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More questions on Faraday Road, Monks Lane Sports Hub and football in Newbury at West Berkshire Council executive meeting this week

The football pitch row in Newbury rears its head again this week, with a volley of questions tabled for the newly elected Lib Dem administration of West Berkshire Council.

In the year running up to the May elections, the thenTory-led council defended a constant barrage of questions over both the viability of the proposed Monks Lane sports hub, as well as the decommissioning and ultimate development plans for the Faraday Road pitch in the centre of Newbury.

Faraday Road pitch
Faraday Road pitch

Now the boot is on the other foot, with the Lib Dems lined up to defend a list of questions from both the public and the now Tory opposition at this week’s (Thursday) Executive Committee.

The Lib Dems announced that they would bring back Faraday Road to the footballing community groups at the election, and council grounds people have been working the turf to make it useable for play.

One question to the exec demands to know what herbicides are being used, concerned they could damage the environment.

Work has been undertaken on the Faraday Road football pitch
Work has been undertaken on the Faraday Road football pitch

Others want to know how much progress has been made on plans to redevelop the London Road Industrial Estate.

The Tories get straight to the point with questions tabled, saying the Lib Dems jumped the gun and announced the move before being officially sworn in.

“The commercial development of the site was agreed by the executive on 9 June 2022 as part of the London Road Industrial Estate refresh,” states Howard Woollaston (Con, Lambourn).

“How can an executive decision be set aside, with significant economic and financial implications for the district and the council, before the new leader and executive were appointed, and without due consideration and publication on the forward plan?”

Mr Woollaston was holding the pen on the planned Sports Hub at Monks Lane before the Lib Dems took control of the council.

The Faraday Road pitch as it was returned back to open park
The Faraday Road pitch as it was returned back to open park

“The outstanding, state-of-the-art new sports hub facility was eagerly anticipated by both Newbury Football Club and Newbury Rugby Club,” he adds.

“How will you provide a home for high level football in West Berkshire with the same FA step level as the sports hub given your election promise to cancel the development?”

Another question, this time from the new Tory leader Ross MacKinnon (Con, Bradfield), says: “The council has announced that it will not commercially develop the former pitch at Faraday Road and instead use it for football matches, despite a superb alternative facility being shortly available at the Sports Hub.

"Leaving aside the constitutional propriety of that decision, approximately how many jobs would have been created on the Faraday Road site if it were commercially developed by 2026 as planned by the previous administration?”

The Faraday Road move has also brought the viability of the proposed pitch at Manor Park into question.

“The proposal to use the Manor Park ANGS – Accessible Nature-based Green Space [with no buildings] – was to provide a football pitch lost elsewhere, which no longer applies as Saturday and Sunday League Football is returning to Faraday Road,” states Paula Sanderson.

Work has been undertaken on the Faraday Road football pitch
Work has been undertaken on the Faraday Road football pitch

“Therefore please can we keep this space to enhance biodiversity as part of the Local Nature Recovery Network for this part of North Newbury, thus helping to mitigate the loss of a next door greenfield at the Coley Farm Housing Development?”

These, and a number of other questions on topics ranging from the local plan, to Station Road car parking will be discussed at tonight’s (Thursday) meeting.

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