There is no doubt that the way we shop has changed significantly over the last few years, with the impact being felt on High Streets across the country. Online shopping, while cheaper and increasingly more convenient, has decimated town centres, with many of the larger retail chains consolidating and closing down branches. Both Windsor and Maidenhead are no exception, as we see with the Nicholsons Shopping Centre in Maidenhead going into administration. Furthermore, many High Streets have been suffering from declining footfall and townscapes that appear run down and in need of care and attention.
Nevertheless, we have something of an opportunity at present in Maidenhead. Under new ownership, the Nicholsons Shopping Centre recently held initial consultations with various stakeholders and members of the public to gather ideas on how the shopping centre and surrounding area could be redeveloped. This is a positive first step. The regeneration (or sometimes rejuvenation) of an area must be done in consultation with the people who both live there and use its facilities. So, it is only right that residents be involved in this process. However, we need to make sure that ALL residents feel they have the opportunity to express their opinions, and not just a specific cross-section.
Upon hearing the words regeneration and rejuvenation, many RBWM residents may feel they will be priced out of an area they have lived in for much of their lives, with little hope of their children being able to afford to live here in the future. Gentrification is the negative by-product when areas are improved more with investment and profit in mind than the people who already live there. Much of the development going on in and around the Royal Borough is happening to cater for the influx of people who are being priced out of London, creating a kind of second-hand gentrification. With the amount of residential development, particularly high-rise development, both in progress and being planned, we must avoid Maidenhead becoming a dormitory settlement and instead encourage the sort of sympathetic development that not only encourages newcomers but is also for the benefit of existing residents. Maidenhead can—and should—be a community where people enjoy living their lives, not simply spending their nights.
We are, therefore, at something of a crossroads. Positive first steps have been made with regard to the redevelopment of Nicholsons and the surrounding area and, indeed, many interesting ideas have arisen as a result. However, it is vital to ensure that any ideas and proposals are inclusive and available to all. For example, appropriate levels of affordable and social housing must be thoughtfully integrated into redevelopment plans. In addition, we need to involve young people and older residents—who are often overlooked when planning—to ensure that they are adequately catered for in terms of the facilities and services that may be provided. Furthermore, we must resist removing popular facilities like the bowling alley without giving adequate thought as to what might replace them. Only then will we have a truly people-friendly town with the arts, theatre, technology and shopping, with associated services and infrastructure, that can engage residents and attract visitors.
Many residents in and around the Royal Borough feel that they aren't listened to by the current administration and that is certainly a situation that the candidates with ‘the Borough first’ seek to overturn. We really do want our residents to not only participate in the plans to regenerate our town centres but also to engage with us on other issues that are affecting their daily lives. That is why the upcoming local election on May 2nd is so important. It is time to vote for change so that we can have a Council that truly works for—and with--everyone. To read Our Policies, including that on Maidenhead Regeneration please visit theboroughfirst.org/our-policies.
Derek Philip-Xu is a Maidenhead resident and a tBf candidate for St Mary’s ward.
Published and Promoted by Charles Hollingsworth on behalf of “the BOROUGH first“, both of PO BOX 4919, Maidenhead, SL60 1LS