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Benyon blasts control tower project

Tory MP labels redevelopment scheme a “shambolic vanity project”

Chris Ord


01635 886639

Benyon blasts control tower project

GREENHAM parish councillors have reacted with surprise and disappointment to a fresh attack on their management of the control tower project.

Newbury’s Conservative MP Richard Benyon launched a scathing assault on the tower’s redevelopment into a café and visitor centre on local radio last week.

Responding to a seemingly unrelated question on the chances of the Lib Dems regaining control of the Newbury constituency, the Tory backbencher proceeded to dismantle the control tower scheme, branding it a “shambolic vanity project” under the control of the Liberal Democrats.

While the project isn’t strictly a Liberal Democrat scheme, a large number of the parish councillors involved are current party members.

At a parish council meeting last Wednesday, councillor Billy Drummond fired back at Mr Benyon’s comments, saying: “He made an attack on the control tower.

“I would’ve thought that our local MP would’ve been more supportive of this parish council’s effort on getting the control tower back for the good of all West Berkshire residents, rather than make cheap jibes on the radio.”

While chairman Julian Swift-Hook rebuffed the Tory’s condemnation, saying there was “overwhelming positive support” from the public, adding: “It just doesn’t seem to me to make sense that those criticisms should be made.”

Mr Benyon was going the “right way to not get an invite to the opening”, said Mr Drummond.

Despite the angry reaction from the parish council, Mr Benyon this week doubled his criticism of the development, telling the Newbury Weekly News that the project had been “fantastically badly managed” and slamming the failure of those involved to acknowledge past mistakes.

“I would take a lot of persuading to go to the opening,” he said. “If I’ve upset anyone on the council, perhaps they should realise I’m not speaking for myself. I’m speaking from the large amount of letters I have received from Greenham residents who are outraged and former members who have resigned from the parish council in disgust.

“Just a tiny bit of humility from the council would be greatly appreciated.”

In response to Mr Benyon’s initial comments, Mr Swift-Hook, who has been involved in the project since day one, said at the meeting: “The best thing for us to do is simply to deliver the project and get it open so members of the public, including those people who are speaking against it, will see what a fantastic building it is and what a fantastic benefit to the community.

"Not only for Greenham, but the whole community and the whole world.

“This project has international bearings and indeed international support [Mr Swift-Hook explained the project had received a donation from a former US airman].

“We need to try and look forward positively.”

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Article comments

  • EugeneStryker

    06/10/2017 - 12:12

    Am I missing something? Isn't there an external private contractor that the Parish Council have engaged to cost and run the project or has Swift-Hook been trying to do it himself? Either way, it is a bit laughable for anyone in Government (past and present) to condemn shambolic vanity projects. At least Benyon does what he can to stop the same thing happening with multi-billion pound projects like HS2 . . . uh, no, my mistake he couldn't make the votes to oppose it. He must have been somewhere solving the homeless crisis . . . uh, no my mistake I have just read the reports from Crisis; homelessness is getting worse. He must be . . . what does he do?


  • Tommy

    05/10/2017 - 12:12

    Not a big fan of Richard Benyon but for once he's talking some sense here.


  • Racegoer

    05/10/2017 - 10:10

    Councils are almost always too free and easy with ratepayers money. £1M is far too much for this project that could incur yet more costs and also not cover its running costs. Poor financial management.


  • Browntrout

    05/10/2017 - 09:09

    OK Mr Benyon - We agree. As you are our MP what are you going to do about it? At what point does this Stupidity and Mismanagement become Criminal? Nearly £1M spent on this project horrifies me - There must be a Public Enquiry into this debacle! This is not a good use of either Public or Private funding.