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Flood concerns halt plans for Newbury park cafe just yards from flood defence

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PLANS to provide an 80-seater café in Newbury’s Victoria Park have stalled owing to flooding concerns voiced by the Environment Agency, despite it being just yards from the agency’s flood alleviation scheme completed last year.The Environment Agency had previously said that all new buildings should be constructed to withstand a one-in-100-year instances of flooding, such as that experienced last year.

However, the chairman of the Newbury Town Council’s Victoria Park working group, David Allen (Lib Dem, Victoria), said that it was now stating it would object to the scheme unless it could withstand one-in-100-year flooding incident, plus an additional 20 per cent risk.

Newbury Town Council was seeking planning permission for a new café (pictured, top), with 40 indoor and 40 outdoor seats, catering facilities, public toilets, changing room facilities, an office and storage space, in the place of the existing café building (pictured, bottom), which currently homes a small café kiosk and a storeroom for park and boating equipment.

However, Mr Allen said that revised plans were now having to be drawn up, meaning that the facility won’t be up and running in time for the school summer holidays, as originally planned.

On the contrary, the work was now unlikely to start until September, to avoid construction work taking place in the summer months when the park was at its busiest.

The main difference with the new plans would be the loss of changing-room facilities and the structure would be raised by 75cm to create voids for floodwater beneath the building.

Mr Allen added that the council was in a difficult position because, if they raised the café’s ground level too much, it would likely be refused by West Berkshire Council and result in the costly process of submitting new plans.

Mr Allen said: “The cost of this work is considerable.

“The Environment Agency spent a lot of money raising the tow-path so the park was defended from flooding... they seem to have changed their minds.

“We are still having to treat Victoria Park as a flood plain and that was not what had been said over the past two years.

“It’s regrettable. I have had such positive public opinion for that café and we have been stumped right at the last minute.”

Elizabeth O’Keefe (Lib Dem, Northcroft) said: “It begs the question, the money which Newbury Town Council and West Berkshire Council invested in that... are they saying the defence is no longer of any use?”

The café will cost £500,000 to build, £250,000 of which is being provided by Greenham Common Trust, with the remaining £250,000 coming from a public works loan.

Interest payments will be covered by any commercial business appointed to operate within the café.

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