Regeneration plans must keep town's characterBy Julie Spencer
September 26, 2012
Wokingham people want new shops and houses as long as the history and character of their market town is preserved.
Results of the latest public consultation on Wokingham’s regeneration were released this week, revealing the majority of people were looking forward to their new town centre.
A total of 262 responses to a questionnaire and seven separate letters were analysed after July’s exhibition at Elms Field, which was attended by 1,200 people.
More than half of those who responded thought the scheme would preserve Wokingham’s history, with strong support for the plan to do up and build more shops in Peach Street.
But others felt the new-look Wokingham would be too modern, and would lose its market town feel.
Comments from respondents included the accusations that the scheme was ‘bland and characterless’ and ‘an over-indulgence in red brick’ and that the council was ‘destroying the heritage of the town’.
However, other respondents said they were ‘pleasantly surprised’ by the proposal, with one saying they commended developers on attempting to ‘retain the style and patterns’ of the town.
One suggested the scheme ‘needed a landmark’ as a focal point, while another posed the question ‘do we really need more coffee shops?’.
Of Elms Field, 40 respondents said all or most of the scheme ‘looked good’ although 38 said they were against plans for a supermarket.
The survey follows an earlier consultation in July 2011 which resulted in 700 responses from Wokingham people.
The latest comments were welcomed by Councillor Alistair Corrie, executive member for regeneration and affordable housing, who said he was pleased by the numbers of people who had taken the time to be involved in the consultation process.
He said: “There are a lot of differing views over the future of the town and how this should take shape. The challenge for the council and our development partners is to balance the wide-ranging views with the needs of the town over the long term, accommodating the expected population growth and ensuring the long-term sustainability of the town centre.”
Patrick Arthurs, from developers Wilson Bowden, said: “We have spent a long time bringing forward the plans, but there is still a long way to go and we will be looking carefully at the comments received as the plans are finalised.
“The inclusion of a supermarket will drive much greater footfall into the town centre, boosting trade for all existing and new shops and businesses.
“This is a crucial part of the development which goes hand in hand with encouraging smaller and independent shops around Peach Place and associated areas.”
Last month, a planning application was submitted for work on 1960s’ buildings in Peach Street which Cllr Corrie described at the time as looking ‘very tired’.
The planning application is set to be decided by the council in November.