It’s all go with the Wokingham town centre regeneration as Wokingham Borough Council has announced the appointment of Dawnus Construction Ltd as the main contractor for redeveloping Peach Place.
This phase will see a new pedestrianised public square created on the site of the existing Rose Street car park, a range of new shops and restaurants with apartments above, new public toilets and four new houses fronting onto Rose Street.
Cllr Mark Ashwell, executive member for planning and regeneration, said: "It's been a long slog as we started the process of finding a partner to deliver this scheme back in April. As you’d expect there have been all the usual detailed conversations about costs and resources. We’ve also been looking in real detail about their approach to developing the site and, given the complexities of the project, how they can manage works with minimum disruption to the town and its residents.
"Dawnus really stood out throughout this process and we have worked successfully with them before on other projects across Wokingham Borough. This experience means they are really familiar with Wokingham and understand the extra constraints working on such a compact town centre site brings. We need to give extra consideration to things like maintaining deliveries to existing local businesses, residents living close by, and our determination to keep the town trading throughout the works."
Work on Peach Place starts on Monday January 9 when the borough council will formally handover the site to Dawnus. Rose Street car park will also close at this time.
Richard Nixon, operations manager at Dawnus Construction Limited, said: "We're really excited to be working with the council again. We were awarded a Considerate Constructors Performance Beyond Compliance certificate for going above and beyond what was expected of a contractor for our work on the refurbishment of Peach Place, and we fully intend to bring exactly the same level of work to this phase of the development as well."
Early works on site next year include preparing affected Peach Street properties for demolition and carrying out final surveys including archaeological investigations. Following this, demolition of the affected buildings will start (from Clintons up to, but not including, the Redan) before laying foundations and constructing the new properties across the site.
Main building works are expected to be completed by October 2018 with many of the new businesses up and trading for Christmas that year.
Cllr Ashwell continued: "Given the scale of this project we know there will be some disruption during the construction phase and we hope that residents bear with us as the end results will be worth it and a fantastic addition to the town. We have also been working with local stakeholders and businesses on a range of things which could help the town continue to succeed during the coming months.
"One of the biggest impacts is likely to be the temporary closure of a lane on Peach Street which will be required whilst we demolish the existing buildings along the Peach Street. Since April we have looked to see if there was any way of working on the site without closing a lane but, with the existing 1960s arcade built so close to the highway, it simply can’t be done."
The lane closure is expected to start towards the end of February for approximately 15-weeks, but exact dates will be confirmed shortly following detailed discussions with the council’s highways teams.
Details of the initial programme will be placed on the Regeneration Company website and will continue to be updated over the coming months as dates are agreed.
The Market Place improvement works, being carried out by the borough council and Wokingham Town Council are also continuing to move forward in partnership with the regeneration project.
The work that has already been carried out to date is indicating that this project is more extensive than was previously thought with the main complications being below the surface. The pre-construction stage is now in progress which will undertake further technical work to fully clarify the exact situation underground. The outcome of which will inform the nature of the work needed, the timescales and full costs involved. Both project teams are liaising very closely to minimise the disruption to the town centre and to align timescales accordingly.
The borough council and town council are listening to feedback from retailers, businesses and residents alike to ensure the best phasing of the works and will be updating them throughout both schemes.
In addition to creating a fantastic new town centre with much better variety and choice of businesses and facilities in Wokingham, the regeneration project is also set to benefit local residents across the whole borough by establishing a long-term income stream which can be used to fund services and projects for years to come.