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Hungerford Theatre company in crisis

Storage crisis threatening props, items and equipment

John Garvey

Reporter:

John Garvey

Theatre masks

A STORAGE crisis is threatening to engulf the popular Community of Hungerford Theatre Company (CHTC).

For years the group, which has 200 active members and produces the annual Hungerford Town Show, kept its invaluable props, costumes and equipment in four large containers on farmland in Upper Denford.

However former Hungerford mayor and patron of the theatre company, David Liddiard, has had to sell the land.

Hungerford Town Council has backed a plan to use a corner of the Triangle Field to house the four secure storage units, the contents of which are insured for £25,000.

Last October the town council’s Triange Field management committee noted: “There is no doubt that... there is considerable goodwill and support for the company.

“Everyone is aware that the company, which has been part of the Hungerford scene for (more than) 30 years, will find it impossible to continue on the same scale as at present without a suitable home for these assets.”

A planning application was submitted and Sport England, one of the statutory consultees, indicated: “The proposed development will result in a loss of part of this sports site that could be used in the future to accommodate ancillary facilities for the sports users of this site, such as car parking.”

However, the town council believes the development would improve the layout for car parking.

Meanwhile one local resident has lodged a formal objection, while asking for their identity to be withheld.

The letter states: “Any non-sporting development on the field would seem to contravene national planning policy.”

It goes on to suggest an “adverse impact on the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty” and “proximity to residential dwellings... in a sensitive and exposed location” and adds: “Alternative suggestions for possible sporting use of the land appear to have been discounted.”

The objection concludes: “There is also no objective evidence to support the claim that if permission is refused it will lead to the demise of CHTC.”

There is no indication so far as to how West Berkshire Council planning chiefs will view the application.

But district councillor James Podger (Con, Hungerford) said he firmly supports the application and added: “The CHTC is a fantastic community organisation.

“It provides opportunities for so many gifted amateurs and has provided opportunities for pupils from John O’Gaunt School and the primary school to act in London.

“The proposals will actually involve an enlargement of the car park which will greatly improve the facilities for the rugby club.”

Mr Podger has written to the town council stating: “I strongly support the planning application for the CHTC storage units to be sited at the Triangle Field and have agreed with [West Berkshire Council western area planning committee chairman] Paul Bryant (Con, Speen) that, in the event the application is recommended for refusal, then he has agreed my call-in to committee for their site visit and decision.

“Obviously if the recommendation is for approval then this will not be necessary.”

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