Wed, 04 Oct 2017
A PRESTIGIOUS car dealership is looking to relocate from Hungerford to the edge of Thatcham.
Dick Lovett hopes to shift its Mini and BMW dealerships in Charnham Street and build a new multi-million-pound showroom on four acres of land between Benham Hill and Turnpike Road.
A public exhibition on the proposals, which are in the pre-application phase, was held at Thatcham Rugby Club recently.
Speaking at the event, managing director of Impact Planning Services Robert Gillespie said that Dick Lovett had been searching for an expansion site since 2009.
And, after assessing 21 sites, the company identified the land in Thatcham, off the Tull Way roundabout, owned by a family farming trust, suitable because of its prominent position.
“Hungerford was proving to be inadequate for what they do,” Mr Gillespie said.
“Hungerford ran out of space and they want to be in a high-profile place that’s easy to get to and attract more customers.
“They found this to be the best site and one of the most realistic prospects for them.
“There was no other viable alternative.”
The new showroom, costing in the region of £7m to £8m, would accommodate the two dealerships linked by a central lounge space.
“It has a wow-factor,” said Mr Gillespie. “People won’t miss it.
“The type of customers who come here expect a high-quality environment.
“It would be a prominent architectural feature in the town. People will use it as focal point.
“It’s a big investment in the town.”
The development would include around 290 car parking spaces, with one access route proposed off Turnpike Road.
Commenting on the access plans, Mr Gillespie said: “You don’t get hordes of people going to a car dealership.”
He said that the new showroom could lead to a net increase in jobs, with around 60 people currently employed at the Hungerford showrooms.
“We are confident that the development site will not only be a landmark building for Newbury/Thatcham border, but it will raise the visual standard of the area, bringing both jobs and future investment,” pre-application designs said.
When asked about a precedent being set, Mr Gillespie said that this was not a reason to refuse planning permission.
He added that West Berkshire Council’s policies for commercial sites were out of date.
The company said that it had dropped 2,500 leaflets advertising the exhibition to nearby households.
The exhibition, which ran from 3pm until 7pm, had received only four visitors when the Newbury Weekly News arrived at 5pm.
The company wouldn’t say how many people had attended, but added that it had predicted higher numbers.
Mr Gilespie said that the plans were expected to be submitted in October, should all go to plan.