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Plans for Newbury's high-rise Kennet Centre raise concerns

THE soaring height of the Eagle Quarter, the proposed high-rise redevelopment of the Kennet Centre, has raised concerns.

As reported by the Newbury Weekly News in March, Lochailort Newbury has submitted plans to partially demolish and redesign the centre through a phased redevelopment.

The plans, now available to view on West Berkshire Council's planning portal, will provide 402 new homes, 5,355m2 of office space, including a headquarters office building, 2,413m2 of lettable flexible commercial space and a two-storey car park extension.

kennet centre (46654020)
kennet centre (46654020)

The new homes will be built in seven residential blocks, the highest stretching to 10 and 11 storeys in the centre of the redevelopment.

Six-storey buildings in Bartholomew Street and Market Street, and a five-storey building in Cheap Street form the edge of the new-look centre.

The Newbury Society has committed its latest bulletin to the scheme, highlighting the scale of the buildings, a lack of affordable housing and less than one parking space for every five flats.

The eastern elevation view of the central block (46648372)
The eastern elevation view of the central block (46648372)

Society chairman Dr David Peacock said the society wanted to give people a clear idea of the proposals and for them to make their own comments on the scheme.

Seven objections and one letter of support have already been lodged with West Berkshire Council.

Dr Peacock said: "We do have concerns about the proposals; we are concerned about the overall height and mass.

"The Newbury Society is very much in favour of redeveloping the Kennet Centre. We don't have, like a lot of people, a lot of love for the existing centre for the design and it's not a commercial success.

Block B of the proposed Eagle Quarter from the west (46648367)
Block B of the proposed Eagle Quarter from the west (46648367)

"The fact that it's an unsuccessful shopping centre doesn't mean that any kind of redevelopment should be approved. Any redevelopment needs to be sympathetic in design and in scale with the surrounding part of the town centre.

"This is an opportunity to do something that has a really positive affect on Newbury and the present plans, people will need to judge for themselves whether they do that or not."

Documents submitted by Lochailort said that no affordable housing in the traditional sense was justified or required because of the build to rent nature of the development.

The proposed Eagle Quarter viewed from the Kennet & Avon Canal (46648383)
The proposed Eagle Quarter viewed from the Kennet & Avon Canal (46648383)

But Dr Peacock said the Newbury Society found the lack of affordable housing staggering and the Market Street development had at least provided a small amount.

Lochailort Newbury said that the industrial heritage and the site's surroundings had been a key influence in designing the buildings, intended to help to create a strong sense of place and character.

Managing director at Lochailort, Hugo Haig said: "The proposed development has one carefully configured element that goes up to 11 storeys in a specific location. We strongly believe that there is no harm caused as a result of this higher element. In fact to the contrary, it helps by forming a sense of place and wayfinding through the town centre and creates the identity that the existing shopping centre has failed to deliver."

Artist impression of the Eagle Quarter (46648883)
Artist impression of the Eagle Quarter (46648883)

Mr Haig said it could not be right that the blocks of flats proposed would be out of character with the area when 232 flats at the nearby Market Street redevelopment, which will be six storeys high, were being built.

He added that Parkway rises to 11 storeys, new flats at the former Sterling Cables site go to eight storeys, along with the nearby BT telephone exchange building and the town hall.

Dr Peacock said that Parkway was eight storeys and that Sterling Cables was an exception because of the height of the former tower on the site, plus it is outside of the conservation area.

Two parking areas are included in the plans for The Eagle Quarter, named in reference to Plenty's Eagle Ironworks previously located on the site - the existing multistorey car park which has been extended with a new floor and residents' parking provided in an undercroft.

Seventy-six parking spaces are provided for use by new residents, of which 19 are disabled bays.

The single storey extension to the existing car park will provide 94 new parking spaces, made up of 68 replacement car parking spaces to offset spaces lost when the Kennet Centre is demolished, and 41 new additional spaces.

Dr Peacock criticised the lack of proposed spaces and said that more would be needed.

The plans can be viewed by entering 21/00379/FULMAJ into West Berkshire Council's planning site.

A separate application for 91 retirement living apartments has been submitted and can be viewed at 21/00380/FULMAJ

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