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Plans for £400,000 Victoria Park cafe in Newbury to be decided tonight

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TODAY will be a big day for Newbury Town Council as its plans for a new café in Victoria Park go up for approval.

The council has been hoping for many years to replace the existing café and storage facilities currently on the park, and in October submitted plans for a new solar-powered, energy efficient café.

The new facility’s kitchen and servery will be significantly improved with modern equipment and counters, and will have toilets and changing rooms for users of the park and to serve the nearby tennis courts.

The existing Victoria Park cafe. (48717992)
The existing Victoria Park cafe. (48717992)

The building will also be the CCTV hub for the park, as well as have improved lighting which will, the council says, increase public safety in the area and deter anti-social behaviour.

The application will be heard by West Berkshire Council’s western area planning committee tonight, and planning officers for the district council have recommended it be approved.

The project is estimated to cost in the region of £400,000, and will be funded by a loan from the Public Works Loans Body (PWLB) – a Government body which provides loans to councils – and the council’s own reserves and community infrastructure levies.

If planning permission is granted, the council will make an application to borrow up to £300,000 from the PWLB and it hopes to achieve a rental income from the company running the café which will be sufficient to cover the loan charges and the ongoing maintenance costs of the new building.

The council says any shortfall in the amounts would be met from projected community infrastructure levies, so the facility shouldn’t have an impact on council taxpayers.

As part of the loan application, the council will run a six-week consultation to seek the public’s views on the café proposals and the funding of it.

The council is also currently on the search for an operator to run the café.

Council leader Martin Colston (Lib Dem, West Fields) said: “We’ve had 10 potential operators apply to operate the café, most of whom have got considerable experience of running similar sort of cafes in the past, which shows the interest from experts in the field.

“We’ll shortly be making a shortlist from those 10.

“The fact we’ve had so many apply – and the standard of the applications was in general very good – gives me great confidence that this will be a success and we’ll get enough income from the operators certainly to pay the loan.”

Plans to replace the existing café have been in the pipeline for many years, with plans for a 70-seater café – including toilets, an external water fountain, an office, CCTV and free Wi-Fi – first submitted in November 2016.

However, the project ran into difficulties when the Environment Agency told the council it would have to raise the building above the surface of the park by 30cm to address flooding concerns.

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