A haven for independent shops could be set up in Aylesbury as part of the Waterside retail development plans opposite the theatre.
District council leader Neil Blake said he was more inclined towards having specialist shops on the north side of Exchange Street rather than a large anchor store, with plans for a Debenhams seemingly dead in the water.
The plans have been years in the making, but council leaders remain tight-lipped about the overall scheme.
District opposition leader Steven Lambert called on the council to make the full plans public, while sceptics have questioned the need for more shops to be built when many units in the town remain empty.
Under the original plans, a huge Debenhams store was to be built on the site of the former Civic Centre carpark but Mr Blake confirmed this is now almost certain not to happen.
He said: “Debenhams was one of the original thoughts but it doesn’t feature in the current plans.
“We have spoken with different town centre developers and got different advice on whether you need an anchor store.
“More and more people are buying online so they don’t need to go to shops. I think having more and more specialist shops will get footfall.”
Restaurants are expected to go alongside the shops.
The plans include using the old police station, parts of the original county council building and Judges Lodgings by the Crown Court. Buildings in the High Street may also be demolished to open up walkways between that road and the Waterside.
Mr Blake confirmed that much of the popular open air car park by the cinema will be taken up by development.
He said: “There shouldn’t be a lot of parking spaces there because there will be alternative arrangements made in the town centre.”
However, Mr Blake said he could not yet reveal where these spaces will be.
Mr Lambert said it was time for people to hear the full details of the plan.
He said: “The plans that I know about could be really exciting for the town and for the wider Vale.
“What concerns me is the length of time taken to get it right rather than getting out to the market and getting it done. Now’s the time to start telling people about it because at the moment it’s a lot of hot air.”
Mr Blake said the council would not ‘jump into’ something without giving it full consideration and refused to give a timeline for the plans.
However, some people would like to see the area left as it is, according to honorary secretary of the Aylesbury Society Roger King.
Mr King said: “I have got a feeling it’s going to involve mass demolition. The last thing we want to see on that corner next to The Greek Taverna is a modern building, because that’s what I reckon will happen. If they’re going to have all these new shops, what shops will come? There are still a lot of empty units.”