the North Wessex Downs AONB. He added that in the latter role he was grateful for the work of the previous administration in setting up the Rural Business Forums.

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 from the Primary School have designed some posters, six of which have been chosen. For more information, please see this page on the HTC website.

York stone and possible bollards in the High Street

The repairs to the pavement in the High Street near the former Co-op have been performed ahead of schedule and using York stone which HTC had been forced to source itself.

Concerns remain, however, as to whether these will prove permanent. Councillor Keates told the meeting that in his view the re-laying (performed on this occasion by WBC’s contractor rather than, as previously and less successfully, by Gigaclaear’s) had been done as well as possible “considering the constraints”. These were that utility cables had been laid too close to the surface, so making it impossible to create an ideal substrate on which to lay the stones. The Mayor conceded that this was a challenge beyond HTC’s power to fix but that she would raise the matter with WBC in the hope that future such time- and cost-consuming repairs could be avoided in future.

Consideration is also being given to whether bollards should be placed in front of the former Co-op (now Morrisons) store to recent lorries pulling up onto the pavement. WBC suggested to HYC that the rubbish bins could be moved in to the places HTC had proposed for bollards – WBC’s objection to these was partly because it was unclear what cables and other infrastructure might lie beneath the pavement although it was pointed out by DC Vickers that the technology to detect underground cables now exists.

At the meeting, it was agreed that HTC would accept WBC’s offer to re-site the bins as a temporary measure: also that WBC would be pressed to do the necessary investigations to establish what if any utility cables were beneath the ground and also seriously to consider the proposal for bollards as a cost-effective alternative for regular replacement to the paving stones.

D-Day

See here for information on the many events that are planned for the weekend of 28 to 30 June.

Tickets for the Swing Dance on 28 June are available in various ways but those who buy them from Crown Needlework in the High Street will avoid the booking fee. Early booking is recommended for what promises to be a popular event.

The Hungerford neighbourhood development plan (HNP)

There was very slow progress in May.

  • Rule 14 Consultation completed but not had all comments back from WBC yet: awaiting highways and drainage, although good full response on everything else.
  • The timetable is struggling. Several activities our out of our control which will mean that mid 2025 likely for adoption.
  • The Steering Group had a discussion with WBC, but the ongoing Local Plan examination is absorbing a lot of WBC’s bandwidth.

Key next actions are to complete the Consultation comments and draw up potential changes based on these; and update plan and submit to WBC for Rule 16 Consultation.

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

• Hungerford Resource Centre (HRC)

This offers “excellent facilities with a calm atmosphere and highly trained, experienced and caring staff for adults with learning disabilities, physical disabilities and for those with frailty and dementia. Our friendly and welcoming centre has spaces and facilities which we use to set up activities that our customers choose or need. It’s open five days a week from Monday to Friday and can support up to 20 people per day.”

It asked HTC for its views on extending its opening hours from 9am to 4pm on Monday to Friday to adding activities from about 6pm to 8pm and also opening at weekends “for a few hours” between 9am and 4pm. HTC expressed its general support for these aspirations at the meeting but said that they the HRC needed to establish the views of local residents.

• Christmas 2024

The trees have been ordered and the lights switch-0n was confirmed as taking place on Sunday 1 December (not Sunday 24 November as reported at the meeting).

• The conservation area

Councillor Cole told the meeting that the long-standing question of the reassessment of Hungerford’s two conservation areas (the larger of which covers most of the town centre) was raised at a recent meeting of West Berkshire Heritage Forum. These are relevant to planning decisions and more recently assessed ones have more force: however, many of West Berkshire’s, including those in Hungerford, haven’t been assessed as such since they were established in the 1970s although the boundaries have been.

The issue is that doing the job requires a lot of work. A project leader, volunteers, training and officer support from WBC are all required. Until all these are in place (and they currently aren’t, particularly the last one) there’s little that can be done. This may change as WBC has said it is looking to appoint another conservation officer.

Another issue which he reported had come up at the Heritage Forum related to the powers that a planning authority has under Section 215 of the 1990 Town and Country Planning Act to serve a notice if it feels that the condition of a building is harmful to the area. A number of properties in the town could be so described. Unfortunately, WBC currently appears unwilling either to use these powers itself or to devolve them to town and parish councils. There would certainly be obstacles to their taking this on even if WBC were willing, not least because they lack legal staff. However, Councillor Cole suggested that Newbury, Thatcham and Hungerford Town Councils might approach WBC jointly and agree a more formalised way by which they could act as WBC’s eyes and ears in this respect, which would include a process by which their recommendations were acted on.

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.

  • Finance and General Purposes. (Last meeting 22 May – click here to read the minutes.) Items covered included: accounting and financial procedures; D-day expenditure; the lease of the Bridge Street War Memorial Gardens; bus costs; grant applications; and HTC’s investment policy.
  • Environment and Planning. (Last meeting 13 May – click here to see the minutes.) Items covered included: the re-election of the Chair and Deputy; eleven planning applications (seven “support”, two “no objection”and two “objection”; case officers’ reports; and an appeal.
  • 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.

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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