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£10m bid to buy Newbury Showground in Chieveley and secure the Newbury and District Agricultural Show for 99 years

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A local businessman has said he will buy the Newbury Showground for £10m and secure the future of the Newbury Show for the next 99 years.

Christopher Mills, who has lived close to the site in Chieveley for the past 30 years, sent a letter to the Newbury and District Agricultural Society last week, setting out his offer.

In the letter, which the Newbury Weekly News has seen, he stated that he was prepared to pay £10m for “all of the land owned by the Newbury & District Agricultural Society in the vicinity of Priors Court Road”.

Newbury Showground
Newbury Showground

It continued that he would then grant a lease, at a cost of £10,000 per year, to the Society to use the site for the Newbury and District Agricultural Show for the next 99 years.

The offer also stated that the site would “only be used for activities consistent with current usage, ie other shows and agricultural such as sheep grazing”.

Mr Mills said: “This is effectively a gift from my family to the local community and the area I enjoy living in.

“It is not subject to any planning permissions; we are going to secure the location and the show for the next 99 years.

“Thousands of people enjoy the show every year and it puts Newbury on the map.”

The Newbury and District Agricultural Society has been approached for comment and in an email to members sent out yesterday (Wednesday), the trustees gave details of Mr Mills’ offer but said they had a number of questions, which they have asked agents Savills to investigate.

The update also informed members that the other option being considered was an “option agreement proposal”.

This offer involves a “very large commercial developer with an excellent track record” and would see the Society paid an upfront premium in excess of £800,000. The Society would then retain ownership while the planning process was undertaken, with the developer exercising their option within the period of up to 15 years if and when planning consent was obtained.

The update said the Society would then receive “cash payments in excess of £25,000,000 and possibly considerably more” depending on valuations at that time.

If planning was not achieved and the option not exercised the Society would continue to own the Showground.

Chairman of Chieveley Parish Council, Mike Belcher, said the parish council supported Mr Mills’ offer and were “strongly opposed” to any sale of the site for development.

Speaking on behalf of the parish council, he added: “We are now aware of a new £10 million offer from a local resident to purchase the showground and part of that deal would be to offer the showground back to NADAS on a 99 year lease.

“We see this offer as avoiding the need to sell to developers for a logistics and distribution centre, solving the current financial difficulties, preserving the showground, enabling the Newbury show to continue and saving the local Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

“Chieveley Parish Council is strongly opposed to the sale of the Newbury Showground for development. Evidence suggests that the Newbury and District Agricultural Society (NADAS) are close to entering into an option agreement that would effectively pass control of the showground to a third party.

“This follows the appointment of Savills as consultants who have identified developers to turn the showground into a logistics and distribution centre.

“We are very disappointed that at no time has NADAS offered to enter into consultation with Chieveley Parish Council or the local communities. We have also seen no evidence that any serious efforts have been made to explore other ways of saving the showground and the show.

“We understand that a group of NADAS members have repeatedly tried to get an EGM but this has been refused by the board of management.

“Part of NADAS charitable objectives states that the society’s aims include “….educate the public in the need to preserve the countryside and the wildlife thereof for the public benefit….”. We fail to see how plans for a concrete and tarmac logistics centre could be seen to further those aims.”

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