This is a question I am sure EVERYONE who lives in Slough is asking – what is happening with the Slough Town regeneration? Two years ago in 2018 I wrote this post with what had happened so far. Two years on, we are now in 2020 and Slough is still looking like a building site and our shopping centre is an embarrassment whilst rumours of whether we are getting a new shopping centre or not are being passed around. It’s ridiculous, the residents of Slough deserve to know exactly what is planned and when it will be happening. Slough residents have either bought their homes or are renting here, which means we are invested in this town – and it’s time to end the rumours and tell you what is happening.
Now, I don’t work for the council, I’m not part of any residents group, I don’t have any top secret information. I am a normal mum who has found the November 2019 Town Centre Regeneration Report online and anyone is welcome to read it. It’s a lot of words, so this post is taking the points from the report, together with photographs I have taken, to give you a clearer idea of what is planned for Slough in the 2020s. I am going to start with the shopping centre because I think that is the one most residents want to know about.
1) Queensmere and Observatory Shopping Centres
The Queensmere and Observatory shopping centres were bought by the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) in 2016. Nothing has happened so far because of plans being changed – due to how retail is doing these days and the uncertainty from Brexit. ADIA have appointed British Land to manage it all and submit a planning application for a scheme that would combine retail, leisure, food & beverage, residential, employment and other uses.
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British Land will be doing a public consultation later in the year, where you can meet the team, see the early plans and give feedback. It was planned for March but has been postponed due to the coronavirus scare.
Their website for updates will be sloughcentral.com
In simple terms, from what I have gathered, the work will be done in phases. The rough plan is for all remaining Queensmere shops to move into Observatory. Queensmere to be demolished and Business Centre built. Then Observatory demolished and new shopping centre built but not a covered one (I think like how The Lexicon is an open air shopping centre.) So the new shopping centre, possibly called ‘Slough Central’, will be the size of the Observatory but with more leisure/restaurants than shops because of how retail is going and big chain stores closing down nationwide.
British Land has advised that it is confident that their emerging plans will deliver a modern, vibrant town centre within a reasonable timescale and is keen to make rapid and significant progress.
Based on their most recent update, British Land has confirmed that they:
– Have completed extensive research into the town, people and businesses. This has given them a clear view on what the masterplan uses need to be to achieve success.
– Have reached the conclusion that the approach to town centre regeneration needs to be workspace-led. This means a central plank of their strategy is likely to be the creation of offices (with a range of employment uses) within the proposed Central Business District (CBD). This will create the jobs to drive the footfall and expenditure for the benefit of all other town centre uses.
– Believe that critical to the success of a CBD will be how customers can walk from the existing High Street to the station.
– Have developed high level masterplan proposals that suggest a total of 3.5m sq ft of mixed-use space is possible. They believe it is likely the workspace content could be up to 2m sq ft.
– Think that retail will still form an important element but it is more likely to be in the range of 250,000 sq ft- 500,000 sq ft.
– Will use the masterplan to restore north-south connections between High Street and the station and build in a retail offering around spaces, streets and buildings.
– Are working on the basis of obtaining planning permission by no later than Q2 2022 – but preferably earlier.
– Believe that the scale of the development is likely to require at least 3 phases, west to east.
British Land has indicated that the Council should not expect to see the existing shopping centres replaced by a covered shopping mall. There is also likely to be a reduction in retail space – although this will be compensated by an increase in food & beverage and leisure/entertainment uses.
To date, British Land has been non-committal about the number of residential properties that will be a major element of their scheme. The expectation is that their proposal will come forward with between 2,000 and 2,500 properties.
2) The old BHS Store
WMC Slough Ltd put in planning permission for 78 flats in 3 buildings at podium level with flexible retail space on the ground floor level on the High Street frontage and some commercial or leisure space at first floor. Building heights are 5, 11 and 4 storeys. 12% affordable housing is proposed. The scheme has been agreed by Planning Committee including the key obligations for a Section 106 agreement. This will remove the vacant former BHS store. The Council will explore the potential to purchase all of the affordable housing apartments created in this development.
3) The old River Island store
Greenslade Properties have started work on the old River Island store building to enlarge it for 14 apartments above refreshed retail space. The site is opposite Boots and will provide a more attractive backdrop to the adjacent Town Square.
4) Buckingham Gateway (across the road from Starbucks)
The Council is working collaboratively with the owner of the land at Buckingham Gateway to bring forward this strategically important site. Located at 102 to 146 High Street and adjacent to the former Marks & Spencer store, the redevelopment of this site, which is being used for a temporary car park, has been stalled for several years.
The owners have ambitious proposals for a very high quality mixed-use scheme that will include residential, leisure and retail uses. Whilst only at the beginning of these discussions, the potential exists to enter into an agreement that would allow SBC to purchase some or all of the affordable properties associated with this development. Having already met with the LPA, the owner understands the parameters within which they should design the scheme and will be in a position to submit a planning application before March 2020. Subject to a successful planning application, the scheme could be on-site by Q3 2021 and be complete by Q3 2023.
5) Alpha Street
A 14-unit affordable housing development is being constructed via SUR and is linked to the 64 unit commercial project being constructed at the hotel quadrant (point 15 below). The Council signed a development agreement and build contract in August 2019, with works scheduled to commence during December 2019 and complete in 2020.
All 14 apartments will be purchased by Herschel Homes, which is one of the Council’s wholly owned housing companies; therefore the properties will be allocated to people on the housing waiting list which will help to meet the need for more affordable homes in the borough.
In front of the affordable housing development is a private one that is facing the High Street – this one (photographed above) is called Alpha Corner & Beta House by Enzos Homes, with 28 executive apartments and it looks like this has been marketed to investors in Hong Kong.
6) The old Debenhams store – in the meantime use
A Food Hall / Market – this meanwhile offering will most likely be located in the former Debenhams store and will provide a day and evening offer for grab & go / sit-down food, ingredients and other food related things. Subject to negotiation, the Food hall / Market will be 100% funded by British Land.
7) The old M&S store – in the meantime use
Incubation Hub – SBC is currently exploring the potential to introduce an Incubation Hub in the former M&S store. This project is predicated on an external funding application to the European Regional Development Fund (EDRF) that can support start up businesses in the digital technology and creative sector. It will be delivered in partnership with Heathrow Airport Limited, Royal Holloway University, Brunel University and an operator secured through a procurement exercise. Timelines for reporting success of this partnership are planned in Q2 2020 with a view of starting to operate in Q3 2020. Subject to securing funding, the Incubation Hub will support startup companies in the digital technology sector to take their product or service to market. It is proposed that the companies will have access to a business support eco-system consisting of an operator, universities, and the wider business support network across Thames Valley and West London.
Royal Holloway University and SBC are at discovery stage in exploring a partnership that will offer Higher Education provision in the Borough – The current data is highlighting a need to upskill the adult population so that they can fulfil higher skilled jobs that exist in Slough now and in the future, which is informed by the future skills needs of our Businesses. This could be delivered through a Study Skills Centre or a satellite campus in the centre of town. Both parties are working up demand and costings for such a facility and will be able to share a business case in July 2020. Such a facility could be co-located with the Incubation Hub to deliver business support and skills development for residents and small businesses.
8) Social Enterprise Quarter – in the meantime use for empty units
In collaboration with British Land, SBC is exploring the potential to introduce a Social Enterprise Quarter. This would be based in a variety of units tailored to the individual enterprise’s needs. The idea is to introduce non-retail services and enterprises into the town centre and fill the otherwise empty units. This approach will encourage greater footfall, community services and engagement into the centre during the transitional period until the town centre is redeveloped.
9) Octagon Site, Brunel Way (next to the Bus Station)
Nothing! Plans have been withdrawn so we have to wait on this one.
Aberdeen Standard Investments submitted, in May, a proposal for a 21-storey residential building for 180 homes and a 7-storey office of 9,570 sqm plus ground floor uses and new public realm to create an attractive and vibrant walking route from the station to the North West Quadrant site. Officers were to recommend approval of the scheme in terms of design but the applicant withdrew the application before concluding negotiations on planning obligations. A previous scheme for a hotel and residential development was also withdrawn. The site is a prominent part of the proposed business quarter and a strategic housing site. Officers will seek the owner’s views on how development will come forward.
10) Railway Terrace (Slough Train Station back entrance)
The Council has been successful in securing funding from Thames Valley Berkshire LEP to deliver improvements along the Stoke Road corridor. The improvements on Railway Terrace will include a new public realm area directly outside the station to encourage better use of the area, improvements to formalise parking, cycling and walking infrastructure and landscaping between Stoke Road and the Station entrance and a landmark gateway structure. The works will be delivered over the next 12 months and will be in place by the time the Elizabeth Line (Crossrail) fully opens. This scheme will help alleviate some of the traffic issues on Brunel Way in terms of Taxi parking and “Kiss and Ride” but more importantly help bring the un-used retail units on Railway Terrace in to use.
11) The old TVU Site – The North West Quadrant
This is vague – not sure what exactly is being built here, I think it’s homes and shops.
The Council purchased the former Thames Valley University (TVU) site from the University of West London in April 2017 to assemble the land known as the North West Quadrant (NWQ) within the Heart of Slough Strategy.
The site is within easy walking distance to both the train station and bus station. The NWQ is one of the two most significant development sites within the scope of the square mile.
Muse (a subsidiary of Slough Urban Renewal) is now working with Council officers to prepare the detailed masterplan, which will be presented to Cabinet for consideration by Q2 2020. A planning application is anticipated by Q3 2020 for a scheme with a Gross Development Value of circa £630m – one of the most ambitious schemes to be developed by any local authority in the UK.
Based on the existing high level programme, the scheme will be developed over 5 phases. Works will commence on the first phase of development in Q3 2020 and will complete in 2028.
12) The old Akzo Nobel (ie Dulux) Site – Wexham Road
Panattoni are soon to submit a planning application for a mixed-use development that includes circa 35,000 sqm of commercial space comprising either warehousing or data centres or a combination of both inclusive of ancillary offices and circa 1000 new homes plus supporting retail and community uses.
The 1000 new homes, which may include family maisonettes, will be located at the southern end of the site and within walking distance of the town centre and railway station (via Petersfield Ave). Negotiations continue regarding affordable housing and future proofing for the provision of a transport link through to Uxbridge Road for the proposed MRT service. The residential development would take place after the existing Akzo Nobel paint research centre relocates within 3 years.
The entire site was allocated for business use in 2010 but Planning Committee, in February 2018, supported the principle of a primarily residential development for the site. Panattoni are already clearing part of the site and preparing for decontamination work.
13) The old Horlicks Factory
Berkeley Homes are building up to 1,300 new homes, 325 of which are affordable, and ancillary facilities on the Horlicks site. This development includes the change of use of the main factory building for flats and the restoration of the iconic clock tower and chimney. It also involves the removal of other buildings and construction of five new blocks. The development promises to transform the Horlicks Factory into a vibrant mixed community. The completed development will encourage the use of sustainable modes of transport, biodiversity, water features and open spaces where people can relax and play. The whole development will introduce a new public square, a new nursery and a café and very high quality public space and amenities. A new access will be created onto Stoke gardens to provide access to the town centre. The Planning Committee have approved the planning application subject to the signing of a satisfactory legal agreement to cover affordable housing, infrastructure and employment etc.
14) Stoke Wharf (Slough arm of the Grand Union Canal)
The Council acquired Stoke Wharf from Travis Perkins Plc in June 2017 as the final piece of this circa 7-acre mixed-use regeneration scheme around the end of the Slough arm of the Grand Union Canal. The Council demolished the Travis Perkin depot buildings in July 2018 and a Partnership Agreement between SUR and Waterside Place was signed in March 2019 that brought together all the landholdings for this comprehensive regeneration project.
Subject to planning, the proposed scheme will provide a mixed-use development of circa 250 homes, comprising a mix of 1, 2 and 3-bed units; commercial space for a potential café and restaurant and significant public realm improvements. A limited amount of Bowyer Playing Field will be developed adjacent to the canal via the development. As required by Policy SSA17, new public amenity space will be created around the canal basin with hard and soft landscaping. In addition, further compensatory improvements are proposed to the facilities within the Bowyer Playing Field including the provision of a new purpose-built multi-use games area, cricket practice area, play equipment and new cycling routes.
The scheme will provide Section 106 affordable housing; expected to be purchased by the Council. The Council is also exploring the opportunity for Herschel Homes to purchase further homes which could be allocated to, for example, key workers.
A Design Review Panel was undertaken in June 2019 and their feedback incorporated in the emerging Concept design. During July 2019 to October 2019, an extensive public consultation exercise was undertaken; a series of public exhibitions were held at the Canal Festival (7/8 September) and at the Curve on 23/24 September. Over 550 people visited the exhibition at the festival followed by a further 50 at the Curve. The consultation window closed on 13 October 2019. Public engagement has been generally positive reflecting enthusiasm to see this area regenerated and making the canal a destination and place for water-based activities. The percentage of positive comments received overall was 71% with 14% negative and 15% neutral.
Taking this regeneration vision forward, a planning application is currently being prepared for submission in February 2020 with a target Planning Committee date of June 2020 and a start onsite by the end of 2020.
15) The Hotels Quadrant (on the old library site)
Detailed planning was achieved in November 2018 for the development of a project comprising two Marriot branded hotels including a 152 room Moxy and 92 room Residence Inn and a 64 unit residential scheme with ground floor commercial space.
This project went on site in Spring 2019. Whilst currently circa 7 weeks ahead of schedule, the hotels are still scheduled to complete by Q2 2021. The 64 residential units and ground floor commercial areas are being constructed concurrently and will complete by the end of December 2020. Having agreed the business plan to introduce Herschel Homes in December 2016, officers are exploring the potential to acquire all 64 properties by this wholly owned SBC company. This project includes 14 affordable housing units, which, with the approval of the LPA, have been commuted to Alpha Street (Point 5 above).
There you have it – 15 developments that are definitely happening in Slough. As a Slough resident, I feel better knowing what to expect, and I hope you do too. I think we do have to put our trust in these people, and I just hope these developments will help make Slough a more pleasant place to live and help us feel less embarrassed to invite friends to visit.
I mean for me seriously, clean new pavements and roads without potholes would be a good start. My dream town would have magnolia and cherry blossom trees lining the streets. A big new cinema, preferable Vue because they do cheaper tickets. Book shops and florists, cafes, restaurants and decent shops with big floor to ceiling windows. And I’m talking about nice places to eat, with gorgeous interiors and trendy furniture that will attract people to come and spend time here. Less discount shops, less shops with dusty old stock. But still have shops with affordable products – just nicer than what we have now. Spacious clean loos in the new shopping centre, a comfortable parent room for feeding/changing (for those with babies, not for me). Car parks with big spaces and thick lines that are easy to park in and reasonable parking charges. No hidden alleyways, just open space with loads of lighting so that women will not be afraid to walk home in the dark.
That’s just my opinion though.
Please do share this post with other residents so that we are all informed of the town centre plans. And please go to all the public consultations where you can and make your views heard. We live here and our opinions do matter.
Thank you for reading if you have got this far!