10:19AM, Tuesday 30 July 2019
The argument over the right-turn ban in Queen Street rumbled on again last night (Wednesday), with another public consultation into the plans likely.
Councillors and residents attending the Maidenhead Town Forum further discussed council proposals to get rid of the town centre right-turn towards Grenfell Road.
The idea is to turn the space into a wider pedestrian area to prepare for the planned future increase in commuters, which could see rail passengers reach eight million by 2039.
The work is part of a wider series of improvements between the Royal Borough and the Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
This partnership will also see the station forecourt enhanced later this year and has already involved the Broadway being converted to two-way traffic – which the council hopes will reduce the impact on Queen Street as more people will exit the town from the Broadway.
The Queen Street proposals have been met with scepticism from residents, with particular concerns raised again at the Town Hall meeting over emergency services response times.
The council believes that the closure of this route onto the A308 could reduce serious injuries by 75 per cent and slight injuries by 25 per cent.
Having originally said that the council should ‘crack on’ with the work, Royal Borough leader Cllr Simon Dudley (Con, Riverside) last night demanded for a more thorough consultation to be carried out, and for the decision to be made at full council in September.
His concerns were raised after learning that the original consultation carried out last month had been done before the trial closure, which has been in place since July 8.
Just 23 per cent of people [out of 532 responses] thought that the right turn closure would increase the safety of road users.
While Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service and Thames Valley Police gave the thumbs up to plans, South Central Ambulance did not respond in time.
Sitting with the forum, Cllr Dudley said: “The data that we have received is not at all supportive. We will not make a decision to do something based on that.
“Can I strongly suggest you run another consultation. It is a snapshot in time before they get to experience the reality. People are going to say Simon Dudley steamrolled this.
“We do need a response from the ambulance [service].
“That data you have shown is literally just people’s hearsay.
“We are not in a position to pull the trigger on this now. I am happy for it to go to full council.”
The presentation from Ben Smith, head of commissioning and communities at the Royal Borough, was met with some positivity by Cllr Phil Haseler (Con, Cox Green) - a former police sergeant.
“This whole scheme does make sense, yes it does need fine tuning,” he said.
“But [as a response driver] you adapt your course accordingly.”
The Queen Street right turn is expected to stay closed while the further consultation is carried out.
Also on the agenda at the meeting was maintaining the retail offer in Maidenhead during regeneration, and keeping the high street.
Town manager Steph James gave councillors and the public gallery a presentation on the topic.
She highlighted the importance of targeting office workers, emphasising Maidenhead’s food and drink offer, and using local businesses to shop.
“People are using town centres differently now,” she said.
“We are going to have a fantastic town centre in the future, but we have to support what we have at the moment.
“If people are supporting the businesses we have, the events, then Maidenhead is going to be a great place going forward.”
She added: “Maidenhead needs to find its niche. It is really important through the regeneration process that we find our niche.
“Through developments that are happening, I think that is going to start coming through.
“We will be able to stop comparing ourselves [to other towns] and maybe have our own identity – that is the aim.”
The redevelopment of the Nicholsons Centre was raised at the forum, with a resident sitting in the public gallery asking who is going to look after businesses in the complex when it is redeveloped.
French asset management group Tikehau Capital has partnered with Areli Real Estate to redevelop the centre.
A public consultation in March resulted in a masterplan - featuring a proposed public square and a mix of shops, and a new car park.
Council leader Cllr Dudley said: “The arrangements that we are entering into with the new owners of the Nicholsons shopping centre mean that we will be looking to build a brand new car park on part of the, basically the footprint, of the existing shopping centre.
“The developer of the Nicholsons Centre will be talking to all of the tenants and creating a schedule.
“All those conversations need to take place between the town centre manager and the Areli team aswell.”
He added that there would need to be a new post office.
Regarding car parking payment, one resident raised fears over the pay and display system in the Nicholsons Car Park.
Earlier this month it was announced that the Royal Borough would be converting the car park to this due to ‘wholesale fraud’ with the previous machines.
Cllr Dudley added: “Work is going on to potentially introduce a brand new Advantage Card.
“It would have to be tested thoroughly to make sure it works with those existing machines before it is rolled out.”
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