regularly features in surveys as one of the
best places to live in the UK, and it’s
easy to see why.
Situated on the main crossroads between
London and the West country, the south coast
and the Midlands, it’s possible to
reach London, Bristol and Bournemouth in
an hour’s drive.
Newbury is on the edge of the Thames Valley,
where the technology revolution has created
thousands of jobs over the last 30 years.
|Investment and productivity
levels are among the best in the country,
but this prosperity comes at a price.
property market is among the most expensive
in the country, fuelled by Londoners moving
out of the city. Meanwhile, there’s
traffic congestion from the army of commuters
driving into Newbury every day, and the
labour pool has dwindled to nothing, creating
staff shortages in many industries.
Many of the young professionals arriving
in Newbury come to join the mobile phone
firm Vodafone, which employs around 4,000,
but another 100 mobile telecoms firms operate
locally. Thousands more commute to London
via the M4 or direct train to Paddington.
Newbury’s 32,000 population forms
part of a conurbation totalling some 60,000
residents, so as a result of these new influences,
Newbury is evolving from a rural market
town into an increasingly sophisticated
cultural centre, with a vibrant arts community
supported by theatres, an arts festival,
orchestras, and a profusion of eating and
drinking outlets. Big shopping centres in
neighbouring Reading, Basingstoke and Swindon
have created new challenges for Newbury,
but more are coming back to the town where
the shopping is more unhurried, and where
many of the retailers are happy to stop
for a chat.
addition, the town boasts a top quality
racecourse, plus dozens of sporting organisations,
and outdoor pursuits are very popular in
the Kennet valley.
This latest boom is the third in the town’s
1,000 year history. Founded by Norman knights,
for its convenient position on major communication
routes, by the Middle Ages a booming textiles
industry made Newbury one of the top 20
towns in England. The next flourish of activity
was in the Georgian period, when Newbury
became the main stopover for London folk
on their way to Bath – Britain’s
first tourist resort.
has often achieved national prominence as
the home of protests. Peace campaigners
targeted the nuclear missiles stored at
Greenham Common airbase with up to 40,000
women during the Cold War, and today, protests
are active against the nearby AWE nuclear
bomb facilities, and the USAAF bomb depot
However, Newbury’s traffic problems
also saw campaigners arrive from around
the country to protest at a seven mile bypass
through wildlife reserves, a Civil War battleground,
and pristine woodland. The road cost £25
million extra due to the protests, and after
Newbury, the government scrapped most of
its road-building programme.