Latest Planning Comments (click on application no. for full details): Application 20/01251 - Site known as Nicholsons Quarter

Comments on Application 20/01251 - Site known as Nicholsons Quarter

Hybrid application for the comprehensive mixed use development of the site - Outline for the demolition of existing buildings and erection of four building that range in height from 66.2m AOD to 88.7m AOD comprising Extra Care 29,700 sqm and Business Use up to 30,400 sqm. Full application for the demolition of all existing buildings (except Nicholsons House, Brock House and 69 High Street. Erection of two residential buildings - one 25 storeys and one part 15 / part 10 storeys. Erection of a 12 storey car park. Landscaping, public open space, flexible retail, restaurant and community use.

 

 his proposal is to demolish, reconfigure and replace the "heart" of Maidenhead.  It is accepted that the retail sector is in some turmoil both nationally and locally, but it is critical that the right decisions are made for the town centre of Maidenhead to be revitalised.  There may be a prevailing sentiment that covered shopping centres have had their day, but a windswept, wet and sunless streetscape is hardly the retail nirvana to satisfy the shopping needs of future Maidenhead.

The focus of the proposed regeneration is the residential development of 364 flats in blocks ranging from 10 storeys, through 15 to a so called landmark tower of 25 storeys. On the positive side there is a reasonable mix of different sized dwellings - all of which achieve the Nationally Described Minimum Space Standard.  Most have balconies as amenity space.  On the negative, as the final piece of the town centre planning jigsaw this development adds to the stockpile of 1 and 2 bed flats that are already in the planning and completion pipeline.  RBWM planning statistics show that in 2018/19 84% of completed new dwellings were 1 and 2 bed flats.  In addition, 1558 dwelling units were in the pipeline - permitted but not commenced.  The proportion of flats can only be surmised.  These figures are set against a Strategic Housing Market Analysis of a requirement for 35% 1 and 2 bed flats.  This requirement is partially driven by the need for "affordable" housing - an element that is omitted from this proposal.

Instead, an interesting new concept has been introduced - "extra care" accommodation - of which there are 311 units proposed.  These dwellings are assumed to be 1 and 2 bed dwellings, although this is not clear from the application, being outline only.  The form of tenure, how they will be managed and by whom is therefore not included in the documentation, but with an aging population there could certainly be a potential demand.  However, we believe the scale of 311 units is way beyond that which is customary for operators in this sector.

The drive to deliver the volumes in the residential element of the scheme is obviously to fund the commercial, office, retail, restaurant, civic community and open space. Although the adjacent Landing site is approved to be at least 16 storeys high we are not convinced about the need for a landmark building of 25 storeys.  Whatever the Tall Buildings Study may propose, the cumulative density and mass of high rise development in Maidenhead is out of character with a town of its size.  High rise living is known to create social and psychological issues, especially for families.  Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service may well be equipped to handle an incident at the prevailing height in the town centre, but is such a towering edifice really necessary, however much it may be driven by architectural aspirations.

 

We welcome the network of shopping streets and the historical relevance of their proposed street names.  The north-south and east-west permeability had been greatly improved and the offset facade along Broadway has improved the juxtaposition with the northern elevations of the Landing and will encourage pedestrian access from the south. The introduction of a central open space in Nicholas Winton Square is also welcomed, although the area is too small.  The eclectic proposed mix of retail offers, cafes and restaurants, bars and leisure at street level will introduce a vibrancy to the town.  However, we feel there is still an opportunity for a “venue” to be met, a community or cultural space as a social focal point to give real heart to the town.  There will be little sunlight with the prevailing height of the residential and office blocks above.  There has to be a risk that there will be a wind canyon effect at ground level, and it difficult to see how this can be avoided.  Some canopy or partial arcade cover would offer shelter on rainy days.

There appears to be the provision of only 0.4 parking spaces per dwelling for the 675 homes that form the residential element of the scheme.  Although there is less detail around the intended office development, it appears that there will be under provision of parking for employees.  It is an established fact that office employee parking is an essential requirement for incoming businesses.  The new multi-storey car park with 1284 public spaces will have 75% more capacity than the current facility, and will be an enormous asset to the future prosperity of Maidenhead.  However, it is important that its use is maintained for short term visitor / consumer parking - and that it is not filled by long term residential parking from the new flats or all day office parking.  Provision of adequate Disabled Parking spaces will be essential with an aging population and the loss of such on-street parking elsewhere in the town.

With the adjacent development of The Landing and the demolishing and redevelopment of Nicholsons Centre there is going to be severe and unprecedented disruption to the centre of Maidenhead for the next 4 or 5 years.  Permission should not be granted until a detailed schedule of implementation has been agreed with RBWM to mitigate the potential disruption to life in the town centre.  If the town centre becomes a no go area for the next 5 years, there is risk that shopping and other behaviour will have changed irreversibly by the time this redevelopment is delivered.

In summary, we support some elements the scheme but there are many reservations.  We regret that the introduction of 675 high density residential units is the price to pay to fund this rejuvenation of Maidenhead Centre.