Thursday 14 October 2021

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

• 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…

Local events and activities

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

• Wednesday 13 to Saturday 16 October Newbury Michaelmas Fair is returning to the Northcroft Leisure Centre.  For more information visit their Facebook page here.

Wednesday 3 November 2021 Shaw-cum-Donnington C.E. Primary School Open Morning. For more information click here.

Saturday 6 November 2021 Newbury Lions Club Firework Display 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. 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.

Wednesday 20 November 2021 Hampstead Norreys Candlelit Festival at Hampstead Norreys Community Shop RG18 0TD. Gates open at 3.30pm and it will last until 7.30pm. More information can be found on the Facebook page here.

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

Every Wednesday from 11am to 3pm Free weekly Educafé community café at The Globe in Newbury . They are collecting knitted squares to sew into blankets for Newbury Soup Kitchen so local help from knitters, crocheters and sewers is very welcome.

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.

Newbury area council contacts

Parishes: click here for Newbury Town CouncilGreenham Parish CouncilChieveley Parish CouncilEnborne Parish CouncilBoxford Parish Council, Speen 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; Lambourn Valley; Marlborough 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 7 October 2021

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

• 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.

Local events and activities

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

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

Saturday 9 October: this year’s Newbury Apple Day will be held in Newbury Market Place 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.

Sunday 10 October: The last day of Newbury Photography Club’s 75+1 Year Anniversary exhibition at The Royal British Legion. To see more information, click here.

Wednesday 13 October: Newbury Michaelmas Fair is returning to the Northcroft Leisure Centre. The fair will run until Saturday 16 October 2021. For more information visit their Facebook page here.

6 November 2021: Newbury Lions Club is hosting a firework display 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.

• 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.

• Shaw-cum-Donnington C.E. Primary School has open sessions throughout the start of November, the first being Wednesday 3 November 2021 at 9.15am. For more information click 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.

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

• 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

• 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.

Thursday 9 September 2021

• A reminder that the first floor of Newbury Library will close for to allow a new lighting system to be installed until 15 September 2021. Then from 16 September to 3 October 2021, the library will be completely closed for to allow the work to be completed.

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

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

• The proposal for the Winter Wonderland at the Racecourse has been turned down by West Berkshire Council (see an article on p7 of this week’s NWN and also a letter on p17 from Tony Vickers, the acting Chair of the Western Area Planning Committee which made this decision). The main point that comes from these is that, although the Racecourse said it had been planning this for two and a half years, the full implications of this seemed to come as a surprise to the residents. The article reports that a 1,000-signature petition has asked WBC to rethink. Meanwhile, the Racecourse will be doing some rethinking of its own “to understand how we might address the challenges raised.”

• D-day approaches for the Newbury and District Agricultural Association (NADAS) in the shape of the EGM which will take place on 13 September. See previous entries below for links, and thoughts on, the various documents which have been produced. My main point from last week was that the Q&A document sent by NADAS on 27 August referred (point 24) to these documents as being a consultation. As the term is commonly understood (and perhaps legally interpreted) I don’t feel that they do: indeed, the more of them there are, the less easily this claim can be made. Corporate or municipal consultations usually have specific questions, deadlines and clear guidance as to what the results will feed into. It appears from advice received by NADAS from the Charity Commission that a consultation would be needed “in the event of disposing of a significant asset.” 

The EGM itself will put just the one question to the members: “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.” This is in fact six questions, three sets of two, all of which are in various ways connected with or contingent on the others. It could, for instance, cover an option-to-purchase agreement for the cattle shed or an outright sale of the entire site. Anyone who opposed even one of the possible outcomes would therefore logically have to oppose the entire motion. According to requisitionists group, which opposes the sale of the site, the board is in any case not obliged to accept the results of the poll, even though it is asking all its members to answer the question. More on this next week.

• This week’s NWN covers Bewley Homes’ information evening last week concerning its proposed 350-home development in Wash Water. Someone I know who visited it felt that nothing really useful was said and that such events are in any case little more than a PR exercise. What is notable from the application is the emphasis on sustainability (Bewley refers to it as an “eco-development”): what worried many of the attendees, however, were the questions of flooding and traffic.

The flood predictions model was dismissed by WBC Councillor James Cole and other visitors as “rubbish”, although Bewley claims – as reported on p5 of this week’s NWN –  that it was preparing for the “worst case” in this respect. What the worst case might be in these changing climatic times is anyone’s guess. As for the traffic, most of which will be onto the Andover Road, Bewley stated confidently that there has been a pandemic-induced “culture shift” with fewer people working in offices. This is avoiding the issue. Even if this supposition is true, travel to and from work is only one reason why people get into their cars. This shows no sign of changing: Private Eye’s 20 August to 2 September issue observed in its Road Rage column that road traffic was already back to pre-pandemic levels despite the fact that some people are still working from home. Bewley also claims that it will be “putting work spaces in to the houses.” This is merely a question of changing the property specification from “three bedrooms” to “two bedrooms and a work space.” It’s hard to see how a “work space” can be built that will prevent its use for any other purpose that the homeowner may decide.

The matter will be decided by Basingstoke and Deane Council even though much of the burden of mitigation will fall on West Berkshire. If the development goes ahead there’ll be a certain amount of horse-trading between the two authorities as to how the developer contributions will be divided up. Councils are obliged to conduct good-faith discussions on such matters in a way that they are not on, say, recycling arrangements. Residents of any development here will need to pay to use the facility at Newtown Road Road even though they will almost be able to see (and, when the wind is in the right direction, smell) it from their bedroom (or work room) windows.

• One matter that is certainly in WBC’s patch is the football ground. Following last month’s fire, the old clubhouse at Faraday Road has been demolished though due process demands that the previous application to do just this be followed through (even though there’s now nothing to demolish). Meanwhile, a separate application for a new facility at Monk’s Lane, is also going through the system (you can read WBC’s comment on the proposals here). An article on p8 of the NWN quotes Lib Dem WBC Councillor Tony Vickers as saying that to allow the Faraday Road consent would be to pre-judge a favourable decision on Monks Lane. Legally and technically this is probably a fair criticism and in turn pre-supposes that football could ever return to Faraday Road: denying this could ever happen has been an article of faith for WBC for some time. The questions were clearly unwelcome, however: one side accusing the other of “playing politics” (or in this case “playing political football”) – as happened at the Overview and Scrutiny Commission last week – is a fairly sure signal that the speaker wants to change the subject. What a muddle this all is.

The questions are not yet over. Now that the Monks Road application is live, people will start to ask how much this will all cost. The capital construction costs are one aspect but there’s also the matter of the ongoing running costs and how long it will take before the site breaks even. The financial arrangements with the Rugby Club, whether one-off or ongoing, will also form part of this. If the works are not completed by 31 March then a year’s worth of revenue from match days will be lost as the FA is adamant that this is the deadline if fixtures are to be played in 2022-23. Doubtless all these financials will appear in due course.

Finally, there’s the matter of how the matter will be decided. It will certainly go to a planning committee (either Western Area or District). As WBC is the applicant, it would be wrong (and certainly look wrong) if the chair were from the ruling Conservative group and if any of the members of the Executive were on the committee, at least for that item. There are plenty of substitute committee members to choose from. This would seem a good moment to bring some of them off the bench.

• As mentioned last week, Newbury Town Council has announced that the future of the skatepark in Victoria Park is “under threat from continued vandalism.” Anyone with information on who may be causing this damage to go to the Police or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

• See pp2-3 of this week’s NWN for a report and photos of the 40th anniversary of the arrival of the female protestors at what was then Greenham Common airbase. You can also click here to see a report on a similar but smaller event last week in Hungerford (where they stopped en route in 1981).

• How many feet are there in a mile? Who was on the English throne a thousand years ago? Did Jack of Newbury really exist? 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 Mayor also invited families to join him (and Bartholomew the Bear) for a picnic lunch in Victoria Park last week. For more information and photos, click here.

• 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.

• The 70th East Woodhay Flower and Produce Show made its return after not being run throughout the lockdown period. 46 entrants competed at the annual event. For more from the flower show and how to enter, click here.

• We’re not sure whether it’s too early for Christmas; however, 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.

Cab fares are proposed to increase by five percent for the first time since 2013 in West Berkshire. It’s been suggested that one of the advantage for the cabbies will be reducing the need for change as the various trigger distances will now end in, as Councillor Graham Bridgman put it “a nice round zero.” (The day will come when coins have vanished altogether: this might mark another small step on the journey). The decision will be made in November. More information can be found here.

• The iconic Blue Devonian Pullman passed through Newbury on Bank Holiday Monday. The train was described as “beautifully restored” as it entered Newbury Station. More on the story here and further information on the Pullman here.

• The Wash Common Community Festival and Garden and Crafts show is being held on Saturday 11 September. It’s running from 1pm to 5pm at Falkland Cricket Club’s Enborne Lodge Ground. More information can be found on their Facebook page.

• 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.

• The very idea of a triathlon makes me feel weak. The swimming part I could do; the cycling would be OK if it were all downhill; but for the running part I’d need to order a taxi. For others, however, it holds no such terrors. See pp14 and 63 of this week’s NWN for the return of the Team Kennet Triathlon.

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.

• 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 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 Greenham Parish Council took place on 14 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 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 Boxford Parish Council took place on 6 July 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.

• 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 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 Hamstead Marshall Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 20 May and you can read 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 just buzzed its way into my inbox. 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 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 2 September 2021

• The first floor of Newbury Library will close for to allow a new lighting system to be installed from 6 to 15 September 2021. Then from 16 September to 3 October 2021, the library will be completely closed for to allow the work to be completed.

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

• A reminder that the ARK team is still looking for help restoring the River Lambourn on 3 and 8 September.

• The planning application for the new sports hub at Monk’s Lane has recently been lodged and you can read WBC’s comment on the proposals here.

• Newbury Town Council has announced that the future of the skatepark in Victoria Park is “under threat from continued vandalism.” The skatepark which officially opened in 2012 is “extremely popular with not only local residents but BMX and Skateboarders who come from miles around to use the facility.” However, recently there has been “a constant wave of graffiti, some of which has been extremely offensive. This has to be carefully removed by the Town Council’s contractors. Not only is this an additional expense to the Town Council, but continued cleaning of further graffiti could damage the surface of the skatepark, meaning that its future could be in jeopardy.” The statement adds that “anyone with information on who may be causing this damage to go to the Police or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”

• The prospects of a Winter Wonderland at the Racecourse have divided residents, as reported on p9 of this week’s NWN. It’s proposed to take place from late November 2021 to early January 2022. “Noise pollution” and claims the event will stretch an “already under pressure (police) force” are among the comments reported. Click here for more details.

• The Newbury and District Agricultural Association (NADAS) has published a 27-point apologia which you can read here. “We hope,” the preamble to the NADAS Q&A says “that this will cover most, if not all, of the questions surrounding the Society’s present situation.” At stake is the NADAS’s future; also, and more importantly for many, the future of the Showground which may, if NADAS’s current policy is followed, become a distribution centre. I can’t say whether this document would have been provided without the actions of the opposition requisitionist group, to which several of its sections are devoted.

I mentioned last week (see below) that NADAS produced nine well-written communications between 23 September 2020 and 3 August 2021. Click here to see the list on the NADAS website. Without going through each one again and comparing these and other documents to the points in the Q&A I can’t say how fair NADAS’s response is. It addresses a number of questions or accusations which it says have been made of it and I’ll leave it to others to decide how well these are answered. One thing did slightly jump out me, though.

Point 24 says that Charity Commission guidance states that “a consultation process should take place in the event of disposing of a significant asset,” which by any definition includes the sale of the Showground. Although, as I mentioned last week, there have been nine communications (this would be the tenth) over the last year, none of these is a consultation. The Q&A adds that “given lockdowns and other restrictions, the Trustees believe this was the only feasible means of consulting for a small charity with limited facilities at its disposal.” I find this rather perplexing. Online consultations can be set up quickly and cheaply. Perhaps one is about to happen (though the Q&A makes no mention of it). However, the board appears to be saying that what has happened to date is an adequate consultative process. 

• Debate continues about the pros and cons of the proposed re-development of the Kennet Centre which will (or would) be re-named Eagle Quarter. One of the main concerns has been the height of the buildings, an aspect which, as reported last week (see below), the developers Lochailort claims it has addressed. This week’s Newbury Weekly News includes a letter which claims that the images used in that newspaper the previous week “fail to address a central concern, namely the effect on…adjoining streets and in particular on the listed and historic buildings in Cheap Street and Bartholomew Street.”

I spoke to Lochailort about this. The company’s Planning Director James Croucher told me that it had selected the images which appeared in the paper. However, he stressed that many more visualisations can be seen on the project’s website here. Of course, it is these and the detailed plans, and not a selection supplied to a newspaper, which will inform WBC’s final decision. He admitted that they “didn’t want to hide the development (as we would like to hide the Kennet Centre).” The question for WBC and for all those who will comment on the proposals is whether it’s overpowering. James Croucher added that “our overriding desire is to see the site redeveloped” which would “bring very significant benefits to the town. We have tried to take a pragmatic line with the significant amendments and we hope consultees will be able to support them. They need to be looked at in the round with the benefits the redevelopment will bring.”

As regards to the sustainability of the proposal, Lochailort’s statement last week’s (see below) re-affirms its commitment to this, though with the veiled warning that if further concessions are demanded on the scale then some things may need to give on the sustainability. This is another consideration WBC’s officers will need to weigh up. This will certainly be a landmark development for Newbury and, if it realises all the benefits that are proposed, will have an invigorating effect on many aspects of life in the town centre as well as helping to set some new standards for sustainability. There still seem to be questions about the number of genuinely affordable rental properties in the scheme but this is a matter on which WBC has a policy. This will, I’m sure, be adhered to when making the final decision.

• Another development which promises much in the way of sustainability is Bewley Homes’ plan for a 350-home development in Wash Water. I won’t be able to visit the information event at the Woodpecker Inn on 2 September but know someone who will be so will hope to bring you some news on that next week.

Newbury Chamber Choir is seeking more singers for its song-cycle. Rehearsals start Tuesday 7 September 2021.

• Ten year old boy Eddie Franklin and his father have cycled from Yatton, Somerset, to Newbury in an aim to raise money for NHS charities. You can read further upon this achievement here.

• In September 1981, 36 women from Wales, calling themselves Women for Life on Earth, walked 120 miles from Cardiff to Greenham Common airbase to raise awareness of NATO’s decision to site cruise missiles there. There they chained themselves to the perimeter fence and subsequently established a ‘peace camp’ which was to remain for another two decades. Opinions differ as to what effect this had on the outcome of the Cold War but it certainly did much to get people’s attention and broke another mould about the role of women in society, as well as breaking some records for the longevity of  the occupation. This month therefore sees the 40th anniversary of the march. More information can be seen here. This week’s NWN also has a special section on this on pp3-5.

• Greenham Common is now a more tranquil place, of course. There is, for instance, an Orchid Extravaganza walk being held there on Sunday 5 September. 

• 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. 

• The Chieveley Monthly Village Market takes place on Saturday 4 September 2021. The market is set to only run for a couple of hours, so it’s worth getting there early if you are interested. See MyChieveley’s page for more.

• The Newbury Food and Drink Festival is taking place on Saturday 4 September 2021 in the High Street. Refer to the Facebook event page for further information. 

• James Davies will be covering the Thames Valley area, including Newbury (where he lives) for ITV from the middle of September. He is keen to hear from anyone and everyone to make sure all voices are heard. His email address is james.davies4@itv.com.

• Another reminder that Newbury Town Council is still looking for volunteers to meet at the meadow, where the wildflower meadows were planted, in the City Recreation Ground on Sunday 5 September at 10am and at the Victoria Park Bandstand on Sunday 19 September at 10am to help cut the meadow, disperse the seed heads and prepare the area for next summer. More details can be found here.

Click here for the August 2021 newsletter from Newbury Town Council.

• The Mayor of Newbury has launched a year-long fundraising campaign in support of his chosen charity. Councillor Billy Drummond announced the launch of the ‘One in 100 Fundraising Campaign’ last month as part of a charity coffee morning for Newbury Speakabilty. Click here for more.

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.

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

• 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 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 Greenham Parish Council took place on 14 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 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 Boxford Parish Council took place on 6 July 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.

• 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 Enborne Parish Council took place on 21 June and you can read the minutes here. There was also an extraordinary meeting on 26 July to consider two planning applications, the minutes of which you can read 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 for which minutes are available took place on 20 May and you can read 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 June 2021 edition.

• 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 26 August 2021

• The new five-inch and 7.25 gauge miniature railway at St Marys Church Paddock, Greenham opens on Saturday 28 August at midday. They will be giving free steam and diesel rides to everyone who goes along to support this new venture.

• Also on Saturday 28 August, a rather larger, Jubilee class, locomotive – No. 45690 Leander – is expected to pass through Newbury on her way to connect with an excursion to Cornwall the following day. Leander will only be pulling a single support coach not a full rake of carriages. It will arriving at the Racecourse station at 1.04 pm (where it will stop for a drink) before leaving at 1.42pm and arriving a Newbury station three minutes later.

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

• If you would like to help restore the River Lambourn in Newbury please volunteer to help the ARK team on 3 and 8 September.

• The planning application for the new sports hub at Monk’s Lane has recently been lodged and you can read WBC’s comment on the proposals here. It’s worth looking at the pros and cons of this and also what other issues this divisive matter has elicited.

First off, a grammatical point. The statement refers to an application which has yet to be determined so the use of the future rather than the conditional or subjunctive to describe what might happen next is misleading. The second paragraph, for instance, states that “it will be located on land at Newbury Rugby Club.” It will if it’s approved. Until then, “it would be located…” or “it is proposed that it be located…” are correct

What about the Steps? This new ground would be a Step 4 (meaning it can be used for fixtures up to an including the fourth tier of the non-league pyramid). The men’s football club is at Step 6, so allowing for two possible promotions as the limit of its ambitions. Faraday Road was (I believe) Step 6 and possible upgrades would have been possible though expensive. I understand that Monk’s Lane would be similarly impossible to upgrade beyond Step 4.  The question could be asked (and has been asked) is whether or not any new ground should not be capable of further improvement. Hungerford, a much smaller town, has a Step 2 ground (by an irony, this benefitted from being able to use some of the stands at faraday Road, but that’s a separate issue).

What about the pitch? The old ground was grass whereas this will be artificial and so capable of much more use. However, plans lodged by the Newbury Community Football Group proposed a solution at Faraday Road which would have included astroturf.

What about the facilities? The Monk’s Lane proposals promise floodlights, better changing rooms, a fully accessible stand and more car parking, which seem to give it the edge over Faraday Road. Others might argue, however, that the facilities at Faraday Road could have been invested in and that the playing field for this comparison is thus not a level one. As to why this happened, it’s worth remembering that the ambition to develop the whole LRIE area was mooted several administrations and about 20 years ago, at which point the football club surely realised its long-term future there was in doubt. Neither party made much investment in the ground thereafter: but nor, it seems, did either find a solution. Sport England certainly claimed WBC had an obligation to find a replacement, though the then CEO of WBC Nick Carter said after the closure that it did not. It now accepts that it does. I’m not sure what steps the football club took.

(Perhaps it did investigate the options and met the same problem WBC later encountered after its £30,000-worth of consultancy: no other suitable site in or close to Newbury existed which could match, still less exceed, the facilities at Faraday Road. The terms of reference started off by only looking at sites WBC owned (which seemed rather pointless as it presumably knew about those) but portfolio holder Howard Woollaston confirmed that this was then considerably widened with other landowners being contacted. Monk’s Lane has been chosen, a solution which will – if approved – have the welcome benefit for the Rugby Club of helping solve a financial problem of its own.0

What about the ownership? WBC owns Faraday Road. At Monk’s Lane, however, WBC will only have a 40-year lease on the site (with, I understand, a 20-year break clause) so the ultimate benefit of any reversion will be to the Rugby Club.

So what? For many people, the problems of a local football club don’t test very high on the scale. The issue does, however, seem to expose two wider issues. The first is what the respective roles of landlords and tenants should be in long-term relationships with public implications which might get disrupted by other plans, as happened with the LRIE project. Who has to do what, morally, legally, politically? Did the two parties have discussions about what would happen next? If so, they didn’t get anywhere. Secondly, it shows how easily a “vision” can justify bulldozing everything in its way. There was an opportunity after the 2019 election to return the football club to the ground on a short-term deal but this was rejected. So, we are where we now are as a result of the flawed decision in June 2018. Unless any better solution appears, I hope that the application succeeds, that the ground is built by 31 March, that the football club is happy in its new medium-term home and that its limitations don’t exceed its achievements on the pitch. At least under this plan it will have a pitch, which it hasn’t for the last three years. Three steps back, three sideways and three forward, perhaps – tiki taka, and in a game that’s still going on.

• The story of the Newbury Showground (see last week’s column below) is in some ways similar. First of all, however, I’d like to correct one point. I said last week that problems result “if communication is intermittent or poor.” It’s recently been pointed out to me that the board wrote nine communications to its members (and, I have every reason to believe sent them) between 23 September 2020 and 3 August 2021. Click here to see the list on the NADAS website (slightly confusingly, this shows presumably the date that they were posted on the site, not the date they were sent). This part of the site wasn’t immediately obvious to me. Now that it is, I had a quick skim through the documents. Here are a few thoughts to kick off with.

The letter written on 14 September 2020 considers the gloomy state of the finances, which date back to at least 2018, and shows that the Cattle Building was already being regretted. While not making direct reference to selling the Showground, it’s clear that this is being considered and points out that many rural business are diversifying to make “better economic use of their land holdings” and that the Society needs to “look in the mirror.” The Showground has, the letter reminds its readers, “enormous potential which we are not realising.” 14 December 2020’s letter was fairly upbeat, welcoming the news that there was “plenty of interest in holding events on the Showground throughout the spring and summer.” The communication on 26 February 2021 , written during the darkest days of the pandemic, paints a correspondingly dark view of the finances, partly due to the cancellation of events. It also mentions a longer-term concern, the “uncertainty about changing public tastes and perceptions of large-scale events.” It’s also keen to stress that the Society’s charitable aims are “clearly centred on education” and not on the Show itself: a warning sign perhaps for those for whom the Show was their primary interest. By 20 May 2021, the alarm bells were well and truly ringing all over the place and it’s clear that the sale of the Showground was now the preferred option. This unequivocal analysis seems to have set alarm bells ringing among the members as well.

What I don’t know is how well-read these communications were. (The 14 September letter said that about 300 people (about 19% of the members) had responded to a request to confirm their email addresses which is a reasonable response.) Nor can I tell from the website whether fairly regular letters had been sent in previous years, though there’s no sign of this: if they had been, they might well have referred to financial problems, which NADAS admits had been exacerbated but not caused by Covid. My guess is that not much had been sent before so members got out of the habit of responding to anything. About a year ago, this changed.

Nine communications in 11 months is not a bad record. They’re well written, informative and not over-long. None the less, many now feel that the proposal is the wrong one and that the members had been kept in the dark. Why might this be?

Possibly, and perhaps like with the Faraday Road debacle, the matter was never addressed in one unambiguous warning but allowed to build up almost imperceptibly. Sometimes you’ve just got to shout and keep it simple. Looking back, for instance, WBC might have wished that six or seven years ago it had said to the football club “We’re want to re-develop the site soon and we need to sit down with you now and help you find a solution while we’re still on good terms – all other issues are unimportant at present.” Similarly, NADAS might have wished that, perhaps a few years ago, it had said to its members, “The Society is in trouble. We need to sit down with you now so we can find a solution while we’re still on good terms – all other issues are unimportant at present.” You could also reverse the relationships and say that the football club or concerned NADAS members might as well have triggered a discussion. (WBC may also have wished it had written a similar letter to Readibus in, say, 2018.) Easy to say all this in hindsight, of course. None the less, the relationships between WBC and the football club and between NADAS and some of its members are in a pretty poor state, not a great context for getting anything sorted. This is pretty common. In a busy world, most people can only deal with real and present threats. Dire weather forecasts and darkening skies can easily be ignored and it’s only when the heavens open that we start bitching with each other about who was meant to have brought the umbrellas.

I stand by many of my points made last week, however, and would welcome news that these are being addressed. For instance, the lack until recently of financial information (though this hasn’t been published) makes it impossible to judge what steps need to be taken and when. The progress of the re-negotiation of the restrictive S106 agreement needs to be clarified, along with a clear assessment of what effect this would have on the finances. There should be a clear plan set out and agreed as to the post-sale consequences for matters such as future shows and the structure and responsibilities of what will in many ways be a vastly different organisation. All this is more than just a concern for NADAS: the Showground site is one of the most significant in the district and turning it into a distribution centre will have irrevocable consequences for the whole district. Perhaps this might therefore be a good time for NADAS to have a membership recruitment drive…

I welcome comments from members, requisitionists or not, about these thoughts and will do my best to reflect these in future columns. Please email brian@pennypost.org.uk.

• Something in Newbury that almost everyone agrees needs to be changed is the Kennet Centre. Plans have been lodged by the owners Lochailort for what, if these proceed, will be known as Eagle Quarter. As the NWN reports this week on pp1 and 4, the company has recently responded to criticisms about the height and submitted revised plans which make it less lofty than Parkway. One of the aspects that the article said remained in place was its aim of carbon neutrality. This is something that developers are increasingly keen to stress though it’s so far less certain how many of these features, which can be expensive, make it through the final build. I decided to ask Lochailort’s MD Hugo Haig about this.

He described the decision to reduce the height as “pragmatic” as a result of some local concerns and added that he was “still committed to delivering as close as possible to a net zero carbon scheme.” He stressed that such an urban site had “inherent difficulties” compared to a new-build greenfield one “where affordable housing should be a prerequisite” and that “flexibility should be employed when looking at a town centre regeneration.” Lochailort had, he pointed out, already created “a very sustainable redevelopment at Thames Quarter in Reading” which has a combined heat and power plant (CHP) which was “a 40% improvement on the then-current building regulations and saves approximately 84 tonnes of carbon a year.”

Eagle Quarter’s aspirations were, he said, even higher, with a planned 50% improvement on current regs and a saving of nearly 300 tonnes of carbon a year. He added that discussions have already started with a company which has installed a ground-source heat pump scheme in the Sainsbury’s car park across the A339 with the aim of providing the same solution at Eagle Quarter. “But like all things,” he concluded, “it’s not a one-way street. The benefits that the scheme brings must be judged in the round, so we would urge all those involved to also be pragmatic.” This last remark could be taken to mean that if further concessions are demanded on the scale then some things may need to give on the sustainability. The good news, though, is that Lochailort appears to be serious about this aspect. As well as being the right thing to do this is also likely to smooth the planning process: another example of pragmatism. Time will tell.

I can see that a lot of people feel strongly about the height and certainly people living nearby may well feel overshadowed by it. However, some of the comments I’ve seen seem to be describing the potential desecration of a “market-town” Newbury that I don’t really recognise. Parkway doubtless elicited similar concerns. Unlike with that scheme, I’m unaware that Eagle Quarter will destroy anything of historical significance. The main result will be to replace an elderly and flatulent elephant with a more elegant and eco-friendly giraffe; though I doubt either phrases are recognised as official planning terms.

• Now we nip down to Wash Water for another planning issue (at the pre-application consultation stage) which also promises much in the way of sustainability. This is covered in an article on p9 of this week’s NWN which says that the development “will be” 40% affordable and “will be” low carbon with EV charge points, solar panels and air-source heat pumps. Most will hope, though some may doubt, that the certainty implied by the future (rather than conditional) tense will eventually come to pass. You can find out more by visiting The Woodpecker Inn between 3pm and 7pm on Thursday 2 September where the developers Bewley Homes will be holding an information event.

• And while we’re with pubs in Newbury, p10 of the paper reports on The Old Bell in Andover Road which is not the venue for a discussion about a proposed development but the subject of one. The article quotes a representative of the applicant as quoting evidence to support the claim that the place was no longer viable as a pub and that precious little interest had been expressed in re-opening it. If the plans go ahead, it will become a pet shop and vets’ practice.

• James Davies will be covering the Thames Valley area, including Newbury (where he lives) for ITV from the middle of September. He is keen to hear from anyone and everyone to make sure all voices are heard. His email address is james.davies4@itv.com.

• Over the past two years, volunteers helped to plant wildflower meadows at City Recreation Ground and Victoria Park. In the spring the flowers started growing and by June they were in full flower. To ensure this is repeated next year, the wildflowers need to be cut down at the end of the season, after the flowers have all finished. This needs to be followed up by removing the debris. Newbury Town Council is asking for volunteers to meet at the meadow in City Recreation Ground on Sunday 5 September at 10am and at the Victoria Park Bandstand on Sunday 19 September at 10am to help cut the meadow, disperse the seed heads and prepare the area ready for next summer. More details can be found here.

• Newbury Town Council’s (NTC) is consulting (extended until 31 August, so not long to go now) on how to fund the new a community café in Victoria Park. Please click here for details.

Click here for the August 2021 newsletter from Newbury Town Council.

• The Mayor of Newbury has launched a year-long fundraising campaign in support of his chosen charity. Councillor Billy Drummond announced the launch of the ‘One in 100 Fundraising Campaign’ last month as part of a charity coffee morning for Newbury Speakabilty. Click here for more.

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.

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

• 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.)

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council took place on 20 July and you can read the minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council took place on 14 July and you can read the minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council took place on 12 July and you can read the minutes 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 6 July and you can read the draft minutes 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. It appeared from the presentation that there were “difficulties with the defective construction and inaccessibility of the existing building” and a a replacement building was proposed, “reflecting on the characteristics and historic buildings within Boxford.”

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council took place on 21 June and you can read the minutes here. There was also an extraordinary meeting on 26 July to consider two planning applications, the minutes of which you can read here.

• The most recent meeting of Hamstead Marshall Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 20 May and you can read the minutes 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 June 2021 edition.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council took place on 16 June and you can read the minutes here.

Thursday 19 August 2021

• I and many others have written a lot about the slow decline of the football ground at Faraday Road in Newbury. It’s a sorry tale which started badly in June 2018 when the football club’s lease was terminated in June 2018 by West Berkshire Council in the unfulfilled expectation that the site would soon be developed as part of the wider regeneration of the London Road Industrial Estate (LRIE) and that vacant possession would be required to propitiate the developers. For a range of reasons, including a legal defeat, this has not come to pass. The Faraday affair has turned into a PR disaster for WBC, partially mitigated over the last year when the new portfolio holder Howard Woollaston managed to produce a plan for a new pitch to be created at Monk’s Lane in conjunction with the Rugby Club. This solution, though viable, has not been universally welcomed and opposition, perhaps particularly on the grounds of traffic, is to be expected on the planning application which has been lodged this week. The matter will certainly come before the Western Area and, due to its possible district-wide significance, perhaps also the District Planning Committee. The schedule is already very tight if the ground is to be functional by 31 March 2022, the FA’s deadline for whether matches can be played there in the 2022-23 season.

A separate planning application is already further forward in WBC’s system. This is to demolish the clubhouse at Faraday Road and to create a recreation area (not to include football) on the pitch. This was recently passed from Western Area to the District Planning Committee to decide. However, the demolition part of the application was overtaken by events when the clubhouse was largely destroyed in a fire last weekend. There is so far no evidence as to the cause although although arson is strongly suspected.

To put my conspiracy-theory hat on for a moment, as some have done, two obvious suspects suggest themselves. One is West Berkshire Council, keen to avoid the cost of a demolition and a possible refusal of the application to do this, sent operatives out to torch the place. Another is the Newbury Community Football Group (NCFG), which has long campaigned against the closure of the ground and which has warned that WBC’s security of the site has been inadequate, did so to prove its point. Possibly both were involved in an unlikely alliance – funded by, let’s say, the CIA, Elon Musk, the Taliban and Manchester United – to accomplish something or other. Let’s take that hat off, shall we?

The likely explanation in that the site was, as the NGFG has long maintained, a target for arsonists. WBC will be proceeding with the application to demolish the ground even though, as its Deputy Leader Graham Bridgman told Penny Post on 17 August, expert opinion might demand that the rest of the structure be demolished before then if it’s likely that what remains would be dangerous. This seems illogical on one level but WBC is clearly keen that it can demonstrate that it had received permission to demolish the clubhouse even if the fire hadn’t happened. (It remains to be seen how matters will pan out if the application to demolish a clubhouse which has already been demolished is refused.) To complicate matters still further, a legal challenge has been threatened “if any decision is made to attempt to fully demolish any part of the building which is not structurally unsafe” before the matter has been considered by the Secretary of State. It’s suggested that about a third of the structure is structurally safe.

There matters uneasily rest for the moment. As no one was injured in the fire and as the building was, in WBC’s eyes at least, derelict, it’s unlikely that the TVP’s forensic team will have the time to track down the cause, Even is arson is proved, the lack of CCTV will make detection hard. Many would argue WBC could have done more to protect it, though Graham Bridgman pointed out that total security would have been very expensive. The final irony is that the prestige homes planned for the site of the football ground may not now be possible due to national policy about flood risk. Other flooding concerns have been expressed by residents if any development proceeds without appropriate measures. Nor is it clear whether all the previous assumptions still apply about the redevelopment in this pandemic age. With a local plan delayed for reasons beyond WBC’s control, a Newbury masterplan still under construction and no planning application yet having been submitted for the long-term development of the football ground, let alone the whole site, matters seem to have reached a definite pause.

You can read WBC’s official statement here. Coverage is also provide on pages 1 and 6 of this week’s Newbury Weekly News and in no fewer than five letters on pp22-23.

• The first of two EGMs of the Newbury and District Agricultural Association (NADAS) took place on 16 August (see previous entries below). This was called by the Requisitionists Working Group (RWG) which opposes the board’s plans to sell the Showground. 85 members were present in person and another 36 on Zoom. This is about 7.5% of the membership (I understand the last AGM attracted about 50 people). The board had refused to acknowledge the validity of the meeting and will be holding its own on 13 September. Four motions were proposed this week: to prevent any asset sale until there’s been a full consultation with the members; to share the finances; to remove Savills as advisers; and not to put the society into administration until this is confirmed at a general meeting. All were passed overwhelmingly, with two votes against over the four motions and a handful of abstentions.

I  spoke to one of the attendees, James Cole who is a life member of NADAS as well as the son of a former President of the Show. (He is also a West Berkshire Councillor but his attendance at the meeting and his comments to Penny Post were in a personal capacity.)

“I went to the Requisitionists meeting as I wanted to listen to an alternative view,” said. “I listened, but overall at the end I was still not inclined to join the group. Being a minority of not much above one at the meeting was interesting, but as a councillor with a habit of speaking my mind whatever others think, I’m getting used to being not entirely “in step”.

“One of the group’s complaints has been that the Society has not released the accounts; we were told on Monday that two members of the group had recently been given access to the figures, and so the complaint of secrecy in that respect falls away. I thought that some other things said did have some validity but overall I do not see justification for replacing the current Board at present. They are doing a very difficult job and deserve support; they do need to tell us more of what is proposed, however, and they should give the membership a vote, but my belief is that this will happen in September.

“I did take the opportunity on Monday night to point out some things – the following words are a rather shortened paraphrase of what I said, (1) the Society is not the Showground and the Showground is not the Society. I have been to the Show as put on by NADAS at other sites over the years. (2) The current Board does want to resuscitate the Show but that given the economic changes – I was referring to changes in the way we shop – I thought it highly unlikely that the current Board or even the Requisitionists would bring the show back at the size it used to be. (3) The Showground is an asset of a charity and it may be that the time has come to cash this in.

“There are vested interests involved and I know my views do not suit some of them but NADAS is a charity and has to work within the charity rules; if the rules require an asset to be maximised for the charity, so be it. The existing showground is good on a good day, though it suffers from the motorway noise. On a bad day the wind can howl through there, and as a member I do not feel tied to the place. My hope is that a compromise of some sort will be reached in September and that the Requisitionists’ interest in the wellbeing of the Society can be channelled into its future. One of the issues has been the terms of the S106 agreement – at the June information meeting of the Society I offered to try to help renegotiate that agreement, and I reconfirm that offer.”

A number of points remain. I’m not sure if the full accounts have been released but it may be that nothing at all would have been available without the RWG’s pressure. I also understand that the figures in fact show a small surplus: this, coupled with the security of NADAS’ considerable assets, doesn’t seem to demand a rushed decision. The financial state – which is really what this is about – clearly needs close examination by the membership before any irrevocable step is taken. For how long have any losses  been building up? Are these due to the Show, the cattle building or to overheads? What other steps can be taken to remedy this without selling the ground? Have all efforts been exhausted to set aside the conditions of the S106 agreement on the cattle building which limits the uses to which it can be put and thus the income it can generate? Will it be as easy as the board suggests to find an alternative site for future Shows, of whatever size? Have any such sites been identified? If a full or partial sale is agreed, is the current board confident it can handle negotiations with a doubtless wily and experienced property developer? Finally, if a sale does happen and the Society swaps its major asset for a large pot of cash, what changes might be needed to its structure or governance?  If I were a member I’d want clear answers to all of these points. It seems that the RWG has been set up to obtain these.

I must stress that I cast no aspirations on the character or probity of the board members and I agree with James Cole’s comment that they’re doing a very difficult job. The problem is, as so often, one of perception. If communication is intermittent or poor then in times of strife people resort to direct action to obtain information and possibly make up their own narratives to fill any gaps, both of which makes matters even more polarised and divisive. One solution might be to appoint a neutral team of external experts to look at the position. The matter is more than just about the finances of the organisation, the interests of Chieveley Parish Council )where the show ground is located) or the future of the Show itself. The site is one of the most important and visible in the district and whether or not it’s going be built over to provide a distribution centre (its likely destiny if it’s sold) is of considerable and legitimate interest. Indeed, it’s already attracting national attention: page 10 of the most recent Private Eye devotes several paragraphs to the saga thus far. It kicks off with the general observation that these are “tough times for showground societies” and adds that “even before the pandemic there were questions over the sustainability and stewardship” of some of them.

There will now be a short pause before the action recommences at the EGM called by the board on 13 September. I understand that this will, as well as providing a review of the discussions about the sale and NADAS’ finances, also propose a poll of members. This may be all the RWG requires – providing, of course, that the poll is conducted after a full disclosure of all relevant information and sufficient time for the members to consider this. Very important too will be what question or questions are asked and how they’re phrased. This might in itself be a contentious topic (though hopefully not involving yet another EGM to resolve).

• Please see this page on the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) website. which has information on all the nominees for NALC’s Star Council Awards to celebrate “those in the sector who have gone above and beyond their regular duties during the pandemic.” Newbury Town Council is one of the nominees: the final winner will be chosen by a popular ballot and you can use this link to cast your vote. The closing date is Monday 23 August 2021.

• Two letters in this week’s NWN refer to the retail problems faced by the excellent Empire Café in Cheap Street (see previous entries below) and a definite closure, D’s Den toy shop in the Kennet Centre.  The latter story is also covered on p9 in the paper.

• If you would like to help restore the River Lambourn in Newbury please volunteer to help the ARK team on 25 August and 3 and 8 September.

• The new five-inch and 7.25 gauge miniature railway at St Marys Church Paddock, Greenham opens next Saturday 28 August at midday. They will be giving free steam and diesel rides to everyone who goes along to support this new venture.

• Also on Saturday 28 August, a rather larger, Jubilee class, locomotive – No. 45690 Leander – is expected to pass through Newbury on her way to connect with an excursion to Cornwall the following day. Leander will only be pulling a single support coach not a full rake of carriages. It will arriving at the Racecourse station at 1.04 pm (where it will stop for a drink) before leaving at 1.42pm and arriving a Newbury station three minutes later.

• A controversial 18 metre high 5G mast has been installed in Newbury on the corner of Link Road and St John’s Road. According to NWN some local residents are cross because the consultation notice was not made easily visible back in May. Others are looking forward to better mobile signal. According to FB, another huge mast will be erected for the Three network on the Eastbound path along the A4 in Speen.

• James Davies will be covering the Thames Valley area, including Newbury (where he lives) for ITV from the middle of September. He is keen to hear from anyone and everyone to make sure all voices are heard. His email address is james.davies4@itv.com.

• Over the past two years, volunteers helped to plant wildflower meadows at City Recreation Ground and Victoria Park. In the spring the flowers started growing and by June they were in full flower. To ensure this is repeated next year, the wildflowers need to be cut down at the end of the season, after the flowers have all finished. This needs to be followed up by removing the debris. Newbury Town Council is asking for volunteers to meet at the meadow in City Recreation Ground on Sunday 5 September at 10am and at the Victoria Park Bandstand on Sunday 19 September at 10am to help cut the meadow, disperse the seed heads and prepare the area ready for next summer. More details can be found here.

• Newbury Town Council’s (NTC) is consulting (extended until 31 August) on how to fund the new a community café in Victoria Park. Please click here for details.

• Newbury Town Council Leader Martin Colston’s latest Newbury Town Council Update, can be read here.

Click here for the August 2021 newsletter from Newbury Town Council.

• The Mayor of Newbury has launched a year-long fundraising campaign in support of his chosen charity. Councillor Billy Drummond announced the launch of the ‘One in 100 Fundraising Campaign’ last month as part of a charity coffee morning for Newbury Speakabilty. Click here for more.

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

• If you like Austin 7 Nippys, Daimler 15s, Dodge Dart V8s and other vintage cars and vehicles then you may well have been at the West Berkshire Classic Vehicle Club’s event at the Racecourse last weekend. If you weren’t, then pp6-7 of this week’s NWN has a report and a good spread of pictures.

• A reminder that free weekly Educafé community cafés take place at The Globe in Newbury every Wednesday from 11am to 3pm. I went there with Penny this week and was struck by (a) what a large and well laid-uot space it was and (b) how many different groups were using it. Well done to all involved in running this.

• 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.

• West Berkshire has regular guide-led health walks starting in Hermitage, Northcroft, Snelsmore and Thatcham Discovery Centre for people of all abilities, especially those who are inactive or do little physical activity. See here for more details. These walks are friendly, welcoming and empowering, and a great opportunity to explore the outdoors, discover new places and meet new people.

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

• 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.)

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council took place on 20 July and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: six planning applications; CPC’s response to the ongoing issue of the Newbury Showground (see also separate section above); CPC’s working groups; financial matters; the Clerk’s correspondence; overgrown footpaths; and the proposed footway in Curridge.

• Chieveley Parish Council has, I understand, not changed its opposition to the proposed redevelopment of the Newbury Showground and the way that the NADS has communicated information – see the 22 July section below.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council took place on 14 July and you can read the minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council took place on 12 July and you can read the minutes 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 6 July and you can read the draft minutes here.

• 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. It appeared from the presentation that there were “difficulties with the defective construction and inaccessibility of the existing building” and a a replacement building was proposed, “reflecting on the characteristics and historic buildings within Boxford.” The current plan was for “a single storey substantial thatched building with a timber frame vaulted roof space.” There were then a number of questions and comments, “with the majority expressing support in principle for both the building as proposed and the business proposition.” The Chairman thanked the new owners for their presentation and remarked that “this was the first time that owners of the public house had sought the views of the local community.”

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council took place on 21 June and you can read the minutes here. There was also an extraordinary meeting on 26 July to consider two planning applications, the minutes of which you can read here.

• The most recent meeting of Hamstead Marshall Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 20 May and you can read the minutes 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 June 2021 edition.

• You can see the minutes of the Shaw-cum-Donnington annual parish assembly, which took place on 5 May, here. There were a number of reports from local councillors and others, including on the subject of planning, local charities, footpaths and rights of way, speeding and dogs.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council took place on 21 April and you can read the minutes here.

Thursday 12 August 2021

• Please see this page on the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) website. which has information on all the nominees for NALC’s Star Council Awards to celebrate “those in the sector who have gone above and beyond their regular duties during the pandemic.” Newbury Town Council is one of the nominees: the final winner will be chosen by a popular ballot and you can use this link to cast your vote.

• Newbury Town Council’s (NTC) is consulting (until 31 August) on how to fund the new a community café in Victoria Park. Please click here for details.

• Newbury Town Council Leader Martin Colston’s latest Newbury Town Council Update, can be read here.

Click here for the August 2021 newsletter from Newbury Town Council.

• The Mayor of Newbury has launched a year-long fundraising campaign in support of his chosen charity. Councillor Billy Drummond announced the launch of the ‘One in 100 Fundraising Campaign’ last month as part of a charity coffee morning for Newbury Speakabilty. Click here for more.

• There are three letters (including the lead one and the longest one) on the subject of the impasse that appears to exist between the Newbury and District Agricultural Association and a group of its members (known as the Requistionists), both of which have differing views on what the next steps should be with resolving the society’s finances (see previous sections below). Two of these echo several of the points I made (see also below) about Richard Benyon’s slightly perplexing letter in the NWN last week. The main one was that he seems to be taking the society’s assessment of its finances and the proposed solution to this (the sale of the Showground) as read whereas they are not, as they haven’t been provided. The Requisitionists wish to have a fuller disclosure of the figures and a more open discussion about the next steps.

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

• This week’s NWN refers on p4 to recent discussions at Newbury Town Council about plans to extend Aldi’s car park on York Road, the details of which can be seen here. The article quotes an Aldi spokesperson as saying that the extension “was unlikely to increase customer numbers at the store,” which leaves open the question ion why Aldi is doing it at all. Some councillors pointed out that an opportunity was being missed extend the sustainability of the site, while others cautioned that to refuse the application might result in the store moving out of Newbury and setting up elsewhere: in short, all there usual tensions between environmental and economic considerations. As with all such matters, it is WBC that will make the final decision.

• If you like Austin 7 Nippys, Daimler 15s, Dodge Dart V8s and other vintage cars and vehicles then you may well have been at the West Berkshire Classic Vehicle Club’s event at the Racecourse last weekend. If you weren’t, then pp6-7 of this week’s NWN has a report and a good spread of pictures.

• A reminder that free weekly Educafé community cafés take place at The Globe in Newbury every Wednesday from 11am to 3pm. This is a chance to meet new people (including Penny, who’s there most weeks), get support and advice, take advantage of learning opportunities and enjoy complimentary tea, cake and snacks.

• 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.

• West Berkshire has regular guide-led health walks starting in Hermitage, Northcroft, Snelsmore and Thatcham Discovery Centre for people of all abilities, especially those who are inactive or do little physical activity. See here for more details. These walks are friendly, welcoming and empowering, and a great opportunity to explore the outdoors, discover new places and meet new people.

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

• 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.)

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council took place on 20 July and you can read the minutes here. items covered included: six planning applications; CPC’s response to the ongoing issue of the Newbury Showground (see also separate section above); CPC’s working groups; financial matters; the Clerk’s correspondence; overgrown footpaths; and the proposed footway in Curridge.

• Chieveley Parish Council has, I understand, not changed its opposition to the proposed redevelopment of the Newbury Showground and the way that the NADS has communicated information – see the 22 July section below.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council took place on 14 July and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: the Control Tower; approval of various committee minutes; financial matters; three planning applications; speeding; the proposal to move the Newbury football ground to Monk’s Lane; winter road gritting; the wildlife garden project; and Parkrun.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council took place on 12 July and you can read the minutes here. items covered included: financial matters; SPC’s tendering process; the ward report from District Councillor Lynne Doherty; the long-running issue of the proposed footpath between Stockcross and the A4; a proposed traffic air pollution monitoring station at the junction of Station Road and the A4; speeding; dog bins; the war memorial project; and various maintenance issues.

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

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council took place on 6 July and you can read the draft minutes here. Items covered included: the parish plan questionnaire; the conservation area appraisal; flooding issues; a rapid response from WBC to a footpath problem; planning matters; financial matters; defibrillators; the Village Hall; and the PC’s response to WBC’s consultation with then and parish councils.

• There was also an extraordinary meeting of Boxford PC on 22 June for the sole purpose of discussing the possible creation of a nature reserve. You can read the minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council took place on 21 June and you can read the minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Hamstead Marshall Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 20 May and you can read the minutes 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 June 2021 edition.

• You can see the minutes of the Shaw-cum-Donnington annual parish assembly, which took place on 5 May, here. There were a number of reports from local councillors and others, including on the subject of planning, local charities, footpaths and rights of way, speeding and dogs.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council took place on 21 April and you can read the minutes here.

Thursday 5 August 2021

• As mentioned last week, the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) has recently announced its shortlist of five councils in five categories of its Star Council Awards to celebrate “those in the sector who have gone above and beyond their regular duties during the pandemic.” One of these categories is the Council of the Year award, for which one of the five shortlisted bodies is Newbury Town Council. The winner will be decided by a vote in which local councils, county associations and members of the public will be able to participate. For more information and to cast your vote, please see this page on the NALC site. Here you can also find information on all the nominees and what they have accomplished. Congratulations to Newbury TC and all the other nominees: indeed to every town and parish council everywhere which has done so much work, much of it unseen, unspectacular and unpaid, to help us weather this storm.

• Newbury Town Council’s (NTC) plans for a community café in Victoria Park have been approved by West Berkshire Council subject to conditions (which are still being discussed). It’s hoped that work will start in August and that the building will be ready at some point next summer. NTC has identified a short list of companies to operate it and will be making its decision soon. As regards how this will be funded, a very short survey document aimed at residents of Newbury has been prepared and NTC welcomes your views by 31 August (this has been extended from the previous date). Please click here for details.

• From a café that doesn’t yet exist to one that has done in its current location since 1947, this week’s NWN also has an article about (and a letter from) Wendy Berkeley of the wonderful Empire Café in Cheap Street. This has struggled in recent years as a result of the Market Street development, cuts in bus services, parking problems and (of course) Covid. I remember the then MP Richard Benyon saying a few years ago that his main regret, when his constituency office moved from Cheap Street, that he wouldn’t be able to pop in as often as he used to. I don’t always agree with him but I do about that.

• Newbury Town Council Leader Martin Colston’s latest Newbury Town Council Update, can be read here.

Click here for the July 2021 newsletter from Newbury Town Council.

• The Mayor of Newbury has launched a year-long fundraising campaign in support of his chosen charity. Councillor Billy Drummond announced the launch of the ‘One in 100 Fundraising Campaign’ last month as part of a charity coffee morning for Newbury Speakabilty. Click here for more.

• There are no fewer than four letters in the NWN this week on the subject of Newbury’s football grounds (the plural term must now be used as there is one, derelict, ground at Faraday Road and another, aspirational, one at Monks Lane). To this must be added a planning application for a step 4 football facility at Monk’s Lane which has yet to be lodged; another application for the demolition of the clubhouse in Faraday Road which has been deferred to the District Planning Committee; threatened legal action by the Newbury Community Football Group (NCFG) if WBC commences work before the Secretary of State has decided whether to call in the application; a letter of opposition from Sport England to WBC’s plans which, following discussions and promises by WBC, has been withdrawn; and a statement from the West Berkshire Lib Dems saying that it “does not share the aspirations of the ruling group to relocate Newbury’s main football facilities from Faraday Road to Monks Lane.” Business pretty much as normal, in other words.

Any reader coming new to this story will wonder how matters have managed to get into such a divisive muddle. It’s a good question and the tale would occupy a large book if it were ever written up in full. The origins lie in WBC’s ambitions to develop the London Road Industrial Estate, a project which also defies a simple summary. One of the key aspects of this was a redevelopment of the football ground which was ear-marked for housing, although it now appears that current policies on flood risks make it increasingly unlikely homes could be built there. Jumping the gun somewhat, WBC decided to close the ground in June 2018 despite no planning application being in place for a re-development and no replacement ground having been found. This led to the formation of a vocal and well-organised opposition group, the NCFG, which has, amongst many other interventions, commented on how parts of the ground’s infrastructure have mysteriously vanished. WBC subsequently faced a legal challenge about the cornerstone of its LRIE development policy (which it lost) which has set the whole project back.

Despite at first asserting that it did not need to find a replacement ground, it has since conceded that it does: the search for this, however, proved elusive until the Monk’s Lane proposal emerged. If any league matches are to be played on this in 2022-23, WBC needs to get planning approval, appoint contractors and build the facility by the end of March 2022 (the FA’s deadline) a timescale which could reasonably be described as ambitious. WBC is also pushing forward with rather mystifying plan to turn the old ground into a recreational area, until development of the LRIE starts, on which football cannot be played, the purpose of or need for which remains unclear. As might be expected, the matter has become politicised and the NCFG and its supporters continue to claim that the whole policy and its execution are flawed and possibly in breach of regulations, including Sport England’s. That is my summary: others exist.

I feel sympathy for the portfolio holder Howard Woollaston, elected to the Council in 2019, who inherited this muddle (or at least the playing-pitch part of it) and has taken steps to find a solution. I also sympathise with NCFG which has a very clear and reasonable agenda of ensuring that the town has a football ground. I have less sympathy with those at WBC who made the original decision; nor with Sport England, whose policy says that no sporting facility can be re-developed until a suitable replacement has been found. The clause seems poorly drafted (the definition of “development” is open to debate) and should surely specify that no sporting facility can close until a replacement has been found and that there must be a seamless transition from the old to the new. All in all a very easy problem to fix, assuming one has a time machine and a perfect understanding of what went wrong the first time round. We now are where we are: which, in the case of Newbury FC, is camping out at Henwick and probably with no ground to play matches on until the start of the 2023-24 season.

• Today’s Newbury Weekly News has an article about a proposed 350 homes by Bewley Homes in Wash Water (just across the state line in Basingstoke & Deane) and says that these will be low-carbon with solar panels EV charging points and air-source heat pumps. Such aspects were suggested by Hungerford Town Council and others for the Lancaster Park Development, but were rejected: indeed, a Bewley Homes spokesperson at a public meeting about 18 months ago described solar panels as “toys”. What’s changed? I’ve asked this question of Bewley and will publish any response. It may be that’s what’s changed is developers seeing that making such promises at the outset is increasingly a good way of getting permission granted, much criticism recently having been directed at developments which do not do so. Whether the homes will be built to the declared standard is another matter. Until either unambiguous legislation of powerful market forces start being applied this may become another aspect of the plan, like the affordable-home component, which can later be removed with viability assessments. Perhaps I”m being too cynical.

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

• Free weekly Educafé community cafés take place at The Globe in Newbury every Wednesday from 11am to 3pm. This is a chance to meet new people (including Penny, who’s there most weeks), get support and advice, take advantage of learning opportunities and enjoy complimentary tea, cake and snacks.

• As mentioned before, discussions continue between Readibus and West Berkshire Council about the funding for this service (see previous sections below, passim). Several town and parish councils, including Newbury and Thatcham, have provided financial support and others may follow. Members of the public have also donated. A funding page on The Good Exchange website  remains open and further donations are welcome. The current situation is that the operator can continue a two-day-a-week service for the rest of the financial year, by which time it’s hoped that a more substantial and longer-term settlement will be reached that can enable the service to return to its previous levels. This is, lest we forget, not really about legal clauses or political ideology but a way by which people with mobility problems can continue top do things like go shopping.

• Any comments, suggestions or feedback about the Council’s community transport services 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 saga of the Newbury Showground (see previous entries below) is picking up steam with not one but two proposed EGMs and an intervention by former MP Richard Benyon in the letters section of this week’s Newbury Weekly News. The issue turns on the fact that the Newbury & District Agricultural Society has been losing money in recent years, both in respect of its ongoing costs (perhaps to be £20,000 a month) and in the operation of the Newbury Show (which due to Covid did not happen in 2020 and will not this year). One solution proposed by the Society is to sell the Showground site for development. A number of members have disputed this and pointed out that building on an open space in an AONB does little to further the Society’s stated charitable objectives. There have been accusations that financial details have not been released, so making it impossible for members to understand the true nature of the problem. Two EGMs have now been called: one by the Society on 13 September and one by the opposing group on 16 August. The validity of the 16 August one has been disputed by the NADS and legal action to prevent it has not been ruled out. The technical term for a group which has requested that an EGM be convened is, I learned this morning, “requisitionist.” This makes it sound like a faction during the English Civil War. Certainly the campaign is being waged with as much ferocity as were the two battles which took place in Newbury in the 1640s.

Richard Benyon’s letter in the NWN confirmed that he was supporting the society in this matter. He makes the point that the Show was “only ever part” of what the NDAS did and adds that the funds will provide “long-term financial security” and the possibility of another show on another site. The requisitionists may argue that such a move would be a game-changing moment for the NDAS and so would require careful discussion of all the options, including the uses to which the potentially vast pile of cash could be put and what the future aims of the Society would then be. Mr Benyon goes on to say that “now is the time to recognise the financial reality of the Society.” This seems neatly to put its finger on a key part of the requisitionists’ case, that such information has not been forthcoming and that the full range of options cannot therefore be considered. Indeed, this is the main reason why the group has been established at all.

A letter from NADS to is members on 3 August says that “it is intended that the agenda [for its 13 August meeting] will include…an update on the current process in relation to the disposal of the land…an update on the Society’s finances…and the opportunity for a poll of the members.” This may perhaps address some of the requisitionists’ concerns although the various exchanges seem to have polarised the various views. What will happen with these two EGMs, and thereafter, remains to be seen. The current situation, where the matter is being debated on competing websites, in the press and possibly in the courts, is hardly edifying. It also shows how divisive a situation can become when, fairly or not, accusations of lack of transparency or legal wrongdoing are made. I wish both parties well in resolving matters for the benefit of all. You can see the NADS’s website here (click here to see the letter to members on 3 August); the requisitionists’ Save our Showground site can be seen here. More to follow on this, I suspect.

• Live Music on The Bandstand in Newbury will shortly be resuming. The first gig will be Through Mountains – Indie Acoustic on Saturday 7 August from 3 to 5pm.

• West Berkshire has regular guide-led health walks starting in Hermitage, Northcroft, Snelsmore and Thatcham Discovery Centre for people of all abilities, especially those who are inactive or do little physical activity. See here for more details. These walks are friendly, welcoming and empowering, and a great opportunity to explore the outdoors, discover new places and meet new people.

• New community larders are running in Newbury, Thatcham and Wantage – click here for details. The Thatcham one launched recently at the Frank Hutchings Community Hall and the Mayor and Deputy Mayor were delighted to see a sneak preview of it. The scheme is not means-tested and is open to all and so if you’re curious about saving money and preventing food waste, why not pop along and see what it’s all about.

• You can read a statement from Newbury Town Council on the Sandleford enquiry here.

• 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.) Items covered included: electric scooters; the Mayor’s and the Leader’s reports; year-end matters; Newbury Parkrun; the proposal that the Faraday Road football ground be declared an asset of community value; the Fairclose Day Centre; committee reports; the community cafe; and NTC’s long-term strategy.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council took place on 6 July and you can read the draft minutes here. Items covered included: the parish plan questionnaire; the conservation area appraisal; flooding issues; a rapid response from WBC to a footpath problem; planning matters; financial matters; defibrillators; the Village Hall; and the PC’s response to WBC’s consultation with then and parish councils.

• There was also an extraordinary meeting of Boxford PC on 22 June for the sole purpose of discussing the possible creation of a nature reserve. You can read the minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council took place on 22 June and you can read the minutes here.

• Chieveley Parish Council has, I understand, not changed its opposition to the proposed redevelopment of the Newbury Showground and the way that the NADS has communicated information – see the 22 July section below.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council took place on 21 June and you can read the minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council took place on 9 June and you can read the minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council took place on 21 April and you can read the minutes here.

• You can see the minutes of the Shaw-cum-Donnington annual parish assembly, which took place on 5 May, here. There were a number of reports from local councillors and others, including on the subject of planning, local charities, footpaths and rights of way, speeding and dogs.

• The most recent meeting of Hamstead Marshall Parish Council took place on 20 May and you can read the minutes 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 June 2021 edition.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council (also the annual meeting) took place on 6 May and you can read the minutes here.

Thursday 29 July 2021

• There are about 10,000 town and parish councils in the country and all of them, along with the high-level authorities, have been heavily involved in the response to the pandemic: they were, indeed, vital to this, providing a wide range of support and information that was often far more effective and clearly expressed than anything which came from Whitehall. The town and parishes’ trade body, for want of a better phrase, is the National Association of Local Councils (NALC) which has recently announced its short list of five in five separate categories of its Star Council Awards to celebrate “those in the sector who have gone above and beyond their regular duties during the pandemic.” One of these categories is the Council of the Year award, for which the five shortlisted bodies are Farnham, Great Dawley, Looe, Tollerton (the only parish in the short list) and Newbury. Recognise a familiar name there? The winner will be decided by a vote in which local councils, county associations and members of the public will be able to participate. For more information and to cast your vote, please see this page on the NALC site. Here you can also find information on all the nominees and what they have accomplished. Congratulations to Newbury TC and all the other nominees: indeed to every town and parish council everywhere which has done so much work, much of it unseen, unspectacular and unpaid, to help us weather this storm.

• Newbury Town Council’s (NTC) plans for a community café in Victoria Park have been approved by West Berkshire Council subject to conditions (which are still being discussed). It’s hoped that work will start in August and that the building will be ready at some point next summer. NTC has identified a short list of companies to operate it and will be making its decision soon. As regards how this will be funded, a very short survey document aimed at residents of Newbury has been prepared and NTC welcomes your views by 31 July. Please click here for details.

• Newbury Town Council Leader Martin Colston reflects on these and other matters in his latest Newbury Town Council Update, which you can read here. In this he apologises that “this is my first update for a couple of months as I’ve been snowed under with work and family commitments (as well as NTC).” Town councillors are, it should be remembered, unpaid.

• Another consultation which closes soon is the draft Vision for Newbury Town Centre which you can see it here. This includes a link to a survey which anyone who lives in, works in or visits Newbury is invited to respond to by midnight on 30 July (this has been extended by a couple of weeks from the original closing date).

Click here for the July 2021 newsletter from Newbury Town Council.

• As mentioned last week, and as confirmed on p4 of this week’s NWN, a mammoth (three-and-a-half hours-plus) meeting of the Western Area Planning Committee last week decided to send the planning application for the demolition of the football clubhouse at Faraday Road to the District Planning Committee. The NWN suggests that the matter is likely to be be heard at the meeting on 8 September. This will give WBC time to reflect on the request made on 21 July by consultants acting for the Newbury Community Football Group that the Secretary of State take a “formal interest” in the whole matter. The delay will also enable WBC to consider the the composition of the District Planning Committee which will look at the application – I was struck, as was NWN, by the fact that three members of the Executive were on the Western Area Committee for this discussion, even though substitutes could have been arranged. I understand that no regulation has been broken but, from the outside, this doesn’t seem to provide the kind of scrutiny demanded by any matter which has gone to committee. The next six weeks could also be used to gather evidence, which so far seems to be in short supply, that the proposed recreation space and the car park will be used. One Councillor, Jeff Beck, certainly feels that using the ground for football (which WBC has ruled out) would be both logical and feasible (see NWN p8).

• Meanwhile, WBC is pushing ahead with its plans to get a new Step 4 football facility at Monks Lane ready for next season. The deadline for the ground to be finished and passed by the FA for matches to take place there for the following season is 31 March 2022. As a planning application has yet to be lodged (which should happen very soon) this looks tight but, as portfolio holder Howard Woollaston told Penny Post this week, “do-able, subject to planning.”

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

• Free weekly Educafé community cafés are launching next week at The Globe in Newbury every Wednesday from 11am to 3pm. This is a chance to meet new people (Penny, who goes there each week, certainly has been), get support, take advantage of learning opportunities and enjoy complimentary tea, cake and snacks.

• Discussions continue between Readibus and West Berkshire Council about the funding for this service (see previous sections below, passim). A funding page on The Good Exchange website which has reached its target. However, this remains open and as the long-term funding remains uncertain I understand that further donations are both possible and welcome.

• Any comments, suggestions or feedback about the Council’s community transport services 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.

• See the Save Our Showground website for the latest news from those members of the Newbury & District Agricultural Society who are opposed to the sale of the Showground in Chieveley. As the slogan at the bottom observes, “once it’s gone, it’s gone.” See also the 22 June minutes of Chieveley PC below for its take on the way matters have been handled thus far.

• Live Music on The Bandstand in Newbury will shortly be resuming. The first gig will be Through Mountains – Indie Acoustic on Saturday 7 August from 3 to 5pm.

• West Berkshire has regular guide-led health walks starting in Hermitage, Northcroft, Snelsmore and Thatcham Discovery Centre for people of all abilities, especially those who are inactive or do little physical activity. See here for more details. These walks are friendly, welcoming and empowering, and a great opportunity to explore the outdoors, discover new places and meet new people.

• New community larders are running in Newbury, Thatcham and Wantage – click here for details. The Thatcham one launched recently at the Frank Hutchings Community Hall and the Mayor and Deputy Mayor were delighted to see a sneak preview of it. The scheme is not means-tested and is open to all and so if you’re curious about saving money and preventing food waste, why not pop along and see what it’s all about.

• You can read a statement from Newbury Town Council on the Sandleford enquiry here.

• 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.) Items covered included: electric scooters; the Mayor’s and the Leader’s reports; year-end matters; Newbury Parkrun; the proposal that the Faraday Road football ground be declared an asset of community value; the Fairclose Day Centre; committee reports; the community cafe; and NTC’s long-term strategy.

• Residents of Hamstead Marshall will recently have received a letter reminding them about the various events that are planned at the village’s excellent White Hart Inn.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council took place on 6 July and you can read the draft minutes here. Items covered included: the parish plan questionnaire; the conservation area appraisal; flooding issues; a rapid response from WBC to a footpath problem; planning matters; financial matters; defibrillators; the Village Hall; and the PC’s response to WBC’s consultation with then and parish councils.

• There was also an extraordinary meeting of Boxford PC on 22 June for the sole purpose of discussing the possible creation of a nature reserve. You can read the minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council took place on 22 June and you can read the minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council took place on 21 June and you can read the minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council took place on 9 June and you can read the minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council took place on 21 April and you can read the minutes here.

• You can see the minutes of the Shaw-cum-Donnington annual parish assembly, which took place on 5 May, here. There were a number of reports from local councillors and others, including on the subject of planning, local charities, footpaths and rights of way, speeding and dogs.

• The most recent meeting of Hamstead Marshall Parish Council took place on 20 May and you can read the minutes 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 June 2021 edition.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council (also the annual meeting) took place on 6 May and you can read the minutes here.

Thursday 22 July 2021

• Newbury Town Council’s (NTC) plans for a community café in Victoria Park have been approved by West Berkshire Council subject to conditions (which are still being discussed). It’s hoped that work will start next month and the building will be ready at some point next summer. NTC has identified a short list of companies to operate it and will be making its decision soon. As regards how this will be funded, a very short survey document aimed at residents of Newbury has been prepared and NTC welcomes your views by 31 July. Please click here for details.

Click here for the July 2021 newsletter from Newbury Town Council.

• The Health on the Move bus will be visiting Newbury’s Riverside Centre in Clay Hill from 11am to 5pm on Saturday, 24 July to provide Covid jabs for anyone over 18. They’ll be administering Pfizer vaccinations (first or second doses – if you’re going for your second your first must have been a Pfizer jab and administered at least eight weeks before). To book your jab, call Alice on 07471 355 639 or visit the registration page. Up-to-date information can also be found here.

• An article on p8 of this week’s NWN reports on a pre-application consultation between CALA Homes and Newbury Town Council about a proposed 7–home development near Turnpike Industrial Estate (the meeting happened two months ago but the issues it raises are contemporary). I spoke to one of the participants who agreed that the discussion turned on the extent to which the developers would (or would not) install any sustainable features to the properties such as solar panels or heat pumps. NTC argued that this represented an opportunity to set new standards; the developers maintained that they were doing what they were obliged to do under the local plan. This has come up before and will come up again. At the moment, there’s no premium on building sustainable homes, particularly given the shortage of homes. When that changes, developers will start adding these features (whether or not they are compelled to) because the market will demand it. There also seemed to be no desire even to consider designing and constructing them to facilitate retro-fitting of such features at a later date. In the case of solar panels, it seems that many of the houses would need to be reorientated by 180º to accomplish this as the roofs are facing the wrong way.

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

• Free weekly Educafe community cafés are launching next week at The Globe in Newbury every Wednesday from 11am to 3pm. This is a chance to meet new people, get support, take advantage of learning opportunities and enjoy complimentary tea, cake and snacks.

• Discussions continue between Readibus and West Berkshire Council about the funding for this service (see previous sections below, passim). A funding page on The Good Exchange website which has reached its target. However, this remains open and as the long-term funding remains uncertain I understand that further donations are both possible and welcome.

• Any comments, suggestions or feedback about the Council’s community transport services 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 draft Vision for Newbury Town Centre has been published and you can see it here. This includes a link to a survey which anyone who lives in, works in or visits Newbury is invited to respond to by midnight on 30 July (this has been extended by a couple of weeks from the original closing date).

• I mentioned last week (see below) about the latest news regarding the Newbury & District Agricultural Society which owns the Newbury Showground, which it’s proposing to sell. Things have moved on since then. Some of the members are not happy with the way matters are being conducted by the board and the scarcity of information (including the lack of financials which would reveal just how bad the problem is) and have triggered an EGM which will take place on 16 August. If you’re a member of the NDAS you can expect to get a letter in the next day or so inviting you to the event and providing details of the four motions which have been proposed. The “opposition” group has also set up a website (Save Our Showground) which you can see here.

• The meeting of WBC’s Western Area Planning on 21 July debated the proposal from WBC to demolish the clubhouse at the  football ground in Faraday Road at a cost of about £190,000, the latest move in what can most politely be called a divisive and imperfectly executed plan to clear the site for development, even no planning application has yet been lodged.  I’ve said plenty about this in the past and it seems that plenty was said at Western Area as well. It will all have two be said again, however, as the upshot was the matter be deferred to the District Council as it’s of district-wide significance. It’s odd this wasn’t foreseen from the outset as it would have saved a considerable amount of time. Little to do with the football ground saga has gone according to plan, however, so this is perhaps not a surprise.

Sound Newbury reports that the Council has confirmed that Live Music on The Bandstand will resume from 19 July. The first gig will be Through Mountains – Indie Acoustic on Saturday 7 August from 3 to 5pm.

• Local residents who want to put pressure on Newbury Town Council to ensure Victoria Park lives up to its description of the Park as the “Jewel in the Crown” have started a new ParkWatch facebook page.

• West Berkshire has regular guide-led health walks starting in Hermitage, Northcroft, Snelsmore and Thatcham Discovery Centre for people of all abilities, especially those who are inactive or do little physical activity. See here for more details. These walks are friendly, welcoming and empowering, and a great opportunity to explore the outdoors, discover new places and meet new people.

• New community larders are running in Newbury, Thatcham and Wantage – click here for details. The Thatcham one launched this week at the Frank Hutchings Community Hall and the Mayor and Deputy Mayor were delighted to see a sneak preview of it last week. The scheme is not means tested and is open to all and so if you’re curious about saving money and preventing food waste, why not pop along and see what it’s all about.

• You can read a statement from Newbury Town Council on the Sandleford enquiry here.

• The most recent meeting (also the annual meeting) of Newbury Town Council took place on 4 May and you can download the minutes here. Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.

• Residents of Hamstead Marshall will recently have received a letter reminding them about the various events that are planned at the village’s excellent White Hart Inn.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council took place on 6 July and you can read the draft minutes here. Items covered included: the parish plan questionnaire; the conservation area appraisal; flooding issues; a rapid response from WBC to a footpath problem; planning matters; financial matters; defibrillators; the Village Hall; and the PC’s response to WBC’s consultation with then and parish councils.

• There was also an extraordinary meeting of Boxford PC on 22 June for the sole purpose of discussing the possible creation of a nature reserve. You can read the minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council took place on 22 June and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: a discussion about the developments at the Newbury Showground – see also above (the meeting noted that “it was thought that the Trustees [of the Newbury & District Agricultural Society] had not considered any other options for the site other than a distribution centre”, that “no financial statements have been made available to the members after being requested” and that the Society has “not been very forthcoming in providing information to the life members”); a discussion about the planning proposal for 21/00980/COMIND (land south of Green Lane) which the PC unanimously opposed; various other planning applications; financial and governance issues; a wasps nest in in the Bardown bus shelter; the local Neighbourhood Watch; a letter of thanks for the Recreation committee; and reports from the councillors.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council took place on 21 June and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: governance and financial matters; one planning application; an update on the solar farm; a possible development at Wash Water Farm; crossing the road near the school; and the footpath along Enborne Row

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council took place on 9 June and you can read the minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council took place on 21 April and you can read the minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Hamstead Marshall Parish Council took place on 20 May and you can read the minutes 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 June 2021 edition.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council (also the annual meeting) took place on 6 May and you can read the minutes here.

• You can see the minutes of the Shaw-cum-Donnington annual parish assembly, which took place on 5 May, here. There were a number of reports from local councillors and others, including on the subject of planning, local charities, footpaths and rights of way, speeding and dogs.

Thursday 15 July 2021

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

• Newbury Town Council’s (NTC) plans for a community café in Victoria Park received the green light from West Berkshire Council on 30 June and NTC is now turning its attention to how this can be funded. A very short survey document aimed at residents of Newbury has been prepared and NTC welcomes your views by 31 July. Please click here for details.

Click here for the July 2021 newsletter form Newbury Town Council.

• Free weekly Educafe community cafés are launching next week at The Globe Newbury every Wednesday from 11am to 3pm. This is a chance to meet new people, get support, take advantage of learning opportunities and enjoy complimentary tea, cake and snacks.

• Discussions continue between Readibus and West Berkshire Council about the funding for this service (see previous sections below, passim). A funding page has been set up on The Good Exchange website which has reached its stated target of £5,500. However, this remains open and as the long-term funding remains uncertain I understand that further donations are both possible and welcome.

• Any comments, suggestions or feedback about the Council’s community transport services 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 proposed re-development of the Kennet Centre (to be known as Eagle Quarter) is again referred to in several letters in this week’s NWN, the height being a recurring theme.

• The draft Vision for Newbury Town Centre has been published and you can see it here. This includes a link to a survey which anyone who lives in, works in or visits Newbury is invited to respond to by midnight on 16 July. (so not long now). There have been suggestions that this represents a missed opportunity as this is likely to be a once-in-a-generation chance. “Newbury Town Council [NTC] is very disappointed that the Vision does not call for pedestrianisation,” NTC’s leader Martin Colston told Penny Post this week. “The omission seems to torpedo a lot of the Vision’s objectives. We think there should be an extended trial of such a scheme at least for six months but possibly longer. We discussed this at our recent Planning and Highways meeting last night and it will form part of our official feedback.”  The point about a long trial period is a good one as any change needs to run for several seasons before its success can be measured. I’m not sure how much evidence has been collected at the pros and cons of the scheme but, assuming that a decent amount has (and that it’s still recant: pre-Covid surveys may not be in all aspects), sometimes the only way of seeing if something works is to try it. There are always very compelling reasons from not doing something, however.

A separate issue, which Lib Dem WBC Councillor Jeff Brooks raised at the July Full Council meeting, is whether or not the pedestrianisation of Northbrook Street and the Market Place could be extended to midnight to allow al fresco dining. Councillor Brooks quotes the response of Councillor Ross Makinnon (Conservative) that one problem would be that WBC could not broadcast the change widely enough. As the suggestion was first made by Newbury BID on 1 March and as outdoor seating is rarely popular before early June, this would have allowed at least two months: enough time to have had letters delivered to every local resident by tortoise. WBC should be more ambitious about its ability to communicate through all the indirect and direct channels at its disposal, something it’s managed to do pretty well regarding Covid. In any case, this an other objections are slightly beside the point. Much the same thing was done last summer (without months of pre-notification, as I recall): the only question seems to be whether, on balance, the reaction of traders was positive or negative to this. If it was positive, do it again.

• See p7 of this week’s NWN for an article about the above-mentioned survey and the plans for the Kennet Centre/Eagle Quarter. Several Newbury Town Councillors are quoted as being concerned by the comment in the Vision document, to which I referred last week, that the scheme must “create sufficient development value” as well as respecting the “historic character of the town.” They see this, perhaps rightly, as showing that the financial considerations are more important than anything else. it could also be seen as a statement of fact: if the developers can’t make it work financially, it won’t happen. it should, surely, be possible to accomplish both these goals, which are not mutually incompatible.

• As mentioned last week, the Newbury & District Agricultural Society has received an offer from local resident Christopher Mills to buy the Showground for £10m and then lease it to the N&DAS for one month a year for a figure of around £10,000. I’m not aware of any official reaction from the N&DAS about this but, then again, the organisation doesn’t seem to be particularly communicative. A letter in this week’s Newbury Weekly News urges the society to accept the offer to preserve the site “for things like the Newbury Show, not torn up for developers.”

• The controversial and long-running issue of the football ground in Newbury will take another step forward, or backward, depending on your point of view, when WBC’s Western Area Planning Committee will consider plans to demolish the clubhouse at a cost of over £190,000 and replace this with pay-and -display car-parking spaces. This week’s NWN reports on p1 that the pitch will be turned into a “safe and self-supporting environment…for general recreational sports” until the site is developed. Of course, there was a “safe..etc” facility before June 2018 when the ground was closed on the grounds that the site was to be redeveloped even though no planning permission had been made and even though no replacement ground had been found. In retrospect, this was an awful tactical, strategic, financial and public relations blunder and has resulted in the Council being on the back foot ever since.

Sound Newbury reports that the Council has confirmed that Live Music on The Bandstand can resume from 19 July. The first gig will be Through Mountains – Indie Acoustic on Saturday 7 August from 3 to 5pm.
• Local residents who want to put pressure on Newbury Town Council to ensure Victoria Park lives up to its description of the Park as the “Jewel in the Crown” have started a new ParkWatch facebook page.
• If you walk in the Chase at Woolton Hill please keep your dogs on a lead as the National Trust have recently put the cows back.

• West Berkshire has regular guide-led health walks starting in Hermitage, Northcroft, Snelsmore and Thatcham Discovery Centre for people of all abilities, especially those who are inactive or do little physical activity. See here for more details. These walks are friendly, welcoming and empowering, and a great opportunity to explore the outdoors, discover new places and meet new people.

• New community larders are running in Newbury, Thatcham and Wantage – click here for details. The Thatcham one launched this week at the Frank Hutchings Community Hall and the Mayor and Deputy Mayor were delighted to see a sneak preview of it last week. The scheme is not means tested and is open to all and so if you’re curious about saving money and preventing food waste, why not pop along and see what it’s all about.

• A reminder that the Sandleford enquiry has reached its conclusion with a decision expected to be taken by the Secretary of State later this year. You can read some views about some of the many issues which this troubled application has exposed here.

• You can also read a statement from Newbury Town Council on the enquiry here.

• The judging for the 2021 Newbury in Bloom will take place in the week commencing 19 July – more details here.

• The most recent meeting (also the annual meeting) of Newbury Town Council took place on 4 May and you can download the minutes here. Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.

• Residents of Hamstead Marshall will recently have received a letter reminding them about the various events that are planned at the village’s excellent White Hart Inn.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council (also the annual meeting) took place on 6 May and you can read the minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council took place on 21 June and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: governance and financial matters; one planning application; an update on the solar farm; a possible development at Wash Water Farm; crossing the road near the school; and the footpath along Enborne Row.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council took place on 6 July and you can read the draft minutes here. Items covered included: the parish plan questionnaire; the conservation area appraisal; flooding issues; a rapid response from WBC to a footpath problem; planning matters; financial matters; defibrillators; the Village Hall; and the PC’s response to WBC’s consultation with then and parish councils.

• There was also an extraordinary meeting of Boxford PC on 22 June for the sole purpose of discussing the possible creation of a nature reserve. You can read the minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council took place on 9 June and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: governance and financial matters; the removal of the speed camera on Pyle Hill; a number of grants by the PC (including to Readibus); one planning application; the PC website; and the Wildlife Garden.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council took place on 22 June and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: a discussion about the developments at the Newbury Showground – see also above (the meeting noted that “it was thought that the Trustees [of the Newbury & District Agricultural Society] had not considered any other options for the site other than a distribution centre”, that “no financial statements have been made available to the members after being requested” and that the Society has “not been very forthcoming in providing information to the life members”); a discussion about the planning proposal for 21/00980/COMIND (land south of Green Lane) which the PC unanimously opposed; various other planning applications; financial and governance issues; a wasps nest in in the Bardown bus shelter; the local Neighbourhood Watch; a letter of thanks for the Recreation committee; and reports from the councillors.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council took place on 21 April and you can read the minutes here.

• You can see the minutes of the Shaw-cum-Donnington annual parish assembly, which took place on 5 May, here. There were a number of reports from local councillors and others, including on the subject of planning, local charities, footpaths and rights of way, speeding and dogs.

• I mentioned last week that I didn’t know if Hamstead Marshall Parish Council still holds meetings as it hasn’t published any minutes on its website since January 2021. This seems to have changed recently and the minutes for the May meeting is now available, which you can read here. You have to hunt around for the most recent, though, as they seem to be arranged in a random order on the page.

• 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 June 2021 edition.

Thursday 8 July 2021

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

• Newbury Town Council’s (NTC) plans for a community café in Victoria Park received the green light from West Berkshire Council on 30 June and NTC is now turning its attention to how this can be funded. A very short survey document aimed at residents of Newbury has been prepared and NTC welcomes your views by 31 July. Please click here for details.

Click here for the July 2021 newsletter form Newbury Town Council.

• Free weekly Educafe community cafés are launching next week at The Globe Newbury every Wednesday from 11am to 3pm. This is a chance to meet new people, get support, take advantage of learning opportunities and enjoy complimentary tea, cake and snacks.

• Discussions continue between Readibus and West Berkshire Council about the funding for this service (see previous sections below, passim). I understand that the matter of the contentious non-reciprocal confidentiality clause was on the agenda at a meeting in late June. This clause has been the subject of a good deal of spin and redefinition, none of it in the slightest bit convincing. It also seems that this is in contradiction to the preceding clause which ensures transparency. It’s impossible to guess at how much time has been spent by members and officers on defending this mysterious point of principle: more, probably, than the grant funding which has been withheld. A funding page has been set up on The Good Exchange website and grants of £1,000 have each been made by Newbury and Thatcham Town Councils, which will be match funded. A Readibus spokesperson confirmed to Penny Post that this will be enough to enable the service to continue for two days a week for the rest of the year. Hopefully a more permanent solution can be found thereafter, funded by West Berkshire Council or whoever.

• Any comments, suggestions or feedback about the Council’s community transport services 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 proposed re-development of the Kennet Centre (to be known as Eagle Quarter) is again referred to in several letters in this week’s NWN, the height being a recurring theme.

• The draft Vision for Newbury Town Centre has been published and you can see it here. This includes a link to a survey which anyone who lives in, works in or visits Newbury is invited to respond to by midnight on 16 July. “We now need everyone to tell us how they think we’re doing on this project,” Council leader Lynne Doherty said, “and make sure that we’re heading in the right direction. This is an important phase of the process and we’re asking people to take the survey and let us know whether they feel we’re on track. We want as many people as possible to give their opinions.”

• As mentioned last week, the above-mentioned document does mention the Kennet Centre/Eagle Quarter but refrains from any comment on the application which has been submitted. It does, however, point out that “the key issue for the scheme will be whether it can create sufficient development value whilst respecting the historic character of the town centre.” It could have added the concern that it should also create enough affordable housing, something which in its present form at least it does not.

Click here for information the Bedwyn Train Passengers Group about changes to rail services between Bedwyn and Newbury as a result of cracks having been discovered in the IET trains.

• The Newbury & District Agricultural Society – see previous entires below – has recently received an offer from local resident Christopher Mills to buy the Showground for £10m and then lease it to the N&DAS for one month a year for a figure of around £10,000: see p6 of this week’s NWN for more. This would enable the Newbury Show to continue: however, as this has been running at a loss for some years, this might be seen as deepening the financial crisis that caused the problem. How much money the Society is losing and why it’s not possible to run the show profitably are not clear as so far there has been not a great deal of information released, even to the members. This is despite the fact that it was the funds provided by the members which enabled the land to be bought in the first place. The article concludes with a stinging rebuke from Chieveley Parish Council expressing “disappointment” that it has not been involved in the discussions, supporting Mr Mills’ proposal and questioning how “a concrete and tarmac logistics centre” were consistent with N&DAS’s charitable objectives.

I understand that N&DAS has yet to respond to Mr Mills’ offer and appears to be more interested in more meaty ones which would follow from the successful development of the site. These would, however, be conditional on planning approval being received (presumably for some kind of distribution centre) and so may not materialise to that level, or perhaps at all. It would seem that Mr Mills’ option would satisfy the official aims of the charity whereas, as Chievely PC points out, the development solution would not. Nor is it clear how and to whom the revenues, in either case, would be distributed. If Mr Mills’ option is taken up, the members would need assurances that this wouldn’t just be used to fund operating losses which would result in the same problem re-appearing in 10 or 15 years time. Some members argue that  neither sale is necessary given the level of debts (although as mentioned above it’s not clear exactly what these are and whether they could be addressed my other economies). In short, more questions than answers on this one at the moment.

Sound Newbury reports that the Council has confirmed that Live Music on The Bandstand can resume from 19 July. The first gig will be Through Mountains – Indie Acoustic on Saturday 7 August from 3 to 5pm.
• The wild flowers growing on centre and nearby verges of the A339 Newbury College roundabout are receiving lots of admiration and praise. Hats off to those responsible.
• There is a lot of frustration about the ongoing work by Thames Water that involves four-way lights at Shaw. It seems this will be their fifth attempt at fixing the job and it causes a lot of road traffic delays for local residents.
• Local residents who want to put pressure on Newbury Town Council to ensure Victoria Park lives up to its description of the Park as the “Jewel in the Crown” have started a new ParkWatch facebook page.
• If you walk in the Chase at Woolton Hill please keep your dogs on a lead as the National Trust have recently put the cows back.

• West Berkshire has regular guide-led health walks starting in Hermitage, Northcroft, Snelsmore and Thatcham Discovery Centre for people of all abilities, especially those who are inactive or do little physical activity. See here for more details. These walks are friendly, welcoming and empowering, and a great opportunity to explore the outdoors, discover new places and meet new people.

• New community larders are running in Newbury, Thatcham and Wantage – click here for details. The Thatcham one launched this week at the Frank Hutchings Community Hall and the Mayor and Deputy Mayor were delighted to see a sneak preview of it last week. The scheme is not means tested and is open to all and so if you’re curious about saving money and preventing food waste, why not pop along and see what it’s all about.

• A reminder that the Sandleford enquiry has reached its conclusion with a decision expected to be taken by the Secretary of State later this year. You can read some views about some of the many issues which this troubled application has exposed here.

• You can also read a statement from Newbury Town Council on the enquiry here.

• The judging for the 2021 Newbury in Bloom will take place in the week commencing 19 July – more details here.

• The most recent meeting (also the annual meeting) of Newbury Town Council took place on 4 May and you can download the minutes here. Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.

• Residents of Hamstead Marshall will recently have received a letter reminding them about the various events that are planned at the village’s excellent White Hart Inn.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council (also the annual meeting) took place on 6 May and you can read the minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council (also the annual meeting) took place on 4 May and you can read the minutes here.

• The three Hungerford and Kintbury ward members, Claire Rowles, Dennis Benneyworth and James Cole, have managed to secure a grants for Enborne in the latest round of members’ bids – £1,457 for the cost of moving the gate on the school playing field.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council (also the annual meeting) took place on 4 May and you can read the draft minutes here.

• There was also an extraordinary meeting of Boxford PC on 22 June for the sole purpose of discussing the possible creation of a nature reserve. You can read the minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council took place on 5 May and you can read the minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council (also the annual meeting) took place on 5 May and you can read the minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council took place on 21 April and you can read the minutes here.

• You can see the minutes of the Shaw-cum-Donnington annual parish assembly, which took place on 5 May, here. There were a number of reports from local councillors and others, including on the subject of planning, local charities, footpaths and rights of way, speeding and dogs.

• I don’t know if Hamstead Marshall Parish Council still holds meetings: it certainly hasn’t published any minutes on its website since January 2021.

• 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 June 2021 edition.

Thursday 1 July 2021

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

• Newbury Town Council’s (NTC) plans for a community café in Victoria Park received the green light from West Berkshire Council on 30 June and NTC is now turning its attention to how this can be funded. A very short survey document aimed at residents of Newbury has been prepared and NTC welcomes your views by 31 July. Please click here for details.

• Free weekly Educafe community cafés are launching next week at The Globe Newbury every Wednesday from 11am – 3pm. This is a chance to meet new people, get support, take advantage of learning opportunities, enjoy complimentary tea, cake, and other snacks.

• It appears that some solution, perhaps only a temporary one, has been found to the problem of the funding of the Readibus service (see previous sections below, passim). A funding page has been set up on The Good Exchange website and grants of £1,000 have each been made by Newbury and Thatcham Town Councils, which will be match funded. Whether this represents a sustainable long-term funding model remains to be seen, as does whether additional funds can be raised to return the service to its pre-2019 level of five days a week. As mentioned, the impasse with West Berkshire Council turns on what has been termed a “gagging clause” but which I would describe, less snappily, as a non-reciprocal confidentiality clause. WBC has claimed that this is standard (though new) and that the other providers have signed it; Readibus has said that its board of trustees will not sign the agreement as it stands with the result that some of the funding has been withheld. I’m not sure whether the other suppliers are receiving a grant (as Readibus is) or the payment for a specified service: if the latter then the agreements are not comparable and what might be normal to insist on for one would not always be for the other. In any case, confidentiality clauses are usually reciprocal. Debating this issue has already occupied a vast amount of time and discussions continue.

On a brighter note – and a reminder of what this is all about – Readibus told me this week that three Newbury residents who had barely left home since the start of the pandemic used the service on 30 June and said that they were “so happy” to be able to get out again.

• Any comments, suggestions or feedback about the Council’s community transport services 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 proposed re-development of the Kennet Centre (to be known as Eagle Quarter) is referred to in several letters in this week’s NWN, the height being a recurring theme. As mentioned before, I feel that some of these are hankering for a return to a type of town that may never have existed.

• The draft Vision for Newbury Town Centre has been published and you can see it here. This includes a link to a survey which anyone who lives in, works in or visits Newbury is invited to respond to. I spoke to Wayne Hemingway of Hemingway Design, which was commissioned by WBC to create a masterplan for the town centre. “We had an excellent response to our initial consultation earlier this year,” he told us. “This gave us a lot of valuable insights into what people wanted from the town in the future. Now’s the time to comment on the draft vision that’s been created as a result – it’ll only take about 10 minutes to express your views.”

• The above-mentioned document does mention the Kennet Centre/Eagle Quarter but refrains from any comment on the application which has been submitted. It does, however, point out that “the key issue for the scheme will be whether it can create sufficient development value whilst respecting the historic character of the town centre.” 

Click here for information the Bedwyn Train Passengers Group about changes to rail services between Bedwyn and Newbury as a result of cracks having been discovered in the IET trains.

• Penny and I were delighted to have been invited to attend the mayor-making ceremony in Newbury last weekend at which new Mayor (and former Deputy Mayor) Billy Drummond and his Deputy Gary Norman were sworn in, an event that was postponed by a year because of the pandemic: the previous incumbent, Elizabeth O’Keefe, had served a two-year term. The civic traditions of the town date back to 1596 when a royal charter was granted and have been honoured ever since. I was much taken with the scarlet and blue robes and the black and gold three-cornered hats worn by the main participants. The fact that they were all also wearing facemarks created, at first glance, a slightly surreal, even sinister, impression (though not as much as if these had been in the same colours).

The organisers did an excellent job of converting the ceremony to accord with social-distancing requirements. The new Mayor confirmed that Speakability was to be his chosen charity and expressed that hope that he could get 100 local people or groups each to raise £100 for this cause. Both he and the new Deputy Mayor thanked the people who had supported them and the various community groups and causes which they intended to continue to support with, as the Deputy put it, “lightness of touch but seriousness of purpose.” Much the same could be said of the event itself. A regular display of ceremony and tradition is not an excuse to wear fancy hats and robes but to remind us that local rights were often hard won and needed to be defended by officials and representatives. This is perhaps no less true now than it was in the late 16th century. As the Mayor observed at the end of his remarks, “we are facing many difficult decisions from national to local level, including at Newbury Town Council. These government’s decisions will affect us all and therefore it is essential we work together to maintain and improve the lives of all concerned, especially for the residents of our beautiful market town of Newbury.”

• The Newbury & District Agricultural Society – see previous entires below – held an information evening on 30 June. It appears that the board remains convinced that a sale of the Showground it its preferred option despite other less drastic solutions being suggested. How the money will be spent, what the future of the charity will be once it’s sold its principal asset and whether the Charity Commission’s permission will be needed before the sale can happen at all remain to be seen. The NADS website describes the organisation as “a charity whose purpose is to inspire education and learning in our communities underpinned by farming, agriculture and rural enterprise,” while its articles of association adds that its aim is to “promote, advance and improve for the public benefit agriculture, horticulture, forestry and rural crafts and skills in all their branches.” If the site is sold, it will presumably be for development. It’s too close to the M4 for homes but it would be ideally situated for a distribution centre.

Sound Newbury reports that the Council has confirmed that Live Music on The Bandstand can resume from 19 July. The first gig will be Through Mountains – Indie Acoustic on Saturday 7 August from 3 to 5pm.
• The wild flowers growing on centre and nearby verges of the A339 Newbury College roundabout are receiving lots of admiration and praise. Hats off to those responsible.
• There is a lot of frustration about the ongoing work by Thames Water that involves four-way lights at Shaw. It seems this will be their fifth attempt at fixing the job and it causes a lot of road traffic delays for local residents.
• Local residents who want to put pressure on Newbury Town Council to ensure Victoria Park lives up to its description of the Park as the “Jewel in the Crown” have started a new ParkWatch facebook page.
• If you walk in the Chase at Woolton Hill please keep your dogs on a lead as the National Trust have this week put the cows back.

• West Berkshire has regular guide-led health walks starting in Hermitage, Northcroft, Snelsmore and Thatcham Discovery Centre for people of all abilities, especially those who are inactive or do little physical activity. See here for more details. These walks are friendly, welcoming and empowering, and a great opportunity to explore the outdoors, discover new places and meet new people.

• New community larders are running in Newbury, Thatcham and Wantage – click here for details. The Thatcham one launched this week at the Frank Hutchings Community Hall and the Mayor and Deputy Mayor were delighted to see a sneak preview of it last week. The scheme is not means tested and is open to all and so if you’re curious about saving money and preventing food waste, why not pop along and see what it’s all about.

• A reminder that the Sandleford enquiry has reached its conclusion with a decision expected to be taken by the Secretary of State later this year. You can read some views about some of the many issues which this troubled application has exposed here.

• You can also read a statement from Newbury Town Council on the enquiry here.

• The judging for the 2021 Newbury in Bloom will take place in the week commencing 19 July – more details here.

• The most recent meeting (also the annual meeting) of Newbury Town Council took place on 4 May and you can download the minutes here. Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.

• Residents of Hamstead Marshall will recently have received a letter reminding them about the various events that are planned at the village’s excellent White Hart Inn.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council (also the annual meeting) took place on 6 May and you can read the minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council (also the annual meeting) took place on 4 May and you can read the minutes here.

• The three Hungerford and Kintbury ward members, Claire Rowles, Dennis Benneyworth and James Cole, have managed to secure a grants for Enborne in the latest round of members’ bids – £1,457 for the cost of moving the gate on the school playing field.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council (also the annual meeting) took place on 4 May and you can read the draft minutes here.

• There was also an extraordinary meeting of Boxford PC on 22 June for the sole purpose of discussing the possible creation of a nature reserve. You can read the minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council took place on 5 May and you can read the minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council (also the annual meeting) took place on 5 May and you can read the minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council took place on 21 April and you can read the minutes here.

• You can see the minutes of the Shaw-cum-Donnington annual parish assembly, which took place on 5 May, here. There were a number of reports from local councillors and others, including on the subject of planning, local charities, footpaths and rights of way, speeding and dogs.

• 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 June 2021 edition.

Thursday 24 June 2021

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

Click here for information the Bedwyn Train Passengers Group about changes to rail services between Bedwyn and Newbury as a result of cracks having been discovered in the IET trains.

• The proposed re-development of the Kennet Centre (to be known as Eagle Quarter) is referred to in this week’s NWN. This quotes a recent Newbury Town Council working party as re-stressing the Council’s view that the building is too tall. Another issue which has been raised is the lack of affordable homes. When I last asked the owners about this I was told that WBC had no policy on affordable homes for rental-only developments, although WBC later assured me that it did. It probably also has a policy on the number of car-parking spaces, another contentious issue. The plans seem to me to be fairly pleasing and a vast improvement on what is there currently (which isn’t to say that therefore anything else will do). It might also be worth waiting to see what recommendations the Newbury masterplan comes up with when it’s published (in the next few weeks, I think). A good many people responded to that and I’m sure the Kennet Centre would have featured in many comments about how the town should develop.

• No further news as to what the next move is with the proposed EGM of the Newbury & District Agricultural Society – see previous entires below.

• The vaccination centre at Newbury Racecourse, which opened on 13 January 2021, jabbed its last arm on 16 June. In all, it provided over 66,000 injections, slightly over half of these being the first dose. Well done to all involved in organising and staffing what appears to have been a very well-run operation. Click here for information about booking a vaccination from now on.

• Quite a few questions still remain about how West Berkshire Council has handled its relationship with Readibus – which has for decades been providing transport services for people in the area with mobility problems but has recently run up against what can most simply be termed a funding issue. But these can wait (and will be returned to). The main thing is to ensure that this service can continue for its users, several of whom have contacted Penny Post to express their dismay and confusion at the fact that the service might be withdrawn. A donation page is available on The Good Exchange website here (at the time of writing the page said it closed on 14 June but I’m assured it has been extended). It’s also hoped that other sources of funding will become available. I hope there’ll be some good news to report in the next few weeks.

The question of the so-called “gagging clause” (see earlier sections below) in the Readibus agreement once again reared its head at a meeting of WBC’s executive earlier this month, as reported on p4 of this week’s Newbury Weekly News. This description is not a strictly accurate one, though it does catch the essence of the provision: even more misleading, however, were WBC’s attempts to describe the clause as something other than what it was.

• WBC has asked me to point out that any comments, suggestions or feedback about the Council’s community transport services 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.

• This week Nortbrook Street saw some excitement when a bike parked on the street attracted a swarm of bees. It is not reported what it was about the bike, its luggage or its rider that caused the sudden interest. It all ended well as it wasn’t pest control but the local beekeepeing association that swooped in to scoop up the swarm to safety. Their white body suits must have caused some alarm, though…

• West Berkshire has regular guide-led health walks starting in Hermitage, Northcroft, Snelsmore and Thatcham Discovery Centre for people of all abilities, especially those who are inactive or do little physical activity. See here for more details. These walks are friendly, welcoming and empowering, and a great opportunity to explore the outdoors, discover new places and meet new people.

• Newbury Town Council will be undertaking essential tree works in the woodland between Wash Common Recreation Ground and Blossoms Field starting on 25 June.

• Newbury Town Council’s plans for its £400,000 café in Victoria Park will be decided by WBC’s Western Area Planning Committee next week.

• New community larders are running in Newbury, Thatcham and Wantage – click here for details. The Thatcham one launched this week at the Frank Hutchings Community Hall and the Mayor and Deputy Mayor were delighted to see a sneak preview of it last week. The scheme is not means tested and is open to all and so if you’re curious about saving money and preventing food waste, why not pop along and see what it’s all about.

• A reminder that the Sandleford enquiry has reached its conclusion with a decision expected to be taken by the Secretary of State later this year. You can read some views about some of the many issues which this troubled application has exposed here.

• You can also read a statement from Newbury Town Council on the enquiry here.

• The judging for the 2021 Newbury in Bloom will take place in the week commencing 19 July – more details here.

• The most recent meeting (also the annual meeting) of Newbury Town Council took place on 4 May and you can download the minutes here. Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.

• Residents of Hamstead Marshall will recently have received a letter reminding them about the various events that are planned at the village’s excellent White Hart Inn.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council (also the annual meeting) took place on 6 May and you can read the minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council (also the annual meeting) took place on 4 May and you can read the minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council (also the annual meeting) took place on 4 May and you can read the draft minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council took place on 5 May and you can read the minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council (also the annual meeting) took place on 5 May and you can read the minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council took place on 21 April and you can read the minutes here.

• You can see the minutes of the Shaw-cum-Donnington annual parish assembly, which took place on 5 May, here. There were a number of reports from local councillors and others, including on the subject of planning, local charities, footpaths and rights of way, speeding and dogs.

• 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 June 2021 edition.

Thursday 17 June 2021

Click here for details of Covid lateral flow tests, including new collection point in Newbury.

Click here for information the Bedwyn Train Passengers Group about changes to rail services between Bedwyn and Newbury as a result of cracks having been discovered in the IET trains.

• As mentioned last week (see below), several members of the Newbury & District Agricultural Society, a charity whose main public-facing role is the Newbury Show, have triggered an EGM to discuss the parlous state of the charity’s finances and the various proposals for solving this. 15 of June was the date by which this should have been agreed but I understand that this has not so far happened and that the two sides – for it seems that this is becoming slightly adversarial – are not in agreement as to whether a meeting needs to be convened at all. The members who have triggered the EGM appear to be working on the reasonable principle that the less willing an organisation is to have a meeting, the more reason there is for doing so, and are continuing to press their case. Given the magnitude of the proposed decision to sell the Showground, it seems strange that the board didn’t choose to hold a meeting in any case, just to get everyone, as the hideous phrase goes, ‘on-side’ and ‘on-message’ (which they currently are not). I understand this can be done very easily by giving 21 days’ notice.

• I was contacted this week by yet another ReadiBus customer (see previous weeks’ sections below) who told me that they’d investigated other services, including the Handybus, which were unable to provide a like-for-like replacement. They went on to say that they understood the problem to be that WBC had withheld part of the funding. I explained that this was due to the two parties being unable to agree about a confidentiality clause which had, in my view, been misrepresented in statements made by WBC and by the opposition Lib Dems (which was later retracted). There are other issues with regard to this, such as the extraordinary grounds on which a consultation was not regarded as being necessary, which I’m parking for the moment. My main concern is to see this useful service resume. I understand that various town and parish councils may be able to solve the funding problem. More news on this when we have it.

• WBC has asked me to point out that any comments, suggestions or feedback about the Council’s community transport services 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.

• There are doubts as to when, or perhaps whether, the popular parkruns can resume. These have since 2014 taken place at Greenham Common but, as WBC’s Head of Countryside Paul Hendry explained at a media briefing earlier this week, two levels of permission are required: as normal from the Public Protection Partnership on safety grounds (including relating to Covid) but also from the Greenham Commission which is concerned about the ecological and environmental aspect and so far these permissions have not been granted. Parkrun has been the victim of its own success (the first one had 150 runners and the most recent over 700). Another problem is that it’s a “turn up and run” event without advance registration, which makes it next to impossible to control or limit the numbers. Other venues, other seasons and splitting the race are all being considered as alternatives.

• A real treat earlier this week when we went to see The Watermill’s outdoor performance of The Hound of the Baskervilles performed by an energetic and versatile three-person company who had devised an adaptation that had just enough (but not too many) references to social distances and breaches of the fourth wall. The weather was glorious, though sadly this might not be guaranteed for everyone. I think I’ve read most of Holmes stories and novels at least once and the Hound is one of my favourites (the best, I think, is the novel The Valley of Fear which has towards its end a completely unexpected OMG moment in the shape of a sentence containing only four words which completely turns the plot on its head.)

• Newbury Town Council will be undertaking essential tree works in the woodland between Wash Common Recreation Ground and Blossoms Field starting on 25 June.

• WBC has announced that Birchwood Care Home, which was taken over from a private provider in 2017 when it was “requiring improvement” has recently been graded “good” by the CQC.

• Newbury Town Council’s third Climate Change Workshop was held on Saturday 15 May 2021 and is available to view online.

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

• A reminder that the Sandleford enquiry has, bar a few bits of homework, reached its conclusion. The long-running saga evinces some wider points about the planning system, the role of developers, landowners and ministers and our commitment to sustainable homebuilding as a cornerstone of a battle against climate change. Dr David Cooper, the Treasurer of the campaign group SayNoToSandleford.org.uk has explored some of these issues in a separate post which you can read here.

• You can also read a statement from Newbury Town Council on the enquiry here.

• The Newbury in Bloom 2021 campaign is now under way – more details here.

• It’s hoped the lido in Newbury will be able to open on 21 June – see more here. I checked with the Northcroft Centre on 17 June and was assured that, unless something drastic happens, that date will be kept to. As it’s an outside activity it can accommodate up to 250 people, though this may vary at certain times. Slots must be booked in advance: click here to visit the Centre’s website. I can also confirm that the pool is 66.75 metres long (73 yards in old money). Seems like an odd length but there you are – that’s what it is.

• The most recent meeting (also the annual meeting) of Newbury Town Council took place on 4 May and you can download the minutes here. Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council (also the annual meeting) took place on 6 May and you can read the minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council (also the annual meeting) took place on 4 May and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: the election of the chairman and vice chairman; the need for a new councillor; one planning application; and various year-end and financial matters.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council (also the annual meeting) took place on 4 May and you can read the draft minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council took place on 5 May and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: formal year-end business; the Newbury Racecourse Residents’ Association; allotments; the location of future meetings; financial matters; a grant for the Greenham Peace Women 40th Anniversary Event; planning matters; the Community Engagement Working Group; the GPC Environment project; and the Control Tower.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council (also the annual meeting) took place on 5 May and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: formal year-end matters; planning applications; speeding and traffic-calming measures; financial matters; grant awards; appointments to committees and working parties; rights of way; discussion of what was and was not an agenda item; and a discussion about the damage and destruction caused by diverted traffic as a result of the recent closure of Hermitage Road for roadworks.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council took place on 21 April and you can read the minutes here.

• You can see the minutes of the Shaw-cum-Donnington annual parish assembly, which took place on 5 May, here. There were a number of reports from local councillors and others, including on the subject of planning, local charities, footpaths and rights of way, speeding and dogs.

• 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 June 2021 edition. Items covered include: the new wildlife group; planning applications; a report of the 2021 annual parish assembly; the Village Hall; two local WhatsApp groups; and the new owners of the Elm Farm field.

Thursday 10 June 2021

Click here for details of Covid lateral flow tests, including new collection point in Newbury.

• The timetables for the West Berkshire Council’s mobile community collect service for lateral-flow tests has recently changed – details can be found here.

Click here for information the Bedwyn Train Passengers Group about changes to rail services between Bedwyn and Newbury as a result of cracks having been discovered in the IET trains.

• The most recent edition of Newbury Town Council’s NTC News has just been published and you can read it here.

• The Great British Spring Clean takes place between 28 May and 13 June. Contact your local Newbury Town Councillor to see how you can get involved in a litter pick event near you. To find your local Councillor click here. Click on the relevant parish council link below to see how you can get involved in surrounding villages.

• As mentioned last week (see below), several members of the Newbury & District Agricultural Society, a charity whose main public-facing role is the Newbury Show, have triggered an EGM to discuss the parlous state of the charity’s finances and the various proposals for solving this. The articles of association state that the board must have fixed a time, date and venue for the meeting within 21 days (by Tuesday 15 June): as of 10 June, we understand that this has not happened. If the 15 June date is passed then the members requesting the EGM can agree the details. More on this next week, by which time one or other of these things should have happened.

• I know I’ve said this before, but discussions continue to try to resolve the ReadiBus situation (see previous weeks’ sections below).

• WBC has asked me to point out that any comments, suggestions or feedback about the Council’s community transport services 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.

Ask A Young Person  is a collaborative event between Newbury Town Council, Berkshire Youth, Time to Talk West Berkshire and Community United West Berkshire. The event will consist of a 90-minute Zoom session (4.30pm to 6pm on Thursday 17 June) with mentors and facilitators exploring what can be done  to support the needs of young people in Newbury and to allow them to have a voice on matters that affect them. More information can be found here.

• The NHS Commemorative Garden at Old Hospital Green, Andover Road, together with an interpretation panel was officially unveiled by the Mayor of Newbury, Cllr Billy Drummond together with local NHS representatives Christine Stockwell, Patient Liaison and Inpatient Manager Eileen Henderson on 4 June.

• Newbury Town Council’s third Climate Change Workshop was held on Saturday 15 May 2021 and is now available to view online.

• New community larders are starting up in Newbury, Thatcham and Wantage – click here for details.

• As mentioned last week (see below), the Sandleford enquiry has, bar a few bits of drafting, reached its conclusion. The whole long-running saga evinces some wider points about the planning system, the role of developers, landowners and ministers and our commitment to sustainable homebuilding as a cornerstone of a battle against climate change. Dr David Cooper, the Treasurer of the campaign group SayNoToSandleford.org.uk has explored some of these issues in a separate post which you can read here.

• You can also read a statement from Newbury Town Council on the enquiry here.

The redevelopment of the Waterside Centre is set to receive a boost if a proposed donation from West Berkshire Council is agreed at a meeting of the WBC’s Executive. The donation, totalling £250,000, is being financed from developer contributions. A WBC spokesperson said that “this aligns with the Council’s Recovery Strategy which outlines what the authority will do to help the community build back better after the pandemic. The investment will bring forward a facility for local young people, for whom the impact of Covid has been particularly significant.” The Centre was previously owned by West Berkshire Council but a 50% share was sold to Berkshire Youth in 2019 so it could redevelop the space. Berkshire Youth has since undertaken significant renovations which have been part-funded by private donations including contributions from Greenham Trust and The Good Exchange. Their plans will see the creation of a new climbing wall and new facilities for activities such as dance, canoeing and other sports. Along with its youth working facilities, the premises will also have a café/restaurant overlooking the canal.

• The Newbury in Bloom 2021 campaign is now under way – more details here.

• It’s hoped the lido in Newbury will be able to open on 21 June – see more here. it’s likely that final confirmation – on this and so much else – will need to await the government’s announcement on 14 June.

• In 2020 Newbury Town Council gave grants totalling £24,500 to a wide range of voluntary bodies and local charities. Applications are now open for the 2021 round of funding in partnership with The Good Exchange. You need to have taken the relevant action by 13 June 2021 (so not long now).

• The most recent meeting (also the annual meeting) of Newbury Town Council took place on 4 May and you can download the minutes here. Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council (also the annual meeting) took place on 6 May and you can read the minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council (also the annual meeting) took place on 4 May and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: the election of the chairman and vice chairman; the need for a new councillor; one planning application; and various year-end and financial matters.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council (also the annual meeting) took place on 4 May and you can read the draft minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 14 April and you can read the minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council (also the annual meeting) took place on 5 May and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: formal year-end matters; planning applications; speeding and traffic-calming measures; financial matters; grant awards; appointments to committees and working parties; rights of way; discussion of what was and was not an agenda item; and a discussion about the damage and destruction caused by diverted traffic as a result of the recent closure of Hermitage Road for roadworks.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council took place on 21 April and you can read the minutes here.

• You can see the minutes of the Shaw-cum-Donnington annual parish assembly, which took place on 5 May, here. There were a number of reports from local councillors and others, including on the subject of planning, local charities, footpaths and rights of way, speeding and dogs.

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

Thursday 3 June 2021

Click here for details of Covid lateral flow tests, including new collection point in Newbury.

• The timetables for the West Berkshire Council’s mobile community collect service for lateral-flow tests has recently changed – details can be found here.

Click here for information the Bedwyn Train Passengers Group about changes to rail services between Bedwyn and Newbury as a result of cracks having been discovered in the IET trains.

• The most recent edition of Newbury Town Council’s NTC News has just been published and you can read it here.

• The Great British Spring Clean takes place between 28 May and 13 June. Contact your local Newbury Town Councillor to see how you can get involved in a litter pick event near you. To find your local Councillor click here. Click on the relevant parish council link below to see how you can get involved in surrounding villages. If you are organising a clean-up, please pledge to pick (as an individual or as a group) here: West Berkshire Council can loan litter-picking equipment to help you carry out your event but please give them as much notice as possible and check availability before advertising it. See p8 of this week’s Newbury Weekly News for a report on clean ups that happened in the Newbury area over the bank holiday.

• As mentioned last week (see below), several members of the Newbury & District Agricultural Society, a charity whose main public-facing role is the Newbury Show, have triggered an EGM to discuss the parlous state of the charity’s finances and the various proposals for solving this. I understand that this has been acknowledged but no date or venue has been suggested (something that must happen within 21 days of receipt of the request, which was made about 10 days ago).

• I know I’ve said this before, but discussions continue to try to resolve the ReadiBus situation (see previous weeks’ sections below). Although there are many things about the way this has been handled that merit closer investigation, the most important thing is ensuring that the service is able to continue – however, and by whoever, it is funded. Hopefully there’ll be some better news soon. The Newbury and Thatcham Handybus service has recently celebrated 35 years of working with WBC and its predecessor, Newbury District Council. Readibus has been working on the same basis for two years longer – don’t remember seeing a similar celebration of this milestone on WBC’s site in 2019. Must have missed that.

• WBC has asked me to point out that any comments, suggestions or feedback about the Council’s community transport services 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.

• We were at the Artisan Market last Sunday and bought some plants, some honey, a small arty-jangly thing and had some great food – well done to all of those at Newbury BID and elsewhere who’ve brought this back to life after its Covid shutdown.

• This week’s NWN reports on p2 on a dispute between blue-badge holders living in the new development at the Racecourse and the management company, which has insisted that the disabled bays may only be used by visitors, not residents (a reversal of the normal parking priorities). The article goes on to quote the Chair of the recently-formed Newbury Racecourse Residents’ Association as saying that there are “quite a few issues” with the management company, Remus. Wasn’t Remus the lad out of Roman mythology who was suckled by a wolf and murdered by his brother? Not a great choice of name for a company, perhaps…

Ask A Young Person  is a collaborative event between Newbury Town Council, Berkshire Youth, Time to Talk West Berkshire and Community United West Berkshire. The event will consist of a 90-minute Zoom session (4.30pm to 6pm on Thursday 17 June) with mentors and facilitators exploring what can be done  to support the needs of young people in Newbury and to allow them to have a voice on matters that affect them. More information can be found here.

• The proposed lease terms for the football ground to be relocated at the Rugby Club were discussed and agreed at WBC’s council meeting last month. It’s not now expected that the terms of the lease will be made public. Another thing that might be happening with this seemingly never-ending saga is an application to renew the Faraday Road ground’s status as an asset of community value, something which expires in September 2021.

• New community larders are starting up in Newbury, Thatcham and Wantage – click here for details.

• As mentioned last week, the enquiry into the Sandleford development (the matter has been called in by the Secretary of State following an appeal by one of the developers against West Berkshire Council’s decision to refuse its application) reached its effective conclusion on 28 May (there is still some behind-the-scenes work to be done including the drawing of some of documents). I have gathered together some of the reactions to WBC’s Planning Department’s refusal that precipitated this, which you can read here.

To describe this enquiry as long, complex, technical, legalistic, divisive, expensive and important would be an understatement. The event is perhaps also notable for seeing local councillors (and WBC’s officers) directing their expertise and local knowledge towards a common goal rather than, as is so often the case, trying to score political points. The main issue, for WBC and the affected parish and town councils of Greenham and Newbury, was to convince the inspector that WBC’s decision last year to refuse permission for the site was correct. This was not taken because WBC believed that the site cannot be developed – it is still in WBC’s local plan – but because the plans as proposed by the two developers consistently failed to meet various key objectives and that WBC was not prepared to agree to development on any terms. Did the arguments of the opponents succeed?

Well (and there’s no spoiler alert here) we don’t know. It will take some months for the Inspector to cover the mass of evidence and make her recommendation to the Secretary of State, and for him to make his final decision. Even if the appeal is granted, a number of the problems still remain. The need for a single comprehensive outline application, which the two developers have so far not been able to provide, will probably be one. WBC has not ruled out the possibility of a compulsory purchase order, though the mind boggles at how much that might cost.

Many other issues were aired which suggested that the plans were flawed. These included the problems of access; the issue of active travel; harm to the habitat and landscape (the loss of ancient woodland was described by WBC’s counsel as being “of such magnitude that it renders any BNG [bio-diversity net gain] as technical and academic”); landscaping; (the same document considered the developer’s assessment of this as “inadequate”); the drainage (each proposed solution “solved one problem and created another”); the local centre (“which may never be delivered”); and carbon neutrality.

The latter point was addressed over 22 paragraphs in WBC’s counsel’s concluding remarks. The government has backtracked on its building regulations to encourage carbon neutrality, the regulations are complicated, a final resolution of these is some years away and local councils seem unclear as to how far they can insist on standards more stringent than the national ones (under the so-called “Merton rule,” after the London borough that first established that this was possible). There therefore appears to be a confusion, when “regulations” are mentioned, which to ones are being referred to, which allows for a good deal of debate wriggle room.

The counsel’s final remark on this point was that it was “inexplicable to everyone except house builders how proceeding with minimum possible compliance, and adding to carbon emissions, can possibly be permitted,” and that “the Council’s proposed condition is lawful.” This seems to go right to the heart of the problem: “minimum compliance” is by definition lawful: will WBC’s proposed improvements, which partly anticipate the proposed future homes standard, be accepted by the Secretary of State? If they are, this will be a decision of national importance.

Another matter of national importance was referred to last week when WBC and Greenham Parish Councillor Tony Vickers in his closing statement honed in on the problem of the Unilateral Undertaking (UU), which takes the place of Section 106 agreements when a matter has gone to appeal. In its present form, the UU would not only leave the homeowners at the mercy of a management company for the maintenance of common property such as open spaces but also cost WBC developer contributions. He also stressed the point that the location of the site was increasingly at odds with the need of a carbon-neutral transport policy. “The evidence I put before the Inquiry from the Foundation for Integrated Transport,” he observed, “shows that developments like this one do not result in sustainable travel. They are as car-dependent as those built in the 60s and 70s when planners thought cycling was history.”

Campaign groups also had their chance to express their views. Say No to Sandleford (SNtS) has long campaigned against this development for a range of reasons and instead to encourage WBC to “develop smaller more sustainable mixed use brownfield sites and sustainable housing in the surrounding villages” (a message that might also apply to the proposed 2,500-homes site to the north east of Thatcham, which seems likely to run into any of the same problems). The closing address from SNtS spokesperson Peter Norman took an understandably wider view than did WBC’s counsel’s and asked why the site had been approved at all and the suggested that “the legacy of the process that allowed WBC to take this decision” is what the enquiry was effectively examining. He also highlighted various other deep-seated problems with the application, including the location of the school, the lack of a holistic approach, the site’s lack of accessibility and various inherent contradictions between the proposals and WBC’s own strategy.

All three closing statements were necessarily long and technical and it’s beyond my poor powers to summarise them fully or to do more than pick out the odd phrase. The final remarks in such documents should bring their points to a neat conclusion, so I’ll leave you with these.

• From WBC’s counsel: “There is no rush for this proposal which causes layers of harm from biodiversity to landscape to impact on climate change. There is time to wait for a planning application that does demonstrate a carefully struck balance between built environment and natural environment. If not, the Council has plans of its own.”

• From SNtS: “If the Secretary of State allows this scheme to go ahead it will send a clear message of housing over the environment regardless of whether there are better places to build. If he refuses on all the grounds we have outlined above then it would be a statement that this Government really does intend to Build Back Better.”

• From Tony Vickers: “I’m afraid I can’t accept that the scheme as it stands is anything but a disaster. We need to have it determined under the emerging new Local Plan, Ma’am, so please recommend dismissal of the appeal.”

On 31 May, WBC Leader Lynne Doherty promised Penny Post a statement from WBC as soon as possible. Penny Post has also, more recently, contacted Bloor Homes for a statement and will add any response here or in next week’ column. A number of people, in West Berkshire and beyond, will await the Secretary of State’s decision with interest.

• Another planning application in Newbury, at the Turnpike Industrial Estate, provides a perfect example of why more than just government regulation (when it happens) is needed to help combat climate change. The developers, CALA, told Newbury Town Council’s planning committee meeting last month that it wasn’t going to fit air-source heat pumps, as opposed to gas boilers, as there was currently no requirement to do so. To do so, the spokesman continued, would cost £10-15,000 (a figure that one of the councillors at the meeting I spoke to felt was plucked out of the air). On one level that’s fair enough as developers need to make a profit; but there’s more to it than that. The time will come when, rather than being seen as a pointless extra cost, such aspects are regarded as essential by purchasers if they are going to be able to sell the property in the future. I can’t help feeling that developers should be making more of this; also stressing that such a heating system will have paid for itself through reduced bills within 10 or 15 years. The more developers do this, the more their competitors will be compelled to follow their lead. Market forces in some ways provide a purer motive for doing something than does legislation, important though that is: the first thing most companies probably do when a new regulation comes in is to work out how they can circumvent it.

The other thing developers could do if they didn’t want to install all the gizmos is to ensure that the homes are suitable for non-fossil-fuel heating systems in the future and that the expensive and disruptive business of retro-fitting can be made as easy as possible. This would include appropriate insulation (which CALA has said it will be doing in Turnpike), a suitable space inside or outside for any equipment and ducting and the like for solar panels. They could then fairly claim that much of the hard work had been done without the major costs of actually installing the kit, charge extra for this prescience and have a big PR benefit into the bargain. It seems to me that the industry is being dragged unwillingly towards a situation that is going to happen one day but is making little or no attempt to meet it half way. I’m not trying to lecture them about their ethics but merely point out how profits and the doing the right thing can be aligned.

• The Newbury in Bloom 2021 campaign is now under way – more details here.

• It’s hoped the lido in Newbury will be able to open on 21 June but that hasn’t been confirmed yet.

• In 2020 Newbury Town Council gave grants totalling £24,500 to a wide range of voluntary bodies and local charities. Applications are now open for the 2021 round of funding in partnership with The Good Exchange. You need to have taken the relevant action by 13 June 2021.

• Newbury Town Council is inviting local residents take part in a Public Consultation regarding improvements to the Wash Common Recreation Ground and Open Space. The Town Council already provide a number of recreation facilities on the site and would like your views on how the area could be improved. Click here for more information. Closing date is Sunday 6 June (so not long now).

• The NWN reports on p9 that a treasure hunter recently struck lucky twice in two sites in Speen, unearthing a horrid (or two hoards) of Iron-age and Roman coins. I didn’t know that WBC has a Finds Liaison Officer to whom such finds can (or perhaps should, or even must – I’m not sure) be reported: emailing Philip.smither1@westberks.gov.uk is you find him.

• The most recent meeting (also the annual meeting) of Newbury Town Council took place on 4 May and you can download the minutes here. Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Council (also the annual general meeting) took place on 6 May and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: the election of the chairman and vice chairman; committee appointments; financial and year-end matters; a report from ward member and WBC Leader Lynne Doherty; the parish improvement plan; the war memorial; the phone box at Stockcross; footpaths; and the tennis club.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council (also the annual meeting) took place on 4 May and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: the election of the chairman and vice chairman; the need for a new councillor; one planning application; and various year-end and financial matters.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council (also the annual general meeting) took place on 4 May and you can read the draft minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 14 April and you can read the minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council took place on 13 April and you can read the minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council took place on 21 April and you can read the minutes here.

• You can see the minutes of the Shaw-cum-Donnington annual parish assembly, which took place on 5 May, here. There were a number of reports from local councillors and others, including on the subject of planning, local charities, footpaths and rights of way, speeding and dogs.

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

Thursday 27 May 2021

Click here for details of Covid lateral flow tests, including new collection point in Newbury.

• The timetables for the West Berkshire Council’s mobile community collect service for lateral-flow tests has recently changed – details can be found here.

Click here for information the Bedwyn Train Passengers Group about changes to rail services between Bedwyn and Newbury as a result of cracks having been discovered in the IET trains.

• The May edition of Newbury Town Council’s NTC News has just been published and you can read it here.

• The Great British Spring Clean takes place between 28 May and 13 June. Contact your local Newbury Town Councillor to see how you can get involved in a litter pick event near you in Newbury on Sat 29 May and Sun 30 May. To find your local Councillor click here. Click on the relevant parish council link below to see how you can get involved in surrounding villages. If you are organising a clean-up, please pledge to pick (as an individual or as a group) here: West Berkshire Council can loan litter-picking equipment to help you carry out your event but please give them as much notice as possible and check availability before advertising it.

• Since the pandemic struck, and perhaps for some time before that, the Newbury & District Agricultural Society, a charity whose main public-facing role is the Newbury Show, has been in financial trouble.  I understand that the debts are in excess of £200,000 but it does have assets to call on, including the 175-odd-acre Showground near M4 J14. In October 2020, Newbury Today reported that this site could be put up for sale; also that other options were being looked at. It seems that the board has decided that only two options exist: sell the ground or put the charity into administration. The former option was still actively being pursued with the list of preferred bidders for the site (which probably can’t be used for housing due to its proximity to the M4) having been reduced to four, discussions with whom were progressing even as the emails to the 1,000+ members were being sent.

Not all members agree with this and a letter has recently been sent on behalf on more than enough of them to trigger an extraordinary general meeting to discuss matters further. The details need to be agreed and publicised within 21 days (so any time between now and mid-June) with a further 21 days then being required as a notice period. One of the proposals is that the sale of the 44-acre car park near Prior’s Court would raise more than enough to cover the debts and restore the NDAS to financial solvency. The Showground could still be used, perhaps for slightly smaller events. The Show has long outgrown its agricultural origins and is perhaps too large to be easily organised, managed and (for some attended). Two cancellations into consecutive years clearly didn’t help but it does slightly suggest that the current model wasn’t viable. it remains to be seen what other options emerge from the EGM and whether any binding agreement has been signed with a developer in the meantime.

• Once again, the proposed Kennet Centre re-development (to be known as Eagle Quarter) features in the letters page of this week’s Newbury Weekly News. One of the letters is from Dr David Peacock of the Newbury Society. He urges people to study the plans (rather than the artist’s impressions) which you can do by looking at the application on WBC’s website. His main concern seems to be the scale, which rises to 11 storeys, a point others have also made. Questions also still remain (see earlier entries below) about how many affordable homes the development will have, opinion seeming to differ on whether West Berkshire Council has a policy on this matter with build-to-rent developments (WBC says it does, the developers say it doesn’t). Both the height and the housing are valid concerns. Many of the letters, however, seem to be describing a small market town that I don’t quite recognise as Newbury.

• Discussions continue to try to resolve the ReadiBus situation (see previous weeks’ sections below). I mentioned last week that there were a number of issues that the story raises about how (or whether) consultations are conducted in West Berkshire. This is a matter worth returning to but I’ll leave this for the moment in order in the hope that discussions can produce some positive results. Likewise, I have nothing to add to what I said last week (see below) about the confidentiality clause.These slightly arcane debates are in danger of obscuring the fact that the people who risk being the real losers are the  local residents who relied on the service (for which no like-for-like replacement is available) and are now more or less house-bound.

• WBC has asked me to point out that any comments, suggestions or feedback about the Council’s community transport services 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 Artisan Market is back in town this Sunday 30 May from 10am – well done to all of those at Newbury BID and elsewhere who’ve brought this back to life after its Covid shutdown.

Ask A Young Person  is a collaborative event between Newbury Town Council, Berkshire Youth, Time to Talk West Berkshire and Community United West Berkshire. The event will consist of a 90-minute Zoom session (4.30pm to 6pm on Thursday 17 June) with mentors and facilitators exploring what can be done  to support the needs of young people in Newbury and to allow them to have a voice on matters that affect them. More information can be found here.

• The proposed lease terms for the football ground to be relocated at the Rugby Club were discussed and agreed at WBC’s council meeting last month. It’s not now expected that the terms of the lease will be made public.

• New community larders are starting up in Newbury, Thatcham and Wantage – click here for details.

• The inquiry into the Sandleford development (the matter has been called in by the Secretary of State following an appeal by one of the developers against West Berkshire Council’s decision to refuse its application) will reach its conclusion on 28 May. I spoke to one of the participants, WBC and Greenham Parish Councillor Tony Vickers (he’s representing Greenham in this matter). He told me that this involved some quite intense all-day meetings on Zoom and face-to-face and was an “educational” (and presumably also quite a gruelling) experience, even for one as well-versed in planning matters as he is. One of the points he made – and one of the many which have been considered overall – concerns the proposal by the developers, known as a universal undertaking, by which the public spaces will be leased in perpetuity to a management company which can then charge the residents whatever fees it chooses for their upkeep. “Residents should not end up paying such a charge on top of their council tax, for a public open space or local centre that is available to the wider community and which can be managed perfectly well by a local authority and paid for through council tax.” This point the inspector appeared to accept and the developers appeared not to refute. This is a good example of an arcane planning point which, if not dealt with at the outset, can have long-term consequences (and you don’t get any longer term than in perpetuity). The Secretary of State’s decision on the matter will probably be announced in the autumn. I have gathered together some of the reactions to WBC’s Planning Department’s refusal that precipitated this, which you can read here.

• The Newbury in Bloom 2021 campaign is now under way – more details here.

• In 2020 Newbury Town Council gave grants totalling £24,500 to a wide range of voluntary bodies and local charities. Applications are now open for the 2021 round of funding in partnership with The Good Exchange. You need to have taken the relevant action by 13 June 2021.

• A blue plaque has been unveiled at the entrance of Carnarvon Place in Andover Road in Newbury commemorating former resident Constable Albert Alexander who was, in March 1941, the first person to be treated with Penicillin. See p24 of this week’s NWN for a report and photos.

• Newbury Town Council is inviting local residents take part in a Public Consultation regarding improvements to the Wash Common Recreation Ground and Open Space. The Town Council already provide a number of recreation facilities on the site and would like your views on how the area could be improved. Click here for more information. Closing date is Sunday 6 June.

• The most recent meeting (also the annual meeting) of Newbury Town Council took place on 4 May and you can download the minutes here. Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council took place on 26 April and you can read the minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council (also the Annual General Meeting) took place on 4 May and you can read the draft minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 14 April and you can read the minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council took place on 13 April and you can read the minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council took place on 21 April and you can read the minutes here.

• You can see the minutes of the Shaw-cum-Donnington annual parish assembly, which took place on 5 May, here. There were a number of reports from local councillors and others, including on the subject of planning, local charities, footpaths and rights of way, speeding and dogs.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Councillor which minutes are available took place on 22 March and you can read the minutes here.

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

Thursday 20 May 2021

• Click here for the April/May 2021 update from Martin Colston, the Leader of Newbury Town Council. This includes the new date for the Climate Conference (which has now happened), the community café in Victoria Park, the founding of the Friends of Speen Moor group and changes resulting from the reversion to in-person council meetings from 7 May.

Click here for details of Covid lateral flow tests, which are available at four sites across the district (Hungerford, Newbury, Thatcham and Burghfield), and home-testing kits.

• The timetables for the West Berkshire Council’s mobile community collect service for lateral-flow tests is changing from Monday 24 May – details can be found here.

Click here for information the Bedwyn Train Passengers Group about changes to rail services between Bedwyn and Newbury as a result of cracks having been discovered in the IET trains.

• The proposed Kennet Centre re-development (to be known as Eagle Quarter) crops us in the letters page of this week’s Newbury Weekly News. The headlines from the five letters offers a goor range of view – “we have to expand to compete”; “redevelopment not right for this market town”; “we need more people living in the town centre”; “change or the town centre will die”; and “the plan is too overwhelming”. You can the application on WBC’s website and make up your own mind. Questions still remain (see earlier entries below) about how many affordable homes the development will have. This report on the BBC website suggests that the Kennet Centre is far from being the only shopping centre in the UK that needs “re-imagining.”

Click here for more information on the renovation works taking place at the Waterside Community Centrewhich is now owned equally by WBC and Berkshire Youth.

• A number of outstanding questions about the ReadiBus situation (see previous weeks’ sections below). I mentioned last week about the lack of like-for-like replacement services. The immediate bone of contention between the two parties, however, is the nature of the confidentiality clause. This states that “The Charity shall not, and shall take reasonable steps to ensure that staff shall not, make any press announcement or publicise the Agreement or any part of the Agreement in any way, except with the prior written consent of the Council, which will not be unreasonably withheld.” In a statement by the WBC Conservative group on 18 April (which was mainly aimed at claims made by the opposition Lib Dems) this was summarised as “not ‘gagging’ ReadiBus (or any of the other providers that have signed it) from making statements – it simply ensures that the Council is aware of any statement proposed.” As the statement is not an accurate summary of the clause, this left me and others wondering what WBC’s position actually was.

On 19 May, Council Leader Lynne Doherty confirmed to Penny Post that WBC’s position is that “within the SLA [service level agreement] there is a clause that seeks prior approval of the Council and the Council cannot unreasonably withhold such approval. It ensures that the Council is notified of any proposed press releases or statements before they are issued. This ensures that the Council is aware of any issues that it may need to address as part of its duties. Not a “gagging” clause but in the partnership spirit, to which all other providers have signed up.” The 18 April statement was essentially a summary of the second and third sentences of this but omitting any mention of the fact that WBC did have the power to refuse that any statement be published. Any refusal needed to be “not unreasonable” but this is a subjective term, much like the justification of “exceptional circumstances” to permit development in an AONB. As WBC seems set on insisting on this and as ReadiBus’ trustees remain unwilling to accept it, matters appear to be rather stuck. If this doesn’t change, WBC will continue to withhold half of the funding to ReadiBus and the people who rely on the service will continue to suffer. If the clause were reciprocal this might help, perhaps.

It’s also worth pointing out that the summary of the issue by West Berkshire’s Lib Dem group was also inaccurate, certainly as it was cited in the Conservative’s rebuttal of this on 18 April. The latter document quotes the Lib Dems as having said that “WBC introduced the ‘gagging clause’ to the SLA for 2020/21 which would have prevented ReadiBus from making any public statements on any matter relating to WBC.” Just as the Conservatives’ summary omitted the fact that WBC’s approval was needed, so the Lib Dem’s one omitted the fact that the permission could be sought and would not be unreasonably withheld. This is all important because we increasingly rely on summaries and these need to be accurate. Sometimes, lengthy original documents are involved which makes a précis both more necessary and more difficult. In this case, the original was barely any longer than the combined length of the two attempts to summarise it so it would have been a lot simpler just to have quoted the clause.

Other questions remain. One is the matter of why there appeared to have been no consultation on the decision to reduce the funding. This merits a few more paragraphs of its own so I’ll return to that next week, if I may.

• Finally on this matter, WBC has asked me to point out that any comments, suggestions or feedback about the Council’s community transport services 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 proposed lease terms for the football ground to be relocated at the Rugby Club were discussed and agreed at WBC’s council meeting last month and it’s expected that the key aspects of these will be publicised by the end of May.

• The inquiry into the Sandleford development (the matter has been called in by the Secretary of state following an appeal by one of the developers against West Berkshire Council’s decision to refuse its application) will be streamed live on YouTube. This started on 5 May and is expected to last for most of the rest of the month. I have gathered together some of the reactions to WBC’s Planning Department’s refusal, which you can read here.

• The Newbury in Bloom 2021 campaign is now under way – more details here.

• A team of volunteers led by Newbury Town Council has planted a commemorative garden at Old Hospital Green, Andover Road. Herbs, shrubs and plants, widely known for their medicinal qualities, were planted and the garden is dedicated to the NHS. Read more here.

• A blue plaque is to be unveiled in Newbury commemorating former resident Constable Albert Alexander who was, in March 1941, the first person to be treated with Penicillin. The plaque will be located at the entrance of Carnarvon Place, Andover Road, and will be unveiled at 11am on Tuesday 25 May by the Mayor of Newbury, Billy Drummond.

• Newbury Town Council is inviting local residents take part in a Public Consultation regarding improvements to the Wash Common Recreation Ground and Open Space. The Town Council already provide a number of recreation facilities on the site and would like your views on how the area could be improved. Click here for more information. Closing date is Sunday 6 June.

• The most recent meeting (also the annual meeting) of Newbury Town Council took place on 4 May and you can download the minutes here. Items covered included: the election of a new Mayor (Billy Drummond); the choice of Speakability as his chosen charity; the election of the deputy mayor (Gary Norman); the re-election of Martin Colston and Sarah Slack as Leader and Deputy Leader; the Saturday Councillors’ surgeries; and the approval of committees and their memberships for 2021-22. Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council took place on 26 April and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: traffic issues outside the school (which, despite its location doesn’t qualify for having a pedestrian crossing); use of public rights of way; planning applications; financial matters; repairs to the church footpath; use of parish-council email accounts; and the Poor’s Allotment.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council (also the Annual General Meeting) took place on 4 May and you can read the draft minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council took place on 14 April and you can read the minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council took place on 13 April and you can read the minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council took place on 21 April and you can read the minutes here.

• You can see the minutes of the Shaw-cum-Donnington annual parish assembly, which took place on 5 May, here. There were a number of reports from local councillors and others, including on the subject of planning, local charities, footpaths and rights of way, speeding and dogs.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Councillor which minutes are available took place on 22 March and you can read the minutes here.

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

Thursday 13 May 2021

• Click here for the April/May 2021 update from Martin Colston, the Leader of Newbury Town Council. This includes the new date for the Climate Conference (15 May), the community café in Victoria Park, the founding of the Friends of Speen Moor group and changes resulting from the reversion to in-person council meetings from 7 May.

• We’ve referred to the proposed Kennet Centre re-development (to be known as Eagle Quarter) several times. Outline plans have recently been submitted. Last week, the Dr David Peacock of the Newbury Society had some comments which can be seen in full here: this also includes some artist’s impressions and a link to the application on WBC’s website. As mentioned, two questions which have come up, and which remain, and which will doubtless be being considered by WBC’s planning officers, concern the number of homes for an affordable rent and the number of parking spaces.

As is to be expected, opinions are also sharply divided on the aesthetics of the proposals. There is, for instance, a letter in this week’s NWN under the heading “Speak out to protect our market town.” I’m not sure I agree with some of the assumptions (the Kennet Centre basin poor shape even before Parkway, for example) including the implied one that solutions of the future can be found in a return to the past. My personalnissue is that, the above concerns aside, the plans have much to recommend them. Others disagree.

Click here for more information on the renovation works taking place at the Waterside Community Centre which is now owned equally by WBC and Berkshire Youth.

• There are still a number of outstanding questions about the ReadiBus situation (see previous weeks’ sections below) but I shall park these for a moment and concentrate instead on what replacement services are available. This has been prompted by my having been contacted by seven users of the service, all of whom are adamant that (were it to cease altogether) no services currently offered by or on behalf of WBC come close to meeting the needs in the way ReadiBus did. I raised this with WBC’s leader Lynne Doherty who told me that there were 14 community transport groups providing services in the district and directed me to this page (which in turn links to this one). The second of these does indeed list 14 providers (ReadiBus being one): however, aside from the one operated by the Cancer Trust, all of these cover only a small part of West Berkshire so, for any one address, there might be only one or two available. She went on to say that “conversations have taken place [with these groups] that give us confidence that they are able to offer a replacement [service].” Furthermore, these groups aim “to provide a service where there is a particular need and that they will adapt and change to work with the needs of the community.” So, if – as all seven of the people who’ve contacted me have made clear – these organisations do not currently offer the service you used to receive, ask if they are prepared to adapt and change.

• Lynne Doherty also said that any comments, suggestions or feedback 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 proposed lease terms for the football ground to be relocated at the Rugby Club were discussed and agreed at WBC’s council meeting on 29 April and it’s expected that the key aspects of these will be publicised within the next month.

• The inquiry into the Sandleford development (the matter has been called in by the Secretary of state following an appeal by one of the developers against West Berkshire Council’s decision to refuse its application) will be streamed live on YouTube. This started on 5 May and is expected to last for most of the rest of the month. I have gathered together some of the reactions to WBC’s Planning Department’s refusal, which you can read here.

Click here for details of Covid lateral flow tests, which are available at four sites across the district (Hungerford, Newbury, Thatcham and Burghfield), and home-testing kits.

• The Newbury in Bloom 2021 campaign is now under way – more details here.

• A team of volunteers led by Newbury Town Council has planted a commemorative garden at Old Hospital Green, Andover Road. Herbs, shrubs and plants, widely known for their medicinal qualities, were planted and the garden is dedicated to the NHS. Read more here.

• I learned this week that a blue plaque is to be unveiled in Newbury commemorating former resident Constable Albert Alexander who was, in March 1941, the first person to be treated with Penicillin. The plaque will be located at the entrance of Carnarvon Place, Andover Road, and will be unveiled at 11am on Tuesday 25 May by the Mayor of Newbury, Billy Drummond.

• Newbury Town Council is inviting local residents take part in a Public Consultation regarding improvements to the Wash Common Recreation Ground and Open Space. The Town Council already provide a number of recreation facilities on the site and would like your views on how the area could be improved. Click here for more information. Closing date is Sunday 6 June.

• The Lib Dem’s candidate Stuart Gourley came out at the top of the heap at the Clay Hill by election last week, winning the vacant seat on Newbury Town Council by 49 votes. The Lib Dems now have 19 of the 23 seats on Newbury Town Council, with two Conservatives, one Green and one Independent (but former Lib Dem, who needed to resign the whip as she had accepted a job which required political neutrality).

• Newbury Town Council’s  third Climate Change Workshop will take place on Saturday 15 May at 2.30 via Zoom. You can get more information and register your interest here.

• See p4 of the this week’s Newbury Weekly News for the latest on the Speen Moors permissive pathway and the Friends group which has recently vbeen set up to keep this open to the public.

• The most recent meeting (also the annual meeting) of Newbury Town Council took place on 4 May and you can download the minutes here. Items covered included: the election of a new Mayor (Billy Drummond); the choice of Speakability as his chosen charity; the election of the deputy mayor (Gary Norman); the re-election of Martin Colston and Sarah Slack as Leader and Deputy Leader; the Saturday Councillors’ surgeries; and the approval of committees and their memberships for 2021-22. Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council (also the Annual General Meeting) took place on 4 May and you can read the draft minutes here. Items covered included: the internal audit; the 2020/21 accounts; the parish’s asset register; dog fouling; the local footpaths; the parish plan; the conservation area appraisals; the proposed Covid-19 memorial bench at the Downland Practice; parish communications; and four planning applications. There was also an extraordinary meeting on 6 April to consider proposed changes to the settlement boundary, the minutes of which you can read here.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council took place on 14 April and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: the Control Tower; the search for allotment land; the Sandleford appeal case; financial matters; one planning application; the settlement boundary review; the Community Engagement Working Group; engagement with residents at the Racecourse; and the GPC environment project.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council took place on 13 April and you can read the minutes here. items covered included: planning applications; financial matters; speeding; Volunteer Chieveley; dog-waste bins; the protection of the AONB; recognition of the PC’s work during the pandemic from WBC and the Thames Valley Local Resilience Forum; and Randall Farm.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council took place on 21 April and you can read the minutes here.

• You can see the minutes of the Shaw-cum-Donnington annual parish assembly, which took place on 5 May, here. There were a number of reports from local councillors and others, including on the subject of planning, local charities, footpaths and rights of way, speeding and dogs.

• The most recent meeting of Speen Parish Councillor which minutes are available took place on 22 March and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: speeding; sewage; rights of way; financial matters; bollards at Kingsley Close; two planning applications; events at Donnington castle; the development north of Love Lane; local footpaths; and weeds at the allotments.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 1 March and you can read the minutes here.

• Please click here for Hamstead Marshall.net, which provides an excellent round-up of what’s going on in and around the village. It also produces the quarterly Hamstead Hornet the most recent edition of which has just been published and which you can see here.

Thursday 6 May 2021

• Click here for the April/May 2021 update from Martin Colston, the Leader of Newbury Town Council. This includes the new date for the Climate Conference (15 May), the community café in Victoria Park, the founding of the Friends of Speen Moor group and changes resulting from the reversion to in-person council meetings from 7 May.

• We’ve referred to the proposed Kennet Centre re-development (to be known as Eagle Quarter) several times. Outline plans have recently been submitted. Last week, the Dr David Peacock of the Newbury Society had some comments which can be seen in full here: this also includes some artist’s impressions and a link to the application on WBC’s website.

• One of Dr Peacock’s concerns was the lack of affordable housing. A spokesman for the owners, Lochailort, told Penny Post last week that West Berkshire Council “doesn’t currently have a Local Plan policy for build-to-rent developments.” I contacted WBC and was told that it did. As this is a brownfield site, 30% of the homes (about 120) need to be affordable. This policy is often more honoured in the breach than the observance and will doubtless be a matter for discussion with WBC’s officers over the coming months.

• Dr Peacock was also concerned about the lack of parking, about one in five of the new properties having dedicated spaces. I put this to Lochailort. “Currently there are well over 2,000 public car parking spaces in Newbury town centre,” I was told. “Much of Newbury’s retail can now be found at out-of-town retail parks. We simply do not believe that there will be the same level of parking demand for general town centre uses but rather, a more flexible use of car parking is appropriate. This was the strategy agreed across the road for the Market Street development and its new multi-storey car park, where around half its spaces can flexibly be used and half are reserved. The same approach is appropriate here.” I then asked how many of the car parking spaces would have EV charging points: currently “a dozen” are envisaged. This doesn’t seem like enough to me given the projected increase in EV usage. This is a matter that can easily be remedied.

• The development as a whole received a stinging rebuke in the letters page of this week’s NWN. The author is a local architect and so his objections may be predicated on technicalities or preoccupations which I’m unable to appreciate. The plans to me seem interesting and bold and certainly a vast improvement on what’s there now (though, as Dr Peacock warned last week, that isn’t a reason for approving the first alternative that comes along). Another letter in the same paper referred to “towering mills, warehouses and factories” which suggests to me that the writer and I are not looking at the same drawings.

• See pp4-5 of this week’s NWN for an article and several photos of the renovation works taking place at the Waterside Community Centre which is now owned equally by WBC and Berkshire Youth. David Seward told Penny Post that the repair works have been considerably more than predicted because of poor maintenance over the last couple of decades, with many wooden parts of the structure having almost rotted away. WBC’s main interest in the building for some time before then was as a site for a possible re-development involving housing. So far Berkshire Youth has provided all the sums needed for the project although it hopes that WBC will make a contribution, about another £250,000 still being needed to complete the project. Mr Seward stressed that he was keen to ensure that the centre, and the organisation, would be able to help support youth projects of all kinds throughout the district. Any parish councils or other organisations should therefore get in touch with BY. Click here for more information.

• The ReadiBus issue (see last week’s column, and the week before’s, below) is still a problem, mainly for those who have been relying on the service. Three things still confuse me (I have emailed these to the portfolio holder three times but received no response). First, why is the so-called gagging clause being described by WBC as mere question of advance notification of any statement when it in fact would give the council a veto of it? Second, why did no consultation take place about the proposed changes to the funding and thus the cuts to the services that inevitably followed? (The reason given by WBC was that many of Readibus’ customers had learning difficulties and so wouldn’t understand the issues. Even if this is true (which Readibus has denied) this is a very alarming precedent.) Third, what about the users? WBC has pointed out that other services are available. That’s true, but they are not in any way like-for-like replacements. Four ReadiBus customers (all have mobility difficulties: none have learning difficulties) have contacted Penny Post in the last few days and have confirmed that the other options are excellent in their way but do not meet their needs.

As it’s clear that the changes will result in a worse service being provided, one’s left wondering why this has all happened. Saving money is one possible reason; another is some clash of politics or personality which has broken the relationship. If it’s the former, how much is being saved? If the latter, how has this come about and what can be done to repair it? There must be a reason which makes sense to someone. A lot of people are currently stuck at home waiting for this to get sorted out.

• The proposed lease terms for the football ground to be relocated at the Rugby Club were discussed and agreed at WBC’s council meeting on 29 April. The next stage will to be to get a planning application in, hopefully by early June. The plan’s timetable predicts that the first ball being kicked there in March 2022.

• The inquiry into the Sandleford development (the matter has been called in by the Secretary of state following an appeal by one of the developers against West Berkshire Council’s decision to refuse its application) will be streamed live on YouTube. This started on 5 May and is expected to last for most of the rest of the month. I have gathered together some of the reactions to WBC’s Planning Department’s refusal, which you can read here.

Click here for details of Covid lateral flow tests, which are available at four sites across the district (Hungerford, Newbury, Thatcham and Burghfield), and home-testing kits.

• The Newbury in Bloom 2021 campaign is now under way – more details here.

• Concerned about human rights and gender equality? Soroptimist International is the largest women’s service organisation in the world and works with the UN to improve the lives of women and girls across the globe. The Newbury Soroptimist group supports women in the community and welcomes new members.

• See here for details of the Covid lateral flow tests that are available in Newbury.

• Newbury Town Council is inviting local residents take part in a Public Consultation regarding improvements to the Wash Common Recreation Ground and Open Space. The Town Council already provide a number of recreation facilities on the site and would like your views on how the area could be improved. Click here for more information. Closing date is Sunday 6 June.

• Newbury Town Council’s  third Climate Change Workshop will take place on Saturday 15 May at 2.30 via Zoom. This was postponed as the original date clashed with Prince Philip’s funeral. You can get more information and register your interest here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council took place on 9 March and you can read the minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council took place on 17 February and you can read the draft minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Newbury Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 1 February and you can read the minutes here. That this was quite some time ago doesn’t seem to be due to indolence as might appear as the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 10 March and you can read the minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 1 March and you can read the minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council took place on 2 March and you can read the minutes here. There was also an extraordinary meeting on 6 April to consider proposed changes to the settlement boundary, the minutes of which you can read here.

• Please click here for Hamstead Marshall.net, which provides an excellent round-up of what’s going on in and around the village. It also produces the quarterly Hamstead Hornet the most recent edition of which has just been published and which you can see here.

Thursday 29 April 2021

• Click here for the April/May 2021 update from Martin Colston, the Leader of Newbury Town Council. This includes the new date for the Climate Conference (15 May), the community café in Victoria Park, the founding of the Friends of peen Moor group and changes resulting from the reversion to in-person council meetings from 7 May.

• The proposed Kennet Centre re-development (that’s too mild a terms for it: pretty much the whole thing will go) made p1 of the Newbury Weekly News this week. The article covered the comments made by Dr David Peacock of the Newbury Society who expressed reservations regarding the height of the structure (a point also made by Newbury Town Council earlier this year), the shortage of car-parking spaces and the lack of affordable homes. The Newbury Society’s comments can be seen in full here: this also includes some artist’s impressions and a link to the application on WBC’s website.

I contacted Hugo Haig at Lochailort, the owners of the centre. Regarding the height, he told me that “the proposed development has one carefully configured element that goes up to 11 storeys in a specific location. We strongly believe that there is no harm caused as a result of this higher element. In fact to the contrary, it helps by forming a sense of place and wayfinding through the Town Centre and creates the identity that the existing shopping centre has failed to provide.” On the subject of affordable homes, the apartments will, he said, “all be for rent”, a point Dr Peacock was aware of,: it seems that WBC has no policy in its local plan for build-to-rent developments and so there is no obligation to provide any. Concerning the parking, he said that overall the scheme will have nearly 600 spaces spread across three locations (though I’m not clear how many will be reserved for residents). He added that “given the site’s highly sustainable location we will have more than sufficient car parking for our needs. But just in case, we are also going to provide a four-car car club to work along the existing one in the Market Street car park, electric vehicle charging points, some 600 covered and secure bicycle spaces and a host of sustainable transport measures.”

Dr Peacock is also quoted in the NWN as saying that the Newbury Society doesn’t have, “like a lot of people, a lot of love for the existing centre.” Do they really? I’m struggling to think of any emotion the building engenders, from the inside or the outside, other than deep depression. (Note: David Peacock has since contacted me to point out that he’d told the paper that no one has a lot of love for the Kennet Centre, and that includes the Newbury Society. The way the quote was phrased left it open to two interpretations and I picked the wrong one.)

• The ReadiBus issue (see last week’s column) is still with us. I mentioned then about what appears to be the fundamental matter, that of the “gagging clause” which ReadiBus wanted to have struck out of the agreement. It would appear that if the clause was what WBC’s recent statement said it was (merely a request for first sight of any release), and it it were reciprocal, then ReadiBus would have no problem with it. (The easiest way of dealing with this would be to remove the clause.) This is not, however, what the clause says: this specifies that RB “shall not make any press announcement…except with the prior written consent of the Council.” Nor is there any reciprocal obligation on WBC to check its own statements with ReadiBus. Any contact which proposes a gagging clause – which, given its one-way nature, is what it is – assumes a low level of trust by the party that needs to approve the statement in its partner. I still find it hard to understand how matters have deteriorated so badly.

So do users of the service. One contacted Penny Post this week. They had been using ReadiBus for over three years more or less every week to get to and from Newbury. The service was, they told me, regular, reliable and well operated, took them to where they needed to go and allowed enough time to be spent in town. They had since investigated the other available services and established that these failed to meet their needs. ReadiBus has always maintained, and this conversation has confirmed, that the other services are complementary to, not a replacement for, ReadiBus’, and indeed each other. WBC’s own statement merely said that “there were community transport groups that continue to operate in the area”: this is true but it’s increasingly clear that the overall level of service has been diminished. If any other users of these services have any views on this, please email brian@pennypost.org.uk.

Perhaps inevitably, this has now been turned into a political football. WBC’s statement was couched in such terms, many of its remarks being swipes at the opposition Lib Dems. This party’s spokesman for adult social care, Alan Macro retorted with a letter in this week’s NWN referring to the gagging clause and the problem of the payments which are being withheld until the contractual matters are sorted. This seems to be an issue which has more to do with legal issues than political ones. This made me wonder if ReadiBus had any political affiliations and put this question to them. I was assured that it did not. Let’s hope this can be sorted out so that all the residents who need this service (or one that exactly replaces it) can continue to receive it.

• And speaking of politics, and of football, the proposed plans for the football ground to be relocated at the Rugby Club will be discussed at WBC’s council meeting on 29 April and are expected to be approved. The clock is ticking loudly as the plan has a timetable (that could be called challenging, ambitious or optimistic depending on your point of view) of reaching fruition by March 2022. As mentioned before, I have received two statements on the subjects reflecting the different proposals for this and have put them alongside each other in this post. Feel free to comment if you wish to, using the box that is to be found at the foot of this and every other post.

• The inquiry into the Sandleford development (the matter has been called in by the Secretary of state following an appeal by one of the developers against West Berkshire Council’s decision to refuse its application) will be streamed live on YouTube. This will start on 5 May and is expected to last for most of the rest of the month. I have gathered together some of the reactions to WBC’s Planning Department’s refusal, which you can read here.

• The Newbury in Bloom 2021 campaign is now under way – more details here.

• Concerned about human rights and gender equality? Soroptimist International is the largest women’s service organisation in the world and works with the UN to improve the lives of women and girls across the globe. The Newbury Soroptimist group supports women in the community and welcomes new members.

• Good to hear a Newbury retail success story – Penny talks to Caroline Dallas from Luna Boutiques about surviving lockdown and exciting times ahead moving into the flagship Parkway store (opposite MacDonald’s on Northbrook Street, where Jigsaw was).

• See here for details of the Covid lateral flow tests that are available in Newbury.

• Newbury Town Council is inviting local residents take part in a Public Consultation regarding improvements to the Wash Common Recreation Ground and Open Space. The Town Council already provide a number of recreation facilities on the site and would like your views on how the area could be improved. Click here for more information. Closing date is Sunday 6 June.

• Newbury Town Council’s  third Climate Change Workshop will take place on Saturday 15 May at 2.30 via Zoom. This was postponed as the original date clashed with Prince Philip’s funeral. You can get more information and register your interest here.

• A reminder that Newbury (or a part of it) goes to the polls in a by-election on 6 May. This will be to fill a seat for the Newbury Town Council Clay Hill ward which is vacant after the previous councillor was stood down for not having attended a sufficient number of meetings. More information can be found here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council took place on 9 March and you can read the minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council took place on 17 February and you can read the draft minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Newbury Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 1 February and you can read the minutes here. That this was quite some time ago doesn’t seem to be due to indolence as might appear as the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 10 March and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: the Newbury Racecourse Christmas Carnival; Greenham Partners; financial matters; the wildlife garden project; several planning applications; proposed names for new roads; parish-council road signs;  local environmental projects; the allotments; the proposal to have a football ground at the Rugby Club; and local footpaths.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council took place on 1 March and you can read the minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council took place on 2 March and you can read the minutes here. There was also an extraordinary meeting on 6 April to consider proposed changes to the settlement boundary, the minutes of which you can read here.

• Please click here for Hamstead Marshall.net, which provides an excellent round-up of what’s going on in and around the village. It also produces the quarterly Hamstead Hornet the most recent edition of which has just been published and which you can see here.

Thursday 22 April 2021

• Official news from councils in this area is currently thin as we are in a period of pre-election purdah (see here for more) until after the polling stations close on 6 May when there restrictions on what can be announced.

• Click here for the March/April 2021 update from Martin Colston, the Leader of Newbury Town Council. This includes more on various consultations (see below), the forthcoming climate change workshop (see also below) and the latest on the café at Victoria Park.

• The question of the termination of the ReadiBus (RB) service in the Newbury and Thatcham area (see last the 8-15 April column) still rumbles on, mainly because the two positions on the matter (WBC’s and RB’s) seem not to agree on significant points. Three issues seem particularly important.

The first is about consultation. RB (and the Lib Dem group) have said that there was no consultation on this. WBC’s latest statement says that “all Community Transport Operators were consulted on the proposed funding remodelling resulting from reduced government grant funding.” Leaving aside the implication that the funding cut was made by the government (it wasn’t), what’s being described isn’t a consultation but a commercial discussion. Any rational person would take “consultation” to mean a wider engagement with users of a service or the whole community. It also seems that WBC decided not to consult with RB users as a large number of them had learning difficulties and so might not understand the questions. Aside from RB’s emphatic rebuttal of this, I’m not sure that it’s part of district council’s job to pre-decide such reactions. It might as well argue that it need not consult with a particular group on the grounds that these people might disagree with the proposals.

Then there’s the so-called “gagging clause.” The WBC statement says that it’s nothing of the kind, merely a way of ensuring that “the Council is aware of any statement proposed.” If so, WBC must be looking at a different version of the contract from the one I’ve seen. This clearly states that RB “shall not make any press announcement…except with the prior written consent of the Council,” which is not the same thing at all. No such reciprocal obligation is placed on WBC. This seems to be the major sticking point as, without it being amended, RB will not sign the agreement. If the contract says what WBC’s statement asserts (and if it were reciprocal) then I doubt there would be any problem and might be a way of re-booting a relationship which has existed to the benefit of many local residents for about 25 years.

Finally, there’s the question of to what extent the other available services replace RB’s. WBC says that “Community transport groups continuing to operate in Newbury and Thatcham will include…” and lists these (see this post) but makes no claim as to whether they offer the same service/s. RB says that they do not: these are, it says, “valuable but meet different needs.” It’s easy to forget in all this debate about the wording of clauses and the nature of consultations that the real losers are residents who relied on a service which, for reasons that they must find hard to understand, has been withdrawn. Change is often unwelcome and it may be that these people will find that that some of these other services do meet their needs. It’s been suggested, though, that some of these don’t cover certain areas or are not sufficiently accessible. I would welcome hearing from any previous RB users who, having examined the alternatives, still feel short-changed. It may also be that this is a financial decision pure and simple. If so, surely it’s first necessary to work out how many people would be worse off. If it’s a fairly small number and the savings are considerable, the case for cutting it might make a bit more sense and ways could then be found of mitigating the problems that remained. However at present, the two sides seem not to be able to agree on the extent of this problem, or even if there’s a problem at all.

• As mentioned before, I recently received two statements on the subjects reflecting the different proposals for the next step at the football ground and have put them alongside each other in this post. Feel free to comment if you wish to, using the box that is to be found at the foot of this and every other post.

• The inquiry into the Sandleford development (the matter has been called in by the Secretary of State following an appeal by one of the developers against West Berkshire Council’s decision to refuse its application) will be streamed live on YouTube after protests from opposition councillors that the proceedings would otherwise lack transparency. The NWN reports, on p2 of this week’s paper, that this will start on 5 May and is expected to last for most of the rest of the month. Whether a box-set of the edited highlights will appear in due course remains to be seen. If so, this will be required viewing for anyone planning to write a definitive multi-volume history of a project which has been going on for the best part of two decades with so far not one home built. One of my contributions to the research has been to gather together some of the reactions to WBC’s Planning Department’s refusal, which you can read here.

• This week’s NWN covers, on p8, the suggestions by Newbury Town Council for naming the the flats on the  old Sterling Cables site. Their recommendation for the overall name – Sterling Place – could certainly be called a safe option. They’ve also suggested that the individual blocks be named after nine women who have been part of Newbury’s history (though perhaps not fully recognised as such). The roll call includes a tennis player, a suffragette, two peace campaigners, a writer, a nurse, a philanthropist, the saviour of the Watermill Theatre and a hot-air balloonist. Something for everyone there, I think.

• Newbury Town Council’s Heritage Working Group is seeking new members – click here for details.

• The Newbury in Bloom 2021 campaign is now under way – more details here.

• GWR has opened its new bicycle hub at Newbury station. The facility is expected to further expanded later this year.

• See here for details of the Covid lateral flow tests that are available in Newbury.

• More details on the proposed redevelopment of the Kennet Centre, including artist’s impressions, can be found here.

• Newbury Town Council is inviting local residents take part in a Public Consultation regarding improvements to the Wash Common Recreation Ground and Open Space. The Town Council already provide a number of recreation facilities on the site and would like your views on how the area could be improved. Click here for more information. Closing date is Sunday 6 June.

• Newbury Town Council’s  third Climate Change Workshop scheduled for Saturday 17 April 2021 has been postponed as it clashes with the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral. More details here. Newbury Town Council’s website describes the Duke as “a lifelong advocate for the environment…[who] believed we must safeguard the planet and its resources for future generations, and dedicated his life, and position to inspire individuals and world leaders to protect nature and wildlife.” I can’t help feeling that he’s have said, “just get on with it!” Well, they soon will.

• A reminder that Newbury (or a part of it) goes to the polls in a by-election on 6 May. This will be to fill a seat for the Newbury Town Council Clay Hill ward which is vacant after the previous councillor was stood down for not having attended a sufficient number of meetings. More information can be found here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council took place on 9 March and you can read the minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council took place on 17 February and you can read the draft minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Newbury Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 1 February and you can read the minutes here. That this was quite some time ago doesn’t seem to be due to indolence as might appear as the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 10 March and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: the Newbury Racecourse Christmas Carnival; Greenham Partners; financial matters; the wildlife garden project; several planning applications; proposed names for new roads; parish-council road signs;  local environmental projects; the allotments; the proposal to have a football ground at the Rugby Club; and local footpaths.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council took place on 1 March and you can read the minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council took place on 2 March and you can read the minutes here. There was also an extraordinary meeting on 6 April to consider proposed changes to the settlement boundary, the minutes of which you can read here.

• Please click here for Hamstead Marshall.net, which provides an excellent round-up of what’s going on in and around the village. It also produces the quarterly Hamstead Hornet the most recent edition of which has just been published and which you can see here.

Thursday 15 April 2021

• Click here for the March/April 2021 update from Martin Colston, the Leader of Newbury Town Council. This includes more on various consultations (see below), the forthcoming climate change workshop (see also below) and the latest on the café at Victoria Park.

An article on p8 of this week’s NWN returns to a question it, and Penny Post, looked at last week (see last Thursday’s column) about the abrupt termination of the ReadiBus service in the Newbury and Thatcham area. (“Abrupt” might be the word the users would employ, though I understand discussions between the parties have been going on ever since funding cuts were announced in 2018). Three aspects of this still confuse me. WBC asserts that that like-for-like replacement services are now available but I was assured by a representative of ReadiBus that this is not the case: these other services, I was told, either operate only group trips to destinations selected by them and are not tailored to individual needs (the Handybus); or in the case of the car service are less accessible and do not offer shopping trips. They are services which complement ReadiBus’ service. ReadiBus has said that it will be issuing a statement in the next few days and I shall link to that next week.

I have asked WBC for clarification on this point and two others that seem contentious – why the confidentiality agreement was not reciprocal (which meant ReadiBus didn’t sign it) and whether the cuts to the services were caused by WBC’s funding cuts or vice versa – and am waiting a response. This too I shall provide once I have it. Sadly, it appears that the relationship between the two organisations is hanging by a thread. Whether it can be revived depends to a large extent on whether WBC believes (which it currently seems not to) that, without ReadiBus, the transport services it offers are diminished; and, of course whether it’s willing to pay for these. It also depends on what level of service ReadiBus could itself offer now that it has rescheduled its resources following the end of the contracts. If there are any professional mediators in the West Berkshire area, stay by your phone…

• Any such experts might also be needed to find common ground between WBC and the Newbury Community Football Group over the future of football provision in the area. This long-running saga now appears to be reaching some kind of a conclusion. I recently received two statements on the subjects reflecting the different proposals for there next steps and have put them alongside each other in this post. Feel free to comment if you wish sousing the box that is to be found at the foot of this and every other post.

• On Sunday 18 April from 10am to 2pm Newbury Town Council’s Green Spaces Working Group will be planting a new NHS Commemorative Garden at Old Hospital Green, Andover Road. Volunteers are welcome but they must pre-register. More details here.

• The NWN reports on p2 that GWR has opened its new bicycle hub at Newbury station for people using the train. The facility is expected to further expanded later this year.

• See here for details of the Covid lateral flow tests that are available in Newbury.

• More details on the proposed redevelopment of the Kennet Centre, including artist’s impressions, can be found here.

• Newbury Town Council is inviting local residents take part in a Public Consultation regarding improvements to the Wash Common Recreation Ground and Open Space. The Town Council already provide a number of recreation facilities on the site and would like your views on how the area could be improved. Click here for more information.

• Newbury Town Council’s  third Climate Change Workshop scheduled for Saturday 17 April 2021 has been postponed as it clashes with the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral. More details here. This is slightly ironic as the Director of WWF International, quoted on Newbury Town Council’s website, described the Duke as “a lifelong advocate for the environment…[who] believed we must safeguard the planet and its resources for future generations, and dedicated his life, and position to inspire individuals and world leaders to protect nature and wildlife.” I can’t help feeling that he’s have said, “just get on with it!”

• A reminder that Newbury (or a part of it) goes to the polls in a by-election on 6 May. This will be to fill a seat for the Newbury Town Council Clay Hill ward which is vacant after the previous councillor was stood down for not having attended a sufficient number of meetings. More information can be found here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council took place on 9 March and you can read the minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council took place on 17 February and you can read the draft minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Newbury Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 1 February and you can read the minutes here. That this was quite some time ago doesn’t seem to be due to indolence as might appear as the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 10 February and you can read the minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council took place on 1 March and you can read the minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council took place on 2 March and you can read the minutes here.

• Please click here for Hamstead Marshall.net, which provides an excellent round-up of what’s going on in and around the village. It also produces the quarterly Hamstead Hornet the most recent edition of which has just been published and which you can see here. If you’d like to subscribe (which is free), contact Penny Stokes at admin@hamsteadmarshall.net.

Thursday 8 April 2021

• Click here for the March/April 2021 update from Martin Colston, the Leader of Newbury Town Council. This includes more on various consultations (see below), the forthcoming climate change workshop (see also below) and the latest on the café at Victoria Park.

• I mentioned last week about the article by Dr David Cooper of the Say No to Sandleford campaign which occupied the whole pf p22 of the paper. You can read a response from Councillor Alan Law on p20 of this week’s paper. In it he rebuts a number of Dr Cooper’s points. I have asked Dr Cooper for his comments on this. The first point to mention about the letter is that it has been printed with a pale blue background not accorded to any others. I’m left wondering if this is an emerging design feature whereby the political tone of any letter is reflected in the colour used. If so, the letters section will soon resemble an Italian ice cream.

I don’t have the knowledge or the facts to hand to say too much about Mr Law’s letter but three aspects strike me. Firstly, Dr Cooper made the point that the development did indeed pass the sustainability test but only after a new criterion was introduced “to treat greenfield sites per se as more sustainable than brownfield ones,” an assertion Mr Law doesn’t appear directly to refute. Secondly, he says that Dr Cooper’s letter is “extremely political”. I’m not sure if this is a criticism or an observation (and could certainly be applied to Mr Law’s letter), but on re-reading the original article I don’t agree. It certainly has some hard things to say about the planning and development situation in the country which none of the parties has been able to solve (or have been complicit in) and on which Councillor Law doesn’t comment. Finally, Alan Law suggests that Dr Cooper was wrong to say that Sandleford wasn’t sustainable and stresses it has been in the core strategy since 2010 and the promoters spoke in favour of it (why wouldn’t they?) at two public hearings. All this may be true but, if so, this optimism and approval seems to have been ill-founded; for nothing has actually been built there. The latest appeal (by one of the developers, against WBC’s refusal of the plans last year) is due to be heard by the Secretary of State some time in the summer. Even if he finds in the developer’s favour, I don’t see that this will address any of the problems or objections that have so far bedevilled the scheme. The only major consequence of such a decision that I can see would be to undermine WBC’s Planning Department’s authority to decide the rights and wrongs of applications on its own turf.

• The NWN this week has an article on p12 about the imminent end of the ReadiBus service in Newbury, which provides an alternative type of bus for people with restricted mobility who cannot use ordinary public transport. The ReadiBus charity has been operating this in the district for about 25 years, supported by an annual grant. All proceed amicably until a funding cut of 68% was announced for 2019-20. ReadiBus restructured its service (with reductions) and this was followed by further 10% cut demanded for 2020-21, despite which it managed to continue to provide a service, albeit further reduced. The latest development is that, mid-way through its fiscal year, WBC asked all community transport providers to sign a service-level agreement which included what the council describes as “standard clauses on confidentiality” and which Readibus sees as “gagging orders.” As a result, and after discussion with WBC, the charity refused to sign the agreement with this clause. WBC then announced it would therefore withhold half the grant. The remaining contribution being too low to make the service viable, ReadiBus said that the service would cease after Friday 16 April.

I spoke to Sophie Bowlby, the Chair of the Board of Trustees at ReadiBus, about this. She confirmed that the “confidentiality clause” was not reciprocal which would seem to make “gagging order’ the more accurate term. She added that ReadiBus has, and has had, service-level agreements with other local authorities without such clauses (or, in one case, with a reciprocal one, with which the charity has no problem). Moreover, she said, “we have found no evidence in any government guidelines that such a ‘gagging clause’ is ‘a standard clause’ for a grant agreement for this level of funding by a local authority to a local charity.” She also pointed out that WBC’s claim that alternative services from private cars or the Handybus is not correct as these are not like-for-like replacements for the service that ReadiBus offers. As for the cuts themselves, she pointed out to Penny Post that these were proceeded with despite the lack of a consultation. WBC justified this in January 2020 on the grounds that “a significant number” of ReadiBus passengers “have learning difficulties…which would have made it difficult for them to comprehend what was being proposed,” a generalisation which ReadiBus has emphatically denied. Taken to its logical conclusion, this would obviate the need for consultations on a wide range of topics. It’s certainly the first time I’ve seen any public body refuse to communicate on the grounds that some people might not understand what was being said. Unless some compromise can be reached, matters appear to rest here: “an absolute tragedy” for the vulnerable residents in the area, Sophie Bowlby concluded. The final question for now is what purpose the gagging order – for, being one-way, we must refer to it as that – was intended to serve and whether, bearing in mind the resulting publicity, it has achieved this.

I then spoke to Richard Somner, whose portfolio includes transport, on 8 April and he provided me with the following statement:

“WBC has not reduced community transport funding since 2019/20, ReadiBus’ share of the discretionary grant has reduced because they are delivering less passenger journeys relative to other providers.  Discussions with ReadiBus and other community transport operators have been clear in that any grant funding in excess of £5,000 from April 2020 onwards would be subject to a service level agreement (SLA). The SLA included standard clauses on confidentiality that the Council would expect from its service providers. These are not ‘gagging clauses’ but merely ensure that the service provider notifies the Council before any information concerning the agreement is put in the public domain. All our other community transport operators have agreed to the SLA apart from ReadiBus which has declined to sign the agreement. However, despite ReadiBus not signing the SLA, the Council has, in good faith, paid ReadiBus half of the grant totalling £6,566.93. We are very keen to work with ReadiBus to understand the impact on its client base and we are grateful to ReadiBus for the service provided. Whilst this is regrettable for passengers who use ReadiBus services in Newbury and Thatcham, we wanted to ensure that those passengers are aware that there are other community transport groups providing services for local residents who are unable to use public transport and need to attend medical appointments or make shopping trips. Information on all community transport schemes operating in West Berkshire, along with details on other local groups, can be found on the Council’s website.”

• The NWN also reports, on p9, about the continuing debate surrounding the football ground in Newbury, attention currently focussing on the dilapidated clubhouse which WBC wants to demolish; part of a plan to replace a football ground which a lot of people used with a temporary community space on which, bizarrely, football cannot be played. This would surely put the council even further adrift of Sport England’s regulation that no ground can be re-developed until an equal or better facility has been found (a poorly-drafted clause, the intention of which is surely that there should be a seamless transition between one facility and another). Councillor Ross Mackinnon stressed that the security alone was costing nearly £7,000 a year: though that would not, of course, have been necessary were the ground still being used.

The long-term solution to the area – the proposed regeneration of the whole London Road Industrial Estate – still seems some way off as no planning permission has been applied for. This will, it seems, also have to address the problem of a coherent drainage strategy for the whole area, among other issues. The current plan is for the football ground to re-locate to the rugby club in the ambitious timescale of a year from now. The original error was made in June 2018 to close the ground and WBC has, increasingly expensively, been on the back foot ever since. At least the current portfolio holder has managed to come up with the rugby-club solution (though that faces obstacles of its own).

• On Sunday 18 April from 10am to 2pm Newbury Town Council’s Green Spaces Working Group will be planting a new NHS Commemorative Garden at Old Hospital Green, Andover Road. Volunteers are welcome but they must pre-register. More details here.

• The NWN reports on p2 that GWR has opened its new bicycle hub at Newbury station for people using the train (you must remember trains – the long grey things that take you to a place called London). The facility is expected to further expanded later this year.

• See here for details of the Covid lateral flow tests that are available in Newbury.

• More details on the proposed redevelopment of the Kennet Centre, including artist’s impressions, can be found here.

• Newbury Town Council is inviting local residents take part in a Public Consultation regarding improvements to the Wash Common Recreation Ground and Open Space. The Town Council already provide a number of recreation facilities on the site and would like your views on how the area could be improved. Click here for more information.

• Newbury Town Council will be hosting its third Climate Change Workshop on Saturday 17 April 2021. The workshop will be held via Zoom and open at 2:15pm for a 2:30pm start. More details here.

• A reminder that Newbury (or a part of it) goes to the polls in a by-election on 6 May. This will be to fill a seat for the Newbury Town Council Clay Hill ward which is vacant after the previous councillor was stood down for not having attended a sufficient number of meetings. More information can be found here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council took place on 9 March and you can read the minutes here. Items discussed included: a detailed review of the planning and usage history of Newbury Showground, which is now up for sale (for more thought on this, see last week’s column); planning applications (including at Mary Hare which the PC felt that the site “is getting to the point of overdevelopment”; the settlement boundary review; financial matters; speeding; dog bins; Volunteer Chieveley; “unauthorised activities” to the north west of M4 J14; and Councillor Hilary Cole’s report that footpaths 10a and §10b were now “good to walk on”: which, for a footpath, has got to be regarded as a successful outcome to whatever the previous problem was. The meeting was attended by Laura Farris MP

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council took place on 17 February and you can read the draft minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Newbury Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 1 February and you can read the minutes here. That this was quite some time ago doesn’t seem to be due to indolence as might appear as the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 10 February and you can read the minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council took place on 1 March and you can read the minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council took place on 2 March and you can read the minutes here.

• Please click here for Hamstead Marshall.net, which provides an excellent round-up of what’s going on in and around the village. It also produces the quarterly Hamstead Hornet the most recent edition of which has just been published and which you can see here. If you’d like to subscribe (which is free), contact Penny Stokes at admin@hamsteadmarshall.net.

Thursday 1 April 2021

• Click here for the March/April 2021 update from Martin Colston, the Leader of Newbury Town Council. This includes more on various consultations (see below), the forthcoming climate change workshop (see also below) and the latest on the café at Victoria Park.

• There’s an article by Dr David Cooper of he Say No to Sandleford campaign on p22 of this week’s Newbury Weekly News which provides an overview of the troubled project and also takes some fairly hefty and well-directed swipes at the way the property and development sectors operate in this country which, the writer argues, inflate property prices and reduce the power of planning authorities. It would seem that any attempt to reform of the UK’s planning system, as proposed in last year’s white paper (which proposed giving even more powers to developers) would seem to be impossible unless this problem can be addressed. Also, to solve the shortage of affordable homes which are not sufficiently profitable for private companies to build, councils or the government will need once again to become large-scale home builders themselves.

Although Dr Cooper knows far more about the subject than I do, I would also have added that all the problems on this site were exacerbated by there being two developers working in an unequal and uneasy partnership who, increasingly, were unable to agree about anything. Mind you, if the full story of Sandleford were to be told it would probably run to several chunky volumes. This seem to me an admirable summary. I wonder if the paper is planning to have articles of a similar length from other participants such as the developers themselves (if they can agree on what to say) and West Berkshire Council. The point about the two developers seem relevant because this in one of the aspects that Sandleford shares with the 2,500-home project in north east Thatcham: except that in the latter case there will not be two developers but four.

• See here for details of the Covid lateral flow tests that are available in Newbury.

• More details on the proposed redevelopment of the Kennet Centre, including artist’s impressions, can be found here.

• Newbury Town Council is inviting local residents take part in a Public Consultation regarding improvements to the Wash Common Recreation Ground and Open Space. The Town Council already provide a number of recreation facilities on the site and would like your views on how the area could be improved. Click here for more information.

Newbury Town Council will be hosting its third Climate Change Workshop on Saturday 17 April 2021. The workshop will be held via Zoom and open at 2:15pm for a 2:30pm start. More details here.

• A reminder that Newbury (or a part of it) goes to the polls in a by-election on 6 May. This will be to fill a seat for the Newbury Town Council Clay Hill ward which is vacant after the previous councillor was stood down for not having attended a sufficient number of meetings. More information can be found here.

• The most recent meeting of Chieveley Parish Council took place on 9 March and you can read the minutes here. (If anyone is in any doubt of the amount of work that Parish Clerks need to do before, during and after a meeting, the length and detail of this document should answer that question). The meeting was attended by Laura Farris MP and, as in the other occasions (including at Lambourn, Shefford and Bucklebury) she was shown a problem that affects local residents that she might not have been aware of. In the case of the Chieveley meeting there were several of these. One was a survey of the planning and development history of the showground site going back to the 1980s, with particular reference to the AONB and mineral extraction. The second was the school transport policy which, here and elsewhere, is a very tangled matter with some communities being divided in half for free-school-transport purposes in a way which, as one councillor suggested, amounted to a conflict between two policies. The third was illegal traveller encampments. This was a subject Ms Farris seemed to be aware of and it gave her the opportunity to read out some of the provisions of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill which address this. This was met with general approval at the meeting. Other aspects of the legislation (which were not discussed) are rather more contentious.

Other matters discussed at Chieveley’s meeting included: planning applications (including at Mary Hare which the PC felt that the site “is getting to the point of overdevelopment”; the settlement boundary review; financial matters; speeding; dog bins; Volunteer Chieveley; “unauthorised activities” to the north west of M4 J14; and Councillor Hilary Cole’s report that footpaths 10a and §10b were now “good to walk on”: which, for a footpath, has got to be regarded as a successful outcome to whatever the previous problem was.

• The most recent meeting of Shaw-cum-Donnington Parish Council took place on 17 February and you can read the draft minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Newbury Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 1 February and you can read the minutes here. As mentioned last week, that this was quite some time ago doesn’t seem to be due to indolence as might appear as the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.

• The most recent meeting of Greenham Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 10 February and you can read the minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Enborne Parish Council took place on 1 March and you can read the minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Boxford Parish Council took place on 2 March and you can read the minutes here.

• I presume that Hamstead Marshall Parish Council still meets: it has a website but the most recent minutes are are for September 2020.

• Please click here for Hamstead Marshall.net, which provides an excellent round-up of what’s going on in and around the village. It also produces the quarterly Hamstead Hornet the most recent edition of which has just been published and which you can see here. If you’d like to subscribe (which is free), contact Penny Stokes at admin@hamsteadmarshall.net.

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