11:15AM, Wednesday 04 October 2017
Maidenhead town centre
Recently The Lexicon in Bracknell was opened. This is a £240million, 21st-century shopping experience which had a fanfare opening with 80 brand new shops. This mirrored the comparatively recent successes of the Eden Centre in High Wycombe in 2008, The Oracle in Reading opened 1999-2000 and Windsor Royal Shopping in 1997.
Twenty years after Windsor’s retail metamorphosis, we are still wondering in Maidenhead when will Ghost Town be updated? Bringing retail up with the times has had more false dawns in the last two decades than the England football team.
So what is actually going on? When will anything happen? King Street looks more boarded up than a seaside town in the depths of winter. Nicholson’s Walk offers little comfort, with Next and Argos the latest organisations to announce they will jump ship.
As for the High Street, if you want a phone, a cup of coffee, stationery, a birthday card or cheap tat at pound or charity shops then you are in for a treat. Sadly, if you want the normal things people go shopping for, like a visit to a department store, fashion, toys or to browse electrical goods, then the place in Maidenhead that would help you most is the bus or train station, so you can get the hell out.
The latest projects we are told we should be getting excited about are moving the Magnet to Braywick and, in the town, The Landing, but to be honest most locals are more concerned with when this may actually Take Off.
Sadly this reeks of yet another RBWM shambles. When pressed on our snail-like progress, Cllr Dudley said ‘Bracknell is never going to have Crossrail’. Surely the whole point should be our town centre needs to be brilliant and shiny and ready when Crossrail opens in December 2019, so as a town we can maximise its benefits? Instead it seems we are going to wait for it to be up and running before it is even addressed.
Cllr Dudley goes on to say that ‘in the race, Maidenhead will be well ahead by the early part of the 2020s’. Isn’t this pie in the sky, vague and hopeful political rhetoric? This is one thing he does seem to be a master of. It seems to be based on absolutely nothing. What is ‘the race’ exactly? Why should we be ‘ahead’ of Bracknell by some undefined part of the next decade? I expect Crossrail will make very little difference to our lives, but to hear the twaddle it sounds like it will be bringing us all breakfast in bed every day.
Maidenhead has lacked investment in retail for 40 years now while successive councils have hoped the free market would sort their problems out. Yet one thing laissez faire economics is unlikely to sort out is the infrastructure. Why should prestigious brands be lured in by empty promises? Those in charge have failed us.
For too long we have been run by people who, once elected, consider themselves beyond reproach, and when things do go wrong, as they frequently have, express humility as effectively as Donald Trump.
Like perhaps never before, Maidenhead is crying out for a change in direction and leadership. It is now becoming increasingly difficult to find ANYONE who has anything good to say about RBWM (and this includes people who consider themselves Conservatives). I would be happy to be put right on this though, so if you have had a positive experience with our council leaders please tell the rest of us about it.
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