The West Berkshire Liberal Democrats have published their response to the London Road Industrial Estate Draft Master Plan:
Although our approach to redeveloping the site would have been different from the start to the Conservatives, as potential future leaders of West Berkshire Council, we understand that there may come a time where we have to work with the developer to implement the plans adopted by the current administration, and as such we have aimed to approach this response in a constructive manner. That said, we cannot remain silent on the way that this project has been handled by the previous Conservative administration of this Council. In particular, the management of this project has been extremely poor, at significant cost to local taxpayers.
The approach we have been urging the Council to take to the redevelopment of the London Road Industrial Estate (LRIE) is to maximise the value of the site to the local community as a whole (rather than simply extracting as much rental income as possible as the landlord), working with all stakeholders, including the current occupiers, in a manner less adversarial than has often appeared to be the case.
More specifically, we would like to see the following changes to the Master Plan:
- More engagement with the current occupiers of the LRIE site, and, where possible, a commitment to accommodate them within the LRIE if they so wish.
- A like for like or improved replacement for the football ground, within the LRIE and preferably in the same location.
- A focus on delivering a zero-carbon development, using the highest standards of design, materials and energy efficiency, in line with the combatting the Climate Emergency that the Council has declared.
A Stakeholder Lead Approach
For many, the administration’s approach to the LRIE development has been seen as dismissive of, and sometimes adversarial towards, current stakeholders in the project. The current Leader of the Council was right to say that we must do things with people rather than to them, however this is not always how it has felt for many involved.
Moving forward, the administration must work constructively with all stakeholders, including current occupiers of the site and residents in the near vicinity. They must be better informed and better consulted when it comes to the decisions that will affect them, and, crucially, when it comes to the current occupiers of the site, they should be given a commitment to accommodate them within the redevelopment where possible and if they so desire.
A New Football Ground
A successful football club not only benefits its immediate players and supporters, but the community as a whole. As such, we believe that a new football ground should remain in the heart of Newbury, preferably in the same location as the previous one, but at the very least on the LRIE site.
The plan refers to the football ground as “defunct”, but the fact of the matter is that it is only defunct due to the actions of the Council administration. Had we been in their position, the football ground would have been allowed to continue to operate for as long as possible, not lay unused and undeveloped as is currently the case.
A Zero-Carbon Development
We are facing a Climate Emergency, and it is vital that these plans reflect that. The Council has set itself a target of net zero carbon emissions by 2030 and we welcome any aspiration to meet the highest possible standards in pursuit of that.
We believe that the Council has an opportunity with this development to show leadership on the issue of climate change by setting an example as a green developer of its own land. In particular, we believe the Council should:
- Acknowledge that building on the site’s main source of green infrastructure (the football ground), could leave the site more at risk of flooding, and carry out a Strategic Flood Risk Assessment for the entire site before any further progress is made on Master Planning.
- Work with Calor Gas to relocate their site outside of central Newbury as soon as possible, anticipating a drop in demand for carbon fuels and removing a potential hazard for residents elsewhere on the site.
- Survey the sub-soil of the site without delay, in order to understand the potential impact of the site having previously been used for uncontrolled commercial landfill.
- Consider incorporating a micro-hydro scheme into the LRIE plans in order to generate local renewable electricity that the site can benefit from.
- Maximise the amount of ‘active travel’ routes to, from and around the LRIE site.
- Make it possible for every new resident of the LRIE site to meet their essential needs without having to own a car.
- Provide several Car Club parking spaces within the LRIE and incentivise new occupants to use the Car Club.
- Improve the site’s biodiversity using green roofs and walls, as well as using planting on balconies in residential areas.
Grasp the Opportunity
Over the past several years the Conservative administrations’ have made a number of major errors when it comes to this project, but they now have a second chance to get it right. For the sake of the current occupiers and immediate residents of the LRIE, as well as taxpayers across West Berkshire, they must grasp this opportunity. The Liberal Democrats will continue to hold the administration to account and argue for the inclusive, green approach we have laid out above.