Monday, 14 June 2010

What shape will the Town Centre of the future take?

Recently, I have been looking around to see if there was any more information available on what is happening to the town centre. “Delicate negotiations are still in progress” I am told. Releasing any information could prejudice any of the schemes envisaged. As we all know it will now be “demand led” rather than a “big bang” build.
Whilst nearly every major town centre redevelopment in the country has been hit by the recession, it seems that Bracknell is in a much stronger position. What I am told is that the council is working closely with BRP who are continuing to spend a lot of time and money on the plans, and is totally committed to delivering regeneration as soon as economic conditions allow.
The Council is well positioned with planning permission and compulsory purchase orders in place. It is now able to look at redeveloping the town centre in smaller phases, rather than all in one go, to make sure that the plans are deliverable. This will also have the effect of making the redevelopment more organic - It won’t all wear out at the same time.
All over the country we hear of projects that are abandoned or are on hold. Some like Hatfield will continue, but at a slower pace.

There is an interesting line in a Telegraph article  by Mick Brown from Rob Hopkins, who  sees the present recession as the first step in the total unravelling of the idea of perpetual economic growth, 'and the beginning of many chickens coming home to roost. The idea that the way we get ourselves out of this economic situation is by doing more of what got us into it in the first place – taking out more cheap credit, buying more stuff we didn’t need in the first place – more and more people are starting to see the flawed logic in that.’
Mick Brown visited both Chester and Totness and found that the recession was biting.  The article was written a year ago, but is still quite informing.

Andy McSmith writing in the Independent 18 months ago wondered  “Does the high street have a future, and if so what shape will it take? “
A big growth area, which is making life harder for high streets, is online shopping. Ordering your weekly groceries over the internet is no longer the novelty that it was less than a decade ago, and has become a popular time-saver. And what about other things like an intelligent fridge which monitors what you are using and draws up a shopping list?

In the original Bracknell plans one of the first buildings to be constructed would have been the new council offices. People would have been justly annoyed if just that had been built, and the rest of the centre put on hold. Yes Easthampsted house would have been freed up, but there would be no returns from the investment. Having to keep using Easthampsted house though, will be providing the council with logistical problems. The new phasing could have many benefits, but also give us a few headaches. Many people are speculating about what future High Streets and shopping centres will look like. We have a pause where we can second guess what the future holds.

Some time back Hannah Fletcher asked “As retail monoliths crumble around us, whither our faithful old high streets?

By the end of the recession, whenever that may be, what will the retail landscape look like?
She looks at the following:
Pubs and bars - So many are closing…
Pharmacies - Increasingly about health services as much as about products and will offer optical, dental and health facilities?
Supermarkets - fragmentation as discount food shops take their share?
Music, games, DVD shops - Will these disappear from the high street as we turn to the internet?
Charity shops - How will they evolve?
Mobile phone shops - And the like - move out of town?
Off-licences - So many are closing.
Clothes stores - What impact the internet and supermarkets.

Meanwhile, in Bracknell we have seen around £100 million being invested in regeneration projects that are already underway, planned or newly completed in and around the town centre:

- Bracknell Train Station forecourt
- New Garth Hill College
- New Bracknell and Wokingham College
- Berkshire East Primary Care Trust Bracknell Healthspace
- Celsius Housing Development
- Major improvements to the Peel Centre.

Let’s hope that confidence and money to lend improves and we get the next step in the regeneration in place.

Residents of Priestwood will also be hoping that if they are not going to do anything with it yet, that Comer Homes at least make Winchester  House look a bit nicer. Or is it now "The Crystal"?
I blogged about this before:
Perhaps everyone should write to Comer Homes, and ask them to Remove The Blight of Bracknell?

1 comment:

  1. Tony from Harefield14 June 2010 at 08:44

    Hi Alvin. Just to let you know you are not alone in having Comer Homes 'issues'.

    Comer Homes acquired some land in our village without planning permission for residential properties. They want to develop it with eighty apartments adjacent to the hospital in our village. These are 21 acres of land the village has used for 21 years (at least) as a green for walking our dogs, enjoying the greenery + wildlife with a nice walk, exercising the kids for a runaround or on their bikes. So far all they have done is to raze the ground which has done a lot of damage, then they fenced it off to keep the villagers out.

    Don't hold out too many hopes for them to clean up your eyesore as you would like.