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Maidenhead regeneration: 'We will see real progress soon'

Maidenhead is in the midst of an ambitious regeneration programme. Reporter Kieran Bell spoke to council leader Andrew Johnson about plans complete and underway.

“I know it almost feels like the town is in bits – [but] we are in that critical phase of regeneration. We will start to see real progress quite soon.”

These are the words of Royal Borough leader Cllr Andrew Johnson (pictured) on the proposed regeneration of Maidenhead.

The town is set to undergo a complete transformation as developers eye Maidenhead as a key investment opportunity.

Firms including Shanly and Countryside are working with the council to deliver high-profile building schemes across the town, some of which are underway and many more in the pipeline.

Along York Road, you will pass the Desborough Bowling Club redevelopment, as well as the Watermark project from Countryside, which is now several stories high.

On the latter, Cllr Johnson said: “[They] are on target, on budget and making progress.

“All being well, they should be finishing that frame by February next year and they will move to the fit-outs and the rest of it.

“There is a lot of work still to do in terms of putting various pieces of the jigsaw together, but we are confident that we are making solid progress.”

Countryside has got to work along York Road and St Ives Road in Maidenhead (above)

While work has started here quite significantly, other areas of the town are done. The first two phases of the Chapel Arches scheme – a 259-home and commercial space development – are complete, with the final phase set to be finished in 2021.

“These major regeneration opportunities do not come around once every five minutes, they are almost a once in a lifetime opportunity. I think it is down to us all to embrace it wholeheartedly,” Cllr Johnson said.

“If local people do not benefit, there is little point in regeneration. It is all about making a place better, more competitive, more attractive to live in, and more inspiring to visit.”

Chapel Arches (above)

It has been a bit of a whirlwind year for Cllr Johnson.

He was only elected in May but, following the sudden departure of Simon Dudley, was announced as the new council leader in the autumn.

Some of his key jobs will be implementing the Borough Local Plan, and managing the council’s troubled finances.

Of course, regeneration does not come cheap, and some may be wondering how the Royal Borough can afford it.

A leaked report from the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, seen by the Advertiser in September, found a series of problems with the council’s finances.

“There are challenges,” Cllr Johnson said.

“The council is in various partnerships, particularly with Countryside, [so] in terms of that pipeline, we are fully funded and ready to go.”

He added: “In terms of the council’s own finances – rather than just selling off the assets and getting in a capital receipt, we are actually looking to not only deliver new homes, but get some cash into the door as well.

“Particularly in the affordable homes we are looking to prioritise low cost ownership, key worker housing. And of course some much needed social housing as well.

“There are [also] certain sites where we are now looking at the potential for office accommodation where we can start to generate a commercial income stream.

“It is one of the longer term objectives of the council – greater commercialisation.”

There is also, of course, The Landing development, where demolition work is nearing completion.

Planning permission was granted for 424 homes, 100,000sqft of offices and 40,000sqft of retail on the corner of King Street, Queen Street and Broadway.

An aerial shot of The Landing (above) Photo from HUB

“A lot of this is still work in progress, I will be honest with you, but frankly that’s not a bad place to be – I would rather it was a work in progress than work not started at all,” Cllr Johnson added.

“I know it almost feels like the town is in bits – [but] we are in that critical phase of regeneration where some of the preparatory work has been completed and people can’t yet see what it will look like, but that will start to come on fairly quickly.

“We will start to see real progress quite soon.”

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