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Footbridge proposed in Newbury town centre masterplan

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A NEW footbridge over the Kennet and Avon Canal, a greater offering of independent businesses, easier access to the canal and the linking of The Wharf and Market Place for events are just some of the suggestions put forward in a draft masterplan designed to improve Newbury town centre.

The proposals form part of a ‘vision’ created by Wayne Hemingway of HemingwayDesign, which was commissioned by the district council last year as it looks to help Newbury thrive in a post-Covid era.

The design consultants conducted meetings and workshops with businesses, residents’ groups, students and other stakeholders, while an initial public survey received over 4,000 responses.

Kennet and Avon Canal Newbury.Ref: 26-2521A... (48700842)
Kennet and Avon Canal Newbury.Ref: 26-2521A... (48700842)

In the subsequent 29-page document, HemingwayDesign outlines the priorities of the masterplan in several areas.

These include broadening Newbury’s shopping and leisure offers through “the creation of new short lease flexible units” for independent retailers and food and drink providers, prioritising improving indoor and outdoor space for arts and cultural activity and creating more space within the town centre for start-ups and small businesses.

The masterplan also puts forward several proposals for the improvement of the town, focusing particularly on a new footbridge across the canal between the existing Bridge Street and the American Bridge at Park Way.

Newbury - Parkway.Ref: 26-2721... (48743772)
Newbury - Parkway.Ref: 26-2721... (48743772)

The masterplan says: “There are very few opportunities for pedestrians to cross the canal in the town centre with just one bridge between Bridge Street and the A339.

“All existing crossings take pedestrians away from the water and only Bridge Street provides an attractive environment for pedestrians.”

This new footbridge would, the masterplan says, join Parkway, Camp Hopson, the Waterside Centre, the Museum and Market Place together, and increase footfall to Parkway by making it “a more central and accessible destination”.

Along with improvements to Park Way – which the masterplan suggests turning into a civic street rather than a service road – the footbridge would “encourage more visitors to walk along the towpaths, and visit the park.

Newbury - Weavers Walk .Ref: 26-2721... (48743774)
Newbury - Weavers Walk .Ref: 26-2721... (48743774)

The masterplan also suggests transforming the canal with a much greater offering of cafes and restaurants.

It suggests Camp Hopson create a “more lively frontage to the canal, with complementary café or leisure uses at ground floor”, while “the south side of the canal provides opportunities for the existing buildings to make better use” of their access to the water.

West Berkshire Council leader Lynne Doherty (Con, Speen) said there were lots of positives.

Newbury .Ref: 26-2721... (48743762)
Newbury .Ref: 26-2721... (48743762)

She added: “Having been a resident here for over 30 years, I think there are some real positives.

“I don’t think there are major surprises, it’s really recognising the market town, heritage and our identity.

“There was a lot of feedback around wanting to see a better mix of independent businesses, both retail and hospitality.”

Newbury - Parkway.Ref: 26-2721... (48743763)
Newbury - Parkway.Ref: 26-2721... (48743763)

Newbury Town Council leader Martin Colston (Lib Dem, West Fields) described the masterplan as “promising” but said he’d hoped to see greater pedestrianisation of the town centre.

He said: “I liked some of the stuff they’re talking about.

“An extra bridge over the canal for pedestrians would be really good, I like the idea of making Park Way road more interesting to link the Parkway Shopping area with Victoria Park, making Victoria Park more accessible, and making more use of the Wharf area is a really good idea.

“There’s a lot to like, but my main disappointment is they didn’t have any strong desire for extending pedestrianisation.

“That would be a real missed opportunity.”

The masterplan also supports the proposed ‘Eagle Quarter’ – the controversial redevelopment of the Kennet Centre with 402 homes, 5,355 m2 of office space, 2,413 m2 of lettable flexible commercial space and a two-storey car park extension.

As well as making the town centre more ‘liveable’, the scheme has, according to the masterplan, “the potential to bring a variety of benefits to the town centre”.

The masterplan will now go to the public for consultation, which will run until July 16.

The results from that consultation will then be collated to inform the final masterplan, which will then set the formal planning framework for the future regeneration and development of the town centre.

To view the full masterplan, click here

To take part in the survey, go to https://hemingwaydesign.typeform.com/to/A8axFfMK

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