Thursday 19 May 2022

Scroll down for more stakeholder engagement, local events and activities and news from your local councils.

This week’s news

• Thatcham had a royal visit last week from Princess Anne who visited Xtrac, her Princess Royal Training Award winners, to meet their apprentices and graduates and hear about their training. Princess Anne also discussed women in engineering with Kirstie Donnelly, apprentice Faye Cooke and graduate engineers Jessica Matthews and Kate Parton.

• A new, controversial (when isn’t it around Thatcham) planning application for a warehouse in Colthrop has just been approved despite claims that the development would bring nearly 1,000 vehicles, including HGVs, along the A4 at all times causing road congestion and noise pollution. Another article from Newbury Today reflects fears that Thatcham will soon join up with Theale. See last week’s column below for more on this.

• A really touching and intriguing story here about Thatcham resident, Matt Dolinski, who talks about how photography has helped become an outlet for dealing with PTSD, depression and anxiety. See more for yourself here on Newbury Today.

• Women from all walks of life across the county are invited to join West Berkshire Council’s Women in Politics webinar on Wednesday 1 June to find out how to get involved in local decision-making panels or becoming a Councillor. WBC also would like to invite any and all local residents interested in what happens behind the scenes at the Council or how decisions are made, to join them for this event. Details can be found on the council website.

• As most residents are more than likely aware by now, roadworks are set to continue until this Friday 20 May along Lower Way by the front of the sewage works. It’s worth noting that the lights seem to be stuck at certain hours on red, therefore caution is advised.

Thatcham Bowling Club is hosting an open day on Saturday 23 May at 10am for those that may be interested in joining. The club is situated behind Thatcham Memorial.

• Thatcham Town Council’s Heritage Working Party is requesting your votes by 7 June for the 2022 Blue Plaque from the short list of Lieutenant Colonel Vernon Watkins, The Cedars, Dunston House, Thatcham Ordnance Depot, Reeds Boards & Field Packaging and Wyatts Butchers. See more on the Town Council’s website here.

• Keep your eyes on the skies on Thursday 2 June for the spectacular military flyby in celebration of the Jubilee. Over 70 aircraft will be participating, including the Red Arrows, Spitfires and Hurricanes, taking off in the east of the country, flying over Buckingham Palace, London and then heading the South and West. If all goes according to plan, Berkshire should see the aircraft overhead roughly between 12:50pm and 1:30pm – so keep your eyes peeled. More information can be found here.

• Thames Valley Police’s firearms surrender will hopefully see a good response, with those surrendering them not receiving prosecution and staying anonymous. See more here on the appeal that is lasting until Sunday 29 May.

• Thatcham will soon host a Family Fun Day and Car Show, detailing funfair rides, market stalls and classic cards on 31 May on the Memorial Field. See here for more.

• In order to minimise the spread of Covid, Thatcham Medical Practice reminds patients that the wearing of face masks is still required on their premises.

• For recent news from Hermitage see the latest Hermitage Parish Council newsletter here.

• Click here to see the latest edition of the Cold Ash Community Bulletin which this week starts with the a swap-shop and finishes with using time.

• For the latest newsletter from Benefice of Aldermaston and Woolhampton which covers updates, local groups and events across the Thatcham area, please visit their website here.

Engagement with stakeholders (again)

Thatcham Town Council (TTC) continues to be involved – and yet not involved – in the shaping of the 30-year vision to inform West Berkshire Council’s (WBC) refresh of its local plan which is required to underpin the decision (as it effectively already seems to be) to build 2,500 homes to the NE of Thatcham. For example, on 31 January TTC wrote to WBC requesting that a Parish Planning Advisory Group be set up. A response from the portfolio holder Richard Somner (received at some point since the March TTC meeting) was discussed at the May meeting of TTC.

I appreciate,” the letter starts, “that there would be merit increasing engagement with all stakeholders engaged in the local plan process. The suggested approach is likely to set a precedent and increase expectation from other stakeholders.I’m afraid the current programme of work and the available resources could not accommodate this or a wider level of engagement.”

The letter goes on to refer to the appointment of Iceni as consultants for the project. The specification brief for this includes the demand that Iceni clearly set out “an approach that will ensure increased levels of engagement across multiple stakeholders. Engagement with groups who have not engaged in the past, eg school students will be encouraged. Some stakeholders will be challenging to engage with, eg town councils opposed to development, but it is important that they are given the opportunities to engage.” I’m not sure how this squares with Mr Somner’s response, including his comment that he was still looking at Regulation 18 responses so that he could “reach a balanced view on matters.”

The consultants have since produced two documents, a Baseline Report and a Socio-economic Baseline Report (You can also click here to see the West Berkshire 2050 page which has been set up by WBC and Iceni). TTC is currently preparing a detailed response to these.

The initial comments appear to include concerns that they lack substance, that they are little more that a complication from the Iceni team’s learning exercise, that they need more consistent referencing and clear titles and legends for tables and charts and that, in any case, much of the information is copied from WBC policies and documents. There are also suggestions that matters such as affordable housing, the railway crossing and then infrastructure deficit are not accorded the level of importance that merit.

Specific points include an apparent confusion between “district” and “borough”,  a number of seemingly missing pieces of qualifying information and the correction of surprising statement that Thatcham is situated three miles west of Newbury. (I certainly didn’t know that: but there the statement is, in a document produced by professional consultants in conjunction with the district council, so who am I to argue?) Producing these comments represents a substantial amount of work by TTC, which most directly represents those who will most affected by whatever is decided, so I trust they’ll be given full consideration.

At its May meeting, TTC also repeated its offer to host and promote engagement meetings with local residents, so helping to satisfy the stated objective of “engagement across multiple stakeholders” including with those “who have not engaged in the past.” At the May TTC meeting, however, it was agreed that it would be both meaningless and misleading to do this unless the discussion were restricted to matters which the public had an genuine chance of being able to influence. I understand that a letter has been sent to WBC on this expressing these sentiments but that no reply has yet been received.

The Parish Council at Bucklebury – a village which will be almost as affected by the proposals as will its larger neighbour – has also made comments on the baseline documents (although no one invited it to do so). A couple of weeks ago it also came to similar conclusion to Thatcham’s about public meetings and withdraw its offer to host one in the village on the grounds that it would be a waste of time.

I don’t know whether or not the 2,500-home plan is regarded a done deal by WBC but the way matters have been handled and the content of the specification document certainly makes it look that way. There also seem to have been some startling omissions in their reading list which led, for instance, to Iceni being unaware until apprised of the fact by someone unconnected with WBC a few weeks ago, that one of the alternative plans (Colthrop Village’s) included building a railway bridge. This would be a game-changer for Thatcham on every level and it’s impossible to see how any vision could not look carefully at the implications of this. The “balanced view” that the portfolio-holder mentions would seem rather to depend on considering this and all the other benefits (and drawbacks) of all the schemes, not just one. This surely also includes making sure that the consultants do so too. Otherwise, the whole thing becomes nothing more than an expensive and divisive box-ticking exercise and one which may or may not satisfy the independent examiners when the time comes – whenever that proves to be – for the local plan to come under their spotlight.

Community notices

• Thatcham Town Council will be lighting a beacon as part of the Platinum Jubilee to celebrate the Queen’s 70 years of service on Thursday 2 June with lots of other entertainment and celebration planned for the evening as well.

• Friends of Thatcham Library is rallying volunteers to help maintain the standards of the facility. To become a “new friend” of the library please email friendsofthatcham@gmail.com

• All are welcome at the open sessions at the Community Garden at Thatcham Discovery Centre every Friday 2pm-4pm. You can sow some seeds, create some wildlife habitat or just have a cuppa and relax in a calming green space.

Thatcham Rugby Club hosts Safe Space: Men’s Mental Health evenings on the last Thursday of each month from 9.15pm to 10pm.

• 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.

• A technology ‘Befriend Bus’ with a laptop, screen and speakers visits older residents in Thatcham and Newbury to give them tech support. For more details contact Handybus Coordinator Paul Wilding on 01635 37111 or email handybus@vcwb.org.uk.

Local events and activities

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

• Dates for the diary

• Educafé’ Wellbeing Festival through May and June offers free or low-cost yoga, nature walk, belly dancing, pilates and gardening in Thatcham, Newbury, Highclere and Bucklebury. Click here for the full schedule.

Sat 28 May Bowling Open Day at Thatcham Bowling Club.

Thu 2 June Thatcham Jubilee Celebration Evening & Beacon Lighting

Sun 5 June Churches of Thatcham’s Big Jubilee Lunch

• Regular events

• Sport in Mind runs free badminton activities at Kennet Leisure Centre, Thatcham on Wednesdays from 6pm.

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

Thatcham Rugby Club hosts Safe Space: Men’s Mental Health evenings on the last Thursday of each month from 9.15pm to 10pm.

• The Kings Head pub, Thatcham is hosting free snooker/pool tables, every Wednesday from 5pm to closing time.

Community Gardening sessions at Thatcham Nature Discovery Centre every Friday 2pm-4pm. Learn how to garden, create wildlife habitat or relax in a calming green space.

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

• RMD Adventure Learning‘s youth club at The Moor Pavilion, Lower Way, is for over 13s on Fridays between 6.30pm and 8.30pm.

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

United Reformed Church coffee mornings every Tuesday from 10 till midday.

• Glendale Church 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 2pm to 4pm. More information here. (also here)

 Thatcham Library clubs and events information is on the West Berkshire Library Facebook page or contact Thatcham Library at thatchamlibrary@westberks.gov.uk.

Sustainable Living Markets in Thatcham and Newbury – see their Facebook page for dates.

• Thatcham Baptist Church event and group information is on their What’s On web page.

• Thatcham Youth Club activity details are on their Facebook page and website.

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 31 January 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 3 May and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: the election of a Chair and Deputy; a presentation about the proposed development at Hyde End Farm; a seeming mix-up with WBC’s waste collection following April’s litter pick; a review of policies; the jubilee; speeding; repairs to a bench; potholes; planning matters; financial matters; and formal matters. 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 April and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: the Sylvan House Fishers Lane planning application; planning matters; trees; the NDP; and members’ bids. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click hereInformation 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 11 April and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: street light costs (see also This Week’s News above); Common clearing; planning matters; the plans to build 2,500 homes between Bucklebury and Thatcham; a report from ward member Graham Pask (which included the observation that he is “continually talking to WBC about improving communications with the parishes”); the jubilee; the Meadows and Hockett Field; the Cemetery and the Chapel; the Memorial Hall; speeding; recycling; rights of way; financial matters; and CCTV at the Memorial Hall. 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 Midgham Parish Council took place on 21 March 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 17 March and you can read the minutes here. To see the dates and agendas for future Parish Council meetings (including any committees), please click hereSee also this page for up-to-date information about Hermitage’s neighbourhood development plan.

• The most recent meeting of Frilsham Parish Council took place on 9 March and you can read the minutes here.  There was also an extraordinary meeting on 30 March and you can read the minutes here. (This was mainly concerned with the Beechfield Lane Improvement Project.) 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 7 March and you can read the minutes here.  To 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; Lambourn ValleyNewburyarea; Compton and DownlandsTheale area; Wantage area; Marlborougharea; Swindon area.

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

 

Archives

To see earlier Thatcham & Surrounding Area Weekly News columns, please click here.

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