Sunday, 30 June 2013

Plans to "widen" M4 between Theale and Heathrow announced

On Thursday the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Lib-Dem Danny Alexander MP, announced approval for a project to make four lanes available both ways on the  M4 between Theale and Heathrow Airport.

However, the project will not involve actually widening the motorway. It will involve signage to control the use of the hard shoulder as a running lane at peak times. It will also involve the construction of emergency refuge areas with emergency telephones at intervals. The existing hard shoulder through junctions 5, 6 and 7 will be permanently converted to running lanes. The stretch of motorway involved will have variable speed limits enforced by camera. 

The estimated cost of the project is between £525 million and £720 million.

I am concerned about using the hard shoulder as a running lane. Currently, if there is an accident the emergency services can use the hard shoulder to get quickly to the scene of the accident. They won't be able to do this if the shoulder is being used as a running lane and the accident has caused a jam. Also, the fire brigade sometimes dispatch fire engines from Whitley, near Junction 11, to get to emergencies in and around Theale. They will not be able to do that if there is a jam on the M4 and the hard shoulder is being used as a running lane.

The Highways Agency description of the project is described here.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Children's playground vandalised - seen anything suspicious?

New equipment in the children's playground in the recreation ground has been vandalised. The Parish clerk has posted the following notice on the playground:

CRIMINAL DAMAGE
PLAYGROUND – RECREATION GROUND

Sometime between 4pm Friday 21st June and 7am Monday 24th June the new play panels in the Recreation Ground playground were vandalised.
Obscene graffiti was scratched into the surfaces of the equipment and the mirror was kicked and badly damaged.
This damage is difficult to repair, if replacement panels are required the cost will be almost £2,000.
If anyone has any information on this incident please contact
the Clerk to Theale Parish Council on 0118 9306592 or
the police on 101 – crime reference number FP4276781/13.

Theale Parish Council decides to keep North Street Playing Field for recreation

Theale parish Council resolved to keep the North Street Playing Field for recreation at a special meeting last night. It will therefore continue to be available for the local youth football teams, dog walking, children playing ball, etc., and as a green space on the edge of the village.

The council was able to find cost saving measures that will make the field affordable. The most significant was to take up residents' suggestions that a community group could take over litter picking.

The council also approved some ways to increase income from the field.

I will publish more details on here later when they become available.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Asked WBC for measures to prevent HGVs from using unsuitable roads in Theale


I have had complaints from Theale residents about HGVs using unsuitable roads in Theale.
  • Wigmore Lane. HGVs entering Wigmore Lane “unintentionally” (despite the No Through Road signs) are entering the residential area and then turning  round in the T-junction. The road here is very narrow and lightly built and very unsuitable for this “use”. 
  • Play Platt/Blossom Ave/Blossom Lane/Crown Lane. HGVs have been seen using this route to reportedly access the shop in Station Road. Blossom Lane and Crown Lane are very narrow and the turn from Blossom Lane into Crown Lane is very sharp, so these roads are completely unsuitable for HGVs.
  • HGVs have been seen parked in Play Platt and Blossom Ave and local residents have strongly suspected that the drivers have gone as patients to Theale Medical Centre.
Most of Theale is subject to a 7.5 tonne weight limit, except for access. These HGV drivers would claim that that they are accessing properties in Theale.

I have asked the West Berkshire Council to erect “Unsuitable for HGV” signs or reinforce the “No Through Road” signs in Wigmore Lane, and erect “Unsuitable for HGVs” signs at the entrances to Play Platt and Crown Lane.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Pleased to hear that the compost fire in Beenham has been put out

Pleased to hear that the compost fire in Beenham has now been put out, according to a story in this story in the Newbury and Thatcham Chronicle.

That means an end to the "bonfire" smells in Theale and other villages. More importantly, it's a relief to those who suffer from asthma or other breathing problems.

It's a shame that the fire service let the fire burn so long (it started in November) before starting to put it out.

MP has referred my complaint re 26-week period for reinstatement by utility companies to minister

Received a letter from Alok Sharma, MP for Reading West, in reply to the email below. He has referred the problem to eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities.

Hi Alok,
please see the email below to West Berkshire Council’s Head of Highways.
I would be grateful if you could speak to the relevant minister with a view to getting the 26 week period for utilities to permanently re-instate their works reduced. With the number of utility companies, and the amount of excavations they do, the limit means that Theale High Street is always going to look like a patchwork quilt.

Kind Regards,
Alan Macro
Councillor for Theale
West Berkshire Council

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Many of the poor children being left behind in schools now are in suburbs, market towns and seaside resorts - Chief Schools Inspector

In a new report,  England's Chief Inspector of Schools said "there were 15 local authorities where only a quarter of children on Free School Meals achieved five good GCSEs including English and maths last year and that those with the poorest record on this were West Berkshire, Peterborough, Barnsley and Herefordshire.”

Please see the full BBC report

In West Berkshire, at least, the problem has been made much worse in the last few years by the council sacking schools advisors. They had twenty two in 2010, now they have just five.

Monday, 17 June 2013

Wrote to MP re 26 week period for reinstatement of utility works reduced

Hi Alok,
 
please see the email below to West Berkshire Council’s Head of Highways.
 
I would be grateful if you could speak to the relevant minister with a view to getting the 26 week period for utilities to permanently re-instate their works reduced. With the number of utility companies, and the amount of excavations they do, the limit means that Theale High Street is always going to look like a patchwork quilt.

Kind Regards,
Alan Macro
Councillor for Theale
West Berkshire Council

Sent: Monday, June 17, 2013 7:46 PM
Subject: Reinstatement of Theale High Street after Utility Works
 
Dear Mark,
 
over the past several months I have noticed many utility works in Theale High Street have been “made good” using tarmac. These stick out like a sore thumb as the street is block paved and the footways are paved with paving slabs. Having observed these for several months, I reported them to WBC Customer Services. I have just received the following in updates to two of the cases I raised:
 
10/06/13 Met TWU and their Contractors on site and walked the length of Theale High Street, identified all leaks and reinstatements. Most Thames Water excavations are only reinstated to an interim standard (temp bitmac) on the first visit. The New Roads and Streetworks Act 1991 (NRSWA 1991) allows reinstatements to be kept at interim for up to 26 weeks. All the works on Theale High Street are on our Streetworks Register and the works will be inspected as the notices and works progress.
 
This gives rise to two questions:
  1. Why are works in block and slab paving reinstated using “bitmac”? This is very ugly and it should be just as easy for the contractor to replace the original block paviours or slabs.
  2. What inspection regime do we have to ensure that permanent re-instatement is carried out as quickly as possible?
The number of utility excavations, together with the six-month period allowed for permanent re-instatement, means that Theale High Street is always going to look like a patchwork quilt. I can’t believe that WBC would allow such a situation in places such as Northbrook Street or Newbury Market Place.
 
Please note that Thames Water have recently had to repair about half a dozen water meters in the High Street.

Kind Regards,
Alan Macro
Councillor for Theale
West Berkshire Council

Please see what is happening in Theale by:

Following me on Twitter: @alanmacro
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Wrote to West Berks Council Head of Highways re temporary reinstatement of utility works in Theale High Street

Dear Mark,
 
over the past several months I have noticed many utility works in Theale High Street have been “made good” using tarmac. These stick out like a sore thumb as the street is block paved and the footways are paved with paving slabs. Having observed these for several months, I reported them to WBC Customer Services. I have just received the following in updates to two of the cases I raised:
 
10/06/13 Met TWU and their Contractors on site and walked the length of Theale High Street, identified all leaks and reinstatements. Most Thames Water excavations are only reinstated to an interim standard (temp bitmac) on the first visit. The New Roads and Streetworks Act 1991 (NRSWA 1991) allows reinstatements to be kept at interim for up to 26 weeks. All the works on Theale High Street are on our Streetworks Register and the works will be inspected as the notices and works progress.
 
This gives rise to two questions:
  1. Why are works in block and slab paving reinstated using “bitmac”? This is very ugly and it should be just as easy for the contractor to replace the original block paviours or slabs.
  2. What inspection regime do we have to ensure that permanent re-instatement is carried out as quickly as possible?
The number of utility excavations, together with the six-month period allowed for permanent re-instatement, means that Theale High Street is always going to look like a patchwork quilt. I can’t believe that WBC would allow such a situation in places such as Northbrook Street or Newbury Market Place.
 

Please note that Thames Water have recently had to repair about half a dozen water meters in the High Street.

Kind Regards,
Alan Macro
Councillor for Theale
West Berkshire Council

Please see what is happening in Theale by:
Following me on Twitter: @alanmacro
Joining me on Facebook: Alan Macro
Reading my Blog: http://alanmacro.blogspot.com/
Subscribing to my Theale news list: send an email to addme@theale.org.uk

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Theale's Future AGM 18th June at 7:30pm

Theale's Future AGM will be held in the skittle alley at The Red Lion on 18th June, starting at 7:30 p.m.

Tea, coffee and biscuits will be provided.

Please go along and help the group bring Theale's parish plan up-to-date.

Alan Macro
Councillor for Theale
West Berkshire Council

Please see what is happening in Theale by:

Following me on Twitter: @alanmacro
Joining me on Facebook: Alan Macro
Reading my Blog: http://alanmacro.blogspot.com/
Subscribing to my Theale news list: send an email to addme@theale.org.uk

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Updated: Travellers tried to cut their way into the closed-off part of Theale High Street yesterday

Travellers tried to cut their way into the closed-off part of Theale High Street (between the village and the M4) yesterday, according to West Berks Council's gypsy liaison officer.

Residents saw the travellers vehicles, saw sparks coming from the barrier and called the police.This is the damage they did to the barrier (photo by Theale Parish Council's clerk):



Also, a councillor colleague told me this evening that he saw about 20 traveller caravans near M4 Junction 11 today. Apparently a traveller's funeral is about to take place in Wokingham.

If you see anyone suspicious trying to enter fields or car parks, then please tell the police on their non-emergency number by dialling 101. Call  999 if you see a suspected offence (such as cutting through a lock) taking place.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Neighbourhood Wardens' Report for Theale - May 2013

Unfortunately the Wardens often have to deal with extremely
unpleasant issues which they find whilst on patrol, and at the
beginning of May team members found and removed a used
nappy from the recreation ground.

One of the Wardens’ key roles is to engage with all sectors of
the community and in May the team attended a tea afternoon
at St Luke’s Church on Englefield Road. This gave the
Wardens the opportunity to meet a large number of elderly
residents from the parish, to whom they explained their role,
and how they can help the community. It is also gave the
residents an opportunity to raise any issues they may be
experiencing. The Wardens will drop in on this, and other
community groups to maintain contact.

Whilst patrolling James Butcher Drive the Wardens found an
untaxed vehicle, which they reported to the DVLA for action.

In Blatch’s Close the Wardens found an unattended vehicle
with the passenger window open. A door knock of houses in
the vicinity failed to locate the owner so the vehicle details
were recorded and reported to the Police as part of the
“Virtually Stolen” crime prevention initiative. The owner of the
vehicle will receive a letter advising them of the risks of
leaving their vehicle in a vulnerable condition.

The Wardens were contacted by an elderly resident who was
concerned about a heavily littered footpath between the
recreation ground and Church Street. The Wardens
immediately responded, removed one sack full of general
litter and a large piece of polystyrene from the footpath.

A resident passed on information to the Wardens concerning
a property where they suspected the resident was not paying
the appropriate Council Tax. The Wardens passed this
information to West Berkshire Council for further
investigation.

Background

The West Berkshire Neighbourhood
Warden Scheme was launched in
May 2005 covering the West
Berkshire parishes of Holybrook
and Tilehurst. The scheme was
extended to Purley on Thames in
2006, Theale in 2009, Pangbourne in
2011.

The scheme employs five and a half
full-time staff and is funded by West
Berkshire Council, Sovereign
Housing Association, and Tilehurst,
Holybrook, Purley on Thames,
Theale, and Pangbourne Parish
Councils.

Report Scope

This report details the activities and
achievements of the Neighbourhood
Warden scheme during May 2013

M4 overnight closure J11 - J12 westbound 12-14 June 10pm - 6am

Received the following alert from roadworks.org:

M4
12 June — 14 June
Delays likely
Works location: The M4 Westbound Will Be Closed Between Junctions J11 And J12, Due To Roadworks, Between 10 Pm And 6 Am, From 12 June 2013 To 14 June 2013.
Works description: -
Responsibility for works: Highways Agency
Current status: Planned work about to start 

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Letter to NWN about potholes in Theale

I have written the following letter for publication in the Newbury Weekly News. It is in response to a letter from the Deputy Leader of West Berkshire Council boasting about how much they are spending on roads.

Dear Editor,
Councillor Pamela Bale trumpets improvements made to West Berkshire’s roads (NWN Letters, 6th June). Unfortunately, the situation in towns and villages has not improved. Deep potholes in the main road through Theale that were reported in April have still not been repaired. This situation seems to apply to busy roads in Newbury and Thatcham, too.

The council seems to be repairing little used roads in the countryside, rather than busy roads in the towns and villages. A single-track lane on the outskirts of Theale has had potholes repaired, though it is only used by a few cars per day. Surely, its only common sense that busy roads should be prioritised over rural lanes.

Kind Regards,
Alan Macro
Councillor for Theale
West Berkshire Council

Friday, 7 June 2013

Letter to local papers re lifts at Theale station & booking office hours

I sent the following letter to the Newbury Weekly News and the Chronicle earlier this week. It was published by the Chronicle but not by the NWN:

Dear Editor,
one thing missing from your report about the much-needed improvements to Theale Station is the fact that the lifts will only be available when the station booking office is manned.

The booking office is currently only manned from 06:30 to 13:30 on weekdays. It closes at 12:30 on Saturdays and is not open at all on Sundays.

Not only does this severely limit the usefulness of this multi-million pound development, but it risks disabled people being marooned at the station. They could use the lifts to catch a train in the morning. If they then arrived back in the afternoon or evening, they could get off a train and then not be able to get off the platform. They could then have a long wait before a train could take them on to the next station with disabled access. Worse, if they got off the last train they could be stuck on the platform until rescued.


Alan Macro
Councillor for Theale
West Berkshire Council

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Council awarded nearly £2M to improve A4 through Calcot

The government has awarded West Berkshire Council almost £2 million pounds to tackle traffic congestion on the A4 through Calcot.

The £1.992 million funding means that a £2.8 million project to widen the road to provide an additional westbound traffic lane can now be completed much earlier than previously planned.

The opportunity will also be taken to improve traffic flow eastbound from Royal Avenue to the Langley Hill junction.

The £1.992 million is coming from the ‘Pinch Point’ fund which was announced in the Government’s Autumn 2012 statement which offered around £170 million to remove ‘bottlenecks’ on local road networks.

The project will be funded primarily from the Pinch Point cash, most of the balance will come from developer’s contributions, including a contribution from Ikea. There will also be a contribution from the Council’s Highways Capital programme. The Council will be working closely with Ikea with to co-ordinate works.


I am disappointed that more is not going to be done to improve traffic flow towards Reading, as this is a major problem in the evening

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Complained to CAA about noise from planes doing aerobatics

I have just made the following complaint to the CAA about the disturbance caused to Theale residents by the planes that do aerobatics over the village every weekend. If you want to make your own complaint to the CAA, please use this form.

Residents of Theale, Berkshire, are regularly subjected to the noise of small aircraft performing aerobatic manoeuvres. The fluctuation in engine noise is most disturbing. This occurs virtually every Saturday and Sunday, except in the winter. An occurrence has just finished at 14:00 on June 2nd.

Although the CAA says:

Is an aircraft allowed to carry out aerobatic manoeuvres over a built up/residential area?

No. The Rules of the Air regulations state that “an aircraft shall not carry out an aerobatic manoeuvre over the congested area of any city, town or settlement”. The Air Navigation Order defines a Congested Area as “an area that is substantially used for residential, industrial, commercial or recreational purposes”.

They also say that complaints should be directed to the aerodrome where the plane flew from. How are we supposed to know that?

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Family service tomorrow morning at Holy Trinity Church, Theale

A new service for all the family will be held in Holy Trinity Church at 10:30 on the first Sunday of every month. The services will include favourite hymns like "Amazing Grace" and "Save Me O Thou Great Redeemer"

The first service is tomorrow. The theme of the service will be "helping others", drawing on the parable of the Good Samaritan.

There will be children's activities and refreshments after each service.