"MASSIVE concerns" were raised by councillors that could see at least 1,500 new homes built in the town centre.

Cllr Paul Harvey revealed at a public meeting some of what was discussed at a private committee of councillors formed to come up with recommendations on the future of the town centre.

As revealed by The Gazette, one of the items debated was plans that could see part of Festival Place turned into homes, in a move that has drawn widespread criticism from Gazette readers.

However, Cllr Harvey revealed that a meeting of the secret committee heard there were plans for a "bare minimum" of 1,500 units were being considered there, and that councillors had raised "massive concerns" about the potential of residential development in the town centre.

It came as councillors debated the future of housing in the borough as part of a spatial strategy. It could see 18,000 new homes built by 2039.

Cllr Harvey also told the meeting that the number of residential developments planned for Basing View "could double".

He had raised concerns over one of the council's proposed housing principles, which could "increase the density of developments" in the town centre.

"That could have massive implications," Cllr Harvey told a meeting of the council's economic, planning and housing committee earlier this month.

"The consequences of this debate without evidence become critical. There is the town centre strategy, that MAP is talking about significant numbers of development in the town centre.

"That isn’t in the public domain yet because it’s been a [Members' Advisory Panel].

"That consultation is now consequential to the work that Simon [Bound, deputy leader of the council]’s doing on the local plan, but it isn’t public yet.

"It presents us with a fundamental problem when ... we’re talking about 1,500 units at the bare minimum being discussed as going in Festival Place and our town centre.

"If that’s the debate taking place, that is a consequence to our conversation about the spatial strategy, let alone Basing View where it was thought that Basing View could double its numbers."

Last month, The Gazette revealed the existence of the private group of councillors formed to debate the future of the town centre.

Initially, council documents from 2019 revealed that 300 homes could be built in the shopping centre, but the latest discussion could indicate a much higher level is being considered.

Sources suggested one area of interest for development is between Marks and Spencer and the Leisure Centre.

At the time, a Festival Place spokesperson declined to comment on the meetings. They said it has “no current plans” to sell off units for accommodation but did not rule out redevelopment in conjunction with the council or on its own.

Council leader Cllr Ken Rhatigan confirmed that the authority is “working with town centre partners” to consider the long-term vision for Basingstoke.

The nine councillors and two officers on the committee are:

  • Cllr Hannah Golding - cabinet member for economic development
  • Cllr Simon Bound - cabinet member for communities, planning and infrastructure
  • Cllr Tristan Robinson - cabinet member for homes and housing regeneration
  • Cllr John Izett - cabinet member for finance and major projects
  • Cllr Laura James (BDI, Norden)
  • Cllr Paul Harvey (BDI, Norden)
  • Cllr Gavin James (Lib Dem, Eastrop & Grove)
  • Cllr Carolyn Wooldridge (Labour, Norden)
  • Cllr Michael Howard-Sorrell (Labour, Brookvale & Kings Furlong)
  • Project manager, Kate Dean - council officer
  • Economy and culture manager, Daniel Garnier - council officer