SHOPS are disappearing from our town at an alarming rate. The future of the home of the award-winning Bison ice hockey team hangs in the balance as the once iconic Camrose football ground is left to rot.

Meanwhile, at least 1,500 new homes are being earmarked for the shrinking town centre as residents are increasingly complaining about a lack of nightlife and entertainment on offer. 

Basingstoke once had a vibrant, busy town centre, famed as a shopping destination people from all around wanted to visit.

Now, with the number of empty shops at an all-time high and major retailers leaving the town, along with secret plans to build homes in Festival Place, our town centre is under serious threat.

Today, we launch a campaign to say Basingstoke Deserves Better.

We are a borough with a population of nearly 180,000, and a thriving town centre is vital for wellbeing and businesses.

A thriving town centre with a variety of shops and restaurants will bring people into Basingstoke, which boosts the local economy.

Our campaign calls on the council to act now to breathe life back into the town centre.

This includes taking action to fill empty shop units and not filling vacant space in the town centre with new homes.

Basingstoke Deserves Better

Basingstoke Deserves Better


If we lose our town centre shops and businesses, then they may be gone for good.

In recent months the town has lost a number of major retailers, including John Lewis, Laura Ashley, Zara, and a flagship Debenhams store.

Restaurants have also closed including Gourmet Burger Kitchen and The Sushi Maki.

At the Top of Town, hundreds of thousands of pounds has been spent in recent years by the borough council to revitalise the area.

Despite this, almost 20 units are empty and the area has lost four major banks and the Post Office.

In 2019 a £280,000 six-year programme funded by the borough council to improve the Top of Town came to an end, but many traders said it had made “no difference”.

In March this year, the council pumped a further £183,733 into the town centre enlisting the help of experts for advice.


Basingstoke Deserves Better

Basingstoke Deserves Better


Six months on, and retailers, restaurants and pubs are still leaving the Top of Town, including in recent months, Dragon Palace Chinese restaurant, The Bakers pub, and Sundaes Gelatos ice cream parlour.

We have called on the borough council to share what advice it was given to improve the town centre and asked what action it will be taking next.

Leader of the Basingstoke Labour group, Councillor Andrew McCormick has offered his backing for our campaign, saying that “urgent” action needs to be taken.

He said: “We urgently need new life breathed back into the Top of Town. We have so many empty units. The council needs to step up its game to make sure these empty units are filled again.”

Cllr McCormick believes Basingstoke needs a larger market along with specialist markets; more parking spaces and cheaper parking, as well as electric vehicle charge points; and to fill the vacant premises in Festival Place and the Top of Town.

He added: “We do not need 1,500 extra flats; I can’t see where they could go.”


Sports ground left to rot

Sports ground left to rot

Anvil cafe and bar closed during the day as arts have been cut

Anvil cafe and bar closed during the day as arts have been cut

Rows of empty shops

Rows of empty shops


Last week as part of our special report into the empty shop crisis, this newspaper wrote to Festival Place and Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council asking both to set out their plans to improve the situation before it is too late.

Disappointingly Neil Churchill, director of Festival Place, declined to comment.

The council, meanwhile, avoided its responsibilities in the Top of Town by pointing out the vast majority of units are privately owned and alarmingly, revealed it isn’t documenting the number of empty shops.

A spokesperson said: “The council has no control over which businesses or organisations take up vacant units from private owners. We do not have information on how long these units have been empty for.”

The council has wide-ranging powers that can force action to fill these desolate and unbecoming buildings. Posing as a helpless entity is not productive or accurate. And neither is it helpful to not keep track of vacant shops.

If the town centre is to recover, strong leadership and a proactive authority with a clear sense of direction will be integral to its success.

This newspaper believes the only way Basingstoke can survive this crisis is to embark on a once-in-a-generation rebranding exercise, remarketing the town from a traditional chain store mecca to a thriving hub of independents and unique experiences that the public won’t be able to find elsewhere.

But this is a long way off. At the moment, residents will rightly be wondering what those in charge have been doing. Apart from not keeping on top of empty units, that is.