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Independent traders promised protection in New Milton Neighbourhood Plan vision

PROTECTING independent businesses is a key part of a "community-led" proposed hyper-local vision for New Milton, town councillors assured as they urged residents to cast their votes.

Around a dozen representatives of town centre trade attended an online briefing about the New Milton Neighbourhood Plan in the run-up to the public referendum on Thursday 6th May when voters also go to the polls for the local elections.

The document sets out policies for sites to develop or protect, design quality, and projects that could be paid for with extra cash.

Town centre regeneration is part of the "very ambitious" New Milton Neighbourhood Plan
Town centre regeneration is part of the "very ambitious" New Milton Neighbourhood Plan

More new affordable homes, new community facilities, enhanced green spaces and a new youth building are outlined in its vision for New Milton up to 2036.

Although generally supporting the plan, Giselle Bigwood, owner of Fagans Menswear, feared it might lead to a pedestrianised or one-way Station Road.

Planning committee chair Cllr Steve Clarke, who led the Neighbourhood Plan working group, said he did not see pedestrianisation happening, although ways to make Station Road more accessible for pedestrians could be looked at.

Kathy Sirl, owner of zero-waste refill shop the Naked Pantry and neighbouring café the Naked Quench, was concerned over rumours a major chain restaurant was coming to Station Road.

But Cllr Clarke assured her he had heard no such plans. “I would like a big chain restaurant,” he commented. “But not one that would compete with our smaller businesses.

“We’ve got to try to retain independent traders, and we’ve got to provide a high street for people to come in and do that.”

The council’s town development manager, Suna King, who is also the Neighbourhood Plan’s project leader and coordinator, said it would give the community a stronger voice in future development, plus more cash from developers’ contributions.

A new youth facility to replace the Phoenix Centre in Culver Road, which Hampshire County Council sold off in 2017 after 30 years of use, is part of the community vision.

There is also the desire for extra affordable homes for young people and families, along with new employment opportunities.

The plan’s vision for the town centre covers shopping, living, working and leisure, with hopes for more new shops, as well as eateries which would also boost a night-time economy.

There are also hopes the New Milton Memorial Centre in Whitefield Road can be transformed into an “iconic” cultural and community hub.

“We want New Milton to be an attractive environment that is easy to get around and more connected with the recreation ground,” Mrs King said.

“Much of this is very ambitious, very aspirational. It sets out the policies, where we want shops and homes, etc."

Cllr Clarke stressed residents’ views would always be sought, and town mayor Cllr Alvin Reid pointed out the Plan’s working group comprised about three times more members of the public than councillors.

Pauline Jones from Flower Vogue florists in Station Road said:

“I really believe whole-heartedly in our town. We are a blooming awesome town!”

The Neighbourhood Plan can be viewed at www.newmiltonplan.org.uk and leaflets are being delivered to every BH25 household. The last drop-in session will be held during the Wednesday Station Road market on 5th May.

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