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Input wanted for major project
The borough council has been given funding from The High Street Innovation Fund – a £10million cash injection package announced by Housing and Local Government minister Grant Shapps. The cash boost is designed to help struggling high streets.
The council plans to use its slice of the fund to revitalise Top of The Town – and leaders are keen to hear how you think the money should be spent. The £100,000 will be used in the first phase of a project to improve Top of The Town, with the aim of bringing it up to a better standard in line with Festival Place and The Malls , which was refurbished last year.
A shortlist of proposed projects has been set out, before a full consultation is held to gain feedback about what improvements can be made. The shortlist of possible ideas are to:
- subsidise business rates, targeted at specific business types
- encourage space above shops to be converted into flats to encourage footfall and ‘life’ in quieter areas of the town
- update and refurbish vacant shops to encourage letting
- offer free Wi-Fi for the town centre, parks and Basing View
- develop small scale environmental improvements to Top of The Town such as a cover for the market or street furniture.
The council will implement a number of consultation methods, including meetings, using Linked-in, distributing leaflets to traders in Top of The Town, and holding an online survey.
Leaders are also interested in hearing wider feedback about the town centre, not just suggestions of how to use the fund. Councillor Ranil Jayawardena , deputy leader and Cabinet member for strategy and commissioning at the borough council, said: “It’s important that we begin the project to revitalise Top of The Town, which will be a long-term project, and this is the first phase.
“If you compare The Malls, there’s a huge improvement there, and I want to see the same sort of improvement so that Top of The Town becomes a place where people want to shop.
“I think the focus of the town has shifted closer to the railway station with the improvements we have seen at Festival Place and The Malls, but the time has come for us to revitalise Top of The Town, bring it up to standard and make it a place to be proud of.”
Cllr Jayawardena said the council wants to look at various areas, including Church Street and Wote Street. He added: “We want to group these all together so we don’t just do piecemeal improvements.”
Cllr Jayawardena said the council needs to be “bolder” by thinking of the long-term future of Top of The Town. He added: “Do we want to broaden accessibility by bringing traffic back to the Top of The Town or make it cultural?”
He added any project has to “deliver economic benefits”. He said: “There is a vibrant nightlife, with bars and restaurants, but we need to help bring more vitality to the area during the day. “I’m looking forward to hearing ideas from people across the borough, as well as encouraging local businesses to work with us on a bold vision for revitalising the town centre in the years ahead.”