Aldershot – our town centre coming together

Post length: 1,008 words, about 4 and a half minutes.

Rushmoor Borough Council recently put out a consultation on proposed improvements to Aldershot town centre. The proposals cover three phases of work to improve the environment of the main shopping areas and pedestrian approaches to the town’s main shopping areas. Further details of the proposals can be viewed on the Rushmoor website.

Having lived and worked in the Aldershot area for going on 9 years now (some of the work work having even been related to improving the image of Aldershot town centre), combined with my amateur interest in town planning, I have more than a passing interest in these proposals so decided to respond to the consultation. Below are my thoughts, recorded for posterity. I will be interested to see the further discussion of these plans amongst the elected members of the council in coming months.

Phase 1: Union Street and Wellington Street

Phase One

I do feel that this would improve the general environment of the town centre, and thus is a very valuable project.

However with so many key units currently standing empty, how will the grant money be used to improve these empty buildings? Will the this money be aportioned throughout the length of streets in question, or is there the possibility that some areas with more proactive retailers will end up being better developed than others?

Additionally, grants are well and good but there needs to be some assistance given to retailers to ensure that improvements which take place are both in-keeping with the other town regeneration projects and other shop fronts.

Finally, this proposal does nothing to address the key problem of the night time environment in the town centre — the removal of the pedestrian only environment. Increasingly these streets are full of cars in the evening meaning that not only is it unpleasant to use these areas as a pedestrian, but it also feels increasingly unsafe.

Phase 2: Court Road and Wellington Street

Phase Two

I do not understand this element of the development plans. As a town resident for 9 years I have never seen this approach to the town centre as a key thoroughfare. Indeed, it stikes me that the town centre management would agree — when events (such as the Christmas lights) take place the main stage faces away from this area. Additionally the 99p stores do not open their back doors and the few remaining shops on High Street, I suspect, would not see massive benefits from this part of the scheme.

It strikes me that the High Street car park is not one of the better used car parks in the town. While it is an eyesore and would no doubt benefit from a facelift, it is my opinion that the money spent on this phase of the scheme would be better spent on other areas in the town centre especially given that The Galleries’ redevelopment, the only shopping centre linked to the car park, has not found traction.

This is not a part of the town centre visitors see, and not one residents regularly visit. This seems like an expensive part of the proposal, but one which would have very little benefit.

While it might be true that the Aldershot Urban Extension will mean more people than currently will approach the town centre from the north, it is yet to be seen which routes residents of this area will take. I would be in favour of keeping the money budgeted for this phase until the thoroughfares from the AUE are established and spending it improving these areas.

Phase 3: Barrack Road and Grosvenor Road

This proposal seems generally positive. Improving the flow of visitors from the Westgate development into the town centre is a laudable aim. This side of the town centre has indeed been improved over the last number of years by the Westgate development, installation of the bandstand and more recently the redevelopment of the Queen Hotel.

Walking from Westgate to the town can sometimes be difficult and I can see how this part of the scheme could improve this. It is not clear from the details given here, however, if the pavement improvements would meet up with the top of Union Street. In order for this scheme to have any success at all then it must.

Another issue with the approach to the town from Wesgate is the general state of the buildings on the short stretch of Grosvenor Road between the junction with Barrack Road and Union Street. While I appreciate that there is little which can be done about the buildings themselves I wonder if this phase of the scheme could include some further work on improving the environment of this short stretch of road, especially after dark.

I have concerns however that the approach to the town from the west end of Union street is a little bleak. Visitors might be concerned, having passed new empty units and a range of takeaway shops, that there is little life further down the street. I would like to see this plan coupled with a specific plan to develop the top end of Union Street (further than phase 1), to ensure that visitors don’t get a negative impression when approaching the town this way.

Additional Comments

The proposals on the whole seem positive. I strongly support attempts to improve Aldershot town centre.

However I am wary of too much money being spent on the pedestrian flows from the north side of the town prior to the completion of the Aldershot Urban Extension. From what I have seen there has been little by the way of study into the predicted flow of people from this large new development. I believe that in a few years, once the impact of the extension has been felt, there will be further areas which should be looked to be developed on this side of the town centre. I am of the opinion that the council must be careful not to spend too much at this stage leaving few funds available for future developments as a result of the (hopefully) increased footfall from the planned housing.


Posted on Thursday 21st August, 2014 at 8:50 am in Obiter dicta.
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