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Wokingham Borough Council backs plans to buy 'crucial' town centre site for £1.5m as part of regeneration

Published: 14 Jun 2014 17:000 comments

WOKINGHAM Borough Council has agreed to spend £1.5m on buying a town centre site that it sees as 'crucial’ to the regeneration.

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The council has refused to confirm whether the purchase relates to The Redan pub and the adjoining Haka takeaway in Peach Street, though it is known to be interested in the two sites.

At a meeting on Thursday, councillors are expected to agree to spending £1.489m needed to buy the 'crucial’ new site.

A report to an extraordinary meeting of the executive, claims that there will be “new risk, cost and delay to the regeneration process” if the council fails to buy the land.

Cllr Philip Mirfin, executive member for regeneration, said: “This acquisition will compliment what we’re trying to do in the town centre. We have Marks and Spencer in one end of town, and the other end we’ve got retail and Elms Field. We’re looking at the town as a whole. It’s a very good investment. We see a very strong return going forward.”

It is estimated the income from renting the space would be as much as £134,100 per full year.

A spokesman for Greene King, which owns The Redan, said: “We are aware of the council’s plans to regenerate the town, which include proposals for a compulsory purchase of The Redan. However, no formal communication has yet been made.”

Some residents have questioned the fact the council is now buying more land, as it previously claimed the regeneration could be delivered using existing sites.

Peter Must, chairman of the Wokingham Society, said: “The council is saying: 'We have got this piece of land and if we don’t buy it, it will jeopardise the regeneration’ but it never featured at the beginning. All of sudden, we can’t do the project without this and it’s 'crucial’ – it’s come out of the blue.

“One or the other must be wrong; it can’t be crucial because they didn’t include it before, in which case they’re misusing the word 'crucial’.”

However, Cllr Mirfin described it as an opportunity, saying: “We’re fortunate that we’ve had this opportunity; it is a site which is uniquely related to what we have already purchased. It’s all part of the broader mix.”

It has been rumoured that Marks and Spencer, next to The Redan and Haka in Peach Street, could expand if the opportunity arose, but a company spokesman told the News that it had no plans at present to do so.

Meanwhile, the council is considering producing a separate application for its planned food store in Elms Field, following Sainsbury’s decision last month not to go ahead.

Previously, all the aspects of planned development in Elms Field had been tied together.

Cllr Mirfin said: “There’s a strong possibility to split the food store plans from the rest. We have more or less agreed the residential, the hotel, and the retail on Elms Field.”

Two separate planning applications to regenerate the town centre – one for Peach Place, and the other for Elms Field, were withdrawn at the end of last year.

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