Fri, 23 Oct 2020
NEWBURY Showground could be put up for sale by its cash-strapped owner.
The 177-acre site, which is located in a prime spot at the crossroads of the M4 and A34 at Chieveley, has been home to the Royal County of Berkshire Show for a number of years.
However, the Newbury and District Agricultural Society – which owns the showground – is now exploring the option of selling the freehold of the site, or part of it, to help balance the books.
A society spokesperson confirmed that selling the site was one option, but the preference would be to look at ways it can “maximise revenue”.
They added that the priority was to secure the long-term future of both the society and the showground and that it would be “negligent” not to explore all the ways it could achieve that.
“Substantial six-figure losses” from the 2018 and 2019 shows, combined with a fall in showground lettings income, a large bank loan and the reduction in free cash reserves meant the society entered 2020 with “very limited flexibility”.
However, its finances have been hit harder still by the Covid pandemic.
Almost immediately after lockdown, event organisers began cancelling their 2020 bookings at the showground.
The society was then forced to cancel this year’s show and has already taken the “difficult decision” to call off next year’s event due to uncertainty over what the situation will be in 2021.
An email circulated to members says: “As previously highlighted, the society’s finances were not in good shape before the pandemic made things much worse.”
It adds: “The trustees and senior management teams are acutely aware of the unprecedented challenges the society now faces. The society’s free cash reserves are extremely limited and will be further depleted during the rest of this year, and possibly beyond.
“For those reasons, the trustees have established two working groups from within our numbers.
“The first group, the Fixed Assets Review Group, is looking at the society’s substantial property fixed assets base in order to ascertain whether there are untapped opportunities for income generation.”
The group will also “establish whether there are opportunities to capitalise on the freehold property and buildings, or parts thereof”.
The second group, the Revised Show Options Group, is considering whether there are ways the society can continue to hold shows on a smaller scale.
The society says the “continuing and growing losses generated by the show and its activities are not sustainable”.