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Weekly demands urgent council action to save town centre

A weekly newspaper has demanded urgent action to save a town centre – saying its patch “deserves better”.

The Basingstoke Gazette has launched the ‘Basingstoke Deserves Better’ campaign, warning the number of empty shops are “at an all-time high” and major retailers are “leaving the town”.

The Gazette’s campaign calls on Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council to “act now to breathe life back into the town centre”.

In a front page comment on Thursday, the Gazette urged the council to fill empty shop units and not fill vacant space in the town centre with new homes.

Basingstoke Deserves

In response to the campaign’s launch, a spokesperson for the authority told the paper it has “no control over which businesses or organisations take up vacant units from private owners”.

But in its comment piece, the Gazette said: “The council has wide-ranging powers that can force action to fill these desolate and unbecoming buildings. Posing as a helpless entity is not productive or accurate.

“And neither is it helpful to not keep track of vacant shops.

“If the town centre is to recover, strong leadership and a proactive authority with a clear sense of direction will be integral to its success.

“This newspaper believes the only way Basingstoke can survive this crisis is to embark on a once-in-a-generation rebranding exercise, remarketing the town from a traditional chain store mecca to a thriving hub of independents and unique experiences that the public won’t be able to find elsewhere.

“But this is a long way off. At the moment, residents will rightly be wondering what those in charge have been doing. Apart from not keeping on top of empty units, that is.”

The campaign was launched in the last edition of the Gazette to be edited by Katie French, who announced her departure from the paper last week.