01:30PM, Thursday 11 March 2021
The Nicholsons Centre redevelopment is in danger of being too tall and bulky for Maidenhead, the town’s civic society has said.
Martin McNamee, chairman of the group, added that although he welcomed new approaches to developing the town centre, his society did have concerns over the height of buildings within the plans.
Hybrid proposals from developer Areli Real Estate to redevelop the shopping centre into hundreds of new apartments, offices and retail were approved at a Royal Borough planning panel last week.
Councillors unanimously voted the plans through, and following the meeting, leader of the council, Cllr Andrew Johnson (Con, Hurley and Walthams) said that although a 25-storey ‘landmark’ building would be a ‘significant change’ for Maidenhead, it would end up being a ‘change for the better’.
But the Maidenhead Civic Society, which formally objected to the plans, feels that the development is too much for a small market town and needs to be ‘scaled back’.
“It is a new approach, and we think that something needs to be done with the town centre. We welcome the redevelopment of the town,” Martin said.
“But there is going to be a total of about 3,500 flats [in Maidenhead], with all the other developments that are going on.
“We are a small market town, not a city. We would like to see it [Nicholson Quarter] scaled back, in terms of the number of flats and height of the buildings.
“We do not accept that you have to have a ‘landmark’ building. There is a desire to build higher and higher, just because other people have, and it sets a precedent.”
Martin also raised concerns over the lack of affordable housing within the scheme, as well as a reduction in the number of car parking spaces overall in the new multi-storey car park.
Included in the plans are proposals to build 30,000 square foot of office space, but questions have been asked about whether this is needed in a post-COVID world.
Cllr Johnson, however, believes that this talk has been ‘greatly exaggerated’.
“I think there will be a demand [for offices]. Not quite the sheer scale of before – but it is all around the right kind of office accommodation, designed for the post-COVID world,” he said.
“Talk of the demise of the office is greatly exaggerated. Perhaps the office will change, but I think there is a strong demand for workers to return, not five days a week, but for a couple.”
On the Nicholsons plans themselves, Cllr Johnson said he was confident that the 25-storey building would be acceptable for Maidenhead, given that his planning officers and fellow councillors had supported it.
He added that officers have been left ‘satisfied’ that all tests have been met surrounding ‘wind tunnel’ issues within the development.
“Design is subjective, and I know the concerns residents have around building heights and density,” Cllr Johnson said.
“Of course, 25 storeys is, for Maidenhead, a significant change, but overall, it will be a change for the better.
“I think the plans are appropriate for Maidenhead; they give us a glimpse of what town centre redevelopments could and should look like post-COVID.
“I think this is a golden opportunity to reposition Maidenhead, given the size and scale of that investment.”
On affordable housing concerns, the leader did stress that he wanted the developers to be offering this in future, if it is possible.
A legal mechanism is in place so that if developer profits rise, the provision of affordable housing will be reviewed.
“The scheme as it stands, could not afford to meet the policy requirements given the other things it is providing, but that is what that mechanism is going to do,” Cllr Johnson said.
Parking for residents is another issue, with significantly less parking spaces available compared to the number of flats.
Cllr Johnson said that he thinks there will be ‘adequate’ parking within Maidenhead town, helped by developments including nearby Vicus Way, and also claimed that ‘a lot of young buyers do not necessarily own a car, or want to’.
Following approval of the plans, Rob Tincknell, partner at Areli Real Estate, said: “This is a great result, not just for Maidenhead but for the entire UK, as it demonstrates a way forward for the regeneration of our towns.
“We are so pleased to have developed these plans in close co-operation with the community and to have achieve such a positive unanimous vote is really encouraging.”
Top Ten Articles