Thu, 14 Jan 2021
NEWBURY Town Council has objected to plans to convert the disused Faraday Road football ground into a public recreational space.
Conservative-run West Berkshire Council (WBC) wants to convert the ground – which has stood empty since Newbury Football Club was evicted in July 2018 – into an open space, while also demolishing the now dilapidated clubhouse at a cost of £191,000.
More pay-and-display parking spaces would be installed, and the open space will remain until the district council gets the go-ahead to redevelop the London Road Industrial Estate.
WBC then plans to turn the open space into flats, while Newbury Rugby Club has been identified as the district council’s preferred site for a replacement sports facility.
However, the town council has objected to the conversion plans – with the only Conservative councillor on the committee, Jeff Beck (Clay Hill), abstaining – on the grounds that the application would go against Sport England rules, which require a suitable replacement facility for Faraday Road to be built before any development or demolition can start.
The council also objected on the grounds that there were no adequate toilet facilities for the proposed development – a reason why Sport England currently has a holding objection to the development until the district council offers a solution.
In a town council planning and highways meeting on January 6, councillor Vaughan Miller (Lib Dem, East Fields) questioned why it was tax payers footing the bill for the proposed development.
He said: “To me I feel the demolition is another example of West Berkshire Council using taxpayers’ money to subsidise potential developers.
“If they want this to be developed, which they clearly do, why are they spending £200,000 doing this demolition?
“That would normally be a developer’s cost.
“They seem to think with the amendments that a poster with directions to a toilet a quarter of a mile away in the Wharf would be sufficient to meet the Sport England objection.
“I don’t think that’s good enough.”
David Marsh (Green, Wash Common) added: “I endorse everything councillor Miller has just said.
“This is not acceptable and it goes completely counter to the strategy of this council.
“The councillors responsible admitted there was no demand for this facility whatsoever, it’s just trying to get them off the hook because of the constant way this disastrous policy has been pursued by successive Conservative councils and we should have nothing to do with it.
“We should strongly object to it, regardless of what happens sometime or another at the rugby club.”
The town council also objected to the change in description of the site from “public recreational sport” to just “public recreation”.
Roger Hunneman (Lib Dem, Wash Common) said: “Sport is clearly a much better use of the ground rather than general recreation.
“About 100 yards further walk there is Victoria Park which is available for public recreation and is well looked after.
“I personally feel this area should be used for sport.”