A tale of two towns…
Last Thursday, thousands visited Bracknell for the launch of The Lexicon. Wokingham was empty. If we want our town to thrive, we must do something
LAST Thursday, after 20 years in the making Bracknell’s new shopping centre, known as The Lexicon, was opened.
Thousands of people queued outside shops such as Primark and H&M ready for some opening day retail therapy. And business has remained brisk ever since.
However, in Wokingham at the same time, as our photos show, the town centre was incredibly quiet with few people braving rain showers to shop or visit the market.
The leader of Bracknell Forest Council, Cllr Paul Bettison said the completion of its regeneration ‘felt great’.
He told The Wokingham Paper: “I have been working on the project personally for 20 years, and people said it wasn’t ever going to happen. I believed that it would happen, I just needed to find a way to make it happen. You could write a book about all the things that came in the way, two recessions didn’t help. That said, I always believed that it should happen, and if something should happen then invariably it will, eventually. It's just a matter of finding the right people and putting together the right team.
“At last the people of Bracknell Forest have their own town centre which they should be very proud of, and they have been very patient.
“There’s a great pioneering spirit amongst the Bracknell people which started from the first people who moved out from London in the late 1950s and 60s, they knew they wouldn't get everything they needed immediately, but they had faith. They came out looking for a better life and by and large they got a better life.
“The old town centre didn't age well, the 1950s and 60s brutalist concrete architecture wasn’t something we were going to revere as time went by, and the concept of a 10ft concrete overhang being the height of customer comfort and convenience, so they could look in shop windows without getting wet in the rain, was state of the art at the time.
“The problem we have had, that people in nearby Wokingham haven't had to overcome, is the fact that because ours is a new town, it was all built over a fouryear period and so it became obsolete over a four-year period, so it all needed to change.
“In an organically grown town, like Wokingham, you can immediately identify which street needs redeveloping, but you can also point to the street which only opened last year. We didn’t have that, so we needed to find someone with the vision and the cash to make the whole thing for us.
“It is a thrilling day for Bracknell.”
Bracknell’s Executive Member for Economic Development and Regeneration, Cllr Marc Brunel-Walker said: “I think we have been promising this for so many years and now we have delivered on that promise. There are thousands of people here today, people have been queuing since the early hours to get in.
“It completes that missing piece. We’ve always said Bracknell is a great place to live and to work and to have a family, but what has always been missing is that heart in the middle of a really good place, not just to shop, but the night time economy too which is really important for this town. It’s incredible.”
Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate Clive Jones backed our Make It Free To P campaign, aimed at helping Wokingham’s retailers during the regeneration works.
He said: “It’s very, very simple: the council need to get rid of car park charges.
“If they charged £1 for three hours it will encourage people into the town centre.
“And if they want to make Wokimgham town centre work after they’ve ruined it with regeneration, they should keep the change.”
Letters page 16
EMPTY Wokingham was a ghost town
PACKED The Lexicon’s launch day
The Lexicon was packed out for its launch day (left), while Wokingham was empty in comparsion. Our pictures were taken at lunchtime and have not been manipulated