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Charity wants to build centre in Greenham

Reporter: Reporter


THE West Berkshire charity, Swings and Smiles, has revealed that it wants to build its recreational centre for children with special needs next to Greenham Common.
It has identified land at the Control Tower car park off Bury's Bank Road as the ideal location to fulfil its dream of building the facility for children and their families.
However, Greenham parish councillors have issued a warning over the suitability of the location, with one councillor describing the plan as ‘bonkers'.
Last Wednesday (October 12), the high-profile charity, which has so far raised £330,000 towards the centre, presented its ideas to Greenham Parish Council, following consultation with ecologists, architects, wardens and planning consultants.
Treasurer, Derek Hardman, said: “Our sole purpose is to create a facility the whole family can enjoy.
“Our journey has taken us to several sites but we hope this is now the end of a long journey and we are very keen to locate this facility in West Berkshire.”
One of the sites that was previously investigated in 2008 was at Ashmore Green as part of a new housing estate proposed by developer Mark Norgate on land at Coley Farm, although the idea was branded as ‘nonsense' by neighbours and was subsequently withdrawn.
However, the idea is to now create a building on part of the land near the Control Tower currently used as a car park, with a community play area to the south, together with fencing, and access to the site coming from the north.
The charity said the car park, which West Berkshire Council spokesman Keith Ulyatt said has space for about 100 cars, would be reconfigured to retain the spaces it currently has, while the recreational centre would have its own additional parking spaces.
Parish councillor David Hale said he felt the charity's proposals stretched across a vast area, although Mr Hardman said the charity saw it as critical to have a large open space.
Mr Hardman added that the charity would expect more than 100 people at the building at peak times, adding that it was the intention to have it open six days a week between about 9am and 7pm, with a potential closure on a Monday or a Tuesday.
However, parish councillor Chris Austin said the plan was “a bonkers idea”, adding that using a public car park for the common to build the facility was wrong.
He added that he did not know what the Greenham and Crookham Commons Commission, of which he is chairman, would say about the plans.
Planning consultant, Chris Strang, told the parish council that the development would be applied for in two phases, with the building in the first phase and the community play area and fencing in the second phase.
Meanwhile, the founder chairwoman of Swings and Smiles, Sian Cook, said the charity was extremely excited about the proposal and believed that this would be the location where it could fulfil its long held dream.
It is likely that the first phase plans will be submitted to West Berkshire Council in the next few weeks.

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