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Newbury and District Agricultural Society members' last ditch attempt to save the Newbury Showground from sale

FIFTY members of Newbury and District Agricultural Society are attempting to table a vote of no confidence in the board in a last-ditch bid to stop Newbury Showground from being sold.

The 177-acre site, which is located in a prime spot at the crossroads of the M4 and A34 at Chieveley, has been home to the Royal County of Berkshire Show since 1984.

However, substantial six figure losses from the 2018 and 2019 shows, combined with a fall in showground lettings income, a large bank loan and the reduction in free cash reserves meant that even before the coronavirus pandemic the society's finances were, by its own admission, "not in good shape".

The cancellation of the 2020 and 2021 shows due to the pandemic then "made things much worse".

As a result, the Society last year revealed that it was "exploring the option" of selling the freehold of the site, or part of it, to help balance the books.

In March this year, the Newbury Weekly News revealed that 17 expressions of interest in the site had been received and that the society had whittled the shortlist down to eight.

Last week, the society interviewed the final four interested parties, none of which have been disclosed due to commercial confidentiality.

However the group of disgruntled members, led by Great Shefford Parish Council chairman Steve Ackrill, have called for an emergency meeting in a last-ditch attempt to save the showground.

Speaking to the Newbury Weekly News yesterday (Wednesday), Newbury and District Agricultural Society life member Mr Ackrill said: “A lot us life members feel the situation hasn’t been handled very well.

“We feel they shouldn’t sell the site, or consider selling it, without proper consultation with the members, but according to the rules of association they don’t have to as they are elected to serve us.

“Therefore we have taken the decision that the only way of stopping it is to table a vote of no confidence in the board.

“You need 30 members to request an extraordinary general meeting and on Monday we submitted a request with 50 names on it.

"My personal view is, if the finances are as bad as they say, there must be other assets they can sell without them having to sell the whole site . For example there is a 44 acre car park opposite the showground. Could that not be sold off to clear the debts? There must be a halfway house."

A society spokesperson previously said that selling the site was one option, but the preference would be to look at ways it can “maximise revenue”.

They added that the priority was to secure the long-term future of both the society and the showground and that it would be “negligent” not to explore all the ways it could achieve that.

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