Press Release Archive:
Town Centre Consultation “most encouraging”, says Society (January 2007)

Outline designs for a new town square are being submitted by the Civic Society in response to the Council’s consultation on the future of Maidenhead Town Centre.

The idea for creating an attractive, open-space meeting place, a focal point at the heart of the civic centre, was first set out in the Society’s ‘Strategic Review’ in 2004, following a survey of members’ views.

Since then it has been one of our top three priorities for change as part of the need for town centre regeneration, along with an integrated transport hub and a policy for protecting the Thames riverside which are both now enshrined in the council’s Core Strategy.

The town square plan (outlined below?) will form part of the Society’s detailed response to the council’s document ‘Maidenhead Town Centre Towards 2026’ which was launched at the Town Hall at the first of a series of discussion workshops to be held with stakeholders.

As the RBWM Cabinet member for Planning, Cllr Vicky Howes, explains in her article (pg ?) the document is not a development plan, it is designed to stimulate discussion.

To that end, it worked well on the night. Civic Society planning group chairman, Nigel Cockburn, said: “It was good to see the council at last taking the lead in addressing the much needed regeneration of the town centre. What they’ve set out in the document are options rather than firm proposals but nevertheless they are thoughts that confirm what we’ve been saying for the last three years.

“We’ve rattled their cage more than a few times recently for not listening properly to public opinion; so this was most encouraging.”

The document says six areas centred on the following could become the subject of Town Centre development briefs:

 

West Street
Queen Street & Broadway
East High Street & York Stream
The area around the Station
The eastern gateway at Maidenhead Bridge
York Road & St Ives Road

As the council set out its stall, many of the ideas appeared to be similar to those that have been put forward by the Society – either from the Strategic Review, the ‘Great Debate’ survey or others that we’d lobbied for in response to the Local Development Framework or through the planning process.
In reality, of course, this should have come as no surprise. Said Nigel: “Maidenhead’s problems and opportunities are fairly obvious to anyone with the inclination to study them. But we were particularly pleased that the council has contracted an independent urban design and regeneration specialist, at least for the discussion document and consultation exercise.” He added: “It is encouraging to see Councillors acknowledging the issues. The challenge will be turning the results into a consensus and the consensus into reality – but we look forward to playing our part in that.”

Focal Point For Town Centre Regeneration

The Society’s Planning Group has already produced outline proposals to provide the town centre with a major “destination” focal point.

In pursuit of one of the main aims of the Strategic Review, the group had embarked on a recommendation for the re-development of the area around York Road, one of the key areas featured in the council’s latest document, before the consultation was announced.

They took the initiative recognising that the area was vulnerable to inappropriate development. “Our objective was to produce ideas that could be presented to the Council to initiate a debate about the future of this area and in due course to produce a development brief that would govern future development,” said Nigel. To this end the group sought the help of Andrew Plumridge, Chairman of the Berkshire Society of Architects and a qualified urban planner. The key features of the Society’s proposals are as follows:

1.
A new tree-lined Town Square of atmosphere and character, with underground parking beneath it, would replace the existing Council car park. The south elevation of the town hall would be remodelled to take advantage of the new amenity.
2.
To the south of the new square, we envisage a landmark building of architectural distinctiveness. Presenting an impressive front to the square, its use would encourage visitors to this part of the town. Suggestions have included a hotel/conference centre, multifunctional market space or concert hall/arts centre. This would displace the bowling club, football ground, King George VI Club and St. John’s Ambulance, which would be relocated. To the east of the building the ground would slope down to the banks of a widened York Stream and have terraces for cafés and restaurants.
3.
At the far south of the site, adjacent to the railway line, the plan is for a “science park” or hi-tech business development which could be accessed along Bell Street or from the south-west corner of the square. Access to Bell Street from the south would be improved by adjusting the island on Braywick Road.
4.
The plan would also create other new open spaces and vistas, as well as the square, which might provide sites for sculptural art, e.g. at the east end of Bell Street where a new pedestrian bridge would cross the York stream.
5.
New residential housing could be erected on the west side of Park Street, on part of the Grove Road car park and the south side of York Road, all angled to face the new square. The Civic office buildings on the east side of St Ives Road could also be redeveloped and remodelled to face a landscaped York Stream.
6.
6. Pedestrianisation of the area round the new square is an ambition, provided traffic flows can be successfully diverted.
“Clearly we all have views on what we might like to see in the area and I would be pleased to hear members’ thoughts on what we propose. Nevertheless the purpose in putting our plan forward to the Council is to provide a stimulus for ideas so that the Council can develop detailed plans and take the lead in promoting them,” said Nigel.