BROAD Street Mall boss Steve Fawke has launched an angry attack on Reading Borough Council's �59.6m plan to move the Civic Centre because it will "devastate" his shopping centre and the surrounding neighbourhood.
On Tuesday the council is set to shun RG2 (the former Yell building) in Queens Walk in favour of a move to Plaza West in Bridge Street. The ruling-Labour group claims that over 25 years it will cost less than the �64.3m bill for moving to RG2 - but Mr Fawke accuses them of ignoring the economic impact on the area they will have left behind.
He said: "It is devastating for this end of town, not just for Broad Street Mall. We've been here 40 years serving the community and in these challenging economic times everyone needs to pull together.
"We will see a 25-30% reduction in footfall once they have moved, at a time when we are trying to entice new businesses and retailers to the town. When they see the decline in footfall, they will not come."
Mr Fawke wants RG2 to be chosen and, pointing out that there is no plan for the Civic Centre site once the building is demolished, he added: "They do not have a clue. It will be a blight on the area for a long time.
"I am flabbergasted. The Civic Centre is an anchor for our shopping centre and they are taking it away. At peak times we have 1,000 people employed here. An awful lot of them will end up on the dole."
Reading East MP Rob Wilson is "extremely concerned" the council has not considered wider concerns about jobs and growth. He said: "It would be a dereliction of duty if Labour councillors voted to desert the area without a developed plan for what happens next. I hope they will brief me on their plans as soon as possible."
The council is considering not taking the Post Office when it leaves the seventies-built Civic Centre - which provides office space for more than 800 people but is reaching the end of its life - and moving it to the Broad Street Mall but Mr Fawkes said nobody has mentioned that to him.
Cllr Lovelock said: "I don't agree with Mr Fawke. We are very mindful of keeping Reading buoyant economically and it does not help to have people talking it down. We also have to consider the cost to the council taxpayers. We will still have interests in that area, with the market and the Hexagon. We are not just going to walk away."
For more on the proposed move see www.readingchronicle.co.uk