WOKINGHAM town centre’s regeneration took a step forward on Wednesday night as controversial proposals for a new multi-storey car park were given the green light.
The first phase of the Carnival Pool redevelopment – the 529-space car park and a new bowling alley – was granted consent by Wokingham Borough Council’s (WBC) planning committee in a landmark step for the regeneration project.
The next stage in the project will be to appoint a build contractor, with work expected to start in spring 2016.
Councillor Mark Ashwell, deputy executive member for regeneration and communities, said: “It’s really exciting to see our ambitious plans approved and a testament to the hard work of the team over the last few years.
“The heart of the regeneration proposals is making sure we can give our residents a better variety and quality of facilities right here in Wokingham.
“Whether it’s about shopping, sports and leisure, or about entertainment we know our residents deserve better than what’s currently available.
“Projects like this will allow us to deliver a town centre that lives up to the honour of being one of the best places in the country to live.”
The next phases of the plans, which include a refurbishment of the existing swimming pool, a bigger gym, improved changing facilities, studio spaces and a multi-function sports and performance hall in the leisure centre, new public spaces and residential apartments,
will be staggered, subject to final approval, over the coming years.
Sarah Morgan, regeneration planning manager, said: “One of the key points we took from the public consultations was to not have everything happen all at once, and to allow the town centre to keep functioning as much as it can while the work is carried out.”
It is hoped that the plans to develop the car park first should alleviate traffic problems in the centre of Wokingham, as motorists are encouraged to park on the edge of town rather than struggle to find a parking space while other developments, such as Peach Place, are being worked on.
Cllr Ashwell said: “In 2013 we secured funding from the Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership (TVBLEP) as part of their Growth Deals initiative to help bring the parking element of the scheme forward.
“This was invaluable as it’s allowing us to make sure that sufficient high quality parking is available to support the town whilst we work on other phases of the regeneration such as the development at Peach Place.
“It also means that we can build a new bowling alley and move the existing provider in, before we have any need to demolish their old building.”