NEWBURY Town Council is becoming increasingly concerned about the number of vacant retail units in Cheap Street and Bartholomew Street and is putting together a plan to help promote and encourage more investment to the area.
Council chief executive Hugh Peacocke said businesses south of Newbury town centre were suffering, compared with those in Northbrook Street and Parkway – and has urged councillors to come up with ideas to resolve the issue.
However, councillor Julian Swift-Hook has admitted that it was very difficult to know what do to solve the long-standing problem.
Speaking to the Newbury Weekly News this week, Mr Swift Hook said: “The retail offering in the south of the town centre is already significantly diminishing year-on-year and is in danger of dying completely.
“That is the reality.
“A number of local retailers have complained to me over the years about the issue and it is very difficult to know what to do.
“I had a business myself in the south of Newbury 10 years ago and I too suffered.
“Unfortunately shoppers simply don’t seem to come to that end of town.
“It is a long-standing problem and, to be honest, I don’t see how the problem is going to be resolved– but that’s not to say it can’t be.”
During a meeting of Newbury Town Council’s planning and highways commitee on Monday, Mr Peacocke said that he wanted councillors to take action.
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Peacocke added: “You don’t have to be an economic scientist to see that there are a number of vacant properties on the south end of Bartholomew Street and on Cheap Street.
“It is generally accepted that businesses to the south of the town centre are not attracting the same level of retail investment compared to those in Northbrook Street and Parkway and are suffering as a result.
“This is about what we can try and do to promote investment in the south of the town centre to address that imbalance.
“We want to make it known to the planning authority [West Berkshire Council] that this is one of our key objectives so they can take it into account when considering future applications.”
During this week’s meeting, Mr Swift-Hook said that West Berkshire Council’s decision to increase car parking charges would have done nothing to help attract more people to the south of the town centre.
Motorists used to be able to take advantage of free parking in Cheap Street and Bartholomew Street.
However, earlier this year, the council rolled out the second phase of its hugely controversial on-street parking scheme under which people can still park for up to 30 minutes free of charge, but they have to pay if they want to stay for longer.
Councillor Kuldip-Singh-Khan chose to look at the positives and said he thought the proposed Market Street development, which would see 225 homes built to the south of the town centre, could help attract more passing trade.
n Do you think more retail investment is needed in Cheap Street and Bartholomew Street? Email dan.cooper@newburynews. co.uk