In discussions with Barkham Parish Council, Crest have always maintained that community centre be housed within an existing building on the south side of the District Centre site. Their consultation of 8th December confirms that this remains the case.
Barkham Parish Council have argued that the use of this existing building should not be the only option and that a purpose-built community centre should also be given due consideration.
Here are some observations from Barkham Parish Council:
Crest’s plan is to use the existing building to house both Hazebrouck nursery school and the community centre. Poperinghe nursery will be housed elsewhere. This creates two issues:
- The inevitable noise from the nursery school is likely to disrupt other activities in the community centre, especially those on the floor immediately above.
- To house both the nursery school and the community centre in the same building will deny any opportunity for the future expansion of either.
The pub is located to the north of the site, overlooking the meadow towards the stables, to make it more attractive to customers and potential operators.
The community centre also needs to be located to the north of the site, overlooking to the meadow, for the same reason. The proposed, less attractive, location to the south increases the risk of not attracting an operator. Without an operator, the community centre will not function.
A new community centre to the north of the site, and east of the pub, could also be designed to enable future expansion. A separate, adjacent building could be constructed to house the nursery school and provide it with space for expansion.
Use of the existing building
The argument for using the existing building is threefold:
- Repurposing of the existing building should be the default option.
- A purpose-built community centre will be more expensive.
- A purpose-built community centre will delay the project.
We can mitigate against each of these:
There are alternative opportunities for repurposing the existing building, such as a covered market, shopping mall or other imaginative ideas. Crest have not investigated, nor offered, any alternative options for its re-use.
Crest has consistently favoured reusing the existing building for the community centre and we may presume, therefore, that this is the cheapest option. We have asked, on many occasions, for cost comparisons but Crest have yet to provide any.
The nursery school is a commercial business. There is a reasonable case for asking them to contribute to the cost, especially if it is housed in a dedicated building and they are involved in its design. The overall cost of the community centre would be reduced accordingly.
Should there remain a limited need for further funds, there are several ways in which this may be addressed including:
- Sponsorship by local businesses.
- Funds from Parish Councils.
- Funds from Wokingham Borough Council, who will wish to see the project succeed.
- Contributions from potential operators, especially if involved in the design.
- Other imaginative ideas.
The District Centre is late, and Crest argue that the delay is primarily down to Covid. Notwithstanding the impact of Covid, alternatives to the use of the existing building could and should have been explored at the start of the year or perhaps last year. They were not and to look at them now may result in some delay. However, the extent of any delay would need to be determined bearing in mind that:
a) That supermarket planning application will not be submitted until the summer of 2023, and it is unlikely to open much before the end of 2024.
b) The date of the planning application for the pub is unknown.
Against this background, a delay of a few months may not be significant.
Finally, we would wish to stress that Barkham Parish Council remain committed to seeking the best solution for Arborfield Green and the parishioners of Barkham. It is with this aim, that will continue to challenge Crest on their proposals as necessary. However, it is important to understand that we do not have any direct authority to affect either the timelines or the eventual outcome.
We would welcome comments, and these can be made by post or via email to:
We thank you for your support.