Newbury’s town centre masterplan has been welcomed by experts we asked – but with reservations about how the improvements will be funded.

There is also concern about the omission of London Road Industrial Estate (LRIE) from the masterplan.

HemingwayDesign’s masterplan document, produced in conjunction with New Masterplanning, Urban Movement and GL Hearn, was approved by West Berkshire Council’s (WBC) executive on February 11.

Among the recommendations are:

  • The Wharf to become more of a leisure destination
  • Making Victoria Park feel more like part of the town centre
  • Widening pavements in Northbrook Street, Bartholomew Street and Market Place for al fresco dining with a single lane for traffic
  • Newbury’s lanes and yards to be made more distinctive places for independent operators
  • More to be made of the coaching inns heritage around Broadway and London Road.

There are a number of ‘meanwhile’ uses proposed for vacant areas proposed while plans are worked towards.

Ian Blake, founder of iB Architects, said: “The masterplan document appears a very comprehensive piece of work that includes extensive consultation and offers solid, evidence based, yet imaginative recommendations.

“Hemmingway have objectively captured Newbury’s raison d’être, highlighted what is missing and where opportunities lay.  Most opportunities, such as The Wharf, have been subject to previous regeneration proposals – the most recent of which I had a hand in!

“However, it is tremendously disappointing that the council excluded the London Road Industrial Estate from Hemmingway’s study area, as this is the largest regeneration opportunity in the town and will lead to disparate development if not coordinated within the masterplan.

“My key question, is how will the council fund the infrastructure and public realm recommendations that are early in the delivery list?  These are essential to attracting more people back into the town centre, to work and live and without which the bigger aspirations will never materialise.”

Richard Stacey, Newbury resident and managing director of Evoke Transport, said: “There are some welcome aspirations in the masterplan. A focus on improvements to walking and cycling access and recommending the removal of traffic from Market Place; the latter being long overdue. Perhaps it should go further with a whole scale review of traffic on Northbrook St?

“Growth in the town centre population is recognised and consequently it is doubly important to enhance connectivity to key employment areas, such as the London Road Industrial Estate, particularly considering its potential  future redevelopment and its own masterplan.

“Having commissioned the study will West Berks Council be brave enough to accept all of its recommendations and adopt the plan into their policy framework, or can we expect much debate and the emergence of a watered down, ‘business-as-usual’ plan which keeps Newbury firmly in the ‘quaint market town but past its best’ category?

“This cannot be a false dawn in the post pandemic re-emergence of Newbury and if the masterplan ends up shelf-sitting then it will be a significant opportunity wasted. And of course, the age-old question – more prudent in these times of rising costs – who pays for it?

“There are some significant town centre proposals that can contribute both in enhancing footfall and potential financial contributions towards implementation – but they need planning permission first.”

WBC member Cllr Howard Woollaston said: “West Berkshire Council commissioned Hemmingway to produce a new masterplan for Newbury. As a market town we have many in-built advantages, not least our location at the crossroads of Southern England with the M4/A34 intersection, an excellent train service into London with a fastest journey time of 40 minutes , the River Kennet flowing through the heart, some highly attractive architecture and a vibrant local economy focussing on the tech sector .

“In terms of the retail/leisure offer and overall townscape we felt that more could be done and that is what the masterplan has addressed. It focuses on the Kennet and the bridges across it, recommends making the Wharf into an enhanced Leisure area instead of a rather dull open car park and makes the walks and back streets off the main shopping area more accessible and attractive with the introduction of ‘green pockets’.

“There are some quick wins but this is definitely a medium term strategy with a cost attached . Most importantly it provides a clear direction of travel for the future of the centre of Newbury.”

Melissa Hughes, chief executive of Newbury BID, said:I’m delighted that Newbury’s masterplan has now been approved and the next steps can be taken to transform our local community’s collective vision into a reality.

“It’s evident from the 5,000 plus survey responses received during the consultation process that there are a lot of people passionate about Newbury. Most agree that Newbury is already a great place to live, work, visit, and do business, but there’s also plenty of room for improvement.

“The comprehensive and exciting plan includes some quick wins, which will be vital in keeping the momentum of this project going. As one of the key delivery partners, we can’t wait to get involved with these, including design-led wayfinding and lighting to the lanes and yards, new events, a vacant shop strategy, and developing more spill out space for businesses.”


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