EXPERTS have been brought in by the borough council to work on a long-term plan for The Top of the Town.

Basingstoke and Deane Borough council has appointed Urban Initiatives Studios to transform the ailing part of the town centre.

The team says it will look at what can be done to improve the way the area looks, enhance its role as the historic part of the town centre and attract new business and facilities to complement Festival Place and The Malls.

Plans are already underway to reopen a former restaurant that has been empty for some time, as a pop-up shop, within the next two months.

The Shop Start scheme is a partnership with Basingstoke College of Technology to bring the council-owned retail unit in Church Street back into use by retail, fashion and entrepreneurial students, who will sell new products they have developed.

The council hopes Urban Initiatives Studios will create a vision that will influence licensing and planning.

Work will begin with existing businesses and representatives of The Top of the Town groups.

A group representing traders, businesses, landlords and organisations in the town centre was set up following a summit meeting in July, at which businesses and organisations expressed support.

The first meeting of the new Basingstoke Town Centre Forum will take place in September, and they will keep the town centre community informed.

Councillor Ranil Jayawardena, the council’s deputy leader, said: “The Top of the Town is our historic heart and we are keen to ensure it is not left behind as Basingstoke storms forward into the 21st Century. Significant progress is already being made on our pledged improvements – but a longer term vision is vital to define the area’s role in the town centre.”

Ideas are already being explored to upgrade the benches and introduce landscape planters, bollards and other street furniture in the public spaces.

The aim is to consult on this in the autumn and start work early next year.

For more information visit go/townchanges.