West Berkshire Council is “committed to supporting businesses” that want to remain on the London Road Industrial Estate if it is redeveloped.
That’s according to councillor Ross Mackinnon, executive member for economic development, who said the council does not want businesses on the site in Newbury to “suffer from any more uncertainty”.
He made the comments at the meeting of the council’s Executive on Thursday, September 3, when it agreed to launch a consultation on the draft development brief for the controversial regeneration project, so people can have their say.
Last month, the council announced that the project had taken a big step forward after consultants at Avison Young completed the draft brief, which says the site could be redeveloped in one comprehensive project or in phases.
The brief says the Conservative-run council owns the majority of the 25 acre estate and is “in a strong position to help and encourage redevelopment” but several businesses have signed long-term leases and this could “curtail its ability to deliver new development”.
It also states that the council may need to consider using compulsory purchase orders, to obtain property without the consent of the leaseholders, but this is a “costly process” and it “should only be used as a last resort”.
‘We don’t want businesses to worry or suffer from any more uncertainty’
At Thursday’s meeting, Cllr Alan Macro (Liberal Democrat) said: “There’s a lot of businesses on this estate and I think if they read this document, especially if they start to read about the comprehensive development proposal, they will start to worry what future they have on the estate.
“What is the council going to do to reassure those businesses that are already suffering from the effects of the virus?”
Cllr Mackinnon said: “We don’t want businesses to worry or suffer from any more uncertainty than they already have.
“We are committed to supporting businesses to remain on the site, if that’s their intention, or to help them find alternative premises elsewhere, if that’s what they choose to do.
“The precise details will be considered further down the line, we are committed to helping those businesses.”
The Tory councillor also said the development brief “solely looks at the land and the council’s interest from a land-owning perspective” and there will be no development until the council has gone through the correct planning process.
The development brief says up to 544 homes, 6,023 sqm of office space and 6,690 sqm of space for other businesses could be built on the site as part of one comprehensive development.
While a phased development could provide up to 280 homes, 3,473 sqm of office space and 5,400 sqm of space for other businesses.