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Opinion: Town crying out for new direction and leadership

Gavin Ames, Advertiser columnist

Gavin Ames, Advertiser columnist

Opinion: Town crying out for new direction and leadership

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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  • AMG08

    13:01, 30 October 2017

    I don't think anyone could argue with what you are saying in this article. This has been going on for so long it’s hard to get enthusiastic to the proposed changes until we see them. What I would like to see is some accountability to the initiatives that are going to help drive our town and community forward. Perhaps a small table in the paper or website monthly, which shows the proposals against the deadline, latest news and councillor owning the initiative would help.

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  • Christian

    09:09, 05 October 2017

    I've been a Maidenhead resident since 1980 and have over the years seen so many false starts and promises for the town's rejuvenation from RBWM. You'd think that a majority controlled council could make and implement sensible decisions quickly, yet all we see is procrastination and political rhetoric. It's about time that the council put some decent concrete plans in place with goals and deadlines, if Maidenhead is to have a future as anything more than a boarded up bedroom town for London. What's stopping them, after all the surrounding towns have all made big leaps and are reaping the rewards. I simply think that the council leaders are too self absorbed and lack vision of what a great town Maidenhead could be. Don't leave it too late!

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  • lbennett

    16:04, 04 October 2017

    I've lived here for 19 years and it is getting worse and worse. It is also worth mentioning that with the expansion of housing built on any square of land left unattended for more than ten minutes; traffic through town is unbearable during commuting hours; especially near the station. Even if we had the shops and restuarants to attract people; who would want to drive through Maidenhead during busy times? When will something be done about the plague of taxis taking up space by the station and obstructing through traffic? It feels like no one in the council gives a damn about the town.

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