Aldermaston residents force climbdown on skate ramp removal
Aldermaston villagers this week came out against the removal of the local skate ramp, forcing a climb-down by the parish council.
In a meeting in July, Aldermaston Parish Council voted to condemn the ramp, claiming that it had no alternative. The council said that it had reviewed various options, including repairs or outright replacement, but found all these to be inadequate or beyond the village's means. Holes in the ramp's surface had already forced its closure earlier in the year, meaning local skaters have been unable to use it for much of 2021.
However, the decision to scrap the facility prompted a backlash, led by businessman Adam Reed. Last week, Mr Reed drew up a petition to prevent the demolition of the ramp, which gained dozens of signatures. He agreed that replacement would be drastic and costly, with figures of up to £25,000 quoted by some suppliers. However, he argued that renovation of the ramp would be affordable, and even offered up to £1,000 out of his own pocket.
Meanwhile, he claimed that some members of the community were volunteering their skills to help resurface and redecorate the ramp. In particular, he took issue with a perceived lack of local engagement by the council on the future of the ramp. Mr Reed said: "The biggest upset is, you haven't even engaged with any the parishioners, you've just made a decision based on four or five people.
"There's a lot of work that goes into being on that parish council, and they've done some great things for the village in the six or seven years I've been here.
"But you've got to engage with people to ask them 'Is it still needed or wanted?'.
"It seems odd that with all this mayhem that's going on with the Olympics, which is great for young children, we're then having the parish remove something that just needs a bit of maintenance."
Among those backing the villagers' drive to save the skate ramp was Roland Wardle. As a teenager over a decade ago, Mr Wardle fronted the campaign that led to the ramp's installation in the first place.
Speaking to the Newbury Weekly News, he recalled: "I and a group of friends were into skateboarding, and there wasn't much for kids to do then. I wrote a letter to the council when I was about 12 or 13, asking them if we could have a skate park.
"I joined the youth council for the village, and set up a questionnaire, and made a campaign for it – showing there was a need for a skate park.
"The council said the only way we could have it was if we raised the money ourselves."
Over the following years, Mr Wardle launched himself into various initiatives aimed at raising the £10,000 required. This included running a watermelon stand at the now-defunct Glade Festival, as well as entering a local competition. Donations were also provided by the AWE and the National Lottery.
As a result of this mammoth effort, the skate ramp was finally installed in the village recreation ground in 2007.
Mr Wardle, now 27, has since moved to London, but he has remained in touch with members of the Aldermaston skating community, and expressed expressed dismay over plans to remove the ramp. He believes there is still a strong demand for it, and says that the council had not invested adequately in it over the years.
He said: "There's more younger people there than there were before. Since it was built, the council haven't spent any money maintaining it.
"I came up with, through funding, £10,000, and I think it was implied that the council would look after it, since we'd put so much effort into funding it.
"Unfortunately, that didn't happen."
At a meeting on Tuesday, Aldermaston Parish Council climbed down from its initial plans to remove the ramp outright. Instead, the apparatus will be subject to a period of inspection, and will only be removed if the ramp's frame is found to be rotten
A spokesperson for Aldermaston Parish Council hit back against the claims of detractors, emphasising that the decision to condemn the ramp had not been taken lightly.
They said that repairs have been made where necessary over the years, and that there was no cost-effective way to keep the facility.
They said: "The parish council takes all views into consideration when making decisions and this difficult decision was made in light of the recent significant investment at the recreation ground in Aldermaston village, along with the limited budget available to a small parish and the need to ensure that investments are distributed across all of the parish where possible."