Fri, 26 Aug 2016
THATCHAM Town Council is demanding answers from West Berkshire Council over its decision to stop recording the number of visitors using the town centre.
As revealed by the Newbury Weekly News, the district council has stopped monitoring footfall in the town.
Footfall measures the number of people visiting an area to help indicate the economic performance of town centres.
The move led the chairman of Thatcham’s chamber of commerce, Jeremy Cottam, to state his overwhelming disappointment with the council.
He accused the council of “showing a lack of interest in Thatcham’s future” and asked how the council would manage the town’s prospects without the monitoring.
Now Thatcham town councillors have called for the district council to explain its decision.
Town and district councillor Lee Dillon (Lib Dem, Thatcham North) issued the request at a recent meeting.
“I would go one further and ask for the economic development officer to come and talk to us,” replied council leader Jason Collis (Con, Thatcham North).
Speaking on the district council’s decision, Mr Collis said he was disappointed with West Berkshire Council.
“We want to know what the district council are going to do to help us to continue to look after the economic interest of the town,” he said.
The council told the NWN that the methodolgy for measuring Thatcham’s footfall was no longer in line with Newbury’s.
But Mr Collis said that Thatcham’s figures would still be useful.
“Our life is not just comparing ourselves with Newbury,” he said.
Mr Dillon said that the council had a commitment to town centres and their well-being.
“To be able to make informed decisions about the future of the town we should be able to have access to footfall data to see how the town performs in relation to similar towns.
“I think West Berkshire Council have got a duty to promote and enhance all of the town’s in West Berkshire, not just Newbury, so hopefully they will accept the request to explain their decision.”
Mr Dillon said he had received no briefing on the decision and that he didn’t recall it going before the council’s executive.
He said that the council needed to improve its communication with parish and town councils.
“I would have expected that they would have come to us and said ‘this is what we’re doing, do you have any objection to this?’, including Thatcham’s chamber of commerce.”
Explaining its decision, West Berkshire Council said that “things had moved on” since the surveys were first conducted.
It said that the relevance of a yearly town survey was questionable and that the costs did not represent good value for money.
It added that the statistics provided a trend over time rather than an accurate picture.