Tue, 16 Apr 2019
FUNDING to bring about long-sought-after investment in Thatcham town centre could be on the cards.
West Berkshire Council has submitted an expression of interest to the Government’s Future High Streets Fund, a £675m national scheme which allows local authorities to apply for grants to improve town centres.
The bid could result in a number of improvements to Thatcham Broadway and High Street, including highways improvements, enhancement of the public toilets and refurbishment of the street scene.
The council was allowed to submit the bid owing to the population size of the district.
The local authority said that Thatcham was selected as it would present an opportunity to deliver some of the projects suggested in the Thatcham Vision document.
The bid has attracted support from a wide range of local stakeholders including Newbury MP Richard Benyon, Newbury Weekly News editor Andy Murrill and Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership chief executive Tim Smith, as well as representatives from both political parties on West Berkshire Council and the voluntary sector.
Elements of the Turley Report, a design appraisal to refresh the town centre commissioned by the council at a cost of £50,000 in 2008, will be included in the bid.
The Turley Report suggested a community café, dedicated market space and narrowed roads to update the Broadway and High Street.
The report 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”.
Success for the council’s expression of interest stage for the Future High Streets Fund would enable it to submit a full business case application for funding to support several strategic projects and investments in the town.
West Berkshire Council’s planning and transport policy manager Bryan Lyttle said: “When we first heard about the fund, we felt that we could make a strong case for a number of our high streets.
“While we recognise that West Berkshire is very fortunate to have thriving towns and villages, there are some areas where this investment would be very welcome.
“In recent years, the majority of our development has been focussed on Newbury.
“We are currently refreshing our Local Plan and we feel that the opportunity to bid for this particular fund is timely for Thatcham.
“We’ve put a lot of effort into our bid and the community in Thatcham is behind it, so we are really hopeful about our chances of success.”
The successful towns are expected to be announced in the summer.