At a meeting of the Town Centre Forum last week (April 3), Wokingham Borough Council and its partners Wilson Bowden outlined how work on the town centre regeneration scheme has been moving forward following the public consultation last summer. Some key points highlighted from the consultation were:
- Overwhelming support for a need to regenerated the town centre
- Identity of Wokingham as a market town
- Getting the right mix of shops and differentiating Wokingham from Reading and Bracknell
- Creating an improved setting for the town hall and responding to the town’s heritage
- Minimising congestion and providing parking within the town
- Creating a flexible and more useable town centre park
The team shared how in the last year it has been working closely with the council’s planning team on developing a scheme which works for the town. This has included discussions on how the scheme will work as part of the overall road network, helping to develop a parking strategy for the town, building on ideas for the open space and investigating the different architectural elements that make up Wokingham’s heritage.
It also discussed how, despite the difficult national economy, Wokingham has continued to survive and grow with strong interest from retailers in coming into the town. The team has spent the last year in negotiations with potential anchor stores and it plans to announce the name of the new foodstore operator later this summer.
Building upon the consultation event last summer, the regeneration team is planning another public event this May, concentrating on the designs for the open space. This event will give local people the opportunity to discuss the kind of facilities they would like to see in the town centre park and how the park can be designed to work best for a wide range of different uses.
Further details of the public consultation event will be published shortly and the council hopes that a variety of different groups will attend so that they can have their say in the future of this exciting local park.
Bernie Pich, head of regeneration at Wokingham Borough Council, said: "We're pleased to hear the positive comments from the forum about how the scheme is responding to last summer’s consultation feedback. The public voice has been key in getting the project right and will continue to be so as we move forward with the regeneration."
Will Robinson, commercial director for Wilson Bowden, said: "Wokingham high street has been the hot topic in the news over the past six months with reports like the Mary Portas Review and Javelin research into town centres showing that they will either thrive or die depending upon how they can stand out from the crowd and re-create themselves as destinations.
"With the existing empty shops schemes and programme of events through the year, as well as strong local support for the town already in place, we feel that Wokingham has the ability to thrive and become an inspirational town for the local area."
The development agreement is due to be signed later this month (April). The borough council and Wilson Bowden will be working together during the next 12 months to secure planning consent for the regeneration scheme. Full public consultation will also take place as part of this process.