The following section provides a brief summary from Newbury Town Council (NTC) Leader Martin Colston. It covers the main issues which he, and NTC, have been dealing with over the previous month and looks forward to matters to be dealt with in the month to come. It by no means describes all of his, or the Council’s, activities and does not necessarily reflect NTC’s official position. More information – including details of NTC meetings, events, press releases and contacts – can be found on the NTC website.
New café in Victoria Park
We have just submitted our planning application for the planned new Community Café in Victoria Park which is a major milestone – it’s taken a huge amount of work to get to this point. As well as a café for users of the park, this building will provide much needed public toilets, including a disabled access one with a specialist hoist. In addition, the building will deliver against our sustainability objectives with a large solar panel array on the roof and ground-source/air-source pumps for heating. The new café will be open all year round and will add significantly to the amenity of the park.
Victoria Park keeps Green Flag
We were delighted that Victoria Park’s Green Flag status has been retained for another year. The Green Flag is the recognised mark of a quality park or green space and demonstrates to the public that the Park boasts the highest possible environmental standards, is beautifully maintained and has excellent visitor facilities.
Diversity and equality
At our October Council meeting we were delighted to have presentations from the organisers of the BLM demonstrations in Newbury and also from Community United. Both gave us an insight into the challenges facing our BAME minority residents. At our next Civic Pride, Arts & Leisure meeting we will consider how we as the Town Council can best support their work in the future.
On 19 September, NTC held its second public climate workshop. We started with a report on our progress towards becoming carbon neutral by 2030.I’m delighted to say that during the first year of acting on our strategy, we reduced our carbon emission by over 26 tonnes (a 37% reduction) compared our target reduction of 7 tonnes per year. This is largely a result of investment in the Town Hall to improve the effectiveness of our solar panels and a focus by staff on reducing electricity consumption. Over the next three years we will be investing in more energy-efficient heating and lighting, improved insultation, secondary glazing and further solar panels.
We also launched our new Carbon Grants which are open to anyone planning projects that will reduce carbon emissions within the parish of Newbury. Recipients of the grants will present at future climate workshops so we can all learn from their experiences. If you would like to apply for a Climate Grant, please contact the Community Services Manager at email@example.com.
We also had three excellent speakers: Dr Sam Cartwright from BBOWT on Green Corridors; Robert Williams from Reading Buses on Carbon Reduction and Rural Transport Challenges; and Lois Ryan, a student, on Young People Fighting Climate Change.
Parks we can be proud of
Upgrading our parks is a key part of our strategy with significant investment planned over the next three years. Good progress has been made in City Recreation Ground this month: one side of the pathway around the park has been resurfaced with an environmentally friendly material made from recycled waste rubber, and a new MUGA has been installed. The Skylings play area has had a whole new suite of play equipment installed. And the surface around play equipment at Blossoms Field has been replaced with a safer, more durable material.
Grants for local charities
Twice a year, NTC’s Grants Committee meets to agree which local causes to support. It’s always both a sobering and uplifting session. I’m pleased to say we donated over £14,500 to 17 local charities which support those in need in Newbury and our contribution was generously matched by the Greenham Trust.
The Newbury Charter Markets on Thursdays and Saturdays continue to be busy with many new traders who have been attracted to Newbury since lockdown when it was one of the few markets to remain open. This month we said goodbye to Glyn Moyse who has been running his watch stall for 41 years.
Finally, we were very pleased that the planning application for the widening of Warren Road has been withdrawn. NTC had opposed it, believing it to be a Trojan Horse for the Sandleford Development which our Joint Sandleford Working Group with Greenham Parish Council strongly opposes (as discussed last month).
The temporary (since 1 June) 24-hour pedestrianisation of Newbury town centre came to an end on 31 August. NTC, in partnership with the Newbury BID, has carried out a shopper survey (with 460 responses) to assess reaction to the trial and to gather views on priorities for the future of the town centre. A summary of the findings can be found here. We have also set up a new Newbury Town Centre Working Group which will hold its first meeting soon, and will review the results of the survey to help set its priorities. We remain committed to our strategy of permanent pedestrianisation of the Market Place (with traffic able to go down Mansion House Street and on into Wharf Street and then Bear Lane).
Outreach youth worker
Since the elections in May 2019 it has been one of the central ambitions of the council to provide outreach youth work in Newbury. We are delighted that in August we finalised our partnership agreement with Berkshire Youth to provide 12 hours of outreach youth work every week for the next three years. We are also delighted that Berkshire Youth has now leased the Waterside Centre from West Berkshire Council and will begin refurbishment soon.
The second key new part of the council strategy is to become carbon neutral by 2030. We will be holding our second Climate Change Workshop on 19 September. We will provide an update on our carbon reduction vs our target, launch our Climate Grant, and have three speakers to help stimulate ideas. The workshop will be held on Zoom and you can register your interest here.
We have been working closely with Greenham Parish Council via a Sandleford Joint Working Group. This group has met four times in August to scrutinise the latest planning application for Sandleford and report back to our Planning and Highways Committee. The all-party committee unanimously agreed to accept the recommendations of the Group and oppose the application on several grounds, including the poorly-planned access, environmental impact and whether or not the scheme is actually relevant to the housing requirements being discussed in the new Local Plan. We believe houses are needed in Newbury and in West Berkshire, but question the need for the destruction of a greenfield site when new opportunities are arising all the time for more residential property in the town centre and other brownfield areas.