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Development needs vision to succeed

CAMBERLEY traders face losing out to nearby towns unless the planned shopping development on land west of Park Street has vision, a leading councillor fears.

CAMBERLEY traders face losing out to nearby towns unless the planned shopping development on land west of Park Street has vision, a leading councillor fears.

Labour leader Cllr Melanie Longden said Surrey Heath councillors must get the plans right as the market was "clearly competitive".

Proposals to rejuvenate Bracknell town centre are ongoing and Bracknell Forest Council has released results of its public consultation.

It found the majority of respondents supported the development of retail, leisure and residential elements in the Bracknell scheme.

A total of 87% agreed the location for the new development should be north of the High Street in Bracknell.

A statement said: "The message is that the objective of delivering a sustainable town centre to benefit generations to come, with the right balance of new shops, improved transport, housing, business and leisure facilities, is on track to be achieved."

Bracknell Forest will publish a final town centre masterplan in July, drawing on comments gleaned from the public consultation.

Stephen Gaimster, head of property and regeneration, said: "This plan will ensure that people within a ten-minute drive time from Bracknell will no longer need to go to other towns to fulfil their needs.

"Everything they need will be right here in the heart of Bracknell."

While Bracknell Forest is striding ahead with plans, Surrey Heath residents are still making their views known as an exhibition showing detailed Park Street plans is still on tour.

Results of the public consultation conducted by a purposely-hired market research company will not be known until a town centre working party meeting at the end of May.

Even then detailed results of the survey will only be passed to councillors responsible for choosing the preferred developer to implement the Park Street plans.

But Camberley and Bracknell are not the only towns with plans to increase their retail and leisure facilities.

Neighbouring Farnborough has already unveiled designs for a £60million revamp of the Queensmead area of the town.

This includes an eight-screen multiplex, a new shopping centre — The Mead, which would boast a supermarket and other retail outlets — and apartments, planned to be built on the post office site in Queensmead.

Basingstoke — easily accessible on the A30 — is set to open the Festival Place extension to the town centre and has already attracted big name stores like Debenhams.

And increasing pressure on Surrey Heath councillors to get it right are established shopping centres like Guildford, Woking and Reading.

Cllr Longden said: "It clearly is a competitive market and if Camberley doesn't get it right it's going to lose shoppers to centres like Guildford."

She is a member of the Town Centre Working Party, which will be able put forward recommendations to the full council in June.

The councillor added any future retail development should be sustainable and companies needed to address the issue of how they are going to fill jobs with the low unemployment rate in Surrey Heath.


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