Newbury town centre – for people who care about its future
The rules for the future development of Newbury town centre are currently being rewritten, and in a way which allows a voice from those interested in protecting the town’s heritage. If you are interested, come to the Newbury Society meeting on Thursday February 9.
Most of Newbury town centre is part of a Conservation Area, which was created in stages from 1971 to 1990. Each Conservation Area should have an associated document known as an Appraisal, which documents the area and its important characteristics, and sets out the planning policies as they apply in that area.
Best practice is for Appraisals to be created along with the Conservation Areas, and then to be reviewed from time to time, roughly every ten years. The first parts of the Newbury town centre Conservation Area were created in 1971, and after more than 50 years it is still waiting for its first Appraisal. In recent years West Berkshire Council has commissioned the production of an Appraisal from private consultants. They submitted their work to the council in 2021, and an amended draft was approved in December 2021.
Until this year West Berkshire Council has neither sought nor allowed any general consultation on this draft Appraisal. On January 12 this year, with no notice, they sprang a six-week online consultation on the Newbury public. The draft itself runs to 249 pages, and it covers buildings across the whole of the town centre, over 150 of them listed buildings; yet the Newbury public has just until February 23 to respond.
As well as setting out the rules, this draft appraisal seeks to add and remove areas from the Conservation Area, some of them quite large. Among the areas proposed for removal (losing the protection offered by the Conservation Area), are the St. Mary’s Road area (between Victoria Park and London Road); West Street (the north-south stretch and its surroundings); and the eastern end of Craven Road.
In addition, the Appraisal seeks to take part of Newbury Wharf out of the Conservation Area. This is the area now occupied by the bus station and by the car park next to KFC and the dry-cleaners. It proved controversial when this area formed part of development plans for the Wharf supported by Newbury District Council in 1989.
Come along to St. John’s Church Room on February 9 to discuss the proposals and have an opportunity to put your views. You can also reply to the consultation directly online on the West Berkshire Council website, through https://www.westberks.gov.uk/draftNewburyTCAAMP or you can find more information by putting “Newbury conservation area” into the WBC search box and selecting either the map or the draft Appraisal document.
Kennet Centre “Eagle Quarter” plans refused
The Lochailort plans for the redevelopment of most of the Kennet Centre, known as the “Eagle Quarter” and in their final version including 367 flats, were refused by West Berkshire Council in November.
The plans (21/00379/FULMAJ and 21/00380/FULMAJ) were originally submitted in April 2021, and were amended in September 2021 and again in September 2022, but even in their final version included tower blocks of flats. In addition, they included either an office block about the same height as the Telephone Exchange or 91 retirement flats on Market Street; and five and six-storey buildings on Newbury’s town centre street frontages.
Cheap Street elevation showing the redesigned street frontage and the 10-storey blocks behind
We tried to raise public awareness, and we lodged detailed objections. In the end the decision was taken under delegated powers by the Council’s professional planning officers.
The plans were refused by West Berkshire Council on November 4, 2022. Nine grounds for refusal were reasons given. Very briefly summarised below, they were:
- “…the proposed development fails the flooding sequential test…”
- “The proposal, in particular Blocks A and B, would present an overpowering and dominant feature within the town centre…”
- Fails “…to deliver affordable housing and public open space…”
- Amenity space inadequate (1,840 m2 proposed, 9,175 m2 required).
- Public open space not adequate.
- Insufficient information on surface water management.
- Insufficient information on traffic flow.
- Does not meet parking standards.
- Adverse effect on road and public transport improvement scheme approved with Market Street [Weavers Yard] development.
Many of these grounds reflected the objections we raised in 2021. We were among many individuals and organisations who raised objections, including Newbury Town Council, and there were over 300 individual letters of objection. The plans were also heavily criticised by Historic England and by West Berkshire Council’s Conservation Officer.
In more detail, the second of the reasons given said about the proposed Blocks A and B “They would appear excessively tall and dominant in key views within the town centre and present an oppressive and dominant backdrop to a number of listed buildings. The proposal would fail to present a clear and logical continuation of the existing town.”
So far, at least, we have heard nothing of any planning appeal from the developers.
New use for old library
Plans for the Corn Exchange to take over the old Library in Cheap Street have been approved by West Berkshire Council. The Corn Exchange wants to use the building, on the corner of Cheap Street and Carnegie Road, as a performing arts studio and theatre, and a learning centre.
The building was opened as Newbury Library in 1906, designed by Borough surveyor S. J. Lee Vincent. It continued in use until July 2000, when it was replaced by the larger library on Newbury Wharf. Since then, the Cheap Street building has lain empty for periods, and was occupied for a time by Prezzo, the restaurant chain.
The Newbury Society warmly welcomed the application, as did Newbury BID, the Theatres Trust and the WBC conservation officer. The building adds character to Newbury town centre and the plans do not involve major changes. The application was approved on January 17, with a condition restricting opening hours to avoid disturbance to neighbours.
The old library building at 58 Cheap Street
Local Books for Interested People
The relatives of our late chairman Jeremy Holden-Bell and his late wife Elke have donated a number of their books on the local area to the Newbury Society, to raise money for the Society.
We will be holding an auction at the meeting on February 9, and a list of the books is attached to give some indication of what is involved. Among them are books on the history of Speen and Shaw-cum-Donnington, as well as several books on Newbury itself, including a 1972 reprint of Walter Money’s Popular History of Newbury, first published in 1905.
There will also be a number of booklets and pamphlets available to anyone who wants them, for a nominal donation to the Society.
|THE NEWBURY SOCIETY – OFFICERS AND COMMITTEE 2021/22
President: Lord Benyon Vice President: Garry Poulson
Chairman, Planning Spokesman and Local History Advisor: David Peacock 01635 524017 chairman@grahamvsmith
Treasurer and Membership Administrator:
Mike Hood 07775 800183 firstname.lastname@example.org & email@example.com
Secretary, Bulletin Editor and Waterways Representative:
Graham Smith 01635 580356 firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr Paul Bryant
John Handy (Trees & Landscaping Advisor)
Current problems with staffing in the Planning (or “Place”) department of West Berkshire Council are illustrated by the number of vacancies advertised in January. These included vacancies for three Planning Officers, one for a Planning Enforcement Officer, and one for a Principal Planning Enforcement Officer, as well as for a Principal Developer Contributions Officer. There is still no sign of the conservation staffing being returned to its previous level, let alone a level which would enable them to adequately protect local heritage. As illustrated by the production of the draft Newbury town centre Conservation Area Appraisal, some of the work is being contracted to consultants, sometimes from outside the area.
Dates for Your Diary – 2023
Talks are held in the Parish Room, St John’s Church, St John’s Road, Newbury RG14 7PY.
Admission is free for members or £2.50 for non-members. Visitors are most welcome.
Thursday 9th February, 7:30pm – The Newbury town centre Conservation Area Appraisal
The Draft Newbury Town Centre Area Appraisal and Management Plan (NTCCAAMP) was issued on 12 January. West Berkshire Council has opened the consultation phase to all residents, the community at large and stakeholders. The consultation period closes on 23 February – this provides a very limited window of opportunity in which to submit any objections and comments.
Newbury Society chairman David Peacock will lead the meeting with a presentation, followed by an open discussion. The aims are (1) to inform attendees of the implications of the draft plan (not least the redrawing of conservation area boundaries) and (2) to gain feedback that may be used in a considered response by the Newbury Society to West Berkshire Council’s Development & Regulation department.
The draft Appraisal is available for inspection online (https://www.westberks.gov.uk/draftNewburyTCAAMP), at the WBC Council Offices in Market Street, Newbury Town Hall and Newbury Library at the Wharf.
Thursday 9th March, 7:30pm – Penelope Stokes: Georgian Newbury
A look at four characters of note from Penny’s latest book – Georgian Newbury.
Penny Stokes has lived in the Newbury area for 40 years, during which time she has researched, written and published on numerous places, people and events of West Berkshire. Twenty years ago she gained a MSc in English Local History from the University of Oxford. From 2006-16 she edited the Berkshire Family Historian. She has written a number of local histories covering, amongst others, the Newbury Weekly News, Dolton’s corn merchants, Hamstead Marshall and Greenham Common.
Thursday 13th April, 7:30pm – James Puxley: Being Lord Lieutenant of Berkshire
The current Lord-Lieutenant will talk about what the role entails, the history of the office, how Lord Lieutenants are appointed and his experiences in the role, the many high points and one low point.
Mr Puxley was High Sheriff of the Royal County of Berkshire from 2000 to 2001. He was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant in 2005 and became Vice Lord Lieutenant in 2010. Mr Puxley is a farmer and former President of the Royal Berkshire Show.
Thursday 11th May, 7:30pm – Simon Barnett: BBOWT in West Berkshire
The Berkshire Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) took over the management of West Berkshire Council’s main countryside sites, including Snelsmore and Greenham commons and the Thatcham Nature Discovery Centre, at the beginning of 2014. Simon will be reviewing the way in which the management of the sites has evolved since then and highlighting some of the wildlife and plants that make the sites special.
Simon was Countryside Manager at West Berks Council for nearly 14 years and is one of the Council staff who transferred to BBOWT when it took over the management of the sites. He is now one of the land managers for Berkshire. His lifelong obsession with wildlife, particularly wildflowers, trees, birds and invertebrates, developed largely as a result of growing up in a small village on the edge of Salisbury Plain and then in a small community in the North Wessex Downs on the Hants/Wilts border doing the usual things that youngsters do.
June – Fifty Years of the Newbury Society – event details to be confirmed
The public meeting at which the Society was formed was held in the Town Hall council chamber on 13th June 1973. The Committee is envisaging arranging an exhibition and/or event to mark the 50th anniversary.
Thursday 14th September, 7:30pm – Jane Burrell: Newbury Art and Artists
An illustrated talk which will look at the life and work of some local artists, as well as the depictions of local scenes by others. It will include fine and decorative art, with the emphasis on the former. Among the artists covered will be JMW Turner, Joseph Toomer (thrice Mayor of Newbury), William Gore, Fred Hall, Victor Corden, Christopher Hall and John Perkin.
Jane Burrell is a retired museum curator with interests in local history, Speen Church, Newbury Quakers, poetry of the Great War, the history of The Abbey School Reading, and the Inter-testamental period.
Thursday 12th October, 7:30pm – AGM + David Peacock: Newbury in 2023
Newbury Society chairman David Peacock will be reviewing the past year; talking about Newbury today, some of its attractions, and the range of challenges it faces.
Thursday 9th November, 7:30pm – details to be confirmed
Books from Jeremy and Elke Holden-Bell
(see item ‘Local Books for Interested People’, page 3)
|Newbury [Britain in old photographs]
|Newbury Weekly News: Still Making History
|[Berkshire C. C.]
|Walks in Berkshire
|Berry Frances M.
|The Way We Were in Dear Old Newbury
|Bond and Over
|Oxfordshire and Berkshire
|Newbury Buildings Past and Present
|Walks in Berkshire
|Highclere Castle Recipes
|Thames Valley: A Tourists Guide
|[Creative History Group]
|Earl of Carnarvon’s XI v South Africa
|The Newbury Mosaic
|Highclere Castle [guide]
|Hadcock R. Neville
|The Story of Newbury
|The Story of Newbury
|Newbury in the 1950s
|The changing Face of Newbury
|Newbury: A Photographic Record
|Not Just a Berkshire Farmer
|Ghosts of Berkshire
|Tales of Old Berkshire
|Donnington Hospital [History of]
|History of Speen
|[Popular] History of Newbury
|Morris W. A. D.
|Shaw-cum-Donnington [History of]
|Newbury: The Book of Ordinances of 1599
|Transactions vol. 12 no. 5
|Benham [restoration etc]
|Newbury Racecourse [Story of]
|The Story of Newbury
|Berkshire: A County History
|Talking About Newbury
|St. Albans Suzanne
|Paradise and Pestilence [Provence]
|St. Albans Suzanne
|Mango and Mimosa [memoir, 2 of]
|Sayers J. J.
|In Defense of Freedom: A History of RAF Greenham Common
|Berkshire: Shire County Guide
|Going with the Grain: The Story of Doltons
|“..No apology is needed…” [Newbury Weekly News]
|Craven Country: Hamstead Marshall
|Some C19th Berkshire Squires
|Tubb R. B.
|Speen, Stockcross and Shaw-cum-Donnington Road by Road [2 copies]
|Tubb R. B.
|Newbury Road by Road
|On Foot in West Berks vol. 2
|[Berks. Fed. of W.I.s]
|New Berkshire Village Book