On 31 January 2022, Lochailort, the developers of the proposed Eagle Quarter on the site of the current Kennet Centre in Newbury, sent a letter to media outlets in the area, including Penny Post. It’s reproduced here verbatim. The letter refers to the scale of the buildings, something which has received criticism from organisations including The Newbury Society and Newbury Town Council.
On 15 February 2022, Councillor Nigel Foot, the Chair of Newbury Town Council ‘sPlanning and Highways Committee, also sent a letter to media outlets in the area, including Penny Post. This is also reproduced here verbatim.
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Letter from Councillor Nigel Foot of Newbury Town Council, 15 February 2022
I am writing in response to Mr Hugo Haig’s letter (below).
Mr Haig provided a drawing to accompany his letter of “proposed amendments to buildings facing on to Market Place”. I feel this does not provide a realistic representation of the scale of the Eagle Quarter development.
I have supplied a couple of drawings taken directly from the planning application for Eagle Quarter that can be found on the West Berkshire Council Planning Portal. The planning application reference is 21/00379/FULMAJ and you can see the application here.
It is important people get a clear idea of the scale of this development. I hope they can do so by looking at the size of the largest blocks when viewed against the Tower of St Nicolas’s Church, shown in Block B – East elevation and the Catherine Wheel Pub at the bottom left of the image shown in Block G – East elevation.
Based on the scale of the drawings provided, the largest blocks in Eagle Quarter would be approximately 32 metres (104 feet) high. For comparison, the tallest block being built on the former Sterling Cables site on Kings Road in Newbury, is approximately 29 metres (95 feet) high.
I would encourage readers to visit the West Berkshire Council’s planning portal and study the above planning application carefully: if approved, this development will profoundly alter Newbury. Of course if readers wish to comment on the application, they can do so by submitting their comments to West Berkshire Council’s Planning Department.
For the record, Newbury Town Council Planning and Highways Committee objected to the application 21/00379/FULMAJ, when it came before the Committee on 25 October 2021. The comments made by the Committee were as follows;
“The Town Centre Conservation Area Appraisal and Masterplan Vision document are not yet published. The application should take these documents into consideration. The development is out of character with the historic Market Town nature of Newbury. We object to this application based on: (a) a lack of affordable housing; (b) the fact that the blocks as amended are still too high.”
Letter from Hugo Haig of Lochailort Investments, 31 January 2022
It has taken a lot of misrepresentation and divisive use of the facts that has made me put pen to paper.
Let’s start at the beginning – the Kennet Centre was put up for sale because it was losing money, and cost money to keep open. Nothing has changed.
It was put on the open market; any organisation could buy it. West Berkshire Council considered it. Several companies offered. We were chosen as the vendor’s preferred purchasers (as developers we were going to redevelop – rather than run it long term as a shopping centre). Prior to buying the site we had several meetings with both the District and Town Councils to make absolutely sure that our proposals were in line with their expectations. We discussed all aspects of our initial plans including height, scale and massing.
In fact, our scheme was praised for being very much along the lines of the aspirations of the Council and the scheme was commended.
The building of the Sainsbury Superstore, the Parkway shopping centre, the Tesco Superstore and Newbury Retail Park and various other schemes have all amounted to a surfeit of space in the town which has sadly caused the fatal demise of the Kennet centre.
Everyone, and even the Newbury Society, agree that the Kennet Centre must go, and the site must be redeveloped.
I have spoken to a lot of people, and everyone is in agreement that Newbury desperately needs more people to live in the town centre – as many as possible.
We believe that this site should be designed to accommodate as many people as possible, given its excellent sustainability credentials. It’s the perfect place to deliver a residential-led mixed use development. It has everything all around it, all in walking distance. Transport, trains and buses, car parking, bike storage, you name it, it is all there, either on site or adjacent to it.
There are also parks, the Kennet and Avon canal and as much AONB as you could shake a stick at on your doorstep. The injection of people into the town centre will help sustain the shops all around the site.
Without just giving lip service to the national housing crisis, or our Country’s green agenda, let alone West Berkshire’s Climate Change Emergency – we ALL have a duty it deliver as many sustainable homes as possible on sites just like this. This should not be up for debate. I am familiar with a number of nearby town centre developments and truly they are all at least double our density or more. The current proposal is modest in comparison.
So, from our perspective we have listened to what people have said and reduced our scheme. We did so reluctantly, but with a view to trying to accommodate the Newbury Society’s views. It is a shame that a positive response was not forthcoming.
We are now going a step further and have asked Professor Robert Adam PhD, RIBA, Hon RIAS, RSA, to review and re-elevate the architecture and appearance of the proposed buildings which front onto Market Place and Bartholomew Street. We want to ensure that the proposed development better reflects the character of Newbury, which we have re-studied in depth, and we are very excited to be able to share an early image of how we might be able to enhance the historic fabric of the town (see attached). Please note that this change is for the public facing elements of the scheme to the Market Place and Bartholomew Street, together with the facades of the tallest elements, the rest remains the same. We will put all the sketches up on the Eagle Quarter website once they are ready – www.eaglequarter.com.
As you would expect we are considering our options and if a pragmatic solution can’t be reached we will either have to resubmit our original scheme or one that’s taller and let Central Government decide rather than the District Council.
In the meantime, we will have one final try of persuading those who without sight of our proposals and with no information on the scheme were frustratingly against us from the outset. We all agree that I am sure the Newbury Society means well – however they have objected to virtually every significant application that has ever been submitted in central Newbury. The Market Street development imposed a castle wall on the town; the Magistrates Court development ‘would present as a monolithic block from the river; West Street resulted in excessive development for the site and added to the ‘tunnel effect’ at the end of the street; and Parkway Shopping Centre was considered to be bland and uninspiring, for example.
They love preservation but sometimes it is like East meets West and in this instance, we would ask them to see the bigger picture.
The Council is well aware of the viability pressure the scheme is under yet there is a huge list of public benefits, both for the immediate and wider community. It will be a Net Zero Carbon scheme – a first for the Town (sorry I maybe behind the curve) but given its size it is certainly the most significant – and one which we could all be proud.
Those of us who have known Newbury for some time, Newbs to those who are fond of it, have seen decision after decision being made that bit by bit has knocked the stuffing out of this pretty town. We now need to be brave, bold and turn it on its head and look to the future and not the past.
Please can I reach out to you to support Lochailort’s proposals. We’d welcome any comments – please feel free to let us know your thoughts on the application via West Berkshire Council’s public access page quoting reference: 21/00379/FUL or alternatively by emailing comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Illustrations above: block B and block G elevations, as submitted in August 2021 (see the planning application here).
- Illustration below: Sketch of proposed amendments to buildings facing onto Market Place, supplied by Lochailort Investments
- Header image: taken from the Eagle Quarter website.