Developers have resubmitted plans to rework Newbury town centre – claiming the latest proposal is “more Newbury”.
The plans – now in their third iteration – have been previously criticised for trying to turn Newbury into Reading or Basingstoke.
The so-called Eagle Quarter vision is to replace the ageing Kennet Shopping centre in a £115m rebuild.
But the new plans have once again been condemned by conservationists, who say the “six story blocks of flats are hardly appropriate for a conservation area”.
“In our view, this is a scheme which will harm Newbury for the long-term,” said David Peacock of the Newbury Society.
Developers Lochailort want to build 367 flats on the site – down from the 402 originally proposed.
They claim it will breathe new life into the town centre and “act as a catalyst for growth and continued success of Newbury”.
In response to the criticism of how the development might look, Lochailort employed a top heritage architect to give it a “more Newbury” feel.
But the conservationists still think the height and bulk is simply not appropriate for Newbury, with blocks of flats rising to ten storeys.
“Concern about the height and bulk has been the main theme of the many criticisms which have been raised by local people, and the developers have not adapted their plans in any significant way in response,” said Dr Peacock.
“According to the Newbury Town Plan, which has been endorsed by West Berkshire Council, ‘the height of present buildings in the town centre should be respected’. This proposal runs in complete opposition to that guidance.
“The street-frontage designs now proposed are, at the third attempt, at last partly responding to Newbury’s heritage and the existing street scene.
“But six-storey blocks of flats on Newbury’s town-centre street frontages are hardly appropriate in a conservation area. The scheme is dramatically short of parking spaces, and still contains no social or affordable housing.”
Developer Lochailort Newbury says the new-look shopping centre, called Eagle Quarter, would be “carefully curated” for independent, local and artisan businesses.
“It is common ground with all the interested parties, that the Kennet Centre should be demolished and redeveloped as a town centre, brownfield site with new streets, public spaces and landscaping, shops, restaurants, cafes and community facilities (including a ‘Library of Things’),” said Hugo Haig, Lochailort director.
“We are confident that this, alongside the 367 residential units now proposed, refurbished and enhanced multi-storey car park, and the office accommodation, will breathe new life into the town centre and act as a catalyst for growth and continued success of Newbury.”
The new plans now submitted to West Berkshire Council will again do the rounds, with Newbury Town Council due to consider them at its next planning meeting in October.
TIMELINE AND BACKGROUND
In 2021 – development company Lochailort had submitted plans to transform the centre into a high-rise, multi-purpose complex, with the highest levels reaching 11 storeys.
It would provide 402 new homes, 5,355 sq m of office space, including a headquarters office building, 2,413 sq m of lettable flexible commercial space and a two-storey car park extension.
However the scheme came under severe criticism for its scale, with Newbury town councillor Gary Norman (Lib Dem, Wash Common) saying he would “lie down in front of the bulldozers” before allowing it to go ahead in its current form.
As a result, Lochailort revised its planning application.
The tallest element – Block A and previously 11 storeys – was reduced by two storeys, meaning the highest part of Eagle Quarter will be lower than Parkway.
The second tallest element, Block B, was reduced by one storey, and Block C, which fronts Cheap Street, reduced and set further back from Cheap Street.
The number of flats was then reduced from 402 to 381, with the pedestrianised street through the centre of the development, a GP surgery and medical hub, and the units for local, independent and artisan retailers remaining.
Further consultation was then undertaken by WBC and, while acknowledging the reduction in height, Newbury Town Council and the Newbury Society maintained their objections to the scheme in terms of design and heritage.