Wed, 18 Apr 2018
THE countdown towards the transformation of Newbury’s southern gateway has begun, following a £1m payment to West Berkshire Council.
Work to move Newbury’s bus station from Market Street to the Wharf will begin next month and is expected to take six months to complete.
The imminent works follows the council receiving a £1m contribution from Market Street developer Grainger towards infrastructure and housing.
The payment brings the council’s flagship scheme for the area, which will see an ‘urban village’ of six-storey 232 rented flats built on the site, a step closer.
The project, a partnership between the council, Grainger and Network Rail, includes a 497-space multistorey car park for council and Network Rail use, along with 108 parking spaces for residents.
A new station plaza and landscaped step-free pedestrian routes through the site are also included.
The NWN asked the council what the £1m developer contribution would be spent on but did not receive a response as the paper went to press last Wednesday.
The council’s chief executive, Nick Carter, said: “The Market Street development is a fantastic vote of confidence in Newbury’s economy.
“It will create more than 220 new full-time jobs over the next four years and, when complete, is expected to provide more than £4m of additional expenditure in local shops and services each year.
“West Berkshire Council will also receive £1.78m of Government funding towards additional commuter parking, which will be another great asset provided as part of this scheme.”
The council faced a backlash when it was revealed that it had given the land, valued at £3.9m in 2013, to Grainger for free.
Further criticism came after Grainger announced that only 13 of the 232 homes would be affordable because of viability reasons.
Speaking earlier this year, the leader of the council’s Liberal Democrat opposition Lee Dillon (Thatcham North) branded the council a disgrace for not demanding more affordable housing on its own land.
He added: “The overall scheme sees us gain a car park after we lose a car park, gain a bus stop after we lose a bus stop and then see a development that doesn’t address the housing needs in the district.”
Mr Carter has previously said that the scheme could be justified because of the numerous benefits it would provide.
The council views the project as a way of “improving the connection between Newbury town centre and the railway station and helping ease traffic and congestion”.
Plans for the 5.5-acre site, approved in 2016, have been in the pipeline since 2006 and form a key part of the Newbury Vision 2026.
The redevelopment coincides with Network Rail’s electrification programme to deliver faster, greener and quieter trains with extra capacity.
Network Rail’s principal development manager, Kirsten Durie, said: “This scheme will not only bring benefits to people using the station, but to the whole town.
“Our wider programme of investment, including electrification, will pave the way for new trains and a more reliable railway which supports and encourages economic growth across the region.”
The council said that plans for the south side of the railway station are in the advanced planning stage and would “greatly improve the current rail interface with buses”.
Phase one of the scheme involves the demolition of Highfield Avenue and the bus station and is set to last 10 weeks.
The council said that there would be minimal disruption in Market Street while the new bus station was built, owing to the current one remaining in use at the time.
Temporary parking for council staff will then come into operation during the following two weeks, alongside the preparation of spaces for Network Rail.
Construction of the multi-storey car park and three residential blocks encompasses phase three, with the multi-storey car park set to be operational during phase four.
Completion of three residential blocks and the approach to the station make up phase five, with the scheme estimated for completion in late 2020.
Development director at Grainger Chris Fletcher said: “We are delighted that this important project is now moving forward.
“It is a result of our successful ongoing partnership with West Berkshire Council, Network Rail and the local community.
“We look forward to delivering this fantastic scheme for Newbury which will deliver 232 new, high-quality homes, and improve important aspects in and around the station.”
Documents detailing the phases can be viewed here.