Application 21/00502 - Magnet Leisure Centre and Car Park

Comments on Application 21/00502 - Magnet Leisure Centre and Car Park

Construction of 5 buildings to create 439 homes with car and cycle parking, pedestrian and vehicular access, landscaping works and boundary treatments following demolition of existing.

This application is the next stage in the delivery of Maidenhead's "Flat Mountain". We are pleased to observe that the scheme has two positive elements - Firstly the provision of 30% affordable homes (though shared ownership.) All other town centre developments have conveniently been excused this requirement by RBWM. Secondly, we welcome the switch to provide more 3 bed/ 5 person flats with a total of 165 (38%) of the total units. This is a small move towards providing family homes with some townhouses included. The proportion of 1 and 2 bed flats - of which there is gross oversupply in the pipeline has been reduced.

However, the scheme as a whole is unsatisfactory.  Building heights have been increased from the 7 or 8 storeys originally put forward to 11 storeys.  There are two blocks of this height along the St Cloud Way frontage of the site. Being to the south of the site these higher blocks will reduce sunlight to the rest of the scheme and create a visual barrier restricting the visual aspect. The Tall Buildings study did not propose high rise to the north of the ring-road, and we were pleased to see the height of the permitted St Cloud Gate development being reduced before permission was granted.  We fail to understand how 11 storeys can be deemed acceptable.  The overall density does not require such high rise building - the renowned award winning scheme in Norwich achieved a higher density than this proposal without resorting to tower blocks.  We would like to see many more town houses, low rise maisonettes and a greater variety of dwelling type within the scheme.

The design of the blocks is utilitarian and uniform with little architectural merit.  The elevations of the buildings are generally flat faced with little surface relief.  The blocky character of the architecture is exaggerated by the unrelenting use of right angled corners to each block with recessed balcony spaces, which are used throughout the scheme.  These balconies will get restricted sunlight and reduce the daylight levels in each living room.  This will especially be the case on north facing elevations. From the floor plans it appears that most flats are restricted to a single open plan living space - with a kitchen, dining and sitting area opening onto a "balcony."   The only variety within the design is the use of different brick / facing materials.  Finally, the setting of the listed building known as The Wilderness Centre is swamped by this development to the north and east, having already suffered with the earlier approval of the St Cloud Gate block to the south.

 The public areas and landscaping are restricted to paved walkways between the blocks interspersed with a few trees. These green links appear to deliver permeability for pedestrians throughout the site rather than amenity space to be enjoyed by residents. With 350 parking spaces between the 439 flats there is a provision of 0.8 spaces per flat, which is an improvement on the parking levels provided in the completed Countryside developments on St Ives Road and York Road. Nevertheless, in spite of the proximity to the town centre, the reality of car ownership would suggest that the parking will be inadequate. It is unclear how the parking will be allocated and/or managed when demand exceeds supply. In addition, The Wilderness Centre, which houses two doctors' surgeries and a pharmacist has its own dedicated car park - which is used entirely by the staff. Visitors and patients have historically used the public car park associated with the Magnet. As this area is now incorporated in the new development there is no parking provision for those visiting the ongoing medical businesses.

With a potential 1500 residents in the development there are concerns about the pedestrian accessibility to and from the town centre. The ring road carrying the main A4 present a significant physical barrier. The loss of the pedestrian footbridge from the Hines Meadow car park is regrettable - an upgraded footbridge would be preferable from the Sainsburys store. The alternative proposal of a "toucan" crossing from the Premier Inn to Kidwells Park has the disadvantage of requiring a further road crossing over Cookham Road. Upgrading the existing subway appears to have been dismissed as an option.

Our objections to this proposed redevelopment are summarised as follows:

  • The height of the blocks up to 11 storeys is unacceptable.
  • The density, bulk and mass of the scheme is excessive.
  • The visual impact of the high rise blocks facing St Cloud Way is intrusive.
  • The blocks are poorly designed with unattractive elevations.
  • A similar density could be achieved using low/mid rise dwellings.
  • There should be more variety of housing type.
  • There is a lack of amenity space within the development.
  • Parking provision is inadequate, even allowing for the central location.
  • There is no parking provided for patients visiting doctors' surgeries.
  • The blocks will adversely impact the setting of the listed Wilderness Centre.
  • Poor pedestrian accessibility over the ring road.
  • Although some town houses are included in the scheme, this proposal will add yet more flats to Maidenhead's housing stock.