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Councillors clash over town centre regeneration plans

Councillors clashed over the future of Slough High Street during a meeting about the town centre’s long-awaited regeneration.

Members of Slough Borough Council’s cabinet received an update on the progress of redevelopment projects in Slough’s ‘square mile’ on Monday (Nov18).

The meeting was told an agreement has been reached for Muse Developments to redevelop the former Thames Valley University site, subject to planning permission, as part of the Slough Urban Renewal partnership.

Further details were also revealed on British Land’s plans for the Queensmere Observatory Shopping Centre which include scrapping a covered shopping mall in favour of more offices, up to 2500 homes and between 25,000 and 500,000 sq ft of retail space.

Cllr Dexter Smith (Con, Colnbrook with Poyle) said the proposals, which include potentially removing more than 1000 car parking spaces from the town centre, would ‘accelerate’ the decline of the High Street.

He told the meeting: “Before we dismiss the old goal of regenerating the High Street and replacing the covered shopping centre with something at least like for like, we should present the evidence that supports this policy change.

“We’re now accepting a scaling down of the shopping centre quite considerably.

“We had a consensus in the town saying that we wanted to arrest the decline of the High St but the policies you’re proposing are accelerating that.”

Council leader James Swindlehurst (Lab, Cippenham Green) hit back and said plans proposed by British Land were taking into account the decline of retail across the country.

He said: “British Land were very clear in the discussions we had in August that nobody will be building another shopping centre like in Bracknell (The Lexicon) because of the viability in the long-term.

“You really need more employment, more people in at lunchtime and a shift to a wider town centre offer including entertainment, food and beverage rather than just jam-packed full of retail.

“It can’t have escaped anyone’s attention that most of these chains that have survived 100s of years folding ten a penny because the appetite from the customer is just not there.”

A public consultation on proposals for the Queensmere Observatory Shopping Centre is expected to be launched in spring next year.

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