The developer behind the proposed regeneration of Newbury’s Kennet Centre says the scheme is the best he’s ever been involved with.

Hugo Haig, managing director of Lochailort which is behind the proposed Eagle Quarter scheme for the redevelopment of the Kennet Centre for new independent shops, homes and either offices or a senior living scheme – told Thames Tap he is delighted to be regenerating his home town.

Lochailort plans a mixed-use scheme of 30 retail units, 402 Build-to-Rent apartments, new public realm and either an office building and tech hub or, alternatively, a senior living development.

He says the Eagle Quarter’s ground floor offer is about attracting people to Newbury town centre’s new retail offer as a leisure pursuit, focussed on local, independent and artisan business, and making best use of the Vue cinema.

The 30 small retail units have been designed to be as flexible as possible and can be combined or split to meet occupier requirements.

Each will have outside space available so that users can spill out into a proposed new pedestrianised street through the site that will be up to 18-20 metres wide.

New areas of public realm will be created in public squares and courtyards, all designed to encourage people to stay and enjoy the town centre.

The shops will be just 500 sq ft each with very little back of house space, designed to help keep business rates to a minimum and attract upcoming and interesting occupiers.

Mr Haig went on: “The units will be constructed to a ‘white box’ finish, which means they will be plastered and painted and can be occupied from day one, thus saving the incoming retailers expensive fit out costs.

“We will look for local independent retailers in the first instance, but we will also cast our net further afield and look in places like Marlow, Henley, Windsor and Winchester.

“We will be offering the units for free for the first year or so, to get things going.  The street has to work.  Once operators have become successfully established, they will be moved onto turnover rents but retain flexibility of tenure and occupation.”

He estimates 20-30 per cent could be restaurants, cafes and food shops while others could be retailers or even artistic studios.  A diverse mix is seen as essential.

“An awful lot of effort has gone into creating an environment for entrepreneurs.

“This will complement the existing retail offer of Newbury and it does not compete with Parkway, which is a modern retail centre. And it will be a completely different experience to the big-box retail parks on the edge of town”.

Mr Haig added: “If you’ve got 1,000 people living and working in the new development then not only will it help the new retail offering but also Market Place, Northbrook Street and the rest of the town.”

The existing seven-screen Vue cinema will remain part of the new development and Mr Haig hopes that it will be more successful as a result of the development.

The emphasis on making the ground floor work was welcomed and supported in the public’s response to a consultation and has been formally supported by Newbury BID.

Sustainability and wellness also figure strongly in the proposals.

Mr Haig said: “In our public consultation we showed that two extra floors could have been added to the existing multi storey car park but, following feedback, we have revised our proposals and now plan to add one extra floor of parking as well as a roof of PV solar panels.”

The developer aims to go further in sustainability terms than in its own Thames Quarter scheme in Reading, due to be launched in June, which boasts combined heat and power technology.

Eagle Quarter will use ground source heat pumps to supply heating, hot water and cooling which targets a 50 per cent saving compared with the existing Building Regulations requirements and brings an annual 300-tonne CO2 saving.

There will be a car club with four vehicles, 14 new charging points for electric vehicles, plus an onsite cycle workshop including cycle and scooter hire.

Every apartment will have access to a variety of roof gardens, lounges, leisure and meeting spaces, and almost all will have their own balcony or private terrace. Residents will have their own onsite gym and, in a first for Newbury, a dedicated squash court.

The site is close to the railway station and Mr Haig suggests that, in the post-Covid world, the new residents are unlikely to commute to the same degree as before but will still need to occasionally.

The scheme is expected to take a year to go through the planning process and, if successful, a further year to mobilise construction work, followed by a likely four-year build.

Mr Haig said: “In my view, it’s what town centre living was meant to be.  You have lots of facilities on your doorstep and you can live and work here.  It’s self-contained but with wider benefits for the whole town centre.

“This is a chance to put people back in the town centre in an attractive and sustainable way.”

He added: “This is the best scheme I’ve ever been involved with, its comprehensive and has wide-ranging benefits for the immediate vicinity and the town as a whole – considerate urban rejuvenation.”

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