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Lack of detail for Thatcham's economic development criticised

Thatcham councillors label strategy a 'light and fluffy wishlist'

John Herring

John Herring

john.herring@newburynews.co.uk

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01635 886633

Council's aims for next 17 years laid out

“NEBULOUS”, “generic” and “a light and fluffy wishlist”.

Those were just some of the terms town councillors used to describe West Berkshire Council’s economic vision for the district.

The district council is currently consulting on its draft economic development strategy, which will run from 2019-2036.

The draft strategy’s aims include promoting the district as an “incubator district”, “creating prosperous communities across West Berkshire” and linking rural and urban areas through better use of technology.

But a lack of detail over plans for Thatcham drew criticism at a recent town council meeting. 

The council’s strategy says that it will “focus on regeneration in Thatcham and will seek investment for this purpose”.

It goes on: “This will ensure that infrastructure and town centre facilities can be upgraded to meet the demands of residents and local businesses.”

However, councillors heard that a bid for Government funding for the regeneration project had been turned down. 

The strategic infrastructure requirements identified by the council for Thatcham are new primary school provision and a new community leisure hub. 

An “upgrade of Crookham Hill crossing Tull Way/Floral Way link, a link over the railway line and an upgrade of the route to the A339” are also featured. 

But town councillors felt there was a lack of clarity in the council’s vision for the future of Thatcham.

Jeremy Cottam (Lib Dem, Thatcham North East) said: “I find this rather nebulous and generic. It’s rather redundant.

“I’m not inspired by this.

“I would welcome a hub in Thatcham, but as we don’t seem to be consulted about the facilities in Thatcham I don’t see how we can progress this.

“I just don’t think that it has any content worth noting really.”

Referencing the new leisure hub, town mayor Mike Cole (Lib Dem, Thatcham North East) said: “How is that going to be paid for? Where is it going to be and when?

“There’s nothing about whether it replaces Kennet [leisure centre] or upgrades it. 

“I hate to use the words light and fluffy, but it’s a light and fluffy wishlist without any targets.”

Town council leader David Lister (Lib Dem, Thatcham West) said there was no reference to the climate emergency declared by the town and district council, adding that there was no indication of where electric car charging points would be in the town. 

Richard Foster (Lib Dem, Thatcham Colthrop and Crookham) said that there were different opinions on having a link over the railway line.

“We shouldn’t say this is good thing to do as we have not had the discussion,” he said. 

“I wouldn’t want that to be something that is taken for granted.”

After councillors indicated that they might not respond to the consultation, Owen Jeffery (Lib Dem, Thatcham Central) said: “If we don’t comment, West Berkshire Council will quite happily say ‘Thatcham Town Council showed no interest’.

“I think it would be very foolish not to review it and comment on it.”

Ellen Crumly (Con, Thatcham Central) added: “I don’t think there’s enough information. Thatcham is hardly mentioned.

“We definitely need to go back to them.” 

The consultation on the draft economic strategy closes on Wednesday, July 31. 

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