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New cafe in Newbury's Victoria Park given go-ahead

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PLANS for a new community café at the heart of Victoria Park have been given the green light.

West Berkshire councillors unanimously gave the plans, submitted by Newbury Town Council last year, the go-ahead at a western area planning committee meeting last Wednesday.

The new venue will replace the existing café and storage facilities currently on the park, between the tennis courts and the children’s play area.

A CGI image of the proposed cafe. (48892817)
A CGI image of the proposed cafe. (48892817)

It will be solar-powered and energy efficient, and will have toilets, changing rooms and disability facilities for users of the park.

The kitchen will be significantly upgraded with modern equipment and counters, while the building will also act as the CCTV hub for the park.

Presenting the application, the town council’s community services manager David Ingram said the current building was “no longer fit for purpose” and wasn’t “satisfactory in the modern era”.

Victoria Park Cafe .Ref: 27-1921... (48929824)
Victoria Park Cafe .Ref: 27-1921... (48929824)

The building will be carbon neutral, however it’s likely it will only reach a ‘very good’ rather than an ‘excellent’ BREEAM level – an assessment method which ranks how sustainable a development is.

This is due to the small scale of the café, making it harder to reach an ‘excellent’ level.

Councillor Hilary Cole (Con, Chieveley & Cold Ash) said she was supportive of the fact the building was needed but said the town council lacked “vision and ambition” over the design.

She said: “The current building has been described as bland and uninspiring – I could say the same about this design.

“It’s got a metal roof, which I understand will support solar panels, but you could also say it’s more appropriate for a rural barn than a town centre building.

“I’m disappointed that the town council had this opportunity to have a building that’s going to be more fit for purpose, but they haven’t had the vision or the ambition to do something that’s going to be really outstanding and have a wow factor in Victoria Park.

“We’re sticking with something that’s mediocre, typical public building and I’m sad that the opportunity has been missed, although I’m supportive of the fact the building is needed.”

However, councillor Adrian Abbs (Lib Dem, Wash Common) said the council deserved praise for making the building carbon neutral and that design options were restricted by the potential cost – up to £400,000, three-quarters of which will be borrowed.

He said: “It would be great to have a fantastic, innovative design people would win awards for, but unfortunately we have to look at the budget at the end of the day.

“There are rumblings on Facebook about the amount of money being borrowed to build it anyway, so let’s be practical.

“Who’s going to pat us on the back for spending a few million?”

Now that the application has been granted approval, Newbury Town Council plans to make an application to borrow up to £300,000 from the public works loans board – with the remainder of the funds coming from the council’s own reserves and community infrastructure levies.

It then hopes to achieve a rental income from the company running the café which will be sufficient to cover the loan charges and the ongoing maintenance costs of the new building.

As part of the loan application, the council is running a six-week consultation for the public’s views on the café proposals and the funding of the café.

The public are given one of two options – Option A, that the council should borrow up to £300,000 towards the cost of the new café, or Option B, that the council instead uses its reserves and community infrastructure levies for other services.

Loan charges on £300,000 would be up to £15,240 per annum over 25 years.

For more information on the project and to take part in the consultation, visit https://www.newbury.gov.uk/the-council/public-consultations/

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