A “DISHEARTENING” amount of money is being invested into Thatcham by West Berkshire Council.
That was the view of Liberal Democrat Lee Dillon, the leader of the opposition and district councillor for Thatcham North.
Mr Dillon made the statement in front of a room of Conservative councillors earlier this month.
But he was told that the council was simply “living within its means”.
The district council is to spend £15,000 a year over the next five years on regenerating Thatcham town centre, as highlighted in its capital programme, a five-year schedule that outlines where the council will spend its money between 2017 and 2022.
Speaking at a full council meeting, Mr Dillon criticised the lack of investment in the town.
A preliminary report from the Turley group – a design appraisal to refresh the town centre – was commissioned by West Berkshire Council, at a cost of £50,000, in 2008.
The report’s findings suggested that the main priorities for the town centre were to create a modern community facility, protect and enhance existing buildings of architectural merit and infrastructure projects, including improvements to gateways to the town and new signage.
However, little has been done since.
Mr Dillon said: “The Turley report, that was commissioned for Thatcham a fair few years ago now, called for significant investment in the town.
“There was a tri-party group set up to look at those recommendations. It had the support of the administration.
“What we have seen in future years is no money going into the town for that regeneration.
“So to see only £15,000 a year allocated to it now is disheartening, particularly when we look at the money being invested in Newbury, for example, or the value of land being given away in Newbury for regeneration.”
Defending the outlined spend, Pamela Bale (Con, Pangbourne) replied: “The total amount of investment is significant for an authority our size, we are living within our means.”
A design refresh by Turley to update its previous report suggested a community café, dedicated market space and narrowed roads to update the Broadway and High Street.
The planning consultants said that too much space was provided for traffic and, as traffic is one-way, recommended that widening footways and providing ‘courtesy crossings’ alongside a recognisable parking area be introduced in the Broadway.
It added that widened footways, along with more trees, would also detract attention from the “poor quality buildings and shop fronts”.