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Consultant's report first says Manor Park not suitable for pitch development – then backtracks

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Linear Park in Calcot could be chosen as the site for a new artificial football pitch.

But a consultants report into the feasibility of both Linear Park and Manor Park in Newbury appear to contradict.

One report – commissioned by West Berkshire Council in December last year – recommended against developing Manor Park.

The Manor Park site
The Manor Park site

Consultant STRI said limiting factors such as the gradient of the site and the huge earthworks operation to shift soil would come at ‘significant cost’.

It said the Manor Park site in Stoney Lane also has an oil pipeline running across it, and it would have poor drainage, and so it recommended the pitch be put forward in Calcot instead.

But an addendum letter to that report, sent in June this year, concludes that both sites, Manor Park and Linear Park, are developable from a sports surface design and construction perspective.

A public consultation was launched for the Manor Park site in May. But not the Linear Park site, raising questions as to why Manor Park was earmarked after the experts recommended this site was unsuitable.

“This is just another example of the Conservatives at WBC not listening, this time to experts, and continuing their pet projects at a cost to you and I, the tax payer,” said Newbury Town councillor Stuart Gorely (Lib Dem, Clay Hill).

"The costs this time are not only financial, but also ecological.

“But most importantly WBC refuse to listen to local residents who enjoy this site as it is – undeveloped, unspoilt, green and accessible in an area of the town with very limited open green spaces.”

He re-iterated the town council’s preference for the site of the former football ground in Faraday Road to come back into use.

The district council explained that the original brief was to look at the two most promising council-owned locations for a new grass pitch and comment on their feasibility .

“Subsequently West Berkshire Council went through the annual review of the Playing Pitch Strategy with Sport England and it became clear that, if anything, the demand for pitches has increased, with 59 West Berkshire football teams playing out of district,” said Howard Woollaston, (Con, Lambourn), portfolio holder for leisure.

“To compound matters, the provision of a new pitch in Calcot entailed the temporary closure and reconfiguration of two existing grass pitches for what can be up to 24 months for seeding etc, making Manor Park seem the best short-term solution.”

He said the best solution is to increase the number of artificial grass pitches – because an artificial pitch can supply up to 80 hours of time for training and matches each week compared to the capacity of a grass pitch which can only accommodate six hours of adult play each week for ground maintenance reasons.

Also, he said artificial pitches can be constructed in six months, albeit at a cost, so reducing downtime on pitch use.

“Moving forward in the short to medium term, WBC will need to consider new locations for these artificial pitches to meet increasing demand," Mr Woollaston said.

“Calcot Linear Park has the potential to be a new location for an artificial grass pitch (which would be accompanied by sports lights), whereas the provision of one with floodlights is not feasible at the Manor Park site because of the proximity to local residents.

“The feasibility study does show that Manor Park has the capability of hosting a grass pitch, albeit with some challenges to address.”

The council has yet to submit planning applications for the pitches.

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