Published on

12 October 2023

'Shop shop hooray' as district centre gets green light

A range of essential amenities in Arborfield Green have been awarded planning permission

artists impression of two three-storey buildings with ground floor shops, and a wide pedestrianised boulevard lined with trees running between them

Long-awaited plans for shops and green space along with a pub, community centre, playground, allotments and other amenities in Arborfield Green have been given the go-ahead.

A detailed planning application for a new district centre off Nine Mile Ride Extension was unanimously approved by the council’s planning committee yesterday (Wednesday, 11 October).

The scheme, to be built on a 10.6-hectare plot north and west of Bohunt School and Arborfield Green Leisure Centre, will serve the new community being built on the former Arborfield Garrison site.

(Images: Murdoch Wickham)

Overhead artists' impression of a attractive, clean pedestrianised shopping area with wide, tree lined boulevard and three-storey buildings with ground floor shops

A range of services on residents’ doorsteps

The new district centre will include a pedestrianised high street with a public square and 18 new commercial units, along with space for a pre-school, a day nursery, public house and community building.

The commercial units could be combined or divided into bigger or smaller units to meet different retail or business needs.

There will also be 206 new homes, roughly half of which will be houses and the other half flats, with new affordable homes on site plus contributions by the developer towards affordable housing locally.

The scheme is also set to include a supermarket, which Sainsbury’s wants to run as a “neighbourhood hub” store offering an additional "click and collect" service so it can provide a wider range of products. This is subject to contract and a separate planning application, expected soon.

View of an attractive open public space with wide pavements, lots of trees and grass and low-rise buildings at either side

From decision to action: the next steps

Developer Crest Nicholson plans to start work in 2024. Once roads, footpaths and utilities are in place, the first phase - including more than half of the commercial units - will come next.

The proposed community centre, based in the former Ministry of Defence training centre beside the leisure centre, could include a cafe, library, auditorium, nursery, multi-purpose community spaces and outdoor seating. Discussions will take place on the exact mix of facilities.

The new public house will be built to the north of the high street, overlooking the new village green.

Building is estimated to take about three years to finish but the first shops are likely to open about 18 months after building starts. Anyone interested in taking up commercial space should contact Crest at

Both the council and Crest are well aware of the strong local desire to see the scheme finished as soon as possible, following delays due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, and have been working together to bring it forward for the past two years.

The pandemic affected the viability of similar projects up and down the country because supermarkets stopped looking to expand, instead focusing on the survival of existing branches.

With conditions improving, Crest held a pre-application consultation earlier this year and revised its proposal based on feedback before holding another in the autumn.

Long-distance view of a new low-rise development from the other side of a pretty pond lined with reeds

Improvements worth waiting for

Cllr Lindsay Ferris, executive member for planning and local plan, said: “We’re really pleased to have reached this point, as we’re sure residents are, and will continue to do all we can to ensure the new district centre comes forward in a timely manner.

“We know there has been frustration at the delays, due to factors beyond our control like Covid and economic conditions, so we do thank residents for their continued patience as we worked with Crest to progress this as quickly as possible.

“With the finer points of this scheme revised based on people’s comments, the finished build should make a huge improvement to daily life in this community and meet people’s daily shopping needs closer to home.

“As well as meeting our goal of enriching residents’ lives, the completed district centre will reduce the need for car travel or supermarket deliveries and increase opportunities for active travel. In turn, this helps people live more healthily while reducing air pollution, carbon emissions and traffic congestion.”

More infrastructure still to come

Crest is also preparing updated drawings for new sports facilities at Arborfield Green and expects to submit these to the council soon. It submitted a detailed planning application earlier this year and is amending this following residents’ feedback and independent design guidance.

The former Infirmary Stables, a scheduled monument to the north of the site, are also set to be brought back into use. Work has been undertaken to protect them from the elements until the next steps are decided and more should be announced next year.

Both the district centre and the sports facilities are being provided by Crest. Outline permission was awarded as part of a 2015 planning application for 2,000 new homes in this area.

Other infrastructure provided at Arborfield Green, with developer funding, includes Bohunt School, the relocated Farley Hill Primary School, a walking and cycling route to Finchampstead via California Country Park, public artwork, nature parks and open spaces, play areas and shared footways and cycleways along access roads.

Bohunt School is set to expand with a new 300 place sixth form and 150 additional places for younger pupils after the council recently agreed to increase its financial contribution to the project.

Further improvements are due as part of the developments to the south. Housing was allocated at Arborfield Garrison as part of the council’s local plan, a long-term strategy produced to meet local housing need and Government requirements.

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