TURNING car parks into squares of high-end shops and restaurants is one of the radical options being considered to revitalise Basingstoke’s Top of The Town.

Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council has started work to engage with traders and other Top of The Town organisations to finalise elements of a 20-year vision that should go out to public consultation next month.

The vision, which has drawn upon advice from Urban Initiatives Studio – specialists in transforming the look of towns and cities – seeks to transform the area.

Following initial consultation on the plans, the council’s vision is to present Central car park, near the Red Lion Hotel, along with other Top of The Town car parks, as a specialised zone of the town centre to complement Festival Place and The Malls – attracting more affluent shoppers within driving distance who are not currently shopping in the town centre.

This would include building new ‘niche retail’ higher end independent shops, cafés, restaurants and businesses, and improving the shopping and food proposition on offer in the Top of The Town.

Plans to improve access to the town centre for motorists, cyclists, pedestrians and public transport are also being looked at.

One option being proposed is to introduce two-way traffic in New Road, increasing access to Market Square, after shoppers expressed opinions that the area is difficult to get to by road.

Short-term proposals would include relocating bus stops so they better serve the Top of The Town and extending the Centre Shuttle service, which runs from Basingstoke Leisure Park to the railway station.

Councillor Ranil Jayawardena, deputy leader of the borough council, told The Gazette: “It is really important to have a long-term vision for what we want the Top of The Town to be, and it fits in with the rest of the town’s success.”

He added: “In my view, we cannot achieve what we need to for this area without thinking big – I believe we need to have some radical solutions to give Basingstoke’s historic heart a real boost.”

Once agreed, the vision will be used to guide further work to improve the area in the longer term, and develop council policy in areas such as licensing and planning.

Short-term improvements that the borough council hope to start this year include improving benches and planters in the Top of The Town area.

Funds of £268,000 have been allocated by the borough council for the improvements, of which £100,000 has come from the High Street Innovation Fund, from central Government.

* Do you have a view on how the Top of The Town should be changed? Have your say by writing to The Letters Editor, The Gazette, Pelton Road, Basingstoke, RG21 6YD, email editor@basingstokegazette.co.uk, or use the comment facility below.