In July 2004 the Civic Society published a Strategic Review of Amenity. This was a distillation of more than 100 ideas and suggestions for “making Maidenhead a better place”, drawn from a survey of its members.
The Strategic Review resonated with the public and inspired the “Great Debate” in the Maidenhead Advertiser, culminating in a reader’s survey in early 2006. The views expressed in this and at a subsequent public meeting prompted the Council in 2007 to form the Partnership for the Rejuvenation of Maidenhead (PRoM), comprising a cross-party group of councillors and comprehensive mix of community representatives with an independent chair. PRoM drew up the Town Centre Area Action Plan (AAP), founded on a consensus of community opinion. It was adopted in 2011.
The Civic Society’s Review and the AAP both envisaged that the York Road Opportunity Area would provide a distinctive civic, cultural and community quarter at the heart of the town. They said development should respect the setting of the Town Hall and listed Library building while enhancing the town’s image and identity as a high quality urban centre. The main proposals in both documents included:
A town square, capable of hosting events
Linking the town centre to the riverside with an accessible navigable waterway
Introducing green space
Predominantly mixed-use development with a variety of Residential dwellings in terms of type, size and tenure, to include affordable and starter homes
Community uses, including a multi-purpose, cultural and leisure facility
Response to Consultation
(In answer to the Feedback form’s questions)
What would you like to see included in:
Public Spaces: With the exception of a new home for the Heritage Centre and a Pavilion of unspecified purpose, the plans do little to meet the aspirations set out in Paragraph 7.41 of the AAP in terms of cultural, entertainment and leisure facilities. These have never properly been discussed.
Cafes & Restaurants would complement the civic and cultural offering and expand the leisure opportunity. We are cautious, however, about the notion of “pop-up” shops on the waterfront. We’d prefer to see leisure or arts-related businesses here. More general retail would detract from the High Street.
New Homes are a necessary part of the mix and add to the area’s vitality. We accept that flats are inevitable and we are pleased to see the inclusion of affordable homes and the public use elements at ground floor level but we are concerned that the height of the buildings will have a negative impact on the Town Hall and the Library, adversely change the character of the area and put the waterfront facilities, literally, in the shade and threaten their attraction. Town Houses and mews-style homes are a welcome inclusion and we’d prefer to see more of these and fewer flats, though we feel that domestic garages fronting Park Street is inappropriate.
Overall are you pleased with the proposals that have been drawn up thus far?
A: In part.
Comment: Of all the town centre opportunity areas, York Road is the one with the greatest potential to showcase Maidenhead’s character – a successful Thames Valley town, one that has evolved with each transport era; a town that is welcoming, aspiring, affluent and attractive.
For pragmatic reasons the Council has brought this site to the top of list to deliver a quick housing win. We would have preferred it to come later in the process to allow a full-scale, wide ranging debate and public engagement about the aspirations outlined for the site in the AAP.
The anticipated 45% increase in the town’s population makes this ambition even more pertinent. If we are to be anything other than a dormitory town, we need to build in amenities, facilities and attractions that appeal to a range of interests to restore the town’s reputation as a destination.
Although the near absence of any public parking makes this improbable.
Do you have any comments on the areas of public realm proposed, in particular do you support the current plan?
A: Some of it
Comment: Public space is, of course, welcome. The Civic Society has long advocated a tree-lined “town square” as a focal point in the civic centre. Spaces should serve a purpose and/or respond to a need
Spaces that people can enjoy allow a town to breathe and Maidenhead is below average on green space in the town centre. But public space requires management; and in such a compact town centre we cannot afford to waste space. The town does not want a surfeit of under-used, soulless spaces, like the hard landscaped area adjacent to Sainsbury’s in Providence Place. A large open area is proposed for The Landing which might be more suitable for a public market than St Ives Road, being nearer to the retail core and in sight of the railway. And in St Ives Road we already have the new amphitheatre.
The ‘square’ proposed for the York Road Opportunity Area (YROA), if incorporated into a more general public space comprising the town hall gardens, the amphitheatre and a pedestrianised St Ives Road, could provide a site for public events, civic parades or celebrations and performance. But is there the demand? There has never, until now, been a consultation on what YROA should specifically include.
Has any thought been given to providing an area of covered space as part of the mix, perhaps linking two or more facilities, e.g. Desborough and Heritage?
Clearly there is a need to provide access to the waterfront and a space that does that in the vicinity of the Town Hall, with a mix of hard and soft landscaping, greenery and style, would be a welcome space for relaxation. But we feel that in itself the ‘square’ is too small for events or markets. We are also are unsure of the ‘Pavilion’ in its current location. It robs the square of space and risks detracting from the listed Library building. Could it be accommodated in one of the apartment blocks?
What types of events and leisure activities would you like to see around the new square, pavilion and waterfront? As we say above, the square could provide a vista and access to the waterfront in a crowded built-up area, a place to relax and perhaps to host small occasional events. But the town already hosts a variety of events in the amphitheatre, the High Street, Kidwells, Grenfell and Guards Club parks and areas in Riverside. The pavilion and the new square will be additional venues on this list as well as the new public space in The Landing and possibly at Braywick and the former golf club too. Consideration needs to be given what’s appropriate for each of these as part of a holistic approach. Other Comments
Overall, we feel the plan is an improvement on earlier iterations. However, it doesn’t yet have the wow factor it deserves as the administrative heart of the Royal Borough. We would like to see:
Better integration and connectivity with sites to the West and South
Examples of high quality architecture for the 21st century
A greater variety of type, size and tenure of dwellings
Reduced heights and bulk, particularly along the waterfront
Serious public engagement to ascertain what kind of cultural elements people want
Appropriate levels of public parking
When people think of Maidenhead, they usually envisage the bridge over the Thames. With the right ingredients, this site could change that thinking.
We understand that the developers involved in all the key town centre OAs are now meeting jointly. We hope that together – perhaps by incorporating adjacent sites, like the Bowls Club, into the overall scheme – they can explore the full potential of YROA. It’s better to get it right, even if the timetable slips.