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Support for plans to convert Travellers Friend in Crookham to home for autistic people

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Thatcham Town Council raise no objection

SUPPORT is growing for plans to convert a pub into homes for people with autism and learning disabilities.

Transforming Developments Ltd has applied to change the use of The Travellers Friend in Crookham Common Road to residential institutional use.

The existing village shop on the site will be retained and provide an opportunity for people living in the new accommodation to work in it.

Planning documents say that the development will provide accommodation for 18 people with autism and learning disabilities.

Speaking at a Thatcham Town Council meeting, Nexus Planning associate director Andrew Somerville said that the Travellers Friend had been “struggling for years” and that there was “better competition elsewhere”.

Planning documents say that the pub has been marketed for a number of years, but received no offers.

Mr Somerville said that although current proprietors John and Julie Goode were currently making a living, this was due to their full-time involvement in the business and absence of mortgage payments.

Councillors heard that the pub was unsustainable without significant investment, which was unlikely to come from a prospective purchaser.

Mr Somerville said: “We are left in the position where the pub is not working at the moment and the current proprietors can’t sell it and an alternative use must be found.”

He added: “It’s important to us that the community shop is being retained as part of the scheme. This will be provided in a better building and an opportunity for residents to gain employment and social skills.”

The site will be run and managed by Pathway for Care, a group of health and social care professionals.

Councillors heard there was a “significant and growing need” for accommodation for people with autism and learning disabilities in West Berkshire.

Director at Transforming Developments and Pathway for Care Warren Richards said the scheme had been designed in partnership with West Berkshire Council, which has asked them to provide 18 apartments.

Town councillors raised no objections to the scheme.

Planning committee chairman John Boyd (Lib Dem, Thatcham Colthrop and Crookham) said: “I would look forward to seeing something like this.

“Having a son who suffered with autism himself, I understand the daily struggles young people go through.

“I think providing an environment that meets their needs is commendable.”

The application has received one objection and four letters of support so far.

A viability assessment report for the Travellers Friend said that the pub was marketed between August 2017 and February 2018, which resulted in three viewings and no offers – following the property details being sent to 800 recipients.

The pub was again marketed in 2019, with the details sent to 1,300 prospective applicants, resulting in 19 interested parties, four viewings and no offers.

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