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Local News June 15-22

Including more on Crab Hill, Shaw and Sandleford developments, judicial review under consideration in Hungerford, election thoughts, rural bus services under threat, the Vintage Village Games, police news, good causes celebrated, neighbourhood plan information, roadworks, Pitch to the Panel, news from Swindon Council after all, other things that happened on Father’s Day, favourite chords and porcupine news.

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Click on any highlighted and underlined text for more information on the subject. Some will link to other pages on this site, others to pages elsewhere.

Roadworks updates. Click on the links for news regarding West Berkshire, the Wantage area, Wiltshire, Hampshire and Swindon. Click here for information on forthcoming closures on the A34. Thatcham High Street will be closed for emergency works on Monday 19 June.

Please click here for details of long-term roadworks on the M4 between J13 and J14 from early May to late July which will result in some overnight weekend lane closures and, in July, some complete motorway closures.

Neighbourhood policing updates. For the Thames Valley Police’s ‘Your Local Area’ page generally, click here. For specific areas, click here for Hungerford and Lambourn; click here for Newbury Town Centre; click here for Newbury Outer; click here for Bucklebury and Downlands; click here for Thatcham, Aldermaston and Brimpton; click here for Wantage and Grove; click here for Wiltshire East (including Marlborough); click here for Swindon and other parts of Wiltshire; click here for Hampshire.

District, town or parish council contacts. To view the contacts page for Hungerford TC, click here; for Newbury, click here; for Thatcham, click here. If you live in the Vale of White Horse area, click here (and here for Wantage); if you live in Wiltshire, click here (and here for Marlborough). For Swindon, click here.

An Extraordinary Full Council Meeting was held in Hungerford on 14 June to determine whether or not to proceed with a judicial review of West Berkshire Council’s Development Plan Document (DPD) which will have an impact on the decision to build 100 homes off Salisbury Road. It was decided that further expert legal opinion was needed at a cost of £2,750 (over half the funding for this has been covered by the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England and private donations). This opinion is expected on Friday and a final decision will then be made at a further Extraordinary Meeting on Monday 19 June. The deadline for submitting a review is the following day.

Whatever decision the Town Council takes, it will not have been made lightly. There are important points of principle and precedent at stake, particularly concerning paragraph 116 of West Berkshire’s DPD concerning building in the AONB (and also a number of other concerns which residents have expressed, particularly at the meeting in January.)

Paragraphs 115 and 116 of the National Planning Policy Framework refer to the fact that ‘great weight should be given to conserving landscape and scenic beauty…in AONBs. which have the highest status of protection…Planning permission should be refused for major developments in these designated areas except in exceptional circumstances and where it can be demonstrated they are in the national interest.’

This must all be weighed against the chances of success and the consequences of failure. The only thing one can say for certain about any legal or judicial process is that it’s uncertain, not only in its outcome but also in the costs and time involved. All of these factors will be taken into account by the councillors before a decision is reached. Once it has, Penny Post will  provide an overview of the reasons for whichever course is decided upon. Any action the Town Council takes will for the benefit of the town and its residents and it wants the process to be as transparent as possible. If it is decided to proceed, other sources of funding will be looked into to minimise the effects on the Council’s finances.

As discussed at a recent Hungerford Town Council meeting, West Berkshire Council remains opposed to the Town Council’s suggestion that the long-vacant site at Station Yard be de-designated as a protected Employment Area and used instead for housing.

Also on planning matters, and another dispute involving West Berkshire Council, the delays continue over the Sandleford development with West Berkshire Council and Bloor Homes being seemingly no nearer resolving some key disputes about matters such as the number of access roads.

Residents of Shaw can click here to read about the plans for the proposed re-development at Hutton Close.

And moving north, click here for the latest thoughts from Julie Mabberley from the Wantage & Grove Campaign Group about the Crab Hill development.

The front page of this week’s Newbury Weekly News quotes Richard Benyon, re-elected as the MP for Newbury in last week’s General Election with a slightly reduced majority, as saying that ‘our party has to do some serious thinking as to how we progress from here.’ This is something of an understatement (Wantage’s Ed Vaizey admitted his party’s campaign had been ‘pretty bad’, which is probably closer to the mark). One thing that might be worth thinking about is making the Fixed Term Parliaments Act harder to overturn, so reducing (as was the Act’s intention) the temptation to indulge in this kind of ill-advised political opportunism. Alternatively, the Act could be amended to say that snap elections – and referendums for that matter – are fine as long as the party in power pays for them. The EU Referendum and the election last week cost the taxpayer a combined total of about a quarter of a billion pounds. Another improvement might be to try to limit the excessive power of private political advisors, though in fairness it seems the party has moved swiftly to deal with this one. Whether Christopher Timothy and Fiona Hill were the authors of this fiasco or the scapegoats for it I’m not qualified to say. For most of us, from prime ministers downwards, the value of an idea tends to be closely associated with who produced it. This tends towards a situation where advice is only sought from people who are likely to say what one wants to hear. I suspect something of this nature led to the decision to hold this election, with the uncertain results with which we all now have to live.

Newbury Weekly News has a report on pp6-9 on the election results in Newbury, Devizes, Reading West, North-West Hampshire and Wokingham. The same paper also has an expanded letters section and many of the correspondents touch on election-related matters. For election news from Wantage, click here.

And still looking at the NWN, I see an old story has re-surfaced which we’ve referred to before, that of the plans to build a knacker’s yard near Great Shefford. Plans have been submitted, rejected, amended, re-submitted and so on for the last four years and an appeal has just been launched against the latest refusal. Although it’s only a few miles from us, I have no strong feelings on the matter. However, two points strike me. First, the article says that the Environment Agency had ‘softened its attitude’ towards the proposal: hopefully its attitude will not be as soft as it was in the Weston Gate fiasco a few years ago. Second, there will be a number of conditions attached to the approval (if granted). Will the Council be able to enforce these? I ask because, as recent events in Eddington showed, on its own admission West Berkshire Council lacks the resources to investigate every alleged breach.

If you live in or near Hungerford and missed our monthly Penny Post Hungerford newsletter earlier this month, here are a few links that may be of interest: a summary of the Town Council’s activities in May and a look ahead to some of June’s; an interview with Mayor Keith Knight and Deputy Mayor Helen Simpson; the latest on the library and the Post Office; news from some of the town-centre shops, from the Primary School and from John O’Gaunt School; and an update on the town’s proposed Neighbourhood Plan. (If you would like to receive Penny Post Hungerford each month, please email penny@pennypost.org.uk.)

Work is nearly finished on the new fire station at Hungerfordclick here for a sneak preview.

A reminder about the progress on or discussions concerning neighbourhood plans. For news on Marlborough’s, click here; for Brightwalton’s, click here,; for Newbury’s, click here; and for Hungerford’s, click here. The following websites provide more information on this issue: My Community; Forum for Neighbourhood Planning; Planning Aid; Locality; The Department for Communities and Local Government; and the appropriate District Council site – West BerkshireVale of the White Horse, Wiltshire, Hampshire or Swindon as the case may be.

The problem of rural bus services was highlighted this week with the announcement from Wiltshire Council that further cuts will almost certainly be necessary in the Marlborough and Bedwyn areas.

And a similar story in Swindon.

Did you know that baby porcupines are called porcupettes? And that they’re born with a full set of quills? No, neither did I. These and other possible gaps in your knowledge of these strange animals can be plugged by clicking here and reading this news from the Cotswold Wildlife Park.

Students from St John’s in Marlborough recently lent a hand to Action for the River Kennet’s (ARK)

Congratulations to all those who were nominated for the West Berkshire Learner Achievement Awardsclick here to read more.

Congratulation also to Paula Horsfall who has been with Kurdish families in Iraq to teach them sewing skills.

The lido at the Northcroft Centre in Newbury is now open for the summer.

Local cycling group West Berkshire Spokes has urged Newbury Town Council to include advice for pedestrians, as well as for those on wheels, in a forthcoming road-safety campaign.

Please click here for details of some forthcoming events designed to provide advice and support to carers in West Berkshire.

There will be a range of events in Swindon (and doubtless elsewhere) in support of Refugee Week from 19 to 25 June.

Please click here for the latest news from Wantage Town Council.

Residents of South Oxfordshire and the Vale of the White Horse who are over 60 can register now for the 2017 Vintage Village Games which will take place at various locations in late June and early July.

In last week’s Local News I had a dig at Swindon Council, the ‘News’ page of whose website seemed only to display the perplexing message ‘There is no news.’ Someone from the council clearly reads this post because, this week, there is some news: the announcement of a consultation about ‘ambitious plans to add over £2 billion to the value of Swindon’s economy.’

Applications are now open for the 2017 Pitch to the Panel organised by Greenham Trust (formerly Greenham Common Trust).

Apparently it’s Fathers’ Day this Sunday. I’m waiting to spot any differences in behaviour towards me from any of my four sons. I’m not holding my breath. 18 June is also Paul McCartney’s birthday, the 202nd anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo, the occasion of Churchill’s  ‘This was their finest hour’ speech in 1940 and the date of the launch of the LP in 1948.

A number of good causes have received valuable support recently, including: the Rosemary Appeal (thanks to the Barbara Tayton’s and Yvonne Giles’ recent coffee mornings); several good causes (thanks to those who organised and attended the Highclere Fête); The Ray Collins Charitable Trust (thanks to the Wantage Carnival); Help for Heroes (thanks to seven Marlborough cyclists); Prospect Hospice (thanks to Royds Withy King)

The  Song of the Week is with us again. However, there is no song of the week. Instead, you can all write one of your own using your favourite chord (see this link for details). In any situation there are right chords and wrong chords (though we might no agree on what those are) but I’ve never thought about having a favourite one. Since the question’s come up, though, I’ve always had a soft spot for major sevenths. As Nigel Tufnel reminded us in This is Spinal Tap that D minor is ‘the saddest key of all’, I’ll go for F major seventh. Pick your own and ask a friend for theirs. These three played in sequence may sound ghastly: but, on the other hand, some strange magic could be at work. Try it and see (and let me know).

And as usual, the Quiz Question of the Week finishes things off. This week I shall direct you to the Penny Post June Quiz on a book-related theme and with prizes kindly donated by the Hungerford Bookshop (‘Which writer created the character Ashenden?’ is one of the questions.) You want another question? OK – What’s the name for a baby porcupine? If you’ve been paying attention when reading this post you’ll know the answer.

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Brian Quinn

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