Council: ‘Aylesbury of the future should be cultural hub with more high-end restaurants and shops such as Jamie’s Italian and Gap’

View from Buckinghamshire County Council (BCC) offices in Aylesbury - looking across town with Market Square at centre
View from Buckinghamshire County Council (BCC) offices in Aylesbury - looking across town with Market Square at centre

Plans to sell Aylesbury as a centre for entertainment and the arts with more high end food and shopping destinations have been unveiled.

The district council believes the best way to take on rival towns such as Wycombe and Watford is to use attractions like the Waterside Theatre and the reincarnated Friars club to make Aylesbury unique.

To add to established entertainment destinations, it is hoped more venues can be licensed for music and dance and that there will be ‘theatre in the pubs’.

Aylesbury Vale District Council’s Teresa Lane, who is spearheading the ‘Improvement Plan for Aylesbury Town Centre 2013-2021’ project, said: “Everybody wants their town to be different. But it’s really quite difficult to make a town of distinction these days. We think this will do that.”

One thing the council admits Aylesbury is particularly weak on is its restaurant and café offerings and would prefer more of these over extra pubs and clubs. Reopening the Cloisters underneath Friars Square and launching venues there is one option being considered.

By having more choice in this area, the authority believes the entertainment scene will flourish.

To build on this, a better offering of mid to high end shops is also proposed.

The draft plan says Aylesbury has too many low end shops and food outlets.

The council’s vision is to attract venues of the standard of Jamie’s Italian, Brasserie Blanc and Carluccio’s for eating out and Gap, Zara and Fat Face for shopping.

Council chief executive Andrew Grant said: “There’s a little bit of sit down dining but not enough.

“Although we don’t want to be a clone town people do expect a certain minimum level of chains in a town.

“But we don’t want to annex all the low end stuff to another place because we still need to be a mixed economy.”

The draft plan sets out short, medium and long term proposals for various areas around the town centre.

Among these is the Waterside North scheme, which includes the old police station and the Exchange Street car park.

The council is yet to explain details of this part of the project, apart from that it is to contain a mixture of retail, leisure and housing.

As well as plans for pedestrianisation around Aylesbury that have been previously reported, the council wants to encourage more street trading. In the long term it also hopes to introduce a more environmentally sustainable fleet of Hackney carriages and have a limited number of small private hire vehicles for single person use.

Officials know their plan is ambitious and have urged people to get behind it to give the project the best chance of success.

Mr Grant said: “People are going to have to want it badly enough for this to be provided.

“The shops won’t come if people aren’t going to come through the door.

“What is stopping us at the moment is a clear vision and self belief.

“If this doesn’t galvanise interest then nothing will.”

The plan is due to be discussed by the council’s cabinet on Tuesday (June 11).