Thursday 27 January 2022

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

This week’s news

• Congratulations to Megan Dempsie for co-winning West Berkshire’s Junior Citizen of the Year Award 2021. Megan volunteers with 5th Kennet Vale Rainbows, supporting weekly activities for five and six year olds and she initiated and helps with running Thatcham Litter Pickers. Megan started volunteering when she was 10 years old and has also raised significant sums of money to support causes that affect her friends and family who live locally. More details about the Community Champions 2021 winners can be seen here.

• Thatcham recently seems to be a housing developer’s paradise, as there are many different proposals for housing sites across the town including; the 2,500 home plan in north-east Thatcham, nine first-time homes opposite the Lawrences Lane development, up to 350 home scheme at Lower Henwick Farm, and on top of that the recently finished 92 apartment McCarthy Stone retirement home development near the town centre. Now, long-running plans for 91 new homes to be built on the land south of Lower Way have been recommended for approval, as reported by Newbury Today. Ahead of a 26 January meeting, planning officers announced that permission should be granted “subject to conditions” and also added that “public benefit of the proposed housing in this location attracts substantial weight in the planning balance and that the residual adverse impacts would not outweigh the benefits”. I’m afraid it seems the many efforts of locals who have long-opposed the Lower Way homes plan have sadly gone to waste…

• West Berkshire Council have notified local residents that (as of Monday 7 February) bin collection dates will be changing in order to accommodate for the impacts of both the nationwide HGV driver shortage and Covid-19. Further information and FAQs regarding the changes can be read on the council’s website including a new bin-day finder page where you can search for details for your own street address.

• Ex-Newbury MP Richard Benyon launched Village Halls Week 2022 from Bucklebury Village Hall’s newly renovated Victory Room on 24 January. The event challenges England’s many rural community buildings to do “something different” to show-off their local’s creative or maybe wacky sides… The week-long celebrations continue until Sunday 30 January, with further information available on NewburyToday and the launch event’s live broadcast from Bucklebury available to re-watch on YouTube.

• A belated AGM meeting was held on 26 January to discuss the necessary replacement of four committee roles at local grassroots football club Thatcham Town Harriers. Karl Woodrow will be stepping down from all four roles after, incredibly, volunteering as Club Secretary, Club Treasurer, Pitch Coordinator, and Covid Officer within his five seasons at the club. If replacements aren’t found, then the club’s future will be at risk. Harriers posted an update to its website explaining that “We really need volunteers to step forward and support them by taking on these core committee roles. These roles don’t require any football experience and each role individually takes no more than one to one and a half  hours of time per week.” Please see the AGM agendaand club websitefor further details and how to contact the club.

Stop press: as of 27 January, four of the five club officer roles have been filled, but the treasurer role is still vacant. The club has set a deadline of the end of February to find a replacement, otherwise Thatcham Town Harriers will be forced to fold.

• Woolhampton CoE Primary School expressed its delight for the proposed outdoor learning area grant being accepted by Woolhampton Parish Council. The council will fund the cost of the project, which the primary school hope will “introduce enhanced provision across the classes.” Planning photos and further information is available to see on the front page of the school’s 21 January newsletter.

• As reported last week, there is now a 22kW electric vehicle fast charger, capable of charging two vehicles, at Thatcham Gilbert Court public car park. For more details please see West Berkshire Council’s website. Users will be required to pay for their parking space whilst charging their vehicle.

• Thatcham Town Council is still calling upon the creative talent of local residents to help create the Thatcham Legacy Project 2022 of 45 different scenes depicting key events that have happened in the UK and Commonwealth over the last 70 years. The selected scenes will be put together to create a large visual commemoration within the town to celebrate, and commemorate, the Queen’s upcoming Platinum Jubilee.

• This week will be your final chance to provide any thoughts and opinions to Royal Berkshire Fire Authority regarding its funding from council tax for the next financial year. You can respond by completing this online surveybefore 5pm on Tuesday 1 February or ask for more information by emailing precepting@rbfrs.co.uk. Further details can be found via the Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service website and Facebook page.

• Another chance to voice any opinions towards Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service, as they wish to learn more about how they can respond to Automatic Fire Alarms alerts to help reduce the burden of false alarms on the service. Please respond to the online survey and see an informational video regarding the consultation.

• For future dates of meetings and events organised by Thatcham Town Council, please see the Winter 2021 newsletterand the Town Council Facebook page.

• For up-to-date news on the opposition to the 2,500-home plan for northeast Thatcham, please see the websites for Thatcham Town Council, Bucklebury Parish Council, Cold Ash Parish Council and Midgham Parish Council (see links at the foot of this section). You can also click here for the latest updates from the Bucklebury Says No group. See also the separate sections below (this has been covered many times and, I sense, will be again).

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

• Please drop off donations to West Berkshire Food Bank at Thatcham Library during its opening hours. If you wish to find out more about the food bank please click this linkto its website.

Click here to see the latest edition of the Cold Ash Community Bulletin which this week starts with a pink clouds and ends with pain and suffering.

Media silence

The Regency Park Hotel in Thatcham has suddenly cancelled some future bookings planned to be held within its premises for reasons that are (as of Thursday 27 January) yet to be explained – see this NewburyToday article for more. At a press briefing on 25 January, which Penny Post attended, West Berkshire Council was asked to comment: the Council’s Leader Lynne Doherty said she was regretfully unable to do so as she had been told to refer all enquiries to the Home Office (a Newbury Weekly News journalist had done just this and was told to contact West Berkshire Council). This was still the case at 5.30pm on 27 January. As reported in the article and confirmed separately by Penny Post, Thatcham Town Council has not been informed either. All that can be said for certain is that the gym remains open to members.

Whatever is planned will seem to be keeping the hotel fully booked until the end of June. This could either be because the Home Office has picked this as the venue for the mother of all parties, a five-month-long carnival of self-indulgence that will reduce the Downing Street events to insignificance; or, which appears more likely, that the hotel is going to be used to house asylum seekers. The current media blackout leaves the vacuum which could potentially be filled by speculation on social media. I guess the Home Office knows what it’s doing but this veil of secrecy risks making something that isn’t that big a deal seem like a problem. I feel sorry for the hotel staff who’re having to cancel bookings without being able to explain why. I also doubt that WBC’s leadership and communications team welcomes being told to sit on information and, perhaps, watch speculation unfold in its district which it can do nothing to dispel.

So, if Pritti Patel is reading this, WBC’s next media briefing is at 4pm next Tuesday: could you make sure you’ve given Lynne Doherty the green light by then, please?

Balancing the books

This week’s Newbury Weekly News reports on p27 that the council currently has a deficit of about £47,000 and is planning to raise its precept by 4.8%. I called Town Councillor and Financial Committee member Mike Cole to get his thoughts.

I suggested to him that a 4.8% precept increase (just over £4pa on a band D property) wasn’t actually that much and that some parishes were going for even more (unlike district councils, towns and parishes are not limited in how much they can raise their precept without going to referendum). He pointed out that the promise the council had made when it assumed office in 2019 was that rises would be kept within the rate of inflation, currently at about 5%. As for the deficit, this is out of a total precept of about £700,000. He confirmed the newspaper’s report that measures were in hand to address this.

He also confirmed that, as the NWN had reported, much of this was caused by extra use of and thus wear and tear to (and on a few occasions vandalism of) the 17 playgrounds in the town. Extra costs and reduced revenues arising from Covid were also to blame. he confirmed that in the last financial year, TTC had received about £17,500 in various Covid support measures from WBC but that nothing had so far been allocated in this year. (this was also about the sum of money that the Council was out of pocket as a result of lost bookings on its public buildings). He said that WBC had been swift in passing on such government funds in the past and felt sure that, if any more were available, that WBC would give TTC a sympathetic hearing.

Local government legislation requires parishes to have regard to the level of reserves needed for meeting estimated future expenditure when calculating their budget. However, there is no specified minimum or maximum level of reserves that an authority should hold and it is down to the Responsible Financial Officer (generally the Clerk) to advise the Parish Council about the level of reserves and to ensure that there are key protocols for their establishment and use. In recent years many town and parish councils have been confronted with extra costs as a result of the parent authority wishing to shed services or assets, the parish then having to choose between taking these overor doing without. Some parishes have therefore been building up their reserves to cover such eventualities. Indeed, in late 2021 a Wiltshire Councillor advised Aldbourne PC to increase its precept for exactly this reason.

Local events and activities

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

• Dates for the diary

• Fri 28 Jan Birds and a Brew with BBOWT 2pm to 4pm Thatcham Nature Discovery Centre.

• Fri 28 Jan Live Music – Zoe Badman 8pm The Swan, Thatcham.

Sat 29 Jan Charity Dog Walk 10.30am The Rowbarge, Woolhampton.

Sat 29 Jan Quiz Night 7.30pm Thatcham Rugby Club.

• Mon 31 Jan Online Talk – History of Thatcham Town Centre 7.30pm via Zoom meeting.

Tue 1 Feb Coffee Morning 10.30am to noon Frilsham Club Room, RG18 9XQ.

Fri 4 Feb Design Your Own Royal Crown 4pm to 5pm Thatcham Library.

• Sat 5 Feb Online Volunteer Recruitment Fair 10am to 12.30pm via Zoom meeting.

• Thu 10 Feb SEND Coffee Morning Workshops 9am to 10am Parsons Down School, Thatcham.

Fri 11 Feb PTA Quiz Night 7pm Main Hall, Kennet School, Thatcham.

• Sat 12 Feb Roller Disco 5pm to 7.45pm Kennet Leisure Centre, Thatcham.

Sat 12 Feb Spring Concert 7.30pm St Mary’s Church, Thatcham.

• Fri 18 Feb Meet The Brewer Event with Loddon Brewery 7pm The Rowbarge, Woolhampton.

• Sat 19 Feb Thatcham Refillable Mobile Shop 10am to noon 60 Northfield Road, Thatcham RG18 3ES.

Mon 28 Feb ‘The Legend of Jack of Newbury’ Talk 7.15pm Sixth Form Common Room, Kennet School, Thatcham.

• Regular events

• For January 2022 Sport in Mind are running free badminton activities down at Kennet Leisure Centre, Thatcham on Wednesdays, starting at 6pm.

• Thatcham Rugby Club host Mixed Walking Touch Rugby sessions on the top pitch (near the astro pitch) at Henwick Worthy Sports Ground, Thatcham also on Wednesdays, which start at 7pm.

Yoga by the Lake at Thatcham Nature Discovery Centre on Sunday mornings for an hour of relaxation between 10am and 11am. For more deails please click this link.

Sing Louder Choir community choirs meet on Thursdays at Frank Hutchins Hall with a children choir 6pm to 7pm  community choir from 7.15pm to 8.15pm. Please see the organiser’s Facebook page for further updates.

• For updates on clubs and activities provided by Thatcham Youth please visit their Facebook page and website.

• RMD Adventure Learning is running a youth club at The Moor Pavilion, Lower Way, Thatcham for over 13s on Fridays between 6.30pm and 8.30pm. Please see a Facebook post from RMD Adventure Learning for more information.

 Thatcham Library has many different clubs and events for people of all ages throughout 2022. For more information on events at Thatcham Library, visit the West Berkshire Library Facebook page or contact Thatcham Library at thatchamlibrary@westberks.gov.uk.

• The Youth Café at Glendale Church, Thatcham is open to all secondary school pupils on Fridays between 6.30pm to 8pm.

• Glendale Church also hosts a Board Games Night on the first Thursday of each month from 7pm to 10pm, entry cost £1 per person.

• Bucklebury Memorial Hall indoor bowls group meets twice a week on Mondays 10.30am to 12.30pm and Fridays 2.30pm to 4.30pm. More information and contact details can be found here.

• See Sustainable Living Market – Thatcham & Newbury on Facebook to learn about their planned dates for future markets throughout 2022.

• Thatcham Baptist Church have many different groups and events happening throughout the week, for people of all ages. Their What’s On web page details all upcoming events plus regular groups held by the church.

• Two regular weekday events for parents or carers with babies and toddlers are hosted by St Mary’s and St Barnabas Church, Thatcham every week. The Baby and Toddler Group is held every Wednesday from 10.30am till noon at St Mary’s Church, Thatcham. Then their Baby Café is open every Tuesday between 10.30am to noon at Old Bluecoat School, Thatcham.

• This week’s NWN reports, on p28, that the application for 21 homes in Hermitage at The Old Farmhouse has come back to life again after having been lodged, passed and had an amendment objected which was then passed on appeal. You can view the application here. I contacted Hermitage PC and was told that the matter will be considered at its next meeting on 2 February.

News from your local council

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

• The most recent meeting of Thatcham Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 29 November and you can read the minutes here. Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these. To see the dates and agendas for future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Brimpton Parish Council took place on 4 January and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: land for sale; a damaged utility pole; cherry trees; a street that doesn’t exist; speeding; the war memorial; planning applications; and a replacement village map.  To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Hermitage Parish Council took place on 16 December and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: the co-option of a councillor; planning matters; financial matters; the burial ground; playgrounds and recreation areas; trees; the Village Hall; and the future of the parish magazine. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• See also this page for up-to-date information about Hermitage’s neighbourhood development plan.

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

• Information about the progress of Cold Ash’s neighbourhood development plan can be found here.

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

• The most recent meeting of Frilsham Parish Council took place on 10 November and you can read the draft minutes hereTo see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Stanford Dingley Parish Council took place on 1 November and you can read the minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Midgham Parish Council took place on 25 October and you can read the minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• Thatcham area council contacts

Parishes: Thatcham Town CouncilHermitage Parish CouncilCold Ash Parish CouncilMidgham Parish CouncilBucklebury Parish CouncilBrimpton Parish CouncilStanford Dingley Parish CouncilFrilsham Parish Council and Woolhampton Parish Council.

West Berkshire Council: click here to visit the website.

News from other areas

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

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

Thursday 20 January 2022

This week’s news

• Six new electric vehicle charge points are now live across West Berkshire public car parks including one 22kW Fast Charger, capable of charging two vehicles at Thatcham Gilbert Court Public Car Park. For more details please see West Berkshire Council’s website. Please note, users will be required to pay for their parking space whilst charging their vehicle.

• The creative talent of local residents is called upon to help create the Thatcham Legacy Project 2022 of 45 different scenes depicting key events that have happened in the UK and Commonwealth over the last 70 years. The selected scenes will be put together to create a large visual commemoration within the town to celebrate, and commemorate, the Queen’s upcoming Platinum Jubilee. Thatcham Town Council has asked for a variety of artistic mediums to be sent including embroidery, weaving, applique, cross stitch, patchwork, photography, painting, marquetry, mosaic, felting, beading, crochet and others.

• More news from Thatcham Town Council, as it seeks to prepare a formal letter to West Berkshire Council addressing their concerns with a proposed new parking permit scheme. Plans include the introduction of a ‘Park and Stride’ style of transportation for parents with children attending local Thatcham schools near the Old Bluecoat School and Dunstan Green open space car parks. Councillor Owen Jeffery (Lib Dem, Thatcham Central) has remarked “we need to get a lot more detail from West Berkshire Council as to what they want to do, how they’re going to make it work and how they’re putting money into the repair maintenance. I don’t think there is enough detail here. I certainly think we are not in a position to approve it as it stands.” Further debate between Thatcham’s councillors can be read in this NewburyToday article covering the topic.

• Another NewburyToday article highlights the importance and help that Thatcham Community Larder has provided for local people since its inception six months ago. The larder works in a similar way to others you may see mentioned by us in Newbury, Wantage and Marlborough, with members able to shop for up to ten non-perishable items plus any fresh produce on offer. Stock that is received would normally have been thrown away into land fill and gone to waste, but anything that is left behind from the larders is donated to Newbury Soup Kitchen and the Small Animal Rescue Sanctuary to reduce waste even further.

• Last week we mentioned that Thatcham local Ed Smith was participating in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, alongside his three ship-mates. They were all looking to raise funds, as well as the public’s awareness, for charity Victoria’s Promise and sea forest preservation initiative One For The Sea. The group recently completed their row across the Atlantic Ocean, which started in the Canary Islands on 12 December 2021 and ended with their arrival on the Caribbean island of Antigua on 18 January 2022. Thirty teams from across the globe competed in the race, which as NewburyToday says “is widely regarded as the world’s toughest row” and Team Anna Victorious finished in an impressive fifth place. On top of that the group raised an immense £32,000 for Victoria’s Promise, the charity whose support Ed was so grateful for during his late-wife Anna’s battle with cancer. Congratulations from all of us at Penny Post, we hope you all enjoy your return back home.

Dog poo bins throughout Thatcham are still not being emptied, with bags upon bags pilling up on top of already full bins. Photos tweeted by Thatcham Council leader David Lister highlight the current issue, with the areas surrounding the bins being affected by the mini mountains of waste. If a dog poo bin is full and in need of emptying, you can report the problem to West Berkshire Council. However this doesn’t look to be an instant fix to the problem…

• Many more laps have been marched by locals supporting the charity group Hope, Strength and Courage with their attempt to walk 10,000 laps of Thatcham lakes (Nature Discovery Centre) and Newbury’s Victoria Park. All participants will be given a sponsorship form to hopefully raise as much as possible for Newbury Cancer Care. Please see the charity group’s Facebook page or this Newbury Cancer Care tweet for how to get involved. Thatcham is still beating Newbury with 67 laps to 52 (according to a post on 14 January at 11.57am). Surely anyone born and raised in Thatcham couldn’t let Newbury take the lead.

• It’s been a busy week for Thatcham’s Kennet School Sixth Form pupils, as they were joined by various local religious leaders to discuss how their faith impacts mental health and the importance of religion in today’s world. Also 19 candidates performed speeches to ask and encourage fellow pupils to vote them into several leadership roles for the 2022-23 school year. Gone are the ballot boxes, which have been replaced by an online voting system for the upcoming elections.

Royal Berkshire Fire Authority are asking for Berkshire’s thoughts and opinions on their funding coming through council tax for the next financial year. You can respond by completing this online survey before 5pm on Tuesday 1 February or ask for more information by emailing precepting@rbfrs.co.uk. Further details can be found via the Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service website and Facebook page.

• For future dates of meetings and events organised by Thatcham Town Council, please see the Winter 2021 newsletter and the Town Council Facebook page.

• For up-to-date news on the opposition to the 2,500-home plan for northeast Thatcham, please see the websites for Thatcham Town Council, Bucklebury Parish Council, Cold Ash Parish Council and Midgham Parish Council (see links at the foot of this section). You can also click here for the latest updates from the Bucklebury Says No group. See also the separate section below.

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

• Please drop off donations to West Berkshire Food Bank at Thatcham Library during its opening hours. If you wish to find out more about the food bank please click this link to its website.

• Click here to see the latest edition of the Cold Ash Community Bulletin which this week starts with a balloon and ends with Alastair Campbell.

A moment to reflect

Opposition continues to the plans to build 2,500 homes to the north east of Thatcham. One person who has misgivings about the plan is MP Laura Farris and these were expressed in a letter sent following her attendance at a public event in Bucklebury Village Hall in August 2021. A meeting recently took place involving her, WBC Leader Lynne Doherty, ward member Graham Park and the new Executive Director of Planning Eric Owens to discuss WBC’s response to her comments. This should be provided soon and will doubtless be made public in due course. This proposal to allocate this number of homes to NE Thatcham dates back over a year, since when several things have changed.

Firstly, the two senior planning officers and the portfolio holder from that time have moved on which provides, perhaps, an opportunity to review the scheme with fresh eyes. Many have claimed that insufficient attention had been devoted to other proposals such as at Colthrop which, as well as being on a more human scale, are in many ways better located and so likely to be less environmentally damaging. Anything south of the railway line of course re-opens the question of the bridge, which many feel is needed even if no further development took place in the town. WBC’s planners have always maintained that the 2,500 development wouldn’t require this. Any on the other side of tracks definitely would and I understand that the developers have said they could cover or at least contribute to the cost of this. Doubtless at this very moment WBC’s officers are establishing how much this is likely to cost.

Another personnel change has also taken place at the Ministry of Housing and it didn’t take long for the new supremo Michael Gove to evince serious doubts about the planning white paper proposed by his predecessor. Last summer, the government also announced that a 30-year vision was required by planning authorities for significant developments. This has resulted in a delay to the local plan while this is assessed for NE Thatcham, so providing another pause in which the wisdom of this billion-pound and decades-long project can be reconsidered. This will be conducted against the backdrop of two of Mr Gove’s statements: firstly, that brownfield developments should be prioritised over greenfield ones; secondly, that more flexibility should be given to the interpretation of housing allocation figures. With the saga of Sandleford in Newbury still rumbling on, it’s also fair to ask if a scheme involving four developers (two have, after 20 years, proved to be one too many in Sandleford) is deliverable at all and whether, if it is, it can happen with a sufficiency of mitigating infrastructure and the minimum of environmental impact.

If the re-evaluation results in a change of view, WBC should be applauded. To admit that a decision could be improved, and to effect that improvement, is an act of bravery and wisdom, not of weakness or folly. There certainly seem to be many reasons why this plan needs a careful rethink, some of which may not have been clear when the idea found its way into the emerging local plan.

None of the opposition groups are planning to take their foot off the gas, however, and will continue to make their views known. Their work will have built up a good deal of local expertise. WBC might be wise to engage with them to turn this to constructive use. The result should be a solution which benefits all the residents of the district – a sentiment which was recently unanimously voted on at a full council meeting – and doesn’t place all the burden on one part of it which is already hard pressed to provide what’s required by the residents it already has.

Local events and activities

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

• Dates for the diary

• Sat 22 Jan Sustainable Living Market 10am to 12.30pm Thatcham Catholic Hall.

• Sun 23 Jan Muddy Church 2pm Thatcham Nature Discovery Centre.

• Tue 25 Jan Royal British Legion Thatcham Branch Meeting 7.30pm Thatcham Town FC.

• Wed 26 Jan Mobile Library 10.15am to 10.55am Watermill Court, Woolhampton.

• Fri 28 Jan Birds and a Brew with BBOWT 2pm to 4pm Thatcham Nature Discovery Centre.

• Fri 28 Jan Live Music – Zoe Badman 8pm The Swan, Thatcham.

• Mon 31 Jan Online Talk – History of Thatcham Town Centre 7.30pm via Zoom meeting.

Sat 5 Feb Online Volunteer Recruitment Fair 10am to 12.30pm via Zoom meeting.

Thu 10 Feb SEND Coffee Morning Workshops 9am to 10am Parsons Down School, Thatcham.

Sat 12 Feb Roller Disco 5pm to 7.45pm Kennet Leisure Centre, Thatcham.

Fri 18 Feb Meet The Brewer Event with Loddon Brewery 7pm The Rowbarge, Woolhampton.

Sat 19 Feb Thatcham Refillable Mobile Shop 10am to noon 60 Northfield Road, Thatcham RG18 3ES.

• Regular events

• For January 2022 Sport in Mind are running free badminton activities down at Kennet Leisure Centre, Thatcham on Wednesdays, starting at 6pm.

• Thatcham Rugby Club host Mixed Walking Touch Rugby sessions on the top pitch (near the astro pitch) at Henwick Worthy Sports Ground, Thatcham also on Wednesdays, which start at 7pm.

• Anyone looking to get into yoga or join a group of fellow enthusiasts, then head down to Thatcham Nature Discovery Centre on Sunday mornings for an hour of relaxation. The sessions are between 10am and 11am and if you’d like to find out more or get in contact with the organisers, then please click this link.

• Frank Hutchings Hall, Thatcham hosts two new community choirs called Sing Louder Choir. The groups meet on Thursdays with a children choir being held between 6pm to 7pm, followed by the community choir from 7.15pm to 8.15pm. Please see the organiser’s Facebook page for further updates.

• For updates on clubs and activities provided by Thatcham Youth please visit their Facebook page and website.

• RMD Adventure Learning is running a youth club at The Moor Pavilion, Lower Way, Thatcham for those over 13 years old. The club takes place on Fridays between 6.30pm and 8.30pm. Please see a Facebook post from RMD Adventure Learning for more information.

 Thatcham Library has many different clubs and events for people of all ages throughout 2022. For more information on events at Thatcham Library, visit the West Berkshire Library Facebook page or contact Thatcham Library at thatchamlibrary@westberks.gov.uk.

• The Youth Café at Glendale Church, Thatcham is open to all secondary school pupils on Fridays between 6.30pm to 8pm.

• Glendale Church also hosts a Board Games Night on the first Thursday of each month from 7pm to 10pm, entry cost £1 per person.

• Bucklebury Memorial Hall has acquired two indoor carpet lanes plus equipment for indoor bowls. If you would like to join the group, they meet twice a week on Mondays 10.30am to 12.30pm and Fridays 2.30pm to 4.30pm. More information and contact details can be found here.

• See Sustainable Living Market – Thatcham & Newbury on Facebook to learn about their planned dates for future markets throughout 2022.

Thatcham Baptist Church have many different groups and events happening throughout the week, for people of all ages. Their What’s On web page details all upcoming events plus regular groups held by the church.

• Two regular weekday events for parents or carers with babies and toddlers are hosted by St Mary’s and St Barnabas Church, Thatcham every week. The Baby and Toddler Group is held every Wednesday from 10.30am till noon at St Mary’s Church, Thatcham. Then their Baby Café is open every Tuesday between 10.30am to noon at Old Bluecoat School, Thatcham.

News from your local council

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

• The most recent meeting of Thatcham Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 27 September and you can read the minutes here. Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these. To see the dates and agendas for future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Brimpton Parish Council took place on 4 January and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: land for sale; a damaged utility pole; cherry trees; a street that doesn’t exist (see also the News section above); speeding; the war memorial; planning applications; and a replacement village map.  To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Cold Ash Parish Council took place on 14 December and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: questions about CAPC’s decision not to object to application 21/02702/OUTD for Sylvian House in Fishers Lane; a problematic oak tree; grit; grazing; goalposts; Greenham Trust; a proposed memorial bench; speeding; planning matters; financial matters, including the 2022-23 budget; the jubilee; the neighbourhood development plan; and committee reports. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• Information about the progress of Cold Ash’s neighbourhood development plan can be found here.

• The most recent meeting of Bucklebury Parish Council took place on 13 December and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: the co-option of a new councillor; the audit; planning matters; an update from the working group on the emerging local plan (with particular reference to the proposed 2,500 homes in Thatcham); byways on the Common; the cemetery; the chapel; hedges; the playpark; the dibrillator; speeding; cherry trees; financial matters; engagement with West Berkshire Council; the Best of Bucklebury weekend (18 and 19 June); the Patient Participation Group; The Victory Room; and parking in Briff Lane. To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Frilsham Parish Council took place on 10 November and you can read the draft minutes hereTo see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Stanford Dingley Parish Council took place on 1 November and you can read the minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Midgham Parish Council took place on 25 October and you can read the minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Hermitage Parish Council took place on 21 October and you can read the minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• See also this page for up-to-date information about Hermitage’s neighbourhood development plan.

Thursday 13 January 2022

This week’s news

• Six new electric vehicle charge points are now live across West Berkshire public car parks including one 22kW Fast Charger, capable of charging two vehicles at Thatcham Gilbert Court Public Car Park. For more details please see West Berkshire Council’s website. Please note, users will be required to pay for their parking space whilst charging their vehicle.

• Between 7 January and 7 March local charity group Hope, Strength and Courage is attempting to walk 10,000 laps of Thatcham lakes (Nature Discovery Centre) and Newbury’s Victoria Park. Understandably (unless they can get Sir Mo Farah involved?) the laps are accumulative throughout the weeks with many locals registering their personal laps to add to the total. So far Thatcham is beating Newbury with 28 laps to 23. All participants will be given a sponsorship form to hopefully raise as much as possible for Newbury Cancer Care. Please see the charity group’s Facebook page or this Newbury Cancer Care tweet for how to get involved.

• Berks, Bucks and Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) has created a community garden at the Nature Discovery Centre in Thatcham. The initiative is part of their ‘Engaging with Nature’ project which uses nature to help people with mental health problems. BBOWT is encouraging anyone to come along to the garden and get stuck in. The 10-week program uses a blend of nature therapy, horticultural therapy and expressive arts to help improve mental health.

• And still at Thatcham Nature Discovery Centre, if you haven’t seen the murmurations of starlings over the Thatcham Reed Beds, you can watch this captivating video by land manager Roger Stace.

Thatcham Town FC is hosting an open Questions & Answers session with the Kingfisher’s manager Jamie Leacock and his team. Fans will have the chance to ask any question they wish, which could range from future plans of the club to his current reflections on recent results. Anyone wishing to attend the Q&A can meet at the club bar after Thatcham’s home match against South Park FC on Saturday 15 January.

• Thatcham local Ed Smith is currently participating in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, alongside three ship-mates who are all looking to raise the public’s awareness of the charity Victoria’s Promise as well as sea forest preservation initiative One For The Sea. As reported by NewburyToday, Ed was so thankful for the support provided by Victoria’s Promise during his late-wife Anna’s battle with cancer that he begun fundraising for the charity. Team Anna Victorious’ journey started on 12 December 2021 in the Canary Islands and they are still rowing in the Atlantic Ocean towards the Caribbean island of Antigua. You can track the live location of the group’s journey via the website of Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge.

• As mentioned last week, the Age UK shop in Thatcham’s Kingsland Centre has sent an appeal to those who may have received unwanted Christmas gifts this year to donate them.  You can contact the shop on 01635 864 994 or you can find more information here, and on the website here too.

BerkshireLife published 50 photos from 1972 (which is now all of 50 years ago…) that look back at various towns and events across Berkshire at the time. A couple of photos in the collection highlight a Dalek take-over of Woolhampton Primary School. We must have missed that episode of Doctor Who, however, the kids at the school don’t seem too scared by the infamous monster’s arrival…

• The pandemic has tried its best to tear apart much of our local community spirit, by forcing us to self-isolate and go into lockdown. However for the residents of Burns Walk in Thatcham, that couldn’t be further from the truth. NewburyToday reports that around 18 households upon Burns Walk have united (while social distancing we’re sure) to support West Berkshire Foodbank. As seen in the article’s photographs, Mark Palmer-Broughton’s dining table soon became over-whelmed with the street’s generosity. The donation will certainly go a long way to supporting the vulnerable during these winter months.

• Thames Valley Police and Crimes Commissioner, Matthew Barber, is asking residents across the Thames Valley area for their opinions for the 2022/23 Police Budget. An online survey can be responded to before the deadline of 5pm on Tuesday 18 January. Matthew Barber has stated the importance of any responses by saying “giving us your feedback, you can help shape decisions about police funding and how Thames Valley Police can continue to work to keep us all safe.”

• Also, Royal Berkshire Fire Authority are asking for Berkshire’s thoughts and opinions on their funding coming through council tax for the next financial year. You can respond by completing this online survey before 5pm on Tuesday 1 February or ask for more information by emailing precepting@rbfrs.co.uk. Further details can be found via the Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service website and Facebook page.

• For future dates of meetings and events organised by Thatcham Town Council, please see the Winter 2021 newsletter and the Town Council Facebook page.

• For up-to-date news on the opposition to the 2,500-home plan for northeast Thatcham, please see the websites for Thatcham Town Council, Bucklebury Parish Council, Cold Ash Parish Council and Midgham Parish Council (see links at the foot of this section). You can also click here for the latest updates from the Bucklebury Says No group. See also the separate section below.

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

• The Thatcham Community Larder is open 2pm to 6pm every Weds at the Frank Hutchings Hall. See here for more details.

• Residents of Back Lane in Brimpton may be interested to know that their street doesn’t exist. A meeting of the Parish Council on 4 January was told that new street name plates couldn’t be added as it “isn’t an official street name  in any postal addresses.” I don’t know whether this non-existence can be used as grounds for not paying their council tax (but I doubt it). For more on what passed at this meeting, see the section below.

• Please drop off donations to West Berkshire Food Bank at Thatcham Library during its opening hours. If you wish to find out more about the food bank please click this link to its website.

• Click here to see the latest edition of the Cold Ash Community Bulletin which this week starts with mist and ends with Tolkien.

Can we have our ball back?

A small-sided football pitch has long frustrated local residents near Pound Lane in Thatcham, with NewburyToday reporting that complaints were raised by locals due to wayward footballs flying from the current pitch into their driveway. Thatcham Town Council’s answer to those complaints was to relocate the goal post to another part of the field and then re-wild the old playing pitch with grass and flowers, which would overall cost £4,000. However, that move has been branded “a waste of money” by locals living near to the Pound Lane fields. Gary Johnson, Chairman of Pound Lane Action Group, has said “the football pitch should be left where it is” while adding that moving the pitch to where wild grass grows could put those who use the pitch at risk. Local dog walkers and users of the playground have also weighed in.

Thatcham council may find itself in a lose-lose situation here as every solution threatens to create a situation in some ways better but in other ways worse than the one it’s replacing. As the proposed move has been triggered by residents getting fed up with having balls coming into their gardens and slapping into their houses, perhaps a taller fence might be the answer. There was one of those at Faraday Road in Newbury until a month or so ago when it was taken down. I imagine this has long since been turned into dog food or railway tracks or whatever happens to old fences: but if this is viable, I wonder if WBC might want to contribute to the cost of a new one? That would help tick one of the boxes in their obligation to Sport England to improve football provision in the district, something that many (including Sport England) feel would be better done by spending money at various locations rather than concentrating its efforts on the problematical and expensive new pitch at Monks Lane in Newbury. Just a thought…

Local events and activities

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

• Dates for the diary

Sat 15 Jan Manager Q&A Session 5pm Thatcham Town FC.

Sun 16 Jan Come and Be Service 5pm St Mary’s Church, Thatcham.

• Thu 20 Jan Vintage Adventure 2.30pm to 4pm Thatcham Methodist Church.

Sat 22 Jan Sustainable Living Market 10am to 12.30pm Thatcham Catholic Hall.

Sun 23 Jan Muddy Church 2pm Thatcham Nature Discovery Centre.

Tue 25 Jan Royal British Legion Thatcham Branch Meeting 7.30pm Thatcham Town FC.

• Wed 26 Jan Mobile Library 10.15am to 10.55am Watermill Court, Woolhampton.

• Fri 28 Jan Birds and a Brew with BBOWT 2pm to 4pm Thatcham Nature Discovery Centre.

• Fri 28 Jan Live Music – Zoe Badman 8pm The Swan, Thatcham.

Mon 31 Jan Online Talk – History of Thatcham Town Centre 7.30pm via Zoom meeting.

• Regular events

• For January 2022 Sport in Mind are running free badminton activities down at Kennet Leisure Centre, Thatcham on Wednesdays, starting at 6pm.

Thatcham Rugby Club host Mixed Walking Touch Rugby sessions on the top pitch (near the astro pitch) at Henwick Worthy Sports Ground, Thatcham also on Wednesdays, which start at 7pm.

• Anyone looking to get into yoga or join a group of fellow enthusiasts, then head down to Thatcham Nature Discovery Centre on Sunday mornings for an hour of relaxation. The sessions are between 10am and 11am and if you’d like to find out more or get in contact with the organisers, then please click this link.

• Frank Hutchings Hall, Thatcham hosts two new community choirs called Sing Louder Choir. The groups meet on Thursdays with a children choir being held between 6pm to 7pm, followed by the community choir from 7.15pm to 8.15pm. Please see the organiser’s Facebook page for further updates.

• For updates on clubs and activities provided by Thatcham Youth please visit their Facebook page and website.

• RMD Adventure Learning is running a youth club at The Moor Pavilion, Lower Way, Thatcham for those over 13 years old. The club takes place on Fridays between 6.30pm and 8.30pm. Please see a Facebook post from RMD Adventure Learning for more information.

 Thatcham Library has many different clubs and events for people of all ages throughout 2022. For more information on events at Thatcham Library, visit the West Berkshire Library Facebook page or contact Thatcham Library at thatchamlibrary@westberks.gov.uk.

• The Youth Café at Glendale Church, Thatcham is open to all secondary school pupils on Fridays between 6.30pm to 8pm.

• Glendale Church also hosts a Board Games Night on the first Thursday of each month from 7pm to 10pm, entry cost £1 per person.

• Bucklebury Memorial Hall has acquired two indoor carpet lanes plus equipment for indoor bowls. If you would like to join the group, they meet twice a week on Mondays 10.30am to 12.30pm and Fridays 2.30pm to 4.30pm. More information and contact details can be found here.

• See Sustainable Living Market – Thatcham & Newbury on Facebook to learn about their planned dates for future markets throughout 2022.

News from your local council

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

• The most recent meeting of Thatcham Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 27 September and you can read the minutes here. Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these. To see the dates and agendas for future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Brimpton Parish Council took place on 4 January and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: land for sale; a damaged utility pole; cherry trees; a street that doesn’t exist (see also the News section above); speeding; the war memorial; planning applications; and a replacement village map.  To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Cold Ash Parish Council took place on 14 December and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: questions about CAPC’s decision not to object to application 21/02702/OUTD for Sylvian House in Fishers Lane; a problematic oak tree; grit; grazing; goalposts; Greenham Trust; a proposed memorial bench; speeding; planning matters; financial matters, including the 2022-23 budget; the jubilee; the neighbourhood development plan; and committee reports. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• Information about the progress of Cold Ash’s neighbourhood development plan can be found here.

• The most recent meeting of Bucklebury Parish Council took place on 13 December and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: the co-option of a new councillor; the audit; planning matters; an update from the working group on the emerging local plan (with particular reference to the proposed 2,500 homes in Thatcham); byways on the Common; the cemetery; the chapel; hedges; the playpark; the dibrillator; speeding; cherry trees; financial matters; engagement with West Berkshire Council; the Best of Bucklebury weekend (18 and 19 June); the Patient Participation Group; The Victory Room; and parking in Briff Lane. To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Frilsham Parish Council took place on 10 November and you can read the draft minutes hereTo see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Stanford Dingley Parish Council took place on 1 November and you can read the minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Midgham Parish Council took place on 25 October and you can read the minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Hermitage Parish Council took place on 21 October and you can read the minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• See also this page for up-to-date information about Hermitage’s neighbourhood development plan.

Thursday 6 January 2022

This week’s news

• Green bin (garden and food waste) collection service has been temporarily suspended by West Berkshire Council until 8 January, with resumption of the services starting again from Monday 10 January.

• Local residents of Thatcham and Newbury have complained about the problems with mail deliveries over Christmas which have continued into the New Year. A Newbury Today article highlights the Royal Mail’s explanation for the scarcity of post as “there are just not enough boots on the ground at the moment”, with Thatcham’s delivery office being closed on 30 and 31 December because of “reported sickness absences”. With the festive period coming to a close, the amount of parcel and post deliveries will likely be decreasing and therefore make for a more manageable situation for Royal Mail.

None the less, problems in parts of the area keep re-surfacing. Across the county line in Wantage, residents have regularly claimed about very late post and the local MP has even raised the matter in the Commons. As recently as 2003 many areas had two postal deliveries a day and many people’s days traditionally started with opening their letters over breakfast.  Now, however, Royal Mail is presiding over a service that seems at times to consist entirely of unsolicited mail. None the less, a lot of people rely on it. Many don’t choose to use the internet for all that it can provide and six percent of homes don’t for one reason or another have access to it at all. Even the digitally connected need it more than they might suppose as if you need a new PIN or password it’s sometimes sent by post.

• Age UK in Thatcham has sent an appeal to those who may have received unwanted Christmas gifts this year to donate them. More than 119.5 million presents go unwanted in the UK and around 22.7 million of those end up in landfills so, if you or anyone you know received the infamous “oh, er… thanks so much…” present, please consider giving it a second chance. You can contact the shop on 01635 864 994 or you can find more information here, and on the website here too.

Thatcham Town Council posted a video which reflects back to their various events in December 2021 and also left a message to local residents saying “we look forward to seeing you at our events in 2022!”

• A charity football match held on 19 December at Henwick Worthy Sports pitches in Thatcham raised £1,015 for Newbury Cancer Care. As shown by Newbury Today‘s match photos, many of the players from local pub-team Taste of England and their opponents played in fancy-dress costumes. With Superman inbetween the sticks, Santa flying down the wing, and cheerleaders chasing footballers across the pitch, it was certainly a fantastic effort for a very worthy cause.

• Starting from Thursday 6 January, the Frank Hutchings Hall, Thatcham will host two new community choirs called Sing Louder Choir. The groups will meet on Thursdays with the children choir being held between 6pm to 7pm, followed by the community choir from 7.15pm to 8.15pm. Please see the organiser’s Facebook page for further updates and details.

Thames Valley Police and Crimes Commissioner, Matthew Barber, is asking residents across the Thames Valley area for their opinions for the 2022/23 Police Budget. An online survey can be responded to before the deadline of 5pm on Tuesday 18 January. Matthew Barber has stated the importance of any responses by saying “giving us your feedback, you can help shape decisions about police funding and how Thames Valley Police can continue to work to keep us all safe.”

• One crime that the local police can get stuck into is the theft of the Bucklebury Community Bus, as reported by this week’s Newbury Weekly News and also the Thatcham Together Community Forum on 21 Dec.”Help! ” the message read. “The bus has been stolen from the car park of the Cottage Inn, some time between Friday 17 December and Tuesday 21 December. It has been reported to the Police. The bus is a dark blue Ford Transit, registration YP63 MFK.” The NWN article quotes a spokesperson for the group as saying that “sadly the police had nothing to go on and so have closed the case.” Really? They have a registration number and a description. Surely this doesn’t mean that any stolen vehicle unrecovered after a couple of weeks is just forgotten about? Could Matthew Barber explain what’s meant by “closing the case”?

Thatcham Youth have many clubs and activities for children across the Thatcham area including The Zone Youth Club and Vision Youth Club, with both having many different events on throughout the start of 2022. Please also see our ‘dates for the diary’ section below for further information on upcoming events at Thatcham Youth.

• If you have children who wish to learn about computer programming and coding, then they can sign up for a free 12 week online course with West Berkshire Libraries. Applications to attend the course must be sent before Monday 10 January.

• For future dates of meetings and events organised by Thatcham Town Council, please see the Winter 2021 newsletter.

• For up-to-date news on the opposition to the 2,500-home plan for northeast Thatcham, please see the websites for Thatcham Town Council, Bucklebury Parish Council, Cold Ash Parish Council and Midgham Parish Council (see links at the foot of this section). You can also click here for the latest updates from the Bucklebury Says No group. See also the separate section below.

• See here for the latest from Thatcham Town Council’s Facebook page.

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

• Claire from the Incantata Community Choir in Thatcham confirmed to Penny Post that the choir is looking for new members. The choir meets every Wednesday between 9.30am and 11.30am at St Mary’s Church Hall, Greenham. No auditions are required and it offers two free trial sessions in the first month of each term. See more information here on their website.

• The Thatcham Community Larder is open 2pm to 6pm every Weds at the Frank Hutchings Hall. See here for more details.

• Please drop off donations to West Berkshire Food Bank at Thatcham Library during its opening hours. If you wish to find out more about the food bank please click this link to its website.

• Click here to see the latest edition of the Cold Ash Community Bulletin which this week starts with fireworks and ends with fears and dreams.

Spick and span

• Congratulations to the Thatcham-based window cleaner who not just expressed their annoyance at the filthy and increasingly illegible road sign on Floral Way near the roundabout on the A4 but took a proactive response to their frustrations by giving the sign a much needed clean, with many locals praising the voluntary work done. The window cleaner has also asked if there “any signs locally as bad that wind you up, drop a pin on map and a photo of it and I will clean it on my travels.”

I could provide him a list of about 50 round the area, some of which are so grimy and illegible and/or overgrown with vegetation that if I were West Berkshire Council’s legal officer I might be worried that these will cause an accident before long. The ones on the B4000 between Membury and Shefford Woodlands are particularly bad but the road is so terrifying that only a very brave or a very foolish person would pull in and get a mop and bucket out. Maybe West Berkshire Council should close all the roads for 24 hours and get as many people as possible to clean the signs, cut back the vegetation, re-paint the white lines, pick the litter off the verges and fill in the potholes, all in one go. Everyone else can have a stay-at-home day – we should be used to those.  Just a thought…

News from your local council

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

• The most recent meeting of Thatcham Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 27 September and you can read the minutes here. Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these. To see the dates and agendas for future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Brimpton Parish Council took place on 7 December and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: street-name plates for Back Lane; cherry trees; flooding near Willow Wands; speeding; the allotments; cleaning the war memorial; planning matters; and the Village Hall. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Cold Ash Parish Council took place on 23 November and you can read the minutes here. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• Information about the progress of Cold Ash’s neighbourhood development plan can be found here.

• The most recent meeting of Frilsham Parish Council took place on 10 November and you can read the draft minutes hereTo see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

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

• The most recent meeting of Stanford Dingley Parish Council took place on 1 November and you can read the minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Midgham Parish Council took place on 25 October and you can read the minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Hermitage Parish Council took place on 21 October and you can read the minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• See also this page for up-to-date information about Hermitage’s neighbourhood development plan.

Thursday 23 December 2021

A look back at 2021

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

• 2,500 proposed new homes. In terms of its scale (amounting to a new town about the size of Hungerford), its costs (about £1bn) and its likely timescale (decades) this is probably the most important topic that we’ve covered this year. The most prominent aspect of West Berkshire Council’s (WBC) emerging local plan, published in December 2020, was the “strategic development” for 2,500 homes to the north-east of Thatcham which would infill much of the land between the town and Bucklebury. As might be expected, opposition to this has been considerable, widespread and consistent. Questions that have been raised include the sheer scale of the development, the level of infrastructure mitigation that would be provided (including a re-opening of the debate about a bridge at the railway station), what influence the developers had over the creation of the Strategic Growth Study, the threat to the AONB and whether so many of the districts social-rent and “affordable” homes – 1,000 of which should be provided by the development – all need to be concentrated in one place. The project would change this part of West Berkshire for good and seems to run contrary to many of the recent statements from the government about refraining from building on greenfield sites. This one is set to run for some time.

• Thatcham Library. Everyone agrees that – like other aspects of local infrastructure – this is inadequate for the town’s needed. A small step forward was taken in July when WBC agreed to spend £25,000 on an accessible toilet and some minor improvements elsewhere. More dramatic changes will need to wait a few years by which time it’s hoped that plans will be finalised for re-developing the whole site, including the old care home. More ambitious development options, costing up to £100,000, were also proposed but WBC’s decision seems seems prudent as long as further works are definite contemplated. I’m sure that Thatcham Town Council and the town’s district councillors will keep WBC to its word. Thatcham TC also has influence over the Library Service as its voluntary contributions of about £25,000pa are conditional on satisfactory quarterly reports on how this is benefitting the town.

• Thatcham Festival. October’s nine-day event in October was a great success with 35 individual events celebrating the best of local talent. We were there on the opening day, which was blessed with warm autumn sunshine, and were delighted to meet several of the participants and local traders. Hopefully it will return in 2022.

• Thatcham quiz. This ran for a couple of months until mid November and we’d like once again to thank the 21 local retailers who donated prizes. Congratulations to Geoff Gosney whose name was first out of the hat. (The answers, by the way, were John Both, 1-0, Newbury and 1847. To see the questions, click here.)

• Cold Ash Community Bulletin. Our unofficial award for the best parish magazine goes to this title, not least because it’s produced every week (not an easy thing to do, as we well know). Congratulations to all those involved and also to those who work on similar publications, print or digital, across the area. All of them deserve an award for keeping providing hyper-local information, often in more than one format.

This week’s news

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

• The winners of  the competition to design the Mayors Christmas Car‘ were announced by Thatcham Town Council – Jessica Pallett-Ford (under 16 category) and Leah Mellett (over 16 category). Congratulations to both winners, who both received a certificate, a prize and a pack of cards of their own designs from Mayor John Boyd.

• You can watch a ‘look-back on 2021’ video, posted by Thatcham Youth, highlighting their great work with children in West Berkshire throughout this roller-coaster of a year.

• Further news from Thatcham Youth, which announced the cancellation of its Movie Morning Christmas event which was due to show the ever popular film Elf. They explained that “over the last year our team of staff and volunteers have worked non stop to deliver provision for the young people of Thatcham. Given this, we want to give all of the team a chance to rest and enjoy the Christmas period with their families. We hope everyone understands and we will re-schedule something for the new year.” But will the elf still be there one twelfth might has passed? Time will tell…

• Kennet School’s Physically Disabled Resource (PDR) students wrote and performed a “humorous adaptation of the nativity play” for other pupils and staff to enjoy. Clearly, as seen in photos tweeted out by the secondary school, the performance went down a storm and will hopefully inspire the students to keep on pursuing their many talents within Drama.

Opening times for Thatcham’s Nature Discovery Centre between 24 December to 5 January have been released, with the centre closing on 25 and 26 December as well as 1 January.

Bucklebury Farm Park will also be closed for the Christmas break, with closures on 25, 26, 27, 31 December and 1 January too. The park will then re-open on 2 January.

• Local residents can still dedicate memories and Christmas messages to lost loved ones during the month of December on the Memory Tree at London Road Cemetery. Tags can be found on-site and can be attached to the Christmas tree found in the middle section of the cemetery.

• Various Christmas services are being held throughout the Thatcham area, and beyond, which you can find further details about via The Hermitage Team Ministry website.

• For future dates of meetings and events organised by Thatcham Town Council, please see the Winter 2021 newsletter.

• For up-to-date news on the opposition to the 2,500-home plan for northeast Thatcham, please see the websites for Thatcham Town Council, Bucklebury Parish Council, Cold Ash Parish Council and Midgham Parish Council (see links at the foot of this section). You can also click here for the latest updates from the Bucklebury Says No group. See also the separate section below.

• Latest news from Churches Together in Thatcham includes details about events and community groups. To view, click here.

• See here for the latest from Thatcham Town Council’s Facebook page.

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

• The Thatcham Community Larder is open 2pm to 6pm every Weds at the Frank Hutchings Hall. See here for more details.

• Please drop off donations to West Berkshire Food Bank at Thatcham Library during its opening hours. If you wish to find out more about the food bank please click this link to its website.

• Click here to see the latest edition of the Cold Ash Community Bulletin which this week starts with golden brown and ends with living life backwards.

News from your local council

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

• The most recent meeting of Thatcham Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 27 September and you can read the minutes here. Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these. To see the dates and agendas for future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Brimpton Parish Council took place on 7 December and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: street-name plates for Back Lane; cherry trees; flooding near Willow Wands; speeding; the allotments; cleaning the war memorial; planning matters; and the Village Hall. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Cold Ash Parish Council took place on 23 November and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: the Christmas tree; the memorial bench; grit; the report that “grazing field 1 was now very overgrown” and “no sheep had been in the field for two years,” two things that are probably related; the jubilee; and planning matters. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• Information about the progress of Cold Ash’s neighbourhood development plan can be found here.

• The most recent meeting of Frilsham Parish Council took place on 10 November and you can read the draft minutes here. To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

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

• The most recent meeting of Stanford Dingley Parish Council took place on 1 November and you can read the minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Midgham Parish Council took place on 25 October and you can read the minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Hermitage Parish Council took place on 21 October and you can read the minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• See also this page for up-to-date information about Hermitage’s neighbourhood development plan.

Thursday 16 December 2021

This week’s news

• Congratulations to House of Cards in the Kingsland Centre for winning of Newbury Weekly News’ and Thatcham Town Council’s best dressed Christmas window competition. The card shop just snuck ahead of fellow Thatcham-based Esteem Domestic appliances, winning by 15 votes. A Newbury Today article on the competition includes photos of House of Cards’ festive display and their store manager, Sian Faulkner, celebrating with the award.

• Local residents can still dedicate memories and Christmas messages to lost loved ones during the month of December on the Memory Tree at London Road Cemetery. Tags can be found on-site and can be attached to the Christmas tree found in the middle section of the cemetery.

• At the Civic Carol Concert held at St Mary’s Church on 12 December over £250 was collected for the Mayor’s nominated charities, Swings and Smiles and Thatcham Cricket Club.

• Still at St Mary’s Church (Thatcham), they posted a drawing of Jesus found in their children’s corner on Facebook. Happy teeth, they say. We think he might just benefit from a visit to the dentist though.

• Parsons Down Primary School has been busy collecting crisp packets throughout this Winter school term, which usually get recycled. However, the school have donated their packets to ‘Iron Man Survival Blankets‘ who will transform them “into warm, waterproof blankets for the homeless.”

• West Berkshire Council produced a short video highlighting the fantastic efforts by pupils, staff and parents of Parsons Down Primary School towards making the school as environmentally friendly as possible.

• Another Thatcham school, Kennet, welcomed local senior citizens for a range of festive treats including; “a full Christmas dinner (served by pupils), carols and festive cheer.” If anyone is interested in joining for a future lunch, please email office@kennetschool.co.uk for further details.

• Saturday 18 December is the last day of West Berkshire Council’s free bus travel days, in association with Reading Buses, Stagecoach Hampshire and Thames Travel. Please see further details, which include what bus routes within West Berks hireare applicable to the offer.

Bucklebury Parish Council cancelled its usually annual Cemetery Carols event which was set to take place at Bucklebury Cemetery on Monday 20 December, as reported by Newbury Today. The article includes a statement from the parish council saying “We thank you for your continued and gratefully received support over the years and sincerely hope that we will all be singing with hearty, hopeful voices in 2022 and enjoying mulled wine and mince pies again.”

• A mobile vaccine van that was planned to be at Thatcham Catholic Hall on 16 December, as well as Woolhampton Village Hall on 18 December, has been cancelled due to staff being “deployed to manage the busyness of the booster demand.” Community United West Berkshire tweeted out all opening times for Newbury’s Kennet Centre Vaccination Centre and notified anyone looking to get their jabs that “there is no more walk-in, till further notice” and “Mobile Vaccine programme has been suspended till further notice”.

• For future dates of meetings and events organised by Thatcham Town Council, please see the Winter 2021 newsletter.

• Local Swift Group courier company is still asking for donations towards their Louise Purton 2021 Christmas Toy Appeal. There are many donation drop-off points across West Berkshire, including Thatcham. Please see this promotional flyer for further details of what can be donated and where to find the various present drop-off points. The closing date for donations is Thursday 23 December.

• For up-to-date news on the opposition to the 2,500-home plan for northeast Thatcham, please see the websites for Thatcham Town Council, Bucklebury Parish Council, Cold Ash Parish Council and Midgham Parish Council (see links at the foot of this section). You can also click here for the latest updates from the Bucklebury Says No group. See also the separate section below.

• Latest news from Churches Together in Thatcham includes details about events and community groups. To view, click here.

• See here for the latest from Thatcham Town Council’s Facebook page.

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

• The Thatcham Community Larder is open 2pm to 6pm every Weds at the Frank Hutchings Hall. See here for more details.

• Please drop off donations to West Berkshire Food Bank at Thatcham Library during its opening hours. If you wish to find out more about the food bank please click this link to its website.

• Click here to see the latest edition of the Cold Ash Community Bulletin which this week starts with a stunning sunset and ends with the promise of simple words.

Two letters regarding 2,500 homes

The Bucklebury Says No group will be considering the Freedom of Information responses from West Berkshire Council (see last week’s section below) and is expected to make a statement in the new year. This is merely the latest in a salvo of letters which have been flying about in all directions on the subject. It’s worth having a quick look at two of these.

One was from Laura Farris to WBC’s Leader Lynne Doherty, sent shortly after the MP attended a public meeting in Bucklebury Village Hall on 31 August 2021. She said she was writing “to accurately reflect” the views expressed at the meeting, “with many of which” she agrees. The first point she makes is that WBC should consider whether the housing target in the draft local plan is not “excessively high”, a matter which she has since raised with Michael Gove.

She then lists several other concerns or suggested alternative courses of action. These include concentrating on brown rather than greenfield sites; the “strong belief” that the NE Thatcham site was taken more seriously than were others in and around the town; the “concern” that the evidence base was flawed; the detrimental effects on the surrounding villages; severe doubts that adequate infrastructure mitigation could be achieved; the damage to the AONB; and the lack of consultation. These points have been responded to but most of seem to remain valid. Several were directly or indirectly addressed in the FoI questions. Certainly nothing that I’ve read has convinced me that the proposal is anything but unsustainable, over-sized and probably undeliverable.

The second letter was from Michael Gove (or, at least, his office) on 3 December 2021 in response to one sent to him in mid October by a Bucklebury Parish Councillor. This concentrated on two of the themes in Laura Farris’ letter, West Berkshire’s housing allocation and the brown/greenfield debate. The reply confirmed that the government “is very conscious of the effect that development can have on local communities and on our environment” (with the Chesham and Amersham by election upset still reasonably fresh in the mind, he might have added “and on our election chances.”) He then goes on to consider some aspect of the allocation of housing targets and mentions constraints (such as an AONB, which covers about three quarters of West Berkshire) and possible “cooperation with neighbouring authorities on whether need should be shared.” (So, WBC may feel that the proposed 350 homes in Wash Water – which would be, just, in Basingstoke and Deane but whose impact would almost entirely fall on West Berkshire – should be regarded as part of its own allocation.) He concludes by saying that the government “recognises that not everywhere will be able to meet their housing need in full.”

The response then turns to brownfield sites, the re-use of which the government “strongly encourages,” pointing out that it’s estimated that there’s enough brownfield in the country for about a million homes, over three times the annual target. He adds that these “vary greatly in their suitability for re-use. Local authorities are best placed to identify sites and to decide if they are suitable to redevelop.” WBC may well claim that there is insufficient brownfield land in the district. There could, of course, be more brownfield homes if the current plans for the London Road Industrial Estate in Newbury (still, after 20 years, a largely hypothetical project) were re-visited.

On the question of West Berkshire’s allocation, he refers to the examination aspect of the local plan which is designed to test the assumptions made by the planning authority. The problem here is that his own department’s decision to introduce a new test of a 30-year vision for significant developments resulted in a delay to many local plans, including WBC’s. It’s also uncertain if any comments made on this vision for NE Thatcham will be able to be fully considered by WBC before the final document is submitted for examination. As mentioned last week, this turns on the slightly arcane point of whether this is considered under Regulation 18 or 19. The letter concludes that “great weight should be given to conserving the landscape and AONBs” and that major development should only take place in “exceptional circumstances” and if it’s “in the public interest.”

This phrase was quoted and considered carefully during the application for the Salisbury Road development in Hungerford a few years ago. The problem with the word “exceptional” is that, by its very nature, it can’t be defined, because it’s “exceptional.” As for “public interest”, more or less anything is in the interest of at least some members of the public, if not all or even most. These are strong-sounding terms of exceptional vagueness. In the case of Salisbury Road, the application was passed; as, more recently, was another one in Membury. This seems to suggest that the AONB’s protection is entirely at the whim of whatever planning committee considers it rather than of clear policy. It remains to be seen what exceptional circumstances or public interest can be demonstrated for NE Thatcham.

News from your local council

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

• The most recent meeting of Thatcham Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 27 September and you can read the minutes here. Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these. To see the dates and agendas for future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Brimpton Parish Council took place on 10 December and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: street-name plates for Back Lane; cherry trees; flooding near Willow Wands; speeding; the allotments; cleaning the war memorial; planning matters; and the Village Hall. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Cold Ash Parish Council took place on 23 November and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: the Christmas tree; the memorial bench; grit; the report that “grazing field 1 was now very overgrown” and “no sheep had been in the field for two years,” two things that are probably related; the jubilee; and planning matters. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Frilsham Parish Council took place on 10 November and you can read the draft minutes here. Items covered included: the culvert next to the Clubroom; planning matters; the licensing application for The Breeze Drinks Company; a report from District Councillor Carolyne Culver; the playground; rubbish bins; rights of way; the proposed community orchard; a hoped-for improvement to the village’s power supply; meeting dates in 2022; financial matters; and the jubilee. To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• Information about the progress of Cold Ash’s neighbourhood development plan can be found here.

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

• The most recent meeting of Stanford Dingley Parish Council took place on 1 November and you can read the minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Midgham Parish Council took place on 25 October and you can read the minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Hermitage Parish Council took place on 21 October and you can read the minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• See also this page for up-to-date information about Hermitage’s neighbourhood development plan.

Thursday 9 December 2021

This week’s news

• Thatcham town centre’s Christmas weekend spanning 3 to 5 December saw many festive-themed events including Santa Fun Run (here’s a video of the fun run starting), Christmas Lights Switch-On and festive fairground with many live performances too.

• Many shops and businesses throughout Thatcham’s town centre have dressed up their front windows in collaboration with the Christmas events to hopefully be awarded “Thatcham’s best-dressed window Christmas competition” winner for 2021. The competition is organised by Thatcham Town Council and Newbury Today, with the competition closing this week. You can see photos of the windows and vote for your favourite here.

• Thatcham Town Council invites local residents to dedicate memories and Christmas messages to lost loved ones during the month of December at the Memory Tree at London Road Cemetery. Tags can be found on-site and can be attached to the Christmas tree found in the middle section of the cemetery.

BerkshireLive reports that a “virtually derelict” 400-year-old cottage in Crookham Common “recently sold at an auction over the guide price of £600,000”. The article states that “Elizabeth Cottage has remained uninhabited for a number of years (more than a decade) and slowly become hidden by the surrounding plants over time.” You never know what you’ll find when going through the forests of Thatcham…

A mobile vaccine van will be at Thatcham Catholic Hall on Thursday 16 December from 10am to 5pm, as well as Woolhampton Village Hall on Saturday 18 December between 10am and 6pm. The vaccine pop-up clinics will be providing 1st, 2nd and booster Covid jabs (Pfizer) for anyone 16 years and older. Booking isn’t required.

• Starting in the new year, Thatcham Youth is launching its DJ Skills Workshop on Monday 10 January 2022 between 7 to 8.30pm, which will be held at the music studio within Moorside Community Centre, Thatcham. The new project is being jointly run with M-Theory Music.

• As mentioned on p13 of this week’s NWN, West Berkshire Community Hospital had a tiny forest planted recently. The project, which was supported by the NHS Forest Programme and the Queen’s Green Programme, saw 480 saplings planted including silver birch, oak, beech, hornbeam, hazel, holly and cherry (not so tiny, if you ask me). This area will allow NHS staff a new area to enjoy some fresh air. This project was also in partnership with the environmental charity Earthwatch Europe, which has more information on tiny forests here.

• For future dates of meetings and events organised by Thatcham Town Council, please see the Winter 2021 newsletter.

• Congratulations to Kennet School’s (Thatcham) Physically Disabled Resource for raising nearly £350 for Sebastian’s Action Trust by selling freshly baked cakes for pupils and staff, all “in memory of one of our fellow pupils”.

• Local Swift Group courier company is still asking for donations towards their Louise Purton 2021 Christmas Toy Appeal. There are many donation drop-off points across West Berkshire, including Thatcham. Please see this promotional flyer for further details of what can be donated and where to find the various present drop-off points. The closing date for donations is Thursday 23 December.

• For up-to-date news on the opposition to the 2,500-home plan for northeast Thatcham, please see the websites for Thatcham Town Council, Bucklebury Parish Council, Cold Ash Parish Council and Midgham Parish Council (see links at the foot of this section). You can also click here for the latest updates from the Bucklebury Says No group.

• Latest news from Churches Together in Thatcham includes details about events and community groups. To view, click here.

• See here for the latest from Thatcham Town Council’s Facebook page.

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

• The Thatcham Community Larder is open 2pm to 6pm every Weds at the Frank Hutchings Hall. See here for more details.

• Please drop off donations to West Berkshire Food Bank at Thatcham Library during its opening hours. If you wish to find out more about the food bank please click this link to its website.

• Click here to see the latest edition of the Cold Ash Community Bulletin which this week starts with frost and finishes with research.

31 questions on 2,500 homes

This large, complex and controversial proposal is still producing a good deal of heat and steam and will doubtless continue to do so. Two recent developments concern a Freedom of Information Act request and the the refresh of WBC’s local plan.

The first of these was submitted by Bucklebury resident Steve Beeson to WBC on 12 October and responded to by WBC on 29 November. You can read the 31 questions and the replies in full here. Several concern whether or not the Thatcham Strategic Growth Study, which had been paid for by the developers involved (a fact which emerged some months after its publication), had been arms-length. WBC admitted (Q3) that “developers have not previously funded independent evidence documents to support local plan-making in West Berkshire” but stressed that “there are increasing examples of this occurring elsewhere.” Q14, Q15 and Q17 asked specifically about the possibility of “undue influence.” WBC asserted that its officers “managed the entire project” and “had oversight” of it and that the developers and consultants at no time met without officers present. These points are reassuring as far as it goes but I’m not sure they fully answer the questions.

The questions also ask about the suitability of the site. WBC draws attention to the fact that in 2017 the Secretary of State refused an appeal for a development on part of the current location but mainly “because the sites did not form part of the local plan, not because they are wholly unsuitable for development.” This was, however, for a smaller development than is currently proposed. The answers also refer to the fact that the sites had been identified as suitable in the allocation assessment (HELAA). That’s true but they were in the HELAA four separate sites that happened to be contiguous; whether all four together would be sustainable is perhaps a different question.

WBC goes on to say that development in the district is subject to a number of limitations, including the AONB (though this didn’t cut any ice in Hungerford or Membury), flood risk and the DEPZ around the AWE sites at Aldermaston and Burghfield. One conclusion which many, including local MP Laura Farris, have come to is that, as a result, the housing figures for West Berkshire are unrealistically high. She said that she would be talking to the Housing Minister Michael Gove on this. He has already said that he feels brownfield sites should prioritised over greenfield ones and that housing allocations may need to be more flexible than a mere slavish following of numbers. 

Turning to the question of the local plan, this has been delayed because of changes to the National Planning Policy Framework announced in the summer. This requires that a 30-year vision be provided to justify developments on the scale of north-east Thatcham. A new timetable has recently been announced which includes “a formal period of consultation” in the summer of 2022. The question is whether this is under Regulation 18 or 19. If the former, the plan is still not finalised and comments can be incorporated; in the latter, the plan is then the council’s preferred version which is submitted to the planning inspector. Although comments made in the consultation could be fed back into edits to the plan if the council wished (or the inspector insisted), it’s possible that they won’t be. A 30-year vision is looking a long way ahead – imagine winding yourself back to 1991 and trying to predict what your community would be like today – but it’s relevant because this is quite possibly the likely timescale for the project to be completed.

If it starts at all, of course. People living near the Sandleford site in Newbury have been a state of blighted limbo for most of this century and not a brick has yet been laid. One of the problems here has been that there are two developers involved, who seem to find it impossible to agree about anything substantial. The north-east Thatcham site will have four. Looks exponentially more difficult to me: and we now all know what that word means.

News from your local council

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

• The most recent meeting of Thatcham Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 27 September and you can read the minutes here. Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these. To see the dates and agendas for future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Frilsham Parish Council took place on 10 November and you can read the draft minutes here. Items covered included: the culvert next to the Clubroom; planning matters; the licensing application for The Breeze Drinks Company; a report from District Councillor Carolyne Culver; the playground; rubbish bins; rights of way; the proposed community orchard; a hoped-for improvement to the village’s power supply; meeting dates in 2022; financial matters; and the jubilee. To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Cold Ash Parish Council took place on 9 November and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: power for the Christmas tree; community awards; grit bins; a proposed memorial bench; planning applications; financial matters; a report on the NDP open day on 23 October; committee reports; and a design issue with the proposed beacon. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• Information about the progress of Cold Ash’s neighbourhood development plan can be found here.

• The most recent meeting of Bucklebury Parish Council took place on 8 November and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: the co-option of a new councillor (one vacancy still remains); Covid testing; the Common clearing event; planning matters (decisions only: there were no new applications); a proposed wildlife survey; a plan to “educate errant motorcyclists”; fencing; byways; grass cutting; dog bins; the Sovereign planning application for Paradise Way; parking; the meadows; the play park; the cemetery; carols; conservation; speeding; recycling; grit bins; financial matters; and wildflowers. To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Brimpton Parish Council took place on 2 November and you can read the minutes here. items covered included: a nameplate for Back Lane; the visibility (or not) of highway signs; drainage at Willow Wands; speeding; the future of the Enborne Way Allotment area; a meeting with the executive member for planning (at 7.30 on Tuesday 30 November in Brimpton Village Hall and which will also involve other parishes in the area); financial matters; and the village hall. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Stanford Dingley Parish Council took place on 1 November and you can read the minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Midgham Parish Council took place on 25 October and you can read the minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Hermitage Parish Council took place on 21 October and you can read the minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• See also this page for up-to-date information about Hermitage’s neighbourhood development plan.

Thursday 2 December 2021

This week’s news

• Thatcham is warming up for Christmas with three festive days organised by the town council to look forward to from 3 to 5 December.

• Even if you’re a long-time resident of Thatcham, there might be things about the town that you didn’t know. I was aware that it (and others) claims to be the oldest continually inhabited settlement in England. What I didn’t know, however, until I read a recently published article by one of our contributors was that it one time had a more thriving market than did Newbury (whose citizens took direct action to redress this). Nor did I know about the prisoner of war camp and was only dimly aware that the Discovery Centre was an SSSI. You can read more on this and other aspects of the town’s history in Five Remarkable Facts About Thatcham.

• Free parking will be available at Thatcham’s Kingsland Centre car park from 2pm on Friday 3 December 2021, as an incentive by Thatcham Town Council to encourage locals to visit the town’s Christmas lights switch-on event on 3 December (see links, plus further details, in our events and activities section below).

• The Town Council has also put their support behind Saturday 4 December’s Small Business Saturday, which seeks to encourage shoppers to use local businesses and shops. The nationwide event is described by the council as “the UK’s most successful small business campaign, which last year saw a record-breaking, estimated £1.1 billion spent with small businesses across the UK on Small Business Saturday.”

• Congratulations to The Swan, Thatcham for winning the ‘Outstanding Events Award’ at Marston’s Community Awards ceremony on 24 November.

• Further congratulations to Thatcham local Jacob Bunch, who started his footballing journey with Thatcham Town Harriers, as he started on the bench for Swindon Town FC in their Papa John’s Trophy fixture against Colchester United on 30 November. Sadly ‘The Robins’ were defeated 2-1, which consequently means they exited the competition, but the experience of featuring in a match-day squad we’re sure will be a lasting one for Jacob and his family.

• See last week’s section below for coverage of reports of anti-social behaviour in Thatcham and the Town Council’s plans to try to address this.

• Starting from Thursday 6 January 2022, the Frank Hutchings Hall, Thatcham will host two new community choirs called Sing Louder Choir. The groups will meet on Thursdays with the children choir being held between 6 to 7pm, followed by the community choir from 7.15pm to 8.15pm. Please see the organiser’s Facebook page for further updates and details.

• Local Swift Group courier company is still asking for donations towards their Louise Purton 2021 Christmas Toy Appeal. There are many donation drop-off points across West Berkshire, including Thatcham. Please see this promotional flyer for further details of what can be donated and where to find the various present drop-off points. The closing date for donations is Thursday 23 December.

• For up-to-date news on the opposition to the 2,500-home plan for northeast Thatcham, please see the websites for Thatcham Town Council, Bucklebury Parish Council, Cold Ash Parish Council and Midgham Parish Council (see links at the foot of this section). You can also click here for the latest updates from the Bucklebury Says No group.

• Latest news from Churches Together in Thatcham includes details about events and community groups. To view, click here.

• See here for the latest from Thatcham Town Council’s Facebook page.

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

• The Thatcham Community Larder is open 2pm to 6pm every Weds at the Frank Hutchings Hall. See here for more details.

• Please drop off donations to West Berkshire food bank at Thatcham Library during its opening hours. If you wish to find out more about the food bank please click this link to its website.

• Click here to see the latest edition of the Cold Ash Community Bulletin which this week starts with a fallen tree and finishes with Mark Twain.

The high life

• This week’s Newbury Weekly News reports on p31 about Cold Ash Parish Council’s objections to plans for five luxury homes on The Ridge. This isn’t the first time that either Cold Ash PC, or West Berkshire Council, or the Planning Inspectorate, have had to deal with this applications as plans, amendments, refusals and appeals have been flying back and forth since 2017.

I spoke to the Chair of Cold Ash Parish Council on 2 December who agreed with his colleague’s comment, as quoted in the paper, that the proposals were an “over-development.” He also stressed another aspect that concerns the PC, which the NWN piece touches on: this is the removal of a 300-year-old three-metre-high hedge which provides a visual and aural screen for the proposed homes, in both directions. The revised application to increase the height of the buildings is currently awaiting decision on WBC’s website and can be seen here. There are already enough objections to require that it be looked at by committee. One of those objecting asks whether the application is correct in law as it requests the re-instatement of an aspect which has already been refused.

The article ends with a comment from the developer that the extra height is required to allow more home working. Unless the home working involves practicing circus skills using stilts, I can’t see how this requires taller rooms than would be needed for other purposes. The spokesperson added that “buyers are getting more and more fussy.” Really? I would have thought the opposite, given that prices in the area have by some estimates risen by over 8% in the last 12 months. Whether the developers will realise extra profit when the expense and delay of the revised application and possible appeal are factored in remains to be seen. However, if they get their way then anyone who craves an extra-high ceiling for bouncing ideas off when working from home (or who uses stilts) will find this part of Cold Ash particularly attractive.

News from your local council

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

• The most recent meeting of Thatcham Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 27 September and you can read the minutes here. Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these. To see the dates and agendas for future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Cold Ash Parish Council took place on 9 November and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: power for the Christmas tree; community awards; grit bins; a proposed memorial bench; planning applications; financial matters; a report on the NDP open day on 23 October; committee reports; and a design issue with the proposed beacon. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• Information about the progress of Cold Ash’s neighbourhood development plan can be found here.

• The most recent meeting of Brimpton Parish Council took place on 2 November and you can read the minutes here. items covered included: a nameplate for Back Lane; the visibility (or not) of highway signs; drainage at Willow Wands; speeding; the future of the Enborne Way Allotment area; a meeting with the executive member for planning (at 7.30 on Tuesday 30 November in Brimpton Village Hall and which will also involve other parishes in the area); financial matters; and the village hall. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Midgham Parish Council took place on 25 October and you can read the minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Hermitage Parish Council took place on 21 October and you can read the minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• See also this page for up-to-date information about Hermitage’s neighbourhood development plan.

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

• The most recent meeting of Stanford Dingley Parish Council took place on 6 September and you can read the draft minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

•The most recent meeting of Frilsham Parish Council took place on 1 September and you can read the draft minutes hereTo see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

Thursday 25 November 2021

This week’s news

• Congratulations to Geoff Gosney for winning our Thatcham Prize Quiz this week. Thanks again to all the wonderful Thatcham local businesses who donated to create a fantastic prize that celebrates local independent businesses: Best Buds Florist, Sweet Imagination Thatcham, Steve’s DIY, Thatcham Town Fc, Crazydayz Doughnuts, Inks Personalized Ltd, Cook & Butcher, Warings Bakery, Broadway Supplies – Party Supplies & Cards, Picture It, Claire’s Hair & Beauty, Legends Barbers Thatcham, Thatcham Kitchens, House of Cards, Thatcham Refillable, The White Hart Thatcham, Shades of Siam, Kingsland Café, Thatcham Market Flower Stall, Miller-Ward Market Fruit and Veg Stall and All Seasons Pet Supplies.

• If you are involved with a local charity or voluntary group, it is worth attending Thatcham TC’s meeting on 29 November to hear a short presentation at the start about Greenham Trust’s 25th anniversary in 2022, its events, campaigns and grant funding.

• Thatcham is warming up for Christmas with three festive days organised by the town council to look forward to from 3 to 5 December.

• Following the coverage of last week’s report on the rise of anti-social behaviour in ThatchamNewbury Today told this week of discarded syringes, bullying and park incidents across Thatcham. The town council has recently been working alongside the organisation RMD which has sent youth workers to try and support the young people who are involved with this anti-social behaviour. Councillor Jeremy Cottam told Penny Post today that “before the pandemic, we had outreached to try and figure out a solution however, due to the effects of Covid, young people couldn’t mingle with the support workers, and we’re still working around those issues to this day. We are working closely with Thames Valley Police to try and hold meetings as often as possible regarding these matters. We are responding to graffiti on the same day it’s reported or by the next.”

It’s clear the council are taking matters seriously. Mr Cottam added that due to the previous anti-social behavour, “some playgrounds have had to be closed from dusk till dawn. It’s difficult to get something done quickly, but we are doing as much as we can to get these issues resolved”. Penny Post hopes to see a continuation of the great work from the council and we’ll be keeping this story up to date. Residents who witness any anti-social behaviour in the town are requested to report it to the council on 01635 863592 or 07503 634 761 or enquiries@thatchamtowncouncil.gov.uk

Free parking will be available at Thatcham’s Kingsland Centre car park from 2pm on Friday 3 December 2021, which has been announced by Thatcham Town Council as an incentive to encourage locals to visit the town’s Christmas lights switch-on event on 3 December (see links, plus further details, in our ‘events and activities’ section below).

• Starting from Thursday 6 January 2022, the Frank Hutchings Hall, Thatcham will host two new community choirs called Sing Louder Choir. The groups will meet on Thursdays with the children choir being held between 6 to 7pm, followed by the community choir from 7.15 to 8.15pm. Please see the organiser’s Facebook page for further updates and details.

• A new Youth Café started on 12 November 2021 at Glendale Church, Thatcham and is open to all secondary school pupils on Fridays between 6.30pm to 8pm.

• Local Swift Group courier company is still asking for donations towards their Louise Purton 2021 Christmas Toy Appeal. There are many donation drop-off points across West Berkshire, including Thatcham. Please see this promotional flyer for further details of what can be donated and where to find the various present drop-off points.

• Locals who may be eperiencing period poverty can now pick up free period products from Thatcham Library thanks to the All Yours period box scheme. If you would like to make donations or support in any way please visit their website or donate products via the red donation bin at Newbury Library.

• In previous weeks, we have mentioned Parsons Down Primary School’s pupil and staff eco-projects that school regularly update us with via their eco-blog posts. They have made many positive steps in tackling food waste at the school and have now made a donation of “242.5kg of food and essentials” to West Berkshire Food Bank for their Harvest Festival donations. The amount donated should help to feed “24 people with 3 meals a day for 7 days” within West Berkshire.

• Another primary school that has raised donations for charitable causes is Spurcroft Primary School, who collected £257.38 for Children in Need on 19 November 2021.

• As we near December many are already in the festive spirit, including those at Bucklebury Farm Park who have shown off their locally grown 12 foot Christmas tree for 2021.

• West Berkshire Council has announced that is closing several Thatcham streets throughout November for footway resurfacing. You can view the current and planned roadworks here.

• Quick reminder that West Berkshire Therapy Centre in Frank Hutchins Hall, which helps local people with mobility issues, is looking for fundraising support. You can buy a music album or simply shop online with easyfundraising at no extra cost to yourself. For details please see here.

• For up-to-date news on the opposition to the 2,500-home plan for northeast Thatcham, please see the websites for Thatcham Town Council, Bucklebury Parish Council, Cold Ash Parish Council and Midgham Parish Council (see links at the foot of this section). You can also click here for the latest updates from the Bucklebury Says No group.

• Latest news from Churches Together in Thatcham includes details about events and community groups. To view, click here.

• See here for the latest from Thatcham Town Council’s Facebook page.

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

• The Thatcham Community Larder is open 2pm to 6pm every Weds at the Frank Hutchings Hall. See here for more details.

• Please drop off donations to West Berkshire food bank at Thatcham Library during its opening hours. If you wish to find out more about the food bank please click this link to its website.

• Click here to see the latest edition of the Cold Ash Community Bulletin which this week starts with magic woods and finishes with Neil Gaiman.

Mitigating the development

As many of you will be aware, West Berkshire Council currently plans to build 2,500 homes to the north-east of Thatcham, thus creating a new settlement about the size of Hungerford which will effectively close the gap between the town and Bucklebury. Opposition to to the plan, which has been reported and commented on in Penny Post for many months, remains as vocal as ever.

This goes beyond NIMBY-ism. There are grave question marks over this proposed billion-pound project. These include whether four developers can work in harmony; whether the 1,000 affordable homes demanded by policy will in fact get built (and, if they are, whether it’s right that these should be non one place rather than spread throughout the district); and why the construction of the new school (the full funding for which is still unclear) is scheduled to be the last phase.

The thing that particularly concerns Thatcham Town Council, however is the question of the infrastructure to mitigate the effect of all these homes. It’s long been agreed by local politicians of all hues that the town already falls some way short on this score and there are fears that the new development will make a bad situation worse.

WBC has published its infrastructure delivery plan (IDP) which includes at the end (from p66) information specifically relating to Thatcham. The matter was recently discussed at Thatcham Town Council’s Highways and Transport Committee and you can see the document here. This appears to be very similar to the Thatcham Strategic Growth Study (TSGS) (which you can see here) which was published in September 2020. This has attracted its own controversy as it’s since emerged that this was funded by the developers. Such arrangements are not unusual – Bewley Homes, for instance, funded a report into a proposed planning amendment to Lancaster Park in Hungerford but the consultants were briefed by WBC. I understand that questions have been asked (and answered) under a FoI request as to what extent the TSGS process was conducted correctly. The responses have not yet been published on WBC’s site so it’s not currently possible to comment further. It is, however, a legitimate question given that the contents of developer-funded report appear, with little amendment, to have found their way into prospective council policy.

“When we discussed this at the Planning Committee I stated that the IDP was a very poor document,” Thatcham Town Council’s Leader David Lister told Penny Post on 24 November. I”t provides no assurance for residents in Thatcham that there will be accompanying infrastructure to match the scale of the proposed development at Thatcham NE. There has been no progress at all in the period since the TSGS was first published in December 2020, and if anything it seems to be a step backwards as all it has done is republish verbatim what was in the TSGS (funded by the developers who stand to profit from the development) but remove the predicted costs. It would be impossible for residents to be able to read the IDP in conjunction with the Draft Local Plan and have any confidence that essential infrastructure such as a secondary school, GP surgeries, or highways infrastructure are being properly considered.”

News from your local council

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

• The most recent meeting of Thatcham Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 28 June and you can read the minutes here. Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these. To see the dates and agendas for future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Brimpton Parish Council took place on 2 November and you can read the minutes here. items covered included: a nameplate for Back Lane; the visibility (or not) of highway signs; drainage at Willow Wands; speeding; the future of the Enborne Way Allotment area; a meeting with the executive member for planning (at 7.30 on Tuesday 30 November in Brimpton Village Hall and which will also involve other parishes in the area); financial matters; and the village hall. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Cold Ash Parish Council took place on 26 October and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: a footpath extinguishment and its replacement; a proposed new bench; an agreement with the Tennis Club; the Christmas tree; and planning applications. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• Information about the progress of Cold Ash’s neighbourhood development plan can be found here.

• The most recent meeting of Midgham Parish Council took place on 25 October and you can read the minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

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

• See also this page for up-to-date information about Hermitage’s neighbourhood development plan.

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

• The most recent meeting of Stanford Dingley Parish Council took place on 6 September and you can read the draft minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

•The most recent meeting of Frilsham Parish Council took place on 1 September and you can read the draft minutes hereTo see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

Thursday 18 November 2021

This week’s news

• There are still a few days left to enter our Thatcham Quiz  (closes Sunday 21 November) for the chance to win over £250 worth of vouchers and prizes from a range of businesses in the town.

• There are also a few days left to enter Thatcham Mayor’s 2021 Christmas Card Competition. The deadline for entries is Monday 22 November before noon.  For more information on how to enter, please see here.

• You can read a report, and see many wonderful photos, of Thatcham’s Remembrance Sunday service on 14 November on pp22-23 of this week’s Newbury Weekly News in which “crowds of around a thousand people lined the streets” and a further “500 people marched through the Broadway to the town’s war memorial”. The service is also available to watch via this YouTube video uploaded by Thatcham Town Council.

• Newbury Weekly News also covers (p 28) the impressive and touching light show which saw “the names of the men from the village who died in the First World War” alongside “shadows of soldiers, nurses and falling poppies” beamed onto St Matthew’s Church in Midgham on the evening of 13 November.

• Local Swift Group courier company is asking for donations towards their Louise Purton 2021 Christmas Toy Appeal. There are many donation drop-off points across West Berkshire, including Thatcham. Please see this promotional flyer for further details of what can be donated and where to find the various present drop-off points.

• West Berkshire Libraries will be working to help locals who may be suffering with period poverty by offering free period products at Thatcham Library. Also anyone who wishes to support with donations, and how to reach out to the library for support, can see this tweet for further details

• Last week we mentioned that Parsons Down Primary School have new pupil and staff eco-projects. The school have also recently announced that their appeal for “food caddy liners” received a donation of 30 packs from Waitrose as well as further donations from members of  Joining Together and Thatcham & Newbury plastic-free, recycling & zero waste UK Facebook pages. The school’s blog post asks for any further donations and specifically “larger compostable bags that hold up to 30 litres, to use in the hall at lunchtimes” and “large, kerbside food caddies (23 litres) to use in the hall”.

Thames Valley Police has put anti-social behaviour warning signs around Thatcham Broadway amidst a rise in the problem as of late. Thatcham Broadway is unfortunately subject to a lot of anti-social behaviour and we hope this inspires a host of new initiatives to help reduce crime in and around the Broadway.

• West Berkshire Council has announced that is closing several Thatcham streets throughout November for footway resurfacing. The following are: Victor Road works until 22 November, Bourne Arch and Westfield Crescent works both from 18 to 23 November, Northway works from 22 to 24 November and finally New Road resurfacing from 23 to 29 November. You can view the current and planned roadworks here.

• The latest news from West Berkshire Therapy Centre in Frank Hutchins Hall is all about how you can support the amazing facilities they offer to local people with mobility issues by buying a music album or simply shopping online with easyfundraising at no extra cost to yourself. For details please see here.

• If you are involved with a local charity or voluntary group, it is worth attending Thatcham TC’s meeting on 29 November to hear a short presentation at the start about Greenham Trust’s 25th anniversary in 2022, its events, campaigns and grant funding.

• For up-to-date news on the opposition to the 2,500-home plan for northeast Thatcham, please see the websites for Thatcham Town Council, Bucklebury Parish Council, Cold Ash Parish Council and Midgham Parish Council (see links at the foot of this section). You can also click here for the latest updates from the Bucklebury Says No group.

• Still with planning, the Lawrence Lane development was discussed in the latest West Berkshire council committee meeting. You can read Newbury Today’s report here otherwise, we will post the minutes of the meeting when they become publicly available.

• Latest news from Churches Together in Thatcham includes details about events and community groups. To view, click here.

• See here for the latest from Thatcham Town Council’s Facebook page.

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

• The Thatcham Community Larder is open 2pm to 6pm every Weds at the Frank Hutchings Hall. See here for more details.

• Please drop off donations to West Berkshire food bank at Thatcham Library during its opening hours. If you wish to find out more about the food bank please click this link to its website.

• Click here to see the latest edition of the Cold Ash Community Bulletin which this week starts with a sunrise and finishes with Phyllis Diller.

News from your local council

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

• The most recent meeting of Thatcham Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 28 June and you can read the minutes here. Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these. To see the dates and agendas for future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Brimpton Parish Council took place on 2 November and you can read the minutes here. items covered included: a nameplate for Back Lane; the visibility (or not) of highway signs; drainage at Willow Wands; speeding; the future of the Enborne Way Allotment area; a meeting with the executive member for planning (at 7.30 on Tuesday 30 November in Brimpton Village Hall and which will also involve other parishes in the area); financial matters; and the village hall. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Cold Ash Parish Council took place on 26 October and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: a footpath extinguishment and its replacement; a proposed new bench; an agreement with the Tennis Club; the Christmas tree; and planning applications. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• Information about the progress of Cold Ash’s neighbourhood development plan can be found here.

• The most recent meeting of Midgham Parish Council took place on 25 October and you can read the minutes here. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

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

• See also this page for up-to-date information about Hermitage’s neighbourhood development plan.

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

• The most recent meeting of Stanford Dingley Parish Council took place on 6 September and you can read the draft minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

•The most recent meeting of Frilsham Parish Council took place on 1 September and you can read the draft minutes hereTo see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

Thursday 11 November 2021

This week’s news

• When did Thatcham railway station open? 1837, 1847 or 1857? Enter our Thatcham Quiz by Sunday 21 November for the chance to win over £250 worth of vouchers and prizes from Thatcham businesses. 

• The deadline to enter Mayor’s 2021 Christmas Card Competition is Monday 22 November 2021 before noon.  For more information on how to enter, please see here

• Tanya Allen, Principal of Thatcham’s ballet studio Allenova School of Dancing, received the International Dance Teachers Association Special Award for Artistic Endeavour at the 2021 Dance School of the Year Awards. As reported by Newbury Today, Tanya leads the studio “which has been teaching children ballet since 1985” and received her award at the ceremony in Exeter on 29 October.

• Victoria & Tobias luxury refreshments van will make it’s first appearance at Thatcham market this Friday. The founder, Victoria Gill, spoke to Newbury Today and described their inspiration for the refreshments van as wanting “to bring what I loved together, my dog, coffee, being around family and people” and has also said that they are “looking forward to meeting the people of Thatcham”. You can follow updates of Victoria & Tobias on Facebook.

Parsons Down Primary Eco-School’s new update on pupil and staff eco projects includes litter picking at lunchtimes, food waste recycling and a Waste Warrior week. Pupils are looking for donations of compostable bags for their food waste bins. Any local shops or residents that can help please contact the school at office.pdj@pdp.w-berks.sch.uk or 01635 866700.

• Another West Berkshire school, Curridge Primary, celebrated last week’s Diwali by creating this colourful artwork on its playground floor. 

• If you are involved with a local charity or voluntary group it is worth attending Thatcham TC’s meeting on 29 November to hear a short presentation at the start about Greenham Trust’s 25th anniversary in 2022, its events, campaigns and grant funding.

• As reported last week (see 4 Nov post below), Thatcham Town FC played their furthest ever competitive away fixture as the Kingfishers faced Guernsey FC on 6 November 2021. They held the island side to a 2-2 draw, you can read a match report written by BBC Sport, plus see photos and video highlights of the match (highlights available till Sunday 14 November).

• There are new arrivals at Bucklebury Farm Park’s ‘Pat a Pet’ attraction. Hermann’s tortoises ‘Gino, Gordon and Fred’ have all gone into hibernation for the winter, but will be out to meet the public starting from April 2022.

• Latest news from Churches Together in Thatcham includes details about events and community groups. To view, click here.

• For up-to-date news on the opposition to the 2,500-home plan for northeast Thatcham, please see the websites for Thatcham Town Council, Bucklebury Parish Council, Cold Ash Parish Council and Midgham Parish Council (see links at the foot of this section). You can also click here for the latest updates from the Bucklebury Says No group.

See here for the latest from Thatcham Town Council’s Facebook page.

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

• The Thatcham Community Larder is open 2pm to 6pm every Weds at the Frank Hutchings Hall. See here for more details.

• Please drop off donations to West Berkshire food bank at Thatcham Library during its opening hours. If you wish to find out more about the food bank please click this link to its website.

Click here to see the latest edition of the Cold Ash Community Bulletin which this week starts with Waggy and finishes with Stephen Hawking.

Hope House

Young People and Children First is a charity based in Thatcham, that provides a safe home for vulnerable young people between the ages of 16 and 25 who are care leavers or homeless. It provides these people with “a safe and comfortable home, life skills, work and learning opportunities that will support them physically and emotionally as they step towards the ultimate aim: successful independent living.”

YPACF currently has two family sized homes in Thatcham in which seven young people live. As reported on p26 of this week’s Newbury Weekly News and here in Newbury Today, a third home (Hope House) was opened on 9 November with the help of donations from organisations ranging from the Nationwide Building Society to IKEA. The house was bought by Graeme and Gill Leach in order to rent it to the charity. There are “ambitious plans” to open a fourth in early 2022 as demand for the charity’s services continues to grow.

YPACF is currently running an online raffle to raise funds.  Tickets can be purchased here. The prizes include a clamping holiday and a a Thames cruise

News from your local council

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

• The most recent meeting of Thatcham Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 28 June and you can read the minutes here. Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these. To see the dates and agendas for future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Cold Ash Parish Council took place on 26 October and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: a footpath extinguishment and its replacement; a proposed new bench; an agreement with the Tennis Club; the Christmas tree; and planning applications. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• Information about the progress of Cold Ash’s neighbourhood development plan can be found here.

• The most recent meeting of Brimpton Parish Council took place on 2 November and you can read the minutes here. iIems covered included: an name plate for Back Lane; the visibility (or not) of highway signs; drainage at Willow Wands; speeding; the future of the Enborne Way Allotment area; a meeting with the executive member for planning (at 7.30 on Tuesday 30 November in Brimpton Village Hall and which will also involve other parishes in the area); financial matters; and the village hall. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Midgham Parish Council took place on 25 October and you can read the minutes here. items covered included: the proposed 2,500 homes in Thatcham; a pothole in Bird’s Lane; financial matters; the village hall; overhanging shrubs; spam emails purportedly (though not) from the Chairman requesting money; seven planning applications; and a welcome to a new member. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Hermitage Parish Council took place on 16 September and you can read the minutes here. items covered included: planning applications; financial matters; inspections and repairs around the parish; flu jabs at the Downland Practice surgery; and the hardship fund. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• See also this page for up-to-date information about Hermitage’s neighbourhood development plan.

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

• The most recent meeting of Stanford Dingley Parish Council took place on 6 September and you can read the draft minutes here. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

•The most recent meeting of Frilsham Parish Council took place on 1 September and you can read the draft minutes here. To see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

Thursday 4 November 2021

This week’s news

• The Mayor’s 2021 Christmas Card Competition has been announced on Thatcham Town Council’s Facebook page. For more information on how to enter, please see this Facebook post here. Entries must be summited by Monday 22 November 2021 before noon.

Thatcham Youth will receive £7,000 from Thatcham Town Council to fund future community projects, as reported by Newbury Today. In the NT article the impact of the funding boost is explained as being able to help the charity “expand its services to young people in the town”. You can also watch this interview from That’s Thames Valley TV with Thatcham Youth’s Dan Carter where he further explains what the funding will go towards, as well as the role of the charity within Thatcham.

• Thatcham Town councillors have spoken out against plans from Pegasus Group to “erect 41 holiday chalets around a lake off Hambridge Road” as seen in this Newbury Today article. The scheme was refused by WBC but the applicants appealed. I spoke to one Thatcham TC councillor who confirmed that, as the article states, there’s a possibility that the flats will not in fact be used for holiday lets but would be a possible Trojan horse for a change of use to permanent occupation. If so, the extra homes would be welcome: what might not be, however, are the extra demands these would make on Thatcham’s already overloaded infrastructure.

If this fear proves to be justified then it may be harder to extract any mitigation concessions than if this were known at the outset. If they’re to be used for fishing holidays, the angling season, as I understand it, only runs for about nine months of the year which would leave three empty months. Also one pollution incident, not unknown in this country, could wipe out a year’s revenue. The attraction of cashing in by leasing or selling the flats for permanent occupation may well seem a better bet.

• A senior spokesperson from Greenham Trust will be making a short presentation at the start of the Thatcham TC meeting on 29 November, which parishioners are as ever welcome to attend. This will provide information about Greenham Trust’s 25th anniversary in 2022, its events and campaigns and, in particular, how its grant funding can help support local charities and voluntary groups.

• Thatcham based charity, Swings & Smiles, were treated to a visit from ITV Meridian News’ Sangeeta Bhabra as she helped raise smiles on the faces of children at the charity. A Newbury Today article also highlights the great work done by volunteers at the charity and Sangeeta lent a helping hand when building a brand new £3,000 swing.

• More charity news, as A-Plan’s Thatcham branch raised £137 at their photo booth stall at Thatcham market with further funds raised for ‘Breast Cancer Now’ still being counted. Plenty of photos from the insurance company’s charity day can be found in this Newbury Today article, as well as further information of the charity efforts by A-Plan.

• Thatcham Town FC’s new home kit for 2021-22 season have arrived at the Stacatruc Stadium. The kit includes the names of patrons towards their fundraising for a five-a-side artificial training surface at their training facility. So far this season the Kingfishers have only been able to play matches in their away kit, however they should be back in their usual blue and white strip for future matches.

• And still with club, Thatcham Town FC will play their furthest away fixture of the 2021-22 season, which usually just requires a coach trip for the match-day squad. However their Isthmian League South Central Division fixture against Guernsey FC will require more varied modes of transport. To follow updates of the squad’s journey and match on Saturday 6 November 2021, please see their website, Twitter and Facebook pages.

• Any rugby fans can watch the upcoming international matches at Thatcham Rugby Club clubhouse. Further details can be found in this Facebook post.

• Still no news on Thatcham Town Council’s reaction to WBC’s infrastructure delivery plan, or at least the part of it that concerns the town. As mentioned, further documentation is awaited and until that arrives it’s not possible to arrive at a conclusion.

• Latest news from Churches Together in Thatcham includes details about events and community groups. To view, click here.

• For up-to-date news on the opposition to the 2,500-home plan for northeast Thatcham, please see the websites for Thatcham Town Council, Bucklebury Parish Council, Cold Ash Parish Council and Midgham Parish Council (see links at the foot of this section). You can also click here for the latest updates from the Bucklebury Says No group.

• See here for the latest from Thatcham Town Council’s Facebook page.

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

• The Thatcham Community Larder is open 2pm to 6pm every Weds at the Frank Hutchings Hall. See here for more details.

• Please drop off donations to West Berkshire food bank at Thatcham Library during its opening hours. If you wish to find out more about the food bank please click this link to its website.

• Click here to see the latest edition of the Cold Ash Community Bulletin which this week starts with full colour and finishes with Charles Bukowski.

News from your local council

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

• The most recent meeting of Thatcham Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 28 June and you can read the minutes here. Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these. To see the dates and agendas for future Town Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Midgham Parish Council took place on 25 October and you can read the minutes here. items covered included: the proposed 2,500 homes in Thatcham; a pothole in Bird’s Lane; financial matters; the village hall; overhanging shrubs; spam emails purportedly (though not) from the Chairman requesting money; seven planning applications; and a welcome to a new member. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Cold Ash Parish Council took place on 12 October and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: anti-social behaviour; water bills; the goat paddock gate; financial matters; future events at the recreation Ground; and planning applications and decisions. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• Information about the progress of Cold Ash’s neighbourhood development plan can be found here.

• The most recent meeting of Brimpton Parish Council took place on 5 October and you can read the minutes here. items covered included: a damaged car; the plaque at the war memorial; parking issues at the school; a possible allotment at the end of Enborne Way; flooding at Willow Wands; speeding; bulb planting; planning applications; the jubilee; financial matters; and the village hall. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Hermitage Parish Council took place on 16 September and you can read the minutes here. items covered included: planning applications; financial matters; inspections and repairs around the parish; flu jabs at the Downland Practice surgery; and the hardship fund. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• See also this page for up-to-date information about Hermitage’s neighbourhood development plan.

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

• The most recent meeting of Stanford Dingley Parish Council took place on 6 September and you can read the draft minutes hereTo see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here.

• The most recent meeting of Frilsham Parish Council took place on 1 September and you can read the draft minutes hereTo see the dates of future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click here. To see the agendas, please click here.

To see earlier Thatcham & Surrounding Area Weekly News columns (from 1 April to 28 October) please click here.

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