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Regeneration: Keeping Maidenhead a 'unique town' is key, says council leader

The Advertiser has been speaking to council leader Andrew Johnson on the regeneration of Maidenhead. In our second feature, reporter Kieran Bell asked him how the town might look in the future, with several more redevelopment plans in the pipeline.

Taking the climate crisis ‘very seriously’ and ensuring Maidenhead stays a ‘unique town’ are two priorities during its regeneration, according to council leader Andrew Johnson.

Cranes towering over Maidenhead’s skies and big plans for the Nicholsons Centre give us a glimpse of the mass change proposed in the town.

If you take a short stroll through the town a decade from now, the view will be a far cry from what was there before.

Cllr Johnson said: “The real future opportunity is certainly over the next five to 10 years, when we start to see some of these bigger projects – particularly the new Nicholsons Centre – really start to take off.

“We are almost on the cusp of that wave of regeneration.”

Proposals for the shopping complex have been under the public eye for some months since the centre went into receivership last October.

Plans include the car park being relocated to a more central location and the complex opened up into different areas.

It is a chance to ‘repair some of the damage’ from the last century, Cllr Johnson added.

“The redevelopment offers a fantastic opportunity for the town to reinvent itself, but really to put a new heart back in the town centre,” Cllr Johnson said.

“[And] to repair some of the damage done in the 1960s and 70s through buildings and architecture that was not particularly in keeping  - it sort of divided the town up.

“The Broadway car park [and] Nicholsons Centre almost acts as a huge barrier across the town centre. It is looking to repair some of that - deliver new public realm, co-working and living space. Just places where people want to spend time.”

Other future plans include the relocation of the Grove Road car park, the possible  Maidenhead United move to Braywick Park – freeing up the York Road ground as an opportunity area – and the Magnet Leisure Centre redevelopment.

There is also the train station forecourt, with improvement works set to start early this year.

Cllr Johnson said: “Maidenhead is a unique town and it should stay that way. It should not look to be a clone of another.

“Should we be competing with Bracknell? No, we should compliment Bracknell, ie: we provide what Bracknell does not.

“I would love to class Maidenhead as the town of opportunity in the Thames Valley, and we are on the cusp of being able to say that in five years time.”

One of the major issues for Cllr Johnson and his council is to address the climate crisis.

“Embedding climate resilience is key for this council going forward, not only in how we design new spaces, but also how we build them,” the Hurley and Walthams ward councillor said.

“The fundamental driver behind that is the need to increase things like biodiversity, make buildings more efficient – but I think going forward, we have got to be radical about how we deal with buildings. Do we continue to demolish and replace, or do we look to refit?

“It is going to be a major issue and we are taking that very seriously.”

Another one is parking. With a plethora of homes and people set to arrive in Maidenhead, many will be wondering where they will put their cars.

The term ‘0.5 cars’ has been thrown around quite a bit at council meetings of late, to describe the lack of parking spaces associated with schemes.

But Cllr Johnson was optimistic.

“We are still on target to deliver a net increase in parking as a result of all the regeneration work,” he said.

“But you look forward to five, 15, 20 years time [and] climate change rising up the agenda.

“We have to be careful, looking to the future, that we incorporate all that thinking into how we design places now, so we are not left with a load of car parks in 20/30 years time.”

On his message for Maidenhead residents in the middle of the change, Cllr Johnson’s was short – ‘stick with us’.

He said: “I completely acknowledge that sometimes change is difficult. I appreciate that. But do I think in the longer term it is worth it? I do.

“The fact that people are still wanting to invest serious money in Maidenhead is a real attribute.

“Stick with us.”

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