THE DEMOLITION of an iconic part of the town centre will go ahead this month, the council has confirmed.

Bentalls department store will be knocked down to make way for the development of The Deck, a new public space complete with shops, restaurants and leisure which will link Princess Square to The Lexicon.

Bentalls will be knocked down to make way for The Deck

Bentalls will be knocked down to make way for The Deck

Bracknell Forest Council said bulldozing work will begin this month despite a related planning proposal not yet being completely signed off.

Andrew Hunter, a director at the council, said: “Planning permission has been agreed subject to confirmation from the agents on a few matters raised by the highways officer. We are not expecting a delay to the start of the demolition works later this month.”

Planning documents indicate demolition works will take place on the inside and outside of the building, based on High Street.

These works are expected to be complete by May.

It is hoped demolition experts will hand over the site to builders by June 2021.

READ MORE: The Deck opening date, costs, shops, bars and retailers confirmed

The demolition will be made possible by a £900,000 boost from a government-backed infrastructure fund.

Last year, developers Bracknell Regeneration Partnership (BRP) said the extra cash was needed in order to pay for the demolition of the Bentalls store following the negative economic impacts of the pandemic.

Councillor Marc Brunel-Walker, BFC’s regeneration boss, said: “These are tough times and we are under no illusion that retail and the hospitality sector will be affected by the pandemic for some time.

“However, it is vital that we push hard now to secure a bright future for Bracknell town centre post-pandemic.

READ MORE: Bentalls beauty department draws a crowd

"Securing this Government funding helps us to move into the next phase of preparing The Deck for development by BRP.



“This is a pivotal step in creating a night-time economy for our borough and we are pleased that despite setbacks due to COVID-19 and other economic factors, our partners are committed to bringing this much-wanted redevelopment forward.”

A trip down memory lane...

The demolition of Bentalls marks a big moment in the town centre’s regeneration transformation.

READ MORE: A brief history of Bracknell

Having stood on Bracknell High Street for more than 40 years, the department store closed in September 2017.

The iconic site received planning permission in January 1971 and was to be built alongside a thirteen-storey car park.

According to our archives, the department store opened in April 1973.

The opening coincided with the addition of the large bronze Bracknell mural to Charles Square (now on the side of Braccan Walk car park) and the development of 1,000 new homes in Harmans Water.

Speaking in the early 1970s, Allan Hanson from the Bracknell Development Corporation, said: “With this amount of development in Bracknell, 1973 should be a year of considerable activity especially in the town centre.”

SHOP TIL YOU DROP: Bentalls was taking shape.

SHOP 'TIL YOU DROP: Bentalls was taking shape.

According to Andrew Radgick, history officer at the Bracknell Forest Society, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester were in the town centre on an official visit when the store officially opened.

By Christmas of that year, Bentalls had racked up £1 million in sales.

Actor John Pertwee, who was playing Doctor Who in 1974, was the special guest present to mark the first anniversary of the store's opening.

Bentalls received a makeover in 1975.

In June 2001, Bentalls was bought out by Fenwick for £70 million. Of the six Bentalls stores in existence when the purchase was made, only the Bracknell and Kingston-upon-Thames were retained By Fenwick.

Bentalls will be knocked down to make way for The Deck

Bentalls will be knocked down to make way for The Deck

The store closed in September 2017 as the new Fenwick site opened with The Lexicon.

A Facebook page set up for former employees of Bentalls features a number of tributes to the old department store.

READ MORE: Readers share memories of old Bentalls store

One member said they had many “amazing memories” having worked with “wonderful team members” at the Bracknell branch from 1998 to 2007.

Richard Mandy added: "What struck me when I joined in 1998 was how friendly it was, a real family store, with regulars passing though to say hello to friends and relatives who worked there.

"It was not only a community store, but it used to attract well healed from Ascot, Wokingham and Sunningdale, sone of whom were account customers who would have also travelled to Bentalls' flagship store in Kingston, where I came from."