The fate of plans to build a ‘new neighbourhood’ in the heart of Wokingham town centre are set to be decided on within a week. But there are fears that town centre shopping would suffer further if the development is approved.

Property company Devonshire Metro wants to demolish 19-21 Market Place and build 60 flats, three new shopping units and a public square.

The current building is occupied by branches of the Robert Dyas homeware shop and Lloyds bank.

But one Wokingham Borough councillor for the area, Jane Ainslie, has objected to the plans – fearing for the loss of the two businesses and a reduction in the amount of retail space. And neighbours on Howard Road say the new development would bring extra traffic up their narrow street.

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Architect firm Architecture Initiative says the development would ‘revive’ an ‘under-used’ patch of Wokingham town centre.

It says: “The proposal aims to establish a new neighbourhood for Wokingham, reinvigorating an under-used site and car park.

“A public square is proposed at the heart of the site, joining a new street and shopping arcade that together form a through-route connecting onto Market Place.”

But in a letter of objection, councillor Ainslie said the plans would mean ‘reduction in commercial space,’ as the new shop units will be smaller than the current ones.

And several residents of Howard Road – directly behind the site – fear new neighbours’ cars and delivery vehicles would bring extra traffic to a street that’s so narrow it doesn’t have a pavement.

Mr and Mrs O’Donoghue said: “The new proposed development will inevitably transform Howard Road into the rear back access for bin lorries, deliveries and extra traffic of this sizeable development.

“Living in this road has its challenges we have resolved over the years thanks to the lovely community the residents have created with patience.

“On a daily basis, vans and lorries block the road completely and something as simple as trying to use your car could be a big problem that needs planning ahead.”

But council planning officers say that the development would improve the town centre. They say there is more demand from businesses for smaller shop units of the size being proposed.

And they note there is already planning permission to convert the offices above the current shops into 17 flats. Officers say this would ‘not deliver significant improvements’ to the town centre – but warn that developers could use it as an alternative ‘fallback.’

Meanwhile highways officers believe that residents and delivery vehicles are more likely to use Market Place around the front, or Denton Road or Sturges Road around the back, rather than Howard Road.

The council’s planning committee is set to make a decision on Wednesday, February 14.