BUSINESS owners in Cheap Street say they feel they are being forced out of the area owing to a deliberate lack of support from West Berkshire Council.
Retailers say their businesses have suffered because of a number of recent council decisions affecting the southern end of Newbury town centre and, when coupled with a rise in rates payable to Newbury BID, have led to an almost untenable situation.
Stephen McKinnon, who set up Abstract Bodyworks Gym in Kings Road West, said the new Market Street development which will encourage train passengers to exit via Market Street rather than Cheap Street, as well as proposed parking restrictions during the day will mean many of the retailers will choose to relocate.
He said: “It’s already happening.
“If you look up the road there are to-let signs all over the place.
“We have already lost a bunch of retailers from this street and we are losing more.
“I think they want to make this whole area residential so they want us out.
“And if that’s what West Berkshire Council want to have happen then they need to say it so people can make provisions for that.”
Inna Khan, landlady of the King Charles Tavern said footfall had already significantly dropped along the town centre street.
She said: “We are paying rent, we don’t own the property, and already there’s been a drop in sales, probably due to a lack of footfall.
“You want to go where the people are.
“This end of town has been neglected.”
Some retailers have said the introduction of parking charges for those staying longer than half an hour (introduced last year), coupled with new proposals to remove parking bays during daytime trading hours will further lead to a drop in customers.
Newbury Town councillor Elizabeth O’Keeffe (Lib Dem, Victoria) did not agree that retailers were being deliberately driven out, however, she did admit that more needs to be done to encourage businesses to move to the area.
She said: “We need to move forward in developing parts of the town and keeping up with other towns around but in doing that we have neglected these older trading areas like Bartholomew Street and Cheap Street in some ways.
“It’s keeping the independent shops which are more attractive to people but also encouraging larger businesses to come to Newbury.
“The Market Street development won’t bring much to Cheap Street as people will be encouraged to leave the other way.
“And this whole business of bringing the traffic around that way is going to cause further problems for them.
“I think they have been neglected what we should be doing is trying to regenerate this area - we ought to be looking at keeping these niche businesses because you need that mix.”
West Berkshire councillor and Newbury town councillor James Frederickson said the feedback gained from traders through the parking consultation was “positive” and was adamant West Berkshire Council was working to make the area more attractive to businesses.
When asked if Cheap Street and Bartholomew Street had been neglected in favour of areas such as Parkway he said: “I think whenever you have redevelopment we will always go area by area.
Pointing to the proposed revamp of the Kennet Shopping centre he added: “The re-development we are seeing there is going to address that.
“There’s a lot of investment we’ve got the shopping centre and around the cinema which is very exciting so there’s a lot going on but these things take time.
“It’s frustrating that it can’t happen immediately.”