Maidenhead 'sleepwalking' into 'bland' developments – property expert

Maidenhead is in danger of ‘sleepwalking’ into ‘bland’ and ‘unpleasant’ developments if future regeneration plans are not altered, a property expert has claimed.

Jolyon Burgess, head of land and new homes at Oakwood Estates in Queen Street, has called on the Royal Borough and developers to rethink its mass proposals for the town centre.

A plethora of schemes have either been approved or are in the pipeline, including the Watermark scheme in St Ives Road, built by Countryside in conjunction with the council.

Elsewhere, the same duo have been granted permission to build flats in place of the former Magnet Leisure Centre, despite concerns from a councillor that the proposal resembled a 'prison village'.

Meanwhile, the Nicholsons Centre is set to be torn down and replaced with a new town centre quarter (pictured below). 

In a letter to the Advertiser last week, Mr Burgess, who has been in the property industry for more than 25 years, took aim at the appearance of the buildings at Watermark, and was concerned about the way Maidenhead’s regeneration was heading.

“I am not suggesting what Maidenhead should look like going forward, but I know it has got to be better than what is being delivered,” he said this week. 

“You rarely get such an amazing opportunity to really lift a town by creating somewhere beautiful.

“With the council as the joint venture partner, the money is not going to come back as quickly as it should, because these flats are not selling.”

Mr Burgess said that some developments in the town are attempting to ‘drive down the cost to increase profits’.

“That is all well and good but there is a point where you actually end up losing. There is so much to be said for positive and attractive architectural styling,” he added.

Mr Burgess said that the buildings at Watermark (below) and the delayed Nicholson Quarter scheme, built by Areli, are ‘heavy’ and ‘overbearing’, fearing that light rarely reaches the pavements.

“They do not offer any real architectural merit or interest, they do not create a pleasant environment to be around,” he claimed.

“They block out so much light so most of the day you are going to be in shade. I find these are so bland and create this ‘ghetto’ feel.”

Mr Burgess suggested that setting the tall buildings back would allow a ‘sense of openness’ and avoid ‘overbearing’ people below.

“We are in danger of sleepwalking into these developments. They are just going to be built and we are going to be left with them and they are going to be unpleasant,” he said.

“There is so much more we can do and you have to look at the bigger picture – you are creating an environment for people to live and work and you want them to cherish it. This is going to have an effect on Maidenhead for many years to come.”

Cllr Phil Haseler, the council’s cabinet member for planning, said: “Good design is the aim of all involved in the development process, and although this will be the primary focus of designers and their clients, the council is keen to see that new development provides a high quality environment.

“The appearance of a proposed development and its relationship to its surroundings are material considerations in determining planning applications.”

Countryside said that it would not be commenting on Mr Burgess' thoughts. 

Areli has not responded to a request for comment from the Advertiser. 

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