Mon, 20 Jan 2020
THE Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service has angered Hungerford Twinning Association after its contractors broke a sundial gifted to the town – then refused to pay for it.
The sundial was given by French twin town Ligueil 10 years ago and was a feature on the old fire station wall.
When the new tri-station was built to replace it, there was reportedly an agreement that the sundial would be carefully removed and then replaced.
But now town councillors have been told that the Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service (RBFRS) considers it no longer fits with its corporate image.
But the real shock came just one month ago.
Hungerford Twinning Association chairwoman Penny Brookman told a meeting of the full town council this month that, despite arrangements for the sundial to be carefully removed, it was found broken in two and apparently discarded beneath a pile of rubble.
The damage was caused back in 2017 when the new tri-station was built on the site of the old fire station.
But Mrs Brookman told the meeting: “For all this time we were assured it would be replaced.
“Then just last month, everything changed.
“Instead of talking about repairing or replacing the sundial, they said: ‘It’s not our problem.’
“Having waited all this time, that was a shock.”
Authorities stressed at the time that the new building would be a community hub – but permission has now been refused to keep the sundial there.
Meanwhile, a stonemason has said the ornament is beyond repair and a replacement would cost £3,540.
Twin towners want the sundial replaced in time for the 40th anniversary celebrations of the two associations this summer.
Mrs Brookman said: “We wanted to involve schoolchildren, the fire service, the whole town.”
Councillors expressed astonishment that neither RBFRS nor its contractors considered they had an obligation to make good the damage.
The town council agreed that, if the cash could be raised to replace it, the new sundial could be placed on the Hungerford Hub at the library building.
Meanwhile, the twinning association has asked supporters to put pressure on RBFRS to pay up.
District councillor Dennis Benneyworth (Con, Hungerford and Kintbury) volunteered to raise the matter with RBFRS and said he would report back.
RBFRS spokesman Mark Antell told the Newbury Weekly News: “During the refurbishment of Hungerford Community Fire Station, we were conscious of the significance of the sundial and made every effort to remove and salvage it for subsequent relocation, once the work had been completed.
“Unfortunately, during the construction process, it was not possible to remove the sundial from the old building in one piece due to its age, deteriorated condition and the original method of fixing.”
He added: “The sundial was then retained on site whilst we engaged with interested stakeholders to find an agreeable way forward.
“This included constructive discussions with Hungerford Twinning Association, the mayor of Hungerford, the Town & Manor and local fire crews to try and find a reasonable solution that met everyone’s needs, including the wider Hungerford community.
“During a meeting on December 3, 2019, we discussed alternative solutions for the sundial, including a suitable location on the refurbished fire station.
“However, agreement was reached to relocate the sundial to the hub and we understand this was recommended at a recent town council meeting.
“We have offered to help with local fundraising events, to help with costs of restoration or replacement.
“We will continue to engage with all stakeholders to ensure that a reasonable remedy can be found and to understand how we can further support Hungerford Twinning Association in offering our support for their 40th anniversary celebration to extend a warm welcome to visitors from Ligueil.”