GREENHAM parish councillors have reacted with surprise and disappointment to a fresh attack on their management of the control tower project.
Newbury’s Conservative MP Richard Benyon launched a scathing assault on the tower’s redevelopment into a café and visitor centre on local radio last week.
Responding to a seemingly unrelated question on the chances of the Lib Dems regaining control of the Newbury constituency, the Tory backbencher proceeded to dismantle the control tower scheme, branding it a “shambolic vanity project” under the control of the Liberal Democrats.
While the project isn’t strictly a Liberal Democrat scheme, a large number of the parish councillors involved are current party members.
At a parish council meeting last Wednesday, councillor Billy Drummond fired back at Mr Benyon’s comments, saying: “He made an attack on the control tower.
“I would’ve thought that our local MP would’ve been more supportive of this parish council’s effort on getting the control tower back for the good of all West Berkshire residents, rather than make cheap jibes on the radio.”
While chairman Julian Swift-Hook rebuffed the Tory’s condemnation, saying there was “overwhelming positive support” from the public, adding: “It just doesn’t seem to me to make sense that those criticisms should be made.”
Mr Benyon was going the “right way to not get an invite to the opening”, said Mr Drummond.
Despite the angry reaction from the parish council, Mr Benyon this week doubled his criticism of the development, telling the Newbury Weekly News that the project had been “fantastically badly managed” and slamming the failure of those involved to acknowledge past mistakes.
“I would take a lot of persuading to go to the opening,” he said. “If I’ve upset anyone on the council, perhaps they should realise I’m not speaking for myself. I’m speaking from the large amount of letters I have received from Greenham residents who are outraged and former members who have resigned from the parish council in disgust.
“Just a tiny bit of humility from the council would be greatly appreciated.”
In response to Mr Benyon’s initial comments, Mr Swift-Hook, who has been involved in the project since day one, said at the meeting: “The best thing for us to do is simply to deliver the project and get it open so members of the public, including those people who are speaking against it, will see what a fantastic building it is and what a fantastic benefit to the community.
"Not only for Greenham, but the whole community and the whole world.
“This project has international bearings and indeed international support [Mr Swift-Hook explained the project had received a donation from a former US airman].
“We need to try and look forward positively.”