THE centre director of Festival Place has said he was not consulted on the borough council’s masterplan vision for the town centre.

As previously reported, Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council published a 52-page document detailing its visions for the town centre, after paying £187,733 to consultants to come up with the plan.

The document revealed a vision to end the dominance of Festival Place in Basingstoke.

However, Neil Churchill, centre director of the shopping centre, said he was never consulted prior to publication of the document.

Speaking to the Gazette he said: “Vision is a key word here, it is a vision. At this stage we haven’t been consulted with by the local authority so it is difficult to know what they’re expecting our involvement to be, so we don’t know.

“Without a doubt it needs to be a stakeholder approach and it needs to involve all the stakeholders in the thinking process and it will need to involve us if there’s requests for fundamental change being asked. But at this stage it is difficult for us to comment in detail because we weren’t consulted with other than being asked what our opinion was.”

Mr Churchill also suggested that not much had changed from a previous masterplan published by the borough council in 2014, which cost £200,000 of public money.

The former masterplan – a 63-page document – included ideas such as scrapping the one-way system on New Road and replacing it with two-way traffic; turning Top of Town car parks into specialised zones of ‘niche retail’ and higher end independent shops, cafes, restaurants, and businesses; and improving access to the town centre for motorists, cyclists, pedestrians, and public transport.

None of these ideas came to fruition, but almost identical plans have been included in the new masterplan.

The borough council told the Gazette that the 2014 masterplan was not implemented because of the pandemic, despite this not happening until six years after the plan was created.

Mr Churchill said: “This is a positive thing to refresh, don’t forget this was done in 2014, and I don’t think much has changed from the master planning that had been done in 2014, so this is a refresh on that.”

He believes there needs to be a “synergy” between Festival Place and cultural sectors of the town, explaining: “People circulating around the town goes hand in hand. If they’re going to go to the Anvil or Haymarket, they’re going to go and get something to eat in one of the great places to eat in either Festival Place or somewhere else in the town.”

Mr Churchill suggested the streets and connections between Basing View and Festival Place could also be improved, saying: “On a cold early evening midweek a winter walk isn’t great with these underpasses, low lighting.”

He also believes electric bikes and scooters could be used in the town centre and said this was being looked into with possible co-funding support from Festival Place.