A brand new Bracknell
PUBLISHED: 07:44 27 February 2013 | UPDATED: 19:51 05 April 2013
Plans to regenerate the town have been in the pipeline for the last 10 years, but now major retailers are signing up
We want Bracknell to have a town centre that is fit for the 21st century, says Cllr Marc Brunel-Walker, Executive Member for Economic Development and Regeneration at Bracknell Town Council. One which people will choose as a shopping and leisure destination above others in the region. Primarily we want a town centre which our residents, the people of Bracknell Forest, can feel proud of.
Its been a long time coming; it was way back in 2002 that discussions of the regeneration first got underway, as Marc admits: The recession obviously had an impact on the scheme, but I am pleased that things are really starting to move ahead now.
Ask any Bracknell resident their opinion on the current state of the town centre and they will admit it is in need of a facelift. The main centre is filled with 1960s architecture and there certainly arent the modern shopping facilities available that you can find in nearby Reading or Camberley. Big plans were needed, a vision of Bracknell that could stand the test of time for another 50 years at least.
The Bracknell Regeneration Partnership was formed by the two major landowners in the town centre in 2003 to progress with the regeneration. At present, the plans show that in the south, Princess Square will be undergoing some significant improvements early this year, plus planning approval has been granted to transform the main entrance and introduce a larger retail space.
Detailed plans for the northern area of the town have recently been shown at a public exhibition and are to be put before the planning committee. Planning permission is in place for new leisure and retail facilities as well as homes, cafes and restaurants, to create a vibrant and thriving town centre both during the day and at night. Its been decided that because of the current economic climate, the regeneration will take place in phases.
The first phase has already happened with the opening of the new Waitrose in November 2011 between Millennium Way and Bond Way. Waitrose is already a big employer in the town and it certainly set the benchmark high for other new businesses arriving.
The store is completely unique and has achieved a BREEAM excellent rating thanks to 100 per cent of the stores electricity coming from green sources and the latest refrigeration technology which reduces the stores carbon footprint by 20 per cent.
And thats just the start of its green credentials; its made out of natural materials, such as the curved green roof, a Hedera Ivy wall and sustainable timber panels.
Needless to say, shoppers have been flocking to the new store, as general manager Graham Oakley points out: Weve worked hard to ensure we provide our customers with quality products, excellent service and value so we play our part in attracting shoppers to Bracknell and the reaction we have received has been fantastic.
And its not just his new Waitrose store Grahams excited about: Its encouraging to hear about all the new investment that the Bracknell Regeneration Partnership has secured for the town. As the regeneration continues, there is a massive opportunity to ensure Bracknell remains a real shopping destination in the future and we are confident that both ourselves and the towns others traders will be able to build on their existing trade.
Worth the wait
Last year there were huge leaps forward in the regeneration project which, as Marc puts it, has brought a renewed optimism of whats to come: Major progress was made in 2012 with the signing of some big names like Marks and Spencer and Cineworld and there is a general feeling of excitement in the community for what is going to happen next. The people of Bracknell Forest have waited a long time for this, he says.
Cineworld will be opening a state-of-the-art 12-screen cinema, also in the northern part of the town centre behind The Bull pub. Alongside it will be new restaurants as part of a new leisure street: One of the goals for the regeneration is to boost the towns night time entertainment offerings and we feel that this is a great step towards this aim, insists Helen Barnett, marketing manager at Bracknell Regeneration Partnership.
The good news kept on coming last year when Marks & Spencer confirmed they would be opening a new 80,000 sq ft store; hopefully in 2014. Shoppers will be able to find it adjacent to Millennium Way in the northern part of the town centre.
Clem Constantine, property director for Marks & Spencer, says: Were delighted to be involved with this development in order to give our customers in Bracknell a full range of fashion, homeware and quality food. The Bracknell Retail Partnerships vision for the town centre is exciting and we are delighted to have been selected as the anchor tenant.
The most recent plans were well received when they went on display to the public last month. Theres no doubt that residents are counting down the months until all the work is finally completed, but its also going to be great for business, as Gary Cranford of Bracknell Chamber of Commerce points out: We welcome the regeneration with the goal to create jobs and stimulate investment in the town. Against the backdrop of the current economic climate, any regeneration project is good news.
Like the rest of Bracknells residents, Marc is awaiting the day when he can experience all the new town centre is set to offer: I'm looking forward to vibrant shopping destination, something our residents can and should be proud of. I cant wait to try out the new places to eat and drink - somewhere that people will want to come to in the evening with friends.