Wed, 26 Apr 2017
“WE are going to have a great local facility for local people.”
That was the answer given to Greenham residents who demanded to know how the parish will benefit from the project to convert the iconic Greenham Control Tower into a visitor centre and café .
However, the response did not placate angry parishioners, who aired strong concerns over the cost to the parish, in the face of no financial gain.
Residents, including several former councillors, took the chance to vent their frustrations during a heated annual assembly, which saw the under-fire council forced to defend its £700,000 flagship scheme.
Councillors denied the project was an “elephant in the room”, arguing that feedback received on the control tower had been largely positive.
Onsite work ground to a halt last year as escalating costs depleted funds, while the council faced criticism over its management of the project.
Greenham Parish Council has so far spent more than £723,981 on the project, with a further £100,000 needed to complete the conversion of the Grade II-listed building.
Councillors again confirmed there would be no financial benefit to the parish from the tower, with a separate entity to be formed to run of the building.
Residents were told that a large portion of the funds had been secured through grants.
Some of the costs will be provided by the parish, with the council setting aside £60,000 of this year’s budget for the scheme (including more than £40,000 of its reserves), while a draft business plan suggests handing £30,000 of the council’s budget to the separate entity over the next three years to assist in running costs.
It was, however, recommended at the meeting that this sum be reduced. One member of the public said: “The parish is picking up the bill and getting no returns.”
Another, former RAF gunner Allan Mercado, urged the council to ensure the project remained a memorial to the servicemen and women who had served at the airbase during the Cold War.
Control tower committee chairman Jon Gage confirmed the history of the site “would be covered”.
He added that the control tower would ultimately be able to finance itself through the café, and rent from office and storage space, but any funds generated would go to the entity formed to run the site.
He said: “We are going to have a great local facility for local people.”
Going on to address the lack of financial return to the parish, he said: “From day one that was made clear.”
The building is expected to be open to the public later this year.