Thursday 22 July 2021

• This week’s NWN has on p27 an article about the proposals for a masterplan for Thatcham, similar to that currently being worked on for Newbury. The article quotes WBC Leader Lynne Doherty as saying that work on this will start this summer, although I understand that an officer had recently told Thatcham Town Council that it would start in the summer of 2022. The issue seems to be, as Thatcham TC Leader David Lister pointed out, that the 2,500-home plan already seems to be a given in WBC’s mind which rather undermines what the masterplan might conclude. However, as a vast number of things still need to be decided about the 2,500-homes plan, including the details of an infrastructure delivery plan, it’s unlikely that there’ll be much more clarity by the time the masterplan starts, whether this summer or next. The proposal will thus hang over the masterplan deliberations – these will have to assume the eventual presence of something that hasn’t yet been decided (and which, given the Sandleford example, may never be built). There have been references made to a “masterplan”, including by Laura Farris, but this would seem to be in fact referring to the Thatcham Strategic Growth Study (TSGS), published in September 2020 but this isn’t a masterplan: indeed, the TSGS say on p53 that “these themes should be taken forward as core design objectives for masterplanning, to ensure that development can offer improvements for both current and new residents.”

It seems odd to me that the matters are being done in this order, with the investigation into the need for a course of action being done after it’s been decided to to proceed with it. Lynne Doherty is also quoted in the article as saying that “there’s probably far more to do in Thatcham than there is in Newbury”, a sentiment with which many local residents of the town (and all the councillors and others I’ve spoken to) would agree with. This rather raises the question of why Thatcham’s wasn’t done first. There’s also a reference in the article to the Turley Report which was completed in 2008. The stage 1 report of the TSGS in May 2019 has one reference to this, saying that “few of the recommendations on public realm and townscaping improvements have been implemented and the Town Council continues to request their completion.” The final TSGS makes no reference to the Turley report at all.  The report itself can be seen here. It would be interesting to know how much it cost, why its recommendations were so problematic and whether the general view is that Thatcham would be (a) in better shape, (b) in worse shape or (c) pretty much the same were they to have been.

• The question of infrastructure in the town also raises its head in the opening remarks of a 1 July 2021 report by West Berkshire’s Library Service into proposed improvements for the Thatcham Library: “Thatcham Town Council and West Berkshire Council are in agreement that the current Thatcham Library building is no longer adequate for the size of the population it serves.” The remark could probably equally well applied to many other facilities in the town. One of the things that Thatcham TC has been requesting is an accessible toilet in the building: both parties also appear to share “an ambitious vision to redevelop the library – possibly as part of a new community hub building [as Hungerford has done] – in the longer-term.” Three possible plans were proposed with WBC agreeing on the cheapest, costing about £25,000, which is probably a reasonable first step (though hopefully not a final one). This would “provide the toilet and new entrance. Any other necessary repairs works can be completed as they arise from the libraries’ capital budget.”

Thatcham TC’s hand has been strengthened in these discussions by the fact that it has been paying £24,000pa for the last four years as a voluntary contribution to the WBC Library Service. (About £160,000 is requested each year at a rate of £1 per person per year: since the scheme started, an average of £92,500pa has been collected in this way). TTC has recently insisted that continuing the payment be conditional on investment in the building. The total amount TTC has paid in this way in total would have pretty much covered the cost of the most ambitious proposed changes to the Library, though that’s probably too simplistic a way of looking at it. The funding has helped the Library Service survive, grow and adapt and seems to have been an imaginative solution to the problems faced by the incoming head of the Service Paul James in 2017, a time when one proposal on the table was to axe all the Libraries bar Newbury’s. Through more flexible approaches, which have differed from place to place, all have survived. He, his colleagues and all the parish and town councils, volunteers and Friends of… groups that were set up deserve a round of applause for that.

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 same page of the same paper reports on the recent Wildlife Allotment Garden open day in Cold Ash. Click here on the Cold Ash PC website for more on the WAG and the Community Orchard.

• Timetables for West Berkshire Council’s mobile community collect service for lateral-flow tests  can be found here.

Nature Discovery Centre’s indoor Lakeside Room and outdoor hutch spaces are available to hire. The café provides a range of catering options and guests can take a break to feed the ever-hungry ducks. Ring 01635 874381 or email ndc@bbowt.org.uk to find out more.

• And still at the Discovery Centre, wellbeing walks take place every Monday from 5pm to 6pm for people experiencing mental-health problems. Click here for details.

• Thatcham’s community larder at the Frank Hutchings Community Hall is not means tested and is open to all and so if you’re curious about saving money and preventing food waste, why not pop along and see what it’s all about.

• The most recent meeting of Thatcham Town Council took place on 28 June and you can red the minutes here. Matters discussed included: “Hug Homes” at The Priory; financial matters; reports from the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor; approval of “an expenditure of up to £12,000 for independent advice by consultants on the impact of proposed developments around Thatcham on the flow of traffic within and in the vicinity of Thatcham”; a grant of £1,000 to Readibus; the Town Council’s response to the government’s call for evidence regarding remote meetings; the return to in-person meetings; the Town Centre Working Party; reports from WBC councillors; and Lady Frances Winchcombe’s Charity. Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these. 

• Regarding this last point, the Lady Frances Winchcombe Charity exists to help young people in financial difficulties who want to progress with further education and apprenticeships. Anyone resident in Thatcham, Cold Ash and Bucklebury is welcome to apply. For more details, please email roberttayton@aol.com. No applications have been received this year but are welcomed.

• The most recent meeting of Bucklebury Parish Council took place on 14 June and you can read the draft minutes here. Items covered included: Common clearing; the planning application at the Memorial Hall; defibrillators; future meetings; members” bids; overgrown hedges; planning matters; and update from the Working Group on the Emerging Local Plan (and, specifically, the practical steps BPC and neighbouring Thatcham, Cold Ash and Midgham are taking to oppose this); the redevelopment of Paradise Way; repairs around the parish; speeding; recycling; financial matters; and a :give way” sign obstructed by vegetation.

• The most recent meeting of Cold Ash Parish Council took place on 8 June and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: work done at the Wildlife Allotment Garden; maintenance costs at the recreation Ground; the removal of the goats from grazing field 3; planning matters; financial matters; tree report; the circus at St Mark’s School on 29 September; and committee reports.

• The most recent of Stanford Dingley Parish Council (an extraordinary one) took place on 7 June and you can read the draft minutes here.

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

• The most recent meeting of Frilsham Parish Council (also the annual meeting) took place on 26 May and you can read the draft minutes here.

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

• The most recent meeting of Hermitage Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 15 April and you can read the minutes here. You can also see the brief minutes of the PC’s annual parish assembly by clicking here; and the Chair’s report on 18 June by clicking here.

Click here for the latest update from Hermitage PC. Items covered included: a slow return to face-to-face meetings; lights at the Co-op; improvements at the Primary School; the parish’s defibrillators; the Furze Hill meadows; the neighbourhood development plan; and the next PC meeting (Thursday 22 July).

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

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

• Click here to see the latest Cold Ash Community Bulletin, which this week starts with a cricket team and ends with Kafka on the Shore.

Thatcham area council news

Parishes: click here for Thatcham Town CouncilHermitage Parish CouncilCold Ash Parish CouncilMidgham Parish CouncilBucklebury Parish CouncilBrimpton Parish CouncilStanford Dingley Parish Council, Frilsham 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 Valley; Marlborough area; Newbury area; Compton and Downlands; Theale area; Wantage area; Swindon area.

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

Thursday 15 July 2021

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

• Last week (see below) I looked at some of the problems with the proposed 2,500-home plans for Thatcham. Other schemes, not part of the current local plan, continue to promote themselves, one being the scheme at Tull Way which can, its proposers claim, provide between 300 and 350 dwellings. The scheme was, according to the article on p26 of this week’s NWN,  not included in last year’s HELAA (Housing and Economic Land Availability Assessment) as “it would erode the existing physical separation of Newbury and Thatcham.” This seems a pretty accurate description of what the 2,500-home plan will do for the separation between Thatcham and Bucklebury.

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

• From which source, click here for a short film of photos taken at last month’s Family Fun Day.

• This week’s NWN reports on p23 that plans to convert the former pub The Travellers Friend in Crookham in to homes for people with learning difficulties have been approved by West Berkshire Council.

• The same page of the same paper reports on the recent Wildlife Allotment Garden open day in Cold Ash. Click here on the Cold Ash PC website for more on the WAG and the Community Orchard.

• Timetables for West Berkshire Council’s mobile community collect service for lateral-flow tests  can be found here.

Newbury Today reports that a stretch of Floral Way in Thatcham will be partially closed between 9.30am and 3.30pm from Thursday 22 July to Tuesday 27 July.

• The Lady Frances Winchcombe Charity exists to help young people in financial difficulties who want to progress with further education and apprenticeships. Anyone resident in Thatcham, Cold Ash and Bucklebury is welcome to apply. For more details, please email roberttayton@aol.com.

Nature Discovery Centre’s indoor Lakeside Room and outdoor hutch spaces are available to hire. The café provides a range of catering options and guests can take a break to feed the ever-hungry ducks. Ring 01635 874381 or email ndc@bbowt.org.uk to find out more.

• And still at the Discovery Centre, wellbeing walks take place every Monday from 5pm to 6pm for people experiencing mental-health problems. Click here for details.

• Thatcham’s community larder at the Frank Hutchings Community Hall is not means tested and is open to all and so if you’re curious about saving money and preventing food waste, why not pop along and see what it’s all about.

• The most recent meeting of Thatcham Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 29 March and you can red the minutes here. Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these. (That said, there have been three full council meetings since 29 March and yet none of the minutes have been published, which seems odd.)

• The most recent meeting of Cold Ash Parish Council took place on 8 June and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: work done at the Wildlife Allotment Garden; maintenance costs at the recreation Ground; the removal of the goats from grazing field 3; planning matters; financial matters; tree report; the circus at St Mark’s School on 29 September; and committee reports.

• The most recent of Stanford Dingley Parish Council (an extraordinary one) took place on 7 June and you can read the draft minutes here.

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

• The most recent meeting of Frilsham Parish Council (also the annual meeting) took place on 26 May and you can read the draft minutes here.

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

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

• The most recent meeting of Hermitage Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 15 April and you can read the minutes here. You can also see the brief minutes of the PC’s annual parish assembly by clicking here; and the Chair’s report on 18 June by clicking here.

Click here for the latest update from Hermitage PC. Items covered included: a slow return to face-to-face meetings; lights at the Co-op; improvements at the Primary School; the parish’s defibrillators; the Furze Hill meadows; the neighbourhood development plan; and the next PC meeting (Thursday 22 July).

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

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

• Click here to see the latest Cold Ash Community Bulletin, which this week starts with a WAG and ends with Arundhati Roy.

Thursday 8 July 2021

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

• The Health on the Move Bus will be offering to Covid vaccines on Mon 12 July at Thatcham’s Central Family Hub. Anyone over 18 can book a vaccine appointment with Emma on 01635 865318 or emma.halford-meakin1@westberks.gov.uk. You don’t need to be registered with a GP.

• See the earlier entries below for how the four parishes of  Thatcham, Midgham, Cold Ash and Bucklebury are joining forces to oppose the proposed NE Thatcham development. There’s also a Say No to Thatcham NE FB group which you can see herewhich includes a post about MP Laura Farris’s meeting with the Secretary of State. The debate on this continues. There seem to be three main factors in this (or, at least, those are the ones I’m briefly going to look at): traffic, education and deliverability (if that’s a word).

• This week’s NWN points out on p23 that the traffic problems were identified in the HELAA, published last year (this is document which is periodically updated to identify sites which have been proposed by developers) including extra journey times, particularly at junctions, and displacement of traffic onto rural routes. The whole proposal has also re-opened the long-standing debate about a possible bridge over the railway line, though WBC appears to have ruled this out. Many feel that the the impact of traffic on the proposed development has not been sufficiently thought through. The four affected parishes (see above) certainly feel that way and have recently secured a grant of £12,000 for a traffic survey: this shows the kind of sums that even a small part of the specialist advice can soak up on such an issue. WBC’s own costs are likely to be far higher. Whether this report will agree with WBC’s own assessment remains to be seen. Further funds may be required for this and also for other reports into matters such as flooding.

• Local politicians of all parties are in broad agreement that Thatcham’s infrastructure is inadequate for the needs of the town at present, never mind what it might become. Education provision, particularly at secondary level, is one such area. Part of the justification for one large development is that it would provide both the funds and the location for a new secondary school in the way that smaller developments would not. I wonder if other possible solutions have been looked at. Is building a 2,500-home development really the only way of providing Thatcham with a new school? Is NE Thatcham the best place for such a school to be located?

There’s also the matter of how this will be funded. The Thatcham Strategy Growth Study published in September 2020 says in clause 4.85 that “it is not proposed that the developers at NE Thatcham should pay for the full costs of building the school,” and adds in clause 5.20 that “this study proposes that capital funding for the new secondary school within North East Thatcham would be 50% funded by the developers, delivered through a Section 106 agreement on developer contributions. This is approximately commensurate with the education provision required for the development on its own.” In other words, any developer funds from the NE Thatcham scheme would make no financial contribution to the pre-existing needs of the town (though, if provided, it would of course provide the economies of scale needed to build a new school at all). How the other 50% of the money would be found is left open, though “carefully crafted S106 agreements” on other developments would be one solution. This would appear to make these smaller developers pay for more than the mitigation of their own schemes, which hardly seems fair. (I’m also immediately suspicious of any analysis which neatly divided something large and amorphous into to equal chunks: it reminds me of the old joke about 76% (or any other number) of percentages being made up on the spot.) Finally, these school places are needed asap, not according to the timetable of a developer which, as events have proved, is largely beyond the power of a planning authority to control.

• This leads to the question of timing and deliverability. Even if the development goes ahead, as matters currently stand the school will only be built when 80% of the site is occupied which it’s been suggested will not be before 2037. This means that a child born in Thatcham today will have completed their education by the time its doors open. As for the people in the 80% of the homes, where are they going to send their kids? With four developers involved (double the number than at Sandleford, where two has repeatedly proved to be one too many), there have got to be real question marks about whether the scheme will be built at all. It’s also not unheard of for developers to evade contractual responsibilities to provide infrastructure or to use this as a bargaining chip when a viability assessment suggests that fewer affordable or social-rent houses need to be built to make the scheme profitable. The later in the process the infrastructure is provided, the more likely this is to happen.

• At least three other sites in and around Thatcham, each able to provide 300 to 400 homes, have been identified and more may emerge although WBC does not appear to be looking on these favourably. These aren’t problem-free but seem to spread the load rather more effectively and may not, individually and collectively, require all the mitigation measures that NE Thatcham would seem to. On a practical level, they are also single-developer sites, so making it much more likely that something will actually get built. The problem of a new secondary school remains but it doesn’t seem that the NE Thatcham plan will be guaranteed to address this either, certainly not in the short or even medium term.

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

• Timetables for West Berkshire Council’s mobile community collect service for lateral-flow tests  can be found here.

• The Lady Frances Winchcombe Charity exists to help young people in financial difficulties who want to progress with further education and apprenticeships. Anyone resident in Thatcham, Cold Ash and Bucklebury is welcome to apply. For more details, please email roberttayton@aol.com.

Click here for a recent article in Newbury Today about the plans to redevelop The Grange and the effect this is likely to have on one of the businesses there.

Nature Discovery Centre’s indoor Lakeside Room and outdoor hutch spaces are available to hire. The café provides a range of catering options and guests can take a break to feed the ever-hungry ducks. Ring 01635 874381 or email ndc@bbowt.org.uk to find out more.

• Thatcham’s community larder at the Frank Hutchings Community Hall is not means tested and is open to all and so if you’re curious about saving money and preventing food waste, why not pop along and see what it’s all about.

• The most recent meeting of Thatcham Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 29 March and you can red the minutes here. Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these. (That said, there have been three full council meetings since 29 March and yet none of the minutes have been published, which seems odd.)

• The most recent meeting of Cold Ash Parish Council took place on 8 June and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: work done at the Wildlife Allotment Garden; maintenance costs at the recreation Ground; the removal of the goats from grazing field 3; planning matters; financial matters; tree report; the circus at St Mark’s School on 29 September; and committee reports.

• The most recent of Stanford Dingley Parish Council (an extraordinary one) took place on 7 June and you can read the draft minutes here. Items covered included: two planning applications (both of which were objected to); governance matters; and the trees on Butcher’s Piece.

• The most recent meeting of Brimpton Parish Council took place on 1 June and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: the allotments; planning enforcement at Eastbank; a councillor c0-option; the proposed no cold-calling zone; speeding; the Queen’s Green Canopy Project; financial matters; the Recreation Ground charity;

• The most recent meeting of Frilsham Parish Council (also the annual meeting) took place on 26 May and you can read the draft minutes here.

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

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

• The most recent meeting of Hermitage Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 15 April and you can read the minutes here. You can also see the brief minutes of the PC’s annual parish assembly by clicking here; and the Chair’s report on 18 June (which I presume was the means host upon to make decisions in this awkward period between the end of remote meetings and the end of lockdown, inflicted on PCs up and down the land by the government) by clicking here.

Click here for the latest update from Hermitage PC. Items covered included: a slow return to face-to-face meetings; lights at the Co-op; improvements at the Primary School; the parish’s defibrillators; the Furze Hill meadows; the neighbourhood development plan; and the next PC meeting (Thursday 22 July).

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

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

• Click here to see the latest Cold Ash Community Bulletin, which this week starts with a path and ends with Mark Twain.

Thursday 1 July 2021

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

• The Thatcham Family Fun Day returned last weekend and organisers claim that about 6,000 people attended. See pp22-23 of this week’s Newbury Weekly News for a report and photos.

• The Health on the Move Bus will be offering to Covid vaccines on Mon 12 July at Thatcham’s Central Family Hub. Anyone over 18 can book a vaccine appointment with Emma on 01635 865318 or emma.halford-meakin1@westberks.gov.uk. You don’t need to be registered with a GP.

Click here for an article in Newbury Today about the plans to redevelop The Grange and the effect this is likely to have on one of the businesses there.

• Congratulations to Blue Beetle Ceramics in The Courtyard on their celebrating their second anniversary after a challenging two years of adapting their business model and supplying take-away pottery painting kits for families that needed activities during lockdown.
Nature Discovery Centre’s indoor Lakeside Room and outdoor hutch spaces are available to hire. The café provides a range of catering options and guests can take a break to feed the ever-hungry ducks. Ring 01635 874381 or email ndc@bbowt.org.uk to find out more.

• Thatcham’s new community larder at the Frank Hutchings Community Hall is not means tested and is open to all and so if you’re curious about saving money and preventing food waste, why not pop along and see what it’s all about.

• See the earlier entries below for how the four parishes of  Thatcham, Midgham, Cold Ash and Bucklebury are joining forces to oppose the proposed NE Thatcham development. There’s also a Say NO to Thatcham NE FB group which you can see here which includes a post about MP Laura Farris’s meeting with the Secretary of State.

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

• Timetables for West Berkshire Council’s mobile community collect service for lateral-flow tests  – details can be found here.

• The Lady Frances Winchcombe Charity exists to help young people in financial difficulties who want to progress with further education and apprenticeships. Anyone resident in Thatcham, Cold Ash and Bucklebury is welcome to apply. For more details, please email roberttayton@aol.com.

• The 1st Thatcham Brownies has places for 7-10-year-old girls. Contact 1stthatchambrownies@gmail.com for details.

• The 1st Thatcham Scout Group currently has five leaders to assist 54 young people across its Beavers, Cubs and Scouts sections and is looking for more – click here for more.

• The most recent meeting of Thatcham Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 29 March and you can red the minutes here. Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.

• The most recent meeting of Cold Ash Parish Council took place on 8 June and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: work done at the Wildlife Allotment Garden; maintenance costs at the recreation Ground; the removal of the goats from grazing field 3; planning matters; financial matters; tree report; the circus at St Mark’s School on 29 September; and committee reports.

• The most recent meeting of Brimpton Parish Council took place on 1 June and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: the allotments; planning enforcement at Eastbank; a councillor c0-option; the proposed no cold-calling zone; speeding; the Queen’s Green Canopy Project; financial matters; the Recreation Ground charity; 

• The most recent meeting of Frilsham Parish Council (also the annual meeting) took place on 26 May and you can read the draft minutes here.

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

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

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

• The most recent meeting of Hermitage Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 15 April and you can read the minutes here. You can also see the brief minutes of the PC’s annual parish assembly by clicking here.

Click here for the latest update from Hermitage PC. Items covered included: a slow return to face-to-face meetings; lights at the Co-op; improvements at the Primary School; the parish’s defibrillators; the Furze Hill meadows; the neighbourhood development plan; and the next PC meeting (Thursday 22 July).

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

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

• Click here to see the latest Cold Ash Community Bulletin, which this week starts with some tall trees and ends with a lightning thief.

Thursday 24 June 2021

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

• Thatcham’s community larder launched this week at the Frank Hutchings Community Hall and the Mayor and Deputy Mayor were delighted to see a sneak preview of it last week. The scheme is not means tested and is open to all and so if you’re curious about saving money and preventing food waste, why not pop along and see what it’s all about.

Thatcham Family Fun Day will take place from 11am till 4pm on Sunday June 27 2021, at Henwick Worthy Sports Ground. Click here for details.

• See the earlier entries below for how the four parishes of  Thatcham, Midgham, Cold Ash and Bucklebury are joining forces to oppose the proposed NE Thatcham development. There’s also a Say NO to Thatcham NE FB group which you can see here which includes a post about MP Laura Farris’s meeting with the Secretary of State. This included asking him “about the numbers that West Berkshire Council is required to meet when we have so many areas of outstanding natural beauty and flood plains where building is not possible.” Most people would agree that the issue is not whether West Berkshire needs more homes – few would argue that it does, particularly of the affordable kind – but whether so many of them need to be built in one place. She has expressed her concerns on this matter at parish council meetings including Bucklebury’s in February.

Another, longer letter from Laura Farris (which you can see at the foot of the post in the facebook group on 10 June) takes a different tone. It fully supports WBC’s planning process and warns against the dangers of there not being a local plan in place (though I’m not aware that anyone has advocated this). To me it reads as if she has realised, or been reminded, that she expressed too much doubt about the proposal earlier in the year and that the matter should be left to WBC to resolve. One point to which she returns several time is the question of infrastructure. “Masterplanning has identified,” she says, “that only growth of a strategic scale on this particular site could support the service provision and regeneration that Thatcham so desperately needs.” I might be wrong but I didn’t think that Thatcham’s masterplanning had started yet. That aside, this is an interesting view as it suggests that one of the reasons for selecting the site was to redress past under-investment in Thatcham’s infrastructure. However, if past developments in the town have failed to do this, why should this one be any different? The risk is that a still wider deficit will result. In any event, details of what infrastructure is proposed are currently very sketchy which makes it hard to tell whether any planned benefits will be felt by the town as a whole.

Farris also makes the point that the alternative would be “a patchwork of smaller developments across many local areas. This would likely lack the quantum of new development to attract sufficient new infrastructure in those areas and would likely add further pressure to our existing infrastructure network.” I rather doubt this. Many smaller communities would benefit considerably from having perhaps 5% more homes and many local schools, surgeries, leisure facilities and the like would be able to absorb these new arrivals – indeed, some currently have fewer pupils, patients or customers than they would wish. I appreciate that there are problems with getting affordable homes built on small developments but so there are too on larger ones, developers doing all in their power to wriggle out of obligations. Little better, perhaps, is being told that if you do want an affordable home the only place you’re likely to find one is in north east Thatcham. She adds that such pepper-potting “could also involve the erosion of some treasured strategic gaps between existing settlements.” This seems an excellent description of what the NE Thatcham plan will accomplish.

• Relating to this matter, see two articles on p28 of this week’s NWN. One looks at the other plans in and around Thatcham that are fighting for inclusion in the local plan and the other is a request by Thatcham and WBC Councillor Lee Dillon for more details on the plans for new roads if this development goes ahead.

Click here for an article in Newbury Today about the plans to redevelop The Grange and the effect this is likely to have on one of the businesses there (see also last week’s column below)

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

• Timetables for West Berkshire Council’s mobile community collect service for lateral-flow tests  – details can be found here.

• The Lady Frances Winchcombe Charity exists to help young people in financial difficulties who want to progress with further education and apprenticeships. Anyone resident in Thatcham, Cold Ash and Bucklebury is welcome to apply. For more details, please email roberttayton@aol.com.

• The 1st Thatcham Brownies has places for 7-10-year-old girls. Contact 1stthatchambrownies@gmail.com for details.

• The 1st Thatcham Scout Group currently has five leaders to assist 54 young people across its Beavers, Cubs and Scouts sections and is looking for more – click here for more.

• The most recent meeting of Thatcham Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 29 March and you can red the minutes here. Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.

• The most recent meeting of Cold Ash Parish Council took place on 25 May and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included proposed big-top fundraiser for the school; the co-option of a new councillor; the ownership of the land surrounding the Acland Hall; fence funding for the pre-school; an activity day at the Wildlife Allotment Garden; the cost of a transport consultant; financial matters; and one planning application.

• The most recent meeting of Frilsham Parish Council (also the annual meeting) took place on 26 May and you can read the draft minutes here.

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

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

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

• The most recent meeting of Brimpton Parish Council took place on 4 May and you can read the minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Hermitage Parish Council took place on 15 April and you can read the minutes here. You can also see the brief minutes of the PC’s annual parish assembly by clicking here.

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

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

• Click here to see the latest Cold Ash Community Bulletin, which this week starts with Pickle and Ginger and ends with seductions and challenges.

Thursday 17 June 2021

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

• This week’s Newbury Weekly News has on p22 the story of the proposed re-development of the former Grange Nursery to convert it to a SEN school. One of the casualties of this seem likely to be Harris Mind and Body which has a lease on the site until late 2022. I spoken to one of the owners, Sarah Harris, who confirmed that they had been unaware until very recently that they would need to vacate the premises and that there had been no information forthcoming from the landlords. “Finding the right premises for a business such as ours, which offers physiotherapy and pilates, isn’t quick or easy. It took 18 months to find this location and even then there was a lot of work that needed to be done to make it right for our needs. This will be even more complex as a result of the pandemic. We need to continue the fight to be able to stay here as well as prepare for the possiblity that we’ll have to move.” About 3,000 square feet would be needed which also must be fully accessible – so, if you know of such a place available for rent, get in touch with them (see link above). Sarah Harris added that they’ve been “overwhelmed” by the support of their clients since the extent of the problem became clear. Sufficient objections having been received, the matter will in due course come before the Western Area Planning Committee. As many of the buildings on the site are listed, this may pose as large an obstacle to the plans as the reaction of the clients of one of the affected properties. You can view and comment on the application by clicking here.

Two things strike me about this. The first is that as WBC no longer sends letters to neighbours concerning applications (which I imagine would also have been sent to commercial tenants) and as there’s some doubt as to who is responsible for displaying the orange notices (not they weren’t displayed in this case, though this has been an issue elsewhere) it’s not always easy to know the details of a planning application or even that one has been lodged. You can’t be visiting WBC’s planning portal every day on the off chance but at the first suggestion, ask around and do a bit of research. Your local town or parish council should also be able to help as they are statutory consultees and the matter will have been brought to their attention. The second is that landlords have perhaps a legal but certainly a moral duty to keep their tenants informed. On a PR level, a phone call or email early in the process explaining what was planned (and perhaps promising to let the tenants know if they heard of replacement premises) would not only be polite but also completely disarming and likely to lead to many fewer objections and a less adversarial atmosphere. Few things enrage people more than secretive behaviour.

MP Laura Farris is holding a surgery at Frank Hutchins Hall on the morning of Saturday 19 June. If you would like to make an appointment to see her, please contact her office on laura.farris.mp@parliament.uk or 01635 551070.

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

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

Thatcham Family Fun Day will take place from 11am till 4pm on Sunday June 27 2021, at Henwick Worthy Sports Ground. Click here for details. Volunteers are being sought to help with the event.

• We’re always keen to give a shout-out for a local markets, so here’s a reminder of the excellent one every Friday at The Broadway in Thatcham between 9am and 3pm. I can particularly recommend Karen and Neil’s fruit and veg stall as that also sets up at Hungerford’s Wednesday market.

• The Lady Frances Winchcombe Charity exists to help young people in financial difficulties who want to progress with further education and apprenticeships. Anyone resident in Thatcham, Cold Ash and Bucklebury is welcome to apply. For more details, please email roberttayton@aol.com.

1st Thatcham Brownies has places for 7-10-year-old girls. Contact 1stthatchambrownies@gmail.com for details.

• As previously mentioned, four local councils – Thatcham, Midgham, Cold Ash and Bucklebury – which would be directly affected by the plan to build 2,500 homes in north east Thatcham have formed an alliance to co-ordinate opposition to what they claim is a disproportionate plan in an area which already suffers from a chronic shortage of infrastructure. You can read an open letter from these four councils here. See last week’s section below for more on their aims and division of responsibilities.

• Anyone wanting to experience the singular sight of winter and summer at the same time could do worse than talk a walk out of Bucklebury towards Bradfield where, for about three-quarters of a mile, the route is lined by some venerable oak trees. These were planted in honour of a visit by Queen Elizabeth – not the current one, mind, but her 16th-century Tudor predecessor. The problem is that some very hungry caterpillars have been attacking some of them with the result that their summer foliage has fallen off. Others currently seem untroubled. Bucklebury PC and West Berkshire Council are looking into this and trying to find a solution.

• The NWN reports on the p23 that plans to convert buildings St Gabriel’s Farm in Cold Ash into homes have been turned down by WBC’s Western Area Planning Committee: this involved their going against the officers’ recommendation, something which does not always happen.

• The 1st Thatcham Scout Group currently has five leaders to assist 54 young people across its Beavers, Cubs and Scouts sections and is looking for more – click here for more.

• The new community larder in Thatcham at Frank Hutchins Hall offers food and community support at a very low cost membership fee – click here for details.

• The most recent meeting of Thatcham Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 29 March and you can red the minutes here. Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.

• The most recent meeting of Frilsham Parish Council (also the annual meeting) took place on 26 May and you can read the draft minutes here. Items covered included: formal year-end matters; planning applications; inspections and maintenance work at the play park; the cancellation of the 2021 fête; financial matters; and the village’s power supply.

• The most recent meeting of Bucklebury Parish Council (also the annual meeting) took place on 6 May and you can read the draft minutes here. Items covered included: formal year-end matters; the north east Thatcham development (see also above); the nature of future meetings; planning applications; the purchase of some benches; financial matters; and the sign at the playpark.

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

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

• The most recent meeting of Brimpton Parish Council took place on 4 May and you can read the minutes here.

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

• The most recent meeting of Hermitage Parish Council took place on 15 April and you can read the minutes here. You can also see the brief minutes of the PC’s annual parish assembly by clicking here.

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

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

• Click here to see the latest Cold Ash Community Bulletin, which this week starts with litter and ends with Brigham Young.

Thursday 10 June 2021

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

MP Laura Farris is holding a surgery at Frank Hutchins Hall on Sat 19 June in the morning. If you would like to make an appointment to see her, please contact her office on laura.farris.mp@parliament.uk or 01635 551070.

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

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

Thatcham Family Fun Day will take place from 11am till 4pm on Sunday June 27 2021, at Henwick Worthy Sports Ground. Click here for details. Volunteers are being sought to help with the event.

• This week’s NWN reports on p26 that Thatcham TC recently  discussed whether or not to object to BT’s proposed removal of a public phone box in The Broadway from which currently an average of only 22 calls a month were made (it’s a glass and metal one, not one of the classic red jobs). The leader, David Lister, pointed out that these calls may have been made by people without alternative means or in an emergency. It was eventually agreed to oppose the removal until more is known about the usage. So, if you or anyone you know uses this phone box and would like to see it remain, please get in touch with Thatcham Town Council (see link below).

• We’re always keen to give a shout-out for a local markets, so here’s a reminder of the excellent one every Friday at The Broadway in Thatcham between 9am and 3pm. I can particularly recommend Karen and Neil’s fruit and veg stall as that also sets up at Hungerford’s Wednesday market. If you go along, do remind them that I’m looking forward to buying some passion fruit at Hungerford next week, a fruit for which I have a, well, passion. There seems to be something of a world shortage at present.

• The Lady Frances Winchcombe Charity exists to help young people in financial difficulties who want to progress with further education and apprenticeships. Anyone resident in Thatcham, Cold Ash and Bucklebury is welcome to apply. For more details, please email roberttayton@aol.com.

• The NWN reports on p24 that plans have been submitted to convert Grange Nursery into a WEN (special educational needs) school for 60 pupils.

1st Thatcham Brownies has places for 7-10-year-old girls. Contact 1stthatchambrownies@gmail.com for details.

• The Great British Spring Clean takes place between 28 May and 13 June. Contact your local Town Councillor to see how you can get involved in a litter pick event near you. If you are organising a clean-up please pledge to pick (as an individual or as a group) here, West Berkshire Council can loan litter-picking equipment to help you carry out your event, but please give them as much notice as possible and check availability before advertising your event.

• Four local councils – Thatcham, Midgham, Cold Ash and Bucklebury – which would be directly affected by the plan to build 2,500 homes in north east Thatcham have formed an alliance to co-ordinate opposition to what they claim is a disproportionate plan in an area which already suffers from a chronic shortage of infrastructure. You can read an open letter from these four councils here.

This alliance, as I shall continue to call it, has started work. Thatcham, the largest of the four and the one most directly affected, will be looking at issues such as traffic and flooding. Bucklebury, probably the next most affected, will be concentrating on the environmental/AONB impacts, particularly with regard to Bucklebury Common. Cold Ash and Midgham, who will probably be more indirectly touched by this, will be considering the impact of traffic in their own parishes. Thatcham Town Council has agreed in principle to fund a traffic study for the project and further expert advice will be needed on other aspects of the proposal.

• Anyone wanting to experience the singular sight of winter and summer at the same time could do worse than talk a walk out of Bucklebury towards Bradfield where, for about three-quarters of a mile, the route is lined by some venerable oak trees. These were planted in honour of a visit by Queen Elizabeth – not the current one, mind but her 16th-century Tudor predecessor. The problem is that some very hungry caterpillars have been attacking some of them with the result that their summer foliage has fallen off. Others currently seem untroubled. Bucklebury PC and West Berkshire Council are looking into this and trying to find a solution.

• The 1st Thatcham Scout Group currently has five leaders to assist 54 young people across its Beavers, Cubs and Scouts sections and is looking for more – click here for more.

• A new community larder is starting up in Thatcham at Frank Hutchins Hall offering food and community support at a very low cost membership fee – click here for details.

• The most recent meeting of Thatcham Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 29 March and you can red the minutes here. Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.

• The most recent meeting of Bucklebury Parish Council (also the annual meeting) took place on 6 May and you can read the draft minutes here. Items covered included: formal year-end matters; the north east Thatcham development (see also above); the nature of future meetings; planning applications; the purchase of some benches; financial matters; and the sign at the playwark.

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

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

• The most recent meeting of Brimpton Parish Council took place on 4 May and you can read the minutes here.

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

• The most recent meeting of Hermitage Parish Council took place on 15 April and you can read the minutes here. You can also see the brief minutes of the PC’s annual parish assembly by clicking here.

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

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

• Click here to see the latest Cold Ash Community Bulletin, which this week starts with a relatively steep road and ends with Einstein (do you see what I’m doing here?).

Thursday 3 June 2021

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

• The Thatcham Town Council Surgery takes place on Sat 5 June: Thatcham Town Councillor Mark Lillycrop and Town and District Councillor Owen Jeffery will be in the Broadway from 10am until noon to speak with local residents and hear their concerns and comments about the town. They will be joined by representatives from Thames Valley Police.

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

Thatcham Level Crossing will be closed from 10pm to 5am from Mon 31 May to Fri 4 June 2021 between its junctions with Chamberhouse Mill Lane and Pipers Way. This closure is to enable Network Rail to carry out repairs to its network on behalf of West Berkshire Council.

1st Thatcham Brownies has places for 7-10-year-old girls. Contact 1stthatchambrownies@gmail.com for details.

• The Great British Spring Clean takes place between 28 May and 13 June. Contact your local Town Councillor to see how you can get involved in a litter pick event near you. If you are organising a clean-up please pledge to pick (as an individual or as a group) here, West Berkshire Council can loan litter-picking equipment to help you carry out your event, but please give them as much notice as possible and check availability before advertising your event.

• Four local councils – Thatcham, Midgham, Cold Ash and Bucklebury – which would be directly affected by the plan to build 2,500 homes in north east Thatcham have formed an alliance to co-ordinate opposition to what they claim is a disproportionate plan in an area which already suffers from a chronic shortage of infrastructure. You can read an open letter from these four councils here.

• Meanwhile, the proposers of another plan for development in Thatcham, the 950-scheme in Colthrop south of the railway line, have recently claimed that this would in many ways be preferable to the 2,500-home plan.

• The 1st Thatcham Scout Group currently has five leaders to assist 54 young people across its Beavers, Cubs and Scouts sections and is looking for more – click here for more.

• As reported on p14 of this week’s NWN, Age UK’s shop in Thatcham is looking for helpers. Call 01635 864 994 or click here if you’re interested and to book a taster volunteer session.

• A new community larder is starting up in Thatcham at Frank Hutchins Hall offering food and community support at a very low cost membership fee – click here for details.

• The most recent meeting of Thatcham Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 29 March and you can red the minutes here. Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.

• The most recent of Stanford Dingley Parish Council (also the annual meeting) took place on 5 May and you can read the draft minutes here. Items covered included: speeding; planning restrictions on gates and fences; election of a chairman and vice chairman; the Club Room; the Village Field; the Village Green; planning applications; the village census; sewer flooding; financial matters; tree planting’ rights of way; and forthcoming events.

• The most recent meeting of Midgham Parish Council (also the annual meeting) took place on 6 May and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: a new councillor; financial matters; and planning applications and decisions.

• The most recent meeting of Brimpton Parish Council took place on 4 May and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: an open forum at which Laura Farris MP was present (see below); the hedge at Enborne Way and Brimpton Lane; a review of policies and procedures; the no cold-calling zone; speeding; planning matters; financial matters; various year-end matters; WBC’s consultations; the need for a new councillor; parking in the village; litter, and the school bus.

Laura Farris attended the above-mentioned Brimpton PC meeting and a full report of the matters discussed with her can be seen in the minutes. These include the settlement boundary, the need for smaller houses in the area; speeding and parking in the village and fly tipping.

• The most recent meeting of Cold Ash Parish Council took place on 5 May and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: a presentation by James Iles from Pro Vision about a proposed development for the Land South of Waller Drive, Newbury; the election of the Chairman and Vice Chairman; the possible need to move the basketball hoop due to safety concerns; face-to-face meetings to resume in the Acland Hall; tree works; new street names; the recreation ground; planning applications; financial matters; and various local repairs around the parish.

• The most recent meeting of Hermitage Parish Council took place on 15 April and you can read the minutes here. You can also see the brief minutes of the PC’s annual parish assembly by clicking here.

• Information about the progress of Cold Ash’s neighbourhood development plan can be found 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 12 April and you can read the minutes here.

• Click here to see the latest Cold Ash Community Bulletin, which this week starts with bluebells and ends with Jung.

Thursday 27 May 2021

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

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

Thatcham Level Crossing will be closed from 10pm to 5am from Mon 31 May to Fri 4 June 2021 between its junctions with Chamberhouse Mill Lane and Pipers Way. This closure is to enable Network Rail to carry out repairs to its network on behalf of West Berkshire Council.

Harts Hill Road will be closed from 8.30am to 4.30pm on Mon 31 May 2021 between its junction with Floral Way/Harts Hill Roundabout and its junction with Burdens Heath so SSE can carry out clearance of overhanging trees from power lines. Residential access will be maintained throughout. An alternative route is via Burdens Heath, Broad Lane, The Ridge, Cold Ash Hill, Heath Lane, Floral Way and vice versa. All enquiries to Centurion Traffic Management on 01132 775 360.

• The Great British Spring Clean takes place between 28 May and 13 June. Thatcham Litter PickersMay litter pick is this Saturday. Please meet at the corner of Lower and The Moors. If you are organising a clean-up please pledge to pick (as an individual or as a group) here, West Berkshire Council can loan litter-picking equipment to help you carry out your event, but please give them as much notice as possible and check availability before advertising your event.

• This week’s Newbury Weekly News reports on p28 about the proposals by Thatcham TC’s Town Centre Working Party to “freshen up” the town. One scheme that might help is a share of the government’s Welcome Back Fund which aims to help communities recover from the pandemic. West Berkshire Council has invited Thatcham TC to be a “delivery partner” for this although the Working Party Chairman said that “the full implications of this needed to be understood.”

• Four local councils – Thatcham, Midgham, Cold Ash and Bucklebury – which would be directly affected by the plan to build 2,500 homes in north east Thatcham have formed an alliance to co-ordinate opposition to what they claim is a disproportionate plan in an area which already suffers from a chronic shortage of infrastructure. You can read an open letter from these four councils here.

• Meanwhile, the proposers of another plan for development in Thatcham, the 950-scheme in Colthrop south of the railway line, have recently claimed that this would in many ways be preferable to the 2,500-home plan. They have suggested that the latter is not sustainable, uses Greenfield land, imposes “enormous infrastructure challenges” and does not provide a railway bridge.

• The 1st Thatcham Scout Group currently has five leaders to assist 54 young people across its Beavers, Cubs and Scouts sections and is looking for more – click here for more.

• A new community larder is starting up in Thatcham at Frank Hutchins Hall offering food and community support at a very low cost membership fee – click here for details.

• The most recent meeting of Thatcham Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 29 March and you can red the minutes here. Note that the Council delegates much of its work to committees. Click here for more on these.

• The most recent meeting of Midgham Parish Council (also the annual meeting) took place on 6 May and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: a new councillor; financial matters; and planning applications and decisions.

• The most recent meeting of Brimpton Parish Council took place on 4 May and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: an open forum at which Laura Farris MP was present (see below); the hedge at Enborne Way and Brimpton Lane; a review of policies and procedures; the no cold-calling zone; speeding; planning matters; financial matters; various year-end matters; WBC’s consultations; the need for a new councillor; parking in the village; litter, and the school bus.

Laura Farris attended the above-mentioned Brimpton PC meeting and a full report of the matters discussed with her can be seen in the minutes. These include the settlement boundary, the need for smaller houses in the area; speeding and parking in the village and fly tipping.

• The most recent meeting of Cold Ash Parish Council took place on 5 May and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: a presentation by James Iles from Pro Vision about a proposed development for the Land South of Waller Drive, Newbury; the election of the Chairman and Vice Chairman; the possible need to move the basketball hoop due to safety concerns; face-to-face meetings to resume in the Acland Hall; tree works; new street names; the recreation ground; planning applications; financial matters; and various local repairs around the parish.

• The most recent meeting of Hermitage Parish Council took place on 15 April and you can read the minutes here.

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

• Information about the progress of Cold Ash’s neighbourhood development plan can be found 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 12 April and you can read the minutes here.

• Click here to see the latest Cold Ash Community Bulletin, which this week starts with a gate and ends with Neil Gaiman.

Thursday 20 May 2021

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

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

• Opposition continues to grow to West Berkshire Council’s plans to concentrate new development in the district to the north east of Thatcham where it’s proposed that 2,500 homes be built. Four local councils – Thatcham, Midgham, Cold Ash and Bucklebury – would be directly affected by this and are coming an alliance to co-ordinate opposition to what they claim is a disproportionate plan in an area which already suffers from a chronic shortage of infrastructure. You can read an open letter from these four councils here.

• Meanwhile, the proposers of another plan for development in Thatcham, the 950-scheme in Colthrop south of the railway line, claim that this would in many ways be preferable to the 2,500-home plan. They have suggested that the latter is not sustainable, uses Greenfield land, imposes “enormous infrastructure challenges” and does not provide a railway bridge. You can read more on this on p27 of this week’s NWN.

• The most recent meeting of Thatcham Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 29 March and you can red the minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Midgham Parish Council (also the annual meeting) took place on 6 May and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: a new councillor; financial matters; and planning applications and decisions.

• The most recent meeting of Brimpton Parish Council took place on 4 May and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: an open forum at which Laura Farris MP was present (see below); the hedge at Enborne Way and Brimpton Lane; a review of policies and procedures; the no cold-calling zone; speeding; planning matters; financial matters; various year-end matters; WBC’s consultations; the need for a new councillor; parking in the village; litter, and the school bus.

Laura Farris attended the above-mentioned Brimpton PC meeting and a full report of the matters discussed with her can be seen in the minutes. These include the settlement boundary, the need for smaller houses in the area; speeding and parking in the village and fly tipping.

• The most recent meeting of Cold Ash Parish Council took place on 27 April and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: the basketball hoop; goats on the grazing field; the recreation ground; digital mapping; WBC’s local plan review; the football club; and several planning applications.

• The most recent meeting of Hermitage Parish Council took place on 15 April and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: planning applications; financial matters; rights of way; anti-social behaviour in Pinewood Park; playground inspections; tree work; the Village Hall; and the bus shelter.

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

• Information about the progress of Cold Ash’s neighbourhood development plan can be found 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 12 April and you can read the minutes here.

• We mentioned (not the first time) about sewage in the Lambourn Valley. Residents of Bucklebury have had a different issue, not with high-pressure groundwater and sewage but low-pressure mains caused by leaks in the pipes. A recent long-standing problem was recently fixed by Thames Water; however, H2O is as cunning as a virus and soon found other weak points of the network to leak out of. Bucklebury PC and local residents are pressing TW to fix this latest problem, which provides yet another example of a utility company needing to run just to stand still. I don’t know how much money is spent on infrastructure maintenance of various kinds in the UK but I’ll bet it’s not nearly enough. Repair work is ever a Cinderella service: new, bright and shiny things are far more eye-catching.

• Click here to see the latest Cold Ash Community Bulletin, which this week starts with wild garlic and ends with John Lennon.

Thursday 13 May 2021

• See here for details of the Covid lateral flow tests that are available in Thatcham (note that the location of these has recently changed).

• This week’s Newbury weekly News reports on p28 that Thatcham Town Council recently debated how it would safely and legally conduct its meetings between 7 May (when the dispensation to hold them remotely ended) and 21 June (when the roadmap suggested that it would safe and permitted once again to hold meetings in-person without considerablymhimiting the number of attendees). As the prohibition is only on meetings which reach decisions and vote, it was eventually decided to temporarily turn its committees into working groups whose decisions would then be approved by the Clerk and one other councillor under delegated powers. other councils up and down the country will have been going through similar contortions.

• A letter in the same paper this week pores scorn on the “delightful” claims made about the development at Charlotte close in Hermitage by the western Area Planning committee (see last week’s entry, below0. The writer claims that the village has already been “vastly ever-developed.”

Yattendon may be many people’s idea of an idyllic English village but it’s also the home of the infamous Calvesley pig farm which, as was reported here and elsewhere last year, was the scene of horrifying and systemic acts of animal cruelty. This week’s NWN takes up the story on p5. If it doesn’t make you vegetarian, it certainly makes you want to question your butcher about where the meat comes from and to try buy the stuff from a retailer you trust or from a reputable supplier (easier to do in this part of the country than in a city).

• The most recent meeting of Thatcham Town Council for which minutes are available took place on 29 March and you can red the minutes here.

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

• The most recent meeting of Brimpton Parish Council took place on 6 April and you can download the draft minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Hermitage Parish Council took place on 15 April and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: planning applications; financial matters; rights of way; anti-social behaviour in Pinewood Park; playground inspections; tree work; the Village Hall; and the bus shelter.

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

• The most recent meeting of Midgham Parish Council (also the annual meeting) took place on 6 May and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: a new councillor; financial matters; and planning applications and decisions.

• Information about the progress of Cold Ash’s neighbourhood development plan can be found 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 12 April and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: the proposed 2,500 homes in Thatcham (more than once); the Bucklebury Playing Field Charity and Bucklebury Recreation Ground Charity; re-arrangement of meetings following the government’s insistence that all meetings must take place in person from 7 May; litter-picking events; a confusion about the Memorial Hall planning application; cleaning the bus shelter; planning applications; improvements at Bucklebury meadows; dog mess (an item that seems to crop up at every meeting in every parish); a possible wildflower meadow at Hockett Field; playground and bike track inspections; litter; CCTV; speeding; recycling; financial matters; future meetings; and the Working group looking at WBC’s local plan, specifically the part of it the proposes that 2,500 homes be built in Thatcham.

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

• Click here to see the latest Cold Ash Community Bulletin, which this week starts with a sunset and ends with Plato.

Thursday 6 May 2021

• See here for details of the Covid lateral flow tests that are available in Thatcham (note that the location of these has recently changed).

• I referred last week to the proposals to redraw Thatcham’s settlement boundary in order to include the proposed 2,500 homes that WBC announced earlier this year in its emerging local plan and Thatcham TC’s reasons for objecting to this (mainly because the location of the country park needed to be established so that the settlement boundary excluded this). There’s a letter from a Lib Der Councillor on Thatcham TC which explains Thatcham’s concerns in greater detail.

• Also in this week’s NWN, on p26, is an article about what WBC’s executive member for culture, Howard Woollaston, described as “blue-sky thinking”, about the idea that the upgrading of Thatcham Library (which all agree is needed) could, rather than being done piecemeal, take advantage of the impending demolition of the Walnut Close Care Home which abuts both the Library and the medical practice next door, so allowing space for both to expand. This is likely to be a long-term plan although Thatcham TC is proposing that some things need attending to more urgently. I spoke to Paul James, WBC’s Library services Manager, who confirmed that they were trying to balance these short- and long-term objectives. He agreed that “accessible” (not “disabled”, as the article mentioned) toilets were needed and that he was looking into what the options were for this that would avoid the risk that they would need to be torn down in a few years if the larger project took shape. He said that a feasibility report was being prepared which should be ready in about a month.

• I don’t think you often get members of a planning committee outbidding each other with their praise for a new housing development but that’s what happened at Western Area last week with the plans for Charlotte Close in Hermitage (which had been called in as more than 10 people objected). The report on p27 of this week’s NWN quotes Councillor Hilary Cole as praising the “careful consideration” that has gone into the design, while Councillor Tony Vickers described it as “really well thought-through.” Councillor Cole also added that “it’s pleasing to see that we’re getting 40% affordable housing.” Indeed: as this is WBC’s policy for a greenfield site, one would imagine she wouldn’t need to say this, any more than she might praise the fact that the houses had roofs. That it did need to be said shows how often this policy is breached by developers, for whom such a stipulation is unprofitable.

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

• The most recent meeting of Brimpton Parish Council took place on 6 April and you can download the draft minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Hermitage Parish Council took place on 18 March and you can read the minutes here.

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

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

• Information about the progress of Cold Ash’s neighbourhood development plan can be found 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 12 April and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: the proposed 2,500 homes in Thatcham (more than once); the Bucklebury Playing Field Charity and Bucklebury Recreation Ground Charity; re-arrangement of meetings following the government’s insistence that all meetings must take place in person from 7 May; litter-picking events; a confusion about the Memorial Hall planning application; cleaning the bus shelter; planning applications; improvements at Bucklebury meadows; dog mess (an item that seems to crop up at every meeting in every parish); a possible wildflower meadow at Hockett Field; playground and bike track inspections; litter; CCTV; speeding; recycling; financial matters; and future meetings. Hats off also to the Clerk, Helen Pratt, who has produced a very comprehensive set of minutes that go beyond being just a bald formal record.

• One item in the above-mentioned minutes deserves quoting in full. Item P9 concerned the update from the Working Group on WBC’s local plan (which proposes that 2,500 homes be built between Thatcham and Bucklebury). “The article written for The Oaks [the village magazine] has now been published on the website and on Facebook. Links to it have been shared on Twitter and Instagram. A meeting is to be held with Thatcham Town Council and surrounding parishes to consider working together. Representatives of the Working Group are meeting with the developer putting forwards the Colthrop Village proposal. A number of parishioners are assisting with work including Julian Dobbins (Environment) and Jason Allum (Flooding). Areas being researched include crematoria and pollution. Traffic is still being considered; questions were asked about whether there could be access to the WB traffic modelling information. It has also been identified that the CIL benefits from the Colthrop Village development are far higher than from the NE Thatcham development. Discussions are ongoing with Mike Robinson, the Planning Consultant.”

(The “surrounding parishes” refer to Cold Ash and Midgham, as well as Bucklebury and Thatcham. The plan is that these pool resources and expertise and collectively instruct planning consultants and legal advisors to oppose the proposals as they stand.)

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

• Click here to see the latest Cold Ash Community Bulletin, which this week starts with birds and bees and ends with Chuck Palahniuk.

Thursday 29 April 2021

• See here for details of the Covid lateral flow tests that are available in Thatcham (note that the location of these has recently changed).

• There’s an article on p27 of this week’s NWN about the proposals to redraw Thatcham’s settlement boundary in order to include the proposed 2,500 homes that WBC announced earlier this year in its emerging local plan. I found this slightly hard to follow. A couple of calls and emails have revealed that it seems WBC asked Thatcham Town Council to consult on this, but the town immediately raised a problem. A settlement boundary is, according Plainview, “normally a line drawn around a settlement in the proposals map of a local plan. The local plan generally allows for development within the boundary and resists development outside.” The issue Thatcham had was that a country park is planned for the site: as its location has not been specified, the new settlement boundary could not ring-fence this to protect it from future development. WBC pointed out that it was “incorrect” to suggest that just because a site is within a settlement boundary it will inevitably be developed. That may be so, but the predisposition will be in favour. Such projects can take a long time to reach fruition: plans can change and “auld acquaintance be forgot”. WBC is then quoted as saying that “only once the development has been defined that the settlement boundary can be definitively changed,” which leaves me wondering why the question is being asked of Thatcham TC now. One might also expect the neighbouring parishes of Bucklebury, Midgham and Cold Ash to be consulted with at the same time but it seems this hasn’t happened. I’m not quite sure what the next move is on this.

• All four parishes are opposed to the 2,500-home development as it stands and are discussing what their joint response will be. As mentioned previously, this may take the form of an over-arching group to co-ordinate this and to obtain the expert planning and legal advice that will be required. More on this in due course.

• The most recent meeting of Cold Ash Parish Council took place on 13 April and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: a discussion about the record of a planning application considered at the previous meeting; no parking under the basketball hoop; the future of the goats on the grazing field; planning matters; the bridge at the wildlife allotment garden; a proposed sympathetic pollard for the twin-trunked oak tree; financial matters; funding for the traffic consultant; the annual parish meeting (on 5 May); reports from the committees; and correspondence received “regarding rifle use.”

• The most recent meeting of Brimpton Parish Council took place on 6 April and you can download the draft minutes here.

• The most recent meeting of Hermitage Parish Council took place on 18 March and you can read the minutes here.

• The most recent of Stanford Dingley Parish Council took place on 1 March and you can read the draft minutes here. One item from this that caught my eye was that WBC doesn’t have a policy on whether passing places in narrow roads – in which the area abounds – which are often churned up by cars pulling in to let other vehicles pass. This seems a particular problem in this parish but it would by no means be unique to it.

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

• Information about the progress of Cold Ash’s neighbourhood development plan can be found 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 8 March and you can read the minutes here.

• There was also an extraordinary Bucklebury PC meeting on 19 March, the sole purpose of which was to set up an opposition group to the plan to build 2,500 homes to the north east of Thatcham and on the edge of Bucklebury. You can read he minutes here.

• Click here to see the latest Cold Ash Community Bulletin, which this week starts with girl-guiding and ends with the diary of a girl.

Thursday 22 April 2021

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

• A letter in today’s NWN accuses WBC’s Planning Policy Manager Bryan Lyttle of spouting “incomprehensible gobbledegook” by suggesting that a bridge at Thatcham would become a rat run and increase traffic flows in the area. I must leap to his defence: the point he made seems clear enough to me and is, presumably, based on evidence from elsewhere. I’m not sure I agree with it, as the writer certainly doesn’t; but that’s a separate matter. His point was being made with regard to WBC’s current plan to build 2,500 homes to the north east of the town. If the 950 south of the tracks at Colthrop gets off the ground then a bridge would probably be necessary if the queues at the level crossing are not to get out of control. I suppose there’s a risk that all the developer contributions would go towards any bridge, so leaving nothing to support the other infrastructure improvements that everyone agrees are long overdue in the town. Elsewhere in the letters page, another reader suggests a tunnel. This would lead to exactly the same result, for good or for ill, and would probably be more expensive. Actually, I don’t know why I said that. Are bridges more expensive than tunnels? Anyone know the answer to that one?

• On p24, this week’s NWN reports on the approval by WBC of plans to “improve and repair” the old Bluecoat School building in Thatcham.

• The most recent meeting of Brimpton Parish Council took place on 6 April and you can download the draft minutes here. Items covered included: permitted footpaths; a proposed “no cold-calling zone”; the possible purchase of a speed indicator device; road safety; a possible cash machine in the village (not being pursued as there’s no suitable site); planning issues; the proposed solar farm at Riddings Farm; the ongoing complaint about the planning decision at Washoe Lodge; financial matters; a councillor resignation; and the next meeting (4 May) which will be attended by Laura Farris.

• The most recent meeting of Hermitage Parish Council took place on 18 March and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: the replacement of the bus shelter; planning applications; financial matters; confirmation on the guidance on the use of artificial flowers at the burial ground (silk flowers are now acceptable); playground inspections; the Hermitage Support Group (which has been given an award by the sheriff of Berkshire); progress on the transfer of hermitage Green to the PC; and the date of the annual parish assembly (Thursday 29 April, online.)

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

• The most recent meeting of Cold Ash Parish Council took place on 23 March and you can read the minutes here.

• Information about the progress of Cold Ash’s neighbourhood development plan can be found 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 8 March and you can read the minutes here.

• There was also an extraordinary Bucklebury PC meeting on 19 March, the sole purpose of which was to set up an opposition group to the plan to build 2,500 homes to the north east of Thatcham and on the edge of Bucklebury. You can read he minutes here.

• The most recent of Stanford Dingley Parish Councillor for which minutes are available took place on 18 January and you can read the draft minutes here.

• Click here to see the latest Cold Ash Community Bulletin, which this week starts with a sapling and ends with Samuel West.

Thursday 15 April 2021

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

• All the discussion about the proposed 2,500 homes in Thatcham has seemingly miffed the proposers of a 950-home development at Colthrop, just south of the railway lines. One advantage this has over the larger plan is that it would be within walking distance of Thatcham’s awkwardly-sited station, so immediately making it more sustainable. It would also certainly require a bridge (off a new roundabout in Piper’s Way). WBC doesn’t seem to like the idea of a bridge for its own north-east Thatcham plan, claiming it would be a rat run. Were 2,000-odd people to move in south of the tracks, however, the level crossing would grind to a complete halt. Perhaps the Council is also concerned that the cost of this (and then some) would use up all the developer contributions, leaving nothing over for the other infrastructure improvements that the town already badly needs. It also might be slightly spooked by the fact that a consortium is involved, rather than a singe developer and landowner, something which has caused and is causing so many problems at Sandleford. The larger north-east Thatcham site will, however, have four separate companies involved on four contiguous but separate sites. The Colthrop scheme certainly seems to be on a more human scale: perhaps more importantly, it’s quite a lot further advanced.

Newbury Today reports that the charity Heartstart Thatcham, which over the last eight years has installed over 60 defrillators across the district and trained over 2,000 people – has decided to close “following the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and other issues.”

• The most recent meeting of Midgham Parish Council took place on 22 March and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: salt bins; Covid scams; an update on the Village Hall; financial matters; one planning application; the PC’s response to the proposed 2,500-home development in Thatcham; delays to the footpath repairs; the co-option of a new councillor; and confirmation that the 2021 Annual Parish Meeting will take place on 25 May in the Village Hall.

• The most recent meeting of Cold Ash Parish Council took place on 23 March and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: football on the recreation ground; rolling the cricket square; tree removal; the annual parish meeting (on 5 May); planning applications (in particular 21/00330 for the conversion to agricultural buildings to residential dwellings at Cleardene Farm, concerning which the PC had “many concerns”.

• The same meeting also referred to a possible plan to lobby for the use of the Newbury Showground near M4 J13 for housing, in preference to the sit in NE Thatcham where 2,500 homes have been propose. The meeting was told, however, that this would not be suitable due to pollution levels (a distribution centre would seem to be the preferred option). The report then appeared to go on to the suggest that a similar charge could be levied at the 2,500-home site for being close to the A4.

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

• The most recent meeting of Brimpton Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 2 March and you can read the draft minutes here. The most recent meeting took place on 6 April and a video of this is available here (and will probably remain until draft minutes are published).

• The most recent meeting of Hermitage Parish Council took place on 18 February and you can read the minutes 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 8 March and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: a possible dog-exercise field; the formation of an opposition group to the Thatcham housing plans (see also paragraph below); the PC’s anticipation of the answers to written questions from the Ask Hilary Facebook Live session last month; the change of ownership at Bucklebury Farm park; litter picking on the Common; the latest edition of the quarterly parish magazine The Oaks (which you can read here); one planning application; the settlement boundary; wildflowers at Hockett Field; socially-distanced conversations at Bucklebury meadows; repairs in the cemetery; barriers on the bike track; SID equipment; reports from the committees; financial matters; and the report that the parish has collected 74kg of bottle tops which have been sent for recycling (that’s about 37,000 of the little round, sharp, slightly jagged metal things).

• There was also an extraordinary Bucklebury PC meeting on 19 March, the sole purpose of which was to set up an opposition group to the plan to build 2,500 homes to the north east of Thatcham and on the edge of Bucklebury. You can read he minutes here. The group has been set up and given start-up funding of £1,000 by the PC (after that, I’m told, it’s on its own). The main costs for such groups is expert external consultants and it was felt that the group would in time require £10-15,000 and more if legal counsel were needed at any enquiry. To help produce some economies of scale, the plan is that the councils or opposition groups from the five affected parishes – Thatcham, Bucklebury, Woolhampton, Midgham and Cold Ash – would create one over-arching…may I use the term “super group”? That’s the idea anyway. If you would like to find out more, please contact the respective PC. Once established, this will have its own website and FB page.

• The most recent of Stanford Dingley Parish Councillor for which minutes are available took place on 18 January and you can read the draft minutes here.

• Click here to see the latest Cold Ash Community Bulletin, which this week starts with a grey horse and ends with Dorian Gray.

Thursday 8 April 2021

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

• This week’s NWN has on p26 an article which re-opens the debate about wether there should be a bridge or an underpass or something at Thatcham to replace the level crossing. Network Rail has recently claimed that it would support this plan if the proposed 950-home development at Colthrop to the south of the railway line went ahead. The article reports that the rail network still has about 6,000 level crossings, each one of which must cause sleepless night for those responsible for them. This idea is also relevant to the proposed 2,500-home development in north east Thatcham, although opinions differ as to what impact this would have on traffic wanting to cross the tracks and whether, were a bridge to be built, this would be used as a rat run to Greenham and points south.

• An extraordinary story from the Thatcham section of the same paper, a variation of the archetypical “dog bites man” scoop. A woman was savagely attacked by a German shepherd (“Alsatian” they used to be called, the new name being a PR job). A man then appeared with a dog lead, brought the animal to heel, pleaded with the victim not to call the police and then left with the dog. Laster he denied that it was his animal and that he just happened to be passing by with a dog lead (but no dog) and managed to say just the right things to bring the animal to heel (he has an Alsatian of his own). He then claimed that he didn’t care what happened to the dog as it wasn’t his and had left it when it wouldn’t follow him any further. No DNA evidence of the animal was found at his home. The biting dog has since vanished. After a three-day trial, he was acquitted of owning a dangerous animal, the court accepting his counsel’s claim that no one was lying, it was just that some of them mis-heard what he had said. “Don’t go to the police” and “that’s not my dog” don’t sound very similar to me: but, then again, I wasn’t there. I can’t get my round the fact that an Alsatian owner with a lead just happened upon the scene when he was most needed. Mind you, it does happen. For about 10 years I had a BMW. It only broke down on the road twice: and on both occasions the person in the car behind me was a qualified BMW mechanic who fixed the problem.

• On 8 March, Councillor Hilary Cole (portfolio holder for planning) and Bryan Lyttle (Planning Policy Manager) held a Facebook Live update on the proposed West Berkshire Local Plan Review with a particular focus on the North East Thatcham Strategic Site Allocation. You can see a recording of the event here.

• You might also want to click here to read what the main interested parties have to say about the proposed plans in for 2,500 homes in Thatcham.

• The long-running saga of Piggy Woods (which last year was revealed to be owned but by West Berkshire Council but by an investment company which has since been busy parcelling the land up and selling it at auction) last week took a step forward with confirmation that a number of tree preservation orders arranged by Thatcham Town Council are now in force. These should provide a powerful and permanent protection against the risk of speculative development.

• The most recent meeting of Midgham Parish Council took place on 22 March and you can read the minutes here. items covered included: salt bins; Covid scams; an update on the Village Hall; financial matters; one planning application; the PC’s response to the proposed 2,500-home development in Thatcham; delays to the footpath repairs; the co-option of a new councillor; and confirmation that the 2021 Annual Parish Meeting will take place on 25 May in the Village Hall.

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

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

• The most recent meeting of Brimpton Parish Council for which minutes are available took place on 2 March and you can read the draft minutes here. The most recent meeting took place on 6 April and a video of this is available here (and will probably remain until draft minutes are published).

• The most recent meeting of Hermitage Parish Council took place on 18 February and you can read the minutes 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 8 February and you can read the minutes here.

• The most recent of Stanford Dingley Parish Councillor for which minutes are available took place on 18 January and you can read the draft minutes here.

• Click here to see the latest Cold Ash Community Bulletin, which this week starts with a graveyard and ends with Einstein.

Thursday 1 April 2021

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

• Thus week’s NWN reports that MP Laura Farris (who expressed a number of concerns about the 2,500-home plan in Thatcham at a recent meeting of Bucklebury Parish Council) has told the most recent meeting of Thatcham Town Council she is in “an ongoing conversation [with WBC] about whether [north east Thatcham] is really the right location.” She has also questioned whether  it’s “Thatcham or nothing” and whether this number of homes are indeed required in the district. On the last point, WBC’s planners will doubtless point to the figures that have been handed down from Whitehall. As to whether Thatcham is the only site in the district, for the reasons I suggested last week, I don’t see that its necessary, beneficial or even feasible to have everything concentrated in a mega-site at all.

• On 8 March, Councillor Hilary Cole (portfolio holder for planning) and Bryan Lyttle (Planning Policy Manager) held a Facebook Live update on the proposed West Berkshire Local Plan Review with a particular focus on the North East Thatcham Strategic Site Allocation. You can see a recording of the event here.

• You might also want to click here to read what the main interested parties have to say about the proposed plans in for 2,500 homes in Thatcham.

• The long-running saga of Piggy Woods (which last year was revealed to be owned but by West Berkshire Council but by an investment company which has since been busy parcelling the land up and selling it at auction) has recently taken a step forward. I learned this week that a number of tree preservation orders arranged by Thatcham Town Council are now in force and should provide a powerful and permanent protection against the risk of speculative development.

• The most recent meeting of Midgham Parish Council took place on 22 March and you can read the minutes here. items covered included: salt bins; Covid scams; an update on the Village Hall; financial matters; one planning application; the PC’s response to the proposed 2,500-home development in Thatcham; delays to the footpath repairs; the co-option of a new councillor; and confirmation that the 2021 Annual Parish Meeting will take place on 25 May in the Village Hall.

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

• The most recent meeting of Hermitage Parish Council took place on 18 February and you can read the minutes here. Items covered included: various planning applications; financial matters; playground inspections; and the progress of various repairs around the parish.

• 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 8 February and you can read the minutes here.

• The most recent of Stanford Dingley Parish Councillor for which minutes are available took place on 18 January and you can read the draft minutes here.

• Click here to see the latest Cold Ash Community Bulletin, which this week starts with daffodils and ends with Hemingway.

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