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The story of Maidenhead's regeneration during the COVID-19 pandemic

Regeneration. It has been on everyone’s lips in recent years, but after months of lockdowns, shop closures and ‘R’ numbers, the term has perhaps lost its place as the most talked about word beginning with ‘R’ in Maidenhead after a year like no other.

The construction trade has not been hit as hard by the pandemic as other industries, but work did grind to a halt in the first lockdown in March, with strict safety measures in place since the trade reopened later in the spring.

And not even a global pandemic can stop homes being built in Maidenhead.

Across town, developers are creating schemes that will eventually put the town on par with others in the area. Or so it is hoped.

Large public realms, new shops, green spaces. All being built so Maidenhead can be talked about in the same bracket as the likes of Bracknell and Marlow.

Concerns have always been raised, though, about the lack of work happening with certain projects, and whether people will really want to live in small flats after the year we have had, which has emphasised the importance of outdoor space.

Office working, too, is changing, with companies realising that it is now increasingly easier to hold meetings remotely – saving money, fuel and emissions. People are working from home more and will continue to do so in the future.

So what does all of this mean for Maidenhead’s regeneration? And how has it advanced after a year which has disrupted almost everything we do in our daily lives?

Developer Countryside is building 229 homes and public realm on the banks of Maidenhead’s waterways in St Ives Road.

“Every apartment has a private balcony or terrace, and all residents have access to communal gardens. We’re also designing to changing working patterns, with home working zones and super-fast broadband pre-installed,” said Dan King, managing director at Countryside Partnerships West London & Thames Valley.

Work here has been going on since March 2019, with Countryside pairing up with the council to deliver the scheme.

“The first residents are expected to move in in March 2021, with the development as a whole planned to complete in early 2022,” Dan continued.

“Having paused construction earlier this year in immediate response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been successful in making up this time. The project has been progressing well.”

Scaffolding which has shrouded the development will also be removed ‘in the coming weeks’, Countryside say.

About 19 private homes will be completed in time for March, with more planned to be released next summer, and in September 2021.

“We have sold a fair few, but we have only got that first block available at the moment. There are only a small number of units on the market,” Dan clarified.

How Watermark will look (above)

Countryside has been using technology to provide virtual tours of apartments for interested buyers, and in the new year, will be publicising its one-bedroom units.

Dan carried on: “We are putting in around 20,000 sq ft of commercial space in; perhaps a gym, café, restaurant, a cocktail type bar. Once the public realm opens up it will become another destination within Maidenhead.”

When asked whether this development would suit in a post-COVID world, Dan said: “I do think, once we come out of COVID, people will remain keen for the benefits of town centre living.

“I think people will want a balance of office life and the flexibility that working from home gives.”

This is not the only location in Maidenhead that Countryside has its eyes on. Over at the site of the old Magnet Leisure Centre – known as Saint-Cloud Way – the developer will be working with the council to develop this area into residential and public realm.

“The development will include both market sale and affordable homes, as well as green landscaping linking east-west to the existing Kidwells Park area and a new north-south pedestrian link to the town centre,” Dan said. A planning application is likely to be submitted early next year.

He also hinted that there are ‘longer-term opportunities’ in West Street and Reform Road, but could not go into detail at this early stage.

Shanly Homes is a familiar name whenever Maidenhead’s regeneration crops up.

The developer has set its sights on a number of areas in Maidenhead, most notably its ‘Chapel Arches’ development next to Coppa Club in Bridge Avenue.

It is also getting on with work near to Countryside, in York Road, where it is developing the old Desborough Bowling Club and derelict buildings lying next to the old Anchor pub.

‘Elmwood Gate’ is another project, which lies in Oldfield Road and will see 59 new apartments built.

The whole Chapel Arches scheme together -Waterside Quarter, The Picturehouse and Chapel Wharf – will bring to the town a total of 259 new homes and 30,000 sq ft of commercial space.

The marketing suite for the final phase (Waterside Quarter) was opened by the then mayor of the Royal Borough, Cllr Sayonara Luxton, in November 2019.

“Phase III for Chapel Arches extends over three blocks. The first, which we have called Rialto, is almost complete and we have already had residents who moved in in December and are looking forward to their first Christmas in their new home,” said Stewart Kirk, Shanly’s managing director in the Thames Valley.

“Paradiso [second block] is well underway and we are already marketing these homes with great interest. This next phase is scheduled to complete by June 2022.

“The last phase, Tre Archi, will be the final piece in this jigsaw, which is due for completion in 2022.”

Chapel Arches (above)

Stewart added: “We have every confidence that we are building for a post-COVID world.

“Our apartments have generous spaces, rooms that will fit in a desk area, living areas with plenty of space for an exercise bike or a yoga mat.

“And almost every single apartment in Chapel Arches has a balcony or terrace. We have created a waterway where residents can paddleboard or canoe from home and there is a river pathway that runs north and reaches acres of open land.”

The Shanly MD added that ‘no developer takes any joy’ in having to shut a site down.

“No one has ridden the storm completely unscathed, but despite a short period of enforced shut down and early difficulties getting supplies, we have bounced back quickly,” Stewart continued.

“Our team at Waterside Quarter has worked tirelessly to gain back the time and we are still on track for our anticipated completion programme.

“No developer, whether it is us or one of our competitors, takes any joy out of having to shut a site down. Many industries have not faired as well, and we wish them well.”

Elsewhere in the town centre, another developer, HUB, is working with Norway-based firm Smedvig on one of the more controversial plans in the form of The Landing, on the triangle of Queen Street, King Street and Broadway.

Demolition of the existing buildings has completed here, with plans to build 424 homes, 100,000 sq ft of office space and 36,000 sq ft of retail and leisure, including a 16-storey building.

Work started in early 2019 but concerns have been raised about the lack of activity on site.

In a Facebook post on August 14, leader of the Royal Borough Cllr Andrew Johnson said that he had ‘received an update on the Landing site, with a confirmed start on site date of January next year’ [2021].

A ‘temporary meanwhile use’ for the empty space was also floated by those in charge.

This was all after an interview in the Advertiser with HUB managing director Damien Sharkey, who said in March this year that the six buildings HUB had permission for were hybrid plans - partially detailed and partially outline - which were being ‘finalised’.

HUB was also seeking a ‘certificate of lawfulness’ to proceed with the development - which it was granted on August 28, meaning the detailed part of the hybrid application can commence.

But there was no word from HUB of when this would be when asked by the Advertiser this month, with Damien reaffirming that the developer was ‘actively engaged in moving the project forward’.

“The pandemic has affected the construction industry in many ways this year, but we are very confident that our ongoing work on The Landing will result in a fantastic place to live and work, which suits future, post-COVID needs,” he said.

“The homes and office spaces are being designed to include amenities for residents, workers and the local community to enjoy, including a new garden square.

“While we are actively engaged in moving the project forward, I am pleased to say we are exploring potential temporary uses for the site with RBWM.

“HUB and Smedvig are fully committed to delivering the revitalised, thoughtfully-designed town centre that Maidenhead deserves.”

HUB managing director Damien Sharkey at the site of The Landing in central Maidenhead

COVID-19 is set to stay with us for much longer than any of us anticipated or hoped, but Maidenhead’s regeneration is sure to still be at the forefront of news headlines and conversations over the dinner table in a post-virus world.

Questions and concerns will continue to be raised over the viability of schemes and cries that the town will become a concrete jungle.

Debates will rumble on, but one thing appears to be true – Maidenhead is in the midst of change even in the middle of a global crisis.

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