Wed, 27 May 2015
THE future of Thatcham’s prime shopping area is still uncertain after an eight-year wait.
Plans to refurbish the Kingsland Centre have been in the system since 2007 when West Berkshire Council approved an application for a new Waitrose store, 13 retail units, the refurbishment and extension of five existing shop units and the redevelopment and extension of the upper floor to provide first and second floor accommodation.
Car parking for 229 vehicles alongside 226 bays in the current car park were also included.
Eight years later and the refresh, deemed vital for the development of the town, has not materialised.
When it renewed the application in March, West Berkshire Council said that the proposal would “enhance the shopping environment” of Thatcham town centre through increased diversity and additional commercial and community space, while also providing housing in a sustainable location.
“This will ultimately assist in meeting the needs of the local residents of Thatcham and increasing the competitiveness of the town centre,” it said.
The centre, built in 1986, is owned by Development Securities PLC which refused to answer questions from the Newbury Weekly News regarding the cause of the delay and its plans for the centre.
The chairman of Thatcham Vision, David Conquest, said that he was pleased to see that the plans had been renewed and hoped for no further delays.
“One of Vision’s tasks is to support improvements to the town centre while keeping a village feel, so I hope that a large redevelopment like this will attract more people into the Broadway area for the benefit of everyone, increasing all retail and social activities,” he said.
In its action plan for Thatcham the Vision calls for the town centre to become a more desirable destination for people across West Berkshire.
“The Broadway still has a village feel to it, which many people enjoy, so I would urge the developers to keep in mind the past as well as the future, and build in a way that complements the village atmosphere of the Broadway,” Mr Conquest said.
The chairman of the Thatcham Chamber of Commerce, Jeremy Cottam, agreed, saying that the chamber was supportive of the plans.
He did, however, have a number of concerns relating to free parking and access to the Broadway green from the new centre if it ever went ahead.
Mr Cottam said that he did not want the redeveloped Kingsland Centre to be a white elephant and wanted the landlords to co-operate with businesses in the Broadway rather than competing with them.
“I don't want them to turn their back on the town centre,” he said. “I think both parties could benefit if it’s done sympathetically.”