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Englefield Estate keeping out of Theale primary school row

Newbury MP's family estate says it won't step in to terminate parish council's lease

Dan Cooper

Reporter:

Dan Cooper

Contact:

01635 886632

Application for Theale Primary School replacement submitted

NEWBURY MP Richard Benyon says his family estate won’t step in to resolve the dispute about whether a new primary school should be built on the North Street playing fields in Theale.

The Englefield Estate owns the fields which West Berkshire Council claims is the only suitable site for the school, and leases the land to Theale Parish Council.

However, as previously reported by this paper, the parish council feels that this is the wrong place for the school and has so far refused to relinquish the land.

This week, the estate, of which Mr Benyon is chairman, insisted it would not look to terminate the lease before it expires in 2029.

At a Theale Parish Council meeting last week, one resident asked: “I didn’t think it was your land to sell? I thought you just had a lease on it?”

Parish council clerk Jo Friend replied by saying: “The lease is an asset, a public asset.”

The resident responded: “But it is not actually you selling the land?”

Mrs Friend said: “If you look at it like a cake, for instance, Englefield Estate own the cake and we own the icing on the top.

“The estate cannot sell the land underneath us without getting rid of us at the top.

“We own that asset and that has a value. It is a parish council asset, a public asset.”

Another resident asked: “Can you confirm whether or not you have received any offer from the freeholder of the land to extend your leasehold?

“Has he been offered any money, has he been offered anything at all for your interest in it?”

To which chairwoman Becky Williams replied: “No, nothing. Nothing whatsoever.”

A spokesperson for the Englefield Estate said: “The lease has a fixed term which runs until 2029 and so it will not expire until then unless Theale Parish Council decide to release the land early.

“Since West Berkshire Council identified the North Street site as the best location for a new primary school in Theale, we have sought to assist both West Berkshire and Theale Parish Councils in delivering the new school by offering additional land to provide a football pitch for community use, to offset land lost to the new school building.”

Mr Benyon said: “It is not my constituency and I think it is up to Theale to sort out.

“The estate has co-operated fully at every stage.”

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