COULD this be the new look of Thatcham town centre?
A community café, dedicated market space, a new future for the toilets and narrowed roads; these are just some of the recommendations for a new look Broadway and High Street in a design refresh by Turley Associates.
The planning consultant states that there are a number of problems with the town centre, including the absence of a structured quality green space, too much Tarmac passing priority to motorists instead of people, while a patchwork of good and bad shopfronts undermines the character of the area.
The town centre is also ‘blighted’ by unnecessary and uncoordinated signage and street furniture the report says, including eight different bollard designs, while CCTV cameras create an ugly and obtrusive impression.
To address these issues, Turley focuses on three areas of redesign; the market square, gardens, and the High Street gateway.
The recommendations include placing the emphasis on a main pedestrian route between the Kingsland Centre and Co-op car park and creating a recognisable space for parking, market trading, taxis and buses.
Turley also feels that the town centre should express a sense of civic pride and opts for creating a local landmark or focal point.
An enlarged Broadway green could be achieved by narrowing the road while a new café or kiosk would encourage activity alongside possible play equipment.
And visitors to Thatcham should have a good first impression of the town centre, which needs to be elegant, inviting simple and clutter free.
Widened footways are proposed, along with trees, in order to detract from the ‘poor quality buildings and shop fronts’.
Turley’s report follows on from recommendations made in 2009 in order to help meet objectives for the future of the town.
These included reinforcing Thatcham’s identity as an independent thriving market town; reducing the need for residents to travel elsewhere; and improving the look and feel of the town.
The report adds that improvements carried out since 2009 pave the way for a more ambitious approach for the area.
This could see cars parked on one side of High Street only as, currently, parked cars ‘create a chicane effect and dominate views of the historic road’.
Turley considers that there is too much space provided for traffic and, as traffic is one way, recommends widening footways and providing ‘courtesy crossings’ alongside a recognisable parking area in the Broadway.
Several locations would benefit from widened footways, including the Kings Head and White Hart, which could then be used for outdoor seating.
As reported in last week’s Newbury Weekly News, the report casts doubt on the future of the Broadway toilets as the location ‘demands a more positive and well-designed feature’. Options range from redesign to demolition or conversion into a retail space.
The chairman of Thatcham Vision, David Conquest, said: “The recent design appraisal from West Berks is an exciting alternative view of what Thatcham town centre could look like, but this is only the start of a decision making process that must include local residents and businesses.
“We need to balance the immediate needs of users of the town centre, while also looking to the future and ways of strengthening our community. The town centre should be a strong focal point to bring in more residents and visitors to encourage economic and social growth.
“We shouldn’t forget the past however, as the village feel is very important and a major attraction for the town.
“We can do this by collaborating with all concerned, to build an attractive heart of the town that encourages local business, while also bringing the community together.”
He added that the vision was involved in the process and could help local residents and businesses contribute towards a consultation but wanted to know how the project would be funded, and over what time period.