Mental Health & Wellbeing in West Berkshire Webinar
Laura Farris MP is delighted to co-host Greenham Trust’s next Community Forum, on Friday 30 April at 10am. Please join this online event to hear a range of expert speakers discussing both the challenges and opportunities that have been experienced by all ages in West Berkshire over the last year. There will be a particular focus on younger people, with information being provided about the resources and support services available.
· West Berkshire Council – Public Health
· Time to Talk
· Berkshire Youth
· Homestart West Berkshire
· West Berkshire Suicide Prevention
· Eight Bells for Mental Health
· Charlie Waller Trust
Questions can be submitted in advance to email@example.com and registrations made here:
HRH The Duke of Edinburgh Funeral To Take Place In Windsor
The Royal Household
has announced that the funeral of His Royal Highness Prince Philip, the Duke
of Edinburgh is to take place in Windsor on Saturday 17 April.
Neighbourhood Watch 'Our News' for April 2021
The latest edition of 'Our News' from the Neighbourhood Watch Team can be downloaded from here.
This month we launch our
PROTECT YOUR CAR campaign. We also look at fleeceware scams, predatory marriage
and much more. Next year, in 2022, we will be celebrating Neighbourhood Watch’s
and we want to hear from you how YOU would like to see this celebrated
nationally. Please take a minute to give us your views here.
We hope you enjoy reading our newsletter and would love to hear from you on what you would like to read more of. Please send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
West Berkshire Council to launch Mobile Community Collect (Lateral Flow Tests
West Berkshire Council will be distributing lateral flow device testing home kits across its district from Monday 12 April.
Community Collect is a government programme which makes lateral flow device testing home kits available to families and households with children and young people at Primary or Secondary School, or College, including childcare and support bubbles. Lateral flow device testing helps with the process of finding more COVID-19 cases and breaks the chain of transmission.
West Berkshire Mobile Community Collect will be in operation from Monday to Friday, with a different specified route around the district each day. The routes and timetable can be found on the council’s lateral flow testing webpage.
The Government has recently announced that everyone in England should have access to twice weekly lateral flow device testing from Friday 9 April. People will be encouraged to have regular testing, so that more positive cases within households are found and prevented from entering workplaces, schools and colleges so that as a society we are able to make a step towards a more normal way of life.
Around one in three people have COVID-19 without showing symptoms and lateral flow device testing helps finds cases quickly – in under 30 minutes – meaning positive cases can isolate straight away. This can be the difference between children being able to stay in school, or a class being sent home due to an outbreak.
Cllr Graham Bridgman, Executive Member for Health and Wellbeing at West Berkshire Council, said:
“West Berkshire Council is making every effort to make lateral flow device testing accessible to residents across the district.
“We urge residents to undertake regular testing, to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and keep children and young people safe.”
Speaking about Community Collect, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock MP, said:
“Regular testing of households and childcare support bubbles of primary and secondary school children is another tool we are making available to help keep schools safe. We know that one in three people with COVID-19 don’t have any symptoms, so targeted, regular testing will mean more positive cases are kept out of schools and colleges.
“As we continue to roll out the vaccine, testing offers us a way forward. Sustained and repeated testing for people without symptoms has a critical role to play as sections of society are reopened by driving down transmission rates.
“By everyone playing their part and getting tested regularly, vital public services, workplaces and educational settings can stay open and running, and we can move closer to a more normal way of life.”
Professor Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director at Public Health England, said:
“These rapid tests help uncover hidden cases of the virus and break chains of transmission, stopping outbreaks before they occur.
“Combined with other protective measures, they are a vital tool to help us lower infection rates and ensure that they stay low.
“I would encourage all eligible households to take up the offer of twice weekly rapid testing – it’s quick and painless and could help save lives.”
All families and households with Primary, Secondary and College aged children and young people are encouraged to undertake lateral flow device testing at home twice a week and report their results to https://www.gov.uk/report-covid19-result, or call 119, 7am to 11pm (lines open every day).
Have your say on public rights of way
Work as started on an improvement plan for public rights of way across West Berkshire - and we want your views.
West Berkshire Council is responsible for around 740 miles of public footpaths, bridleways, restricted byways and byways. There are public rights of way across the whole of West Berkshire, in both urban and rural areas. These form an important network for enjoying and exploring the countryside and travelling to work or school, as well as supporting tourism and good health. They provide hundreds of miles of free routes on which people can walk, cycle, ride horses or use other means of travel.
Our rights of way improvement plan helps us to make sure the public rights of way network meets the needs of the public, now and in the future. Our current Rights of Way Improvement Plan (ROWIP) was adopted on the 27 May 2010 and it now needs updating.
Speaking about the work Councillor Richard Somner, Executive Member for Transport and Countryside, said:
"Many people have used public rights of way more during the pandemic, or have discovered them for the first time. Accessing the countryside and West Berkshire's network of paths has been very important to people for their health and mental wellbeing. We want to better understand the value of the public rights of way network to those who currently use them as well as how we might other residents to discover and make use of them."
The rights of way service is also using the process of reviewing its ROWIP to understand the needs of residents of West Berkshire more fully. It will use the opportunity to make sure the ROWIP addresses the priorities of the area in terms of health and wellbeing, supporting people living with disabilities and mental health issues, regeneration, growth, transport, climate change, tourism and other priorities.
To make sure the new ROWIP reflects the needs of West Berkshire's residents, we'd like to know about your experience of using our public rights of way, and how important the network is to your health and wellbeing. We also want to know if you've encountered any problems using the PROW's, and whether your concerns were addressed.
An online survey has been set to gather people's views - take part before 30 May 2021.
A public right of way is a path that anyone has the legal right to walk on. Some public rights of way can also be used by cyclists, horse riders or motorists. You can use:
- Footpaths for walking, running, mobility scooters or powered wheelchairs
- Bridleways for walking, horse riding, bicycles, mobility scooters or powered wheelchairs
- Restricted byways for any transport without a motor, except mobility scooters and powered wheelchairs
- Byways open to all traffic for any kind of transport, including cars (but they're mainly used by walkers, cyclists and horse riders)
You can explore public rights of way on the West Berkshire Online Map.
National Day of Reflection - 23rd March 2021
West Berkshire Council to join country in National Day of Reflection
Tuesday 23 March 2021 marks a year since the nation entered its first lockdown. At 12 noon on this day, West Berkshire Council staff and Councillors will join millions of people across the country to pause for a minute’s silence to remember everyone who has died during the past year, and the people they left behind who are grieving.
The charity Marie Curie instigated this National Day of Reflection, which has been backed by the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.
Cllr Lynne Doherty, Leader of West Berkshire Council, said:
“On this day our thoughts will be for the people who have sadly died - particularly for those from our own community. We will also think about the people who have suffered a bereavement and are unable to mark the passing of their loved ones in the usual way with friends and family, because of the need to socially distance and the necessary restrictions on gatherings and travel.
“Living with the pandemic has been extremely difficult for us all, regardless of our age or circumstances. Now that we have reached a point where we can slowly and cautiously follow the roadmap out of Lockdown, we reflect on the lives that have been lost and sacrifices that have been made. The National Day of Reflection serves as a reminder to us all to consider how best we can support the people we know who have lost someone close during the most challenging of times that many of us have ever known.”
In addition to the minute’s silence at midday on 23 March, people are invited to join a nationwide “beacon of remembrance” from their own doorsteps, by beaming mobile phones and torches into the night sky, at 8pm.
To find out more about the National Day of Reflection and the various ways to mark it, visit the Marie Curie’s website: https://www.mariecurie.org.uk/get-involved/day-of-reflection
For information on wellbeing initiatives and support for people who are struggling to cope visit the Council’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Resources on https://info.westberks.gov.uk/article/30864.
West Berkshire Council awards nearly £500,000 to successful bids for local community project investments
West Berkshire Council has approved a total of £495,519 in grants for local infrastructure projects proposed by community groups for the benefit of their residents and businesses. The successful bids included the renovation of village halls, clubs, and scout halls, as well as improving sporting and playground facilities, to be implemented by 31 March 2022.
In a first for the Council, the grants, which range from £10k to £100k, will be paid from the Community Infrastructure Levy fund set aside by the Council in its 2021-22 budget. Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) is a levy charged on most new developments within an authority area. The money is used to pay for new infrastructure supporting the development of an area by funding the provision, replacement, operation or maintenance of infrastructure. This includes: roads and other transport facilities, schools and other educational facilities, flood defences, medical facilities, open spaces, and sports and recreational areas. Each of the individual grants will contribute towards the total cost of the schemes. These grants are on top of the 15% (or 25% if there is a neighbourhood plan) community infrastructure levy that is already allocated to parish and town councils.
Councillor Ross Mackinnon, Executive Portfolio Holder for Finance and Economic Development, West Berkshire, commented:
“We are very keen to ensure that the right infrastructure is in place to support the district, particularly as we embark now on plans for our recovery post Covid. Aligned with this approach, we invited community groups to bid for projects at a local level given their insights into the needs of residents and businesses in their area.
“We congratulate the successful bidding groups for their excellent ideas for projects to enhance West Berkshire as a great place to live, work and learn. This community approach to infrastructure planning also fits in well with our communication and engagement strategy for involving local community groups in playing an active role in shaping the future of our district.”
The bidding process was open to community groups and other infrastructure providers and partners in West Berkshire as well as town and parish councils.
All of the successful bids are listed as follows:
- 1st Ufton Nervet Scout Group - The Spire community space - Ufton Nervet (£68,032)
- 1st Wash Common Scout Group - New scout hall (£100,000)
- Burghfield Parish Council - Burghfield village hall (£34,000)
- East Ilsley Parish Council - East Ilsley pond restoration (£14,122)
- Gladstone Memorial Trust - Kintbury village playground equipment enhancement (£12,081)
- Hermitage Village Hall CIO Trustees - Hermitage village hall completion (£28,571)
- Inkpen Memorial Playing Field Trust - Sports and community equipment storage building (£15,000)
- Newbury Cricket Club - Clubhouse re-development (£36,812)
- Newbury Town Council - Promoting “Active Travel” to Newbury town (£11,500)
- Pangbourne & District Tennis Club - Pangbourne Tennis Club - New surface for courts (£12,000)
- Purley-on-Thames Parish Council - Replacement of outdoor gym equipment and enhancement of adjoining play equipment (£16,955)
- SUN Village Hall Trustees – Hall redevelopment to ensure it has a future (£10,000)
- Tilehurst Parish Council - Provision of new multi-purpose community hub through refurbishment (£50,000)
- Trustees of Bradfield Village Hall - The preparation of documents, drawings, and technical design (RIBA Stage 4) to allow Trustees to tender for a new village hall, playground, multi-use games area and site improvements (£59,700)
- Victory Room Trustees - Victory Room refurbishment and extension (£15,045)
- West Ilsley Cricket Club & West Ilsley Recreation & Social Association - West Ilsley community cricket nets project (£11,700)
West Berkshire Council invites community to help shape Active Travel plans for enhanced walking and cycling infrastructure
West Berkshire Council has today launched a set of draft proposals of measures to help the public safely make walking or cycling trips part of their daily travel choices, and is inviting feedback from the community to help shape these plans. The public consultations can be viewed and commented upon via the Council’s new Active Travel consultation platform:https://westberksatschemes.commonplace.is/
Designed to encourage 'active travel' by introducing more walking and cycling opportunities throughout the district, the draft proposals include:
- West Berks Local Cycling & Walking Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP). This emerging draft transport policy is about making streets work for everyone, thus helping to make West Berkshire a better place to live, work and visit.
- Crown Mead Cycleways. The emerging LCWIP has identified the A4 as a primary route with high potential for increased cycle trips if appropriate infrastructure were to be provided.
- Western Avenue Cycleways. The A4 Western Avenue in Speen, Newbury has been identified as a high priority corridor for cycling and walking routes. The plan proposes permanent measures to create and improve travel routes for cyclists and pedestrians.
- West Berks Active Streets. These are various smaller scheme draft plans to help improve facilities and grow walking and cycling opportunities in West Berkshire including proposals for restricted access on Lawrence's Lane and Deadman's Lane in Thatcham and Theale respectively. In addition, if any resident would like to submit a specific walking and cycling proposal of their own, or comment on a location which falls outside of the currently identified schemes, they can do so via the Active Travel Heat Map within the West Berks Active Streets section of consultation portal.
- Calcot Schools Streets. This pilot School Zone/School Street Scheme is designed to make the streets around the schools safer and suitable for more walking and cycling, as well as improve the air quality.
Councillor Richard Somner, Executive Member for Transport and Countryside at West Berkshire Council, said:
“Our Active Travel schemes are designed to enhance the safety of pedestrians and cyclists, including children and adults alike. They will also promote health and wellbeing for residents; improve the environment, air quality and sustainability; and play a key role in COVID-19 economic recovery plans.
“We encourage residents to take to part in shaping our plans by registering onto our specially-dedicated online consultation platform. The platform has been designed to make it easy for participants to read the proposals, provide views, and engage in discussions around each of the schemes.”
The Active Travel consultation platform enables the general public to read and comment upon detailed concept plans and various information related to the schemes, including maps. Some of the consultations feature visual sliders to demonstrate a "before and after" scenario to help residents understand any changes being proposed. Several opinion surveys will be held within the platform throughout the course of the consultations to gauge further feedback from the community.
The Crown Mead Cycleways and Western Avenue Cycleways proposals are each open for consultation until on Friday, 9 April. The remainder are eight week consultations that will finish on Friday, 23 April.
With the exception of the LWCIP, the implementation of the Active Travel proposals will be funded through the £495,000 award from the Department for Transport's Active Travel Fund, following the Council's bid to further develop a lasting, safe environment for walking and cycling.
With their emphasis on promoting health and wellbeing, maintaining a green district and enhancing sustainability, the proposals support the local authority’s Council Strategy 2019 – 2023, Environment Strategy 2020 – 2030, Health and Wellbeing Strategy, Local Transport Plan 2011 – 2026, and the Covid-19 Recovery Strategy.
RAPID COMMUNITY TESTING INITIATIVE TO LAUNCH IN WEST BERKSHIRE
- Community testing initiative to launch to drive down transmission rates
- Testing to begin in West Berkshire to help protect people most at risk, using rapid turnaround tests supplied by NHS Test and Trace.
The community testing initiative, in partnership with the Department of Health and Social Care, is launching at Highwood Copse Primary School in Newbury, to help drive down transmission rates.
Around one in three people who are infected with Covid-19 have no symptoms so could be spreading the disease without knowing it. Broadening testing to identify those showing no symptoms will mean finding positive cases more quickly, and break chains of transmission.
With its targeted approach, community testing aims to reduce the prevalence of the virus in the highest risk areas.
West Berkshire Council will receive a batch of 24,000 lateral flow tests as part of a new pilot to enable local public health leaders to start testing critical and key workers.
Testing will be available for asymptomatic individuals, critical and key workers from Monday 8 February. Those eligible for appointments will be contacted directly and provided with a booking link.
All efforts to find people without symptoms work hand in hand with the existing free testing service for those with symptoms. Anyone with one or more of these symptoms: a high temperature, a new, continuous cough, or a loss or change to sense of smell or taste should book a test at nhs.uk/coronavirus or by calling 119.
West Berkshire Council is looking to set up four testing sites in total in the coming weeks to the East and West of the district to facilitate testing of as many key and critical workers as possible to protect those who live and work within West Berkshire.
There is one PCR test centre in the area which is open seven days a week:
Newbury Showground – Priors Court, Hermitage, Thatcham, RG18 9QZ. Testing must be booked in advance.
Cllr Lynne Doherty, Leader of West Berkshire Council, said:
“Providing community testing in West Berkshire will help to limit the transmission of Covid-19 and give people the confidence to go about their work knowing that they are reducing the risk of spreading the virus to people who are more vulnerable than themselves.
“I urge critical and key workers to take up the invitation to have testing done and see this process as another part of our defence against Covid-19.”
Nick Carter, Chief Executive Officer of West Berkshire Council, said:
“West Berkshire Council is expected to open four testing centres in the East and West of the District soon and I am confident that they will play a crucial role in keeping critical and key workers, plus the wider community, safe against the virus.”
Health Minister, Lord Bethell, said:
“We’ve already come so far since first setting up a national testing programme at an unprecedented pace to help counter COVID-19, but we continue to strive to go further, faster.
“Around one in three people have the virus without symptoms so could be spreading the disease without knowing it. Broadening testing to identify those showing no symptoms will mean finding positive cases more quickly, and break chains of transmission.
“I’m delighted that West Berkshire Council are working with us roll out community testing in Newbury, and I look forward to seeing the results.”
Baroness Dido Harding, Interim Executive Chair of the National Institute for Health Protection, said:
“NHS Test and Trace continues to play a leading role in the fight against COVID-19. Increased community testing is a vital additional tool at our disposal to help identify those who are infected and infectious, but unaware that they might be spreading the disease.
“The work of West Berkshire Council in West Berkshire will be essential in driving down transmission rates. I urge all those living in areas where community testing is offered to come forward and get tested.”
Covid Marshalls coming to the streets of West Berkshire
West Berkshire Council is introducing a Covid Marshall Scheme for an initial period of three months. At the outset, eight Covid Marshalls will begin working across the district. They are part of the Public Protection Service, helping people to stay informed about the latest government guidance and providing advice on Covid-19 restrictions. The aim is to help keep everyone safe by ensuring people aren’t inadvertently breaking any rules.
It is expected that the Covid Marshalls - who will be highly visible when out on the streets of West Berkshire - will be in post by the middle of February. They will work shifts to cover seven days a week. The cost will be met by Covid-19 funding provided to the Council by central government. This new service will continue to provide support up to and beyond the easing of lockdown restrictions.
The Covid Marshalls will have local knowledge and travel across the district. Priority areas will be Covid testing sites, supermarkets and places where local residents shop, markets, parks and open spaces. They will engage with the public and businesses about any concerns they may have. They will also hand out face coverings when necessary.
The officers will also support local businesses by ensuring that they are avoiding bottle-necks by operating effective one-way systems.
Councillor Hilary Cole, West Berkshire Council’s Executive Member for Public Protection said:
“We are pleased to welcome Covid Marshalls to our district. They will engage with our residents and local businesses, providing yet another way to help people stay up to date with government guidelines around living safely during the pandemic. Guidance changes over time, so it’s good to know that these officers are out in our community helping us stay safe.”
Covid Marshalls will not have any enforcement powers but, instead, will work closely with public protection staff and Thames Valley Police, who will pick up any enforcement related matters.
They will also provide regular activity reports back to the Council’s Covid response management team in order to help prioritise future efforts to protect the community.
Covid-19 Vaccines - free online event
You are invited to join a free online event to discuss the Covid-19 vaccines on Thursday, 4 February from 6:30 to 8:00pm. The event is being hosted by Community United West Berkshire.
You will hear from local doctors and our Head of Public Health, discover more information about the vaccines, and have the opportunity to ask any questions.
Community United brings communities together, working to eliminate discrimination, promote positive relationships between different communities, and advocate for equal opportunities for all in West Berkshire.
To register free for this event click here.
West Berkshire Council announces Public Consultation on Proposed Submission for Minerals and Waste Local Plan
Residents in West Berkshire are being asked for their views on proposals for a planned, sustainable framework for minerals and waste management in the district up until 2037.
In order to help guide future development across the district, West Berkshire Council sets out the policy context for assessing planning applications for minerals and waste development in accordance with the national planning policy. Known as the Minerals and Waste Local Plan (Proposed Submission), the document also proposes where minerals can be extracted within the district and considers the need for the management of domestic, commercial and construction waste.
A consultation has been launched today (Monday 4th January 2021) and is open until 11.59pm Monday 15th February 2021. To read the plan, the supporting evidence base, and take part in the consultation, residents are invited to visit https://info.westberks.gov.uk/mwlpps
The plan proposes new sites for extracting sand and gravel at Tidney Bed, near Sulhamstead, and another for sand extraction behind Chieveley Services. Given that the minerals are a finite resource, the plan also encourages the construction industry to use recycled and secondary aggregate materials as well as seeking alternative construction methods. No new waste sites are proposed under the new plans, as existing needs are met.
Speaking about the plan, Councillor Hilary Cole, Executive Member for Planning and Housing, said:
“Living in a mostly rural and very beautiful area we need to think carefully about where we allow minerals to be extracted. In West Berkshire we mostly have sand and gravel, which are vital for maintaining and building roads and homes for our communities. We need to strike a balance between allowing some mineral extraction and at the same time minimising the impact on the local area.
“This includes promoting the use of recycled and secondary materials and other construction methods that don’t use precious resources. The Minerals and Waste Local Plan will help us to achieve these aimswith a sustainable development approach, and I would encourage residents to read the plan and share their views on it with us.”
The Minerals and Waste Local Plan makes up part of the Development Plan for West Berkshire, a series of documents which sets out how the district will develop until 2037. It ensures that future development is coordinated and sustainable, as well as providing protection against development outside of the plan.
The plan includes specific policies for minerals and waste development to minimise disruption to local communities and the natural environment. These include:
- Natural environment – mitigation against flooding and climate change
- Transport – ensuring safe access to the site and that the road network can cope
- Public Rights of Way – preserving Public Rights of Way and/or ensuring suitable diversions can be accommodated
- Agriculture – protecting the district’s best and most versatile farmland
Once activity at mineral and waste sites has concluded, site operators need to complete high-quality site restoration which could include landscaping, enhancing biodiversity in the area or by providing new or enhanced recreational or green space.
Following the consultation the plan will be submitted to the Secretary of State for examination.
Once adopted the Minerals and Waste Local Plan will replace the Replacement Minerals Local Plan for Berkshire incorporating alterations adopted 1997 and 2001 (RMLP) and the Waste Local Plan for Berkshire adopted 1998 (WLPB) for planning decisions in West Berkshire.
West Berkshire Council invites feedback on emerging draft Local Plan Review 2020 - 2037
West Berkshire Council is inviting members of the public to have their say on the emerging draft version of its Local Plan Review 2020 - 2037. The 8 week public consultation period commences 11 December 2020 and closes on Friday, 5 February 2021. Residents, partners and other key stakeholders can read the draft Local Plan Review and provide feedback on the Council’s Local Plan Consultation Portal http://consult.westberks.gov.uk/kse.
The emerging draft Local Plan Review sets out the vision that West Berkshire will be a welcoming place for business, provide residents with sufficient housing, and facilitate well-designed and sustainable development.
The draft plan looks at future levels of need for new homes, employment and other land uses along with the associated infrastructure requirements. In line with published government policy, the Local Plan Review includes the requirements for new market, affordable and specialist housing as well as Gypsy and Traveller accommodation.
The draft proposal extends the existing Local Plan from 2026 to 2037 to accommodate new housing needs as well as adopt environmentally-friendly development measures. This includes new policies for contributing to the health and wellbeing of residents, minimising the demand for energy, and protecting the water environment.
The draft plan also takes into account the Council’s declaration of a climate emergency in July 2019, and as such the plan seeks to have the majority of development in places that reduce car dependency. In addition, the plan proposes policies that seek to make the fullest contribution towards transitioning to a low carbon society.
The plan also proposes working with partners to conserve and enhance the district’s heritage, local distinctive character of towns and villages, and North Wessex Downs area of outstanding natural beauty.
In addition, the draft proposal supports the council’s 2019 – 2023 strategies for developing local infrastructure including housing to support and grow the local economy, as well as to maintain a green district. The plan also incorporates findings from reviews and consultations held since 2018.
Councillor Hilary Cole,Executive Member for Housing at West Berkshire Council, said:
“We are inviting residents and stakeholders to provide their feedback on our emerging draft Local Plan Review, which is our planned approach to the sustainable development of housing and associated infrastructure across West Berkshire until 2037.
“We want to ensure that we meet forecast needs for housing for residents over the next 17 years, whatever their stage of life, income and level of ability. All developments and land uses must be of high quality design and construction, and contribute to an attractive, safe and accessible environment for all. Furthermore, we are very keen to facilitate and support a strong economic base with employment land that provides for a range of local job opportunities.
“It’s important that people get involved and have their say so that plans are truly representative of our District’s requirements. The best way to provide feedback is via our Local Plan Consultation Portal (http://consult.westberks.gov.uk/kse), where any comments made by registrants will be stored for their personal use.”
The Local Plan Review proposes to meet the majority of development needs through an increased focus on Newbury and Thatcham area, with a specific concentration on Northeast Thatcham (approximately 2500 homes). Sandleford will also roll forward as a strategic allocation (approx. 1500 homes).
Additional units will be allocated through Neighbourhood Development Plans across the district (315 homes).
Further proposed sites are listed in Policies SP13-15. Due to the publication of a revised Detailed Emergency Planning Zone (DEPZ) by the Emergency Planning Authority in March 2020, which precludes residential development within the DEPZ, no strategic development is proposed at Grazeley.
The draft review also sets out a strategy for distributing development in the district and the policies for protecting, conserving and enhancing the natural and built environment.
The plan is being produced in close partnership with neighbouring authorities to ensure that cross-boundary planning issues are being taken into account.
Following this consultation period, the amended plan will be subject to further consultation and will subsequently be submitted to the Government for examination in 2021.
About the Local Plan Consultation Portal
The Local Plan Consultation Portal is an electronic system used by the planning policy team to help people to get involved in the planning process. One-time registration is required to access the portal. Registrants can opt to safely and securely sign up to the portal with their Facebook or Twitter account should they wish to do so.
Registering on the Local Plan Consultation Portal will allow members of the community to receive email updates on the progress of the Local Plan and planning policy consultations, view the Council’s consultation documents and make comments online. The privacy notice explains more about how the Council uses the data that participants provide.
The emerging draft Local Plan Review 2020 – 2037 document can also be downloaded from: https://info.westberks.gov.uk/localplanreview2037.
West Berkshire Libraries continue with a limited service during national restrictions
West Berkshire Libraries will continue to offer a limited service during the national lockdown restrictions in place from 5 January 2021.
Library buildings will be open for book collections only, and public use of computers in libraries has been suspended.
Although library members will not be allowed to visit a library to choose books, they will still be able to reserve them via the online library catalogue.
Libraries will also continue to offer the popular Order & Collect service, whereby members who are not sure which books they would like to read can request that library staff select up to five books for them, possibly introducing them to new authors. Library members can telephone 01635 519813 or contact their local library to let staff know what sort of books they enjoy, or visit the library catalogue online to place their order: https://westberks.spydus.co.uk.
When the books are ready for collection, customers can pick them up from any West Berkshire library, including the Mobile Library.
Library members are advised to please check library opening times before making a trip to collect the books they have ordered. Details of all current library opening hours, together with the Mobile Library timetable, can be found on the website: www.westberks.gov.uk/libraries.
Members can return books at any time of day or night via the bookdrops/letterboxes outside each library. For those members who are not able to return their books at the moment, there is a West Berkshire Libraries fines amnesty in place until the end of January 2021, which will be regularly reviewed.
The ‘At Home’ service will still continue to deliver books and audiobooks to people who are self-isolating or unable to collect books from the library because of age, disability or other special circumstance. To find out more about this service, members can call 01635 519827 or email email@example.com.
Library members can also enjoy choosing from the extensive collection of free e-books, e-magazines and e-newspapers. There are plenty of e-audiobooks to listen to as well.
The easiest way to borrow titles is via the apps, BorrowBox and Libby, which can be downloaded from the Apple app store and Google Play store. Customers who have a Kindle tablet (such as Kindle Fire) can download the apps from Amazon. Anyone who has these apps can then search for West Berkshire Libraries and login using their library card number and PIN. Customers who need help with this can drop an email to the library, where staff will be happy to help: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Customers who are not already members of the library can join online to get free, instant access to the e-library by visiting www.westberks.gov.uk/libraries to register.
Library members can reset their library PIN on the website: https://westberks.spydus.co.uk/pin.
Residents are encouraged to check out the extensive programme of activities for children and adults, which will continue online. Just follow the library Facebook, Twitter or Instagram pages for more information @WBerksLibraries.
Covid-19 Insight Research from West Berkshire Council
From West Berkshire Council:
We need your help on how we can communicate key COVID-19 messages across West Berkshire in an engaging and motivating way.
Our Insights survey has been designed to understand people’s views and attitudes towards Covid-19, national guidance and existing communications.
We are offering a chance to win a £50 shopping voucher as a thank you for taking part.
Please follow this link to complete the survey in full. There’s a link on the page for people to use if they want help with translation. The survey closes on Sunday, 22 November.
survey is being carried out by Social Change UK, an independent research
company. All of the answers will be stored securely and kept confidential.
West Berkshire Council Supports Campaign to Wrap up Christmas for those in need
West Berkshire Council is supporting two great Christmas gift giving campaigns this year to show people in need that others in their community are thinking of them.
The Council is launching its annual Giving Tree campaign, which provides gifts for victims of Domestic Abuse and their families over Christmas. This year we’ve also created a special Community Santa project for people who have been experiencing hardship due to Covid and have been nominated by their communities to receive a gift.
Due to restrictions as a result of the pandemic, this is being done digitally this year and the Council is asking people to choose a recipient via two digital pages for Community Santa and Giving Tree at https://info.westberks.gov.uk/Christmas.
They will be able to select a label with anonymised information on the person they will be buying for, for example ‘Girl age 9’ or ‘Man age 82’. Once they have made their choice, they will receive details on how to arrange delivery of the gift to the council, which will then arrange for gifts to be distributed to individuals.
The campaign also provides a good opportunity to support local businesses by buying gifts from local retailers. West Berkshire Council will be using its social media channels to encourage gift givers to ‘Shop Local’ this Christmas, whether online where necessary or in person when possible.
Graham Pask, Chairman of West Berkshire Council said: “We are proud to be supporting The Giving Tree again this year as it has shown great success in previous years and are also excited to have developed the new Community Santa campaign so that more people in need can experience a little festive cheer.
“Although the pandemic has added a layer of complexity to how we’re running the campaigns, we have worked hard to make sure both can take place in a Covid secure way.
“We’ve seen incredible community support and strength during Covid and this is reflected in the number of nominations for gifts that we are receiving for Community Santa.
The Giving Tree remains as important as ever during a time of stress and upheaval for many people who are suffering Domestic Abuse and having to leave their homes in order for them and their families to stay safe.”
“We asking local people to go to https://info.westberks.gov.uk/Christmas and donate a gift to a fellow resident who is having a particularly difficult year. Of course, we know that many gift givers will themselves have been affected so we’re asking them to donate what they can as every donation, regardless of size, is so very welcome.”
WBC Leader to answer questions on Facebook Live Event - 17th November
Council leader will answer questions on Coronavirus response during Facebook Live event
Cllr Lynne Doherty, the Leader of West Berkshire Council, will be answering the public's questions regarding the Council's ongoing response to the coronavirus pandemic next week.
The online chat will be streamed live on the Council's Facebook Page at at 6pm on Tuesday 17th November. Coming mid-way through the second national lockdown, residents can find out more about how the Council is supporting local communities and businesses as well as asking questions about the response to, and recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
Watch live online from 6pm. Residents can submit questions in advance email questions in advance via email@example.com.
Cllr Doherty said:
"Coronavirus continues to have a huge impact on how we are living our lives. Here at the Council, we are working hard to support our communities and our businesses through this difficult period. Next week I'll be providing an update on the response in West Berkshire as we approach the half-way point in the second lockdown, and answering questions too. The last time we did this it was well attended and I hope people will come and get involved again this time around."
Council Leader Lynne Doherty and Chief Executive
Nick Carter write a weekly update on how the Council is responding to
coronavirus. You can sign
up to receive this direct to your inbox here.
Scams - be aware!
Hi everyone, there are a number of scams at the moment and some have been doing the rounds
for a number of years and also some new ones.
New National Lockdown - Thursday 5th November to Wednesday 2nd December 2020
England are now in Lockdown 2, from Thursday 5th November until Wednesday 2nd December 2020 due to the Coronavirus Pandemic.
Although not as restrictive as Lockdown 1 there are still implications. West Berkshire Council have issued us with this poster which we attach for you here.
The Emergency Response Team in the Village are back in operation, if you need them call 07912 565665 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Get Safe Online
This month Get Safe Online's campaign is 'Back to Basics' - providing tips and advice on how to stay safe online. Attached is a useful leaflet providing tips and advice directly from our team of experts.If you'd like to learn more we'd also like to invite you to join an exclusive webinar that is taking place this Thursday 15th October at 11am to raise awareness of the risks of going online and what you can do to protect yourself.
Our CEO and leading expert Tony Neate will be joined by online safety
experts from the City of London Police, Microsoft and the Foreign, Commonwealth
& Development Office. It will be led by award winning journalist Linda
McAuley - so will be engaging and helpful.
We'd love to see you there and if it's of interest the Zoom sign up page can be found here: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_4O-wb9oTQFGlWWsKB8V7Vg
You'll have the opportunity to put your questions to the panel as well as hear from a university lecturer who was conned out of £25,000 of his savings.
Also, a handy guide has been produced to show you all the ways you can stay safe online. Have a read of it here.
Any budding photographers out there? We are looking for a photograph that best depicts village life in East Ilsley to be the cover photo for issue 101 of the East Ilsley Communicator Magazine.
If you would like to enter please email your photographs to email@example.com no later than 26th October 2020 for a chance to have your photo on the front cover.
Portrait mode pictures will work better rather than landscape mode as the magazine is A4 portrait. You can also WhatsApp your pictures of 07912 565665 to enter as well!
Phased Return of Schools in West Berkshire – 1st June 2020
The Wider Opening of West Berkshire Schools
Head teachers across West Berkshire covering all provisions have been working exceptionally hard in the background to fully understand the large volumes of guidance for the wider opening of schools that has been published by central government recently.
The announcement focussed on welcoming more children back into schools, colleges and early year’s settings from Monday 1 June, if it remains safe to do so, whereas for some this might be from a later date.
Throughout this period of ‘lockdown’, council officers have maintained a constant dialogue with heads, both supporting current limited opening arrangements, and thinking through how schools might safely open for more children, in the year groups specified by the Prime Minister.
Cllr Dominic Boeck, Executive Member for Education, Children and Young People at West Berkshire Council, said: “We understand parents across the district have many questions on what this recent announcement means for them and their children going back to school. We want to assure parents that our education team are continually working closely with the Head teachers and staff members in schools who have already been doing an amazing job supporting children of critical workers and vulnerable children since 23 March.
“We know schools have been keeping in touch with parents and carers through newsletters, emails and phone calls, and assisting with home learning; though when more children return and teachers are in front of groups, their capacity to support the latter may be diminished.
“Organising to open educational and childcare settings more widely involves a great deal of preparation work, and school leaders will be organising staff availability, buildings, layouts, systems, and the number of children returning based on risk assessments. Undoubtedly, these arrangements will be refined as we all learn from this new way of working.
“We also acknowledge and accept some parents will not send their children back because they remain anxious. However, it is important to remember that what works for one school, may not work in another and Head teachers are keen to make sure parents are well informed and reassured their children will be as safe as possible.
“For many this may mean the operation of a part-time timetable and rota system. Individual schools will have worked out what is feasible and best, and will be in touch with parents and carers about local arrangements. Though what is planned could change in the light of the government’s review on 28 May and progress on testing and tracking.
“We know how important it is for parents and their children’s mental well-being to have social interactions with their peers, carers and teachers. Children returning to educational and childcare settings in greater numbers will also allow more families to return to work.
“We all look forward to a time when schools can return to something that looks more normal but until then, safety has to be our collective top priority.”
Glass Bottle Banks – update
1st June 2020 all glass banks will be removed from:
- Hillers Garden Centre, Hermitage
- WBC Station Car Park, Hungerford
- Waitrose, Newbury
- Station Car Park, Theale
- Willink School, Burghfield
- Waitrose, Thatcham
- Sainsburys, Newbury
Residents will still be able to recycle their glass bottles and jars in their kerbside box or at one of our recycling centres (Newtown Road, Newbury or Padworth – www.westberks.gov.uk/recyclingcentres)
Additional green kerbside boxes for their glass (or any other recycling materials: plastic bottles, aerosols, cans/tins, paper and card), can be requested online – www.westberks.gov.uk/extrabins
WBC launches Covid-19 Survey
West Berkshire Council is to launch a residents’ survey to gain insight into the impact of Covid-19 on the district.
The survey, which will be available from the 22nd May until 9am on Monday 8th June, asks residents a number of questions about how their circumstances have changed as a result of the Public Health Emergency. It also invites residents to give their thoughts on the Council’s response to the current situation as well as the implications for the local recovery.
It forms part of the Council’s ongoing engagement programme and responses will be analysed as West Berkshire Council develops a local Recovery Strategy with partners in the coming months. The Council intends to repeat the survey at regular intervals in the next year to ensure that any changes to public feeling are considered.
Commenting on the survey, Lynne Doherty, Leader of West Berkshire Council, said:
“We’re really pleased to be launching this survey, which is a key part of engaging with our residents and involving them in our decision-making process.
“The current situation is having an impact on all of us and we are keen to find out more about local people are feeling at this time. Doing so will ensure that the specific needs of local people inform the district’s recovery efforts.
“We would urge all of those who live in West Berkshire to fill in the survey to help shape our future work.”
The survey and contact details for the Consultation Team can be found at:
Paper copies of the form can be requested by calling 01635 503043.
West Berkshire Council working to reopen recycling centres
Message from WBC:
West Berkshire Council is working to reopen its recycling centres as soon as arrangements can be made to do so safely.
The Council is working hard behind the scenes to reopen the recycling centres as soon as it possibly can, once the Government has confirmed that driving to the recycling centres is seen as an essential journey.
The aim is to open both of our recycling centres, which are located in Newbury and Padworth. The Council will also look to collect as many of the typical household waste types as practicable at the sites when they reopen. Further details will be provided once confirmed ahead of reopening.
To minimise the spread of the virus and adhere to social distancing rules, only one person will be allowed out of the car while on site – only bring what you can carry without the help of a member of staff. Only be one car will be allowed in each area.
Residents should not come to the recycling centres if they are:
- symptomatic with coronavirus (COVID-19)
- in a 14-day household isolation
- extremely vulnerable and are remaining at home for “shielding” purposes
A number of changes will be introduced to help maintain social distancing on the sites – in the interest of the safety of our residents and site staff. A robust traffic management plan will be in place to help minimise the impact of traffic congestion on local roads. The Council is also actively exploring the use of a booking system for residents wishing to visit the sites.
Residents need to be prepared for long queues and we are advising people to only visit if they cannot safely store their waste at home for the next couple of weeks. The Council and its waste contractor have been successful in maintaining kerbside waste collections including the garden waste subscription service without any disruptions, throughout this challenging period. Our chargeable kerbside bulky waste collection service has also been restarted after a temporary pause should residents need to use this in the meantime.
Further details about when recycling centres will open and any local arrangements will be published soon on the Council’s website and via relevant social media channels.
Councillor Steve Ardagh-Walter, Executive Member for Environment, said: “I want to thank residents for their patience in recent weeks while our recycling centres have been closed. We’re working hard to open them again as soon as we can but the health of our residents, our waste team and the Veolia crews are our priority. We will only open when we are absolutely sure it can be done safely.”
“We expect demand for the recycling centres to be very high when they do reopen and I would ask people to delay their visits for a while longer if they can safely store materials at home. To begin with, there may well be a lengthy queue to get onto the site. I would ask people to expect a wait, and to be patient if they are coming to the recycling centres in the first few weeks.”
For more information about waste services – including the collection of bulky and garden waste – please visit www.westberks.gov.uk/rubbishandrecycling
West Berkshire Recycling Centres to Re-Open
Message from WBC:
West Berkshire Council’s Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRCs) are set to reopen to allow residents the opportunity to dispose of waste and recycling that cannot be safely stored at home. This follows publication by the government of updated guidance indicating that visits to recycling centres can be considered essential under certain conditions.
From Thursday 14 May both of our recycling centres, which are located at Newtown Road in Newbury and Padworth Lane, near Aldermaston, will be reopened. The sites were closed temporarily on 24 March following announcements by the government of lockdown restrictions. In order to manage demand, a booking system is in place and you will not be able to simply turn up at the recycling centres.
The booking system will be live on the morning of Wednesday 13 May and residents need to book their appointment here: https://citizen.westberks.gov.uk/clickandtip.
When the recycling centres reopen, and to stay within the government’s Covid-19 guidelines on essential travel, please remember that journeys to these sites during lockdown should only be made if waste cannot be stored any longer at home without causing a risk to your health and safety. The sites will be open seven days a week from 9:00am to 6:00pm, with the last booking appointment available at 4:30pm.
Working with Veolia, who are our waste contractors, precautionary measures will be introduced to help maintain social distancing on our sites for our residents and staff protection. We will also implement a robust traffic management plan which will help us minimise impacts of traffic congestion on the local road network and to control the number of visitors to the site at any one time.
Residents need to book an appointment and be prepared for the possibility of long queues. We are advising delaying a visit until things are a bit quieter in a few weeks’ time or to only visit if you cannot safely store waste at home for the next couple of weeks. Our kerbside waste collections for recycling, rubbish, the garden and food waste subscription scheme and chargeable kerbside bulky waste collection service is still operating normally and residents are advised to make use of them, wherever practicable, in the meantime.
Councillor Steve Ardagh-Walter, Executive Member for the Environment at West Berkshire Council, said: “In line with Government guidance, the decision to reopen the recycling sites has been a priority for the Council.
“Staff at the recycling sites will ensure that social distancing guidelines of keeping at least 2 metres apart are adhered to. Therefore we urge all visitors to please be patient and leave plenty of time for their visit.
“The two sites that are reopening will be open from 9:00am to 6:00pm, seven days a week, and we intend to make as many appointment slots as possible available via the Council’s website. Please be patient if you don’t manage to get a booking initially due to high demand. We will collect as many of the typical household waste types as practicable at the sites when they reopen.
“With the reopening of both sites, it means that anyone with accumulated waste, that cannot safely be stored, can now dispose of it properly. Please remember to only use the sites if you have a valid booking.
“We are grateful to our residents for their patience and continued cooperation during these challenging times.”
Making your visit run smoothly
The experience of visiting our household recycling centres will be different and you should only visit the recycling centres if you cannot safely store your waste at home.
Please ensure you:
- Have booked an available appointment online: https://citizen.westberks.gov.uk/clickandtip – this will available from Wednesday 13 May in the morning.
- Check online to see if all waste materials can still be taken to the site.
- Check the site layout when loading waste into your car. Use these site maps to help you when packing your vehicle: https://info.westberks.gov.uk/recyclingcentres.
- Check travel times and any restrictions in place. Please arrive at your allocated time that you have booked online and not any earlier. There may be delays accessing the site and possibly queues of waiting vehicles. Please bear with us as we work safely on the site to limit contact between people.
- Have your permit, or ID and proof of West Berkshire address with you.
- Have a copy of your booking confirmation with you – either a print out or on your phone.
- Only bring what you can physically carry as we are operating a one person per car restriction – our staff cannot help with your waste when you are unloading your vehicle. Under exceptional circumstances only, and at the sole discretion of site staff, two people may be allowed to leave the vehicle to dispose of the waste e.g. if they are removing a heavy or bulky waste item.
- Follow the instructions that site staff will give you and also be polite to members of staff.
- Observe the social distancing measures in place by keeping at least 2 metres apart at all times when visiting the recycling centres.
- Follow Public Health England guidance – residents who are vulnerable, or who are showing symptoms which may indicate Coronavirus, should not visit household recycling centres.
For more in depth information, please read our FAQs.
SSE Priority Services
Message from SSEN regarding power outages and vulnerable people.
SSEN are offering free extra support to vulnerable people during power cuts.
Please share to all those who are considered vulnerable during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Register for Priority Services today:
Fill in the form or call FREE 0800 294 3259
or visit this link: www.ssen.co.uk/psr
The document (including the form) can be viewed and downloaded from here: SSEN Priority Services
Road works near East Ilsley
Update from Highways England:
In 2019 we started work to refresh the road markings and install new LED road studs at the West Ilsley junction, Chilton junction, Milton Interchange, Hinksey Hill junction and the Botley Interchange, to improve safety to road users.
It was hoped that work would be completed during February, however some areas of work still remain outstanding. To complete this work, we will need to close the A34 north and southbound carriageways overnight (between 9pm and 6am) on the following dates:
- Monday 4 May for two nights – closure of the A34 southbound carriageway from the A420 Botley Interchange to the A4130 Milton Interchange, with a signed diversion in place via the A420, A338, Wantage and the A417
- Wednesday 6 May for two nights – closure of the A34 northbound carriageway from the A423 Hinksey Hill junction to the A44 Peartree Interchange, with a signed diversion in place via the Oxford ring-road
- Monday 18 May for three nights – closure of the A34 southbound carriageway from the A4130 Milton Interchange to the M4 (Chieveley), with a signed diversion in place via the A417, Wantage, A338 and A4
- Thursday 21 May for one night – closure of the A34 northbound carriageway from the A4185 Chilton Interchange to the A4130 Milton Interchange
Access will be maintained for emergency service vehicles on blue light calls only.
Please be aware that due to the current Covid-19 Pandemic, all our works are subject to change due to available resource by our Supply Chain, as well as possible adverse weather conditions – please check the yellow signs placed in advance alongside the road for confirmation of the closures dates/timings.
We would like to apologise in advance for any inconvenience or disruption during our work. If you have any questions, or if you’d like you know more about our work please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 0300 123 5000.
Alternatively, to view our weekly report of full closures please visit https://highwaysengland.co.uk/roads, scroll down and under Roadworks click on ‘Check for Roadworks’, then scroll down and under Planned full closures click on ‘Check for Roadworks’ (this will open a Microsoft Excel file that will allow you to filter by day and road).
Area 3 Communications Coordinator
South East Region
Notification of Road Closures: M4 Junctions 12 (Theale, West Berkshire) to 15 (Swindon, Wiltshire) – Resurfacing
M4 Junctions 12 (Theale, West Berkshire) to 15 (Swindon, Wiltshire) – Resurfacing
We are resurfacing various sections of the M4 east and westbound carriageways between junctions 12 and 15, to ensure the network remains in a safe condition. For the safety of our workforce and customers, during the Spring and Summer we will need to close the sections of the M4 eastbound and westbound overnight (between 9pm and 6am, Monday to Friday only).
For May 2020, the following closures are planned:
- Monday 27 April to Monday 4 May – Lane closures on the westbound carriageway between junction 13 and junction 14
- Tuesday 5 May to Friday 15 May – Full closures of the westbound carriageway between junction 13 and junction 14, with a signed diversion via A34 south to Speen, west along the A4 to Hungerford, then north on the A338 to the M4
- Monday 18 May to Thursday 21 May – Lane closures on the westbound carriageway between junction 13 and junction 14
- Tuesday 26 May to Thursday 28 May – Full closures of the westbound carriageway between junction 13 and junction 14, with a signed diversion via A34 south to Speen, west along the A4 to Hungerford, then north on the A338 to the M4
Please note works are currently not scheduled to take place between Friday 22 to Monday 25 May due to the Bank Holiday weekend.
Due to the current Covid-19 Pandemic, all our works are subject to change due to available resource by our Supply Chain. We will therefore provide an update in late-May with the planned closures for June.
The confirmed dates/timings for all closures will be displayed in advance on large yellow signs alongside the M4.
Access will be maintained for emergency service vehicles on blue light calls.
M4 Weekend Closures
Some sections of resurfacing will require replacement of all layers down to the foundations, and therefore part of this work will be done whilst closing the M4 over an entire weekend periods. We are led by the safety of road users and our workers when we plan roadworks. As this section of road is busy and we need time for materials to harden.
These weekend closures will take place on the following dates, which do not clash with the current M4 Smart Motorway Project:
- Friday 3 to Monday 6 July – M4 westbound between junction 13 and junction 14
- Friday 4 to Monday 7 September – M4 westbound between junction 13 and junction 14
- Friday 11 to Monday 14 September – M4 eastbound between junction 15 and junction 14
- Friday 2 to Monday 5 October – M4 eastbound between junction 13 and junction 12
Confirmation of these weekend closures will be provided to you nearer the time.
Significant delays are expected during these weekend closures. We advise you to plan your journey and allow extra time or avoid this route if possible.
We would like to apologise in advance for any inconvenience or disruption during our work. If you have any questions, or if you’d like you know more about our work please email us at email@example.com or call us on 0300 123 5000.
Alternatively, to view our weekly report of full closures please visit https://highwaysengland.co.uk/roads, scroll down and under Roadworks click on ‘Check for Roadworks’, then scroll down and under Planned full closures click on ‘Check for Roadworks’ (this will open a Microsoft Excel file that will allow you to filter by day and road).
West Berkshire Council launches Advice Bot to answer Coronavirus (Covid-19) questions online
Press Release from WBC:
West Berkshire Council have worked with their partners, We Build Bots Ltd (WBB), to develop an Advice Bot which will answer questions and signpost visitors on our website to the latest information they need relating specifically to the current Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
West Berkshire Council has been working with WBB for a number of months to develop a sophisticated AI Advice Bot which will handle a number of popular Council related requests, for example, missed bin collections or green waste. In this time of emergency we were able to take advantage of this relationship to quickly develop a Chat Bot solely related to Coronavirus (Covid-19) information with the aim of easing pressure on our busy contact centre.
Howard Woollaston, Executive Council Member for Internal Governance at West Berkshire Council, said: “We are pleased that our basic text based Advice Bot is available to help answer questions that our residents and business may have during this unprecedented time. We want to be able to answer the influx of queries to the customer services team as quickly as possible and now we can. There are queries, often complex, that are best suited by talking to a human, but for those simpler jobs let’s use the Advice Bot.
“The Advice Bot will give users a series of options to choose from that takes them directly to the information. At the moment the Advice Bot will concentrate on signposting users to update them on Council services that are affected from the Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic along with directing residents and businesses to our dedicated advice and guidance pages.
“The Advice Bot is another way to get in touch with the Council and over the next few weeks we will developing the Advice Bot to make it more intelligent and better able to handle more complicated questions.”
The Advice Bot is live on our website now. You’ll see the icon on the bottom right hand corner on all pages across the website.
Link to Advice Bot: https://www.westberks.gov.uk/
click on purple and white bubble at bottom of page.
Car Park Charging to return in West Berkshire
Since the end of March, car parks operated by West Berkshire Council have been free to help make life easier for key and essential workers at this difficult time.
From Monday 1 June we are starting to reintroduce charging again as the restrictions on lockdown are starting to ease, allowing more people to go to work if they can and for visitors to venture out to the towns and villages across the district.
It should be noted that PaybyPhone is available in all Council Car Parks and we would recommend this option or contactless payment (where available). We are working with our suppliers to add further contactless options in more of our car parks.
Social distancing still needs to be adhered to and there will be plenty of signage across all car parks to highlight this.
Cllr Richard Somner, Executive Member for Transport and Countryside at West Berkshire Council, said: “Like the rest of England, we are seeing an increase in vehicles and footfall across our towns since the restrictions were relaxed a few weeks ago. In turn this has meant that our car parks, which have been free for the last few months, are starting to get busy again as more and more people are heading back to work, shopping or venturing out for their exercise.
“We have received praise from key and essential workers about keeping car parks open and not charging while they carried out their vital roles. Residents have done the right thing by staying home to save lives but we feel now is the right time to start reintroducing the car park charges across all council owned car parks in West Berkshire as we all start to head back into some sort of normality.”
For more information on which car parks are open or closed and their charges, please visit our website.