Children demonstrate for climate change awareness

Last Friday a number of children from the Primary School gave up their lunch break to support a campaign for global climate change awareness, inspired by the 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg.  Carrying posters, they walked from the school to the Whitchurch bridge to show their support for the strikes around the globe and to raise awareness among the public. 

Andrea Joubert of Hardwick Road, whose children Aidan and Duncan Watkins were among the walkers, says “it was a small but determined group that braved the very strong winds – everyone was in high spirits and we received smiles, friendly hoots & cheers from passers-by.” 

There are more pictures in the photo gallery.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 19th March 2019 15:37

Nominations for local elections close in two weeks time

For anyone thinking of standing in the local elections on 2nd May, the closing date for nominations is just over two weeks away: Wednesday 3rd April. 

Whitchurch residents aged 18 and over will have the opportunity to vote in the village hall on Thursday 2nd May. 

Candidates for a new District Councillor will definitely be on the ballot paper as the position is vacant following the resignation of Rob Simister. 

Whether Parish Councillors will be on the ballot paper depends on the number of candidates who decide to stand.  There are seven places available on Whitchurch Parish Council and if there are no more than seven candidates there will be no election.  If there are eight or more candidates all their names will appear on the ballot paper and voting will take place. 

There is information on how to become a candidate on the SODC Local Elections website.  There is also guidance  from the Electoral Commission here.  The candidates will be listed by SODC on Thursday 4th April. 

Those who have not yet registered to vote in the elections have until Friday 12th April to do so.  SODC has issued a two-page guide on How to Vote.

Date/Time : Sunday, 17th March 2019 13:37

Brick wall again at risk from large truck

Only two days after the wall was damaged by a giant car transporter coming to collect a car from an address in Manor Road, the driver of a huge Austrian articulated truck found himself with the difficult task of having to turn around in the same location at 11 am this morning.  The photo shows the vehicle reversing towards the High Street, passing within inches of the pillar that was damaged on Tuesday.  More photos here

The writer happened to be examining the damaged wall for the previous news item, when the vehicle appeared. The driver said he had been told to go down the hill but had realised that he could not proceed.  He was an experienced driver, with some understanding of English, and he succeeded in making the turn by driving into Manor Road and then backing on to the High Street. 

Could there be a misunderstanding that with the bridge rebuilt very large vehicles can now drive to Pangbourne?  (Most people seem to know that large vehicles can’t pass under the railway bridge.)  

Richard Wingfield, Whitchurch Web News Editor.

Update, 18th March:  It seems that the vehicle did not come from the BP Technology Centre.  The driver was seen at Crays Pond, apparently getting advice from another HGV driver, before heading to Whitchurch.  There are two signs at the exit from the BP Technology Centre telling drivers of HGVs not to turn left. 

Date/Time : Thursday, 14th March 2019 18:46

Severe damage to Manor Road brick wall

On Tuesday an articulated car transporter struck the left hand pillar of the Manor Road entrance, causing serious damage, which can also be seen in this photograph.  The heavy brick pillar was knocked sideways by several inches and the adjoining wall is now cracked in several places.  A repair involving demolition and reconstruction is now inevitable, as was needed after the right hand pillar was struck by a Range Rover in July 2017.  On this occasion the pillar is still upright but not fully stable and some public protection seems to be advisable.  

The apologetic driver of the car transporter, an employee of the Newbury branch of the international car auction firm COPART, proceeded into Manor Road to upload a car and then departed. 

On the following day the driver returned, having been told by his boss in Newbury to find out who owned the damaged wall so that compensation could be arranged.  Tanya Hawley in nearby Whitchurch House saw him arrive and spoke to him.  She was astonished that he had arrived in the same huge car-transporter as on the previous day.  Asked why he had not come in a more sensible vehicle the driver said that his boss had asked him to call in at Whitchurch en route to Marlow where he had to pick up another car.  After making some enquiries, he succeeded in turning the massive truck around without causing any more damage to Whitchurch walls and then departed. 

Who owns the damaged wall?  Oxfordshire County Council apparently says it is not them.  The owner of the nearby house is understood to have consulted his deeds and says it is not him.  Parish chairman Jim Donahue says that it appears likely that the parish council is the owner, having acquired the nearby verges from the local authority about ten years ago. 

Long term resident Tanya Hawley says this is the first time in the 45 years that she and Peter have been living on the High Street that the left hand wall has been struck.  She is appalled at the ongoing damage being done to the village’s historic walls. 

(News items on earlier wall damage: 18.7.17 right hand pillar knocked down; 29.8.17 hole knocked through wall opposite pub; 22.5.18 hole in wall repaired)

For a recent article by Peter Hawley on the brick walls and bellmouth entrances of Whitchurch go to this page.

Date/Time : Thursday, 14th March 2019 17:17

Car stolen from Hardwick Road

A red BMW 325i, registration E30 2WKK, was stolen from Hardwick Road at 11.20 pm yesterday evening and driven up towards Whitchurch Hill.  Please call Will Skewes on 07590 681878 if you have any information. 

Update, 18th March:  The Henley Standard have interviewed Will and published an article.

Date/Time : Thursday, 07th March 2019 12:14

Whitchurch Toll Bridge has a new owner

The General Estates Company Ltd, based in Hythe near Southampton, has become the new owner and operator of the Whitchurch toll bridge, having bought the privately-owned bridge company. 

Geoff Weir, company secretary of Whitchurch Bridge (Holdings) Ltd said today: "Our directors are approaching retirement and for the last two years have been working to secure the future of The Company of Proprietors of Whitchurch Bridge (COPWB) in order to ensure that the Bridge continues to be properly managed as an important part of the local highway infrastructure.  We offered it to both local highways authorities.  There was no interest from West Berkshire Council, but we know that Oxfordshire County Council considered the proposition carefully before deciding not to proceed.  We then initiated talks with The General Estates Company as we know they have expertise in running toll bridges. The recent sale is the culmination of those talks.  The Bridge Manager and her toll collecting staff will remain in post.  COPWB will continue to operate under its Acts of 1792 and 1988, and the regulation of Tolls will continue unchanged." 

It is understood that the General Estates Company, which has been in business for over 100 years, owns and operates the Batheaston Toll Bridge near Bath and also has an interest in Dunham Toll Bridge which crosses the River Trent.  The company also operates a large number of mobile home parks.  The company has been a shareholder in the Whitchurch Bridge Company for many years.

The following statement has been issued: 

The Directors of Whitchurch Bridge (Holdings) Limited announce today that the Company of Proprietors of Whitchurch Bridge has been acquired by General Estates Company Ltd based in Hythe, Hampshire.  The Company of Proprietors of Whitchurch Bridge has been the bridge owner since the construction of the first Whitchurch Bridge in 1792, and was responsible for the recent reconstruction in 2013-2014.  It is constituted under its own Act of Parliament which requires it to maintain the bridge in perpetuity, and that obligation, together with the rights to collect tolls subject to the approval of the Secretary of State for Transport, remains unchanged.

Commenting on the sale Mike Beckley, Chairman of Whitchurch Bridge Holdings said “General Estates has been a shareholder for over 90 years and have a long history of prudent family ownership. We are confident that they will be a good custodian of Whitchurch Bridge”.

James Percy, Managing Director of General Estates commented “I am pleased to have acquired the Company of Proprietors of Whitchurch Bridge and look forward to building on the good work of Mike and his fellow directors in securing the long-term prospects of the bridge.  The bridge is efficiently run and we have no intention to change how it’s operated in the foreseeable future”.

Date/Time : Monday, 25th February 2019 18:41

High Court ruling on the White Lion, Crays Pond

Mr Satwinder Sandhu, who bought the White Lion pub in 2013, has been ordered to stop using it as his home within two months and pay £20,000 towards costs incurred by South Oxfordshire District Council. 

Mr Timothy Straker QC said that the Whisky Bar operated since last September was a front and “could no more be called a pub than a fig leaf on a naked statue could be called clothing.” 

Peter Dragonetti, chairman of Goring Heath Parish Council, said :  “This is a great vindication of our fight to get the White Lion back as a pub, and it has brought the community together.” 

Full story here.

Date/Time : Monday, 25th February 2019 09:07

Two urbanisation threats discussed (UPDATED AGAIN)

The ancient Tuddingway road through Whitchurch, along which generations of travellers walked and rode in past centuries, has seen nothing like it.  Two planning applications, very different in nature, are simultaneously out to consultation on proposals that affect the rural landscape along the historic route. 

The Fence: 

At yesterday’s parish council meeting, Lesley Landen, who has lived on the Hartslock Bridleway for many years, told councillors that she was so shocked and upset on first seeing the Coombe Park steel security fence that she wept.  She was appalled that anyone would want to build such an aggressive and industrial fence to mark the boundary of their land. 

Will Davies, a metropolitan police officer whose parents-in-law live on the Bridleway, said that his professional view regarding security was that the design of the fence was completely inappropriate for its purpose.  He said the spiked palisade fence was hostile in character and that it would tend to attract hostility. 

Ian Millar said he had pointed out to SODC, using old photographs, that the diagrams used to support the claim that the old and new fences are of equal height are incorrect.  The old fence was considerably lower than the proposed 2.4m height of the new one. (*See update, below.)

Others pointed out that the problem with intruders had developed because the house had been temporarily deserted.  Once someone is living there the problem will go away. 

After further discussion, the council resolved to object to both the line and design of the fence, a considerable length of which has already been installed without planning permission. 

Individual comments must reach SODC before 15th March and can be made here

The ‘Yurts’: 

The council went on to discuss the application from Bozedown Alpaca Farm to build year-round holiday cabins on the chalk hillside beneath the historic Bozedown Camp.  Several speakers emphasised that calling them yurts was misleading and that rather than portable tents there would be five fully serviced permanent buildings needing an access roadway. 

Speakers pointed out that while there could be merit in such a scheme in the right location, the proposal conflicts with the principles of the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which exists to conserve and enhance the natural landscape of the chalk hills. 

The council resolved to object to the proposal. 

Many objections have already appeared on the SODC website.  Individual comments must reach SODC before 1st March and can be made here

The Tuddingway: 

To discover more about the ancient roadway, go to the About the Village page, select Hartslock Bridleway and follow the links.


*Update, 25th February:  Ian Millar's illustrated report, objecting to the fence, can be viewed here

Update 7th March: There is a Henley Standard article on the yurts plan here.

Date/Time : Friday, 22nd February 2019 17:19

Coombe Park submits plan for security fencing (Updated)

A retrospective planning application has been submitted for the erection of new steel fencing along the Hartslock bridleway, to replace the existing boundary fence of Coombe Park. 

Several hundred metres of new fencing had been installed before complaints last month caused South Oxfordshire District Council to alert the estate’s owner, David Pain, to the need for a planning application.  The 2.4 m high spike-topped steel palisade fence has been criticised on the grounds of its inappropriateness in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and for its alignment, which is generally nearer to the bridleway than the existing dilapidated fence. 

The extent of the planned fencing is shown on this map of the estate.  It includes a length along the drive at the back of the village hall. 

The planning application, P19/S0366/FUL, includes a report on the security of Coombe Park estate by Special Projects and Services Ltd of Hereford, which has provided a resident security team on the site for the past 12 months to deal with a continuing problem of intruders. The report states that websites are ‘actively promoting a high level of intrusions almost as a game’. 

Regarding the alignment of the fence, the Planning Statement of 4th February 2019 includes this undertaking: “The old fence will be removed following the completion of the new fence. Following the removal of the old fence the new fence will be adjusted to the position agreed with officers from Oxfordshire County Council highways & rights of way.” 

Details of a planned laurel hedge, including a temporary stock fence to protect the young plants, are provided in the documents. The hedge would be planted on the estate’s side of the fence. 

The Parish Council is expected to discuss a response to the application at its meeting on 21st February.  Comments can be submitted until 15th March.

Update, 15th February:  Parish council chairman Jim Donahue has heard from Oxfordshire County Council, the highways authority.  He said today:  “OCC's view on the new fence is that there should be a minimum of 20 feet between the fences on either side of the Bridleway, so they have asked David Pain to remove the old fence and move the new fence to the old locations.  They will be enforcing this agreement.  This is in addition to SODC’s planning review, which will still consider location of the fence, but also other factors such as the design and any new vegetation planted”.

Date/Time : Friday, 15th February 2019 11:05

High Street boat carries new message

The High Street boat has been re-decorated to a new theme – climate change and recycling. 

Gill Williamson, founder of Crafty Knit & Stitch, explains: 

The Crafty Knit & Stitch Group along with Tots on the Hill, Whitchurch Preschool and Whitchurch Primary have joined the Climate Coalition’s ‘Show the Love’ campaign which involves community based climate change action around Valentine's Day.  On Thursday we attached hundreds of papier mache hearts made from recycled material on the trees in the boat outside The Old Rectory Stables in Whitchurch.  Each heart goes with a pledge to take home and recycle our rubbish.  The Climate Coalition’s #showthelove campaign was brought to our attention by Vanessa Pearce who is a member of both Crafty Knit & Stitch and Woodcote WI.

Date/Time : Saturday, 09th February 2019 11:38

Application for five luxury ‘glamping’ cabins at Bozedown

A planning application is now out to consultation for the construction of five holiday accommodation yurt-style roundhouses on agricultural land at Bozedown Farm, spread out along the hillside above Hardwick Road with views to the river. 

The application has been registered on the SODC website, and the case for the development is presented in detail, with illustrations, in the Design and Access Statement

The application, prepared by a Bolton-based company Building Design Services, emphasises the scarcity of glamping facilities in the district and the need to provide a diversified income for the alpaca farm. 

The insulated timber-framed ‘winter’ yurts would be available for booking by holiday makers all year round.  Five car parking spaces would be created near Hardwick Road.  Water supply, electric power and septic tank drainage would be provided and each cabin would have a wood-burning stove.  The application states that the buildings would be blocked from public view by the hedge alongside Hardwick Road. 

The consultation ends on 22nd February.  Comments can be made online, via the SODC link above.  The parish council is expected to discuss a response at its next monthly meeting on Thursday 21st February.

Update, 6th February:  The time limit for consultation has been extended by SODC from 22nd February to 1st March.

Date/Time : Sunday, 03rd February 2019 17:09

District councillor Rob Simister resigns

Rob Simister, district councillor in South Oxfordshire District Council for the Kidmore End and Whitchurch ward since 2011, has resigned in the wake of his party’s suspension of six of his fellow councillors for voting against the council’s local plan.  The Conservative-controlled council voted last month to accept the local plan which indicates where 28,500 new homes could be built by 2034. 

More details in the Henley Standard report here

Elections in May this year are expected to result in a new councillor for our ward.

Date/Time : Thursday, 31st January 2019 18:35

Industrial fence appears alongside Hartslock bridleway

A high, spike-topped metal fence has been erected without planning permission along hundreds of yards of the boundary of Coombe Park, on Hartslock Bridleway.  The sprawling and dilapidated estate was bought recently by a Mr David Pain, who is clearly trying to improve its security.  Intruder-resistant measures were taken earlier at the estate’s entrance gate in Manor Road. 

Readers of our news item earlier this year (news archive, 12.3.18) will recall that the derelict site was being plagued by visits from young ‘explorers’ linked by social media, who took the opportunity to walk around, photograph the rundown mansion, examine its once-grand interior and other features of the estate and post on ‘explorer’ websites. 

The new fence has been built directly alongside an attractive length of the Thames Path, within the Chilterns Area of Natural Beauty.  Historically, the bridleway is on the ancient route known as the Tuddingway, used since the 13th century. 

Jim Donahue, chairman of the parish council, commented yesterday: 

I was made aware of this last Sunday by concerned residents of Hartslock Bridleway.  The work had started without any notification or planning application, and I immediately escalated the matter to SODC. The new fence is along a considerable stretch of the Hartslock Bridleway along the Thames path.  The main concerns are: 

1. The location of the fence directly adjacent to the road surface in some places, leaving little room for vegetation or passing vehicles or pedestrians outside of the paved surface. Some residents have questioned whether it is in accordance with agreed boundaries. 

2. The intimidating design and size of the fence, while it may be similar to the one installed by Dan Hazell at his business further along the bridleway, is not in keeping with the rural AONB setting.  

Since Sunday, I have spoken to the head of SODC enforcement and also to the new owner of Coombe Park, David Pain.  SODC have told him that he does not need to stop work, but will require a retrospective planning application, as it is over 2m high. 

David Pain has told me that he plans to continue with the fence building but has committed to submit a planning application within 7 -10 days.  He said that he has also instructed the builders to make the rest of the new fence as close to the existing fence as possible. He also said that his intention for planting laurel on his side of the fence was that the laurel would grow through the fence to ultimately hide it, but would consider growing it on the other side, space permitting.  

The situation is clearly not satisfactory to the residents I have heard from on Hartslock Bridleway, and will also impact the larger community using the Thames Path.  The parish council will need to submit any objections to the plans based on feedback we receive once a planning application is submitted.

Date/Time : Friday, 25th January 2019 14:15

Toll bridge gets its 20 mph limit

Today’s 5½ hour bridge closure enabled West Berkshire Highways subcontractor Volker to install the Bridge Company’s traffic calming scheme.  They renewed the rumble strip alongside the Pangbourne approach curve, repainted white lines and other markings there and around the toll booth, added “20”marks on the road and erected new “20” signs.  Two automatic speed warning devices have yet to be installed and two old 30mph signs to be removed. 

Bridge Company director Geoff Weir said that the cost of the programme of work is around £15,000 and the Company and its advisers believe it will have a beneficial effect on pedestrian safety.   The change in traffic speeds will be monitored. 

Nick Brazil has made a 2½ minute film, “Speeding Down to 20”, set to stirring music, showing the action at the Whitchurch end of the bridge, with impressive speed painting about one minute in.

Date/Time : Thursday, 24th January 2019 19:23

Looking beyond ‘Winter Wonderland’

Since its installation outside the Old Stables the Boat has given pleasure to many people in its different appearances, first as a bed of colourful flowers, then with a brilliant red poppy display, followed by three kings Christmas trees and currently a ‘Winter Wonderland’ of snowflakes (pictured).  The four presentations can be seen here

Leslie Meynerd of MOWS (‘Make Our Whitchurch Special’) appealed through this website in September 2017 for someone to donate a retired boat.  Nick Bailey of Beale Park offered one, which was accepted, and it was installed with the help of the parish council before the end of that year, joining the two timber planters already adding colour to the Church Drive entrance. 

After its successful first year, the future of the Boat was discussed at a recent parish council meeting.  It seems that the great majority, though not every member, of the community likes it.  But there was agreement that its condition needs some work.  It was decided that physical improvements would be made in the spring by MOWS, with a raised floor and some painting.  In the meantime a canvas cover will be provided.  The parish council agreed that the seasonal sequence of flower beds and art installations should continue. 

Leslie is now asking for new volunteers to help with the improvements that will be made in the spring.  Anyone able to help is invited to contact her on 984 5513. 

Gill Williamson, who runs the Thursday sessions ‘Crafty Knit & Stitch’ says: “We are thrilled to have the chance to continue to use the boat as a display space for our imaginations until the flowers appear in the spring – keep your eyes open for what’s coming next!”  

Gill and the group meet weekly to work on their own projects and also to create community art (including yarn bombing of the bridge in 2017 and totem poles on the meadow in 2018).  She says: “Join us at The Old Rectory Stables any Thursday from 1.30pm to 3.30pm or from 7pm to 9pm with your knitting, crochet, needlework and crafts or just for a cuppa – everyone is welcome – we have lots of expertise to pass on if you’re just starting out.”

Date/Time : Monday, 21st January 2019 13:31

Pavilion project passes milestone

Outline planning consent has been granted for the new multipurpose pavilion to be built on the village green.  The proposed location, front elevation and interior layout of the building are shown here

Neil Huntington joined the pavilion project team last year and has been advancing the project alongside Keith Brooks, chairman of the Village Green Working Group.  They are developing earlier work by Carrie Hart, and are supported by Owens Galliver Architects of Pangbourne. 

Neil reports: 

“Many village residents will be aware that the existing village green pavilion is no longer fit for purpose and therefore the Parish Council has been promoting its replacement by a new multipurpose sports pavilion. The project passed a major milestone when planning consent was granted earlier this month. 

The new pavilion has been designed to meet the needs of the cricket club, youth football teams, the school and other sports activities and functions such as the village fete.  It will be positioned in the south-east corner of the village green to avoid possible damage to a number of mature trees near the existing site.  It has been carefully designed with timber elevations to ensure that it does not dominate its surroundings. 

The main tasks in 2019 are to agree a more detailed specification, involving discussion with future users, to fix a target budget and to start raising the required funds. The Parish Council is planning to make a substantial financial contribution and a community fund raising exercise will be undertaken. They would be interested to hear from anyone who has experience in raising funds for similar projects, or who can contribute ideas for this project.  Anyone who feels they can assist should contact parish councillors Sarah Hanfrey or Keith Brooks.”

Date/Time : Sunday, 20th January 2019 18:14

Permission refused for demolition of Eastfield House

South Oxfordshire District Council has refused Ross Healthcare permission for their proposed demolition of the Eastfield House care home, giving as the principal reason that it “would result in the loss of an important positive building within the conservation area…”   

The full statement is now on the SODC planning website and can be read here

Parish chairman Jim Donahue said he welcomed this good news, though we would have to wait and see whether Ross Healthcare appeals the decision. 

The parish council had been intending to provide a bus to convey objectors to a planning committee meeting. Jim said he understood that SODC felt there was no need to take it to a planning committee meeting and it seems that their view is aligned with the village’s.

Date/Time : Friday, 18th January 2019 14:39

Proposal for £2 extra per household per month to help fund the police

The Police and Crime Commissioner for Thames Valley, Anthony Stansfeld (pictured), would like our support for an increase in the police element of the council tax by about £24 a month. 

All Whitchurch residents are eligible to take part in a short survey, which can be found here.  It is open until 5 pm on Wednesday 9th January. 

More information: 

On Thursday 13 December the Home Secretary announced the provisional police funding settlement for 2019/20. In response to the exceptional operational demands on the police, particularly in areas such as Thames Valley, the Government is increasing the funding available to PCCs by up to £813 million. However, this is provided all PCCs increase the police portion of the council tax by £2 a month or £24 a year (equivalent for a Band D property), which, collectively, will raise £509 million of the £813 million increase in funding. 

Anthony Stansfeld said: “The Thames Valley Police budget has been cut by £101 million over the last eight years which has resulted in significant cuts to police officer and staff numbers. This year the Government has encouraged all PCCs to raise the policing element of the council tax precept for all households. To prevent further damaging cuts to policing and restore some important frontline policing capability I would like to make use of this Government advice and raise the council tax precept accordingly.

“Demand on police forces nationally has risen significantly in the last year as a result of an increase in non-crime business, higher crime numbers, the increasing complexity of crime, and the increasing reach of criminals both physically and via technology. Throughout this Thames Valley Police has been efficient and effective but having already faced significant cuts since 2010/11 the process of identifying new cash savings is becoming ever more challenging. However, we are committed to making policing even more efficient and have already identified over £4m of new savings in 2019/20.

“My focus for the future continues to be on delivering strong neighbourhood policing for all of the communities across the Thames Valley whilst addressing the serious threats and hardship posed by criminals. With this in mind the extra cash generated from the proposed increase in council tax will be spent on operational policing. The draft budget for 2019/20 includes additional funding to increase local frontline policing, recruit more investigators and improve contact management with the aim to reduce call waiting times on 101 calls.”

Date/Time : Sunday, 30th December 2018 11:28

Carol singing at The Ferryboat

Large numbers attended the Community Carol Singing event at The Ferryboat on Saturday evening.

Arranged and hosted by landlord Graham Dednum and featuring the brass ensemble from Pangbourne Silver Band led by Stewart Lewins, the event gave an opportunity for communities from our village and beyond to join together to sing many well-loved carols. 

Children enhanced the event with their performances of Away in a Manger and Jingle Bells, heralding the arrival of Father Christmas with gifts of sweets.

The event in the courtyard of The Ferryboat was first held in 2012.  It has become an increasingly popular feature of Christmas in Whitchurch, raising funds each year for our local church and schools.

Date/Time : Sunday, 23rd December 2018 18:11

Final replacement bricks installed at the Maze

Yesterday morning Pete Woolhouse, who laid all the original bricks in the Maze, was back in action laying the last four named bricks in the current phase of work.  He is seen with his wife Sally in the centre of the photo.  Also in the photo are Leslie Prater (on the left) who inspired, organised and helped finance the recent campaign for new and replacement bricks, and Nick Brazil (right) who came up with the idea and design for a brick maze back in 2004. 

Leslie Prater said he wished to thank the bricklayers Phil Wise and his son Alec, who had done a great job of replacing 661 frost-damaged bricks, 50 of them named, and installing 149 bricks with new names. 

The Maze field is maintained by volunteers at monthly sessions from April to October. Sally says that more volunteers would be warmly welcomed. The next session will be in April and details will appear in What's On.

Photographs of earlier events at the Maze can now be seen in an updated article on the About the Village page – here.

Date/Time : Sunday, 23rd December 2018 09:48

The Whitchurch Web team wishes you a very Happy Christmas

We hope you’ve enjoyed visiting the village website this year. We have a stunning Christmas card for you to open, thanks to local photographer Dave Olinski.

We would like to thank the many people who have provided news, photos and messages throughout the year. 

Hilary, Pam, Phil and Richard

Date/Time : Thursday, 20th December 2018 12:14

142 Bus now runs on Wednesdays and reaches hospital

Going Forward Buses has expanded its 142-8 service to include two buses on Wednesdays, as well as the two buses on Saturdays.  The times are 09:59 and 13:59 at the stop opposite The Greyhound. 

As at present, the route is via Whitchurch Hill, Crays Pond and Cane End to Caversham.  Then across the river to the Kings Meadow Tesco, Blagrave Street, Friar Street and Station Road in Reading. 

The return services leave Blagrave Street at 12:15 and 15:45. 

From yesterday, the route has been extended to include the Royal Berkshire Hospital. 

Date/Time : Thursday, 13th December 2018 15:11

Church packed for Christmas concert

St Mary’s bells were ringing yesterday evening as the church gradually filled to capacity.  Inside, the band struck up for the fifth annual Concert of Christmas Music featuring The Ferryboat Brass and organised by Graham Dednum.  Special guest this year was international singing star Barbara Allen (pictured), from California.  Also taking part were the children of the Whitchurch Primary School Choir. 

The 25-strong brass band directed by Kelvin Ketteringham raised the rafters with festive sounds while the audience did their best to compete, singing half a dozen familiar carols and two well known songs. 

The children’s choir, coached by Lucy Lombos, charmed everyone with their singing of less familiar numbers. Barbara Allen gave the audience six solo songs as well as one with the children, conveying a strong Christmas message.  Sue Matthews read a Candlelit Carol accompanied by the band.  The Reverend Claire Alcock rounded off the event with her thoughts for Christmas and congratulated Graham on his concert organising skill. 

As they made their way home after the two-hour event, surrounded by a myriad of twinkling lights on church and trees, the audience were able to admire the newly themed boat on the High Street. 

Proceeds from the concert, which was attended by more than 300 people, will go to St Mary’s Church, the Primary School and the Pre-School Group.  There is another opportunity to sing carols with a brass ensemble - at The Ferryboat on 22nd December.

There are photos in the Gallery.

Date/Time : Monday, 03rd December 2018 14:02

Hit-and-run collision in High Street

Yesterday evening at 6.47 pm Leslie and Dave in their High Street house Mallards heard a huge bang and went outside to see that their parked red Toyota had been hit by a Mercedes, belonging to another village resident, which had been parked some distance away but was now wedged between their car and their house.  Looking more closely they saw that a third car had smashed into the back of the parked Mercedes and propelled it forward against the Toyota.  The driver of the third car, which is thought to be a dark-coloured saloon, had driven off but left two clues on the ground: the registration letters “S” and “B”. 

The police have been informed.  CCTV footage at the toll bridge is being studied.  If anyone has information they can report it to the Police by phoning 101.

Photo taken by Jim Donahue.

Date/Time : Friday, 30th November 2018 09:32

Shaggy dog wins art prize for Under-6s

The judges thought long and hard on Friday evening about the entries for the Under-6 Art Prize in the annual Whitchurch Art & Craft Exhibition.  Finally they agreed unanimously on a painting by Harold Brazil, aged 3, that showed imaginative composition, good use of colour and no sign of any help from a grown-up.  Entitled My Paw Prints, it was an entry in this year’s hotly contested theme ‘Dogs’ for the Joyce Voysey Prize. 

Scarlet and her twin sister Tess were thrilled to hear that Harold had won 1st Prize.  It was they who had put paint on the paws of Nick Brazil’s dog and persuaded him to walk over the paper to create the unique canine artwork. 

The exhibition judges Peter Driver, Debbie Page and Julian Belmont were invited from outside the village and were not familiar with any of the entrants.  On learning that Harold was a dog, rather than a talented child, they were momentarily taken aback but quickly rallied and strongly defended their choice of winner, explaining that the artwork had all the necessary qualities to win the prize. 

The photo shows Scarlet and Tess with Harold after today’s prize-giving.  Harold, who is blind in his right eye, appeared to enjoy all the attention. 

Nick Brazil said he was very proud of his Collie cross, who had been an unwanted stray in Ireland, but not completely surprised at the latest turn of events as Harold hailed from the land of poets, bards and artists. 

Whitchurch Society chairman Peter Smith said he was delighted that the judges had recognised the undoubtedly authentic but hitherto hidden talents of Harold, who might have been influenced by the early works of Jackson Pollock. 

Exhibition organiser Sally Woolhouse said that bearing in mind that Harold would have two more years to compete in the Under-6 category, the committee might have to consider introducing a new category next year reserved for pets. 

Harold’s painting can be seen here.

Date/Time : Sunday, 25th November 2018 19:37

Double whammy stops traffic on bridge

A car occasionally breaks down on the bridge and the driver of an HGV lorry occasionally arrives at the toll booth wondering how to turn round.  Either of these events causes a traffic delay. During the evening rush hour yesterday both events happened at the same time, causing exceptional frustration to drivers held up on their journeys home. 

An Austrian HGV lorry had come down the hill and appeared at the toll booth at 5.15 pm, followed by a long line of cars. The driver, who spoke limited English, was told that as his vehicle would not be able to pass under the low Pangbourne railway bridge he should carry on across the toll bridge and turn around at the Thames Avenue / Pangbourne Club intersection.  That is the Bridge Company’s standard procedure to minimise traffic delays now that the bridge is strong enough to take HGVs. 

After a three minute discussion the articulated lorry set off across the bridge. Unfortunately there had just been a minor collision between two cars at the far end of the bridge, which had left one car with a severely damaged front wheel, partially blocking the road.  Traffic flow in both directions stopped while the lorry driver tried to manoeuvre past the stranded car.  At around 5.40 pm he succeeded and was able to drive into the car park of the Pangbourne Club where he remained overnight.  The car continued to cause delays until it was eventually removed later in the evening. 

Bridge Company director Geoff Weir said today that it is important to realise that the Company cannot prevent large lorries from arriving at the bridge.  The Company believes that letting southbound lorries cross and turn is the best way to minimise traffic congestion in the village.  It was regrettable that yesterday the Toll Collector received a considerable amount of abuse from delayed drivers who seemed unable to control their frustration. 

Geoff said that he would be reporting the lorry owners to Trading Standards with a view to a prosecution, though for foreign lorries this is not as straightforward as for UK-registered ones. 

Recently co-opted parish councillor Warren Beard commented that this is the fourth time in the last few months that an HGV has come in to the village, most probably following inappropriate Sat Nav systems, and he wondered whether better signage near the Crays Pond junction would help, with additional signs continuing toward Whitchurch Hill.  Also perhaps hefty fines should be imposed on HGV drivers arriving at the bridge, which might even raise money for village projects.  He said that yesterday his wife Olivia and Carrie Leadbetter-Hart had spent time talking with delayed drivers in the High Street, which had helped to reduce congestion and to limit ‘road rage’.

Date/Time : Tuesday, 20th November 2018 16:06

New names joining those already at the Maze

The response to the offer organised by Leslie Prater earlier this year, for more people to have their names recorded in the village archive at the Maze, was such that 149 new named bricks were subscribed for at a cost of £20 each.  This week Phil and Alec Wise started on the work at ground level. 

Leslie explains: “First there are 661 frost-damaged bricks to replace.  Of these, 50 have names engraved on them and these are being replaced free of charge.  Then, thanks to the generosity of many people, there are 149 new engraved bricks.  I could never have achieved my objective without the enormous help that I have received from Sally and Pete Woolhouse.  I am also grateful for the support of Alex Hilton and his Whitchurch AFC parents.” 

The photo above, taken by Nick Brazil today, shows, from left, Alec Wise, Sally Woolhouse, Leslie Prater and Phil Wise.  There are more in the Photo Gallery. 

The work follows the two Saturdays in the summer when volunteers scrubbed the existing bricks. (See news archive 28th July and photo gallery 4th August.)

Date/Time : Wednesday, 14th November 2018 15:46

Village hall gets helping hand from Grant Thornton

Eight staff members from the Reading office of business consultants Grant Thornton have been brushing-up on their decorating skills in support of a local community project – the renovation of our village hall. Working under the guidance of Jean Marc Grosfort, who organised the event, teams of volunteers spent two weekdays (6th and 7th November) painting the main hall, renovating the stage and sorting out the kitchen.  Keith Brooks and Richard Scearce, fellow members of the Village Hall Management Committee with Jean Marc, assisted. 

Keith said “We are very grateful to Grant Thornton and their employees for taking the time to come to our village and make our village hall fresh and bright.  Most of all we are indebted to Jean Marc for setting this up!  We hope to continue with our program of renovations in response to the comments made in the recent village questionnaire which will encourage more people to use this important village resource”.

The photo above shows Jean Marc on the left, with some of the volunteer decorators.  There are more photos in the Gallery.

Date/Time : Friday, 09th November 2018 16:52

Elisabeth Napier-Munn, 1926–2018

Elisabeth Napier-Munn, who lived for many years at No 1 Duchess Close in the High Street, has died at the age of 91 on 17th October.  A Memorial Service will be held at St Mary’s Church at 3 pm on Friday 9th November.  The family invites all who knew her to attend. 

Born in 1926, Elisabeth Deane married John Napier-Munn in 1959 and they moved to Whitchurch in the following year.  There are two children, Simon and Tamsin, and three grandchildren.  In his retirement John Napier-Munn served as editor of the Whitchurch Bulletin and died in 1994 at the age of 77.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 07th November 2018 11:33

Commemorating the end of World War One

The Centenary of the Armistice will be commemorated by a 9.30 am service at St John's, Whitchurch Hill, this Sunday 11th November. 

The service will be followed by an Act of Remembrance at the Whitchurch War Memorial at 10.45 am.  Here everyone will receive a special commemoration booklet called "Silence...we will remember them" produced by the charity Hope Together

Rev Claire Alcock says she warmly welcomes those of all ages to either or both of these events.

SODC has issued a Temporary Road Closure Order, which will be in operation from 10.45 to 11.10 am, for the "B471 from its junction with Hartslock Bridleway to approx halfway between its junction with Lower Hitch Road."  Emergency vehicles are allowed through.

Date/Time : Monday, 05th November 2018 21:16

Meeting held to discuss future of Eastfield House (UPDATE – Crowd Funding Appeal launched)

The parish council held an extraordinary meeting on Tuesday 30th October to discuss widespread concern in the village at the potential deterioration of Eastfield House as each planning application is followed by another, and to decide what action can be taken to safeguard the building, both in the short term with regard to fire risk and in the longer term.  

The meeting was well attended and there are draft minutes which can be found, attached to the normal October minutes, on the Parish Council page. 

Meanwhile the 80 letters of objection to Ross Healthcare’s plan to demolish the building have been joined belatedly by 22 letters of support for the application.  All were registered by SODC on 22nd October and share the same format, with three variants of the printed text, signed by people with addresses in Reading, Woodley, Tilehurst, Henley, Wargrave, Twyford, Bracknell, Aylesbury, Thame, Slough, Theale, Nuffield and Maidenhead. Some residents of Eastfield Lane who are affected by the proposals have been speculating on the manner in which these letters appear to have been organised.

Update, 6th November:  A crowd funding appeal has been launched in the village today by objectors to Ross Healthcare’s plans.  The intention is to hire a specialist planning consultant to act as the representative of the village at the forthcoming SODC planning committee meeting, the date of which has yet to be announced.  All objectors to the demolition of Eastfield House are invited to register their support - full details here.

Update, 10th November:  The parish council is planning to help arrange transport for those wishing to attend the SODC planning committee meeting.  The matter will be discussed at the parish council meeting on Tuesday 13th November.  If you are happy to drive and offer a lift to others, or would like a lift, or would be interested in a minibus if one were available, please email the parish clerk.

Date/Time : Monday, 05th November 2018 21:01

Walking to school made safer

On Sunday a small team of volunteers cleared an overgrown length of the verge on Eastfield Lane.  Keith Brooks, Charles Cotgreave and John Bradon can be seen in Gill Goodwin’s photo. 

John Bradon comments:  “In the Village Plan survey, several parents had shared concerns about the traffic along the lane and this will make it possible for children to walk on the verge or pavement all the way along to the school. We hope this will help but, of course, drivers will still need to remain especially careful at the start and end of the school day, both on Eastfield Lane and Hardwick Road.”

Date/Time : Wednesday, 31st October 2018 10:40

Packed coffee house for Poppy Appeal

The Old Stables was filled yesterday morning with record numbers attending the Art Café in aid of the British Legion’s Centenary Appeal.  Every seat was taken and every cake consumed.  Nearby, the colourful poppy-covered boat, decorated by members of the Thursday Knit & Stitch sessions organised by Gill Williamson, was helping to attract visitors. (See Photo Gallery.) In its floral summer form the boat had already won recognition for MOWS founder Leslie Maynerd from the local branch of Britain in Bloom.  In its new form, yarn-bombed to support the Poppy Appeal, it has attracted many admiring comments.  

British Legion local organiser Diana Marriott said that Saturday’s Art Café had generated the record amount of over £500.  That would be added to the funds being collected door-to-door and in the village's two pubs.  She said that in her 30 years of organising the appeal there had never been a more fruitful year and she wished to thank both those helping in the Art Café and also the dedicated and long-serving Whitchurch team of 11 door-to-door collectors.

Date/Time : Sunday, 28th October 2018 17:46

Village sign mysteriously reappears (UPDATED)

Yesterday (Saturday) evening the pictorial village sign that was stolen from Hardwick Road in mid-August was found, left anonymously on Councillor Keith Brooks’ doorstep.  It is in good condition and Keith (pictured) says he and Pete Woolhouse, who had put back the original simple sign in September, will be restoring it to its position at the village entrance, this time using special security bolts.

At their 9th October meeting the parish council had voted by 3 votes to 2 to order a replacement pictorial sign.  The order will now be cancelled.

Update, 29th October:  The mystery has been solved.  Neil Huntington, walking along Hardwick Road with his wife Julie on Saturday afternoon, spotted the sign in undergrowth near the Maze.  He took it to Keith’s house for safekeeping and knocked at the door but there was no answer.  He says: “It was lying flat, face down, about 12m beyond the white fencing at the entrance to the village in the undergrowth between the road and the maze. I spotted it when I stood on the verge to allow a car to pass through. It was not completely hidden, so I am surprised that nobody had previously seen it. It may have been moved to make it more visible, but who knows!”

Date/Time : Sunday, 28th October 2018 15:41

MP John Howell is concerned about Eastfield House (UPDATED)

Opposition to Ross Healthcare’s plan to demolish Eastfield House and rebuild a much larger care home seems to have developed further with the intervention yesterday of Henley MP John Howell.  

Mr Howell has written to the Head of Planning at South Oxfordshire District Council, recalling their earlier decision to refuse the proposal to demolish almost all the building but retain the front façade, saying “the key issue appears to be that this current application seems to have total disregard for the previous decision.” 

The letter can be read here.

Update, 23rd November: Representatives of Ross Healthcare have asked us to point out that Mr Howell has not formally objected to the proposals.  In a Henley Standard report of 12th November, which can be read here, Mr Howell is quoted as saying  “The plans are insensitive and don’t take account of the location.  This is a situation where the two sides must work together to reach a compromise and, at the moment, the developer’s position is not a good compromise.”

Date/Time : Friday, 26th October 2018 14:05

Le Jazz Hot is coming

Thanks to a joint venture by our local twinning associations, a soul, jazz and swing band of 15 musicians will hot foot it from Elbeuf-sur-Seine, France, to play in Pangbourne Village Hall at 8 pm on Friday 2nd November. 

Ian Bruce of the Whitchurch Twinning Association says: “We have teamed up with Pangbourne Twinning Association to present an exciting evening of entertainment from France.  The fifteen musicians in the EMIJ Soul Band (including vocalists) play soul and standards with great flair and energy and had the Whitchurch twinners dancing in the aisles on a visit to La Bouille a couple of years ago.”  

The doors will open at 7.30 pm. The ticket price is £10. There will be a bar with wine, beer and soft drinks.  Here is the event poster.

Tickets are on sale at Garlands Organic shop, High Street, Pangbourne.  (Alternatively, from Ian Bruce (07879 405 559) or from Antonia des Forges (07971 859 594) 

At their suggestion, the band will also play at Whitchurch Primary School early on the Friday afternoon.

Date/Time : Sunday, 21st October 2018 12:27

Open meeting on Eastfield House, 30th October (UPDATED)

An Extraordinary Parish Council Meeting has been called for 8 pm on Tuesday 30th October, in the Old Stables, to discuss the issues and agree a plan of action with regard to the future of Eastfield House.  

The meeting is open to all. The Agenda explains the background and lists eight questions raised by village residents for discussion.


Update, 22nd October:  The draft minutes of the monthly parish council meeting on 9th October, with discussion on Eastfield House, can be read here.

Date/Time : Saturday, 20th October 2018 16:21

Plans for Village Hall revealed

All the windows of the Village Hall have been replaced recently with double glazed PVC ones, at a cost of about £7,000, improving both insulation and appearance.  Now, following a survey this summer, the Village Hall management committee has prepared further plans for the building.  

Jean Marc Grosfort and Keith Brooks describe the next steps as they see them: 

The management team is aiming to get several more jobs done before the end of this year:

  • Paint the inside with a team of volunteers.

  • Clean all storage spaces, kitchen and cupboards and reorganise crockery.

  • Employ an electrical engineer to check the electrical system.

  • Employ a gas engineer to check the central heating system.

  • Re-do the notice boards.

  • Organize a new board showing the history of the building, starting with the presence of the Canadian Air Force in WWII. 

In Spring next year we would like to present investment grant applications to various associations and groups (SODC, Awards for All, etc) in order to raise part of the finance needed.  A meeting with SODC has already taken place and Awards for All has been contacted. Part of the financing will need to be obtained via fund-raising events to be organised after March 2019.  We would aim to have most the funding in place by autumn 2019 and all works done (subject to funding received) by April 2020. 

Why are we aiming for this…..? 

  • The Village Hall should be the community centre for a village such as ours, where groups, associations meet and where social activities are promoted. With better facilities we would expect to attract much more of these and this would enable us to cover all running and maintenance costs for the village hall. 

  • With better facilities we would like initially to develop some social activities for the senior citizens living on their own in the village. We would like to start with some simple tea and cakes meetings so that our senior citizens could meet and spend together some good few hours, breaking their solitude. The intention medium term would be to see if with help of volunteers we could even organise quarterly (or monthly) small lunch and games or music for these citizens. 

  • With an upgrade of the stage we would like to invite small amateur drama groups to use the facility to promote theatre training and production.” 

There is more information on the Village Hall page of this website.  This includes a preliminary plan showing the team’s proposed list of tasks in order of priority, a list of the team members and the minutes of a recent meeting.  The parish council has so far agreed to spend £2,000 on the project (£1,000 per year) in addition to the £7,000 for the windows.

Parish council chairman Jim Donahue today expressed his appreciation of the work done by the Village Hall management committee but said that the scope and cost of the project would need to be approved by the parish council before it could be included in the Village Plan currently being drawn up.  He said that parish councillors are aware that the cricket pavilion project would also be at the fund-raising stage during a similar period and that the two projects would need to be coordinated.  He pointed out that the parish council has at least agreed to support the team submitting grants for the work, which is why an extra £1000 per year has been committed.  The final scope of the project will depend on what grants are approved. 

Date/Time : Sunday, 14th October 2018 11:16

Hundreds of Ultra-runners expected tonight

Seen in the High Street this afternoon, event volunteer Ilsuk is setting up red and white flags to guide runners along the Thames Path later today. About 250 Ultra-runners will be on their fourth out-and-back 25 mile route from their HQ at Goring village hall and will have run about 80 of their target 100 miles by the time they reach Whitchurch. The lead runner is expected at around 11 pm, followed by the rest of the field through the night.  Having reached Reading on their fourth route they will retrace their steps, returning through Whitchurch to Goring. Some of the field may be on the move for more than 12 hours in the dark.

Our village hall will be in use as one of 16 aid stations along the four routes. By comparison, a marathon is 26.2 miles long.

The Autumn 100 event is organised by Centurion Running – more details here.

Date/Time : Saturday, 13th October 2018 18:03

Parish council rejects plans for Eastfield House

Yesterday's parish council meeting (9th October) was packed with residents wanting to have their say during the 30 minutes allocated to discussion of Ross Healthcare’s current planning application for demolition of Eastfield House and its replacement by a new care home several times larger.  All those who spoke objected to the plans. 

Parish councillors unanimously agreed to submit an objection to South Oxfordshire District Council.  Various grounds for objection were discussed, the key points being: 

  • The building is of historic merit, important to Whitchurch, and it is situated in a conservation area that was specifically drawn to include it.  Demolition is unacceptable.

  • The proposed replacement building is unacceptably massive for the site.

  • High Street traffic has changed for the worse since the applicant’s transport statement was submitted, making the narrow part of the lane much more difficult to negotiate.  The serious access difficulty is obvious and the danger to school children is also clear. 

  • The number of parking spaces (15) is inadequate for a 48 bed care home and would result in vehicles overflowing into the lane.  Since the application was made, the bus service, which some staff were expected to use, has ceased.  Access and turning for large service vehicles would be particularly awkward. 

  • Potential flood risk, groundwater and sewerage problems have not been adequately addressed, and this has been highlighted by the 2014 sewage flooding of the lane and nearby houses.  The applicant has not discussed the issue with Thames Water. 

  • The overlooking of Swanston Field houses would be unneighbourly and unacceptable.

  • The planning history shows evidence of ‘creep’ towards a larger and larger facility. There is concern that this insidious process continues.

  •  The proposal contravenes the criteria for village development agreed in the 2009 Village Plan. 

Parish chairman Jim Donahue said that the fact that the planning authority had received more than 80 letters of objection from local residents showed an unprecedented and conclusive rejection by the community of Ross Healthcare’s plans.

Some residents expressed concern that during the construction period, with a large basement being excavated and many heavy vehicles attempting to negotiate the narrow bottleneck of the lane, life will become difficult for everyone in Eastfield Lane for a prolonged period.  However, the meeting was told that temporary construction conditions, however inconvenient, do not constitute grounds for refusing an application.

Several residents have pointed out that an alternative future for the existing historic Victorian building, by converting it into a number of apartments, is likely to be perfectly acceptable to the community. 

The period of consultation has now closed, except for the parish council’s comments.  The SODC planning webpage, with its 80+ letters of objection, can be seen here.  The target decision date is 3rd December.

Date/Time : Wednesday, 10th October 2018 17:02

An Evening of Music on 20th October

This is a great opportunity to hear local musicians Clare Langan, Nick Leadbeater-Hart, Chris Alcock, Leslie & David Maynerd and Michael Howell, together with Andrea Kmecova-Vargas and Mark Dallas, as they perform An Evening of Music. Coming to St Mary's Church, Whitchurch, at 7 pm on Saturday 20th October. 

The musical and social get-together is organised by The Friends of St Mary's and St John's, a local independent charity, and it promises to be an evening of music for all tastes – popular, jazz and classical – played on flute, guitars, saxophone, cornet and piano, with a symphony on the organ as a fitting finale. 

Tickets for the event cost £12 (or £6 for under-16s) and can be obtained from Graham Dednum at The Ferryboat, or from any of the Friends trustees: Keith Williams, Tim Suiter, Paul Witcher, Gordon Painter and Sally Woolhouse.  Tickets include drinks and nibbles.

Keith Williams says: “The Friends intend that the proceeds from this event will go towards the refurbishment and restoration of the famous St Mary's Church clock, which has not been in working order for about 20 years.  It is hoped that the Whitchurch community will fully support this project and that before too long we will again be able to get an accurate time check as we cross the bridge and look towards our church tower!”

Date/Time : Friday, 05th October 2018 18:00

Whitchurch traffic has been measured

Over the course of a week data has been collected at three sites in the village – Eastfield Lane, Hardwick Road and Manor Road – to determine the patterns of traffic speed and volume. 

Ben Riordan, a member of the parish council’s Traffic and Pavements Group (TAPAG) says that the monitoring was done in the school term to provide data to enable TAPAG to help build a case for bringing in some form of traffic restriction and/or calming in the village.  These surveys are in addition to earlier surveys that took place before the school summer holidays, using cameras sited at either end of the High Street.  The parish council and TAPAG are currently looking at the data provided by the earlier surveys (the most recent not being in yet) and will be considering how to proceed. 

Last month the parish council discussed an offer from BP in Whitchurch Hill to contribute funding towards a traffic study in the village.

Date/Time : Friday, 05th October 2018 16:49

Clarification provided on Eastfield House demolition (Updated)

South Oxfordshire Planning Officer Joan Desmond has clarified that no permission has been given to demolish the Victorian building, in case there has been any confusion.  In a reply earlier this week to a query from District Councillor Rob Simister, she quoted the conclusion of her pre-application advice (which can be read in our news item of 10th September) and added that “I have not yet managed to consider the latest application in detail but note that the applicant has submitted a viability report to argue that the consented scheme is not viable and will not come forward and a Heritage Environment Assessment which concludes that the contribution the building makes to the Conservation Area is not sufficient to warrant its retention.  We will need to assess the information submitted carefully and I would anticipate undertaking an independent review of the viability report.” 

Meanwhile, comments from 15 village residents have been published so far on the SODC planning website.  All 15 object to the proposals.  Reasons given include the historic merit of the existing building, its inclusion in a Conservation Area, the large scale of the proposals, perceived deficiencies in traffic assessment and in flooding, groundwater and sewerage assessments, overlooking of houses in Swanston Field, and risk of overflow parking on Eastfield Lane. 

The time limit for those intending to comment is 5th October.

Update, 2nd October:  SODC has given Whitchurch Parish Council an extension of time, to allow them to submit comments after the meeting on Tuesday 9th October.

Date/Time : Sunday, 30th September 2018 14:01

Village Plan Survey results published

The results of the recent Village Plan Survey, to which 143 village residents contributed, have been published.  They will be used to guide the four working groups making proposals for the forthcoming Village Plan. 

John Bradon, who succeeded Jim Donahue as chair of the Village Plan committee in July, has written a summary of the findings. 

The full survey results, including the comments made by residents on each topic, can be found on the Village Plan page.

Date/Time : Friday, 28th September 2018 11:09

Travellers served notice (Updated again)

Pangbourne parish council is reported to have served notice on the travellers yesterday (Saturday) evening at around 10 pm, on a criminal charge, giving them 12 hours to evacuate the site. It is reported that they used a chainsaw to open the gate at the Dolphin Centre leading to the meadow. They are understood to be a different group from the travellers who were on the meadow in June.

The photo shown here was taken at midday yesterday. 

Whitchurch parish council took action last night to block the entrance to the village green, initially with the chairman's locked car and then early this morning, thanks to Jon and Lissie Steward, with the cricket pitch roller.   

At 10 am this morning there were no visible signs of any preparations for departure by the travellers. 

Update, 3.30 pm Sunday:  The travellers had moved on by noon today, with police attending their departure.  At the site, rubbish is scattered over a wide area. The damage by chainsaw to the Dolphin Centre's gate into the meadow can be seen in this photo. There are now reports of about 20 traveller vehicles in the area of The Moors or Moor Copse in Pangbourne, attended by police.

Progress on changing the law so that trespass is a criminal offence rather than a civil one, which would bring our law into line with Ireland's, was described in this article in the Daily Telegraph last month.

Update, Wednesday 26th September:  Earlier this week the travellers moved further on, this time on to property at Englefield, from which they are expected to depart today.  They are reported to have again been served with a Section 61 criminal eviction order.

[The Police can use Section 61 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 to require travellers to leave if they are satisfied that two or more more people are trespassing on the land and the landowner has taken reasonable steps to make them leave (and they have failed to do so). In addition, one of the following also has to apply: damage has been caused to the land or property, or threatening, abusive or insulting behaviour has been used against the occupier, his family or agent, or the trespassers have six or more vehicles.]

Date/Time : Sunday, 23rd September 2018 09:30

Whitchurch football coach receives county award

Alistair Aitchison, AFC Whitchurch’s longest serving coach, has been awarded the Oxfordshire Football Association’s 2018 Respect Award.  The award is given to “a coach who is committed to creating a fun, safe and inclusive environment for all players, who inspires positive change, and always brings out the best in people.” 

Alex Hilton, chairman of AFC Whitchurch, says: “Alistair has been coaching AFC Whitchurch players for 13 years.  He is a balanced, fair and calm communicator setting a high bar that, as a team, they thrive to achieve.  This is a richly deserved award and we are delighted Alistair has been recognised for his years of selfless service to the club and village.”  

The photo above shows Alistair. The attached photo shows the Under-18 team from last year, coached by him from when they were 5 years old. The team has now been disbanded as the players have gone to university.  Alastair can be seen in the back row, in a blue cap.

Date/Time : Saturday, 22nd September 2018 15:45

Travellers are back on Pangbourne meadow

Travellers’ caravans and cars have this evening returned to the meadow near the Dolphin Centre from which they were removed on 26th June.  This time they are reported to have driven their vehicles further downstream and set up a camp further away from the bridge, possibly in National Trust land.  They are reported to be in larger numbers than before.  At the time of writing (7.30 pm) further vehicles are still arriving to join the group.  There are unconfirmed reports of damage to the gate leading to the meadow and of some aggressive behaviour.  

Date/Time : Friday, 21st September 2018 19:42