DRASTIC changes to the Henwick Worthy playing fields are being proposed including a new BMX track, an artificial pitch and car parking.
The sports field officially opened in 1996 after councillors appealed to keep the area for desperately needed recreation space in Thatcham. The use of the field has increased from local clubs to those from the outskirts of Reading and Tadley.
The cost of running the site is split between West Berkshire Council and Thatcham Town Council, which leases the site from the district council. The grounds are run by the Henwick Worthy Joint Management Committee, made up of town and district councillors.
The committee launched a consultation with residents on Saturday over three alterations to the sports ground.
The proposals include increasing the number of car parking spaces by 60 – up to 190 – by converting the overflow parking area north of the existing car park.
In a letter to residents the chairwoman of the Henwick JMC, Marigold Jaques, said that there were not enough spaces at peak times, which resulted in vehicles overspilling into residential roads.
A new artifical pitch is also being fielded. The existing pitch is used by the 350 members of Newbury and Thatcham Hockey Club and demand is exceeding capacity. The new pitch is planned to replace the three tennis courts at the north of field.
Funding for the expanded car park and new pitch will come from £400,000 of developers contributions from the housing development at Newbury Racecourse. The hockey club will have to contribute additional funds for the new pitch.
Long-awaited plans for a BMX track in memory of Thatcham resident Tom Slater are also included.
Tom, aged 17, was killed in a collision in 2012 and his family have raised £25,000 to build a BMX track in his memory. Plans for the track at the north of the field did not find favour with residents, however.
The Henwick JMC is now proposing to replace the existing track to enhance the existing facilities.
Vice-chairman Nathan Gregory said that the three proposals represented a landmark investment for the site.
“It’s a West Berkshire Council facility and we want to make a good facility outstanding,” he said. “Two good sports organisations use the site and we need to make sure that it is fit for purpose.
“It’s not just about local residents, it’s about other site users as well.
“The artifical pitch will bring in more revenue to help bring in a balanced budget and provide a viable facility for local residents.”
Mr Gregory said it would be best to make the dramatic changes to the site in one go, but he was concerned about the displacement of traffic while the work was going on.
All proposals are subject to planning permission.
Following the consultation the committee will make a recommendation to Thatcham Town Council.
Comments can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org
A public meeting is scheduled to be held on Tuesday, May 3, at 7pm at Newbury and Thatcham Hockey clubhouse at the sports ground. when residents will have an opportunity to comment on the proposals.