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Thatcham 'should have equal share of investment' in leisure strategy

Councillors say that West Berkshire Council should treat towns the same as Newbury

John Herring

John Herring


01635 886633

Parking charges planned for Kennet Leisure Centre

THATCHAM should have an equal share of investment in a new leisure strategy, town councillors have said.

West Berkshire Council’s draft leisure strategy aims to make a more physically active community, with accessible locations, modern facilities and sustainable services.

Thatcham is mentioned three times in the document, the main mention being to “provide additional upgrades to both Hungerford and Thatcham leisure centre sites”.

Town councillors felt that Thatcham had been overlooked again as Newbury’s mention includes investing at least £4m to provide a modern Northcroft Leisure Centre.

Councillors were also wary of a masterplan focussing on Thatcham for future housing and what implications that could have for facilities.

Town council leader David Lister (Lib Dem, Thatcham West) said: “That’s not £4m, that’s at least £4m so it could be £6m or £10m.

“It’s almost like an invitation for West Berkshire Council to spend as much money as they possibly can in Newbury.

“And where it relates to Thatcham Kennet [Leisure] Centre, there’s just a footnote saying it depends on the outcome of the leisure fields [playing pitch strategy].”

Committee chairman Jeremy Cottam (Lib Dem, Thatcham North East) said: “It’s not that they don’t want to invest more, it’s because the site is so confined and limited they are actually finding it difficult to spend money on that.”

Mr Cottam said that the Henwick sports ground and the memorial hall and fields could be possible sites for artificial pitches.

Kennet School and Thatcham FC were also noted.

Owen Jeffery (Lib Dem Thatcham Central) said that if the district council was looking to invest at least £4m in Newbury, other towns should have an equal share.

He said: “This is a strategy to 2031 and whether the Kennet Leisure Centre (KLC) is large enough to permit a £2m extension or something like that is absolutely not the issue.

“I think the issue is that if ... £4m should be invested into the Newbury leisure centre, which I have no problem with at all, I think that’s utterly appropriate, it’s also utterly appropriate that a not-so-similar sum should be invested in giving Thatcham a top-class leisure centre.

“That’s not being rude about the KLC, but it’s saying that that site is under tremendous pressure – it’s used by the school and the public – and somewhere we should be looking at having an appropriate and substantial investment in a leisure centre or improvement in the leisure centre for Thatcham.

“I think putting that into the strategy doesn’t guarantee that by 2031 that’s going to happen, but at least it means that they can’t look back in 11 years time and say ‘oh, well, no one ever asked for anything like this for Thatcham’.”

Executive member for the environment on the district council Steve Ardagh-Walter (Con, Thatcham Colthrop and Crookham) said the document was a “super high-level strategy” looking at sites accessible for residents across the district.

“There’s absolutely no question of putting money into Newbury versus Thatcham versus Tilehurst or wherever,” he said.

“The end output has to be facilities for residents across West Berkshire, obviously including Thatcham, and it’s quite right that we as Thatcham Town Council tell West Berkshire Council not to forget Thatcham – I don’t honestly think they will.

“Investment is fundamentally not a key objective here, it’s provision for service.

“Spending a lot of money and not achieving a more physically active community or more locations for people to do things would be an abject failure.”

Town mayor Mike Cole (Lib Dem, Thatcham North East) said: “This is a document for 10 years.

“We are aware, for example, that there are likely to be considerable pressures on housing development in Thatcham over the next 10 years, which may well identify other areas apart from Kennet Leisure Centre.”

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