The incoming Labour administration welcomed the decision to cancel the Town Centre North scheme as it was going nowhere. The Labour run Council will replace it with a new Town Centre ReEnergisation plan that will have a renewed focus on the Town Centre itself. Queens Square infrastructure will be revitalised, as a result of the £3mn project funded by CBC and WSCC, and other complementary projects will follow this.
The Labour cabinet recognises the key role that the Town centre plays in the lives of residents, visitors and businesses as the heart of our Town, and the urgent need to take action to stop and reverse its recent spiral of decline, following eight years of neglect by the previous administration. Detailed planning is taking place currently, with council officers and representatives from business, retail and others. Details will be made available as the plans are formed and residents will be invited to contribute and comment at all stages.
Labour’s plans will have multiple strands and will include some or all of the following:
Retail – renovating the public realm infrastructure, renovating some of the buildings working with the owners, reviewing signing, zoning, usage drivers, commercial and other opportunities, working with commercial partners to fill empty shops and broaden the choice for residents, finding a long-term solution for the market, finding a way to support an indoor market and putting it on to a long-term footing, introducing Wi-Fi across the Town centre and more.
Residential – using empty office space above shops for residential, evolving the infrastructure to support the ‘Town Centre Village’ concept, developing support services and links to encourage Town centre living and linking it with neighbouring facilities
Leisure – developing the programme of events for the Town centre, expanding and evolving the ‘night-time’ economy, looking at the range of restaurants and other attractions and working with businesses to improve and widen the range of choice. Working to see if a viable permanent or seasonal ice-rink can be delivered.
Cllr Peter Smith (Lab, Ifield and Cabinet member for Planning and Economic Development) said: "We are entering exciting times for the Town Centre as we start work on rejuvenating the heart of our Town. We have a comprehensive and far-sighted vision for the Town Centre and we need to develop this in to specific, funded and deliverable projects, which will take a little time, but we have hit the ground running on ‘day one’ of the new Labour administration. There will be opportunities for residents and other stakeholders to be involved at all stages. Residents are encouraged to send ideas for how the future Town Centre should look to me at any time. We won’t be able to take up all ideas and suggestions but we will use the best ones, as we meet our commitment to involve our residents in their Town Centre all the way along.