AN INVESTIGATION has revealed Bracknell's town centre project The Deck is facing yet more delays. 

A freedom of Information request (FOI) by this newspaper has revealed that long-standing plans to develop the proposed space for 14 more shops in the town centre are not expected to be completed until 2024. 

Work is yet to start on the project and the latest expected completion dates come nearly two years after originally planned, coupled with a £5m bid from BFC to help fund its development. 

The FOI detailed how the council has bid for a total of nearly £9m from the governments Levelling Up Funds (LUF) to fund two projects: The Deck and the relocation of Bracknell Central Library. 

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The funds are designed to help communities by putting money directly into the hands of councils to invest in local infrastructure projects. 

The council state in the application that investor confidence is low due to “high levels of market uncertainty” so Bracknell Forest is at a “critical point” where investment is needed to “boost the project and provide confidence” to residents and businesses.  

The Deck had an initial opening date of 2022. However, this was pushed back by a year after a delay in beginning the development stage.  

Executive Member for Economic Development and Regeneration, Cllr Marc Brunel-Walker, said this was down to the impact of Covid-19 and “wider macro-economic conditions”, particularly construction price inflation.  

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In April of this year, the general manager at The Lexicon, Rob Morris, said the project is “on track” to be completed in 2023.   

However, the LUF application form states that, if funds were granted, "project activity" outlined in the request could be delivered in 2022-23 “if successful construction of the Deck will begin in October 2022 with works complete by April 2024” - with units opening to the public “on a staggered basis from then onwards.”  

A spokesperson for The Lexicon said it is “hopeful” that work on The Deck can start soon and will “share expected timescales for completion in due course”.  

This is the second application made for LUF, after the council's initial bid during phase one was unsuccessful. 

The council's Regeneration and Economic Development Manager, Chris Mansfield, said the latest application gives "the most up-to-date indicative dates" for The Deck, but they are still "subject to funding and other contingencies”. 

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The government classifies Bracknell Forest as a level three priority local authority to receive the grant money - out of three - so the latest application has a low chance of success.  

The initial cost estimate of the Deck was £18.5M in 2020 prices, according to the council’s original business case. That later rose to an estimated £19.9M.   

Of that, £12M was to come from Bracknell Regeneration Partnership (BRP), a joint venture between Legal & General, a financial services and asset management company, and the Schroders UK investment company.    

Bracknell Forest Council are to contribute £6M towards the project, as well as £955,882 investment from the Department of Transport.