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Plans for a 120-berth marina are still afloat

PLANS for Hungerford’s long-anticipated marina are being revived once more as developers try to woo town leaders.Representatives of Lakeland Leisure, which owns the site off the A4, have already met with Hungerford Town Council and were due to meet...

PLANS for Hungerford’s long-anticipated marina are being revived once more as developers try to woo town leaders.

Representatives of Lakeland Leisure, which owns the site off the A4, have already met with Hungerford Town Council and were due to meet with the Town and Manor, which owns the adjacent Freemans Marsh – a Site of Special Scientific Interest yesterday (Wednesday).

The new proposed project off the Bath Road, which must go before West Berkshire planning chiefs, dispenses with previous ambitions for a waterside metropolis with hotel, restaurant, heritage museum and small business units.

But plans remain to build a 120-berth complex, with 10 per cent of them set aside as luxury ‘super berths’, plus a central office.

The project was first awarded planning permission in 2004 following a 12-year battle with campaigners opposed to such an amenity.

The site, almost opposite Cobbs Farm Shop and Kitchen, was originally home to 7,000 pigs.

By 2007 it was owned by Shaw Park Developments, a joint venture between St Modwen Properties PLC and the vendor, the Wills family.

Work began to construct the ambitious, waterside metropolis project but, by 2008, developers were being forced to deny that the project had stalled.

However by the end of the year, former project manager Peter Davies admitted the poor economic climate had killed the dream and the site has been undeveloped ever since.

That was good news for opponents of the scheme, including Tim Williams, a member of Friends of Freeman’s Marsh, who said at the time: “The main objection of our group was to the marina, because of all the pollution it would cause for Freeman’s Marsh and the River Kennet.

“My view is that it is not the right thing for that area.

“The canal has always been short of water, and every time you open the lock more water is lost, so that would be a problem. Once it has been lost from the locks, canal water runs into the River Kennet, which would be terrible for wildlife.”

But chartered surveyor for the new project, Steve Rice, said: “We’re talking to all the right people, to involve them from day one.

“Done correctly, this is a good news story for Hungerford.

“Every one I’ve ever done – and I’ve done a few – even the hardest objectors think they’re brilliant once they’re there and built.”

Hungerford mayor Dennis Benneyworth said after the meeting: “We were told the overall footprint is to be scaled back.

“Of course, the ultimate decision is out of the town council’s hands but we will decide what we will recommend after discussion at a full council meeting.

“If it’s given the go-ahead all we can do is push to ensure it’s done in the best possible way for the town to bring in some extrra employment and tourism.”

Constable of the Town and Manor of Hungerford, Susan Hofgartner, was due to meet Lakeland Leisure chiefs with her colleagues as this newspaper went to press.

She said: “As a general rule, we’re always concerned about any development on our boundaries, especially when that’s such an environmentally sensitive area as Freemans Marsh.

“I await with interest the new plans Lakeland Leisure will present.”

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