There is no denying that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected high streets across the country. This will mean a period of change for town centres across the country as they adapt to the change in habits. Bracknell is no exception but equally it is no worse off. Bracknell is in a strong position to bounce back.
This is because:
- our unemployment rates remain very low by comparison to our neighbours. (Nationally, the unemployment figure is 4.9%, in Reading it is 4.6% and in Slough it is 5.4%. The Bracknell Forest figure is 3.4%)
- we remain attractive to new businesses and entrepreneurship. This is supported by the formation of the Bracknell BID (Business Information District) and commitment to the SMART city initiative
- Bracknell is only part way through the regeneration of the town centre and ideally placed to adapt and benefit from the ability to react
- the Lexicon, the newly redeveloped town centre, has the key ingredients needed to rise to the challenges ahead
- the Lexicon serves a loyal local community who prefer to visit and revisit a cluster of shops rather than make a visit to a single, standalone outlet. With a performance space in the town centre, there are plans for events to bring the community in to the town centre as part of the recovery from the pandemic
- the town centre has excellent parking facilities and transport links. The accessibility of the town centre is unrivalled locally
The next phase of the town’s redevelopment is due to start this month with £950k of funding secured from the Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership. The demolition of the old Bentalls store will pave the way for the eagerly anticipated development of The Deck. A scheme that is due to bring a range of hospitality, leisure and recreation venues, which we recognise need to be added to the offering of the town centre.
At the same time, Bracknell Forest Cambium Partnership (the recently created joint venture with Countryside Properties) has further plans for development in the heart of Bracknell town centre. With three sites identified, plans are developing to create a vibrant resident community within a five minutes’ walk of the town centre. These new homes will further strengthen footfall and support for the range of facilities within the town centre.
Work to create a new youth hub to provide a much-needed home for youth activities in the town centre has now finished. Located within the Braccan Walk car park, it will provide a base for many under 19s.
Approximately 35% of Bracknell Forest is identified as Green Belt, with 10 local Nature Reserves and 62 Local Wildlife Sites designated by the Berkshire Nature Conservation Forum. This, coupled with our good schools, low crime rate, job prospects and low unemployment, makes our borough an attractive place to live, work and visit.
Cllr Marc Brunel-Walker, Executive Member for Economic Development and Regeneration said:
“These are difficult times for town centres across the country.
“Bracknell town centre is no worse off than anywhere else; high streets nationwide have suffered but we will bounce back. We have so much to offer, things that cannot be seen or understood by looking at numbers on a spreadsheet.
“Bracknell Forest Council is working with a number of partners who share our vision for the town centre.
With a re-imagined town centre providing a heart to the community, we are ready to respond to the challenges presented by the pandemic.”