News

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 letter, issued yesterday by SODC’s Head of Planning, 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) ian.bruce@btinternet.com or from Antonia des Forges (07971 859 594) antoniadesforges@gmail.com.) 

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

Equinox art project on time lapse video

Gill Williamson and Nick Brazil have produced a video showing the installation of the spiral patterns of totem poles decorated with terracotta, textiles, mosaics, metal and knitted objects now displayed on Pangbourne Meadow.

See the 2-minute video here.

More than 500 people were involved in creating the many elements of the project, which will be on display until the end of September.  More information here

 

Date/Time : Thursday, 20th September 2018 14:45

Revised plans submitted for Eastfield House care home

Once again, outline plans have been submitted by Ross Heathcare Limited (Majesticare) for redevelopment of the empty Eastfield House care home.  The current application is for complete demolition of the building and the construction of a much larger new one, similar to the scheme presented in the village hall in March this year.  (See our news item of 10th March.)

The plans can be viewed on the SODC website here.  One of them is in the picture on the left, which can be seen more clearly here, and shows the south elevation (facing Eastfield Lane) at the top and the north elevation (facing houses in Swanston Field) beneath. 

The number of beds planned is 48, compared to the present 27.  The planned floor area is 2,712 m2, compared to 848 m2 for the present building.  The number of car spaces is 15, compared to 9.  As in a previous application, the design of the façade copies elements of the Victorian architecture of the existing building.

The Design and Access Statement dated October 2017 included the following statements:  “In terms of scale, whilst the footprint of the current proposals has been amended in places over that of the previously approved scheme, the impact of the building from either the street or from neighbouring properties will be lessened over that which was previously approved.”……“Whilst demolition of the existing building may be seen as a drastic measure, it is felt that the proposed replacement maintains the contribution to the street scene and conservation area and therefore does not result in demonstrable harm.”

The pre-application advice of SODC’s Major Applications Officer, Joan Desmond, can be read in her letter of 17th April 2018, one of the documents viewable on the SODC website.  She concludes: “No evidence has been provided with this application that suggests that the conservation area would be preserved, enhanced or better revealed by the total demolition of Eastfield House. Nor has evidence been presented that suggests that previous officer and appeal inspector decisions were incorrect that those elements of the building that were always to be retained make a positive contribution to the area. If a full application is made for total demolition of the building, it must be informed by a Heritage Appraisal and Impact Assessment proportionate to the significance of the non-designated heritage asset and the conservation as per Paragraph 128 of the NPPF.”

Whitchurch residents may wish to submit comments during the present consultation period, which ends on 5th October 2018.

Update, 14th September:  Roger Pratap of Majesticare has pointed out that in response to the pre-application advice received in April a number of specialist reports were added to support the current application, including a detailed heritage assessment undertaken by their consultants Abbey Architecture. This concludes with statements that “rebuilding Eastfield House in the way proposed would result in no detrimental impact to the character and appearance of the site or to Eastfield Lane” and “Having viewed the application from a neutral position, my opinion is that the proposal will not harm the special interests of the Whitchurch-on-Thames Conservation Area. Consequently, there is no heritage environment reason why this application should not be approved”.

Date/Time : Monday, 10th September 2018 14:21

Second village sign stolen (Report updated)

The plaque displayed on the brick wall of the High Street opposite Eastfield Lane, commemorating the Twinning of Whitchurch with La Bouille, has been detached from the wall and stolen.  The Twinning Association is appealing for the its return.  Designed by the late Ray Honey of Swanston Field, the cast aluminium plaque was unveiled in 1985 and the cost of £187 was paid by the parish council.  The original location, to the right of the village notice boards, can be seen in this photo page.

It is not clear when the plaque was stolen but its absence was first noticed on 1st September.  This comes not long after the theft of the colourful new village entrance sign on Hardwick Road, stolen on 16th/17th August, which cost the community around £1000.  One resident speculates that the two signs may have been stolen around the same time, perhaps for the aluminium scrap value, and the absence of the plaque could have gone unnoticed for a while.

Anyone who can offer information as to the whereabouts of either the twinning plaque or the village sign is asked to report it to parish council chairman Jim Donahue.

Alternatively, information can be given to the Police, under crime reference number 43180274983. PCSO Mark Bell has been informed.

The photo page attached shows both the missing signs.

Report updated 8th September 2018.

Date/Time : Thursday, 06th September 2018 18:41

Controversial cobbles story reaches Private Eye

The almshouses at Goring Heath, also known as Allnutt's Hospital, were built in the 1720s.  Not long ago the trustees of the Grade I-listed building replaced the courtyard cobbles with a modern, smoother, bonded latex gravel surface for health and safety reasons.  These pictures show the courtyard before and after the work. 

When the trustees subsequently applied to SODC for retrospective planning permission they found some support from the planners but objections from Oxfordshire Architectural and Historical Society (OAHS) and from Goring Heath parish council. 

Private Eye magazine, in its Nooks and Corners feature, reports that the parish council is demanding that the trustees be required to reinstate the cobbles through enforcement action, and quotes Peter Dragonetti, chairman of Goring Heath parish council, as saying that “what had been a very charming and characterful setting for the almshouses and chapel… now looks like a shopping centre.” 

OAHS accepts that the courtyard cobbles were re-set in the 1970s but maintains that it is likely that the historic 18th century cobbles were re-used.  It also claims that no proper assessment was made of the safety risk, given that there are smooth pathways of York stone enabling the residents to negotiate the courtyard without treading on cobbles.

Date/Time : Monday, 03rd September 2018 19:13

Bus service is reduced to Saturdays only (Updated)

It appears that demand has not been strong enough, despite some financial help from two parish councils to Going Forward buses, to enable the service through Whitchurch to continue to run on weekdays.  The new timetable shows there are now just three services on Saturdays to Reading (via Whitchurch Hill, Crays Pond, Cane End, Caversham and Friar Street).  The service number varies during the journey from 145 to 146 and 148. 

Buses pick up at The Greyhound at 10.12, 13.07 and 15.12.  The return journey leaves Reading at 11.30, 14.00 and 16.15.  The trip takes 35 to 40 minutes each way. 

A number of regular users in Whitchurch have expressed their disappointment at losing the weekday service.

Update:  Mike Ward of Going Forward Buses has given a detailed response today to an enquiry from Hilary Jensen, saying he still hopes it may be possible to introduce a Wednesday service.  Read his frank comments on the difficulties of organising a bus service with a mixture of regular and voluntary drivers.

Date/Time : Friday, 31st August 2018 12:24

Hard ground threatens community art project

Help is needed for this year’s Equinox art project after the exceptionally dry summer.  Organiser Gill Williamson says: “Last year the Art Cafe Together community yarn-bombed Whitchurch Bridge, come rain, come wind, come shine.  But this year the weather is defeating us - we have 84 posts to put in the ground of the Pangbourne meadow soon and right now the ground is very hard.  We badly need some help from someone who has the right equipment to make holes for the posts.” 

Click here to see the appeal and pictures. 

Over 500 people have been making and decorating the clay pots and at least 5000 visitors are expected to enjoy the colourful spirals - but only if the problem of drilling holes and driving posts in hard ground can be overcome.  If you can help, or you know someone who can, please contact gill@artcafe.co.uk.

Date/Time : Friday, 24th August 2018 17:32

Tickets on sale for Outdoor Cinema event

Whitchurch Pre-School has announced that an Outdoor Cinema event will be held on the village green on the evening of Friday 14th September. 

Colette Rinaldi gives the details: 

We will be screening the blockbuster The Greatest Showman on a big screen.  A cash bar and food will be available, all with the aim of raising vital funds to support our Pre-School.  The event is kindly sponsored by Lamborghini Pangbourne and Warmingham. 

VIP tickets are priced at £25 (including welcome drink and nibbles, chair and blanket in our VIP area plus film), or standard film entry at £15.  Tickets are available to buy in person at The Ferryboat in Whitchurch and at Garlands in Pangbourne (cash only please) or you can email and we will request payment via bank transfer. 

If you are interested in advertising or sponsorship opportunities then please contact us here. 

Here is the poster for the event.

*See a trailer for The Greatest Showman.

Date/Time : Saturday, 11th August 2018 10:25

An opportunity to add new names to the Maze

Now is your chance to add your name to the village archive at the Maze!  A second restoration project is underway for this much-loved and unique feature in Whitchurch.  The existing bricks are getting a face-lift at two sessions (Saturday 4th and Sunday 19th August, 2 pm) and then those bricks that have been damaged by frost will be replaced by new sponsored engraved bricks, at a cost of £20 each. 

The brick maze was designed and turned into reality by local resident Nick Brazil.  He came up with the original idea in 2003 and it was officially opened on 27th June 2004.  The named bricks were sponsored by individuals and local groups.  Peter Woolhouse laid all 2,650 bricks as well as working with Nick on the detailed plans, with lots of volunteer effort digging the trenches and earth moving. 

In 2013, a restoration project was initiated by the Parish Council and the Whitchurch Society to replace some of the frost-damaged bricks.  The community were invited to sponsor more named bricks and approximately 160 additional names were added in this second phase, whilst retaining the original layout of the maze. 

If you would like to place an order for one or more engraved bricks for family and friends and even for your pets, please contact Leslie Prater by email or phone him at 984 5230 by 29th August

Finally, please come along to help with one of the face-lift sessions on 4th and 19th August – more details here.  It will give you a chance to find familiar names of friends and neighbours, and to order your own brick(s) to join this great bit of Whitchurch history! 

News item by Sally Woolhouse.  The photo shows named bricks being added in 2013.

Date/Time : Saturday, 28th July 2018 15:35

Volunteers make improvements to village green

A working party was in action today (Sunday 22nd July), organised by the Village Green Working Group and guided by Gill Goodwin of WoTHabs. 

Parish councillor Keith Brooks said afterwards: “A big thank you to all who turned out this morning to tidy up the village green entrance area.  We set about cutting back the bushes and smartening up the area by the entrance to the car park.  We also trimmed the new hedge and cleared the pavement leading up to the school.  Now people can walk along the pavement and are not forced into the road.  I would like to see some more clearing on the opposite side of the road to improve the safety of walking along Eastfield Lane.  There will be opportunities for people to join future working parties at dates to be announced.  This time we had representatives from the Primary School, WoTHabs and the Village Plan Working Group, as well as other village residents.  We achieved a lot in a short space of time so once again thank you all.” 

The picture (which is shown enlarged here) was taken by Tim Suiter and shows Gill Goodwin, John Bradon, Charles Cotgreave, Tim Hardwick, Leslie Prater, Gavin Jones, Keith Brooks and Laura Lucas.

Date/Time : Sunday, 22nd July 2018 18:43