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'Tourist trap Newbury' the Vision for 2025

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NEWBURY as a premier UK leisure destination by 2025?That is the target for the re-vamped town centre plan, which was revealed during the annual conference of the Newbury 2025 Vision at the Corn Exchange yesterday (Wednesday).

The chief executive of West Berkshire Council, Nick Carter, said Newbury had shot up the rankings of shopper attractiveness on the back of the new £250million Parkway complex but in order to continue bucking the national trend in his view Newbury must offer more to day-trippers.

“People driving through along the A339, what do they take from Newbury? Do they go home and think ‘that was a great little town let’s go back and explore’? Not yet in my view, but we are getting there and that is an issue we will continue to work on,” he said.

In laying out the blueprint for development in Newbury over the next 13 years the Wharf area (pictured) and waterfront emerged as a crucial element of the next stage in the town’s transformation.

Mr Carter said he felt Newbury could do more to provide “that ‘day out’ feel”.

“The canal and river is a huge selling point. I think they are a key part of Newbury and, if we look at what other towns are doing, are undersold,” he said, adding: “We are now at a key point in the development of Newbury, where do we want to take the town?

“We still have a strong economy and it is a prosperous area. We want to make it more dynamic and give it a more vibrant feel and the Vision sets out how we can do that.”

It was also announced that a deal had been struck with housing firm Grainger to redevelop Market Street.

To make way for hundreds of new homes Newbury’s tired bus station will move to behind the library, and the library and museum could eventually be housed on small bays leading off from the canal.

For the first time since its inception in 2003 the Newbury Vision looked beyond the town centre to areas such as Greenham Common and the site of the Civil War as potential tourist traps.

Mr Carter hailed Parkway, the £250 million mixed-use shopping complex, a recession-defying success which had increased footfall and helped increase parking income following a drop off.

Of other cultural developments little mention was made of the proposed Victoria Park Pavilion.

The project has seemingly been put out to pasture despite claims there will be another public consultation.

A task group of key local figures will also be set up to help advance the new re-written Vision.

The afternoon session of the conference focussed on the Business Improvement District and how it can dovetail with the Vision to boost retail and non-retail companies in order to strengthen the economic base of the town.

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