Bus shelter replacement opposite the school

With reference to replacing the bus shelter opposite the school, at its regular meeting last night (15th April) Hermitage Parish Council considered carefully all the points raised, and comments made, by members of the public and thanks them all for their contributions. A fuller statement will be published on the web site by close of play on Monday.

Consideration of the design of a replacement shelter was deferred to enable the council to prepare the statement mentioned above.

Please remember that parish councillors are volunteers and are not always able to provide a response to questions and comments immediately.

HPC began discussing the dilapidated state of the bus shelter opposite the school approximately one year ago. A decision was made to replace it and work to find a suitable new one began. For a number of reasons this took longer than expected as it had been thought that the new one would be put in place last summer.

In light of recent comments from some residents, the council decided to take another vote and again decided in favour of finding a replacement. Some residents have made it plain that they disapprove of this decision. When it was made councillors were aware that 22 people had objected to a replacement and seven supported it. Both of these are small proportions of the electorate of 1426 people. A petition was received with 71 names, of which only 50 were electors, but did not say what the petition question was. 

A decision on the design and materials of the new shelter will take place at a future council meeting. The previous bus shelter lasted for 53 years. If a £5000 replacement lasts as long, it will have cost less than £95 a year, less than 7p per elector per annum.

HPC is mindful of the antisocial behaviour that took place in the old bus shelter and has been in touch with Berkshire Youth, Community Support Officers and Thames Valley Police. When the new bus shelter design is being discussed ASB will be uppermost in consideration, particularly with the distress it has caused to the nearest neighbour.

Updates to West Berkshire community transport services in Newbury and Thatcham

13 April 2021

Following the announcement that Community Transport Service ReadiBus will soon cease to provide their transport services in Newbury and Thatcham, West Berkshire Council has provided an update on alternative services that are available for local residents who are unable to use public transport due to poor health or mobility issues. Community Transport Services provide transport for eligible people to attend medical appointments, go shopping or to visit friends and relatives (as Covid-19 restrictions allow).

Community transport groups operating in Newbury and Thatcham include:

  • Thatcham Volunteer Bureau: operates a Car Scheme for residents living in and around Thatcham – including Hermitage, Cold Ash, Crookham, and Woolhampton. Bookings can be made by calling: 01635 862306 between 10am and 12 noon Monday to Friday.
  • Volunteer Centre West Berkshire (VCWB): operates a Handybus and a Car Scheme within Newbury and the surrounding areas, contact:
  • Car Scheme on: 01635 49004 between 10am and 1pm Monday to Friday (people requiring assistance to attend medical appointments should contact the Car Scheme rather than Handybus)
  • Handybus (available from mid-April), phone: 01635 37111 between 9am and 1pm Monday to Thursday. 
  • Shopmobility (available from mid-April), phone: 01635 523854 between 10am and 3pm Monday to Saturday. 

Eligible residents using the Community Car Scheme or Handybus (minibus) will be asked to make a contribution towards the cost of the service. The fee will be discussed whilst making a booking.  When possible, service users are asked to give at least three days’ notice prior to a journey being made.

Information on all community transport schemes operating in West Berkshire, along with details on other local groups, can be found on the Council’s website https://info.westberks.gov.uk/communitytransport

Anyone with specific needs or requiring more information can contact the Council’s Transport Team by email: Transport@westberks.gov.uk or by phone: 01635 519394. 


Patient Info Sheet Issue No: 012 (March 2021)

Welcome to the Downland Practice patient info sheet.  This edition will concentrate on the following issues:

  1. Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update
  2. COVID-19 Vaccinations
  3. Volunteers COVID-19 Vaccination Clinics

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update

The current COVID situation is still very unpredictable, the surgery is constantly monitoring this issue and will adjust the service according to the severity of the COVID-19 spread of infection.   The current situation is being managed as best as we can, all patients must wear a face mask when attending the surgery (unless they are exempt).  Updates on the Downland Practice can be found at the practice website news section www.downlandpractice.nhs.uk.  

COVID-19 Vaccinations  

This vaccination programme will continue from the Newbury Racecourse for the immediate future, please note the vaccines are sent to the site not requested, we do not know the arrival dates of the vaccine till about a week before the clinic, this is why we cannot book clinics too far in advance.  Patients who have been invited to the mass vaccination centres (Oxford/Reading/Basingstoke) for Covid-19 vaccination are strongly advised to take this offer up as soon as they can rather than waiting for the practice to offer a vaccination.  If you have received a vaccine at a mass vaccination centre then they will call you forward for your second dose too book your vaccination at the below link.  Updates on the Downland Practice can be found at the practice website news section www.downlandpractice.nhs.uk


If you have had your first Covid-19 vaccination at the Racecourse or at a GP Practice then you will need to wait until you are called forward for your second vaccination by the GP Practice.  If you try and book your second vaccination with the above link this will not work unless you have had your first vaccination at the mass vaccination centre.  If you have a concern or any problems with the above link then contact  vaccinedq.issues@nhs.net or ring 0300 200 1000.  

Volunteers COVID-19 Vaccination Clinics

Thank you to all of the volunteers whom have come forward to assist in this project. 

Anyone who has contacted the practice about volunteering and has not received a reply should contact the Volunteer team at the below mail address.  Your help is much appreciated by the team at the Racecourse and the patients who are coming in for COVID-19 Vaccinations.


New Social Prescriber

Sadly Karen Thomas has resigned from her post of social prescriber, we wish her well in the future.  We do welcome Nicky Agar who will be taking up the post of social prescriber in April 2021.  This post will be based out of Compton and Nicky will be seeing patients who are in need of social care and input, we are looking forward to Nicky joining the team.

New Paramedic

Martin Hambling joins the Team in Mid-March 2021, Martin will be working closely with the GP’s to provide patients with on the day care.  Once Martin is established he will be screening all of the on the day requests from patients and he will be administering treatment with in his scope of practice, he will be fully supported by the Duty Doctor.  Martin will be undertaking the screening of patients via telephone call initially, if he then feels that they patient needs to attend the surgery then he will arrange for this to happen.  This is a big change for the surgery but the aim here is to free up GP time so that the GP’s can have more time for routine appointments.  Martin comes from a Primary Care background and is used to dealing with patients who need to be seen on the day for their primary health care needs.

Pharmacy Disruption June 2021

The Pharmacy will be undergoing some planned infrastructure work in June 2021.  This will involve the Pharmacy moving into a temporary accommodation that will be situated in the surgery car park.  It is anticipated that work will take about 6 weeks to be fully complete.  There will be some work required at the end of May and we will be updating our patients on the process that will change during this period.  We will still be processing medication from the Pharmacy during this planned infrastructure work in June 2021.  The temporary pharmacy will arrive around the 28 May 2021 and will be open for business on the 1 June 2021.   

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: 

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.

Have your say on our ‘Active Travel’ schemes in West Berkshire

West Berkshire Council is committed to encouraging active travel by introducing more walking and cycling opportunities throughout the district.

The council is taking action to help the public safely make walking or cycling trips part of their daily travel choices. Please select any of the below identified schemes, to learn more about the scheme and provide feedback on the measures we have put in place. Some schemes are not yet defined so a great opportunity to make your feelings known at the early planning stages.

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. 


  • 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.”


  • On 9 November the Prime Minister announced that lateral flow tests will be sent out by NHS Test and Trace to local public health leaders to enable local teams to direct and deliver testing based on their local knowledge. And with nearly 1.5 million lateral flow test kits delivered to 90 local authorities across all levels of tier restrictions to date, locally led testing is already underway across the country. 
  • This offer of a regular supply of lateral flow tests is available to local authorities in all tiers, and we are committed to providing lateral flow tests to all Directors of Public Health who want them, regardless of which other testing schemes they are participating in. 
  • The community testing programme is in addition to that initial roll out of lateral flow devices to Directors of Public Health announced on 9 November but is targeted specifically for areas with high case rates. 
  • The government has also committed to providing the devolved administrations with an allocation of lateral flow tests as they are made available, as part of UK-wide collaboration to stop the spread of the virus. 
  • See latest testing statistics here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public 
  • Lateral flow tests are a new kind of technology that can be used to test a higher proportion of asymptomatic people, better enabling us to identify and isolate more people at risk of spreading virus, and break chains of transmission. Lateral flow devices do not require a laboratory to process the test. Extensive clinical evaluation from Public Health England and the University of Oxford show lateral flow tests are accurate and sensitive to be deployed for mass testing, including for asymptomatic people.