A PROJECT 20 years in the making was due to make a step forward last week.
Plans to convert Polehamption Old Boys’ School in Twyford into a library and community hub were expecting to be approved by a meeting of Wokingham Borough Council’s planning committee, which met on Wednesday, Febrauary 10, after we had gone to press.
The Grade II listed building dates back to 1877, and had been owned by the Polehampton Trust charity.
Although Wokingham Borough Council agreed to support the development of the site in July 2019, approval needed to be sought from the Charity Commission for the change of use from a hall or theatre space into the new community hub.
There will be a single storey rear extension in the first phase, with a two-storey extension in the second phase.
It will also see the demolition of the existing toilet block and the felling of four trees.
It is expected that the planning committee will approve the plans which then have three years for building works to start.
Twyford Parish Council supported the application, but said that they wanted the plans to include secure cycle, pushchair and mobility scooter parking, with easier access to both front and rear of the development, which they said would encourage visits from residents.
Cllr John Halsall, the leader of Wokingham Borough Council, said that he was pleased the project was coming back to the planning committee.
“It’s been a project of mine,” he said. “I’m really grateful for the support from the Liberals, but they didn’t do anything in 20 years.
“Having said that I’m pleased, I need to warn that it may not be delivered in the financial year 2021/22.
“The Tywford Library is not supported as a capital project, which are those that have an income or capital from third parties.
“This is a project entirely at the discretion of the borough council.”
He also wanted to thank the community for their support with the project, including a community stalwart who helped raise funds for it.
“The principal proponent of it has been a chap called Dave Turner,” he explained.
“He’s been pressing me to do this for some time, and me becoming council leader was the opportunity to do it.
“It’s very much supported by residents in Ruscombe.”
Cllr Lindsay Ferris, one of two Lib Dem councillors for Twyford, said: “This is something that (fellow councillor Stephen Conway) has been pushing for 20 years and I’ve been pushing for it for at least 10.
“It’s not just for Twyford, but for the northern part of the borough.
“We don’t get very much here in the north and having an improved facility is something that we have been campaigning for for so long.
“We’re absolutely delighted that the revised application has gone through. The previous design, three years ago, got approval.
“It brings back into use a building that has been largely unused.
“Dave Turner came up with the idea and I think without him, it wouldn’t have got to where it’s got.
“It’s not been a political push, it’s been a community push.”