FROM free parking to restoring the canal, Gazette readers have been sharing their ideas for improving Basingstoke town centre as the borough council considers its long-term future.

As previously reported, Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council has enlisted the help of a team of experts to develop a vision for the town centre area.

They are set to carry out a study over the next six months which will include engagement with residents, businesses, and other groups to help understand views about the town centre, shopping habits and what people would like to see improved.

We asked our readers what one thing you would change about the town centre, and we received a varied response.

Many of you believe that free parking would benefit the town, while others agree that independent traders would be a great addition.

Patricia Wallace was one of those who would like to see more independent retailers. She said: “Bring back all the little shops we have lost like butchers, fruit and veg, fishmonger, sweet shop. They were the good old days.”

However, in order to attract more independent shops some readers pointed out that rates would need to be reduced to make a town centre location affordable.

Jane Bartelli said: “Independent small retailers that can afford to pay the rents on shops outside of Festival Place.”

She also suggested cleaning up the Top of Town area and creating places to sit outside and enjoy a coffee, adding: “As the streets are pedestrianised now, why can’ there be more outside seating areas, especially by the Willis Museum (but not on market days as the market is crucial for keeping this part of the town alive). The town has no heart and soul, it needs huge investment outside of Festival Place.”

Other suggestions included decent pubs and nightclubs, better kids’ shops and a big department store like Selfridges.

One Gazette reader suggested removing the roof on Festival Place so you can see the sky while another offered the idea of restoring the canal to Basingstoke and rebuild the wharf.

The council said: “High streets across the UK have and continue to experience the effects of changes in shopping habits due to the challenges brought by the Covid-19 pandemic.”

They added: “As our shopping and spending habits evolve, town centres must also evolve. The Covid-19 pandemic has transformed the way we live our lives and towns and cities across the UK are starting to look to a future that meets these changing needs.

“These could include leisure, housing, health and wellbeing, getting together with friends and family, education, eating out, culture, evening economy, transport, work and of course shopping.

“Ensuring Basingstoke town centre has something for everyone is a key part of Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council’s plans for the borough’s economic recovery from the pandemic.”

The public is now being asked to have their say to help shape the future of the town centre, by taking part in an online survey.

Questions include what you like and do not like about the town centre, and what you would like to see in the future.

To take part visit