A BUSINESS owner at the Top of Town has criticised the borough council for failing to take action to improve the area.

Responding to the Gazette’s Basingstoke Deserves Better campaign – which calls for urgent action to improve the town centre area – the business owner spoke about some of the problems at the Top of Town.

Refusing to reveal their identity for fear of repercussions from the council, the business owner said: “My plea to the council is to engage with the current business owners at the Top of Town and help them to stay and support their business.”

The owner said Top of Town footfall has “really died down” in recent years, particularly following the relocation of the Post Office and closure of Lloyds Bank.

They added: “The council have spent money on consultants but it’s all words and it doesn’t mean anything. We have seen it all before. I want the council to come and meet us and find out what the real issues are. Let’s work together to find a solution for our businesses. They have spent so much money trying to improve the Top of Town, but why don’t they just come and speak to us? Basingstoke council doesn’t have a clue who the business owners are.”

In 2019, the Gazette revealed that footfall counters, which Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council spent £7,000 on, appeared to show a significant decrease in the number of people visiting the Top of Town, following a project to improve the area.

The footfall counters were used as part of a six-year programme costing £280,000 to improve the Top of Town and increase the number of businesses.

Referring to events which have been organised by the council at the Top of Town to encourage more people to the area, the business owner said the council had failed to inform businesses beforehand.

They added: “What happens is we have a lot of events which create an opportunity to bring more people to the area. However, we need one or two weeks’ notice so we can let our customers know and bring more people to the Top of Town. Instead, we find out on the day or even after it’s happened. There is no open dialogue.”

The business owner told the Gazette that several suggestions put forward by those occupying units at the Top of Town were refused by the borough council, including the suggestion of having market stalls along Church Street and Wote Street.

“They have excuses for everything but I’m sure they could work around it,” they said, adding: “We are all so frustrated. I would urge the council to sit down with business owners and listen to us. They say they want to support us but after so many years, unless the business owners feel or see changes, we don’t believe it.

“We aren’t trying to trash the council, we want to work with the council.”

The borough council's cabinet member for economic development Cllr Hannah Golding said: “Following the loss earlier this year of the Basingstoke Together BID, which acted as the voice of town centre businesses and worked closely with the council to represent their interests, we are strengthening our direct engagement and relationships with businesses and partners to support economic recovery and bring shoppers back.

“To help increase footfall, we have launched a number of new initiatives to support retailers and encourage shoppers to return to the area. This includes the new monthly Borough Basket Street Market to give small local businesses the opportunity to raise their profile and sell their goods to a wider audience, with the next market taking place on 29 October. We are also developing and supporting an extensive programme of events and activities for the next six months to attract more footfall to the town centre.

“Businesses are key to the success of the area and we are working closely with the Friends of the Top of the Town group and Top of the Town businesses through focus groups to discuss joint plans for the Christmas period and the marketing of the area.

“In addition, we have carried out extensive campaigns to promote our new initiatives including marketing materials for businesses and promotion through our Love Basingstoke website and social media channels.

“We are always keen to hear new ideas to encourage footfall but there are a number of factors that we need to look at such as the challenging gradients of the area when considering the location of events and market stalls. We would encourage businesses to get in touch with us with their ideas at towncentre@basingstoke.gov.uk and visit www.basingstoke.gov.uk/business to sign up for regular council updates.”

As part of the council’s work alongside its partners to ensure the town centre is a top shopping, leisure and cultural destination, it is asking residents, businesses, organisations and visitors to have their say on bold short, medium and long-term suggestions to guide out work for the future of the town centre, shaped by feedback it received earlier this year.

To share your views take part in an online survey at www.talkbasingstoketowncentre.co.uk until Friday 12 November.