Country show organisers forced to find new home

A fundraising group which attracts thousands of visitors to its annual country show is looking for a new home for its event.

Hurst Show and Country Fayre, 41 years old, has been using a field between School and Orchard Roads, in the middle of the village, for at least the majority of that time.

The owners have told them that the land will not be available for them to use in future.

The show committee’s statement says: “We have been informed that Willowmead Field is no longer available for use by the show and we are looking for other suitable locations.”

Wokingham Borough councillor for Hurst Wayne Smith said: “The field owners have been very generous providing the site over the last 40 years.

“I will do everything I can to work with the show organisers to find a new site.”

The weekend show in June raises thousands of pounds for local good causes including St Nicholas Primary School, Hurst.

This year, due to Covid-19, there was a virtual show online, with some socially distanced real events not involving the field.

The future of the field which might be worth £5m for housing, if planning permission was granted, is being questioned.

This week on Hurst Residents Community Group Facebook page Roybean Martineau asked: “Is it true that the field next to the school playground is subject to a planning application to build houses? Anybody know?”

Mark Usher, who would not confirm if he was involved with the field’s ownership or if he was speaking on behalf of the field’s owners, told Wokingham.Today: “I believe a link was added to the thread that lists any planning applications in the borough. Hopefully that should answer Roy’s question on Facebook.

“The land is private land and although previously has been used for one weekend a year by the village it remains grazing land for horses.

“The use of the land by the village will not continue and [this has been] communicated to the event organisers.

“We prefer not to comment on speculation on social media sites as planning applications are public record and absolutely the right place for any change in circumstance to be communicated.”

A Wokingham Borough Council spokesperson on Monday gave details of the field’s public record, saying: “There is no current planning application on this site.”

The borough’s map of live planning applications is at: wokingham.maps. arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html

Some time ago the council asked landowners and others to suggest areas in the borough for development up to 2036.

The show field was suggested for housing, but the council did not include it in the draft plan which was put out for public consultation earlier this year.

Details on this are via these links: www.wokingham.gov.uk/planning-policy/planning-policy-information/local-plan-update/

Sites for more than 7,000 homes were suggested for Hurst but the borough council picked out sites for a total of just 15 homes – in Whistley Green and near Hogmoor Lane.

However the draft plan will probably have to be changed greatly due to Covid-19, the Grazeley 15,000 homes plan being stopped by the Atomic Weapons Establishment evacuation zone extension and the council failing to get their bid for £252m for infrastructure.

Speaking about the School/Orchard Roads site, Cllr Smith said: “If there was a planning application for that field I would represent the views of Hurst and do what our residents wanted me to do.”

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