CONCERNED Thatcham residents have started a petition to save the Priory for future generations.
No longer wanting to be “Cinderella to neighbouring Newbury”, residents have called for Thatcham to have improved community facilities.
They have launched a petition Save the Priory in Thatcham, calling on residents to “stop Thatcham Town Council wasting more than £800,000”.
The petition, which currently has 165 supporters, can be found at www.change.org and searching for Thatcham Priory.
A website – www.savethepriory.com – has also been created, urging the Conservative-controlled council to stop the “panic fire sale” of the building.
Thatcham resident Nick Prince said: “I didn't like the original plan but was won over. I really don’t like throwing away public money.
“Finish the redevelopment and make it work for the residents. If sold, the councillors responsible should make good funds lost.”
John Hicks said: “The plan to redevelop it was well-thought out but the decision to sell is a scandal and a slap in the face of the people of the town who deserve this building and all it can be for them.”
The need for Thatcham to have a central community building was identified in a plan for the town drawn up by Thatcham Vision about 10 years ago.
Addressing councillors last week, the chairman of Thatcham Vision, David Conquest, said he had been approached by a number of people expressing concerns about the future of the building.
“I think people feel that they don’t really know what is going on,” he said. “I suspect that comes from the perception that there has not been much consultation.”
Mr Conquest said that lots of key actions identified in the town’s refreshed plan would benefit from having a working Priory.
“I ask the council that before any decision is made to consider the benefits of the Priory, what it would give us as well as any monetary considerations.
“I understand this is important but there are bigger concerns that people have.”
Town council leader Richard Crumly (Con, Thatcham Central) asked what Mr Conquest thought about Thatcham tax payers being called upon to finance the project.
Mr Conquest replied: “From what I have seen I don’t think the building is in danger the plans in place are there to protect it.
“I was making the point that there was a lack of information. That’s the question you get when people don’t understand what’s happening.”
Priory committee chairman Roger Croft (Con, Thatcham South and Crookham) said that the Conservatives would need to come up with a consultation strategy regarding the Priory’s future.