GAZETTE readers have offered their backing to our campaign Basingstoke Deserves Better, which is calling for urgent action to be taken to breathe life back into our town centre.

Following the launch of our campaign last week, dozens of you got in touch to share your views and offer your support.

Many of you expressed sadness at the demise of Basingstoke town centre, while others offered suggestions for how it could be improved.

Some criticised the council for not doing enough to support town centre businesses and for its plans to build new homes in Festival Place.

One reader even suggested gluing herself to Festival Place. Mary Fitzgerald, of Wallis Road, Fairfields, told us: “Our household is fully supportive of the paper’s efforts to keep our town centre. The thought of 1,500 homes replacing Festival Place is outrageous.

“We need our town centre, because not having one would be like going into lockdown again; instead of not being allowed to go out, we will have nowhere to go except to stay indoors.”

She added: “Maybe we have no option but to glue ourselves to Festival Place to make sure it is allowed to reinvent itself.”

Gordon Craggs said he is “heart-broken having to watch the town I grew up in fall apart”.

He added: “I remember the evening they opened the shopping centre way back in 2002, we were all excited and amazed at what we had achieved in the town. All the amazing big-branded shops and great restaurants were now here. Before then, people from Basingstoke would have to go to Reading.”

Mr Craggs recalled a “great amount of choice in bars and pubs” and having a “great night out” at the Top of Town in his early 20s.

“Now, in 2021 people are going back to Reading to do their shopping and as for the night life, there simply isn’t one anymore,” he said.

He added: “As I walk through Basingstoke now all I see is a dark derelict shopping centre and a run down and forgotten top end of town… We once had a town to boast and be proud of but sadly it’s getting depressing.”

Linda Morris, of Foyle Park, suggested the borough council should do more to promote Basingstoke’s history at the Top of Town, including its link to fashion icon Thomas Burberry whose first shop was in Winchester Street.

She added: “I really cannot understand why this very important feature of the town’s history is not given more prominence.”

Ian Mckay, from Kempshott, also backed Basingstoke Deserves Better, saying: “The Gazette is right to start a campaign against the loss of so many shops in Basingstoke.”

He highlighted various problems including increased rents, overpriced parking, and no variety in shops.

“Building houses or flats in the town centre is just plain stupid,” he said, adding: “Who wants a shopping centre that is full of houses?”