Tue, 18 Sept 2018
NEWBURY Town Council have raised no objection to redeveloping the town’s redundant Faraday Road football ground – amid the dawning realisation that there is a severe shortage of playing facilities within the town.
The proposals – put forward by Newbury Community Football Group (NCFG) – include a new clubhouse, changing rooms, toilets, office, conference room and other ancillary uses on the ground floor and a bar and café viewing area on the first floor.
The plans were submitted, despite West Berkshire Council wanting to replace the ground with flats as part of a wider plan to redevelop the London Road Industrial Estate (LRIE).
A non-profit organisation which represents the interests of Newbury’s football community, NCFG has embarked on a mission to save the ground from demolition.
The group has also submitted a separate application for 3G and 4G artificial grass pitches at the ground, which is currently being considered by district planners.
Last Thursday the group held a public consultation in The Document House, Wharf Street, Newbury, entitled, ‘What’s the fuss about – Newbury doesn’t need a football ground – does it?’
Members and non-members of Newbury’s footballing community, and town and district councillors, are being encouraged to attend the event, which starts at 5pm.
At a meeting between Newbury Town Council’s planning and highways committee on Monday evening, property developer Duncan Crook, who is supporting both NCFG applications, put forward his case as to why both applications are “compatible” with the LRIE regeneration.
The ground, Mr Crook indicated, is identified in local planning policy as a vital part of green infrastructure in West Berkshire and complements The Newbury Vision, a document which sets out the council’s and community’s aspirations for the future of Newbury.
Members also heard how the installation of the 3G pitches would improve the usability of the ground, which was recognised as an Asset of Community Value in 2016.
Advocates of the proposal say the 3G pitches will enable more games to be played on a daily basis and will help address a pitch shortage in West Berkshire, as identified by the Football Association in a recent report.
The application is also supported by a recent survey conducted by NCFG, which found that 91 per cent of respondents felt that the town did not have enough quality outdoor football venues.
Mr Crook said: “An artificial surface will have improved draining systems within it and cannot be churned up – it’s a better proposition.”
Elizabeth O’Keefe (Lib Dem, Victoria) asked the developer: “Better than putting houses on it?
Mr Crook replied: “Emphatically, yes.”
He added that “a large chunk” of the combined development would be paid for by The FA, while the rest would be provided by private sources.
The council also heard from Sue Hewett, the first-team coach of Newbury Ladies FC, who added a female voice to the lack of playing facilities in the area for her team.
Up until recently, Miss Hewett’s team trained on just a third of a 3G pitch at Park House School every week.
But demand from other teams in the area to use the school’s pitches is so high that her squad can no longer train there – instead basing themselves at Donnington Recreation Ground, which has no floodlights.
The team are still trying to secure a winter training venue, which Miss Hewett described as a “real headache” for the women’s game in the area.
Adrian Edwards (Con, Falkland) suggested Northcroft playing fields as a viable alternative, a site which he claimed was “currently underused”.
But Miss Hewett was quick to play down the proposition.
“Northcroft doesn’t have floodlights, it’s the same as Donnington Recreation Ground,” she replied.
“We would love to expand and start teams for girls in lower age groups under the Newbury Ladies FC umbrella, but the lack of good facilities prevents this.”
Mrs O’Keefe concluded: “I think we’ve heard enough tonight to see that there’s a need for a high-quality facility in Newbury that is open for both males and females.
“I know there’s an elephant in the room about that whole site, but that’s not what we’re here to discuss tonight.”