Candidates standing in next week’s elections have shared their plans on how they intend to revitalise the town centre.

The economic recovery from the pandemic and the impact that it has had on Basingstoke town centre is a key feature of many of the parties’ campaigns.

Promises range from creating a rescue plan to rent cuts, and less aggressive parking policies to creating an experience that cannot be replicated online.

The last year has been devastating for retail and hospitality, with subsequent lockdowns and restrictions affecting revenue and seeing many businesses disappear.

The big names have also been affected, with the likes of Debenhams, Zara and John Lewis all announce closures recently.

It comes in the third week of The Gazette’s One Big Question feature, where we are asking the eight main parties to outline their plans on a range of key issues.

So far, the parties have spoken out on the future of the Camrose stadium and the climate crisis, but now turn their attention to the town centre.

This week, we asked: “The Covid-19 pandemic has provided a real challenge to the retail industry, with Basingstoke losing a number of high profile chains in the last twelve months. What is one thing you will campaign or implement immediately to reinvigorate Basingstoke town centre?”

You can see their full responses here.

Among the respondents was Top of Town businessman Alan Stone, who is leader of the Hampshire Independents.

He says that many of their candidates are business owners and cites less aggressive parking policies and correct policing of anti-social behaviour.

Meanwhile the Basingstoke and Deane Independent Group’s Paul Harvey said they would immediately consult with retailers on what they need, as well as ending the “farce” that is New River’s redevelopment of the Leisure Park into a retail park.

He also promises cheaper rent for retailers and removing parking charges from the Central and Top of Town car parks.

Cllr Harvey, alongside Labour’s Andy McCormick, also promised to reverse the cut to the Anvil’s grant funding, which has proved controversial.

Labour saying their priority is to “breathe new life into our local economy”, and say that the town needs more independent shops, artisan and trade shops in the Top of Town.

“We need to support our market in the top of town and promote the Borough Basket as an online initiative to help local retail businesses,” he added.

The Liberal Democrats say that they will change planning rules to prevent out-of-town shopping centres being built, whilst retail centres have empty units, and working to create a “unique retail offer in Basingstoke”.

The party adds that their priority would be to lobby the government to “create a level playing field so real shops can compete with online retail”.

The Conservative Party’s Simon Bound says that there needs to be more retailers offering products and services “not easily available via the internet”.

“An artisan baker and worldwide deli next door to each other as an example. With the smells of baked bread and ground coffee swirling through our streets.

“A world renowned Chef preparing amazing Hampshire produce in the heart of the town, giving us that truly thriving buzz that comes with having the best of the best.”

The Women’s Equality Party add that Covid has exacerbated the challenges faced by high streets, which means more jobs being lost by women.

“But there is opportunity to build back equal,” Priya Brown says, “to accept that big chains paying extortionate rents are gone and create a town centre experience that can’t be gotten online.”

She says that empty spaces should be given to community initiatives, and that the town centre should “think Covent Garden”.

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition say that they would immediately implement rent controls, including small business, and campaign to reverse cuts to public services.

“We will not allow working-class people to pay for this crisis whilst big business has doubled their profits,” candidate Mayola Demmenie said.

“Other towns have successfully managed to transform their high streets with a great variety of independent shops, and driven the big chains out, we can do so too.”

Meanwhile, the Green Party’s Stephen Philpotts says it requires “radical solutions”, by increasing the town centre’s position as “a centre for a wide range of cultural, leisure and entertainment facilities”.

“Some existing trading space will need to be converted into much-needed reasonably priced housing, but also office hubs offering facilities for small businesses. We see scope for themed events that promote local businesses,” he said.

You can see the full responses from all eight candidates on our website.