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Political football as council argues over future of Farraday Road

Efforts to draw the future of sports provision in Newbury into wider debate have been knocked back amid claims that decisions on the town’s future are being railroaded in an undemocratic fashion.

Plans for the new all purpose ground at Faraday Road have been lodged today – further fueling the view that decisions on its future use have been made without debate or agreement from the council.

West Berkshire Council owns the ground, but is also the planning authority – prompting the question as to who agreed that the planning application should be submitted, and when was such a decision made.

Opposition council

The burned remains of the Farraday Road ground mark a new chapter for sport in Newbury (50800027)
The burned remains of the Farraday Road ground mark a new chapter for sport in Newbury (50800027)

Opposition councillors clashed on the matter last night with the Conservative led West Berkshire scrutiny committee rejecting the Liberal Democrat’s stance that the council executive has broken its own rules on use of green space in the town.

They are pushing for the government to intervene asking The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government to take over the decision.

The site, which burned down a few weeks ago, has been empty since the summer of 2018 when West Berkshire evicted Newbury Football Club to prepare for the redevelopment of the London Road Industrial Estate.

Football provision is earmarked to shift to the Rugby Club ground at Monks Lane.

“This is flying in the face of planning policy as relates to green infrastructure,” Tony Vickers (Lib Dem: Newbury Wash Common) told the meeting.

“Other developers will think they can sacrifice green space because of a precedent set by this council. This is a poor example to others to allow Faraday Road consent on the basis that Monks Lane will get permission.”

The council has wanted to redevelop the estate since 2003 and its proposals to start the project fell apart following a court ruling over procurement in 2018.

“We need a full and open debate about this football provision as one set of policies,” said Liberal Democrat leader Lee Dillon (Thatcham North East.)

“Then we would all know where we are going. There is no opportunity to debate in this council. This is another example of it. We believe we should be leading with best practice and we believe the council hasn’t acted properly.”

Conservatives on the overview and scrutiny management committee hit back, saying they were pleased the council had finally started taking a direction of travel for the site.

“It’s about time we stopped playing political football with this,” added Thomas Marino (Con: Tilehurst & Purley).

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