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Call for innovations to increase footfall in Hungerford

Number of visitors to the town is dropping

John Garvey

Reporter:

John Garvey

Call for innovations to increase footfall in Hungerford

FOOTFALL is Hungerford has steadily fallen over the past four years, new figures reveal.

The declining number of visitors is despite the best efforts of civic leaders to promote the town as a tourist destination.

Some have called for more investment by West Berkshire Council, while others have said innovative ideas were necessary.

The latest economic figures from West Berkshire Council show that, in 2011/12, town centre footfall in Hungerford stood at 4,950 people per day.

By 2014/15, this has steadily fallen to 4,394 people per day.

The footfall figures are from April to June each year and are calculated by counting the number of people visiting over one week – usually in May – and divided by the number of days in the week.

Figures for Thatcham show a similar story – though less clear-cut – with footfall on a less steep downward trend.

The chairman of Hungerford Chamber of Commerce, Nigel Perrin, expressed disappointment and said that the trend was despite huge efforts by business leaders to turn it around.

He said the Hungerford town website had been a positive step but added that West Berkshire Council should now invest more cash in the town.

However, district councillor Paul Hewer (Con, Hungerford) said money was not an answer in itself.

He pointed to the £10,000 windfall from the Mary Portas group in 2012, designed to be used to bring more visitors to Hungerford.

The Hungerford Marketing Group, made up of volunteers from local businesses and the community, had applied to be part of the Mary Portas Scheme, promoted by the Government in order to boost the local economy, together with mentoring and other support.

Mr Hewer said: “To be frank, it made no difference.

“Hungerford is not alone – people increasingly shop online.

“At least we have the antiques trade as a unique selling feature.

“But we need innovative ideas and different, small shops and business.

“In the current, ongoing economic climate there are likely to be more Government cuts, not more cash to go around.”

Town mayor Martin Crane said plans were being drawn up to link the town more closely to the North Wessex Downs and to the tourist route to Bath.

West Berkshire Council’s executive member for planning, regeneration and economic development, Alan Law (Con, Basildon), agreed that towns like Hungerford faced the challenge of having to “enhance the overall town centre experience and not simply focus on traditional retail”.

Mr Law said that Newbury, which he described as a “21st- century market town”, was a typical example of an evolving town centre, owing to Parkway, new restaurants and cafés.

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