Regeneration developers will make Wokingham proud
August 06, 2009
A town for people to be proud of is the goal for one of the developers battling to win the Wokingham regeneration project.
Gladedale Group has had its eye on the town for several years, having made a bid in the defunct Elms Field redevelopment project in 2007.
The team at Gladedale in Epsom is now excitedly planning its vision for Wokingham as a whole, and hopes to draw on the town’s historical architecture for inspiration while protecting its heritage.
Paul Lemar, land and planning director for Gladedale, told The Wokingham Times: “We had put a lot of resources for developing Elms Field.
“Initially, we were disappointed that was pulled, but the current project that allows us to take a much more holistic approach to the whole of the town centre excites us.
“It is a lovely town centre and it is a lucky town centre, in that it has sites that allow it to grow and expand and improve its position.
“The historic architecture is of particular interest to us.” The group had a history of woriking in such environments. “It is something we are very good at, ” he added.
Wokingham Borough Council announced last month it has finalised a shortlist of three developers, including Gladedale, to become a partner in the redevelopment of Wokingham town centre.
In the next six months, a competitive dialogue will take place behind closed doors.
Although townspeople will not be able to see designs for the town until next year when a development partner is selected and the formal planning process begins, Mr Lemar has assured residents if Gladedale is chosen the project will be people-led.
He said: “We will make sure what we think is right, is right for locals, because it is the local shoppers and businesses who know how that town centre operates. It is people that make towns, not buildings.
“We hope that if we get through and we are chosen as the preferred developer that all the people in the town will engage, come and talk to us.”
If chosen, Gladedale would want to work with private landlords to develop other areas of the town centre to produce a master plan.
Mr Lemar added recent news such as the proposed Airtrack to provide faster rail transport between Wokingham and Heathrow Airport and, Café Rouge’s plans to open a branch bode well for Wokingham’s future as a successful town.
He said: “It is a high quality environment that should attract high quality brands but it also needs to protect its independent retailers as well. There is a huge opportunity for them to not only retain their position but enhance it and grow.”
Other locations revamped by Gladedale include the regeneration of the Quartermile area of Edinburgh to transform it into 650 homes, with leisure and office space, and a former garrison in Shoeburyness in Essex turned into waterside apartments.
Mr Lemar said he could envisage something similar with housing in Wokingham town centre because the redevelopment had been sensitive to the original architecture.
The council has named the other two shortlisted companies as Wilson Bowden in Leicestershire and Development Securities in London.
In the Elms Field project Gladedale proposed a new park as a focal point for the town, a public square, underground car park and community building, along with an amphitheatre, cafes, bars and restaurants.
The council decided not to pursue the project and Elms Field is now one of four town centre locations the council wants to see redeveloped together over the next 10 to 15 years.