Grilled advice on validity of London Road Industrial Estate plans
Questions over the viability and purpose of the former Faraday Road football ground site in central Newbury are once again dominating West Berkshire Council’s Executive Committee this week (Thursday).
The questions have been repeatedly asked by campaigners who say the council’s plans for a multi-million pound sports center on Monks Lane are a waste of money.
The same group also questions the validity of plans for the London Road industrial estate, where the Farraday Road land is located.
John Gotelee posed several public questions to the council’s steering committee, demanding to know what issues the council plans to turn the land into a brownfield and wants to know why hockey and cricket are excluded from the sports center proposal.
“In terms of plans for the LRIE to remain an industrial area, it can be assumed that vehicle movements will remain much the same, so is the new A339 junction just another funded white elephant by taxpayers demonstrating that council cannot trust the public purse? ” he asks.
Paul Morgan of the Newbury Community Football Clubs organization is another regular thorn in the council’s side. He is a firm believer that the council is wasting public money and denying community groups a much-needed playground.
“Can the Council provide full details of the staff time, over the last 10 years, that has been recorded in relation to the whole ‘LRIE redevelopment project’?” He asked.
The planning decision to license the Monks Lane Sports Center is currently the subject of a legal challenge, prompting more questions from the executive.
The application to prevent the development was initially rejected by the High Court, but following an appeal heard on August 18, will now proceed to a full hearing.
“With the ongoing/upcoming judicial review, and despite council’s publicly expressed confidence in their case, wouldn’t it be prudent, in light of council’s track record of legal challenges, to eliminate the risk of wasting even more taxpayer money if they lost the case, by withdrawing the current application/approval and submitting a new application which is completely unambiguous and categorically states that the Monks Lane Sports Center is intended to be the party principal of a replacement facility for the Faraday Road football stadium?” asks Vaughan Miller, (Lib Dem, East Fields) of Newbury City Council.
The council says it remains confident in its position and will continue to vigorously defend this claim to ensure the sports facility can be delivered.
Those who oppose the hub say the crux of the matter is that councilors all voted for the app based on it being a standalone sports hub.
Howard Woollaston (Con, Lambourn), executive member for housing, leisure and culture at West Berkshire Council, said: ‘This decision is hugely disappointing as it will lead to a delay in the delivery of a high quality sports facility and essential, including a world-class artificial turf pitch and clubhouse.
“Not only does this mean we are likely to miss a full season of football, it almost certainly means Newbury Football Club will not have their new home for the 2023-24 season.
“The additional delay will also result in additional costs incurred for the project and for the municipal ratepayer.”
The date of this hearing is not yet confirmed.
The group further asks if the regeneration of LRIE is viable without the construction of commercial or residential units on the Farraday Road land.
In June, West Berkshire Council abandoned plans to build flats on the old land.
The Tory-led council now plans to dedicate the site to “commercial space” by 2026.
The turnaround comes following analysis by consultant Avison Young, who found there was a lack of interest from businesses to develop the site for housing and a “significant” increase in demand for commercial space, ” driven by the post-Brexit business environment, the impact of the Covid pandemic, and the UK’s net zero targets for 2050.
Board responses are prepared in advance and read or sent to those submitting questions. Interrogators are only allowed to ask counsel one additional question.