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‘Massive question marks’ over Monks Lane Sports Hub plan

Campaigners are making another attempt to get West Berkshire Council to ditch its plans for the Monks Lane sports hub.

They say they have another, better, cheaper plan – namely to create two pitches to be run by sports and community groups.

The latest salvo from community football campaigner Paul Morgan comes weeks after the council u-turned on its own plans for the London Road Industrial Estate, preferring to redevelop the Farraday Road playing pitch for employment rather than residential use.

He wants to let the council go ahead with the Monks Lane idea – but to not build a spectator stand, and have the rugby club manage it, which, he claims will save a lot of money.

And he also wants the council to allow his Newbury Community Football Group to implement the planning permission it was granted to redevelop Farraday Road, providing another 3G pitch.

“There are massive question marks over the justification, viability, costs, sustainability, commercial arrangements, risk, and fitness for purpose for the Monks Lane Sports Hub,” he said.

“In addition, WBC are now having to look at other sites (Manor Park) to deliver a new grass pitch to offset the loss of the grass pitch at the rugby club to accommodate the sports hub proposals. This will involve additional and unnecessary costs and disruption.

“The total costs for the Monks Lane Sports Hub and Manor Park (if it proceeds) will be over £14.4 million and this will be for a single 3G pitch and a grass pitch at a site, which from public feedback is in the wrong location and not what is required for local football use.”

But the idea has been kicked into touch by the council’s portfolio holder for leisure.

“They haven’t thought this through,” said Howard Woollaston, (Con, Lambourn).  

“For a start, a 3G pitch costs between £800 k – 1.3m. Then there is the annual maintenance, plus the fact that to be able to play football at Step 4, we need a stand. Then there are floodlights, changing rooms etc. We really can’t do this on the cheap.”

He said the other problem with Faraday Road is parking, with peak shopping hours clashing with peak sports hours.

“We have very clear plans for the London Road Industrial Estate,” he added. “Which we hope will bring a lot of jobs to Newbury.  We want to attract high quality tech firms here and take advantage of the science corridor between us and Oxford.”