05:52PM, Tuesday 30 March 2021
The redevelopment of Slough’s two shopping centres is expected to start at the Queensmere site if plans are eventually approved.
Council leader James Swindlehurst provided an update on the multi-million pound project, spearheaded by developer British Land on behalf of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, on Friday.
The Labour councillor said British Land is looking to submit a planning application by the end of the year for a development which could provide up to 2,500 homes, more than double what was originally planned.
But Mr Swindlehurst said the developer is committed to ‘making Slough a destination again’ and providing a range of independent shops at the site.
“The problem in the town centre is we haven’t got large enough sites to have huge department stores and neither have we got a really strong independent offer,” the council leader said.
“We had an identikit High Street with some of the medium-sized chains but not something which built a real destination.
“British Land’s commitment is to make it a destination again.”
“You need at least 50,000 people visiting a High Street to have a decent retail offer and Slough had been 10 or 15,000 light.
“Once you see the major chains evacuate, the first few go and then they all go.
“The aim of getting housebuilding volume around the town centre is we then have enough people to fully feed the High Street.”
The council leader said British Land’s planning application is expected to focus on the Queensmere part of the dual shopping centre at first.
He added the aim is to complete the transfer of retailers over to the Observatory part of the site to allow redevelopment to progress ‘swiftly’ if plans are approved.
“Retail has been through an incredible shock and even very healthy high streets like Windsor, there’s hardly a week goes by without another retailer closing and pulling out,” Mr Swindlehurst said.
“If you look at a town centre like Bracknell, it was redeveloped on that traditional model which has had the life sucked out of it by COVID.
“The model that British Land has proposed is much more sustainable in an environment where a lot of retail shopping has moved online.”
A further public consultation on the plans is expected to be held this summer.
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