Wed, 11 Jul 2018
PLANS to cosmetically enhance Newbury’s six-storey “eyesore” – the town’s BT Telephone Exchange building – are set to be explored once again.
The debate on what can be done to improve the look of the Bear Lane structure reopened recently, when town councillors approved a motion put forward by the leader of the opposition group.
Martha Vickers (Lib Dem, Northcroft) asked the council whether it would act upon its own core strategy in working with all other interested parties and urge the telecom giant – which rents the building – to reconsider steps to improve its appearance.
Last October, Mrs Vickers proposed cladding the high-rise tower in a living wall – self-sufficient vertical gardens that are attached to the exterior or interior of a building – during its next phase of work, which was scheduled for 2018/19.
However, BT turned down the idea, saying a living wall would possibly accelerate any deterioration and that it wasn’t the company’s “preferred option”.
At a full town council meeting on Monday last week, Mrs Vickers spearheaded a fresh appeal and urged the council to ask BT to reconsider its decision.
But councillors cast doubts over whether the eco-friendly option should be pursued.
Council leader Adrian Edwards (Con, Falkland) said: “I think we all agree that the BT tower is an eyesore.
“The greening issue – while we all agree the environment is important – the overall cost is prohibitive.
“Unless someone’s got a couple of million pounds tucked in their back pocket, we can’t achieve the unachievable.”
His comments were echoed by John Gardener (Lib Dem, St John’s) who suggested all other options – other than greening – should be explored.
“It’s not just the greening – we’re trying to improve the image of this high-tech town.
“We shouldn’t shy away because we’re not happy with greening – we should be exploring all options.”
Anthony Pick (Con, St John’s) highlighted how he had included his proposition for redevelopment of the entire site, which he described as the best opportunity for the town.
Improving the tower’s appearance is an objective in Newbury Town Council’s Core Strategy.
It is also one of the council’s aims in its newly-adopted Town Plan for 2019-2036, as highlighted by Mr Pick.
He said: “I don’t think any amount of cosmetic change is going to make it look anything other than hideous.”
Demolition of the tower is not possible as it is host to a vast amount of telecommunications cabling and technology, which would prove costly to relocate.
It was decided that councillors would explore all possible options and negotiate with all related parties in a bid to achieve a positive result.
Mrs Vickers concluded: “I’m obviously very supportive of the greening option, but I appreciate it’s not the only option.
“It’s clear there is a lot of passion for doing something about this wretched building.”