Thursday 27 January 2022

Scroll down for local events and activities and news from your local councils.

This week’s news

• The Newbury Town Civic Awards, with four categories, have been launched for 2022. Nomination forms are available for collection from Newbury Town Hall, can be completed online or can be printed off from the Newbury Town Council website. Nomination is deadline is 20 February. These awards celebrate achievements, honours volunteers and recognise those who make a difference in our community. 2022’s will be the 25th such event.

Click here for the latest (January 2022) newsletter from Newbury Town Council.

The Watermill Theatre needs help accomodating actors and stage managers for two large productions this spring, The Wicker Husband and Our Man in Havana. If you live within walking distance of The Watermill or short driving distance (max 10 miles) and would be willing to accommodate one of their team, or know someone who does, please contact Clare at clare@watermill.org.uk

• Volunteers at the Speen Community Cafe have completed a lovely blanket for Newbury Soup Kitchen. The community cafe is at The Starting Gate pub on Wednesdays 2 – 4pm and anyone is welcome (you don’t have to live in Speen). You can enjoy a chat, a cuppa and a cake and if you like help sew squares together or learn how to knit or crochet.

• The Starting Gate also collects crisp packets for recycling by Speen Terracycle Recycling Group which has a drop-off point near the Shell garage in Speen.

Educafe returns from an extended Christmas break with lots of exciting news for 2022 including more free exercise classes, English for maternity and job support, She’s Ready programme for strong empowered female social and physical action programme. Educafe’s weekly Community Cafe is pleased to be re-starting next Wednesday 2 February 11am – 2pm in the new location of Newbury Library. All welcome to enjoy free refreshments, arts and crafts, chatty corners, seated yoga and more.

• Take a look here for a stunning photo shoot of a red kite enjoying roadkill just outside Snelsmore Common, courtesy of Bev Hiller on Newbury Today.

• Some bin collection days are changing from week commencing Monday 7 February. Visit West Berkshire Council’s website here to check how your street is affected.

• The closure of St John’s Road for Thames Water works is set to be reopened on Saturday 29 January.

• Greenham Business Park is to accommodate four new bus shelters after a recent investment as part of a commitment to promote sustainable transport. Newbury Today assures that bus routes 103/103A/103B will be connecting these stops within usual working hours for a cheap price of £1 a ticket.

• Still in Greenham, twelve young trees have been planted in the front gardens of houses in Westwood Road and New Road Greenham under an ‘adopt a tree’ scheme organised by the Greener Greenham Group.  This ‘streets where we live’ project was funded from donations via the Good Exchange and can be extended to other streets in the area as further trees are available for planting up to the end of March 2022. Anyone interested please contact Alison Blackborow on 07766558849 or aandpblackborow@virginmedia.com

• The vaccination centre in the Kennet Centre will be open again this weekend, January 28 and 29, for boosters for over 16 years olds.

Boots on Northbrook Street now has a walk-in covid vaccination clinic for the 12 to 15-year-olds 9am to 5pm Monday to Saturday and 11am to 4pm on Sunday (closed between noon and 1pm).

• Newbury Town Council is looking for volunteers to be a part of a Steering Group for its Neighbourhood Development Plan. More information here or email NDP@newbury.gov.uk.

Hamstead Marshall Parish Council, which recently has been going through some challenges out of all proportion to the parish’s size or population, recently issued the following statement:

“After many years of service, John Handy and Peter Benest have stepped down from Hamstead Marshall Parish Council. My fellow parish councillors wish to thank both gentlemen for the years of service to our community. I (Anne Budd) have agreed to take on the role as Chairperson and Maryn Oppenheim has kindly agreed to take on the role as Vice-Chairperson. Rob Manser has agreed to continue the role of Lead Councillor in various projects such as ‘SID’ training for volunteers as well as HMPC’s website re-design and management of the new website.

“There are two vacant parish councillor positions, and we are reviewing the two options of either a community wide election or, a co-option process. A further update on this matter will be forthcoming very soon.

“Our current Parish Clerk has also resigned, and we are in the process of recruiting a suitable candidate. Maryn, Rob, and I ask for your patience and support as we go through the transitional processes. The scheduled HMPC meeting at 8pm on 17 March will proceed; I hope you will be able to join us.”

• Any comments, suggestions or feedback about the Council’s community transport services (including Readibus) should be sent to WBC’s Transport Services Team. You can write to them at Council Offices, Market Street, Newbury, RG14 5LD, email Transport@westberks.gov.uk or call 01635 519394.

Newbury’s Champions

Our congratulations to Dr Susan Millington for winning West Berkshire’s Volunteer of the Year Award 2021. Susan is the founder and driving force behind the Lockdown Woods project which worked with West Berkshire Council, Newbury Town Council and the Town and Manor of Hungerford to identify three separate areas where more than 1,500 young saplings were planted, including donated trees from the Woodland Trust. The judging panel felt that her nomination really stood out and was able to demonstrate both positive environmental as well as health and wellbeing benefits.

Other Newbury-based winners from the 2021 awards were West Berkshire Young Carers’ Project and Newbury Road Club, who both shared the Community Group of the Year Award.

  • The Young Carers Project supports children and young people under the age of 18 that provide regular ongoing care and emotional support to another who is physically or mentally ill, disabled or who misuses substances. The judging panel found the Young Carers Project to be a worthy winner, as it provides an excellent service supporting young carers and the panel was impressed with the feedback from young people and the impact it has had on their lives.
  • The Newbury Road Club (NRC) elected a cohort of NRC female members to a newly established committee and decided to develop the NRC Women’s Ride Group to encourage more female participation within the group. Historically, NRC only saw a handful of ladies cycling regularly with the Club but their efforts to challenge this were commended by the judging panel for bringing people together, improving health and wellbeing and having a positive impact on those taking part.

More details about the Community Champions 2021 winners can be seen here.

Football under scrutiny

Anyone looking for reasons why they should not become a district councillor could do a lot worse than watch the YouTube recording of the first two hours (from about 10 minutes) of the meeting of WBC’s Oversight and Scrutiny Management Commission on 25 January. The Lib Dems sprung something of a trap on the Chairman, who didn’t handle the surprise very well, and questions were asked of the legal officer, who didn’t seem to give clear answers. The whole thing went downhill from there. Tempers got frayed, eyes were rolled, heads shaken and eyebrows raised, people spoke over each other, accusations flew around, points of order were raised – and still the clock ticked on as the car crash unfolded.

I can assure you that, in my personal one-to-one dealings with them, most are much better people, and WBC a more functional organisation, than this might imply. None the less, all the most unedifying consequences of a politically divided council debating one aspect of a complex and divisive issue were there for all to see. The length of a football match, plus extra time ,was expended before the matter was voted on and the exhausted and bruised commission members moved to the next item.

The football comparison is not a random one, for this agenda item was to scrutinise the awarding of the construction contract for the proposed new sports hub at Monks Lane. It was not convened to look at the overall decision, nor the situation at the Faraday Road ground, nor the future of the LRIE development. Different views exist as to the wisdom of these decisions but this meeting was just to look at the contract, which it eventually did (this will now be rubber-stamped at the next meeting of the Executive).

(Note: the “steps” mentioned below describe the level of the non-league pyramid that the ground can be used for. Step 1 is the first level (National League), step 2 the second (National Leagues North and South) and so on. The higher the number, the lower the league. Hungerford Town is currently step 2, Thatcham Town step 4, AFC Aldermaston step 6 and Newbury FC step 7.)

All these matters are closely connected but have become conflated. I’ve written about this many times and I sense this won’t be the last outing. One issue is whether the Monks Lane is a replacement facility for Faraday Road: opinions differ on this, not helped by contradictions between WBC’s planning application and statements made at the above-mentioned meeting. Another is the cost. Portfolio-holder Howard Woollaston told Penny Post on 26 January that this will, including the loan repayment, be about £290,000pa over the 40-year term (the capital cost will be about £3.35m, funded by a loan from the Public Works Loan Board). He also confirmed that this could be upgraded to step 4 “without any further expenditure” and I understand that the design spec and building contract will be for step 4. He also assured me that it was “ahead of the curve” in terms of sustainability, with the specifications including air-source heating, hedge widening, a bank of bee-friendly wildflowers and the planting of about 100 trees.

A spokesperson for the Newbury Community Football Group told Penny Post on 26 January that the costs for a 3G football pitch, clubhouse, pavilion and stands at Faraday Road (for which permission has been granted, as there was no plannignreason to refuse it) would be about £2.1m (this includes a 20% inflation uplift since the figures were first prepared in 2021), about £600,000 of which might be expected from WBC in line with similar previous commitments. The NCFG also estimates that revenue from the site will generate £720,000 over the following 40 years. The spokesperson added that “this would provide at least a step 4 with the ability to easily scale up to step 2 and above as required (there may be incremental costs associated with scaling) .” He added that one of the step 4 requirements was having “250 seats located in one stand.” This had, he pointed out been the situation at Faraday Road until that stand was removed and gifted, sold or leased (I’m not sure which) to Hungerford Town FC, which is punching way above its weight as an established team in the National League South with a step 2 facility.

We’re clearly dealing with two very different proposals: in Monks Lane, the rent (£41,000pa) would be going out, whereas with Faraday Road, revenue would be coming in. The problem with retaining football at Faraday Road however is that this offends a central plank of WBC’s policy with regard to the regeneration of the London Road Industrial Estate, that the site would be re-developed for housing, the profit from which (roughly estimated at £3m) would help fund the other development plans in an area which most agree needs it.

That assumption, however, is looking a lot less certain than it might have been. Planning approval, in the light of new flood regulations, cannot be guaranteed. If granted, mitigation measures for this and additional sustainable features will eat into the profit. If we assume that £2m will be realised, and that it might take seven years from now for the last house to be sold, this is the sum that would already have been spent on Monks Lane. The benefit to the council is thus zero. If planning permission can’t be obtained or proves too complex or expensive then I’m not sure what the plan B is. This should have been established first.

Another dilemma may lie in wait in May 2023 if there is change of political control at WBC – I make no predictions and have no pre-disposition but it’s a possibility – then the Lib Dems will be faced with the choice of what to do with the ground.  If Monks Lane is operational, as it should be, and thriving, as I hope it will be, this might be a hard question to answer. Unless work on the long-awaited Faraday Plaza has started by the time of the election, the whole LRIE project may seem too abstract a concept for most voters to grapple with: nothing but the creation of the access road off the A339 and the closure of the football ground has so far been accomplished there. It is from this latter ill-timed and ill-considered decision that so many problems have flowed. Even if football ever returns there, it’s unlikely that any of the matches it hosts will create as much acrimony, partisan rivalry and heated arguments as have ensued in the three and a half years since it was closed. Until something is definitely decided as to its future, these debates will rage on.

Local events and activities

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

• Dates for the diary

• See here for information and events in Parkway, Newbury.

• Jan 2022 Arlington Arts events (until June).

Sat 29 Jan Livewire The AC/DC Show at Arlington Arts.

• Until 30 Jan Decoding Braille Exhibition at The Base, Greenham.

Mon 28 Feb Art Course for Kids Mondays.

• Fri 4 Feb to 3 Apr 57th Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibition at The Base, Greenham.

• Regular events

• Click here to keep up to date with Newbury Town Council’s diary of events.

• The Newbury Pub opens its terrace every Thursday evening to the Newbury Social Club, hosting an open mic night. Running from 8pm till late.

• ACE Space on St Nicholas Road hosts live acoustic performances. To find out about their upcoming events join their Facebook group or follow them on Twitter.

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

• The friendly Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesday afternoons between 2pm and 4pm welcomes anyone who would like to drop in for a chat or a cuppa. There are also knitting and craft activities to get involved with.

• The Club Quiz nights every 2nd Wednesday of every month at The Club Bar and Bistro. Registration from 6.30pm and quizzes starting at 7.30pm. See more here.

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

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

News from your local council

Note: “the most recent meeting” refers to the most recent one for which minutes (in some cases draft) or some other summary is available. Other meetings may have taken place since. Some councils publish minutes more promptly than do others.

• The most recent meeting of Newbury Town Council took place on 18 October and you can download the minutes here. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council took place on 19 January and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: the dog poo poster competition; proposed streetlight dimming; speeding; parking on yellow lines; financial matters; a report from ward member Lynne Doherty; planning matters; village amenities; welcome packs for new residents; litter picking; sewage; and the jubilee. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council took place on 8 December and you can read the minutes here. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

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

• The most recent meeting of Hamstead Marshall Parish Council took place on 18 November and you can download the minutes here.  To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council took place on 15 November and you can read the minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council took place on 8 November and you can read the minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• Speen PC currently has vacancies for five parish councillors – click here for more.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council took place on 7 September and you can read the minutes here.  To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• Please click here for Hamstead Marshall.net, which provides an excellent round-up of what’s going on in and around the village. This also publishes the quarterly Hamstead Hornet.

• Newbury area council contacts

Parishes: Newbury Town CouncilGreenham Parish CouncilChieveley Parish CouncilEnborne Parish CouncilBoxford Parish CouncilSpeen Parish Council,  Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council, and Hamstead Marshall Parish Council.

West Berkshire Council: click here to visit the website.

News from other areas

Penny Post area – please see the following separate sections: Hungerford area; Marlborough area; Newbury area; Thatcham area; Compton and Downlands; Theale area; Wantage area; Swindon area.

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

Thursday 20 January 2022

This week’s news

• We all need some heartwarming news, especially in January, and this week it comes from a nurse at Falkland Veterinary Clinic who is looking after a little spineless hedgehog who has been named Maggot after the Pogues’ song Fairytale of New York. Luckily young Maggot is growing his fur and spines back and will hopefully be released back into the wild before long.

• Newbury has recently welcomed a new community larder at the Waterside Centre, which opened this Tuesday after a successful mock larder was trialled. Penny Post contacted the Operations Director at Waterside Community Centre, Sarah Emery about this. “The mock larder was great,” she told us, “as it allowed those who are worried about landfills to feel better and for those that needed the food to know what to expect in the future.” This week’s NWN states that “the larder will be open from 26 January onwards”: however, it will be open on Tuesday 25 January from 2pm to 4pm and every Tuesday after that. Sarah also stated that those who wish to volunteer are welcome to by either dropping into the Centre or signing up on the Sofea website.  For more details please contact waterside@berkshireyouth.co.uk or call 01635 018500

Click here for the latest (January 2022) newsletter from Newbury Town Council.

• The Newbury Town Civic Awards, with four categories, have been launched for 2022. Nomination forms are available for collection from Newbury Town Hall, can be completed online or can be printed off from the Newbury Town Council website. These celebrate achievements, honours volunteers and recognises those who make a difference in our community. 2022’s will be the 25th such event.

• Six new electric vehicle charge points are now live across West Berkshire public car parks including two 22kW Fast Chargers at Newbury Library Car Park capable of charging two vehicles at once and one 50kw DC Rapid Charger (capacity for one vehicle only) at Newbury Central Car Park next to KFC. For more details please see West Berkshire Council’s website. Please note, users will be required to pay for their parking space whilst charging their vehicle.

• A number of pharmacies and other vaccination centres in the area are now offering sessions which can be booked locally (as well as through the NHS website) as well as being available for drop-in patients. As many have limited indoor space and as wit times can vary, people are advised to book in advance. One such takes place at Strawberry Hill in Newbury, on Wednesday 26 January which is doing a specific after-school session for secondary school and further-education students. They are open for 18 plus from 9.30am to 1pm and 1.30pm to 5.30pm. They also have clinics for 12 plus, and 16 plus between 3.30pm and 6.30pm. Remember you need 12 weeks gap since your first, or second dose and 28 days since any positive covid-19 test.

• The vaccination centre in the Kennet Centre will be open again this weekend, January 22 and 23, for boosters for over 16 years olds .

Boots on Northbrook Street now has a walk-in clinic for the 12 to 15 year olds 9am to 5pm Monday to Saturday and 11am to 4pm on Sunday (closed between noon and 1pm).

• If you want to take advantage of the 20% discount off the à la carte menu at  The Hartley Arms, Donnington on Wednesdays and Thursdays there is still time until the end of January. And if you want to work up an appetite first this walk from Donnington Castle to Snelsmore Common should do the trick.

• Eight Bells Community Strength is appealing to volunteers for a community navigator role. You can sign up for their team here, or otherwise, can email them at cs@eightbellsnewbury.co.uk

• Newbury Town Council is looking for volunteers to be a part of a Steering Group for its Neighbourhood Development Plan. More information here or email NDP@newbury.gov.uk.

• See here for information and events in Parkway, Newbury.

• An NHS research exhibition is on display at West Berkshire Library in Newbury. Opening times and more can be found here.

Hamstead Marshall Parish Council has now registered with West Berkshire Council to use a Speed Indicator Device (SID). The SID will display the speed of approaching vehicles, hopefully encouraging drivers to abide by its 30mph speed limit. All vehicle speeds are also recorded for later analysis by West Berkshire Council. Anyone within the Parish can now register to use the SID: contact the Parish Council for details. Registered SID operators must complete a short online training course and then supervise the SID during its deployment for an hour at a pre-registered location in the village.

• Any comments, suggestions or feedback about the Council’s community transport services (including Readibus) should be sent to WBC’s Transport Services Team. You can write to them at Council Offices, Market Street, Newbury, RG14 5LD, email Transport@westberks.gov.uk or call 01635 519394.

The utmost integrity

West Berkshire Council held an extraordinary full council meeting on 18 January to debate some motions which were held over from the last meeting in December due to lack of time. The first item was tabled by Councillor Jess Brooks: this is considered in detail in this separate post which includes a link to the Zoom recording of the event.

The motion was a cleverly worded one as it asked for the members to agree to following a set of self-evidently correct principles while at the same time allowing there to be a debate on some matters where Councillor Brooks felt WBC’s conduct had fallen short of these ideals. The motion was, he explained, phrased in this way as it provided the only way by which these matters could be given a proper public airing. On several previous occasions when the matter had been raised it had been deferred to the Executive (like the government’s cabinet) and no further scrutiny was possible.

The two most important matters raised – both of which have been covered on many occasions and in some detail in Penny Post – concerned two disputed Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) charges; and the continuing tale of Readibus’ funding. It is the latter which is likely to be of more interest to Newbury residents as it’s from here, from Thatcham and from some of the communities to the east that the majority of the award-winning community transport company’s clients are to be found.

Or, in some cases, “were to be found”, for the three-year-long dispute has resulted in some of its services being curtailed and fewer people thus being able to use it. Hopefully this will be resolved and matters returned to the harmonious conditions which prevailed for more than 30 years before this mysterious rift. It’s not too late for this to happen. Certainly the demand still exists and the more people can remain independent and self-reliant the less likely they are to need to call on West Berkshire Council’s adult social care budget, which is already by far the council’s biggest single area of expenditure.

Local events and activities

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

• Dates for the diary

• Jan 2022 Arlington Arts events (until June)

• Until 30 Jan Decoding Braille Exhibition at The Base, Greenham

• Fri 21 Jan One Off Comedy at Bacon Arms.

Mon 28 Feb Art Course for Kids Mondays.

• Fri 4 Feb to 3 Apr 57th Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibition at The Base, Greenham.

• Regular events

• Click here to keep up to date with Newbury Town Council’s diary of events.

• The Newbury Pub opens its terrace every Thursday evening to the Newbury Social Club, hosting an open mic night. Running from 8pm till late.

• ACE Space volunteer-run community hall on St Nicholas Road hosts live acoustic performances including their monthly Unplugged open mic nights. To find out about their upcoming events join their Facebook group or follow them on Twitter.

• The friendly Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesday afternoons between 2pm and 4pm welcomes anyone who would like to drop in for a chat or a cuppa. There are also knitting and craft activities to get involved with.

• The Club Quiz nights every 2nd Wednesday of every month at The Club Bar and Bistro. Registration from 6.30pm and quizzes starting at 7.30pm. See more here.

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

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

News from your local council

Note: “the most recent meeting” refers to the most recent one for which minutes (in some cases draft) or some other summary is available. Other meetings may have taken place since. Some councils publish minutes more promptly than do others.

• The most recent meeting of Newbury Town Council took place on 18 October and you can download the minutes here. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council took place on 15 December and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: the school poster competition; cherry trees in the churchyard; dog bins; the give-way sign in Love Lane; financial matters; planning matters; repairs and maintenance around the parish; footpaths; the Community Steering Group; and the co-option of a new councillor To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council took place on 8 December and you can read the minutes here. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

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

• The most recent meeting of Hamstead Marshall Parish Council took place on 18 November and you can download the minutes here. This appears to have been a stormy affair, particularly during AOB at the end. Matters raised included enforcement, or lack of, of planning conditions by West Berkshire Council, inquorate meetings, accusations of illegal aerial photography, communication problems, unanswered emails and the PC’s alleged “intolerance” of new developments in the parish. To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council took place on 15 November and you can read the minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council took place on 8 November and you can read the minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• Speen PC currently has vacancies for five parish councillors – click here for more.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council took place on 7 September and you can read the minutes here.  To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• Please click here for Hamstead Marshall.net, which provides an excellent round-up of what’s going on in and around the village. This also publishes the quarterly Hamstead Hornet.

• Newbury area council contacts

Parishes: Newbury Town CouncilGreenham Parish CouncilChieveley Parish CouncilEnborne Parish CouncilBoxford Parish CouncilSpeen Parish Council,  Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council, and Hamstead Marshall Parish Council.

West Berkshire Council: click here to visit the website.

Thursday 13 January 2022

This week’s news

• This week’s Newbury Weekly News has, on p3, an article about West Berkshire Council’s welcome change of mind over its decision to allow volunteers at the Kennet Centre vaccination clinic to get free car parking. At a media briefing on 7 December at which I was present, WBC’s Leader Lynne Doherty said that this was being introduced as a temporary measure in the run up to Christmas but seemed doubtful that it would be extended. She also ruled out offering retrospective refunds. An article in the NWN on 9 December confirmed these points and also pointed out that, as Ms Doherty had said two days before, volunteers could ask for refunds from the charities or organisations for which they were working. The NWN’s articles, an intervention from Laura Farris MP, doubtless continued pressure from volunteers and charities and perhaps a period of reflection at WBC HQ has resulted in a change of tack: the period of free car parking (at the Station Road Car Park) is now described as “open ended” and will be kept under review. If you are a volunteer you should contact, or will be contacted by, the organisation that’s recruited you for details of how this works.

None of us get every decision right first so WBC is to be congratulated for changing course on this one. The report in today’s paper was, however, slightly clouded by accusations from WBC that the original NWN article on 9 December involved “inaccurate reporting”. Enquiries with WBC and NWN failed to reveal what these were beyond the point, which the paper accepted, that the article had said that Lynne Doherty had had her booster jab at the Kennet Centre whereas it had in fact been at the nearby branch of Boots. This doesn’t seem to undermine any of the points the article was making. The messages we all get loud and clear, though, is that WBC’s Leader has had her booster and that if you go to have yours in the Kennet Centre then the staff there will be that much happier for not being out of pocket. Two good reasons to go and get yours if you haven’t already done so.

• There’s a letter in this week’s NWN from David Peacock of The Newbury Society which criticises the way in which the various images of the proposed Eagle Quarter redevelopment of the Kennet Centre have been presented. I contacted the developers, Lochailort, on 13 January to draw this to their attention and ask if they had any comment and was provided with a statement, as well as two part preview images, which you can see in this separate post. This statement also clarifies Lochailort’s position on affordable housing and stresses again its commitment to including a number of sustainable features. If David Peacock or anyone from The Newbury Society or anyone else has any comment on these, please feel free to use the “Leave a reply” box at the foot of the post, or to email me on brian@pennypost.org.uk.

• Last week (see section below) I wrote about the latest episode in the saga of Readibus and West Berkshire Council. This one was largely scripted by the Local Government Ombudsman who partially upheld Readibus’ complaint that consultation on which the current dispute is partly based was flawed. The Ombudsman has limited powers to enforce subsequent action and so was unable (even if so minded) to insist that discussions be re-commenced to try to resolve the matter for the benefit of the local residents who have for about 35 years been enjoying the benefits provided by this award-winning community transport charity. An email to WBC on the morning on 13 January enquiring whether anyone was planning on picking up the phone has so far not received a reply. The story is also covered in this story on Meridian News. Hopefully there won’t be too many more episodes: what’s needed now is a drawing of the proverbial line and them hopefully, the proverbial happy ending.

• Six new electric vehicle charge points are now live across West Berkshire public car parks including two 22kW Fast Chargers at Newbury Library Car Park capable of charging two vehicles at once and one 50kW DC Rapid Charger (capacity for one vehicle only) at Newbury Central Car Park next to KFC. For more details please see West Berkshire Council’s website. Please note, users will be required to pay for their parking space whilst charging their vehicle.
• The new cafe at the Waterside Centre, run by Colline’s Kitchen (which used to be next to the Town Hall in the market place) opens Friday 14 January and is open 8.30am to 4.30pm Tuesday to Saturday with a delicious range of cakes, coffee, buddha bowls, toasted sourdough sandwiches, soups and more. Follow them on facebook to find out more.

• The Corn Exchange re-opens to visitors this Friday 14 January. Their first event of 2022 is a Pink Floyd tribute night this Sat 15 Jan.

• Newbury Town Council has paid tribute to Esther Jane Luker by erecting a blue plaque in her honour at Luker Hall. From 1904 to 1933 Luker was the first headmistress of Newbury Girls’ School, the first school in Newbury to offer secondary education for girls to university standard.

• Looking to meet new people, save money on your food bills and prevent food going to land fill? Check out the new community larder opening at the Waterside Centre in Newbury (behind Costa Coffee) on Tuesday 18 January. The Larder will be open every Tuesday 2pm to 4pm when people can come and select their items of food and other household products as well as access other support services on site. For more details please contact waterside@berkshireyouth.co.uk or call 01635 018500.

St Bartholomew’s School are still looking for entries to their title-art banner competition which would be featured on their newly-designed BartholoNews newsletters. The secondary school has requested for any keen local artists to submit “an eye-catching title design” to the new extended deadline of Monday 17 January.

• Local artists are certainly in-demand, as another request for “paintings, photographs, drawings or any medium of your choice” this time coming from Arlington Arts for their “community art exhibition A Winter’s Tale”. A Newbury Today article further explains the T&Cs of the competition which starts on 19 January and continues until 26 February.

• The year 9 group at The Clere School were asked to study from home this week, due to a Covid surge amongst the school’s staff. Friday remains a teacher training day and normal schedule is expected to resume in the near future. See more on the Newbury Today here.

• To all of the incredible NHS staff out there who love tattoos or would like a permanent reminder that they are appreciated: local tattoo artist, Lee Priddy is offering free badge of honour tattoos, from his four flash designs to the NHS staff who have put other people before themselves throughout these challenging times. A truly permanent reminder of the amazing work that the NHS has put in throughout the last couple of years. All tattoos will be held in his studio, Full Power Studios, on 16 February starting at 10am til late, will allow the staff to claim their free tattoo from Lee. To anyone wanting to book this tattoo, you can email Lee at fullpowerstudios@outlook.com or DM him on Instagram @leepriddytattoo a photo of your NHS Blue light card for verification.

• Eight Bells Community Strength is appealing to volunteers for a community navigator role. You can sign up for their team here, or otherwise, can email them at cs@eightbellsnewbury.co.uk

• Newbury Town Council is looking for volunteers to be a part of a Steering Group for its Neighbourhood Development Plan. More information here or email NDP@newbury.gov.uk.

• See here for information and events in Parkway, Newbury.

• An NHS research exhibition is on display at West Berkshire Library in Newbury. Opening times and more can be found here.

• Any comments, suggestions or feedback about the Council’s community transport services (including Readibus) should be sent to WBC’s Transport Services Team. You can write to them at Council Offices, Market Street, Newbury, RG14 5LD, email Transport@westberks.gov.uk or call 01635 519394.

• Please click here for Hamstead Marshall.net, which provides an excellent round-up of what’s going on in and around the village. This also publishes the quarterly Hamstead Hornet.

NADAS – to show or not to show

As many of you will be aware, we covered in some detail the Newbury and District Agricultural Society’s rather tumultuous 2021 (see earlier sections below) which culminated in an AGM in November at which a new board of trustees was elected. Much of their time since then has been spent examining the details of what they’ve taken over. They have also created a newsletter which has recently been sent to all the members, the intention being that this will be a quarterly publication. In this issue, the new Chairman Steve Ackrill says that he is “really looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead” and also points to a number of rebranding tasks and changes to the website. He also reports that the accounts for the year to 31 December 2021 should show a profit of “close to £100,000” and that, despite a debt of £320,000 the cash position is a fairly healthy £220,000. I also understand that discussions are being pressed forward with re-negotiating the Section 106 agreement which currently places restrictions on how and when the site can be used.

The big uncertainty at present is what will happen about the Newbury Show in 2022 which, for many people, is why they joined NADAS in the first place. Here the new board is in a difficult position. For some time it’s been clear that the Show as it was organised was losing money and the new trustees need carefully to consider what needs to be changed and what retained and how large it should be.  There would be no point in doing a Show just for the sake of avoiding a third fallow year if it’s not going to at least break even: on the other hand, many members might expect or demand that some kind of event take place. There’s also the question of time. Events of this size and complexity take a year to plan properly and, through no fault of its own, the new board is already into the third month. Whatever form the new event takes will form the template for future ones so it’s important that this be got right. A final decision has yet to be made but the timescale is not in favour of a decision to proceed. The shadow of Covid still hangs over every piece of planning. If NADAS decides not to hold a show this year then that will allow more time to plan something for 2023.

Many people who are not members of NADAS (though may wish to join – email accounts@nadas.co.uk for more information) will have been following the story because of concerns as to whether the ground will be sold and, as at one time seemed possible, turned into a distribution centre. The current board was elected on the platform of preventing this and retaining the site, or at least the large majority of it. It may take further time to establish how best this can be done. If that involves waiting another year for the return the Show then that might be a price worth paying.

News from your local council

Note: “the most recent meeting” refers to the most recent one for which minutes (in some cases draft) or some other summary is available. Other meetings may have taken place since. Some councils publish minutes more promptly than do others.

• The most recent meeting of Newbury Town Council took place on 18 October and you can download the minutes here. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council took place on 15 December and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: the school poster competition; cherry trees in the churchyard; dog bins; the give-way sign in Love Lane; financial matters; planning matters; repairs and maintenance around the parish; footpaths; the Community Steering Group; and the co-option of a new councillor To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council took place on 8 December and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: an update from Greenham Trust about the development near Newbury College in partnership with Feltham Construction; trees planting; financial matters including the 2022-23 budget; possible donations and grants; planning applications (including at Newbury Rugby Club); dog bins; footpaths; EV charge points; and the wildlife garden. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council took place on 14 December and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: a licensing application; financial matters; the 2022-23 budget; delegated powers to the Clerk; local historical research; light pollution at the Showground; and a vacancy on the council. To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here to download the meeting schedule. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Hamstead Marshall Parish Council took place on 18 November and you can download the minutes here. This appears to have been a stormy affair, particularly during AOB at the end. Matters raised included enforcement, or lack of, of planning conditions by West Berkshire Council, inquorate meetings, accusations of illegal aerial photography, communication problems, unanswered emails and the PC’s alleged “intolerance” of new developments in the parish. To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council took place on 15 November and you can read the minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council took place on 8 November and you can read the minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council took place on 7 September and you can read the minutes here.  To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

Thursday 6 January 2022

This week’s news

• Green bin (garden and food waste) collection service has been “temporarily suspend” by West Berkshire Council until 8 January, with the services resuming from Monday 10 January.

• A new community larder is opening at the Waterside Centre in Newbury (behind Costa Coffee). The Larder will be open every Tuesday 2pm to 4pm with the first Mock Larder on Tuesday 11 ahead of Tuesday 18 launch. people can come and select their items of food and other household products as well as access other support services on site. Working with Sofea and Fareshare, they take supermarket warehouse excess and re-distribute it in the community. If you require any further information or have any further questions please contact waterside@berkshireyouth.co.uk 01635 018500.

St Bartholomew’s School, Newbury are looking for any applications towards their title-art banner competition which would be featured on their newly-designed BartholoNews newsletters. The secondary school have requested for any keen local artists to submit “an eye-catching title design” to the new extended deadline of Monday 17 January.

• Remaining on the topic of secondary schools, students at Park House school have donated 26 boxes of food to the West Berks Foodbank. This was just in time for the Christmas donations appeal sent out by the Foodbank before the holiday season to help those in need.

• Newbury’s Luke Humphries reached his third PDC World Championship quarter final but sadly was defeated by ‘The Flying Scotsman’ Gary Anderson at Alexandra Palace on 1 January. A Newbury Today article highlights what a fantastic year the 26 year-old had, “he finished runners-up to James Wade in the UK Open” as well as “two last-16 appearances in the World Matchplay and Grand Prix followed, as well as reaching the semi-final of the Hungarian Darts Trophy” which currently leaves Luke within the top 20 in the world.

• Local artists are certainly in-demand, as another request for “paintings, photographs, drawings or any medium of your choice” this time coming from Arlington Arts for their “community arts exhibition A Winter’s Tale”. A Newbury Today article further explains the T&Cs of the competition which starts on 19 January to 26 February.

• A new scheme by National Highways addressing safety and congestion on the A34 has been introduced which will explore opportunities to relieve traffic congestion and make it safer for drivers on the road between the M40 and the M4 junctions. Earlier last year Laura Farris MP called for National Highways to prioritise safety upgrades to this “dangerous” stretch of the A34 and it was an issue that her predecessor frequently raised as well. See more here on Newbury Today.

Information here from the invaluable Bedwyn Train Passenger Group about changes to rail services between Bedwyn and Newbury, mainly as a result of Covid-related staff shortages.

• The Base at Greenham new exhibition titled Decoding Braille which will be open 7 to 30 January 2022. The next exhibition after that is based on the the 57th instalment of the wildlife photography competition and will be held between 4 February and 3 April 2022. See here for more.

• A reminder that the Corn Exchange will remain closed for in-person visits until 14 January. During this time tickets can still be bought on-line. See more here.

• Newbury Town Council is looking for volunteers to be a part of a Steering Group for its Neighbourhood Development Plan. More information here or email NDP@newbury.gov.uk.

• See here for information and events in Parkway, Newbury.

• An NHS research exhibition is on display at West Berkshire Library. Opening times and more can be found here.

• The Winter 2021 Ullage magazine is available to read here.

• Click here for information about lateral flow tests available in West Berkshire.

• Click here for the December 2021 issue of the Hamstead Hornet Newsletter.

• Any comments, suggestions or feedback about the Council’s community transport services (including Readibus) should be sent to WBC’s Transport Services Team. You can write to them at Council Offices, Market Street, Newbury, RG14 5LD, email Transport@westberks.gov.uk or call 01635 519394.

• Community larders are running in Newbury, Thatcham and Wantage – click here for details.

Readibus and West Berkshire Council: the Ombudsman’s decision

Regular readers of this column will be aware that we have been covering the problems that have arisen between the award-winning community transport company Readibus and WBC (this affects people other than just in Newbury but this is where most of the users of the service live). One of the issues was a consultation about funding cuts in 2018 which was not extended to Readibus’ customers on the peculiar grounds that many of them had learning disabilities (the charity in fact provides transport for people with mobility issues).

Readibus raised this issue with the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) who, in the judgement finally published just before Christmas, found that WBC was in several cases at fault (though some claims were not upheld). WBC was asked to make an apology and pay £300 to Readibus to cover the “uncertainty” caused by the matter (the maximum fine that the LGO can issue in such cases). You can see a link to the LGO’s report and recent statements from WBC and Readibus in this separate post.

Among the comments the LGO makes (para 49) is that “I cannot say on balance whether carrying out a public consultation for the cuts to community transport grants would have changed the Council’s view.” Such a statement could apply to any event in the past which did not happen: the wider point is that you can’t exclude certain groups from consultations on a whim. It also seems odd that at least one person in a decision-making position at WBC didn’t appear to understand who were the beneficiaries of this service that WBC and its predecessor had been funding for over 30 years. The need for such a service has certainly not diminished in that time: indeed, given an increasingly ageing population, it’s probably increased.

What happens next? A decision made by the LGO is not lightly to be set aside. The decision was that WBC was at fault in several ways. It’s therefore reasonable to expect that related decisions may also have been flawed. Other matters, such as a contentious confidentiality clause (not part of the LGO’s investigation) remain as obstacles. The LGO specified three agreed actions: an apology, the payment of £300 and a review of consultation procedures. However, WBC would unwise to assume that everything else about the matter has therefore been handled in the best possible way. Meanwhile, the service is operating at a lower level than it might be, the would-be customers being the losers. The services which Readibus offers are part of the complex fabric of adult social care (ASC) and improve the lives of people in many ways. On a purely financial level, the more self-reliant and independent people are, the less of a charge they become on the public service. If all the effects of the reduction in the service are translated into additional ASC costs then the whole divisive and time-consuming exercise could in fact be costing money rather than saving it. A lot has changed since 2018. Hopefully, this judgment will help draw a proverbial line and enable discussions to re-start. It would seem that the ball is in WBC’s court on this one.

News from your local council

Note: “the most recent meeting” refers to the most recent one for which minutes (in some cases draft) or some other summary is available. Other meetings may have taken place since. Some councils publish minutes more promptly than do others.

• The most recent meeting of Newbury Town Council took place on 18 October and you can download the minutes here. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council took place on 15 December and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: the school poster competition; cherry trees in the churchyard; dog bins; the give-way sign in Love Lane; financial matters; planning matters; repairs and maintenance around the parish; footpaths; the Community Steering Group; and the co-option of a new councillor To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council took place on 14 December and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: a licensing application; financial matters; the 2022-23 budget; delegated powers to the Clerk; local historical research; light pollution at the Showground; and a vacancy on the council. To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here to download the meeting schedule. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Hamstead Marshall Parish Council took place on 18 November and you can download the minutes here. This appears to have been a stormy affair, particularly during AOB at the end. Matters raised included enforcement, or lack of, of planning conditions by West Berkshire Council, inquorate meetings, accusations of illegal aerial photography, communication problems, unanswered emails and the PC’s alleged “intolerance” of new developments in the parish. To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council took place on 15 November and you can read the minutes here. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council took place on 8 November and you can read the minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• Speen PC currently has vacancies for five parish councillors – click here for more.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council took place on 13 October and you can read the minutes here.  To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council took place on 7 September and you can read the minutes here.  To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

Thursday 23 December 2021

A look back at 2021

We’ve covered a lot of stories in this area in 2021, several on more than one occasion as things have changed or new facts come to light. We’ve listed and summarised a handful of these below. More information can be found by searching for the respective phrases in this post (and any for coverage of this area for earlier periods, which will be linked to at the foot of the post). 

• The football grounds. One of these, Faraday Road, is an ex-ground (though many disagree that it should be); the other, Monks Lane, will be a new ground (ditto). The full saga – which involves a premature closure decision, the changing views of several national sporting bodies, WBC’s long-held plans for regenerating the London Road Industrial Estate, a vocal opposition group, differing views about the meaning of the phrase “like-for-like replacement”, several planning applications, several pieces of vanishing infrastructure, a lot of letters and emails, a 50-year lease and an arson attack – is virtually impossible to summarise succinctly. One thing the matter proves is that when something starts in the wrong way it can be increasingly hard to get it back on track; and that the more time passes the fewer good routes out of the problem there are.

• The Newbury Showground. This came to local prominence earlier this year when its owners, the Newbury and District Agricultural Society (NADAS), announced that the 150-acre site would need to be sold in order to address the parlous state of NADAS’s finances in part caused, it was claimed, by the fact that the Newbury Show had been losing money for several years. The Showground, “conveniently situated” as an estate agent might put it, to M4 J14 and the A34, is worth upwards of £20m and it at one point seemed likely that it would be turned into a large distribution centre. An opposition group was formed in the summer which objected to this proposal: what followed was a protracted debate between the two sides, some of which was acted out in public, culminating in an AGM in November at which the members voted in favour of the opposition group’s plans. A new board of trustees has since been appointed which is looking at how NADAS can adapt and survive in the future (and without selling the entirety of the ground).

• Pedestrianisation. In the summer of 2020, WBC agreed that parts of Newbury Town Centre, including Northbrook Street, would be pedestrianised 24/7 to assist hospitality venues recovering from the first lockdown. This measure ended on 31 August and there have since been calls from Newbury Town Council and others to have this revived and made permanent. WBC, however, doesn’t agree. In the light of the climate emergency this issue is unlikely to go away. It’s complex and divisive as the views of retailers, shoppers, motorists, cyclists and the emergency services are often very different and such changes are often unwelcome and confusing when first introduced. Many other towns, including Wantage, are grappling with this very issue.

• Readibus. Although relevant to the wider area, this mainly affects Newbury as it is from there that the majority of the community transport company’s clients come (or “came”– despite having offered a valuable service to residents with mobility problems for over 25 years, Readibus has in recent years seen its subsidy from WBC cut dramatically which resulted in service curtailments). For reasons which many find hard to understand, the charity has also during 2021 and before found itself locked in a dispute with the council. This has resulted in half its current remaining grant being withheld. The matter turns on the details of a confidentiality clause in the proposed new agreement which, despite WBC’s assertions to the contrary, effectively gives the Council a veto on any statement relating to the service that the charity wishes to make. There is clearly little wrong with Readibus’ service, as in November is was named as one the country’s three best providers of community transport during the pandemic. Many local residents who need to access it, however, still can’t. There are number of other excellent community-transport groups in the area but none offer exactly what Readibus can. Hopefully 2022 will produce a better result than the impasse of 2021. The dozen or more users of the service who have contacted us about this would concur – for many, it’s a lifeline.

This week’s news

• For the latest news from Newbury Town Council see their December 2021 newsletter here.

• Green bin (garden and food waste) collection service has been “temporarily suspend” by West Berkshire Council between 28 December till 8 January, with resumption of the services starting again from Monday 10 January. The council explained the reasoning behind the suspension as needing to “free up more drivers and operatives to ensure your rubbish (black bin) and recycling (green boxes and bag) service continues as scheduled throughout the busy Christmas period and into the New Year.”

• Dates for Newbury Markets during late-December and New Year were announced on 20 December. Both 25 December and 1 January won’t host any markets, however a small market will be open on Thursday 30 December.

St Bartholomew’s School, Newbury are looking for any applications towards their title-art banner competition which would be featured on their newly-designed BartholoNews newsletters. The secondary school have requested for any keen local artists to submit “an eye-catching title design” before the deadline of Wednesday 5 January at noon.

• Local artists are certainly in-demand, as another request for “paintings, photographs, drawings or any medium of your choice” this time coming from Arlington Arts for their “community arts exhibition A Winter’s Tale”. A Newbury Today article further explains the T&C’s of the competition which starts on 19 January to 26 February.

• Corn Exchange, Newbury re-started (as of 21 December) hosting their festive pantomime of Cinderella after cancelling four performances over the weekend of 18 and 19 December, as reported by Newbury Today. You could probably guess why the pantos were forced to be cancelled, but for all of our subscribers who have (perhaps fortunately) been living under a rock for the past two years, the article explains that “following the identification of a positive case of Covid-19 in someone who had had close contact with the Corn Exchange pantomime company” the venue was forced to cancel four performances of Cinderella over the weekend. Oh no, they didn’t? Oh yes, they did.

• A new scheme by National Highways addressing safety and congestion on the A34 has been introduced which will explore opportunities to relieve traffic congestion and make it safer for drivers on the road between the M40 and the M4 junctions. Earlier this year Laura Farris MP called for National Highways to prioritise safety upgrades to this “dangerous” stretch of the A34 and it was an issue that her predecessor frequently raised as well. See more here on Newbury Today.

• As reported last week, there’s a campaign to prevent The Rising Sun in Stockcross (which has been closed for some time) from being turned into housing. The Save The Rising Sun group hoped to host an open meeting on 21 December, but had to postpone due to “rising number of Covid-19 cases”. The meeting is hoped to be hosted at some point in 2022: however a presentation can be downloaded on the group’s website which includes “details of the current situation with The Rising Sun and suggestions for saving it”. You can also view how you can support the pubphotos of the pub today, and an article on six-month moratorium on the sale which could be accomplished if it were declared an Asset of Community Value.

• All the Christmas Services at St Nic’s this year, except the Midnight Communion on Christmas Eve, need to be pre-booked here to ensure enough space for social distancing. This includes the Crib Service on Christmas Eve and the Communion Service on Christmas Day. Alternatively, you can watch the services at home as they will be live-streamed on www.st-nics.org.

• There are still lots of festive fun to enjoy each day up to Christmas with Newbury’s Living Advent Calendar. See the programme here of real advent window reveals across the town.

• Newbury Soup Kitchen will be serving bacon butties in the marketplace at 9.30am on Christmas Day to make sure no one gets left out of the festivities.

• West Berkshire Foodbank is appealing for Christmas donations. See more here on how to donate and what has been requested.

• Speen Community Café is continuing to run on Wednesday afternoons 2 to 4pm at The Starting Gate pub over the Christmas and New Year period. So if you know anyone who fancies a chat, cuppa and slice of cake please assure them of a warm welcome by Kerry and her team. See their new Facebook page here.

• As we have mentioned in recent weeks, there are proposals for a new development between Newbury College and the A339 (see last week’s section below for more), a joint venture between Greenham Trust, Aldi Stores and Feltham Group. More information can be found on the project’s website.

• More developments are underway along London Road. A Lidl store is being introduced to the London Road retail park, just opposite Tesco. The aim is to finish this by the first quarter of 2022. A little further on the road, a Costa drive-through (another coffee shop that we so desperately need) is being placed in the B&Q car park. This is to be the fourth Costa in Newbury alone.

• Newbury Town Council is looking for volunteers to be a part of a Steering Group for its Neighbourhood Development Plan. More information here or email NDP@newbury.gov.uk.

• See here for information and events in Parkway, Newbury.

• An NHS research exhibition is on display at West Berkshire Library. Opening times and more can be found here.

• The Winter 2021 Ullage magazine is available to read here.

• Click here for information about lateral flow tests available in West Berkshire.

• Click here for the December 2021 issue of the Hamstead Hornet Newsletter.

• Any comments, suggestions or feedback about the Council’s community transport services (including Readibus) should be sent to WBC’s Transport Services Team. You can write to them at Council Offices, Market Street, Newbury, RG14 5LD, email Transport@westberks.gov.uk or call 01635 519394.

• Community larders are running in Newbury, Thatcham and Wantage – click here for details.

News from your local council

Note: “the most recent meeting” refers to the most recent one for which minutes (in some cases draft) or some other summary is available. Other meetings may have taken place since. Some councils publish minutes more promptly than do others.

• The most recent meeting of Newbury Town Council took place on 18 October and you can download the minutes here. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council took place on 15 December and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: the school poster competition; cherry trees in the churchyard; dog bins; the give-way sign in Love Lane; financial matters; planning matters; repairs and maintenance around the parish; footpaths; the Community Steering Group; and the co-option of a new councillor To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council took place on 14 December and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: a licensing application; financial matters; the 2022-23 budget; delegated powers to the Clerk; local historical research; light pollution at the Showground; and a vacancy on the council. To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here to download the meeting schedule. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council took place on 15 November and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: pre-planning advice; one planning application; the proposed Watermill Bridge development (see also above); the village website; a broken sign; staffing; the 2022-23 budget; wildflowers; road safety at the school; and repairs around the parish. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council took place on 8 November and you can read the minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• Speen PC currently has vacancies for five parish councillors – click here for more.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council took place on 13 October and you can read the minutes here.  To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council took place on 7 September and you can read the minutes here.  To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Hamstead Marshall Parish Council took place on 29 July and you can download the minutes hereTo see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• Please click here for Hamstead Marshall.net, which provides an excellent round-up of what’s going on in and around the village. This also publishes the quarterly Hamstead Hornet and you can click here to read the September 2021 edition which has recently been published.

Thursday 16 December 2021

This week’s news

• For the latest news from Newbury Town Council see their December 2021 newsletter here.

• A new scheme by National Highways addressing safety and congestion on the A34 has been introduced which will explore opportunities to relieve traffic congestion and make it safer for drivers on the road between the M40 and the M4 junctions. Earlier this year Laura Farris MP called for National Highways to prioritise safety upgrades to this “dangerous” stretch of the A34 and it was an issue that her predecessor frequently raised as well. See more here on Newbury Today. The real problem with the A34 is that it has delusions of grandeur, behaving as if it were a motorway but with A-road style furniture, signage and slipways which are inappropriate for the volume of traffic and the speed at which much of it travels. Having been tail-ended on this road a few years back, I speak from experience. (As related here, this episode had a couple of ironical consequences.) Many others have not escaped accidents on it as lightly as we did.

• On that same note, the National Highways has revealed that 900 miles of roadworks are to be lifted over the Christmas period to help with traffic. See more here on which areas are to be eased.

• An article on p10 of this week’s NWN refers to the continuing impasse between the recent-decorated community transport company Readibus and West Berkshire Council. This strange dispute has been covered regularly in this column, most recently on 2 December (see below). Once again, our congratulations to Readibus for its award which appears to be well deserved (although it’s clear that for some reason WBC doesn’t seem to agree).

• I’ve just had another dip into Penny Stokes’ Georgian Newbury (see here for for more information on this book) and have come across a section which the town’s current chain-wearer, Billy Drummond, might want to be aware of. It seems that there’s something of a tradition (possibly not unique to Newbury) of sending threatening letters to the Mayor. These were backed up with a certain amount of waving around of firearms and at least one attempt to burn down the Town Hall. I don’t know how badly online abuse, of which he and his fellow councillors must get their fair share, stands by comparison to these. As several MPs have recently discovered, violence against elected representatives is by no means a thing of the past. Perhaps those who say they are going to do something awful are less dangerous than those who keep their rage to themselves until it boils over.

• Many villages have recently been cast into the condition of publessness (let’s pretend that’s a real word), one being Stockcross. The Lord Lyon has long been converted into housing and there’s now a campaign to prevent The Rising Sun (which has been closed for somer time) from going the same way. The Save The Rising Sun group is hosting an open meeting at Sutton Hall, Stockcross on Tuesday 21 December from 8pm, in which anyone wishing to share their opinions regarding “the future of the last remaining pub in Stockcross” can attend. The group’s website includes; its aims, how you can support the pub, photos of the pub today, and an article on six-month moratorium on the sale which could be accomplished if it were declared an Asset of Community Value.

• All the Christmas Services at St Nic’s this year, except the Midnight Communion on Christmas Eve, need to be pre-booked here to ensure enough space for social distancing. This means the Carol Service on Sunday 19 December, the Crib Service on Christmas Eve and the Communion Service on Christmas Day. Alternatively, you can watch the services at home as they will be live-streamed on www.st-nics.org.

• A service to commemorate US forces at Greenham Control Tower took place last Sunday which remembered a glider carrying American soldiers that crashed in Greenham, killing all 33 on-board on 12 December 1944. See Newbury Today‘s page for photos and more.

Newbury Friends of the Earth’s Lockdown Woods team and about 40 local people brought festivities to Goldwell Park on Tuesday 14 December for the unveiling of their Advent event as part of Newbury’s Living Advent Calendar.

• There are still lots of festive fun to enjoy each day up to Christmas with Newbury’s Living Advent Calendar. See the programme here of real advent window reveals across the town.

Newbury Soup Kitchen will be serving bacon butties in the marketplace at 9.30am on Christmas Day to make sure no one gets left out of the festivities.

• West Berkshire Foodbank is appealing for Christmas donations. Starting with a 12-days-of Christmas themed donation tree, members of the public are being asked to donate festive treats. See more here on how to donate and what has been requested.

• Speen Community Café is continuing to run on Wednesday afternoons 2 – 4pm at The Starting Gate pub over the Christmas and New Year period. So if you know anyone who fancies a chat, cuppa and slice of cake please assure them of a warm welcome by Kerry and her team. See their new facebook page here.

• As we have mentioned in recent weeks, there are proposals for a new development between Newbury College and the A339 (see last week’s section below for more), a joint venture between Greenham Trust, Aldi Stores and Feltham Group. More information can be found on the project’s website.

• More developments are underway along London Road. A Lidl store is being introduced to the London Road retail park, just opposite Tesco. The aim is to finish this by the first quarter of 2022. A little further on the road, a Costa drive-through (another coffee shop that we so desperately need) is being placed in the B&Q car park. This is to be the fourth Costa in Newbury alone.

Click here to keep up to date with Newbury Town Council’s diary of events.

• Newbury Town Council is looking for volunteers to be a part of a Steering Group for its Neighbourhood Development Plan. More information here or email NDP@newbury.gov.uk.

• See here for information and events in Parkway, Newbury.

• An NHS research exhibition is on display at West Berkshire Library. Opening times and more can be found here.

• The Winter 2021 Ullage magazine is available to read here.

• Click here for information about lateral flow tests available in West Berkshire.

Click here for the December 2021 issue of the Hamstead Hornet Newsletter.

• Any comments, suggestions or feedback about the Council’s community transport services (including Readibus) should be sent to WBC’s Transport Services Team. You can write to them at Council Offices, Market Street, Newbury, RG14 5LD, email Transport@westberks.gov.uk or call 01635 519394.

• Community larders are running in Newbury, Thatcham and Wantage – click here for details.

Click here for the results from the Newbury Photography Club’s latest competition.

Monks Lane and Faraday Road

These two sites  are, of course, the proposed new sports hub and the the former football ground. Linking them together, as my heading has done, would have offended the official view of the  recent WBC Western Area Planning Committee which considered (and passed) the application for Monks Lane on 15 December: the matter needed, it was reminded by officers, to be decided on its planning merits. However, de-conflation proved impossible. The extent to which Monks Lane is, or is not, a replacement for the rotting hulk of Faraday Road is impossible to ignore: and also rather important.

In purely planning terms, there is no reason why Faraday Road cannot be redeveloped. A recent (and much delayed) application to do just this by the Newbury Community Football Group (NCFG) was recently approved. Portfolio holder Howard Woollaston, however, claimed that the application amounted to being vexatious as it stood no chance of being implemented. In planning terms, this isn’t the case. Unless there are some constraints not to be in the public domain, the decision not to retain football there is a purely political one. The political will of the council may change after May 2023.

Both these issues – to develop Monks Lane and not to develop Faraday Road – depend on each other. The mounting expense of Monks Lane is only justified if it can be proved that housing on the old ground is in every way viable. This forms no part of the emerging local plan and we’re a long way from any planning application. Given the new flood-protection regulations and the new sustainable features that would be required, this is looking less certain and (if approved) less profitable that it once did. In turn, not to continue with Faraday Road depends upon WBC being able to find a suitable replacement ground elsewhere. Monks Lane (which, unlike Faraday Road, it doesn’t own) is the best it’s managed to come up with, but many claim that it isn’t a replacement facility. If profitable houses can’t be built on Faraday Road then the case for Monks Lane collapses: if Monks Lane isn’t a viable and sustainable alternative to the old ground then the case for not developing Faraday Road collapses. If Faraday Road had been re-developed then presumably Monks Lane would never have been proposed. It’s also hard to be sure, when all the bills are totted up, that even if houses are built on the old ground, and sold, that they will produce sufficient profit to offset the costs of the new hub. These latter costs will, moreover, continue for up to 50 years. That’s the lifetime of the next administration from May 2023 and the eleven ones after that.

As I’ve mentioned before, I have some sympathy for Howard Woollaston in this. He inherited a toxic muddle in which just about everything had been done in the wrong order and has at least accepted – which former the CEO Nick Carter for a long time did not – that WBC has an obligation to find a replacement. If this point had been recognised more clearly in June 2018 when the ground was closed, and if research had revealed just how hard it was going to be to find a new site, then a different decision would probably have been taken.

As for the meeting itself, it was described to me by one opposition member as “disgracefully run and seemingly stage-managed.” I understand that an appeal is being considered. Matters now move to the meeting of the Executive on 16 December when when what seems like a slightly rushed decision to appoint the developers will be taken.  (Other challenges and debates, involving the NCFG, FA and Sport England amongst others, are also ongoing.) I cannot believe that WBC still thinks it’s possible that the ground can be ready by the FA’s deadline of 31 March 2022 (so permitting Newbury FC to play matches there in the 2023-24 season). Rushing things costs more and is likely to lead to errors. If there are such issues then it would certainly be fully in keeping with the way everything seems to have gone thus far.

(This week’s Newbury Weekly News refers to the costs of this project in an article on p9. It refers to “leaked council documents…which have been kept secret from the press and the public.” That’s not quite the case: I was aware of these in the late summer and wrote about them in this column on 16 September (see below).)

Watermill Bridge

Let’s now have a look at a development on the other side of town which, by comparison with the above issue, is is of almost startling simplicity. True, it’s right on the edge of Basingstoke and Deane but the effects will almost entirely be felt in West Berkshire; true, it’s for 350 homes, which poses its own problems; true, there’s already a vocal opposition group which is expressing a number of concerns ranging from road access to schools to flood risks. These have been referred to in previous editions of this post, including last week (see below). There are two aspects of this which have more recently been in the news.

The first concerns whether developers in general, and Bewley Homes in particular, live up to their promises. Newbury TC and WBC Councillor Tony Vickers recently accused Bewley of having a “track record” of not delivering on some stated benefits. In a statement sent to Penny Post, Bewley claimed that this assertion was “entirely wrong” and that it “is proud of its legacy of sites, including the stunning scheme at the Douai Abbey.” Tony Vickers was quoted in this week’s NWN (p6) as saying that he wasn’t “picking on” Bewley specifically but rather on developers generally. He may have been thinking of Bewley’s attempts to set aside the provision for social-rent homes at Lancaster Park in Hungerford earlier this year (as was widely reported in the Hungerford area section of Penny Post, this attempt failed and produced what’s probably now seen as an unfortunate PR fall-out, though relations there have since been repaired.) Tony Vickers is, however, correct in his revised assessment that developers tend to take a grandmother’s-footsteps approach to planning, first putting in an application for what they think they can get and then whittling this down to what they actually want to build. Why does this happen? Because developers exist to make a profit and because the planning system permits it. Bewley’s attempt to change the agreement in Hungerford was commercially logical and legally correct. It didn’t work out for them but, to their credit, they appear to have accepted this and got on both with building actual houses and with repairing metaphorical fences.

The second concerns the number of sustainable features which the development promises. “I’ve never seen so many goodies being offered by the developer,” Tony Vickers  said. “It would all be wonderful if it ends up delivering everything.” Although Bewley has yet to confirm this point expressly, I understand that these features are ones it intends to stick to. As the above-mentions statement says, “we understand the concerns of residents that our Watermill Bridge scheme will need to be monitored to ensure that it provides all of the proposed community enhancements and we would welcome a meeting with Councillor Vickers to propose that this can be captured within a legal agreement.” There’s an increasing and welcome trend for developers to offer such features at an early stage (Lochailort has done the same with its proposed Eagle Quart re-development at the Kennet Centre and has assured me it intends to abide by them. WBC and Sovereign may yet be persuaded to do the same with Chestnut Walk in Hungerford.) While this could cynically be seen as a ploy to smooth the path to planning approval, developers seem to be sensing that they need to take these matters seriously. New regulations will at some point to be in place to compel this. Perhaps more importantly, market forces may soon dictate that a buyers will be reluctant to pay top whack for a house if the lack of such feature might make it harder for them to sell it on unless the4y expensively retro-fit these themselves. When that happens, installing these from the off will be a no-brainer, just as central heating is. There’s also the possibility that, despite the bad-guy role in which they’re often case, some of them at least want to do the right thing. If Bewley is able to offer any still more comprehensive assurances on this, we’ll welcome this and let you know.

News from your local council

Note: “the most recent meeting” refers to the most recent one for which minutes (in some cases draft) or some other summary is available. Other meetings may have taken place since. Some councils publish minutes more promptly than do others.

• The most recent meeting of Newbury Town Council took place on 18 October and you can download the minutes here. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council took place on 17 November and you can read the minutes here. items covered included: a dog-fouling poster; a presentation from WBC’s Highways Department concerning Love Lane; Morris dancers; financial matters; reports from District Councillors Lynne Doherty and Steve Masters; planning matters; footpaths; a contribution of £1,600 to the WBC Library Service; the Christmas parish letter; and possible street-light dimming. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council took place on 15 November and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: pre-planning advice; one planning application; the proposed Watermill Bridge development (see also above); the village website; a broken sign; staffing; the 2022-23 budget; wildflowers; road safety at the school; and repairs around the parish. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council took place on 9 November and you can read the minutes here. To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here to download the meeting schedule. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council took place on 8 November and you can read the minutes here. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• Speen PC currently has vacancies for five parish councillors – click here for more.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council took place on 13 October and you can read the minutes here.  To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council took place on 7 September and you can read the minutes here.  To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Hamstead Marshall Parish Council took place on 29 July and you can download the minutes hereTo see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• Please click here for Hamstead Marshall.net, which provides an excellent round-up of what’s going on in and around the village. This also publishes the quarterly Hamstead Hornet and you can click here to read the September 2021 edition which has recently been published.

Thursday 9 December 2021

This week’s news

• The Mayor, Billy Drummond is inviting the town’s elderly residents to join him for a festive afternoon tea on Thursday 16 December. Tickets are free but are limited and need to be booked in advance.

• For the latest news from Newbury Town Council see their December 2021 newsletter here.

• If you missed the Christmas Lights Switch-On here is a fun video of the night from Visit Newbury.

• This year, in order to monitor capacity and to get in touch with participants directly regarding any changes to Government event guidelines, The Corn Exchange is asking everyone to book their spectator place to view the Festival of Light procession on Sunday 12 December. All tickets for this event have now been booked. Please contact the Box Office to add your name to the waiting list.

• The NHS Health on the Move van will be in and around West Berkshire, offering first, second and booster Pfizer Covid vaccines and will be at the Riverside Community Centre, Newbury, 17 December 2021 from 10am to 5pm. Residents aged 16 and over can drop in for their first, second or booster Pfizer vaccine – no booking is necessary.

• All the Christmas Services at St Nic’s this year, except the Midnight Communiun on Christmas Eve, need to be pre-booked here to ensure enough space for social distancing. This means the Carol Service on Sunday 19 December, the Crib Service on Christmas Eve and the Communiun Service on Christmas Day. Alternatively you can watch the services at home as they will belivestreamed on www.st-nics.org.

Newbury’s Living Advent Calendar is going well See the programme here of real advent window reveals across the town. Just a little heads up about the reveal in the magical setting of the Lockdown Wood at Goldwell Park, RG14 1RS at the end of Northcroft Lane on Tuesday 14 December at 6pm. Please meet at the playground and bring a torch and your wellies, the organisers are inviting you to bring a lantern and a star.

• As we have mentioned in recent weeks, there are proposals for a new development between Newbury College and the A339 (see last week’s section below for more), a joint venture between Greenham Trust, Aldi Stores and Feltham Group. More information can be found on the project’s website.

• More developments are underway along London Road. A Lidl store is being introduced to the London Road retail park, just opposite Tesco. The aim is to finish this by the first quarter of 2022. A little further on the road, a Costa drive-through (another coffee shop that we so desperately need) is being placed in the B&Q car park. This is to be the fourth Costa in Newbury alone.

• Leader of West Berkshire Council Lynne Doherty is hosting a talk on social care on Tuesday 14 December at 5pm. If you have a question to ask about adult social care in West Berkshire you can send it in ahead of this Ask Lynne online session now here at pr@westberks.gov.uk.

• A home in Wickham has been the cause of festive cheer around the area as of late. After their first child was born on Christmas Day 2017, Lauren Quine dedicates their home to a wonderful display of lights and festive characters. This year they are asking for donations in aid of the Swings & Smiles charity in Thatcham that supports children and young people with special needs.

Click here to keep up to date with Newbury Town Council’s diary of events.

• Newbury Town Council is looking for volunteers to be a part of a Steering Group for its Neighbourhood Development Plan. More information here or email NDP@newbury.gov.uk.

• See here for information and events in Parkway, Newbury.

• An NHS research exhibition is on display at West Berkshire Library. Opening times and more can be found here.

• The Winter 2021 Ullage magazine is available to read here.

• Click here for information about lateral flow tests available in West Berkshire.

Click here for the December 2021 issue of the Hamstead Hornet Newsletter.

Hamstead Marshall Wildlife Group has been successful in its application to Greenham Trust for some saplings which will be planted in the Hamstead Marshall Village Hall Field. A spokesperson said that that the trees should arrive this week and a planting date has been fixed for Saturday 11 December. Contact anne.budd1@btinternet.com or join their facebook group if you’d like to help.

• Any comments, suggestions or feedback about the Council’s community transport services (including Readibus) should be sent to WBC’s Transport Services Team. You can write to them at Council Offices, Market Street, Newbury, RG14 5LD, email Transport@westberks.gov.uk or call 01635 519394.

• Community larders are running in Newbury, Thatcham and Wantage – click here for details.

Click here for the results from the Newbury Photography Club’s latest competition.

• The popular My Wild Life’ photography competition is returning to The Base, Greenham, inspired by the return of the Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year 57. For information on the competition and deadlines, click here.

• As mentioned last week, Enborne Parish Council currently has plans to site solar panels on a 20-acre field in the parish and is working with Cavella Community Energy in Aldermaston on the project. This is currently at the feasibility-study stage.

• Congratulations to the Hamstead Hornet on reaching its 100th edition, published last week. Click here to read it.

Life on the road

Speaking of the Hamstead Hornet, its author Penny Stokes has recently written a book about (and called) Georgian Newbury which is available from bookshops in the area or direct from her (see the above-mentioned Hornet link for details). Flicking through it the other day I was on several occasions struck by sometimes how depressingly similar and other times how utterly different life was back then compared to today. Some aspects of human behaviour haven’t changed much, alcohol, money, lust and politics still messing us up just as much as they did our 18th century forbears.

One thing that does seem less risky now is public transport which, back then, was pretty much limited to coaches. Nowadays public transport is for many of us totally safe, if only because as there’s increasingly little of it so we can’t use it. Those who do now venture onto the buses or trains are unlikely to encounter the raft of problems that seemed commonplace back then. Highwaymen – either hardened criminals or bored local rakes – were a constant threat, particularly on the London to Bath road. So too was the weather, with passengers expected to get out and dig when the coach got stuck in mud or snow. They were often also required to dismount on steep hills to give the horses a breather. Other perils she lists included wheels falling off or catching fire (though it’s not specified how this might happen), horses bolting and coachmen dying on the job. All in all, not the kind of perils you might expect now on the number 4 bus or the 8.55 from Bedwyn.

Being almost exactly half-way between London and Bath, Newbury was a popular stop-off point for coaches breaking the two-day journey. The bustle and jostling and bribing and pickpocketing that must have gone on at the many inns in the town when coaches arrived, with everyone trying to secure their luggage, get a room that wasn’t too verminous and organise some food, all the while beating off the attentions of local thieves, whores and scammers, must have been something to behold. The 18th century is seen by some as a golden age for England: the country was just starting to grow fat on its colonial interventions and for the first time there was something approaching a transport network that connected the main towns and cities. The journeys themselves, however, seem like nightmares. One thing’s for certain: with all those horses stabled overnight, Newbury’s Georgian gardeners would never have been short of manure.

A speculative watermill

• At Enborne Parish Council’s meeting on 15 November (see section below for more on this), the Chairman, Councillor Garrett, said that he “proposed to contact WBC to discuss the concerns over protecting the Enborne Valley from over-development and to emphasise the importance of the river and the landscape character of the area. East Woodhay and Highclere Parish Councils have been involved in conversations with Enborne Councillors regarding the Watermill Bridge development who also share EPC’s concerns. Councillor Garrett suggested he would try to have a meeting with WBC to oppose the Watermill Bridge development even though this planning application will fall under the Hampshire border.”

The Enborne River Valley Protection Society (ERVPS, formerly Keep Wash Water Rural) has a website dedicated to opposing this scheme. The planning application 21/03394/OUT can be viewed here (on Basingstoke and Deane’s website, note, as the site is just the other wide of the border, even though most of the impact will be felt in West Berkshire). Any comments should be made by 16 December.

The matter was also referred to in an article on p9 of this week’s Newbury Weekly News. It quotes the NW Hampshire MP Kit Malthouse as saying that the problem was partly due to speculative development (also known as planning on appeal) due to the planning authority (Basingstoke and Deane in this case) not having an updated local plan: as a result, he says, developers – including by implication this developer, Bewley Homes – “see a window which they are rushing to exploit.” A mangled metaphor, but one gets his point. As to why so many local plans, certainly including West Berkshire’s and doubtless B&D’s, are being delayed, Kit need look no further than his colleagues in the Ministry of Housing who decided in the summer to change an aspect of the National Planning Policy Framework which required councils to go away and envisage a 30-year (rather than a 15-year) vision for any significant developments.

News from your local council

Note: “the most recent meeting” refers to the most recent one for which minutes (in some cases draft) or some other summary is available. Other meetings may have taken place since. Some councils publish minutes more promptly than do others.

• The most recent meeting of Newbury Town Council took place on 18 October and you can download the minutes here. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council took place on 17 November and you can read the minutes here. items covered included: a dog-fouling poster; a presentation from WBC’s Highways Department concerning Love Lane; Morris dancers; financial matters; reports from District Councillors Lynne Doherty and Steve Masters; planning matters; footpaths; a contribution of £1,600 to the WBC Library Service; the Christmas parish letter; and possible street-light dimming. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council took place on 15 November and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: pre-planning advice; one planning application; the proposed Watermill Bridge development (see also above); the village website; a broken sign; staffing; the 2022-23 budget; wildflowers; road safety at the school; and repairs around the parish. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council took place on 9 November and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: planning applications; financial matters; speeding; flooding in Oare; verge cutting; free trees from Greenham Trust; night-security lighting at the Showground; an injury from a falling tree; a resignation; congratulations to the new board at the Newbury and District Agricultural Association; and the unknown Tommy. To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here to download the meeting schedule. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council took place on 8 November and you can read the minutes here. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• Speen PC currently has vacancies for five parish councillors – click here for more.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council took place on 8 September and you can read the minutes here.  To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council took place on 7 September and you can read the minutes here.  To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Hamstead Marshall Parish Council took place on 29 July and you can download the minutes hereTo see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• Please click here for Hamstead Marshall.net, which provides an excellent round-up of what’s going on in and around the village. This also publishes the quarterly Hamstead Hornet and you can click here to read the September 2021 edition which has recently been published.

Thursday 2 December 2021

This week’s news

• The Mayor, Billy Drummond is inviting the town’s elderly residents to join him for a festive afternoon tea on Thursday 16 December. Tickets are free but are limited and need to be booked in advance.

• For latest news from Newbury Town Council see their December 2021 newsletter here.

• Well done to the Greener Greenham Group for planting 22 mixed variety trees in the cold weather last weekend on Stroud Green.

• If you missed the Christmas Lights Switch-On here is a fun video of the night from Visit Newbury.

• This year, in order to monitor capacity and to get in touch with participants directly regarding any changes to Government event guidelines, The Corn Exchange is asking everyone to book their spectator place to view the Festival of Light procession on Sunday 12 December.

• Congratulations to St Bart’s School for their outstanding Ofsted Section 5 inspection in all categories. St Bart’s is understood to be only the second non-selective secondary school in the country to achieve this result this academic year.

• On the topic of schools, Speenhamland Primary was granted funding by West Berkshire Council for a new £250,000 project that would see two new classrooms, a designated outdoor learning zone, plus accessible toilets and hoists for children with physical disabilities. The project has been completed and The Pelican Room is now in action. For more, visit Newbury Today‘s coverage here.

Newbury’s Living Advent Calendar kicked off to a great start at Willow and Blooms florists on Wednesday 1 December. See the rest of the programme here of real advent window reveals across the town.

Newbury Today reported that Greenham Trusts offered match funding as part of Giving Tuesday which took part this Tuesday. You can see the full list of fundings which have been offered here.

• The friendly Community Café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesday afternoons between 2pm and 4pm welcomes anyone who would like to drop in for a chat or a cuppa. There are also knitting and craft activities to get involved with.

• As we have mentioned in recent weeks, there are proposals for a new development between Newbury College and the A339 (see last week’s section below for more), a joint venture between Greenham Trust, Aldi Stores and Feltham Group. More information can be found on the project’s website.

• More developments are underway along London Road. A Lidl store is being introduced to the London Road retail park, just opposite Tesco. The aim is to finish this by the first quarter of 2022. A little further on the road, a Costa drive through (another coffee shop that we so desperately need) is being placed in the B&Q car park. This is to be the fourth Costa in Newbury alone.

Click here to keep up to date with Newbury Town Council’s diary of events.

• Newbury Town Council is looking for volunteers to be a part of a Steering Group for its Neighbourhood Development Plan. More information here or email NDP@newbury.gov.uk.

• See here for information and events in Parkway, Newbury.

• An NHS research exhibition is on display at West Berkshire Library. Opening times and more can be found here.

• Click here for information about lateral flow tests available in West Berkshire.

Click here for the December 2021 issue of the Hamstead Hornet Newsletter.

Hamstead Marshall Wildlife Group has been successful in its application to Greenham Trust for some saplings which will be planted in the Hamstead Marshall Village Hall Field. A spokesperson said that that the trees should arrive this week and a planting date has been fixed for Saturday 11 December. Contact anne.budd1@btinternet.com if you’d like to help.

• Any comments, suggestions or feedback about the Council’s community transport services (including Readibus) should be sent to WBC’s Transport Services Team. You can write to them at Council Offices, Market Street, Newbury, RG14 5LD, email Transport@westberks.gov.uk or call 01635 519394.

• Community larders are running in Newbury, Thatcham and Wantage – click here for details.

Click here for the results from the Newbury Photography Club’s latest competition.

• The popular My Wild Life’ photography competition is returning to The Base, Greenham, inspired by the return of the Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year 57. For information on the competition and deadlines, click here.

Enborne Parish Council currently has plans to site solar panels on a 20-acre field in the parish and is working with Cavella Community Energy in Aldermaston on the project. This is currently at the feasibility-study stage. Once that’s signed off and approved the next hurdles will be a planning application, fundraising, tendering and construction. Other parish councils which own land which, like Enborne’s, currently produces only a small annual income and which wish to both reduce their carbon footprint and provide a lasting legacy will be following the progress of the scheme with interest. We’ll bring more news on any developments as they become available.

• There’s a letter in this week’s Newbury Weekly News from the Secretary of the Enborne River Valley Protection Society (ERVPS, formerly Keep Wash Water Rural) on the subject of the proposed development on the Hampshire/Berkshire border in Wash Water (the triangle of land between the A343, the A34 and the Rive Enborne). I spoke to another member of the group on 2 December who confirmed that the main concerns about flooding, traffic and mitigating infrastructure. In the 18 November section (see below) we included a statement from the developers Bewley Homes about this. You can see more on the ERVPS website here. The planning application 21/03394/OUT can be viewed here (on Basingstoke and Deane’s website, note, as the site is just the other wide of the border, even though most om the impact will be felt in West Berkshire). Any comments should be made by 16 December.

• Congratulations to the Hamstead Hornet on reaching its 100th edition, published a few days ago. Click here to read it.

Readibus

As mentioned last week, this community transport charity has recently been recognised as one of the three best organisations of its kind in the country in relation to its response to the pandemic, providing safe transport to elderly, disabled and clinically extremely vulnerable people for food shopping, medical appointments, respite or any other reason. You can read more on this here. Our congratulations to all involved.

Well-deserved though the award is, this wouldn’t be worthy of particular remark were it not for the fact that Readibus has been locked for several years in a dispute with West Berkshire Council. You’ll see from the many comments on the above-mentioned post that public reaction to this ranges from mystification to anger. The issue turns on the introduction of a proposed provision into the service agreement that says that Readibus “shall not make any press announcement except with the prior written consent of the Council.” WBC doesn’t like the term “gagging clause” to describe this but it’s hard to find a better one. The trustees have said that they cannot sign this agreement as it stands because, as recently reported in Third Sector, “it is inconsistent with the duties of trustees to sign such clauses.” The most immediate result of this has been WBC’s withholding of half the promised grant payment for 2020-21 and more than half of 2021-22’s. This is on top of a massive funding cut of 68% in 2019-20. Given that WBC or its predecessor has been funding Readibus for nearly 40 years, this all seems very odd.

We’ve referred to this several times. In the 22 to 29 April column (see the Newbury Area section) we looked in detail at some statements made by the ruling Conservative group on WBC, none of which were particularly convincing. Discussions have taken place since then but do not appear to have been pressed forward with as much urgency as the above-mentioned current or former users of the service would wish. I understand there have been some small movements in WBC’s position but not enough to enable the trustees to sign the agreement. Readibus’ client-base, meanwhile has been virtually decimated. There were between 500 and 600 users of the service before the cuts with a peak of over 29,000 journeys in 2013-14. This has since shrunk to between 70 and 80 making about 2,800 journeys between April 2020 and March 2021. It’s impossible to believe that this is because the demand for the services has reduced. Because of the funding squeeze, Readibus has had to make cuts, so making its services less available. There having been no major medical breakthroughs in restoring lost mobility and no other providers emerging who choose or are even able to offer the same service, it must be assumed that there are currently about 500 people in the area who would benefit from this service but cannot currently access it.

Readibus is not alone in this. Third Sector has recently reported on a campaign dating back seven years to do away with these “gagging clauses.” It quotes the Chief Executive of Children England as saying that that “these contracts aim to shut us up and belittle the work we do”, adding that criticism (if merited) should be welcomed: in any case, few charities would go public on a grievance unless they’d first discussed resolving it in private. Chloe Hardy, director of policy and communications at the Sheila McKechnie Foundation adds that “if you want charities to deliver services you have to accept that you are commissioning independent organisations.” The Director of the think tank Rogare, Ian MacQuillin, agrees: “on a point of principle, charities ought to reject donations that compromise how they could discuss or frame the cause they serve.” The article’s author suggests that “the idea of donors using their gifts to buy reputational capital and silence potential criticism from charities seems deeply retrograde.” A high-profile example of this recently occurred when the Science Museum signed a gagging clause with Shell in return for funding. This was slightly different in that it specified certain things that the Museum couldn’t do or say but the net result is the same: as well as providing a service, the recipient is in effect acting an adjunct of the donor’s PR department.

Time will tell whether and how this gets resolved. Winter is closing in, which is always likely to increase demand for transport services. The area’s population is growing, and ageing. Meanwhile, WBC is currently preparing its 2022-23 budget. This will include a provision for adult social care which will only increase if people are needlessly trapped at home. The first thing is to solve the problem of this “gagging clause”. Recognising it for what it is would be a useful first step.

News from your local council

Note: “the most recent meeting” refers to the most recent one for which minutes (in some cases draft) or some other summary is available. Other meetings may have taken place since. Some councils publish minutes more promptly than do others.

• The most recent meeting of Newbury Town Council took place on 18 October and you can download the minutes here. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council took place on 17 November and you can read the minutes here. items covered included: a dog-fouling poster; a presentation from WBC’s Highways Department concerning Love Lane; Morris dancers; financial matters; reports from District Councillors Lynne Doherty and Steve Masters; planning matters; footpaths; a contribution of £1,600 to the WBC Library Service; the Christmas parish letter; and possible street-light dimming. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council took place on 9 November and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: planning applications; financial matters; speeding; flooding in Oare; verge cutting; free trees from Greenham Trust; night-security lighting at the Showground; an injury from a falling tree; a resignation; congratulations to the new board at the Newbury and District Agricultural Association; and the unknown Tommy. To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here to download the meeting schedule. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council took place on 8 November and you can read the minutes here. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• Speen PC currently has vacancies for five parish councillors – click here for more.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council took place on 20 September and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: SID training; The Rising Sun in Stockcross; financial matters; speeding; parish communications; the parish improvement plan; relations with WBC; and the frequency of Speen PC meetings in the future. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council took place on 8 September and you can read the minutes here.  To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council took place on 7 September and you can read the minutes here.  To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Hamstead Marshall Parish Council took place on 29 July and you can download the minutes hereTo see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• Please click here for Hamstead Marshall.net, which provides an excellent round-up of what’s going on in and around the village. This also publishes the quarterly Hamstead Hornet and you can click here to read the September 2021 edition which has recently been published.

Thursday 25 November 2021

This week’s news

• The Mayor, Billy Drummond is inviting the town’s elderly residents to join him for a festive afternoon tea on Thursday 16 December. Tickets are free but are limited and need to be booked in advance.

• Congratulations to Readibus which has been named as one of three best community transport services nationwide during the pandemic. You can read the full statement here as well as some background to its local activities. I’m sure everyone at West Berkshire Council is very grateful that it has such an organisation on its doorstep.

• If you haven’t seen the acclaimed Hockney and Hollywood exhibition at The Base Greenham yet, now is your last chance as it closes at 5pm this Sunday 28 November.

• In recent reassuring news, Thames Valley Police started a new initiative to help tackle knife crime. Amnesty bins have now been installed around West Berkshire, one of those locations being at Newbury Police Station.

• For latest news from Newbury Town Council see their November 2021 newsletter here.

Newbury’s Living Advent Calendar is pleased to be returning to its pre-pandemic format whereby people can turn up for the daily “reveal” of an advent display or activity at various locations across the town. See the programme here for 1 – 24 December of established favourites with some interesting newcomers: City Arts, the Lockdown Wood and Secret Garden, Educafe, Pots of Hope, Colline’s Kitchen, Berkshire Youth and St Joseph’s Primary School.

• Some heart-warming news here, Cooper the sniffer dog has been a certified good boy. He’s sniffed out some illegal tobacco in West Berkshire and has also assisted officers in Wokingham and Bracknell. See here for photos of Cooper.

• Healthwatch West Berkshire is encouraging Covid testing as people return to work, school and college. They report that Community Covid-19 testing continues to play a major role protecting your friends and family. Even if you’re double vaccinated, you can still pass the virus on despite being asymptomatic. The Time2Test initiative aims to provide the correct testing equipment to members of the public. For more information on this and the coverage so far, visit healthwatchwestberkshire.org.uk.

• The popular Educafe Community Café at The Globe is taking a long Christmas break in December and will return mid-January. In the meantime you are welcome to pop into another community café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesday afternoons between 2pm and 4pm.

• On the final leg of the Newbury Real Ale Festival saga, Newbury Today shows that the festival has recently had its license renewed. This renewal came with a warning from West Berkshire Council about the noise complaints.

• As we have mentioned in recent releases, there are proposals for a new development between Newbury College and the A339 (see last week’s section below for more), a joint venture between Greenham Trust, Aldi Stores and Feltham Group. More information can be found on the project’s website.

• More developments are underway along London Road. A Lidl store is being introduced to the London Road retail park, just opposite Tesco. The aim is to finish this by the first quarter of 2022. A little further on the road, a Costa drive through (another coffee shop that we so desperately need) is being placed in the B&Q car park. This is to be the fourth Costa in Newbury alone.

• Some road closures as Boundary Road is currently shut between the mini roundabout at Racecourse Road and the junction with York Road due to water leaks. The road is expected to reopen as of Monday.

Click here to keep up to date with Newbury Town Council’s diary of events.

• Newbury Town Council is looking for volunteers to be a part of a Steering Group for its Neighbourhood Development Plan. More information here or email NDP@newbury.gov.uk.

• This month’s edition of Visit Newbury Loves Local is all about autumn fun.

• See here for information and events in Parkway, Newbury.

• An NHS research exhibition is on display at West Berkshire Library. Opening times and more can be found here.

• Click here for information about lateral flow tests available in West Berkshire.

• Mayor Billy Drummond’s Christmas card competition has come to an end and the winner has been announced. A congratulations to Victoria Stolyarova who designed the winning card this year. You can see the design and other information here.

• Newbury Town Council is appealing for volunteers for spring bulb planting. Newbury in Bloom are working with the council to further enhance Newbury’s open spaces by planting vivid purple crocus bulbs at Blossom’s Field, Old Hospital Green, City Recreation Ground and Walton Way play area in November. For the volunteering dates and more information, click here.

Hamstead Marshall Wildlife Group has been successful in its application to Greenham Trust for some saplings which will be planted in the Hamstead Marshall Village Hall Field. A spokesperson said that that the planting date had yet to be agreed but that this will be publicised. Volunteers may be needed.

• Any comments, suggestions or feedback about the Council’s community transport services (including Readibus) should be sent to WBC’s Transport Services Team. You can write to them at Council Offices, Market Street, Newbury, RG14 5LD, email Transport@westberks.gov.uk or call 01635 519394.

• Community larders are running in Newbury, Thatcham and Wantage – click here for details.

Click here for the results from the Newbury Photography Club’s latest competition.

• The popular My Wild Life’ photography competition is returning, inspired by the return of the Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year 57. For information on the competition and deadlines, click here.

A political football

Anyone with a taste for the surreal or the ironic would not have been disappointed by the meeting of the Western Area Planning Committee on 24 November. Two of the applications being considered were long-standing ones from the Newbury Community Football Group for the re-development of the clubhouse and the installation of a new pitch at Faraday Road. There were no planning grounds on which the applications could be refused and so they were unanimously passed. As a result, all the members needed to vote in favour, including Howard Woollaston, the portfolio holder for sport and wellbeing. This was despite continuation of football on the site being contrary to the current policy of the administration of which he is a member. In these circumstances, it seems odd that a substitute wasn’t used (as they should be to replace an Executive member in any application in which WBC is the applicant and/or the landowner). This would not only ensure that the decision could later be proved as having been impartial but would also have avoid the risk of the irritated expression of non-planning aspects. This did indeed happen, at about 41′ (see the Zoom recoding here).

Councillor Woollaston described the applications as “vexatious.” The word is (when used in such a context) defined by the Cambridge Dictionary as describing an action “having little chance of succeeding in law, but intended to annoy someone or cause problems for them.” As the applications did succeed they could not therefore under this definition be described as “vexatious.”.The NCFG may well have annoyed or caused problems for WBC but only because it wanted to retain football on the site and WBC did not. As regards whether the decisions can be implemented, Councillor Woollaston said that WBC “has no intention” of realising the site for this purpose as it conflicts with its wider plans. This was picked up by Lib Dem Councillor Tony Vickers who pointed out that were there to be a change of administration (the next local elections will be in about 18 months time) there might also be a change of policy: one can therefore never say never. At this point the discussion was halted by the Chairman.

The wider vision for the site, and the current administration’s stated aim, is for homes to be built there, the proceeds from which would help fund the wider regeneration of the area (the general need for which seems to be widely agreed). What should happen to the ground is, however, more contentious. Moreover, new regulations on building in areas of flood risk may make this plan unlikely to pass or certainly be more expensive to build. New and more costly environmental standards will also be in force by the time any works start. Plenty of other flats will have been built in the town which would depress the prices. The project should also surely bear the costs both of the relocation of the football ground and money that will have been spent on Faraday Road since the facility was closed in June 2018 in the unfulfilled expectation that work would soon start on .

All in all, this housing may not be the cash generator that was once hoped. I would argue that if flats are to be built there then they should be affordable ones. Councils are obliged to maximise the value from the land they own but “value” can and should be widened to include more than just a cash return. A sustainable and flood-proofed development would certainly provide value to the community as a whole. That would be a legacy of which any councillor would be proud. Certainly no private developer is going to build that number of affordable dwellings.

Another option, advocated by the NCFG and others, is that the area be retained as a football ground. The planned scheme at Monks Lane may yet prove to be a valuable, if pricey, addition to the town’s assets but many argue that it’s not a like-for-like replacement. As it’s highly unlikely that anything major will happen at Faraday Road in the next 18 months, this seems set to be a live issue at the election in 2023.

News from your local council

Note: “the most recent meeting” refers to the most recent one for which minutes (in some cases draft) or some other summary is available. Other meetings may have taken place since. Some councils publish minutes more promptly than do others.

• The most recent meeting (also the annual meeting) of Newbury Town Council took place on 18 October and you can download the minutes here. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council took place on 17 November and you can read the minutes here. items covered included: a dog-fouling poster; a presentation from WBC’s Highways Department concerning Love Lane; Morris dancers; financial matters; reports from District Councillors Lynne Doherty and Steve Masters; planning matters; footpaths; a contribution of £1,600 to the WBC Library Service; the Christmas parish letter; and possible street-light dimming. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council took place on 12 October and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: parking on School Road; the have-you-say meetings hosted by the Neighbourhood Policing Team; planning matters; financial matters; bus shelters; the dog-waste bin in the recreation field; and flooding in Oare To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here to download the meeting schedule. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council took place on 28 September and you can read the minutes here. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• Speen PC currently has vacancies for five parish councillors – click here for more.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council took place on 20 September and you can read the minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council took place on 8 September and you can read the minutes here.  To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council took place on 7 September and you can read the minutes here.  To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Hamstead Marshall Parish Council took place on 29 July and you can download the minutes hereTo see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• Please click here for Hamstead Marshall.net, which provides an excellent round-up of what’s going on in and around the village. This also publishes the quarterly Hamstead Hornet and you can click here to read the September 2021 edition which has recently been published.

Thursday 18 November 2021

This week’s news

• The Mayor, Billy Drummond is inviting the town’s elderly residents to join him for a festive afternoon tea on Thursday 16 December. After two missed years, the Mayor wanted the opportunity to be able to give back to Newbury’s oldest residents during his year in office. Tickets are free but are limited and need to be booked in advance.

The popular Educafe Community Cafe at The Globe is taking a long Christmas break in December and will return mid-January. In the meantime you are welcome to pop into another community café at The Starting Gate in Speen on Wednesday afternoons between 2pm and 4pm.

• Following coverage of the noise complaints made by local residents regarding the Newbury Real Ale Festival, the organisers admit that they could and should have turned the music down. The full report from Newbury Today show that this apology was in a bid to try and save the festival and that the organisers gave an “unreserved apology” to the WBC Licensing Committee which will now decide if a licence will be granted for 2022.

• Work continues apace on removing the fences from the football ground at Faraday Road. The ones on the southern side at least were, WBC assured Penny Post, deemed to be dangerous as a result of a safety inspection. It’s less clear what was wrong with the other ones. WBC decided in 2019 to convert this to an informal area of grassland for general sports and recreational use pending its redevelopment.” This has been a slow process and has cost a fair bit: the latest works, when completed, will have cost over £84,000. This is in addition to other costs, including maintenance and security since the ground was closed, £5,790 on the application to demolish the clubhouse and £22,389 on doing just this following the fire in August 2021. The value of this work will last only until the site is developed. No one knows when this might happen but any developer will certainly have been saved the cost of clearing the area. Let’s hope WBC will recoup what it’s spent so far when the deal with the developer (whoever that proves to be) is done. WBC has said that there was no formal change of use required as the land was, and remains, under the F2 Local Community Uses for outdoor sport and recreation. None the less, it is a major change of its effective function. The removal of the high fences make the ball games a much less viable option. What else might it be used for?

Indeed, does Newbury needs such a recreation area? Newbury Town Councillor Vaughan Miller told Penny Post on 17 November that there had been “no public consultation about this.” Indeed, in a WBC document which is effectively an FAQ about the issue, point 15 poses the question of what data was used to determine if such an open-space facility was needed. The reply was that there was “no available data” (I’m not sure if this means that the matter wasn’t looked into or that it was but the data for some reason isn’t available). The three options WBC identified were (i) this recreational space; (ii) closure (which it “did not want to do”); and (iii) re-opening it for football (“not a reasonable proposition”). The latter is certainly the case now, given the disrepair into which the ground has been allowed to sink. The impression is that the ground was closed in June 2018 on the assumption that development would soon start (which it didn’t) and with no plan B. For two years, the situation drifted, the ground decayed and no replacement was found. At least in the last 18 months the new portfolio holder has actually tried to get something done but he didn’t have many cards to play with. It could be argued the the current solution to Faraday Road and (if approved) Monks Lane is an expensive and messy compromise that satisfies no one. Moreover, each is not the result of a clear policy but the forced adoption, at the last possible moment and largely as the result of external circumstances and pressures, of the least bad solution.

If such a space is needed now then presumably it also was in June 2018 when the ground was closed. Why did this conversion of purpose therefore not take place then, or at lease as soon as it became clear that the St Modwen deal had collapsed? As is so often the case with anything to do with the LRIE or the football ground, there are more questions than answers.

• There’s recently been some controversy about the proposed major re-development of the Kennet Centre which would then be known as Eagle Quarter. Several objections have referred to the character of Newbury’s historic town centre which this would (or so it’s claimed) destroy. I’m not sure that this character survives to quite the extent that’s claimed but it’s certainly unfortunate that these sentiments weren’t more prominent in the years leading up to the opening of the Kennet Centre in 1972. According to Penny Stokes’ recently published book, Georgian Newbury, one of the casualties was the “magnificent” Old King’s Head pub in the Market Place which had a frontage of 45 feet and dated back to the 15th century. Grade II* it may have been: but down it came, and up went the shopping centre that we all know and loathe today. Click here for more information on the book.

Thames Valley Police has started a new initiative to help tackle knife crime. There are amnesty bins now installed around West Berkshire, one of those locations being at Newbury Police Station.

• For latest news from Newbury Town Council see their November 2021 newsletter here.

• The Jurassic Bark Pack walk will be meeting for a walk around Penwood Forest this Saturday at noon. The car park can be found on the same road as Penwood Nurseries, approximate post code RG20 9EW. For more information see the events section.

• It was reported last week on Newbury Today that residents of Pond Close were successful in their battle to stop a new development. Fourteen of them objected on grounds including road safety, parking issues and noise pollution. The matter was decided by the Western Area Planning Committee (overturning the officers’ recommendation to approve it). The members criticised the developers for reducing the number of dwellings below the threshold of 10 which required a provision for affordable homes.

• A new award has been created by the Newbury auctioneers Dreweatts in collaboration with Historic Houses. It’s reported by Newbury Today that this is to celebrate the importance and evolution of the rich collections that can be found in Britain’s independently-owned historic houses.

• Now to the big C word, there will be a Christmas Fair at The Chequers Hotel on 28 November. Stalls are yet to be announced however, if you are a stall holder and are interested, please contact 01635 38000 to book your slot. See more below in the events section.

• The Churches of St John and St George in south Newbury have undergone training from the UK charity CAP (Christian Against Poverty) and offer free money-advice courses on how best to take control of expenditure. The current course is now underway and the next one will start in January. See more information here.

• Healthwatch West Berkshire is encouraging Covid testing as people return to work, school and college. There is a new initiative in the works called Time2Test. For more information on this and the coverage so far, see here.

• The Base at Greenham is hosting a David Hockney exhibition until Sunday 28 November. More information can be found below in the events section.

• Newbury school Speenhamland Primary was recently visited by triathlete James Ketchell. Newbury Today writes that this was an inspiring opportunity for pupils. You can read the pupil’s own feedback and more on this here.

• As we have mentioned in recent releases, there are proposals for a new development between Newbury College and the A339 (see last week’s section below for more), a joint venture between Greenham Trust, Aldi Stores and Feltham Group. More information can be found on the project’s website.

Click here to keep up to date with Newbury Town Council’s diary of events.

• Newbury Town Council is looking for volunteers to be a part of a Steering Group for its Neighbourhood Development Plan. More information here or email NDP@newbury.gov.uk.

• This month’s edition of Visit Newbury Loves Local is all about autumn fun.

• See here for information and events in Parkway, Newbury.

• An NHS research exhibition is on display at West Berkshire Library. Opening times and more can be found here.

• Click here for information about lateral flow tests available in West Berkshire.

• Newbury Town Council is appealing for volunteers for spring bulb planting. Newbury in Bloom are working with the council to further enhance Newbury’s open spaces by planting vivid purple crocus bulbs at Blossom’s Field, Old Hospital Green, City Recreation Ground and Walton Way play area in November. For the volunteering dates and more information, click here.

Hamstead Marshall Wildlife Group has been successful in its application to Greenham Trust for some saplings which will be planted in the Hamstead Marshall Village Hall Field. A spokesperson said that that the planting date had yet to be agreed but that this will be publicised. Volunteers may be needed.

• Any comments, suggestions or feedback about the Council’s community transport services (including Readibus) should be sent to WBC’s Transport Services Team. You can write to them at Council Offices, Market Street, Newbury, RG14 5LD, email Transport@westberks.gov.uk or call 01635 519394.

• Community larders are running in Newbury, Thatcham and Wantage – click here for details.

Click here for the results from the Newbury Photography Club’s latest competition.

• The popular My Wild Life’ photography competition is returning, inspired by the return of the Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year 57. For information on the competition and deadlines, click here.

Watermill Bridge

This week’s NWN reports that Bewley Homes’ application for 250 homes in Wash Water, to be known as Watermill Bridge if it goes ahead, has been submitted to (though not yet validated by) Basingstoke and Deane Council. Concerns have been raised about the scheme, starting at an open event at The Woodpecker inn earlier in the year and continuing ever since. The paper quotes one local resident’s concerns about flooding, traffic and the lack of mitigating infrastructure. These kind of objections are to be expected but in this case appear to be widespread: Councillor James Cole told Penny Post that he understands that there is “no support for the scheme from any of the neighbouring parishes on either side of the country border.” The project has a website which you can visit here. The opponents also have a website, Keep Washwater Rural, which you can visit here.

Bewley Homes contacted Penny Post on 18 November with a statement about the development. This describes the project as “a low carbon scheme with a high biodiversity net gain. The development’s first phase will provide an average improvement of 95% in carbon efficiency compared to 2013 Building Regulations with a commitment for the whole site to be, on average, at least a 75% improvement.” Specific features promised include improved insulation, in-line solar panels, air-source heat pumps, rainwater harvesting, EV charge points and a community building which will be powered by a waterwheel. 40% of the homes will be affordable and there will be some properties reserved for older people. The site will include “diverse environmental compartments” including formal and informal open spaces, children’s play areas, community allotments, wetland habitats and woodland. There will also be a health and wellbeing centre and a convenience store and a 2km cycle and footway to Newbury.

On the question of flooding, the statement had this to say: “We met many local residents, some of whom held concerns relating to the flood plain of the river Enborne. Extensive modelling undertaken in collaboration with the Environment Agency confirms that new homes as proposed at Watermill Bridge would not be at risk of flooding. The new sustainable drainage systems will withstand a 1 in 100 year storm event plus an additional 40% allowance for increases in rainfall due to climate change, and will not worsen flooding for existing residents.”

If approval is granted, Bewley claims this will be “an exemplar development for the area showcasing innovation in sustainable and environmentally conscious construction. We are not only proposing to meet the Government’s targets, but this site will surpass biodiversity net gain requirements and Future Home Standards.”

If all these features survive into the final construction then there would be much to welcome. The “if” is always a big one in planning matters. These aspects may sway the views of Basingstoke and Dean’s planners and committee members but it’s not unknown for such aspects to be jettisoned along the way through viability assessments. None the less, the aspirations are now a matter of record. Let’s see how any reality compares to this.

The first hurdle, of course, is getting approval. It’s not known at present what B&CD’s view on this is. A cynic might argue that a planning authority might see the ideal location for a development as beings right on the edge of its district and away from its main centres of population, as this one is: it counts towards its housing targets and it gets the developer contributions but a neighbouring authority, West Berkshire in this case, has to deal with all the consequences. In such cases there’s normally some horse trading between the councils to share the CIL or S106 money. Given its proximity to Newbury, it’s likely that West Berkshire’s infrastructure will bear almost all the impact and that it should therefore have almost all the money. This almost certainly won’t happen.

Once the application has gone live we’ll publish the link on B&D’s website. If you have any comments, good or bad, about the project then that is to where these should be addressed.

News from your local council

Note: “the most recent meeting” refers to the most recent one for which minutes (in some cases draft) or some other summary is available. Other meetings may have taken place since. Some councils publish minutes more promptly than do others.

• The most recent meeting (also the annual meeting) of Newbury Town Council took place on 22 June and you can download the minutes here. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council took place on 12 October and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: parking on School Road; the have-you-say meetings hosted by the Neighbourhood Policing Team; planning matters; financial matters; bus shelters; the dog-waste bin in the recreation field; and flooding in Oare To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here to download the meeting schedule. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council took place on 28 September and you can read the minutes here. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• Speen PC currently has vacancies for five parish councillors – click here for more.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council took place on 20 September and you can read the minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council took place on 8 September and you can read the minutes here.  To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council took place on 7 September and you can read the draft minutes here.  To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Hamstead Marshall Parish Council took place on 29 July and you can download the minutes hereTo see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• Please click here for Hamstead Marshall.net, which provides an excellent round-up of what’s going on in and around the village. This also publishes the quarterly Hamstead Hornet and you can click here to read the September 2021 edition which has recently been published.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council took place on 16 June and you can read the minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

Thursday 11 November 2021

This week’s news

• Volunteers at the weekly Educafe Community Cafe at The Globe have been busy knitting and sewing blankets for Newbury Soup Kitchen. During lockdown a lot of people have been knitting squares and the team have turned them into blankets and scarves for people in need. They were gratefully collected by Meryll Praill from the soup kitchen on Wednesday. For more about knitting squares please see here.

• Newbury Friends of the Earth and Lockdown Wood volunteers planted a fourth lockdown wood at Stroud Green in Newbury last Saturday 6 November 2021. An impressive 90 home-grown trees were planted that had been tended in pots by local residents since the first lockdown in May 2020. Local teacher Sue Ridgard, said “Our oak tree appeared in our garden some years ago following our son’s interest in planting acorns, conkers and other items in the hope that they might grow. It’s important for young children to be aware of how they can help reduce our impact on the Earth’s resources. The boys were thrilled to be able to take part on Saturday and I’m sure that they will be regular visitors to Stroud Green to check on the progress of their tree”. See here for more about the Lockdown Woods across West Berkshire.

• The deadline of Newbury Mayor Billy Drummond’s Christmas card competition draws closer. The final submission date is Sunday 14 November and you can see more information and how to enter here.

• And still with The Mayor, Billy Drummond is inviting the town’s elderly residents to join him for a festive afternoon tea on Thursday 16 December. With the Mayor’s Drive and Tea Party unable to take place for two summers in a row due to coronavirus, the Mayor wanted to make the most of the opportunity to be able to give back to Newbury’s oldest residents during his year in office. Tickets are free but are limited and need to be booked in advance.

• This week’s NWN has on p12 an article about the controversy surrounding the recent Newbury Real Ale Festival. The paper reports over a hundred letters of support for the renewal of its licence but also accusations that it encourages criminal activity. One could, of course, make the same charge against almost any public event. In any case, I’m not sure where this is just a personal observation or one backed up with evidence. The accuser goes on to suggest that it’s “unacceptable to use alcohol to raise money for children.” If that were followed there’d be no money for local kids’ charities raised by the likes of pub quizzes. The suggestion was also made that the event sold flowers or non-alcoholic drinks “and be inclusive for everyone.” This seems to miss the point completely: it’s a real ale festival. It’s inclusive for those who like real ale and therefore not for those who don’t. How deadeningly dull life would be were every event have to be watered down to cater for the lowest common denominator. I contacted the festival’s organisers but was told that no comments would be provided on the licence review until the process has concluded next week.

• I put in a call to the Newbury and District Agricultural Society (NADAS) today to see how the new regime was settling in after its first full week at the helm. “It’s still early days,” Nick Wallis, one of the new trustees, admitted. “We are all optimistic about the future and also fully aware that the road ahead will have some twists in it.” He added that they had been “very encouraged by the support we’ve so far received. We’re very keen to help build on the legacy gifted to the society by all the efforts of generations of members and friends of NADAS in the past.”

• The November 2021 newsletter from Newbury Town Council is available: click here to read it.

• Two Newbury eateries, Greggs and Cobrizo Lounge on Northbrook Street recently saw early or full closures due to staffing issues. Reports show that these two shops are now reopened and back to usual opening times.

• A slightly odd yet revealing story regarding The Hatchet Inn in Newbury: their toilets  have been presented a platinum award as part of the Loo of the Year awards. I never knew such things existed. You can find the whole story here.

• It has been reported on Newbury Today that residents of Pond Close have been succesful in their battle to stop new developments being built. Fourteen local residents objected with fair reason regarding road safety, parking issues and noise pollution.

• As we have mentioned previously, there are proposals for a new development between Newbury College and the A339 (see last week’s section below for more), a joint venture between Greenham Trust, Aldi Stores and Feltham Group. More information can be found on the project’s website.

• You may have seen in one of our recent reports of the Calendar Girls where a group of women joined together to create a calendar to raise money for Newbury Cancer Care. The most recent endeavour of the Newbury Cancer Care group saw a group called “Boys in Bras” walk the streets of Newbury on Saturday 6 November in nothing but a bra to raise money for the charity. A total of £7,000 has been raised so far.

• The Churches of St John and St George in south Newbury have undergone training from the UK charity CAP (Christian Against Poverty) and offer free money-advice courses on how best to take control of expenditure. The current course is now underway and the next one will start in January. See more information here.

• Healthwatch West Berkshire is encouraging Covid testing as people return to work, school and college. There is a new initiative in the works called Time2Test. For more information on this and the coverage so far, see here.

• The Base at Greenham is hosting a David Hockney exhibition until Sunday 28 November. More information can be found below in the events section.

Newbury’s Remembrance Sunday proceedings will commence with the main parade stepping off on Sunday 14 November at 10.25am from Pelican Lane and marching the length of Northbrook Street turning into Mansion House Street where the Mayor of Newbury, Cllr Billy Drummond, will take the salute prior to continuing to the Market Place where the Remembrance Service will take place. For more information you can click here.

• Newbury Town Council is looking for volunteers to be a part of a Steering Group for its Neighbourhood Development Plan. More information here or email NDP@newbury.gov.uk.

• This month’s edition of Visit Newbury Loves Local is all about autumn fun.

• See here for information and events in Parkway, Newbury.

Russell Road in Newbury is to close on 17 November for the day. The closure will last from 9am to 3pm. You can find more information here.

• Another closure at Newtown Road from the Pinchington Lane roundabout to The Swan roundabout. It will be shut from 7pm until 5am each night from Monday 8 November until Thursday 11 November. Further information here.

• An NHS research exhibition is on display at West Berkshire Library. Opening times and more can be found here.

• Click here for information about lateral flow tests available in West Berkshire.

• Newbury Town Council is appealing for volunteers for spring bulb planting. Newbury in Bloom are working with the council to further enhance Newbury’s open spaces by planting vivid purple crocus bulbs at Blossom’s Field, Old Hospital Green, City Recreation Ground and Walton Way play area in November. For the volunteering dates and more information, click here.

• Any comments, suggestions or feedback about the Council’s community transport services (including Readibus) should be sent to WBC’s Transport Services Team. You can write to them at Council Offices, Market Street, Newbury, RG14 5LD, email Transport@westberks.gov.uk or call 01635 519394.

• Community larders are running in Newbury, Thatcham and Wantage – click here for details.

Click here for the results from the Newbury Photography Club’s latest competition.

• The popular My Wild Life’ photography competition is returning, inspired by the return of the Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year 57. For information on the competition and deadlines, click here.

• A reminder that Enborne Parish Council recently considered and opposed the proposed 350-home development at Wash Water. There is also a local group which has been formed, Keep Washwater Rural.

Faraday’s fences

As mentioned last week, WBC  and Newbury Town Council had a bit of a stand-off at the Faraday Road football ground – if it can still be so-called given how little of it is left – after WBC staff arrived to start removing the tall fencing that surrounds it on two sides. It was first thought that this would be replaced with a lower fence: now, however, I’ve been told by a representative of Newbury Town Council that there will be no replacement; also that the hedge has (or will be) removed too, so leaving nothing between the grass area and the canal. The fence, I was told, needed some repairs but was otherwise in good condition.

I contacted Howard Woollaston, the District Councillor who was handed the problematic chalice of the football ground as one of his responsibilities last year. He suggested that “brambles and a few spindly trees” would be a better description than “hedge”. Moreover, he added, the fence posts were rotten and only being held up by the foliage (in which case the vegetation couldn’t have been that sparse or spindly, I’d have thought). Others, such as the Newbury Community Football Group (NCFG) and NTC, disagree that the fence was in that poor a condition.

He promised to get back to me with answers to my other questions including what if any fencing would be replacing it. WBC’s stated aim is that the ground be used as a recreational area until it’s re-developed. If it’s going to be left fenceless then it’s hard to see how any parent would, with a waterway nearby, be happy about using it with their children. Kids also like to play with balls and any that are kicked too far to the south are going to end up in the canal and thus, eventually, in Reading.

I also asked if this were not a matter that should be paid for by a developer. “No developer has been selected yet so WBC has a duty to keep the area safe.” Given the state the site was in, the Council “regarded it as a health-and-safety issue.” In the last three and a half years, a lot of money has been spent by WBC in reducing Faraday Road from a football ground to its current state of being a fire-damaged demolition site. Development still seems a long way off (and, given changes in flood-protection regulations, less certain than previously) so one wonders how many other costs might follow. The alternative would have been to have given the football club a one-year rolling lease and worked with them to find a new site. That’s all in the past. We are where are and Newbury Football Club is where it is (in Henwick): and, one suspects, likely to stay there for some time.

News from your local council

Note: “the most recent meeting” refers to the most recent one for which minutes (in some cases draft) or some other summary is available. Other meetings may have taken place since. Some councils publish minutes more promptly than do others.

• The most recent meeting (also the annual meeting) of Newbury Town Council took place on 22 June and you can download the minutes here. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council took place on 12 October and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: parking on School Road; the have-you-say meetings hosted by the Neighbourhood Policing Team; planning matters; financial matters; bus shelters; the dog-waste bin in the recreation field; and flooding in Oare To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here to download the meeting schedule. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council took place on 28 September and you can read the minutes here. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• Speen PC currently has vacancies for five parish councillors – click here for more.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council took place on 20 September and you can read the minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council took place on 8 September and you can read the minutes here.  To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council took place on 7 September and you can read the draft minutes here.  To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Hamstead Marshall Parish Council took place on 29 July and you can download the minutes hereTo see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• Please click here for Hamstead Marshall.net, which provides an excellent round-up of what’s going on in and around the village. This also publishes the quarterly Hamstead Hornet and you can click here to read the September 2021 edition which has recently been published.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council took place on 16 June and you can read the minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

Thursday 4 November 2021

This week’s news

• A fourth Lockdown Wood is being planted on Saturday 6 and Sunday 7 November at Stroud Green. Local residents are invited to contribute saplings that they have grown and nurtured at home. Saplings just need to be at least 50cm tall to thrive in the wood. For how to get involved please see more details here.

• West Berkshire Council is claiming that new energy-efficient LED lighting installed at Newbury Library is already making savings. ​It is estimated that the new lights will reduce energy costs by over £2,600 in energy costs and save 15.03 tonnes of CO2 a year.

• The 25th birthday of Newbury RFC moving to Monks Lane is being celebrated this weekend of 6 November. Full details can be found below in the events section.

• There’s a report on p9 of this week’s NWN about the latest dispute at the football ground at Faraday Road. This has, since the ground was closed in June 2018, probably witnessed more yellow and red cards, high tackles, disputed decisions and strong language than during the many years when football was actually played there. This week’s issue concerns the permitter fencing, Newbury Town Council (NTC) claiming that WBC’s contractors should not be removing the fencing around the site; WBC retorting that no planning permission was required for the work and that the contractors should proceed.

The problem NTC has with this is not the legality of WBC’s work on what is, after all, its own property but why the current five-metre fence needs to be removed at all. I understand that there’s nothing structurally wrong with it and that it’s not dangerous. At present, it does a good job of stopping balls going into the allotments or the canal and towpath, both of which border the ground. The plan is, it seems, to replace this with one half the height. It’s hard to see what effect this will have except to make any ball games in the new “recreational space” more dangerous and less attractive. There may be a remarkably good reason for this but, if so, I don’t know what it is and no one at NTC to whom I’ve spoken seems to know either. All of this makes one wonder what this “recreational space” will be used for, as well as how much it’s costing to produce a less good facility than was there already.

• The new trustees of the Newbury and District Agricultural Association (NADAS) have been elected: see the separate section below for more on this.

• See last week’s section (below) for the latest on the planned re-development of the Kennet Centre which will be re-named Eagle Quarter.

• As mentioned previously, there are proposals for a new development between Newbury College and the A339 (see last week’s section below for more), a joint venture between Greenham Trust, Aldi Stores and Feltham Group. More information can be found on the project’s website.

• The Churches of St John and St George in south Newbury have undergone training from the UK charity CAP (Christian Against Poverty). They are now offering free money advice courses on how best to take control of their expenditure. Penny Post contacted Nick Morris, the money coach who will be leading the new sessions, who confirmed that the first session will be held on Monday 8 November at 7.30pm and will be over a three-week period until 22 November 2021. These sessions are being held at St George’s Church in Wash Common. The three-week session will restart again in January. You can check those details and more information here.

• Local dog trainer Rhona Wilkins shares insight here on how to help your dog through the firework season.

Newbury Business Improvement District (BID), an organisation dedicated to the promotion of local trading, has been awarded up to £100,000 from the European Regional Development Fund, to help attract visitors back to the town centre. For more information on what this funding will be put towards, see here.

• The October 2021 Autumn newsletter from Newbury Town Council is available: click here to read it.

• The pop-up Green Sewing Shop has recently opened (where Hog & Hedge was) showcases recycled needlecraft items and books on sale from the National Needlework Archive at The Old Chapel Textile Centre at Greenham Business Park.

• Healthwatch West Berkshire is encouraging coronavirus testing as people return to work, school and college. There is a new initiative in the works called Time2Test. For more information on this and the coverage so far, see here.

• The Base at Greenham is hosting a David Hockney exhibition until Sunday 28 November. More information can be found here.

• ACE Space volunteer-run community hall on St Nicholas Road is pleased to be hosting live acoustic performances again (with limited seating) including their monthly Unplugged open mic nights. To find out about their upcoming events join their facebook group or follow them on Twitter.

• Newbury Town Council voted to undertake a Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP) for the Parish of Newbury. Following this, the council is looking for volunteers to be a part of a Steering Group in order to progress with Newbury’s NDP. If you or someone you know would like to volunteer, see more information here or email NDP@newbury.gov.uk.

• This month’s edition of Visit Newbury Loves Local is all about autumn fun.

• See here for information and events in Parkway, Newbury.

Russell Road in Newbury is to close on 17 November for the day. The closure will last from 9am to 3pm. You can find more information here.

• Another closure at Newtown Road from the Pinchington Lane roundabout to The Swan roundabout. It will be shut from 7pm until 5am each night from Monday 8 November until Thursday 11 November. Further information here.

• An NHS research exhibition is now on display at West Berkshire Library. Opening times and more can be found here.

• Click here for information about lateral flow tests available in West Berkshire.

• Newbury Town Council is appealing for volunteers for spring bulb planting. Newbury in Bloom are working with the council to further enhance Newbury’s open spaces by planting vivid purple crocus bulbs at Blossom’s Field, Old Hospital Green, City Recreation Ground and Walton Way play area in November. For the volunteering dates and more information, click here.

• Any comments, suggestions or feedback about the Council’s community transport services (including Readibus) should be sent to WBC’s Transport Services Team. You can write to them at Council Offices, Market Street, Newbury, RG14 5LD, email Transport@westberks.gov.uk or call 01635 519394.

• The Tesco store on Pinchington Lane has set in motion a campaign to encourage more families to get their flu jab. It has joined forces with British Heart Foundation, Diabetes UK and Cancer Research UK under the ‘Helping you to Live Healthier’ partnership. To book your flu jab with Tesco pharmacy, click here.

• Community larders are running in Newbury, Thatcham and Wantage – click here for details.

Click here for the results from the Newbury Photography Club’s latest competition.

• The popular My Wild Life’ photography competition is returning, inspired by the return of the Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year 57. For information on the competition and deadlines, click here.

• A reminder that Enborne Parish Council recently considered and opposed the proposed 350-home development at Wash Water. There is also a local group which has been formed, Keep Washwater Rural.

New brooms at the Showground

Over the last few months (see below) we’ve documented the debates within the Newbury and District Agricultural Society (NADAS), which owns the Newbury Showground. There were a lot of procedural, presentational and inter-personal aspects to this but the main issue was starkly simple: the previous board felt that the only solution to the society’s problems was to sell the Showground; an opposition group (known as the requisitionists) disagreed. The latter point of view eventually prevailed and, following the recent AGM, four new trustees (all of whom oppose the sale of the entirety of the Showground).

The new trustees issued a statement on 2 November which is also being sent to the members. “Over the last few months the society has been troubled by contrary opinions as to its strategic direction. The membership has made its feelings clear and the majority of the board has stood down. We would like to thank the board for their work and the dignified manner of their hand over to the newly elected board.

“Throughout this process it has been clear that we all want the same thing, namely a strong functioning society that benefits its charitable objectives, the membership and the general public. We very much hope that with good will, effort and coming together these benefits can be achieved in full. In the coming days and weeks we will be updating you as we progress. Open communication and engagement will in our view be critically important. Thank you for your support.”

The real work starts now for those, both in the society and outside it, who don’t feel that the sale of the entirety of The Showground is either necessary or desirable. It remains to be seen what conclusions the new regime will come to about the society’s finances and, if they are as parlous as was previously suggested, what other steps can be taken the remedy them.

News from your local council

Note: “the most recent meeting” refers to the most recent one for which minutes (in some cases draft) or some other summary is available. Other meetings may have taken place since. Some councils publish minutes more promptly than do others.

• The most recent meeting (also the annual meeting) of Newbury Town Council took place on 22 June and you can download the minutes here. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council took place on 28 September and you can read the minutes here. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• Speen PC currently has vacancies for five parish councillors – click here for more.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council took place on 20 September and you can read the minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

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

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council took place on 8 September and you can read the minutes here.  To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council took place on 7 September and you can read the draft minutes here.  To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Hamstead Marshall Parish Council took place on 29 July and you can download the minutes hereTo see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• Please click here for Hamstead Marshall.net, which provides an excellent round-up of what’s going on in and around the village. This also publishes the quarterly Hamstead Hornet and you can click here to read the September 2021 edition which has recently been published.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council took place on 16 June and you can read the minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

Thursday 28 October 2021

This week’s news

• The Newbury Policing Team will be holding a ‘Have Your Say’ and free Bike Marking Event on Saturday 30 October 10am to 2pm outside Marks & Spencers.

• The Green Sewing Shop has recently opened at 21 Northbrook Street. This pop-up shop showcases recycled needlecraft items and books on sale from the National Needlework Archive at The Old Chapel Textile Centre at Greenham Business Park. The shop is open Tuesdays to Saturdays from 10am to 4pm.

• In case you missed it last week, a proposed development is to be located in between Newbury College and the A339 (see last week’s section below for more), a joint venture between Greenham Trust, Aldi Stores and Feltham Group. More information can be found on the project’s website.

• At some point, the new Housing Secretary Michael Gove will deliver his verdict on the Sandleford appeal. Earlier this year, WBC gave a comprehensive rejection of the application but the developers then appealed to the Secretary of State. The history of this development is a long and tangled one. I say “development” but nothing has actually been built.

The world, however, has moved on since the early 2000s when this scheme seemed like such a grand idea. One of these changes was recently signalled by Mr Gove himself when he said that brownfield sites (which Sandleford most emphatically is not) should be prioritised. His decision will thus be a test of this assertion and many developers and councils elsewhere in the country will be awaiting his decision with interest. Even if he does effectively break his own pledge and allow the appeal, all the problems that have haunted the project for the best part of the last 20 years will remain. The decision will also be relevant to the larger and equally Greenfield proposal to infill the area between Thatcham and Bucklebury with 2,500 homes.

Given the change of regime at the Housing Ministry – and with it, perhaps, the demise of the ill-conceived planning white paper – a pause might be wise in this decision until new government policy is in place and the decision taken by Michael Gove will thus be consistent with it. To this end, Newbury Town Council has written to him to suggest that his decision should be deferred until the review of the Ancient Woodlands Policy is concluded. This is also relevant to the Sandleford site.

• Another similarly named possible development to keep an eye on is Sandleford Place, on the border of West Berkshire and Basingstoke & Deane near the river Enborne. I understand this was first floated a few years ago but may still be alive. Up to 1,000 homes could be involved. The carrot here could be the construction of (or, at least, the promise of) an east-west road between Newtown and Wash Water, probably on the Hampshire side of the fence. If advanced, it may be speculative (ie designed to succeed on appeal on the grounds that the council’s local plan is defective or out of date).Because of the pause demanded by the changes to the National Planning Policy Framework the government announced in the summer, WBC’s might be. Basingstoke and Deane’s is running even later. The fact that two councils are involved might further complicate matters.

• A fourth Lockdown Wood is being planted on Saturday 6 and Sunday 7 November at Stroud Green. Local residents are invited to contribute saplings that they have grown and nurtured at home. Saplings just need to be at least 50cm tall to thrive in the wood. For how to get involved please see more details here.

• There is currently (until 15 November) a consultation on the future of the Library Service in West Berkshire. One aspect of this was discussed at the 28 September meeting of Speen Parish Council. This turned on the voluntary £1 per head contribution which the Library Service has requested for the last few years and which most, but not all, parishes have contributed to. At the PC meeting, the suggestion was made that this is not a PC responsibility. This is a fair point: but we live in changed times. This was a way that the Library Service could make a funding request for a part of its budget would also allow for local discretion and (see below) direct accountability. It was also suggested that the contribution be based on usage rather than population. This wouldn’t;t work as it would create an open-ended commitment for the PC that may not in any case be easy to measure. It was agreed that the matter be looked into more fully before deciding what, if anything, to contribute.

Speen PC understandably wants to ensure that the Library Service is living up to its various promises. Perhaps, though, isn’t a large enough organisation to insist on regular meetings. Newbury TC, however, does this, both it and Thatcham TC’s contributions being conditional on satisfactory regular reports on progress. One solution, which neither council will probably welcome but I’ll make it anyway, is that Speen make its grant to Newbury Town Council on the proviso that Newbury pass this on to the Library Service with its own payment if it’s satisfied at each round of meetings. This assumes that Newbury TC’s and Speen PC’s desires are fairly closely aligned on this matter: they might be, though you can never tell with neighbours…

Road closures can be expected until 29 October on the stretch of the A339 between Newtown and the Greenham Business Park. This is to deal with ash trees suffering from dieback.

• As we near closer to firework season, Dogs Trust has issued some advice for pet owners when it comes to fireworks night and loud noises. See here for Newbury Today’s post on this.

Newbury Business Improvement District (BID), an organisation dedicated to the promotion of local trading, has been awarded up to £100,000 from the European Regional Development Fund, to help attract visitors back to the town centre. For more information on what this funding will be put towards, see here.

• On the same note, Newbury BID is overseeing an exciting project that sees Newbury’s ‘first-ever’ TV advert released as a part of a Christmas marketing ‘blitz’.

• As mentioned last week, Volunteer Centre West Berkshire recently celebrated the official opening of its new offices at Broadway House. To keep up to date with the Volunteer Centre, you can click here.

• ACE Space volunteer-run community hall on St Nicholas Road is pleased to be hosting live acoustic performances again (with limited seating) including their monthly Unplugged open mic nights. To find out about their upcoming events join their facebook group or follow them on Twitter.

• The October 2021 Autumn newsletter from Newbury Town Council is available: click here to read it.

• Healthwatch West Berkshire is encouraging coronavirus testing as people return to work, school and college. There is a new initiative in the works called Time2Test. For more information on this and the coverage so far, see here.

• Newbury Town Council voted to undertake a Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP) for the Parish of Newbury. Following this, the council is looking for volunteers to be a part of a Steering Group in order to progress with Newbury’s NDP. If you or someone you know would like to volunteer, see more information here or email NDP@newbury.gov.uk.

• This month’s edition of Visit Newbury Loves Local is all about autumn fun including Halloween fun in Newbury this half term.

• An NHS research exhibition is now on display at West Berkshire Library. Opening times and more can be found here.

• Click here for information about lateral flow tests available in West Berkshire.

• Three textile wall hangings have been placed in the Greenham Control tower depicting three different eras of Greenham Common: its early history, its time as a cold-war airbase; and how it is today. The textiles were presented by Newbury Knitters and will now be permanently on display. For more informationemail info@greenhamtower.org.uk or visit here.

• Any comments, suggestions or feedback about the Council’s community transport services (including Readibus) should be sent to WBC’s Transport Services Team. You can write to them at Council Offices, Market Street, Newbury, RG14 5LD, email Transport@westberks.gov.uk or call 01635 519394.

• The Tesco store on Pinchington Lane has set in motion a campaign to encourage more families to get their flu jab. It has joined forces with British Heart Foundation, Diabetes UK and Cancer Research UK under the ‘Helping you to Live Healthier’ partnership. To book your flu jab with Tesco pharmacy, click here.

• Community larders are running in Newbury, Thatcham and Wantage – click here for details.

Click here for the results from the Newbury Photography Club’s latest competition.

• The popular My Wild Life’ photography competition is returning, inspired by the return of the Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year 57. For information on the competition and deadlines, click here.

• A reminder that Enborne Parish Council recently considered (see Local Councils section below) the proposed 350-home development at Wash Water. The minutes recorded that “all Councillors agreed that Enborne Parish Council unanimously oppose to this proposed development. Councillor Garrett said he was told that it would be around late September to early November when a planning application is received, it will then be considered in a Parish Council meeting. There is also a local group which has been formed, Keep Washwater Rural.

Wash Common’s café

This week’s Newbury Weekly News has on p4 the story of the sudden demise of the NuMee café in Wash Common. The article quotes extracts from the café’s Facebook page, notably the announcement on 22 October of the impending closure with the seven-day notice. Having spoken to some of the people who’ve been trying to resolve this problem, the outcome was perhaps not quite as unexpected as it seemed to some.

Matters are complicated by there being at least three different landlords, and a freeholder, involved and we understand that none have so far replied to emails sent by District Councillor Tony Vickers. It also appears that legal advice before signature would have produced a better outcome as there were clauses in the agreement that seemed to anticipate just this result. None the less, we are where are, and quite possibly in exactly the place the landlords had planned to be. What might happen next?

It’s possible that some compromise might be reached, although with NuMee now moved out and looking for new premises this doesn’t seem likely. New tenants may move in but it’s possible that none will be sought. This may be the first salvo in a long-planned campaign to clear the whole parade and the space behind it, which certainly has the potential for development. If – and it’s a big if – the Sandleford development goes ahead, the site would become all the more attractive. Other tenants in the block may well be anxiously looking over their tenancy agreements to see if a similar axe may descend on them.

From an economic point of view, the landlord’s decision could be seen as entirely rational. The needs of the community in Wash Common and of their tenants are secondary concerns. To a greater or lesser extent, most businesses take the same view. The moral of the story is to assume that in any discussions with a landlord you’ll be up against very sharp lawyers who may be playing a long game, and ensure that you are adequately represented.

The Kennet Centre (aka Eagle Quarter)

• Newbury Town Council’s Planning and Highways Committee recently met to consider this application (you can see the planning documents here and the Lochailort’s (the developer’s) project website here). You can also see an article on the meeting on p4 of this week’s Newbury Weekly News. The Committee’s conclusions was that “we object to this application based on: (i) The Town Centre Conservation Area Appraisal and Masterplan Vision document are not yet published. The application should take these documents into consideration; (ii) the development is out of character with the historic market-town nature of Newbury; (iii) Ttere is a lack of affordable housing; and (iv) the blocks as amended are still too high.

One of the problems with the development is perhaps that almost anything would be better that what’s there at the moment, the Kennet Centre having long outlived whatever vogue it might once have enjoyed. On speaking to a couple of people who were at the committee meeting, the lower parts of the scheme present few problems and the opening out of the area and the flexible retail space are welcomed. So too are the planned environmental features, although doubts were expressed as to how many of those promised would see the light of day. There’s certainly a widely held view that developers create a vision of something that will secure planning approval and then set about  using every tool at their disposal including viability assessments to change the scheme into something they actually want to build.

“Naturally, we are disappointed with the continued objection of Newbury Town Council to our plans to redevelop the Kennet Centre,” Penny Post was told by Lochailort Director Hugo Haig (who was at the planning meeting). “We have listened to residents and have reduced the scheme by two storeys, losing 21 units, but still with all the public benefits originally proposed. The scheme will be net zero carbon, with ground-source heat pumps and 52 EV charging points. Our architects and heritage advisors have worked hard to ensure the scheme works in the context of Newbury. We are continuing to look at how the richness of Newbury’s architecture can be better reflected as part of the scheme. We believe the proposals will be highly successful and bring life back to an area everyone agrees needs rejuvenation. We have had a lot of support for all of the work we have done in terms of the retail and leisure offering at ground level together with the new pedestrian streets, yards and arcades.”

Newbury Town Council has now had its say. So too have the public, as the official consultative period has now ended (though I understand comments can still be made). The key decision will be made when the matter comes before the Western Area Planning Committee in the next month or so.

News from your local council

Note: “the most recent meeting” refers to the most recent one for which minutes (in some cases draft) or some other summary is available. Other meetings may have taken place since. Some councils publish minutes more promptly than do others.

• The most recent meeting (also the annual meeting) of Newbury Town Council took place on 22 June and you can download the minutes here. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council took place on 28 September and you can read the minutes here. Matters discussed included: financial matters; a report from District Councillor Lynne Doherty; speeding in Grove Road; parish communications; the parish improvement plan; tree and hedge planting; contributions to the library service (see section above); the allotments; and the greening campaign. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• Speen PC currently has vacancies for five parish councillors – click here for more.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council took place on 20 September and you can read the minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

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

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council took place on 8 September and you can read the minutes here.  To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council took place on 7 September and you can read the draft minutes here.  To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Hamstead Marshall Parish Council took place on 29 July and you can download the minutes hereTo see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• Please click here for Hamstead Marshall.net, which provides an excellent round-up of what’s going on in and around the village. This also publishes the quarterly Hamstead Hornet and you can click here to read the September 2021 edition which has recently been published.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council took place on 16 June and you can read the minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

Thursday 21 October 2021

This week’s news

• A reminder about the proposed development to be located  Newbury College and the A339 (see last week’s section below for more), a joint venture between Greenham Trust, Aldi Stores and Feltham Group. More information can be found on the project’s website.

• This week’s Newbury Weekly News reports on p3 of the problems facing The Willows Primary School as a result of the recent opening of Highwood Copse School. There seems to be a disagreement about the figures, however: the article quotes the school as saying that it had lost 34 pupils and that its budget would take a £120,000 hit as a result: WBC’s portfolio holder for Education Dominic Boeck claimed that only two pupils had been lost and that the financial impact would be “negligible”. Penny Post tried but failed to contact either of the parties on 21 October to resolve what could be expressed – were we feeling in a sensationalist mood – as a 1,700% difference of opinion.

• Newbury Friends of the Earth is expanding its Lockdown Wood project. Recent bulb-planting days at Goldwell Park and Barn Crescent in Wash Common have been a huge success with over 9,000 bulbs being planted by volunteers. A fourth Lockdown Wood at Stroud Green is being planted on Saturday 6 and Sunday 7 November. Local residents are invited to contribute saplings that they have grown and nurtured at home. Saplings just need to be at least 50cm tall to thrive in the wood. For how to get involved please see more details here.

• This week’s NWN reports on p6 that Sovereign Housing Association has accused of service failures by a group of residents from the Martingale Chase development in Newbury. Penny Post contact Sovereign but was told that it was unable to comment as the tribunal was still ongoing. More on this story can be read here.

Road closures can be expected between 18 and 29 October on the stretch of the A339 between Newtown and the Greenham Business Park. This is to deal with ash trees suffering from dieback.

• As we near closer to firework season, Dogs Trust has issued some advice for pet owners when it comes to fireworks night and loud noises. See here for Newbury Today’s post on this.

• Some good news for the future of Newbury as told by Newbury Today, Newbury Business Improvement District (BID), an organisation dedicated to the promotion of local trading, has been awarded up to £100,000 from the European Regional Development Fund, to help attract visitors back to the town centre. For more information on what this funding will be put towards, see here.

• The Volunteer Centre West Berkshire celebrated the official opening of its new offices recently at Broadway House. The NWN reports on p10 that MP Laura Farris attended the event and said that “we have realised the importance of volunteer work and its value in the community… these volunteers were an important part of that.” That’s certainly true: it was shown countless times during the pandemic that volunteer groups (and local councils) were a lot more fleet-footed, resourceful and effective than the top-down Whitehall approach often seemed to recognise. To keep up to date with the Volunteer Centre, you can click here.

• ACE Space volunteer-run community hall on St Nicholas Road is pleased to be hosting live acoustic performances again (with limited seating) including their monthly Unplugged open mic nights. To find out about their upcoming events join their facebook group or follow them on Twitter.

• The October 2021 Autumn newsletter from Newbury Town Council is now available: click here to read it.

• Healthwatch West Berkshire is encouraging coronavirus testing as people return to work, school and college. There is a new initiative in the works called Time2Test. For more information on this and the coverage so far, see here.

• In last week’s release of the NWN, it was mentioned that a new boules court is being built in Woolton Hill – yes, that’s boules, the French game, not our normal bowls. The work on the court started on Monday and is due to last a week. We contacted East Woodhay Parish Council Clerk, Amy White, who confirmed the facts and added that “more exercise equipment, including a bench press and a lateral pull-down machine, will be being installed in November in the recreation ground”. To see more on this from the NWN, click here.

• As mentioned previously Newbury Town Council voted to undertake a Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP) for the Parish of Newbury. Following this, the council is now looking for volunteers to be a part of a Steering Group in order to progress with Newbury’s NDP. If you or someone you know would like to volunteer, see more information here or email NDP@newbury.gov.uk.

• Newbury Town Council has given £2,500 to the Community Youth Project. The contribution was made through The Good Exchange and will attract match funding from The Greenham Trust. To see more from this story on the council, click here.

• On the same note from the council, Victoria Park has once again been awarded Green Flag status for 2021 and 2022, recognised by the Green Flag Award Scheme as one of the very best in the world. The Town Council received the Award for ‘The Jewel in Newbury’s Crown’ as Victoria Park is known for the first time in 2019 and have worked hard to retain the high standard required.

• This month’s edition of Visit Newbury Loves Local is all about autumn fun including Halloween fun in Newbury this half term.

• Following the Newbury Library’s reopening, an NHS research exhibition is now on display. Opening times and more can be found here.

• In case you missed it last week, HMV has made its return to Newbury. The new store opened in Newbury Parkway shopping centre last week. Click here for information and opening times.

• Click here for information about lateral flow tests available in West Berkshire.

• Any comments, suggestions or feedback about the Council’s community transport services (including Readibus) should be sent to WBC’s Transport Services Team. You can write to them at Council Offices, Market Street, Newbury, RG14 5LD, email Transport@westberks.gov.uk or call 01635 519394.

• Laura Farris MP has revealed her  2021 Christmas card competition which is open to all children in the Newbury constituency aged three to 11. The deadline is Friday 23 October,. For more information visit here.

• The Tesco store on Pinchington Lane has set in motion a campaign to encourage more families to get their flu jab. It has joined forces with British Heart Foundation, Diabetes UK and Cancer Research UK under the ‘Helping you to Live Healthier’ partnership. To book your flu jab with Tesco pharmacy, click here.

• Three textile wall hangings have been placed in the Greenham Control tower depicting three different eras of Greenham Common: its early history, its time as a cold-war airbase; and how it is today. The textiles were presented by Newbury Knitters and will now be permanently on display. For pictures, you can refer to p8 of this week’s Newbury Weekly News, email, info@greenhamtower.org.uk or visit here.

• Community larders are running in Newbury, Thatcham and Wantage – click here for details.

• Enborne Parish Council recently considered (see Local Councils section below) the proposed 350-home development at Wash Water. The minutes recorded that “all Councillors agreed that Enborne Parish Council unanimously oppose to this proposed development. Councillor Garrett said he was told that it would be around late September to early November when a planning application is received, it will then be considered in a Parish Council meeting. There is also a local group which has been formed, Keep Washwater Rural.

Newbury Showground

The members-only election for the Newbury and District Agricultural Association’s (NADAS’s) new trustees takes place on 1 November. Eight candidates have put themselves forward, all representing what might be termed opponents of the previous plan to sell the entirety of the Showground which was overwhelmingly opposed at the recent EGM. As a recent communication for the board said that is was important to make “the right decision, not the popular one,” it’s clear some feel that a sale would be the best plan. That being so, it’s surprising no one has put themselves forward to see if the members have had a change of heart. Maybe they all feel too bruised. It could certainly be very divisive. The current arrangement, I understand it, is a board of eight comprising four elected members, three co-opted ones and an ex officio (the past President) who doesn’t have a vote. (I understand also this could be extended to 12, five co-opted and three ex officio). Whatever the totals, two elected members on each side could block the other side’s nominations for co-opted members, resulting in a stalemate. Maybe it’s in the best interests of all that there be a complete re-boot.

As mentioned before, this is important because the fate of one of the most important and valuable sites in the district is at stake. Residents of Chieveley will be watching the progress of the new management with particular interest.

I mentioned last week that there was some confusion as to what the role of NADAS is – to promote agriculture, to run the show or to educate the public. As mentioned, officially there is no confusion as this is defined by the Charities Commission’s Governing Document. The first objective is “promoting, advancing and improving” agriculture and related matters; the second concerns the education of the public; and the third refers to activities including the holding of shows which satisfy the first two aims. To claim that the “primary” objective is educational, as the website does, is thus not technically correct as this is not the first one stated. No doubt this confusion will be removed by the new regime and the primary goal re-stated, or amended in the Governing Document.

Until the new trustees have been elected, a board formed and all the finances and other matters carefully examined it’s not going to be possible to tell if NADAS can be saved without recourse to at least a partial sale. One thing that seems certain is that a show of some sort will need to take place in 2022: two years have already been missed. Three in row would probably be too much to recover from.

Newbury football grounds (both of them)

Another long-running issue has reached, if not a conclusion – that seems too much to hope for – then at least a new chapter. The closure of the Faraday Road ground by WBC in June 2018 provoked opposition which has continued ever since. One result of the pressure has been to force WBC to concede that it had a responsibility to find a replacement (something former CEO Nick Carter at first denied). The initial search did not produce any suitable sites apart from a ground-share arrangement with the Rugby Club at Monks Lane. Planning approval was lodged in August and since then there has been a flurry of documents added to the WBC website: these you can see here.

Several of these involve the reaction of Sport England (SE) to the proposal. The first is a joint statement issued by SE and WBC on 20 August 2021 asserting that both sides were “jointly supporting the development of proposals at Newbury Rugby Club as an enhanced replacement to meet the community’s needs for Faraday Road Stadium.” Opinion has since been divided as to whether this is indeed a replacement or something different. The document adds that this is “just one scheme identified within the Playing Pitch Strategy to meet the shortfall of football facilities in West Berkshire.” Then there was a consultation response from SE on 4 October which listed concerns over the the details of the project and also its business plan (this was added to the site on 23 September) and requesting additional information on a number of points. Then there is a response on 18 October from WBC’s offers on 18 October; and finally an acknowledgement from SE that it had received these and would reply within 21 days.  This is therefore likely to be before the application is heard by WBC’s Western Area Planning Committee. It’s unclear, however, if any the business plan is relevant to a planning application. Committees don’t normally get involved in such matters but that might be different as the applicant is the local authority. 

The business plan shows a model that’s in start contrast to the solution proposed by the Newbury Community Football Group (NCFG) for Faraday Road. Under that, WBC would be the landlord and enjoy the income: at Monks Lane it would the tenant and have to pay rent. As well as a number of one-off payments, including to the Rugby Club, and the construction costs, there’a also a subsidy to the project of £90,000pa and a sinking fund to set aside money for repairs of £25,000pa. As the business plan doesn’t appear to show any fiscal improvement over the first five years, the subsidy seems set to remain for some time, perhaps for the duration of the 40-year contract. The total cost of these two aspects for the full term would be about £4.6m. The question could be asked – indeed, SE did ask it on 4 October – as to whether such sums  would not “be much better spent on addressing the facility needs across West Berkshire.” In fact, technically, it didn’t ask it: it was an observation. The lack of a question mark perhaps explains why WBC’s response on 18 October was silent on this point.

Paul Morgan of the NCFG, however, did have something to say about this. “There is a deficit of seven full-sized 3G pitches and accessible, secure quality grass football and rugby pitches in West Berkshire. The proposed sports hub at Monks Lane may go a small way in helping to address the 3G pitch shortage but it is not a replacement for the Faraday Road Football Ground.”

He also went on to suggest that there was likely to be “conflict between football and rugby usage”: also the that the Rugby Club seems to be getting the better of the deal – “an up-front payment of about £250,000, rent of £41,00 a year, free usage of eight hours of prime slots and a 50% discount on other bookings. Football will not get priority and will have to pay for all its slots. It’s not a good option for the football community and a dreadful one for the local taxpayer.” Relating to the costs, portfolio holder Howard Woollaston pointed out that WBC can borrow from the Public Works Loan Board for the capital expenditure at very low fixed interest so that the impact on council-tax payers for this element at least will be “very minor.” As for the ongoing costs, WBC naturally hopes that enough people can use it to make the project more self-funding in time: if the plan goes ahead, I hope this proves correct. Matters could go otherwise, of course.

A number of other hurdles need to be crossed before that stage is reached. Appointing a management company to run it and a construction firm to build it are two. First, though, planning approval needs to be secured. This will be considered at Western Area Planning Committee in November. In my view, applications in which the applicant was the council should be heard by another authority: not because I’m suggesting systemic partiality lists but to ensure the reality of any claim that the decision was made at arm’s length. No one on the committee can be ignorant of the background to this and each will doubtless have their own thoughts. Looking just at the  planning aspects, there seem to be significant concerns regarding parking and traffic. Such concerns which have scuppered many applications in the past.

It’s long been an article of faith at WBC that the football ground will be developed for housing and that the proceeds from this will fund the rest of the plan. However, due to tightened regulations about building in areas of flood risk, permission may not be the near certainty it might have appeared back in the distant days when the vision of the LRIE regeneration was first conceived. It’s not impossible that the Monks Lane plan is refused; that NCFG’s pending application for its revival of Faraday Road is approved; and that any future application to build on the ground is refused. One application that has been passed, some time ago, is Faraday Development’s plan to build about 200 homes including 58 affordable ones at Gateway Plaza, on the north of the site. Negotiations between the developers and WBC (the landowner) have been painfully slow but WRC has recently written to express “unequivocal full support” for the project. The final agreement is likely to be concluded early next year. Once work starts, this will be – aside from the creation of the A339 access road and the closure of the football ground – the first tangible sign that the LRIE re-development is more than just an inherited vision, passed from one council administration to the next.

The final point on this is that what the district badly needs – and which the private sector is unable to provide – are affordable and social-rent homes. It’s not often that WBC finds itself as the applicant in a development. Were Faraday Road to be built on, this would be a better outcome than many. It would also be an opportunity to create an exemplar development in response to the climate emergency (a chance that seems to have been missed in Chestnut Walk in Hungerford). As mentioned above, flood defences may also be needed. Affordable homes with heat pumps and solar panels and possibly built on stilts would probably not be vastly profitable. WBC may in any case argue such an outcome is not part of its vision: well, the housing crisis, the climate emergency and tighter flooding regulations weren’t really on the agenda in the mid 2000s either. What use is a vision or a long-term plan if it fails to reflect new realities and grasp new opportunities? It also involves asking the question of what the real purpose of a local authority is. Clearly it has to raise money and be prudent. It also has to lead by example, look after the residents who need its help and provide the things that the private sector cannot. A sustainable, flood-proof and affordable development in Faraday Road would tick all these boxes and be a legacy of which all those involved could feel proud. With elections coming up in 18 months such an plan would also catch some votes. It’s certainly hard to see what positive story can otherwise be told about the development thus far.

News from your local council

Note: “the most recent meeting” refers to the most recent one for which minutes (in some cases draft) or some other summary is available. Other meetings may have taken place since. Some councils publish minutes more promptly than do others.

• The most recent meeting (also the annual meeting) of Newbury Town Council took place on 22 June and you can download the minutes here. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council took place on 20 September and you can read the minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

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

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council took place on 8 September and you can read the minutes here.  To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council took place on 7 September and you can read the draft minutes here.  To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Hamstead Marshall Parish Council took place on 29 July and you can download the minutes hereTo see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• Please click here for Hamstead Marshall.net, which provides an excellent round-up of what’s going on in and around the village. This also publishes the quarterly Hamstead Hornet and you can click here to read the September 2021 edition which has recently been published.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council took place on 12 July and you can read the minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• Speen PC currently has vacancies for five parish councillors – click here for more.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council took place on 16 June and you can read the minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

Thursday 14 October 2021

This week’s news

• This week’s NWN’s front-page story concerns the plans “to transform the south side of Newbury” (or a part of it) with a substantial development between Newbury College and the A339. The project’s website says: “Greenham Trust, Aldi Stores Ltd. and Feltham Group are working on new proposals for a mixed-use development on land to the east of Newbury College. The plans include a new Aldi foodstore, a care home, a hospice, sustainable housing, and an electric-vehicle charging station. The proposed development will provide significant benefits for the local community with funds raised being used by Greenham Trust to benefit local charitable organisations and supporting the growth of Newbury College to meet the needs of local people and the economy.” The site also has a very simple contact form which you can see and respond to by clicking here.

Greenham Trust, which celebrates its 25th anniversary next year, has long been a major donor to local charities and voluntary groups. However, since the pandemic, it also become more proactive, setting up specific funds for projects it wishes to encourage (such as Covid recovery, tree planting and laptops) rather than merely reacting to funding requests from others. (More information can be found here in the summary of the presentation made by Greenham’s CEO Chris Boulton to Hungerford Town Council earlier this month).

The Trust’s involvement in this development would satisfy two of its aspirations: creating a number of much-needed facilities in the district (West Berkshire currently has no hospice, for example, while the need for social housing is well known) which the private sector alone cannot always provide; and increasing its property portfolio, the revenue of which will swell the funds which it’s able to give in grants. If an organisation is going to build or acquire property and charge rents then it’s good to know that the profits will stay in the district and be distributed to the organisations which need support.

The project is currently at an early stage although a spokesperson for the Feltham Estates, the construction company involved in the scheme, is quoted in the NWN as saying that it  was hoped the retail store at least would be open by 2024. More news on this as it becomes available.

• Newbury Friends of the Earth is expanding on its Lockdown Wood project. Recent bulb-planting days at Goldwell Park and Barn Crescent in Wash Common have been a huge success with over 9,000 bulbs being planted by volunteers. And a fourth Lockdown Wood at Stroud Green is being planted on Saturday 6 and Sunday 7 November. Local residents are invited to contribute saplings that they have grown and nurtured at home. Saplings just need to be at least 50cm tall to thrive in the wood. For how to get involved please see more details here.

• The latest chapter in the sorry tale of the Faraday Road football ground appeared this week in the form of a statement from WBC that the planning application to demolish the clubhouse has been withdrawn. The building has, of course, already gone as a result of the fire. And as the car-park idea has been dropped and permission is not needed for the remaining clear up, the application’s been withdrawn. I feel rather sorry for the clubhouse, denied even the honour of a final planning application as a valediction. Its ghost may yet be with us, however, as it seems that the planning application for its replacement at Monks Lane will not now come before the Western Area Planning Committee until next month, later than had been hoped.

• It seems that the M4 closures are not yet over. Work has not finished on the eastern carriageway so this will closed between J14 and J13 from 9pm on Friday 15 October to 6am on Monday 18 October. See more here in Newbury Today.

• Some other road closures can be expected between 18 and 29 October on the stretch of the A339 between Newtown and the Greenham Business Park. This is to deal with ash trees suffering from dieback.

Newbury Apple Day last Saturday 9 October was a great success with Mayor Billy Drummond having a go at apple pressing in the marketplace. Delicious fresh juice was made from apples, some of which were donated by Waitrose. The event was organised by Growing Green Newbury and they are always grateful for more volunteers.

ACE Space volunteer-run community hall on St Nicholas Road is pleased to be hosting live acoustic performances again (with limited seating) including their monthly Unplugged open mic nights. To find out about their upcoming events join their facebook group or follow them at twitter.com/acespacenewbury

• The October 2021 Autumn newsletter from Newbury Town Council is now available: click here to read it.

• As seen on p27 of the NWN this week, a new boules court is being built in Woolton Hill. yes, that’s boules, the French game, not our normal bowls. The work on the court started on Monday and is due to last a week. We contacted East Woodhay Parish Council Clerk, Amy White, who confirmed the facts and added that “more exercise equipment, including a bench press and a lateral pull-down machine, will be being installed in November in the recreation ground”. To see more on this from the NWN, click here. (When my parents lived in France back in the day, some English friends of theirs in the same village had a boules court built in their garden. The local French thought it was bonkers as they were happy to play on gravel drives or the market square. I’ve never been aware of another boules court – until now, that is.)

• As mentioned last week Newbury Town Council voted to undertake a Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP) for the Parish of Newbury. Following this, the council is now looking for volunteers to be a part of a Steering Group in order to progress with Newbury’s NDP. If you or someone you know would like to volunteer, see more information here or email NDP@newbury.gov.uk.

• This month’s edition of Visit Newbury Loves Local is all about autumn fun including Halloween fun in Newbury this half term.

• Following the Newbury Library’s reopening, an NHS research exhibition is now on display. Opening times and more can be found here.

• Ten Mary Hare School pupils recently had the opportunity to ask questions to astronaut Mark Hei directly in the ISS. For the questions and more information, visit the Mary Hare website here.

HMV has made its return to Newbury. The new store has officially opened in Newbury Parkway shopping centre. Click here for information and opening times.

• The free Wednesday Educafe Community Cafe at The Globe’s Indoor Garden has proved so successful that they are hosting a weekend event for those who can’t join in mid-week. It also happens to be World Food Day so a range of international cuisine can be ordered to enjoy this Saturday 16 October. Book your meal here for just £5.

• Click here for information about lateral flow tests available in West Berkshire.

• Any comments, suggestions or feedback about the Council’s community transport services (including Readibus) should be sent to WBC’s Transport Services Team. You can write to them at Council Offices, Market Street, Newbury, RG14 5LD, email Transport@westberks.gov.uk or call 01635 519394.

• Laura Farris MP has revealed her Christmas Card Competition for 2021 which is open to all children in the Newbury constituency aged 3 to 11. The deadline is Friday 23 October, for more information visit here.

• The Tesco store on Pinchington Lane has set in motion a campaign to encourage more families to get their flu jab. It has joined forces with British Heart Foundation, Diabetes UK and Cancer Research UK under the ‘Helping you to Live Healthier’ partnership. To book your flu jab with Tesco pharmacy, click here.

• Community larders are running in Newbury, Thatcham and Wantage – click here for details.

• Enborne Parish Council recently considered (see Local Councils section below) the proposed 350-home development at Wash Water. The minutes recorded that “all Councillors agreed that Enborne Parish Council unanimously oppose to this proposed development. Councillor Garrett said he was told that it would be around late September to early November when a planning application is received, it will then be considered in a Parish Council meeting. There is also a local group which has been formed, Keep Washwater Rural.

Elections at the Showground

• The Newbury and District Agricultural Society (NADAS) will on 1 November be holding an AGM at which new trustees will be elected to form a new board (see previous sections below, passim, for the background to this).  The nominations closed on 14 October and it’s not yet known how many people have put themselves forward for one of the four elected places. I understand, however, that there are (and have long been) at least five, so an election will therefore be required.

This is in contrast to a communication from the current board sent to members on 12 October observing that “it is disappointing that more people have not submitted a nomination…to date there have been only three so no election will be required.” The communication goes on to stress the problems facing the society and the need for people with relevant skills and experience to resolve these. It then lists the CV headlines of the current board members (all but one of whom will be standing down). I’ve also seen similar CVs of the five people known to be standing. Both lists display impressive credentials. I’m sure no one would be standing unless they felt they were up to the job. No one can doubt there’s serious work to be done.

The letter also bemoans the fact that at the recent EGM only 25% of the members voted and rightly goes on to say that this is “a critical time” for NADAS. It is: as it is for the residents of Chieveley and for everyone in the district who has misgivings about the site being turned into a distribution centre. I’d be interested to know how this 25% compares to the votes at previous EGMs or for similar organisations. I agree with the general sentiment however, and would urge all NADAS members to cast their votes. If, however, all those standing support the plan of not selling the entirety of the Showground then it’s hard to see why someone who felt differently would want to vote for any of them. The turnout is thus likely to depend on the range of opinions being expressed. This won’t be clear until the names and positions of all the nominees are known.

One comment particularly confuses me. This is that “the post of director/trustee requires people to make the right decision, not just a popular one.” The clear implication here is that the vote at the EGM, which opposed the current policy of selling the Showground by a wide margin, was wrong. The letter makes it clear elsewhere that the current board disagree with this verdict as “they feel” that the proposal they put forward was the best one. That’s absolutely fine: but it’s not the same as saying that their view was right and other ones therefore wrong. A vote has been taken, which is how such things are decided, and one has to accept it. One might as well say, for instance, that the Brexit vote was wrong because one didn’t agree with it (some people tried to assert this but it didn’t get them very far).

As I’ve said before, I offer my congratulations and admiration for anyone who’s willing to stand as a trustee for an organisation. It involves hard and often thankless work and has all the responsibilities, but none of the advantages, of being a director of a PLC. This applies not only to the members of the current board but to those who are elected to replace them. Best of luck…

News from your local council

Note: “the most recent meeting” refers to the most recent one for which minutes (in some cases draft) or some other summary is available. Other meetings may have taken place since. Some councils publish minutes more promptly than do others.

• The most recent meeting (also the annual meeting) of Newbury Town Council took place on 22 June and you can download the minutes here. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council took place on 20 September and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: pre-application questions from Vanners Farm; the 350-home development proposed between the river Enborne, the A343 and the A34 to which the council was “unanimously opposed” (see also the News section above); financial matters; the gate at the school playing field; and the Blossom into Spring project. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council took place on 7 September and you can read the draft minutes here. Items covered included: parish communications; wildflower verges; defibrillators; the Queen’s jubilee; Holders meadow; the parish plan; the Greenway cycle route; planning applications; financial matters; and the village hall.  To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council took place on 14 September and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: the application near Radnalls Farm; other planning matters; parking on School Road; financial matters; a report on the Showground (things have happened since: see section above); grit bins; dog waste; Marsh Pond; the Clerk’s correspondence; uncut verges; and impending roadworks. To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here to download the meeting schedule. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council took place on 8 September and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: financial matters; grant awards; the American War Memorial; planning applications; the Heritage Forum meeting; additional dog bins; the Community Engagement Working Group; the wildlife garden project; and the proposed Greenham Common Users Group. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Hamstead Marshall Parish Council took place on 29 July and you can download the minutes hereTo see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• Please click here for Hamstead Marshall.net, which provides an excellent round-up of what’s going on in and around the village. This also publishes the quarterly Hamstead Hornet and you can click here to read the September 2021 edition which has recently been published.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council took place on 12 July and you can read the minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• Speen PC currently has vacancies for five parish councillors – click here for more.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council took place on 16 June and you can read the minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

Thursday 7 October 2021

This week’s news

• The final (for now) weekend M4 closure between Junctions 13 and 14 is this weekend from 9pm Friday 8 October to 6am Monday 11 October. So prepare for heavy traffic on local roads including the A4, A34 and A338. The closures have been required for reparation of the motorway bridge at Welford.

• The October 2021 newsletter from Newbury Town Council is now available: click here to read it.

• Newbury Town Council voted to undertake a Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP) for the Parish of Newbury. Following this, the council is now looking for volunteers to be a part of a Steering Group in order to progress with Newbury’s NDP. If you or someone you know would like to volunteer, see more information here or email NDP@newbury.gov.uk. “I’m really excited that Newbury Town Council has voted to proceed with a neighbourhood development plan (NDP),” said Newbury Town Councillor Nigel Foot. “A Newbury NDP will allow the town to have its voice heard by the District Council in existing and developing local-plan policy. The NDP will be driven by our local community. When established, it means that developers will have to pay heed to the local community’s aspirations and needs. We hope that by working with our neighbouring parish councils, we can maximise the effectiveness of the NDP for both Newbury and those neighbouring parishes.”

• This month’s edition of Visit Newbury Loves Local is all about autumn fun including Halloween fun in Newbury this half term.

• After a long but necessary wait, the Newbury Library has now re-opened. You can find information on the West Berkshire Council page here.

• The Newbury Corn Exchange has received funding of £29,600 in order to develop arts on prescription across West Berkshire. The new project is called Links to Thrive, which will support health, wellbeing and resilience through the use of creative activities in West Berkshire. For more information, click here.

• The Royal Horticultural Society has awarded Newbury a ‘Pride of Place’ award for Old Hospital Green’s NHS Commemorative Garden and a Conservation and Wildlife Award for City Recreation Ground’s orchard and wildflower meadow. For comments from the judges and Councillor Martin Colston, visit the council website here.

• Some good news here from the Bedwyn Train Passengers Group about improved rail services in the area – largely as a result of its lobbying with GWR.

• The West Berks Campaign for Real Ale Ullage Autumn 2021 e-letter is now available for download here.

• Congratulations to the recently-formed Hamstead Marshall Wildlife Group, which recently attracted over 30 people to its inaugural meeting and raised funds for the British Hedgehog Preservation Society and the HM Village Hall. If you’d like to get involved in the groups various activities, please contact Anne Budd on 01488 657 022 or anne.budd1@btinternet.com. More information can also be found on the group’s Facebook page.

• Click here for information about lateral flow tests available in West Berkshire.

• Any comments, suggestions or feedback about the Council’s community transport services (including Readibus) should be sent to WBC’s Transport Services Team. You can write to them at Council Offices, Market Street, Newbury, RG14 5LD, email Transport@westberks.gov.uk or call 01635 519394.

• Laura Farris MP has revealed her Christmas Card Competition for 2021 which is open to all children in the Newbury constituency aged 3 to 11. The deadline is Friday 23 October, for more information visit here.

• Community larders are running in Newbury, Thatcham and Wantage – click here for details.

Three choices for NADAS

• The Newbury and District Agricultural Society (NADAS) has sent out a communication to its members regarding the forthcoming AGM, which you can read here. The main thrust of this message is to encourage as many members as possible to stand, as well as providing information or links about what a trustee needs to do and be aware of. There are a few aspects of the email that are worth a closer look.

This is important to the public as NADAS owns a prime piece of real estate, the possible re-purposing of which would have a wide impact.

It says that “there are four seats on the Board of Management reserved for those voted in by members.” There must be at least four trustees but there can be up to 12 (there are currently nine), four elected and the remainder being ex-officio or co-opted. The elected members, even if they were all of one mind, could therefore be outvoted. Given that the election is only happening because of the recent EGM and given that at that meeting a clear majority opposed the sale of the entirety of the Showground, one wonders how the new board can be compelled to honour this view. It would be as if David Cameron announced that the Brexit referendum (which was far tighter than the NADAS vote) wasn’t binding after all. The obvious solution would be to pass a resolution to affirm that this clear mandate would be followed unless there were a duly constituted members’ poll or EGM to overturn it. As matters stand, the new trustees could – even with four elected members opposed to the sale – proceed with it as if all the recent kerfuffle hadn’t happened.

There’s been a lot of discussion about the sale of the Showground but rather less about what NADAS actually is. There seem to be three different views on this: while they’re not mutually contradictory, the primacy of any one isn’t clear.

Is it primarily about the Show? Technically, no: the Charitable Objects (COs) on the Charity Commission website devotes its third (of three) section to “shows” but leaves open the question of how large they should be and how often they should be held. Many members, however, would have joined NADAS because of the Show as it’s long been constituted. This has certainly been its most visible activity. The website name is not NADAS.co.uk but Newburyshowground.co.uk, which rather supports this perception (as well as making clear where any shows are expected to be held).

Is it primarily about promoting agriculture and other rural activities? Yes: that is what the first line of the above-mentioned COs states. As it’s the first one, it would have a strong claim to also being the principal one too. Such work can take many forms. Section three of the COs says that it can be performed in ways “including” the holding of shows, the implication being that this not be the only way.

Is it primarily about education? That’s what the recent email to the members asserts, something that’s also mentioned on the homepage: “objectives relating to education and generally raising awareness of agriculture, horticulture, forestry, and rural crafts and businesses.” Here education is mentioned first, unlike in the COs. NADAS has also been doing a lot of educational work recently but much of it appears to be concentrated on schools, as this page clearly states. This would appear to be a reasonably recent development, at least at this scale. This primacy of education is also not reflected in either the name of the organisation or its website’s URL.

There’s no reason why (depending on the finances) these three aims are incompatible but there does seem to be some confusion about what the primary one is. It would seem to be hard to hold an election or compose a board unless this matter – which is perhaps even more fundamental than the future of the Showground which led to this crisis – is agreed. This is surely a matter which the members should decide; which in turn would require a clear set of possible aims in order of importance, and their implications, for consideration. The results might require a change to some or all of the COs, the website copy, the organisation’s name and its web address.

There’s something of a paradox here. If, for instance, it is decided that its primary aim is educating people, mainly children, then the sale of the Showground might become easier to contemplate and could even be presented as essential. If, however, the main aim is not to sell the Showground at this stage (which the members overwhelmingly backed last month) then it’s hard to see how all its educational ambitions can financially be met. These two issues – what NADAS actually is, or would wish to be, or thinks it is; and what is to be done with the Showground – can’t be looked at in isolation. At the moment, the second of these has been considered and seemingly agreed, but not yet the first.

News from your local council

Note: “the most recent meeting” refers to the most recent one for which minutes (in some cases draft) or some other summary is available. Other meetings may have taken place since. Some councils publish minutes more promptly than do others.

• The most recent meeting (also the annual meeting) of Newbury Town Council took place on 22 June and you can download the minutes here. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council took place on 7 September and you can read the draft minutes here. Items covered included: parish communications; wildflower verges; defibrillators; the Queen’s jubilee; Holders meadow; the parish plan; the Greenway cycle route; planning applications; financial matters; and the village hall.  To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• A reminder that Boxford Parish Council held a public meeting on 10 August, the minutes of which you can read here. This was convened merely to hear proposals for The Bell pub.

• Boxford PC wants to thank everyone who supported the recent event to raise funds for a defibrillator for the Village Hall. Training courses will now be organised: contact parishcouncil@boxford.org.uk for more information.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council took place on 14 September and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: the application near Radnalls Farm; other planning matters; parking on School Road; financial matters; a report on the Showground (things have happened since: see section above); grit bins; dog waste; Marsh Pond; the Clerk’s correspondence; uncut verges; and impending roadworks. To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here to download the meeting schedule. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council took place on 11 August and you can read the minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Hamstead Marshall Parish Council took place on 29 July and you can download the minutes hereTo see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• Please click here for Hamstead Marshall.net, which provides an excellent round-up of what’s going on in and around the village. This also publishes the quarterly Hamstead Hornet and you can click here to read the September 2021 edition which has recently been published.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council took place on 26 July and you can read the minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council took place on 12 July and you can read the minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• Speen PC currently has vacancies for five parish councillors – click here for more.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council took place on 16 June and you can read the minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

Thursday 30 September 2021

Leaders of town councils need to unwind now and again: Newbury TC’s Leader Martin Colston decided that his way of doing this was to cycle 524 miles around the north of Scotland in aid of the Town Mayor’s chosen charity, Speakability. You can read more here.

• The September 2021 newsletter from Newbury Town Council is now available: click here to read it.

This month’s edition of Visit Newbury Loves Local is all about autumn fun including Halloween fun in Newbury this halfterm.

• Good news for book worms, the first floor of Newbury Library re-opens 4 October 2021.

• Laura Farris MP has revealed her Christmas Card Competition for 2021. which is open to all children in the Newbury constituency aged 3 to 11. The deadline is Friday 23 October:f or more information visit here.

• Newbury Lions Club is hosting a firework display on 6 November 2021 at Newbury Racecourse. Gates open at 5.30pm and the display is expected to start at 7.30pm. A selection of food and drink will be available throughout the night including street food, German sausages and doughnuts. The club is also in search of sponsors and volunteers to help with making the display possible. All proceeds of the event will go towards local causes. To find out how to sponsor or act as a volunteer email fireworks@newburylions.org.uk. You can buy tickets by clicking here.

• Last Saturday’s Green Open Day at St Nic’s Church was a big success with lots of green activities, stalls and talks organised by St Nic’s Eco Group. Penny was pleased to meet Ben and Hattie, a local young couple who make upcycled furniture, clothes and homeware from reclaimed woods and fabrics.

• As mentioned last week, the Newbury and District Agricultural Society (NADAS) is now at the stage where members are considering whether to offer themselves as trustees, this to be decided at the AGM on 1 November. If you are a member, NADAS will be in touch with you about this. At that event, possibly all of the current trustees will resign to be replaced with the new ones who will then take over the running of the society.

This will open a new chapter in the life of an organisation which has in 2021 found itself in a spotlight for which it was, perhaps, unprepared. A glance at the previous entries below for the last few months will, I hope, provide a clear and fair summary of what has been a journey through quite choppy waters. The immediate tasks facing the new administration will include the general state of the finances; the future of the Newbury Show and of the Showground; the future of the cattle shed, including what to do about the S106 agreement with restricts its use; and the educational work of the society. We wish NADAS and the new administration well in confronting these tasks. The results will be of importance and interest to members and non-members alike, not least because the Showground is one of the most visible sites in the district.

• Some good news here from the Bedwyn Train Passengers Group about improved rail services in the area – largely as a result of its lobbying with GWR.

• Thames Valley Police invites you to a ‘Have Your Say‘ about the issues that matter most to you this Saturday 2 October 9am to 2pm in Northbrook Street near Marks & Spencer. Newbury Neighbourhood Policing Team will also be offering free ‘bike’ security marking and crime prevention advice.

Laura Farris MP will be holding at surgery in Greenham on Friday 8 October at Greenham Community Centre, The Nightingales, RG14 7SZ. Please email laura.farris.mp@parliament.uk or call 01635 551070 to make an appointment.

• The Tesco store on Pinchington Lane has set in motion a campaign to encourage more families to get their flu jab. It has joined forces with British Heart Foundation, Diabetes UK and Cancer Research UK under the ‘Helping you to Live Healthier’ partnership. To book your flu jab with Tesco pharmacy, click here.

• Newbury Photography Club’s 75+1 Year Anniversary exhibition is open until 10 October 2021 at The Royal British Legion. To see more information about the exhibition, click here.

• A reminder that free weekly Educafé community cafés take place at The Globe in Newbury every Wednesday from 11am to 3pm. They are collecting knitted squares to sew into blankets for Newbury Soup Kitchen so local help from knitters, crocheters and sewers is very welcome.

• This year’s Newbury Apple Day will be held in Newbury Market Place on Saturday 9 October 2021. The event will last from 9am till 3.30pm and all are invited to bring along their own apples to be juiced on the day. There will be apple-themed bakes and goodies available throughout the day, all of which will be homemade. For more information about the day and the work of Growing Newbury Green, click here.

• The West Berks Campaign for Real Ale Ullage Autumn 2021 e-letter is now available for download here.

• Whose average is 99.94? Who was on the English throne 250 years ago? Which is the only East European club to have won the European Cup/Champions League? These are some of the questions that might (or, more probably, might not) be asked in a charity quiz organised by the Mayor of Newbury, Billy Drummond, on Friday 1 October. More details here. (The answers to the questions I posed last week, by the way, were (a) an unkindness; (b) Henry III ;(c) Marseille.)

• More and more parishes are setting up wildlife groups, establishing conservation areas and planting wildflower verges, often with the help of organisations like BBOWT, ARK and WBC. One such is the Hamstead Marshall Wildlife Group, one whose plans is to map verges project on behalf of WBC, the data collected being used to develop “a more sensitive cutting regime.” If you’d like to get involved, please contact Anne Budd on 01488 657 022 or anne.budd1@btinternet.com. More information can also be found on the group’s Facebook page.

• Do you care about the provision of affordable housing in our local area? A reminder that the Charity of Mrs Mabel Luke, which built modern almshouses in central Newbury a few years ago, is looking for a couple more volunteer Directors to help with the day-to-day running of the flats at Mabel Luke Place. These offer much needed affordable housing to local residents. Please see more details here if you can help.

Click here for information about lateral flow tests available in West Berkshire.

• Any comments, suggestions or feedback about the Council’s community transport services (including Readibus) should be sent to WBC’s Transport Services Team. You can write to them at Council Offices, Market Street, Newbury, RG14 5LD, email Transport@westberks.gov.uk or call 01635 519394.

Community larders are running in Newbury, Thatcham and Wantage – click here for details.

News from your local council

• The most recent meeting (also the annual meeting) of Newbury Town Council took place on 22 June and you can download the minutes here. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council took place on 7 September and you can read the draft minutes here. Items covered included: parish communications; wildflower verges; defibrillators; the Queen’s jubilee; Holders meadow; the parish plan; the Greenway cycle route; planning applications; financial matters; and the village hall.  To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• A reminder that Boxford Parish Council held a public meeting on 10 August, the minutes of which you can read here. This was convened merely to hear proposals for The Bell pub.

• Boxford PC wants to thank everyone who supported the recent event to raise funds for a defibrillator for the Village Hall. Training courses will now be organised: contact parishcouncil@boxford.org.uk for more information.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council took place on 11 August and you can read the minutes here. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council took place on 20 July and you can read the minutes here. To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here to download the meeting schedule. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The planning application for a chicken farm at Radnalls Farm in Chieveley received over 70 objections and was withdrawn and resubmitted. Chieveley PC says that it will continue to oppose the scheme as it can see no significant differences between the two applications.

• The most recent meeting of Hamstead Marshall Parish Council took place on 29 July and you can download the minutes here. To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

Hamstead Marshall Parish Council’s planned meeting of 16 September did not go ahead as it was not quorate. I’m told that one of the items that would have been discussed is that of speeding through the village which is a serious concern to HMPC but and parishioners alike.

• Please click here for Hamstead Marshall.net, which provides an excellent round-up of what’s going on in and around the village. This also publishes the quarterly Hamstead Hornet and you can click here to read the September 2021 edition which has recently been published.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council took place on 12 July and you can read the minutes here. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

Speen PC currently has vacancies for five parish councillors – click here for more.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council took place on 26 July and you can read the minutes here. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council took place on 16 June and you can read the minutes here. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

Thursday 23 September 2021

This week’s news

• P4 of the NWN provides the latest update on the Victoria Park café that is proposed to open in the spring 2023. The paper said that Newbury Town Council was “wringing its hands in frustration” so we thought we’d call in and see if things were really as bad as that. We asked Roger Hunneman, the Chair of the Victoria Park subcommittee, for his assessment. He said that he’d would probably describe his main emotion as being one of “relief” rather than “frustration” as this project has been on the go for several years – after much preparatory work, the application was made in 2020 and finally approved by WBC in July 2021.

• Another reminder that the first floor of Newbury Library is closed from 16 September to 3 October 2021 for further renovation works.

• Newbury Town Council Leader Martin Colston’s latest (August/September) Newbury Town Council Update can be read here.

• The same Martin Colston is raising funds for the Mayor of Newbury’s chosen charity Speakability by cycling 500 miles in six days in the Highlands of Scotland on the North Coast 500 route. Further information and a link to his donation page can be found here.

• The September 2021 newsletter from Newbury Town Council is now available: click here to read it.

• Newbury Town Council’s fourth Climate Change Workshop will be held on Saturday 25 September 2021 at St John’s Church and Hall at 2pm. Everyone is welcome and no booking is required. More information can be found here.

• Matters seem to have reached a definite pause with regard to the Newbury and District Agricultural Association (NADAS). As mentioned last week (see below), the vote at the recent EGM was a fairly convincing mandate for change. I understand that an AGM will be held on 1 November when the current trustees will resign and a new board will be elected. Nothing of any importance can be decided until then. I imagine that many local residents, particularly in Chieveley, will be delighted by the news: although the sale of the Showground cannot be ruled out – you never say never when you’re sitting on something worth at least £25m – the new board will have come to power as a result of opposing this option and so will doubtless examine every other possibility first.

As I suggested last week, the new regime will be faced with the same problems as was the old one and it remains to be seen what solutions it proposes. One thing is for sure: after having operated largely out of the public gaze for many years, NADAS business will now be conducted under a lot more scrutiny. The society’s key role in managing the important Showground site is also better understood. If you want to have your say in how NADAS’s affairs are arranged from here, my suggestion is that you join the society. See the website for more information.

• Another story that we covered at some length last week (see below) concerns the proposed sports hub at Monks Lane which is going through the planning system (you can view the application here). The aspect of it which is picked up by an article on p13 of this week’s NWN is concern about parking. One resident suggests that the ground will need to have capacity for 2,000 spectators to meet the criteria of a step 4 A category facility. He may well be right: however, as this chart shows, no team playing the National League South (step 2) averages more than 1,964 spectators and the average for the league is 830. Hungerford Town averages only about 350 and Chippenham Town  – Chippenham has about the same population as Newbury – only pulls in about 520 fans on a typical match day. (The proposed Monks Lane ground could not be upgraded to step 2 in any case.) I concede that even these attendance figures may cause problems: one for Western Area Planning Committee to decide. There have already been about 20 objections and I’m sure it would be called in anyway.

The article also says that no details are available about costs. I suggested last week (see below) what these might be and have yet to be told that any are seriously off-beam. if you think they are, let me know.

• Some good news here from the Bedwyn Train Passengers Group about improved rail services in the area – largely as a result of its lobbying with GWR.

• Newbury’s Best-kept Allotment awards were presented at Victoria Park Bandstand on 21 September. The Mayor of Newbury, Cllr Billy Drummond Council presented awards to tenants who were judged to have kept the best allotment plots on each site.

• Newbury’s Fifth Road playground has been set a budget of £17,500 for a revamp as a result “wear and tear” although new safety precautions still need to be put in place. To read more about this, click here.

• The anniversary of the First Battle of Newbury was remembered on the night of Monday 20 September with a minute silence. Re-enactors headed to the fields where the battle took place and held a minute of silence for the commemoration of the fallen soldiers. To see photos and more information, see the Newbury Today page.

• Wetherspoons has issued a warning of scam offers for the Tax Equality Day on Thursday 23 September. Scammers were offering free dinners through social media. Wetherspoons decided not to use social media: therefore, any offers that the public come across must be avoided as the intention is to steal personal data. To learn more about Tax Equality Day, see here.

• Road closures on the A34 are in place throughout this week for resurfacing works. The road is shut from the B4640 at Tot Hill, southbound, to the A303 exit and Bullington. To see more and other roadworks, click here.

• The pharmacy in the Tesco store on Pinchington Lane has set in motion a campaign to encourage more families to get their flu jab. It has joined forces with British Heart Foundation, Diabetes UK and Cancer Research UK under the ‘Helping you to Live Healthier’ partnership. To book your flu jab with Tesco pharmacy, click here.

• Newbury Photography Club’s 75+1 Year Anniversary exhibition is open until 10 October 2021 at The Royal British Legion. To see more information about the exhibition, click here.

• A reminder that free weekly Educafé community cafés take place at The Globe in Newbury every Wednesday from 11am to 3pm.

• It’s only late September but Christmas planning is already under way so a three day Victorian Christmas Fayre has been announced for Newbury town centre from 3 to 5 December 2021. Further information here.

• The West Berks Indoor Bowls Club is hosting a local free taster session from 25 to 26 September 2021. The sessions will be run from 10am to 2pm on Pyle Hill. For more information, see their Facebook post here.

• What’s the collective noun for ravens? Who was on the English throne 750 years ago? Which is the only French club to have won the European Cup/Champions League? These are some of the questions that might (or, more probably, might not) be asked in a charity quiz organised by the Mayor of Newbury, Billy Drummond, on Friday 1 October. More details here. (The answers to the questions I posed last week, by the way, were (a) Charlton Athletic; (b) James I; (c) 1,064º.)

• More and more parishes are setting up wildlife groups, establishing conservation areas and planting wildflower verges, often with the help of organisations like BBOWT, ARK and WBC. One such is the Hamstead Marshall Wildlife Group whose aims include recording local species and habitats, developing links with wildlife organisations and recruiting members and volunteers to help with the various projects. One such is a plan for mapping verges project on behalf of WBC, the data collected being used to develop “a more sensitive cutting regime.” If you’d like to get involved, please contact Anne Budd on 01488 657 022 or anne.budd1@btinternet.com. More information can also be found on the group’s Facebook page.

• A reminder that the Charity of Mrs Mabel Luke, which built modern almshouses in central Newbury a few years ago, is looking for a couple more volunteer Directors to help with the day-to-day running of the flats at Mabel Luke Place. These offer much needed affordable housing to local residents. Please see more details here if you can help.

Click here for information about lateral flow tests available in West Berkshire.

• Any comments, suggestions or feedback about the Council’s community transport services (including Readibus) should be sent to WBC’s Transport Services Team. You can write to them at Council Offices, Market Street, Newbury, RG14 5LD, email Transport@westberks.gov.uk or call 01635 519394.

Community larders are running in Newbury, Thatcham and Wantage – click here for details.

News from your local council

• The most recent meeting (also the annual meeting) of Newbury Town Council took place on 22 June and you can download the minutes here. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council took place on 7 September and you can read the draft minutes here. Items covered included: parish communications; wildflower verges; defibrillators; the Queen’s jubilee; Holders meadow; the parish plan; the Greenway cycle route; planning applications; financial matters; and the village hall.  To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• A reminder that Boxford Parish Council held a public meeting on 10 August, the minutes of which you can read here. This was convened merely to hear proposals for the proposals for The Bell pub.

• Boxford PC wants to thank everyone who supported the recent event to raise funds for a defibrillator for the Village Hall. Training courses will now be organised: contact parishcouncil@boxford.org.uk for more information.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council took place on 11 August and you can read the minutes here. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council took place on 20 July and you can read the minutes here. To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here to download the meeting schedule. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The planning application for a chicken farm at Radnalls Farm in Chieveley received over 70 objections and was withdrawn and resubmitted. Chieveley PC says that it will continue to oppose the scheme as it can see no significant differences between the two applications.

• The most recent meeting of Hamstead Marshall Parish Council took place on 29 July and you can download the minutes here. To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

Hamstead Marshall Parish Council’s planned meeting of 16 September did not go ahead as it was not quorate. I’m told that one of the items that would have been discussed is that of speeding through the village which is a serious concern to HMPC but and parishioners alike.

• Please click here for Hamstead Marshall.net, which provides an excellent round-up of what’s going on in and around the village. This also publishes the quarterly Hamstead Hornet and you can click here to read the September 2021 edition which has recently been published.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council took place on 12 July and you can read the minutes here. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

Speen PC currently has vacancies for five parish councillors – click here for more.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council took place on 26 July and you can read the minutes here. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council took place on 16 June and you can read the minutes here. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

Thursday 16 September 2021

This week’s news

• Another reminder that the first floor of Newbury Library is closed from 16 September to 3 October 2021 for further renovation works.

• Newbury Town Council Leader Martin Colston’s latest (August/September) Newbury Town Council Update can be read here.

• The very same Martin Colston is aiming to raise funds for the Mayor of Newbury’s chosen charity Speakability. He’ll be cycling 500 miles in six days in the Highlands of Scotland on the North Coast 500 route (sounds exhausting to me – good luck with that, Martin). Further information and a link to his donation page can be found here.

• In case you missed it, the September 2021 newsletter from Newbury Town Council is now available: click here to read it.

• The EGM of the Newbury and District Agricultural Association (NADAS) took place last week at which about 350 members were present in person or by proxy. There was a lot of Q&A but only one motion: “that the Board of Management continue their negotiations to conclude a transaction that secures in their considered opinion best value for all or part of the main asset of the Society, to be achieved by disposal of the main Showground or part thereof, either by way of outright sale or by way of an Option to purchase Agreement.” As I suggested last week, this covered a number of eventualities and it therefore seemed logical that anyone who opposed even one of the possible outcomes would therefore logically have to oppose the entire motion. This is indeed what happened with 63% voting against it. It was then announced that “most if not all of the trustees would resign after a further EGM to elect new ones.” A date for this has yet to be fixed.

Whoever takes over NADAS will be faced with the same problems: unhealthy accounts; the expensive cattle shed; the restrictive S106 agreement governing its use; and an annual show which, in its current format, loses money. The requisitionists (the opposition group) were formed expressly to oppose the sale of the Showground so we can assume that this option is off the table, at least as regards the whole site. All this publicity has made more people aware of NADAS. With a crisis awaiting resolution and a new top team about to take over, it’s worth reflecting on what NADAS actually is.

For many, including perhaps many of the members, NADAS is the Showground and the annual (until 2020) Newbury Show which first took place in 1909. Anyone searching for the society online would find this supposition confirmed, as the website is called newburyshowground.co.uk. The section “about NADAS”, however, describes its purpose as being to “inspire education and learning in our communities underpinned by farming, agriculture and rural enterprise. We own Newbury Showground and have organised the Royal County of Berkshire Show for many years as our showpiece event.” NADAS’s page on the Charities Commission website has a more specific list of the rural crafts and skills it wishes to “promote, advance and improve for the public benefit”: however, this summary makes no mention of the Newbury Show at all.

The educational aspect was one I was completely unaware of until the storm broke a few months ago. This week, I asked NADAS for examples of some of its activities and received a very rapid reply. This included five well-produced newsletters from 2021 aimed at schools and two weblinks. This one covers “Highlights of our Previous Education Events” of which there are 11. None are dated but the one I presume to be the earliest refers to British Sausage Week starting on Tuesday 30 October, which last fell in 2018. The other one refers to the Schools Agricultural Challenge in May 2021. There’s certainly been educational activity in the last three years: how much took place before then, the website doesn’t reveal. The same could be said for the member communications which have been frequent, regular and lucid for the last 18 months although apart from formal documents there’s nothing on the members’ section of the website from before then. I may be wrong but the impression from the documents is of an organisation that woke up two or three years ago: at about the same time, perhaps, as it became clear that the Newbury Show as it was constituted was no longer profitable and that the cattle shed had perhaps been a mistake.

Anyone who acts as a trustee for such an organisation has my admiration. You have all of the responsibilities but few of the perks of being the director of a PLC. The problems the society faced, and faces, proved intractable and their proposed solution unacceptable to the wider membership (when it, in turn, woke up to the situation). There will now be a change of regime. For the rest of us, including the residents of Chieveley, the big question is whether there is to be industrial development at the site. The feeling of the EGM was opposed to a sale of the entire plot and the new trustees will doubtless respect that. However, unless the long-term future can be assured – which may include a partial sale, a back-to-basics show, continued educational work and some resolution to the problem of the cattle shed – the temptation to cash in on land that is worth upwards of £25m will remain. If you want to influence and assist with the rebuilding of the society, this might be a good time to become a member – see the website for details.

• Another rather smaller open space in the district, though one which has generated even more controversy, is the football ground. I should say “spaces” and “grounds” because one is, of course, the ground (or what’s left of it) at Faraday Road; the other is the proposed new sports hub at Monks Lane, the planning application for which is going through the system. There has been a lot of discussion about the costs (both of decommissioning the former and building the latter). Let’s have a quick look at these.

I understand that construction costs will be about £2m, presumably with a, say, 10% contingency for over-runs. A sinking fund to allow for repairs will also be needed: perhaps £20,000pa.  There is also a one-off payment to the Rugby Club (NRFC), ring-fenced to ensure this is spent on improving its own facilities, of about £250,000. Then there’ll be rent, of about £40,000pa, and running costs of perhaps £175,000pa.

Against this, there will of course be revenue, mainly from the use of the pitches but also of the clubhouse (though this will be quite a modest building). What might this revenue be? Until the facilities are used and rates confirmed it’ll be very hard to say. Match-day rental might be £200 with perhaps another £100 for three of four hours of training. In a 20-match league, that would be about £6,000 a season, so double that for the men’s and the women’s first teams. These are the fixtures which are dependant on completion by the FA’s deadline of 31 March 2022. If that doesn’t happen that revenue will be lost in the first year (teams could still train at the hub but might prefer to do so at Henwick, the same surface on which they’d be playing matches if the Hub weren’t ready). There are, of course, plenty of other teams at all levels which would want to use the facility. Once it’s built, hopefully many will want to do so. However, it’s unlikely that the Hub will show a profit for a number of years.

Newbury Town Council’s (NTC) planning committee recently opposed the plans, partly on the grounds that the proposed site was too small for the proper aspirations of the club and traffic and transport issues (including the dangers of having the car park so close to the playing area). “NTC’s policy is that football should remain in Faraday Road until a better solution can be found,” Councillor Vaughan Miller told Penny Post. “For a number reasons, we don’t think this is a better solution, one problem being that it limits the club to a step 4 facility [the fourth tier of the non-league pyramid]. There is also no business case for producing the kind of revenue that the project would require: for instance the clubhouse, an important source of revenue for clubs, would be barely large enough to accommodate two squads, never mind spectators.” The meeting is also covered by Newbury Today.

The Newbury Community Football Group has its own plan to revitalise Faraday Road this would cost an estimated £1.8 to £2m, 75% of which could come from external funding. The advantage of this would be that WBC as the landlord would pay no rent and would benefit from the reversion (although it has other plans for the site, even though current flood-risk policies might make this harder to realise). External funding would, however, require a lease of at least 25 years which would conflict with WBC’s other aspirations. A spokesman for NCFG said that the facility could “easily and comfortably” be upgraded to step 2, pointing out that Faraday Road has a bigger footprint that Hungerford’s step 2 ground at Bulpit Lane. With the Hub, WBC would merely be a tenant, although its interests are protected by a single break clause after 20 years and then only in the event of an offer to re-develop the site. In this case WBC and NRFC would work together to find a new joint sporting campus. (This might not be easy given how few locations were identified in WBC’s search for a new football home: but a lot can change in 20 years.)

Meanwhile, WBC’s own application to demolish the clubhouse (which has had to happen because of last month’s fire) and create a recreation area (which could not be used for football) has run into problems with some district councillors expressing concerns about some aspects of the plan including the removal of the current fence and its replacement with a lower one. The application was pulled from the recent District Planning Committee meeting (which was then cancelled as it was the only item): the next step is that it will probably be amended and resubmitted. Many have questioned the need for such a facility at all, particularly given the costs. NTC Councillor Vaughan Miller told Penny Post that “he hoped this pause would enable WBC to reconsider allowing youth football to be played at Faraday Road.”

WBC painted itself into a corner in June 2018 by closing the ground without a replacement being found and for some time thereafter denying that it was its problem to fix. Howard Woollaston was dealt a very imperfect hand when he took over the portfolio in May 2020 but has worked hard at finding a solution. The 31 March 2022 date seems increasingly unlikely, though. It might be as well to abandon it now and avoid the risk of the job being rushed and perhaps defective as a result (like the Lancaster Park roundabout in Hungerford).

For WBC, the removal of the football problem will be a welcome relief. For the football community, the Sports Hub may yet prove likewise. Time will tell. Time will also be tell if approval is granted; if it is, when it will open; and when, or if, it becomes financially self-supporting.

• Who won the FA Cup in 1947? Who was on the English throne 500 years ago? What is the melting point of gold? These are some of the questions that might (or, more probably, might not) be asked in a charity quiz organised by the Mayor of Newbury, Billy Drummond, on Friday 1 October. More details here. (the answers to the questions I posed last week, by the way, were (a) 5,280; (b) Canute; (c) no one knows.

• The Charity of Mrs Mabel Luke, which built modern almshouses in central Newbury a few years ago, is looking for a couple more volunteer Directors to help with the day-to-day running of the flats at Mabel Luke Place. These offer much needed affordable housing to local residents. Please see more details here if you can help.

• The Berkshire Game and Country Fair will be held on 18 to 19 September 2021 at Newbury Showground. The fair will be home to a selection of country sports and crafts of which, will be open to the public to enjoy and experience. The Facebook page displays more information and a helpful Frequently Asked Questions section.

• Christmas planning is already under way so a three day Victorian Christmas Fayre has been announced for Newbury town centre with traders dressed in traditional Victorian clothing. The event is set to run from 3 to 5 December 2021. Further information here.

• Newbury Town Hall is opening to the public on Saturday 18 September as part of England’s Heritage Open Days events. The Town Council website holds further information.

• Another reminder that Newbury Town Council is still looking for volunteers to meet at the Victoria Park Bandstand on Sunday 19 September at 10am to help cut the wildflower meadow, disperse the seed heads and prepare the area for next summer. More details can be found here.

Click here for information about lateral flow tests available in West Berkshire.

• A reminder that free weekly Educafé community cafés take place at The Globe in Newbury every Wednesday from 11am to 3pm.

• Any comments, suggestions or feedback about the Council’s community transport services (including Readibus) should be sent to WBC’s Transport Services Team. You can write to them at Council Offices, Market Street, Newbury, RG14 5LD, email Transport@westberks.gov.uk or call 01635 519394.

Community larders are running in Newbury, Thatcham and Wantage – click here for details.

• See p8 of this week’s NWN for a report and photos of the Wash Common Community Festival last weekend.

• The most recent meeting (also the annual meeting) of Newbury Town Council took place on 22 June and you can download the minutes here. (Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.) To see the dates of future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council took place on 7 September and you can read the draft minutes here. Items covered included: parish communications; wildflower verges; defibrillators; the Queen’s jubilee; Holders meadow; the parish plan; the Greenway cycle route; planning applications; financial matters; and the village hall.  To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• A reminder that Boxford Parish Council held a public meeting on 10 August, the minutes of which you can read here. This was convened merely to hear proposals for the proposals for The Bell pub.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council took place on 11 August and you can read the minutes here. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council took place on 20 July and you can read the minutes here. To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here to download the meeting schedule. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Hamstead Marshall Parish Council took place on 29 July and you can download the minutes here. To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• Please click here for Hamstead Marshall.net, which provides an excellent round-up of what’s going on in and around the village. This also publishes the quarterly Hamstead Hornet and you can click here to read the September 2021 edition which has recently been published. Items covered include community markets, news about local groups and societies, a prang at Chapel Corner, pub quizzes, a forthcoming BBOWT talk, Good Hope Farm, some news from the parish council and the state of play with seven planning applications.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council took place on 12 July and you can read the minutes here. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

Speen PC currently has vacancies for five parish councillors – click here for more.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council took place on 26 July and you can read the minutes here. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council took place on 16 June and you can read the minutes here. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

To see earlier Newbury & Surrounding Area Weekly News columns (from 1 April to 9 September) please click here.

Sign up to the free weekly

Penny Post

e-newsletter 

for local, positive news, events, jobs, recipes, recommendations & more.

Covering: Hungerford, Marlborough, Wantage,   Lambourn, Newbury, Thatcham & Theale