Wed, 07 Nov 2018
THE pull of 100 jobs to Thatcham has lead to town councillors raising no objections to a proposed edge-of-town £8m car dealership.
Dick Lovett Hungerford has applied to build the 3,822sq m BMW and Mini showroom on agricultural land off the Tull Way roundabout.
The dealer, which said it needed to relocate in order to cope with demand, said that the showroom would employ 100 people, including highly-skilled mechanics, engineers and technical support staff, in addition to the sales team.
Despite fears that the showroom would erode the last green gap between Newbury and Thatcham, town councillors raised no objections to the scheme at a meeting last week.
Rob Denton-Powell (Con, Thatcham South and Crookham) said: “Can I just note that I was very neutral when this was first mooted a while ago.
“But 100 local jobs, I think it would be remiss of us to object if it’s going to clearly support local employment.
“It’s outside of the normal employer profile in Newbury... I’m very keen to see this go ahead.”
Saying that he took a nuanced view, Steve Ardagh-Walter (Con, Thatcham West) said the showroom would offer new offices when Newbury had been losing offices to housing.
“I take on board the view of residents, but if it’s a single storey and because the land behind is rising, I would hope that comparatively few people will have an impact,” he said.
Richard Crumly (Con, Thatcham Central) said that Land Registry searches showed the land belonging to the Wallis Trust, the same landowners of the Lower Way field that is subject to an application for 97 homes.
Councillors heard that the land behind the proposed showroom is owned by the Newbury and Thatcham Hospital Buildings Trust for any future expansion of the community hospital.
Sheila Ellison (Con, Thatcham North) said: “It’s an agricultural field, but it’s a self-contained site.
“A few people have lobbied me about losing the bit of green, but it will provide employment and it’s not a hideous building.”
“And it’s convenient for you to service your car,” Mr Denton-Powell added.
Mrs Ellison replied: “I can’t afford to go to them. I go to my local garage in Station Road.”
Recently-elected town councillor David Lister (Lib Dem, Thatcham West) asked whether the developers would have to pay contributions.
“On balance I’m probably in favour,” he said, but added: “It’s putting more of a load on the transport system. BMW might be able to come up with something to encourage electric vehicles.
“I support the 100 jobs.”
Town clerk Mel Alexander reminded councillors that requests had been lodged to improve pedestrian safety in the area.
Saying that the showroom would undoubtedly increase traffic, Mike Cole (Lib Dem, Thatcham North) said that anything that could be done to reduce the risk to Trinity School pupils should be added in.
Councillors raised no objections, subject to the pedestrian safety contributions.
Mr Crumly abstained in case the application went to a West Berkshire Council planning committee, which he sits on.
The showroom’s proposed opening times are 8am until 7pm, Monday to Saturday, and 10am until 4pm on Sundays.