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Building once described as the 'Palm Beach of Maidenhead' to be demolished

A distinctive art deco building historically used for leisure activities is set to be knocked down to make way for flats.

Exclusive House, popularly referred to as the Showboat, was a club in the Thirties and is famed locally for the swimming and cabaret it used to offer.

The application, submitted by JSA Architects Ltd, seeks to demolish the Oldfield Road building and replace it with 37 flats.

The building has changed since its heyday in the Thirties and an attempt to list the building with Historic England was unsuccessful.

A report from council officers given to members of the Borough-wide Development Management Panel ahead of their meeting on (Wednesday) stated if Historic England did not list the building, it ‘is worthy of being designated as a local heritage asset’.

But Cllr Derek Wilson (Con, Oldfield) said: “I am extremely surprised that the planning authority is looking at listing it as a local heritage asset when nationally it is not given that same credibility.”

Fellow ward councillor Geoff Hill (Ind Con) said it ‘needs knocking down’ and is ‘derelict’, a description echoed by Cllr Richard Kellaway (Con, Bisham and Cookham).

The council report states that the Showboat, which was described by the Advertiser in 1933 as the ‘Palm Beach of Maidenhead’, was being used as an officers’ club by American servicemen by 1942, and then as a factory to make Spitfire wings.

It remained in light industrial use and has been vacant since August 2016.

That allowed the applicant to attempt to reduce the affordable housing requirement, using a mechanism designed to promote brownfield development called the vacant building credit, to 0.48 units – essentially half a house.

Cllr MJ Saunders (Con, Bisham and Cookham) said councillors were being invited to consider the ‘enduring employment’ potential.

Council officers said the applicant had not proved the site could not be used for commercial reasons and Cllr Saunders said he did not believe a property that had been empty for two years could be considered vacant yet.

Cllr David Hilton (Con, Ascot and Cheapside) said the scheme had ‘excessive’ bulk and scale.

A total of nine councillors voted to approve the plans. Cllrs Bateson, Bicknell, Bowden, Grey, Hill, Hunt, Kellaway, Colin Rayner, and Wilson voted in favour.

Cllrs Alexander, Beer, Evans, Hilton and Saunders voted against.

Panel chairman Cllr David Burbage (Con, Bray) abstained.

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