Sat, 10 Aug 2019
AN “oversupply of retail” exists in Thatcham, even if plans to redevelop the Kingsland Centre do not go ahead, a report has claimed.
However, it has been criticised for covering the retail offering of both Newbury and Thatcham.
The Western Berkshire Authorities Retail and Commercial Leisure Assessment discusses the provision of retail space for Thatcham in the period up to 2036.
The report, published in April 2017, said: “For Thatcham, there is no requirement for the council to plan for additional comparison goods floorspace, because of the extant permission for the redevelopment of the Kingsland Centre.
“Were this permission to expire without implementation, there would be a small requirement of additional comparison goods floorspace of 400 sq m net by 2026, increasing to 1,000 sq m net by 2036.”
The report was referenced in relation to recently-approved plans for retirement flats in Station Road.
Plans to redevelop the Kingsland Centre have been floating around since 2007.
The council approved plans 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.
The scheme was renewed in 2015 and the centre was sold to Sheet Anchor Evolve for £16.1m last year.
But the new property management company told the NWN that a comprehensive redevelopment of the site was unlikely.
Nevertheless, a council report said that there was “no quantitative ‘need’ for additional convenience goods provision in the Newbury/Thatcham area over the period to 2036”.
This, the council said, was because of the large number of existing foodstores and “the fact that some of those already present are underperforming”.
It stated: “Were the permission for the redevelopment of the Kingsland Centre in Thatcham to lapse, there would remain an oversupply of convenience goods floorspace in the Newbury/Thatcham area.”
In response to the report, Thatcham councillor Steve Ardagh-Walter (Con, Thatcham Colthrop and Crookham) said it appeared that Thatcham had enough retail space.
He said: “I would love to see more shops with a wider range of goods opening within the town centre, both for the increased footfall and community benefits this would bring, and also for the environmental advantage of reducing car journeys within the district.
“Shops will flourish when people choose to shop locally – so I hope more residents of Thatcham and neighbouring villages will make that decision and see what is available here.
“If we do detect that there is a need for more shop space, I would hope that the property market would be able to respond; if it does not then we can look more broadly at this area.”
But the lumping together of Thatcham and Newbury was called out by shadow portfolio holder for economic development Jeff Brooks (Lib Dem, Thatcham West).
He said: “The high street is really struggling and it’s difficult for any local authority to wish to have more retail space when we can’t seem to keep the retail space we have now.
“Thatcham is not too bad but Newbury, very difficult – look at the Kennet Centre. I don’t think you can compare the two.”
Mr Brooks said that the nature of the high street had changed as more services were taken online.
“People are going to high streets for different things,” he said.
“They want services, hospitality, nail bars, tattoo parlours, coffee shops.
“The high street experience is perishable goods, bread, milk, when you can’t wait for Ocado to arrive or whatever.”