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Greenham Control Tower project stalls again

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Parish council admits "unlikely" to open until at least September

GREENHAM Parish Council’s flagship redevelopment of the iconic control tower at Greenham Common has been hit by fresh delays and it will not open this summer, the Newbury Weekly News can reveal.

The redevelopment of the control tower into a visitor centre and café was first given the go-ahead last September, one year after West Berkshire Council sold it to the parish for a reported six-figure sum.

The project has been dogged by problems since.

Damage to the structure, particularly the roof, was worse than had been anticipated and the council opted to bid for a £150,000 loan in order to finish the repairs.

This setback followed a damning audit which exposed a wide range of failings in the project’s governance and finances.

Moreover, the audit revealed that the council’s control tower working group had been operating “ultra vires” – outside of proper legal authority, for two years.

In the wake of the controversy, parish councillor Julian Swift-Hook, who had been instrumental in securing planning permission in the first place, was removed from the group by fellow councillors.

Speaking to the NWN last week, Greenham Parish Council clerk Roger Chester admitted that it would be “unlikely” that the much-delayed project would be completed until after September at the earliest.

He said: “Clearly it is not going to be open in July.

“The roofing work is just about finished but there is still quite a lot of internal work left to do.

“If I’m honest it won’t be open in the summer.”

Although he would not be drawn on a new opening date, he said it was not likely to be ready until at least September.

Responding to the news, Mr Swift-Hook said that he was “disappointed” by the latest setback and sceptical of the latest timeframe and a tentative September opening date.

He said: “As the initiator of the parish council’s project to convert the control tower into a visitor centre four years ago, I am naturally very disappointed that the councillors now responsible for the project have announced further delays.

“I have yet to see the project plan or the schedule of works that we were promised five months ago.

“Without this it is impossible for me or other councillors to know for sure whether there is any chance of the new September target date being met.

“In my view, it is highly unlikely, based on what I do know. I hope I’m wrong.”

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