The village of Sonning, three miles west of Reading, was described by Jerome K. Jerome in his book Three Men in a Boat as “the most fairy-like little nook on the whole river”.
The Thames side village is in the headlines (so far as planning is concerned) because of two (which in a small village is a lot) disputes between famous residents and Wokingham Borough Council, the Local Planning Authority.
First, Uri Geller, he of spoon bending fame gave a bright red statue to the village to celebrate the time that he has lived there.
However the Local Planning Authority pointed out that it needed planning permission and it has now been removed.
Mr Geller declared, “You can take my spoon, but you’ll never bend my creative freedom”.
The statue did not receive universal praise locally as can be seen from the message someone chose to attach to it.
He also has (or had) an Exeter connection. In 1997 he tried to help the Second Divisionfootball club Exeter City win a crucial end of season game by placing “energy-infused” crystals behind the goals at Exeter’s ground (Exeter lost the game 5–1); he was appointed co-chairman of the club in 2002. The club was relegated to theFootball Conference in May 2003, where it remained for five years. He has since severed formal ties with the club.
Elsewhere in the village, George and Amal Clooney are seeking permission for a tennis court at their Georgian mansion.
It is reported that the couple bought the grade II listed house for £10 million. Built in the 17th century the house has its own library, gym, spa and steam room, along with a cellar and a boathouse and separate cottage for guests or staff (but no tennis court). Set in four acres and surrounded by dense trees and expansive gardens, it offers all the seclusion required of a Hollywood power couple.
The vendors describe the house as “a delightful, comfortable family residence whilst maintaining the original grandeur of the day”. For ten-mill Exeter Planning would hope so.
Planning magazine reports that there have been previous applications either refused or withdrawn, but the Clooneys’ agent insists that the new proposal is “substantially different” from earlier applications.
Until now Sonning’s most notable residents have been (apart from Uri Geller) Jimmy Page, Led Zeppelin’s guitarist; Theresa May, the Home Secretary, and Glenn Hoddle, the former England football manager. Previous famous sons have included Sir Terence Rattigan, the playwright, and Dick Turpin.
Further up the road, but a mere 15 miles away in the village of Bucklebury, are Mr and Mrs Middleton, grandparents to the future king of England. Known for their meticulously planned parties, Carole and Mike would no doubt be as welcoming to Hollywood royalty as they are to their in-laws.
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