A NEW visitor centre and café could finally be opened in the Greenham Common Control Tower by the end of this year – more than 12 months later than initially planned.
The flagship scheme was expected to be completed in summer 2016, but work ultimately ground to a halt as the project became mired in problems.
A draft business plan from Greenham Parish Council initially suggested the tower could even open as soon as August.
However, at a recent meeting of the Greenham Control Tower committee that date was amended to read ‘late 2017’.
The council purchased the Cold War control tower for £100,000 in 2014, with the aim of opening a visitor centre with café, office space and a small museum detailing the site’s history.
However, in 2015, a damning report compiled by auditor BDO concluded that the council had taken on “a large capital project without the appropriate skills or capacity to assess the risks”.
In December 2015 it was also revealed that Greenham Parish Council had spent £60,000 on a superfluous planning application for the redevelopment – unaware that a previous application had already been granted approval in 2012.
Because of the delays, the parish council was forced to apply for a £150,000 loan to be able to finish the works, an application that is still being considered.
And last month, in a bid to see the project completed, the council decided to set aside more than £60,000 from its 2017/18 budget to the project (including a transfer of £41,000 from its reserves).
The council is now hoping to appoint a qualified project manager who will be able to see the scheme through its final stages.
At the committee meeting last Thursday, councillor Paul Walter suggested a less specific end date for the much-maligned project would be a more sensible approach until a project manager was in place.
“To say it’s going to be finished by August 2017 without a project manager wetting their feet seems a bit daft,” he said.
Meg Thomas told the committee that the end date of August 2017 was “quite a bold statement”.
It was agreed to amend the document.
It was, however, also revealed at the meeting that a charge for entry to the museum area may be introduced if the centre was not found to be viable, once open.
Dr Thomas said a charge to access the museum area “wouldn’t go down well with the general public”.
She went on: “The mentality is ‘this is my council tax – how dare they’.
“There will be letters in the Newbury Weekly News”.
“I just hear time and time again that ‘it’s a great idea as long as I don’t have to pay’.”