A MAN behind the most popular social group in Bracknell reflects on the sad closure of Sainsbury's.

Mark John, who runs Facebook Page We Love Bracknell, spoke about how Princess Square had 'turned its back on elderly and vulnerable'.

Below is his opinion piece, let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

He said: "The closing of Sainsbury’s in Princess Square marks the moment in our history the town centre turned its back on elderly and vulnerable residents.

"If you‘re one of the many residents who can’t walk over to Morrison’s, and Waitrose prices would hit you too hard in the pocket, then you have now lost your main reason to go to town.

"We all grow old one day. Elderly and vulnerable residents are cut off from society already as it is, now they will miss that social aspect of the full town centre experience and getting their shopping in one go.

"The councillors who we elect to meet the needs of all residents sold our town centre to a slew of private companies who only have one thing in mind.

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"It’s not rocket science that if you squeeze the life out of Princess Square for years then the shops will eventually leave. Even in the old town, shops survived because customers could seamlessly walk in through the main entrance and out through Bentalls. Nowadays, that deadly combination of low footfall and high rents has seen the loss of nearly all our independent businesses, and without them how do we keep the money we’re spending in local pockets?

"Yes Sainsbury’s are closing a number of stores up and down the country, but you have to ask yourself don’t you? After 50 years at the pinnacle of our town and 35 of them at the centre of Princess Square, why was the footfall so low, in a regenerated town centre, that they chose to leave Bracknell?

"They need to open up the other end of Princess Square where Bentalls was. So what if there’s an asbestos issue? Get rid of it. So what if there isn’t enough businesses on board yet for the vanity project they call “The Deck”? Get an interim entrance in place. Instead we have a delay of another 2 years at least and if an entrance were installed by now then shops like Sainsbury’s would be thriving simply for being joined up to The Lexicon.

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"I don’t know how much of this plan has been deliberate, it certainly seems that way to me when you witnessed the horrible way Virtual Games left and the end of funding to ShopMobility another lifeline to the elderly community.

"Perhaps the companies who now run our town centre want a fresh canvas to open up more cafés, restaurants and boutiques that no one particularly asked for. I know from no end of posts on the We Love Bracknell forum that many, many residents would find a Wilko store really useful, to which councillor Marc Brunel Walker says they don’t want to come. Such shops would be perfectly placed in Princess Square as they are in Camberley and Farnborough but the footfall has to be there for them to want to come.

"What kind of shopper are The Lexicon looking for? What kind of town are Bracknell Forest Council looking to become? This isn’t just about our sentimental attachment to the old town, there is a wider question here too about gentrification. With tens of thousands of new homes in the pipeline why are so many of them described as “luxury” and listed abroad in Hong Kong when we have ten year waiting lists and a lack of affordable homes for rent? We’re always told that a percentage of number these new homes will be “affordable” but I’ve seen it time again that number drips down when nobody’s looking. Where are all these new people going to fit in our schools and on our roads and why are we not focusing on the needs of the Bracknell generation already here paying ever increasing council tax?

"We can have a Bracknell that works for everyone but we need to face up to what’s really going on here, and start speaking up. There’s more of us than there are of them so put your money where your mouth is and they’ll soon listen. If you don’t know who your councillor is then put a bit of effort in and look online. Tell your councillor to stop going along with the rest of the flock.

"And for God’s sake get on with opening up the other end of Princess Square."