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Masterplan for Thatcham Town Centre in the pipeline



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A masterplan looking at ways to improve Thatcham town centre is in the works.

West Berkshire Council is drawing up the scheme as part of its economic development strategy looking at recovery in a post-Covid district.

The council says in the refreshed document that it will "focus on town centre masterplanning in Thatcham and will seek external investment for this purpose".

It said: "This would ensure that infrastructure and town centre facilities can be upgraded to meet the demands and ambitions of Thatcham Town Council and the town’s residents and businesses."

Thatcham town centre at the start of the first national lockdown in 2020 (47380948)
Thatcham town centre at the start of the first national lockdown in 2020 (47380948)

The refresh comes as the council is working through responses to its proposals to allocate land in north east Thatcham for 2,500 homes.

West Berkshire Council economy manager Katharine Makant told councillors at a meeting last week that no work had started on the town centre plan at this stage.

Jeremy Cottam (Lib Dem, Thatcham North East) said the strategy was "'a worthy document full of good intentions but there's a lot of mention of Newbury, which they are fully entitled to do, but there's no mention of any plans referring to Thatcham, and that concerns me".

Thatcham town centre at the start of the first national lockdown in 2020 (47380963)
Thatcham town centre at the start of the first national lockdown in 2020 (47380963)

Town council leader David Lister (Lib Dem, Thatcham West) asked how closely the economic plan would tie in with the proposed 2,500-home development and the council's leisure strategy.

He said: "This proposed development is the biggest thing ever to hit Thatcham and we seem to be completely in the dark about it.

"The impact on our recreation centre will be enormous. I think it's already at capacity.

"A development the size of Hungerford is being added to the side of Thatcham.

"How will the strategies be updated to reflect the Local Plan?

"Otherwise everything is harking back to something that's out of date."

Mrs Makant said that Newbury was going through a master planning exercise at the moment and the council wanted to replicate the process in other areas.

Thatcham town centre at the start of the first national lockdown in 2020 (47380937)
Thatcham town centre at the start of the first national lockdown in 2020 (47380937)

"The Thatcham masterplan does not exist as yet," she said.

"It's a piece of work we aspire to do with your help.

"The council has put aside £150,000 of its reserves to carry out similar exercises in other towns, of which the next biggest and most obvious one is Thatcham.

"There's nothing more to it than that at the moment."

Mrs Makant said the council aimed to procure consultants for Thatcham's masterplan by the end of the year and begin talking with stakeholders and the public next year.

She said: "It's taken more than six months for Newbury.

"Newbury is obviously bigger and there's certainly more people to ask but that's our thinking at the moment.

"We aim for it to be partnership working, not to impose anything."

She said that the economic strategy tied in to other strategies and would be refreshed again.

"As it develops we will be able to make more detailed references to things that are happening and refresh the strategy to make it relevant to things as they come up," she said.

West Berkshire Council leader Lynne Doherty (Con, Speen) said that the council was looking at starting the work this summer.

"It's going to be key for Thatcham because, size-wise, we need to get that started and moving forward.

"There's probably far more to do in Thatcham than there is in Newbury."

Mrs Doherty said this was owing to growth in the town and that the previous strategy, the Turley Report published in 2009, had not been implemented.

"That probably makes it a big piece of work," she said, adding that the masterplan would need to take into account the 2,500-home development based on the final scheme submitted to the Government.



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