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.

Newbury area council news

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 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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