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Reflections on the Liberty of Newland.

The Parish of Arborfield and Newland is 75 years old today. On the 21st March 1948 the first meeting of the new Council elected Brigadier E.W. Chadwick as Chairman and Arthur John Bentley was appointed as Clerk at a princely salary of £35 per annum. The "Liberty" of Newland was no more, subsumed within the Parish of Arborfield and Newland.

The two Parishes of Arborfield and Newland had agreed at a meeting held a year earlier that they would best serve the needs of their respective parishioners by amalgamating into one, larger Parish. They noted that there was one school, one memorial, one church and one village hall and that local government would be much simplified by uniting the Parishes.

In 1948 agriculture is no longer the predominant employer in the area. One interesting measure of progress is the change in the amenities covered by the census. In 1951, these were piped water, a cooking stove, a kitchen sink, a 'water closet' meaning a flush toilet, and a 'fixed bath', as distinct from a tin bath hung on the wall between uses.

The history of the area known as Newland goes back to 1507 and the map below shows many recognisable places for those that know the area.

Now, 75 years on from the merger of Arborfield and Newland comes the next big merger, with proposals to join together Arborfield and Newland with Barkham and parts of Finchamstead and Arborfield Green. See map below, (Note, the map has been rotated to better fit a screen grab).

Speaking as one who has recently tried to deliver leaflets to Barkham Ward for the upcoming Local Elections on May 4th this new ward will be absolutely vast! It will likely go from the statistics shown below left, to the statistics shown below right. ( KEY: coun = Councillors. e = Electorate).

The proposals for Arborfield with Barkham ward seek to ensure the whole of the Arborfield Garrison development sits within a single ward, rather than being divided between wards as it currently is. But will it represent an actual “Community”? Will three Councillors better represent the views of voters than one? How will a single candidate standing as a Councillor for such a large ward get around such an area, and how could they ever get to meet all 7,935 of the people they will represent? Will this change not predicate in favour of the large established political parties with their greater resources of helpers and funds?

Too late to have your say on these changes now as the consultation closed on 10th April. But these proposed changes are still under review and are not due to be ratified until the next set of elections in 2024.

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