EXTENSIVE work to repair the subsidence damage in Newbury’s Victoria Park has officially started and could take up to a year to complete.
Cracks appeared in the park and surrounding area shortly after developer Costain conducted water extraction works when building Parkway shopping centre’s underground car park in 2010.
The cracks damaged sporting facilities in the park, including Newbury’s historic bowls club lawns and a nearby nursery school.
A five-year legal battle over responsibility for the cracks ensued, with the town council racking up legal costs in excess of £150,000.
Earlier this year, Costain agreed to pay the council a £600,000 out-of-court settlement, which included all legal costs, but stopped short of admitting any liability for the damage.
Newbury Town Council will use the majority of that settlement to restore the bowling club green and tennis courts to their former glory.
It will then start repairing the boundary wall and damaged footpaths, and hopes to have the work completed by next summer.
As part of the works to repair the bowling green, the leylandii trees on two sides of the green are to be removed.
The council says it has been advised that these trees are damaging the green and its surrounds and should be removed before money is spent repairing it.
Some of the beech hedging on the bandstand side will also be removed to allow access for machinery, but the council says it will retain as much of the hedging around the green as possible.
Works to remove the trees started on August 17 and will take around nine days to complete.
Immediately after the trees have been removed, extensive repairs to the bowls club green will start, which includes completely resurfacing it.
Fencing will also be installed to make the green visible from Victoria Park and soil from the greens will be used to fill other cracks around the park, including the football pitch.
Newbury Town Council has also secured a £39,893 grant from the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) towards the cost of refurbishing the tennis courts in Victoria Park.
The total cost for the refurbishment will be in excess of £100,000 and the balance will be funded from the legal settlement secured by the council last year.
The three tennis courts were built more than 40 years ago, but due to the subsidence damage the surface has become cracked and uneven.
The new courts will include competition-standard surfacing, together with secure fencing and a new ‘key fob’ entry and booking system.
The town council will use the system to develop a new Victoria Park tennis website, with fully-integrated booking and court access, which it says will make it easy for players to book the courts online.
Town council leader Dave Goff said: “This is another exciting project for Victoria Park and moving forward it is hoped that the new tennis courts will be used for coaching, competitions and mini tennis for the under 10s.
“A wider range of sessions for older juniors and adults, including some recreational coaching, cardio tennis and disability tennis are also being considered.”
With the planned improvements to the site, the new key fob system would allow the courts to be accessed 7am to -9pm (summer time).
The work is due to start at the beginning of October, with completion by the end of November.
Repairing the park proved to be a painful experience for Newbury Town Council’s park ranger James Heasman, who accidentally disturbed a wasps nest.
Mr Heasman was stung multiple times and subsequently taken to hospital, but is now recovering at home.
The town council’s chief executive, Hugh Peacocke, said: “James, like most people, doesn’t react well to being stung that many times.
“He’s going to have a couple of days off and we hope to see him back at work soon.”