Wokingham town regeneration given go ahead despite fears it'll 'look more like Bracknell'By Laura Herbert
November 21, 2012
Fears the Peach Place revamp will make ‘Wokingham look more like Bracknell’ were brushed aside as the first phase of the town centre regeneration was approved.
Regeneration bosses said the ‘respectful’ design would help the town hall become a ‘celebrated centrepiece’.
Work can now start on plans to refurbish a number of units – currently home to Boots, John Wood Sport, Clarks, flats and offices – around the junction of Rose Street and Market Place down to Bush Walk.
The application from Wokingham Borough Council and Wilson Bowden Developments was given unanimous approval by the council’s planning committee on Wednesday, November 14.
At the meeting Peter Must, chairman of the Wokingham Society, said he showed the plans to schoolchildren who said, ‘it looked like Bracknell’.
He added: “We have always welcomed the refurbishment process rather than demolition and construction.”
The society had also raised issues about the design of the elevations, a concern previously shared by English Heritage.
But Bernie Pich, Wokingham Borough Council’s head of regeneration said: “We do need to understand we are refurbishing an existing building and we are retaining the general feel and we need to respect this through the design process.
“It is the background to the town hall and we believe the design is respectful and allows the town hall to be celebrated as a centrepiece.”
Committee member Councillor Chris Singleton branded the designs ‘flat’ while Cllr Lindsay Ferris described it as ‘unimaginative and boring’.
He added: “The Bracknell line is spot-on. It is better than what is there, but it could do with work to enhance it.”
After the meeting Cllr Alistair Corrie, executive member for regeneration and affordable housing, said: “The town has been waiting for regeneration to happen for years and it’s exciting we now have the go ahead to start moving forward with delivering promises made.
“People are going to see real changes in the town centre during the next few years starting with these improvements to some of the most unsightly buildings in the entire town.
“It’s important the town retains businesses like Boots and Clarks, which serve people’s needs and keep bringing footfall to the town.
“By working closely with tenants and protecting the interiors during construction, the works can be carried out while the retailers remain in place.”
The building work is expected to start in the spring.