More than 80 objections lodged to save Harris Mind and Body being evicted from The Grange, Thatcham
PEOPLE have rallied to try to save a Thatcham business from being forced out of its home.
As reported in last week's Newbury Weekly News, Phoenix Learning and Care has applied to change the use of The Grange Nursery in Church Gate to a special education needs (SEN) school to accommodate up to 60 pupils and 25 members of staff.
The application states "that the number of traffic trips would be significantly reduced when the loss of office space and physiotherapists was taken into account."
Harris Mind and Body, which occupies The Atrium on site, said that they were only made aware of the implications for their business on June 6, despite the plans being lodged in April.
More than 80 objections have been lodged since Harris Mind and Body owners Phil and Sarah Harris started an appeal on June 7 to keep their business on site.
Mr Harris said: "It came as a big shock to us that it was part of the plans. If the plans went through it would result in the loss of a facility to the local community.
"We've had absolutely no consultation. We've been absolutely blind-sided by it."
One objection reads: "Phil, Sarah and the team provide an invaluable service to the community of West Berkshire. To those in this community who require support to enable them to, in turn go on and carry out their caring, educational or support roles in the community. Their importance to the area is not to be underestimated.
"I understand the need for this school but I do not understand the logic of evicting a business that is of proven benefit to the community of Thatcham and I do not believe that every opportunity to look at alternatives has been exhausted."
Mr and Mrs Harris said they had seen the orange planning signs at the site and thought the application only covered the main building.
It was only after they heard from a neighbour and checked the detail in the application that they learned that their business could be lost.
Mr Harris said that Raytheon, which has offices at the site, had not been consulted either.
The physiotherapists opened on the site in 2016, combining Mr Harris' physio work from the Newbury Clinic in Enborne Road, and Mrs Harris running Pilates classes around West Berkshire.
It is also a teacher training school and has provided an NHS contract.
The couple said that they were not opposing the need for an SEN school within the empty buildings on site.
Mr Harris said: "We're not against the provision of a special education needs site, that's not our objection. It's the disruption to an established family-run business and the lack of communication from our landlords, and our concerns for the future of the business.
"You can't just pick up a physiotherapists clinic and drop it somewhere else, plus the service it provides the local community. People come across West Berkshire, North Hampshire and Wiltshire to see us and use our facilities.
"One of the reasons we chose The Atrium was because of its location and its access for people with disabilities and the ability to get parking provision."
The couple said: "We would like our voice to be heard – that we too offer services for our local community and would like to stay.
"In an ideal world we could all exist within the grounds of the Grange. That this planning application is not accepted for the entire Grange just the empty buildings. That Harris Mind and Body can continue at The Atrium (first barn) for many years to come."
The plans can be viewed by entering 21/01086/COMIND into West Berkshire Council's planning website.