'Don't let Wokingham become a clone town'By Julie Spencer
December 18, 2012
The outgoing president of the Wokingham Society said the town was a ‘splendid’ place to live although he feared for the future of the shopping centre.
David Tinker said the proliferation of tanning shops, hair salons and coffee shops suited young people, but there was little left in the town for older generations.
Mr Tinker retired at the society’s annual meeting last month after 20 years, the last five as president.
Speaking last week he said the society set up in the 1960s to preserve and protect the character and environment of Wokingham had achieved many successes.
Among those were the expansion of the blue plaque scheme commemorating buildings of historical and architectural importance and its grants for community halls, church repairs, the expansion of Wokingham Theatre and the regeneration of murals at St Crispin’s School.
However, Mr Tinker said the society has been frustrated with the borough and town councils which he believed had ‘badly managed’ the town centre.
And there was ‘a lot of unfinished business’ to do with the town centre regeneration.
“One of the main things during my time has been dealing with the planning which takes up an awful amount of time. It has been hard work and it has led to frustrations dealing with the councils. We still believe there are problems with aspects of the development, particularly Elms Field and Peach Place.
“We believe Elms Field should not be built on and we tried to put in an application for a town green but because of legal problems it would have not have succeeded.
“The building of a food store and a hotel is the one thing we are radically against. We do not believe the council has really considered what the residents are feeling about these problems. There is a feeling they ignore these representations although we attend every meeting.
“I am afraid I believe they do not take on board what they should do.”
The borough council held public consultations about the controversial development of a supermarket, hotel and housing at Elms Field and an area will be preserved as public open space to be managed by the town council.
Mr Tinker, 73, joined the society after becoming involved in a campaign against proposed development at Evendons Farm close to his home in Salisbury Close in the 1990s.
He was chairman before becoming president in 2007, a role passed to Lady Elizabeth Godsal, High Steward of Wokingham. The society will continue to lobby for the preservation of Wokingham as a unique market town, against the nearby ‘clone’ towns of Bracknell and Reading, he said.
“The high street is dying everywhere as so many people are buying online.
“I have no reason to go into Wokingham other than for book shops. If you want a haircut or a coffee you are fine, but what else?
“The youngsters don’t seem to mind but older people find there is nothing to go into Wokingham for.
“Genuine shops like the hardware shop – they were so regular and that was when it was a real market town.”
However, he said Wokingham was still a splendid place to live because of its location and its people.
“The town is run by wonderful voluntary groups.”