11 October, 2013
The Wokingham regeneration project continues to progress toward its ultimate aim: to provide residents and visitors with a modern and vibrant town.
With so much taking place under the 'masterplan' - from improvements to the transport infrastructure to more housing - here's a quick recap of what's been going on:
In the last few months:
Protesters took to Elms Field to voice their opposition to proposed building work on the popular park. This was after the idea for applying to list the park as a community asset came to nothing. Councillors, however, have maintained that homes, a supermarket and hotel will be constructed on about half of the space. Conservative Councillor Alistair Corrie has said that 'developing the park is the only way to regenerate the town'. The redeveloped park promises a larger, improved play area and bigger events space.
Objections have been launched by Lib Dem Councillor Prue Bray against the Conservatives' plans for new housing at the Carnival Pool complex. The Tories had highlighted the leisure quarter of the regeneration scheme as a possible site for more housing, but Cllr Bray has called the move 'sneaky'.
Reports that Wokingham's retail performance has bucked the UK's trends and continued to see sales has been evidenced by lowered vacancy rates. In fact, retail units are in demand. This perhaps demonstrates the appetite and need for more shops, which will hopefully be satisfied by the Elms Field and Rose Street plaza proposals.
The new and improved Wokingham Station is nearing completion, after delays set the upgrade back. Much improved, the station will provide an entirely new station building, better parking and drop off points, retail units, a footbridge, waiting rooms and upgraded relief roads.
Interest is being piqued around the redevelopment of Peach Place, according to head of regeneration, Bernie Pich. It is generally agreed that this area is in dire need of improvement. This will take place in phase three of the redevelopment.
To enhance the regeneration even further, it has been announced that Wokingham is to receive 'high-speed' fibre broadband in two years' time. By the end of September 2015, 91 per cent of households and businesses should have use of the faster connection.
Essentially, the council has asserted that while some of the decisions it has taken won't ever be popular, they are crucial if the town is to be the best it can be. There is certainly a lot to look forward to as well...