Greenham Common Trust chief executive Chris Boulton
BUSINESSMAN, football fan, cycling coach and DJ – it’s safe to say that Greenham Trust’s chief executive Chris Boulton is a man with a few strings to his bow. Dan Cooper caught up with him to discuss the trust, the need for a hospice and business park in West Berkshire and fears that Newbury is becoming a dormitory town.
OVER the past 20 years, Greenham Trust has given away a staggering £40m to local good causes.
It recently handed over its biggest match funding grant, of £1m, for The Rosemary Appeal to provide a state-of-the art cancer care and renal dialysis unit at the West Berkshire Community Hospital.
The trust has also put in money to refurbish Hermitage Village Hall, Newbury Canoe Club, the
skateboard ramps at Victoria Park and the Falkland Cricket Club pavilion.
In addition, it also helped fund the splash park in Newbury’s Victoria Park.
The man responsible for running the trust, Chris Boulton, said: “Our grants for village halls run to about 110 buildings.
“There are not many communities within West Berkshire and North Hampshire that haven’t been touched by what we have done.”
“It is great because some of the grants were given some time ago and are coming into fruition now.
“It is nice to see these things finally happening.”
Prior to becoming CEO of the trust he held various senior positions in the commercial property world, including CEO of Yoo, CEO of Lambert Smith Hampton and group property director of Regus.
He also ran a flying school with his wife for three years at Oxford Airport as a flying instructor and owned a Tiger Moth biplane.
In addition, Mr Boulton, a keen cyclist, has his own show on Kennet Radio and was recently appointed a governor at Newbury College.
But on the business side, what does he want to achieve?
“I inherited a success story and it is up to me to build upon that and grow it,” he said.
“We have done a lot to improve the aesthetics of the business park to attract employers.
“Going forward, our challenge is how do we facilitate further growth?
“Do we develop more space on the business park?
“The aim is to see the development of the business park into the finished article that can provide what the business community needs locally.
“There are currently 44 acres left of the park – a third – which can be redeveloped.
“We have got three large building opportunities we are working on, two with existing occupiers and one with an occupier who is relocating from outside the area.
“It is also looking at what the trust can do in terms of property and involvement in other large strategic sites and continuing to looking at the needs of the community.
“For example, there isn’t currently a hospice in West Berkshire, except for a very small facility at West Berkshire Hospital.
“The question is, is there a need? We believe there probably is.
“More work needs to be done and someone will have to sponsor it, but it is something that needs to be looked at potentially.”
What does he think about Newbury being labelled a ‘dormitory town’?
“There are a lot of discussions about it. In my view it already is,” he said.
“If you look at all the other Thames Valley towns, they all address the M4.
“If you are coming west from Heathrow, you get Slough, Maidenhead and get to Reading, you can see Green Park visibly from the M4.
“When you go through Theale, it just opens up into this green and pleasant land and then it keeps on going until you get to Swindon, then hey presto you can see Swindon, but you can’t see Newbury.
“It has got all the attributes of a medieval market town, but from an economic development point of view it doesn’t shout in the face of the world ‘hey, we are here’.
“To stem that tide of businesses not coming here and potentially looking to go, we have got to create employment land really.”
Does he think a business park off the M4 would help?
“I think Newbury desperately needs that,” he said.
“Obviously there are ecological and environmental issues in terms of the AONB, but we need it if we are to compete well into the 21st century.
“Greenham Business Park is a large strategic site and we have done incredibly well from that, but we are only playing to certain parts of the market – mainly food producers, manufacturers and distributors.
“However, large scale office users need somewhere else.
“We want Newbury, West Berkshire and North Hampshire to be prosperous and to do that we need to attract and retain inward
“Because of what Chieveley offers it is a pretty good strategic location for a business park on the crossroads of the A34 and M4.”