Author Topic: Newbury - Marsh Lane GIVEN to property developers by West Berkshire Council  (Read 5609 times)

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Newbury - Marsh Lane GIVEN to property developers by West Berkshire Council

May I through your website update your readers and contributors on developments in relation to Marsh Lane, the Newbury Street which West Berkshire Council gave to an Edinburgh-based firm of developers.


West Berkshire Council continues to refuse to address the fact that it gave away this street (off Northbrook Street near Marks and Spencer) without consulting local people.

The council’s original proposal was to grant developers a long term lease on Marsh Lane. Instead and without consultation, the council decided that the freehold should be given away (not sold, but given) to Standard Life Investments.

The council did not even carry out a valuation of the land involved before it was given away. According to the council’s own records, the area of the lane is 473 m2, in the town centre, a prime retail site with a frontage to Northbrook Street. At current prices...

Not only did the council give the freehold away, but for no obvious reason it agreed to the permanent removal of the right of way along the whole of Marsh Lane.

This includes the removal of the right of way along the side of ‘Jack of Newbury’s House’, probably Newbury’s most important historic building. Consultation on this was flawed, which meant that most local people were completely unaware of the proposal.

The effect of the changes are that Marsh Lane becomes a private property, its future in the hands of developers Standard Life Investments. However this only became apparent last year, when Michael Portillo’s Great British Railway Journeys’ team was prevented from filming in Marsh Lane. Since then the matter has been raised by Newbury Town Council and the Newbury Society, among others, but with little response.

West Berkshire Council sees no problem about giving away the land, or the removal  of the right of way because, according to the council, it would not be reasonable for Standard Life to build on Marsh Lane in the short or medium term.

The council was prepared to seek an assurance to this effect from Standard Life.

This is the wording of Standard Life’s response in January this year ‘...we currently have no immediate or reasonably foreseeable intention to close Marsh Lane other than for maintenance or development purposes...’

As you can see this gives no assurance at all (not even a categoric assurance would have any legal weight in legal or planning terms, or if the site was sold); and it completely undermines the council’s view. Standard Life was asked to re-word its statement, to provide a stronger assurance, but has so far failed to do so.

Newbury people have had the right to walk Marsh Lane for centuries and the right of access to the side of Jack of Newbury’s House needs to be legally protected.

West Berkshire Council and its councillors are supposed to represent local people, and should be acting to protect their rights.

But apparently, being repeatedly being made aware of this issue, they intend to side with the Edinburgh-base developers, against the people of Newbury.


©David Peacock
Newbury


Old Goat

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It is rather odd that the subtle consequences of the Council's agreement with the developers of Parkway were just slid through.  Ironically, perhaps we should be grateful for the over zealous jobsworths that stopped the filming - otherwise this might have taken years to emerge.  Frankly, it's a very sad reflection on the state of our democracy; one wonders what other arrangements they slipped through simply for bureaucratic convenience.  The local politicians are at pains to suggest that the cosy coalition exists only in Westminster, the silence of the opposition on WBC suggests otherwise. 

Number 6

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Whilst I can understand the concerns about the loss of the rights of way I can clearly see some advantages this has created - no beggars and no chuggers, together with other groups of threatening loiterers, allowed to spoil the shopping environment and experience. Compared to Northbrook Streets untidy appearance Parkway is a superior environment altogether. Not sure that I agree with the no photography rule though, although I can understand why they would want to restrict and control commercial filming. Overall I continue to be very impressed with Parkway and on balance congratulate those involved on a job well done. We should always remember the unfortunate loss of life in the construction though.

Old Goat

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I wholly agree that Parkway is a tremendous asset to the town and it is probably one of the best modern developments anywhere in UK over past few years.  Retaining the 'right of way' should have made absolutely no difference to the private management if the environment, that could have been sorted quite easily by the legal people.  It might seem a small detail, but retaining these things even if in trust, by the public authority is necessary to our democratic way of life. 

Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera

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Dear Newbury.Net readers,

The Liberal Democrat Group at Newbury Town Council totally support David Peacocks views on this matter and as such support Cllr Anthony Pick's motion to bring back Marsh Lane back into public ownership.

The motion was passed at the recent May Full Council meeting but Cllr Pick's Tory colleagues refused to support the motion.  In the time that I have been a Councillor I am not aware that Tory Newbury Town Councillors group collectively has ever gone against the wishes of their District Council 'masters', even when the District Council policies are detrimental to Newbury, such as the on street parking charges.

Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera
Newbury Town Council - Councillor for Victoria Ward & Deputy Leader
Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera

blackdog

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Did Cllr Pick really call for a return to public ownership?  I thought his (and Dr Peacock's) idea was to establish a Public Right of Way - which ensures free access but does not alter the ownership.

WBC were shafted by SLI in the final days of the Parkway contractual negotiations - too scared to stand their ground in case SLI pulled out they rolled over and gave away this freehold, affordable housing (only reinstated when WBC paid SLI £1 million for it), car parking revenue and God knows what else (we ratepayers aren't allowed to know).

Parkway has, no doubt, been good for the town commercially - a quick look around other town centres in the past few years and one can see that Newbury has ridden the recession remarkably well - in part this must be due to Parkway. In other terms we have a nice new if dull shopping area and ghastly high rise building all along the edge of Victoria Park. And no right of access through to the park from Northbrook Street between Park St and the towpath.


Old Goat

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It's the right of way which is much more important.  The physical ownership would doubtless be far too hard to sort, but right of way, not too difficult.  After all, that's all we need!  Let someone else maintain the passage, so long as we have free unfettered access.  What happens to the Town Council's approved motion next?  Does it really mean that the Unitary Authority will simply ignore the majority wish just because of a few die hard place men?