About the Area
West Berkshire is an area which offers beautiful countryside, thriving market towns and good transport links to London and southern England.
We share the prosperity of the South East with the culture and life style of the South West. A recent official Health index says West Berkshire is the 4th healthiest and 2nd happiest place in England. Other surveys put Berkshire as the 8th most prosperous county in England and West Berkshire has the second lowest unemployment rate in the county. Overall we have been voted amongst the top 50 best places to live.
Covering 272 square miles, around 74% of our area is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and our countryside is as varied as it is plentiful. There are 51 sites of special scientific interest and around 40% of residents live in rural areas although there are plenty of opportunities for urban living as well. Newbury is the largest town in West Berkshire, although Hungerford, Pangbourne, Thatcham, Theale and Tilehurst are also significant communities along with suburbs bordering Reading in the east. Each community has its own culture.
The area is characterised by chalk downlands, which are intersected by the River Kennet and the associated Kennet and Avon Canal which both run across the length of the area. We also have the river Thames to the north of the district.
West Berkshire has a population of 157,900 people which is expected to grow by 5.4% by 2036. In West Berkshire we are fortunate to have relatively low crime rates (10.8 per 1000 residents compared to the national average of 23.7) and education compares favourably with national trends with most schools rated “good” or “outstanding”.
The district is widely recognised as an area with a high concentration of high-tech firms and is home to companies such as Microfocus (FTSE 100 leading international software company), Thatcham Automotive Research (global leader in car security and safety systems), Xtract (advanced technology for performance cars including F1), Harrods Distribution Centre (retail), Stryker (medical supplies), Vodafone (telecommunications) and the Atomic Weapons Establishment.
West Berkshire has a thriving economy with one of the lowest unemployment rates in Europe, and we have set an ambitious target to be carbon neutral by 2030. We launched the UK’s first Community Municipal Investment Bond in July 2020 and so far over £500,000 has been raised for green projects.
Schools and Childcare
Prospects for young people in West Berkshire are good, and 97.5% of our 16-18 year olds are in education, employment or training (making us in the top ten nationally).
Across West Berkshire we have a total of 99 education establishments including 50 primary schools, four secondary schools and eight academies as well as junior, infant and nursery schools. You can search for schools in the district or download a list using our Find a School online search, which provides contact details for each school, their websites and a copy of their latest OFSTED report.
As well as mainstream schools there are two schools which cater for children with learning or physical disabilities:
- The Castle School in Newbury caters for children aged 2 to 19 years old who have complex learning difficulties
- Brookfields School in Tilehurst, near Reading, offers personalised education and support to pupils with learning difficulties and additional needs
As well as schools, Newbury College also offers around 2,000 full and part time courses and training, including business, hospitality and IT. Its part time courses are delivered at over 50 venues across West Berkshire with a main campus in Newbury, including a skills centre, sports hall and conference facilities.
Housing and Travel
West Berkshire offers both rural and suburban living, and as such there's a broad mix of housing on offer. As we enjoy a largely rural setting we have a higher than average proportion of detached and semi-detached housing.
You will find more detached houses in rural areas such as Lambourn and Bucklebury and in the more affluent suburban areas such as Purley, on the outskirts of Reading. With town living, such as in Newbury, you will find more flats and terraced housing including the recent Racecourse development.
To explore the housing available across West Berkshire, visit the Rightmove website.
We are committed to making sure that there's a mix of affordable housing options, in addition to those available in the open market.
This includes making available:
- properties to rent from housing associations
- low-cost or shared ownership options
- supported housing for more vulnerable members of our community
We work closely with housing associations and other organisations to enable them to build new homes.
Whether you prefer to get around by road, rail or air there's something to suit you.
West Berkshire sits on the crossroads of two key roads; the M4 and the A34. These offer quick access across southern England with London, Reading, Southampton, Portsmouth, Bristol, Oxford and Swindon all within an hour's drive of the area. In addition we are well connected to the Midlands with Birmingham and Coventry around an hours’ drive North.
The area has good rail links with London - less than an hour by train. The south coast is only 90 minutes away and, via Reading, there are connections to all the mainline routes throughout the country.
The rail network through West Berkshire also benefits from the electrification of the Great Western railway line from London to Bristol and beyond. This will provide faster, quieter and greener journeys between the capital and South Wales.
Air and Sea
Heathrow and Southampton airports are both just 40 miles from West Berkshire, connecting you to destinations across the world.
The ferry terminals in Southampton and Portsmouth are also 40 miles away, and provide quick and easy access to Europe.