Bracknell was dubbed “Soulless and Dull” by The Independent 25 years ago – has he changed?


Twenty-five years ago, Clare Garner wrote an article for The Independent titled “The Battle Begins to End Bracknell’s Boredom”.

“Gray,” “concrete,” “soulless,” and “drab” were some of the words Garner used to describe Bracknell in 1996.

The article explained that there were new plans to regenerate the city center, but what was not known at the time was that it would take about 22 years to open a new mall and recreation, although regeneration was originally planned in the 1990s.

READ MORE: Someone stood in line for 12 hours for chicken

Has “boredom” been “taken out of Bracknell”?

In Garner’s article, she explained that the “biggest growl” from shoppers was “that there is only one department store in town.”

Things have changed a lot since then with the biggest change being the opening of the Lexicon.

The Lexicon opened in 2017 with around 160 different retail stores in and around the site and it has just been announced that independent bakery chain Gail’s and Japanese restaurant Kokoro will soon open on-site as well.

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Jen Sullivan said: “I am very excited that new stores are coming to Bracknell. Gail’s bakery is my favorite and we travel to Wokingham often so we will be very lucky to have it on our doorstep.

“I remember when Bracknell had the old downtown area and it was really depressing and old fashioned.

“I never would have thought of moving to Bracknell, but since they built the Lexicon we bought our house and have been here since 2018.

“We’re so happy here to have such a lovely new downtown, we feel so lucky with the number of choices we have on Deliveroo too.

Another resident called Kirsten, who declined to give her last name, said: “I have lived in Bracknell for over 10 years and have seen a real improvement in the quality of the town center.

“Before, I avoided shopping in the center because the variety of stores was limited whereas now the Lexicon has a very wide range of stores and I visit almost every week.

“With the addition of Kokoro and Gail’s, there are two more reasons to visit and enjoy the buzz.”

Other developments in downtown Bracknell also include the Cooper’s Hill development site, which the council says will bring “significant economic value to the package.”

There are also now a lot of community events in Bracknell, such as the Bracknell Half Marathon and the Bracknell Ale and Cider Festival.

Tom Canning, a representative of the Beer and Cider Festival, said: “I think Bracknell is a great place to grow up, even in 1996. It was a little gray but there was so much for the kids to do. children. However, there was nothing really for dying teens. “

Canning mentioned that “the one thing Bracknell still lacked was a good sense of community,” explaining that community events seemed to stop in and around the ’80s.

“It seems there are more volunteer events now,” he said.

“Having events that people wouldn’t expect to have in their city changes people’s perception a bit.

“Two weeks ago there were three festivals in one weekend, which is pretty fantastic. When I was growing up things like this never happened. It sounded like something that wouldn’t have happened 10 years ago. “

“There was tumbleweed in the city – now it is thriving”

Bracknell Forest Councilor Marc Brunel-Walker, Executive Member of Economic Development and Regeneration, said: “When I became a councilor in 2003, I think about 90% of people who live under five miles from downtown Bracknell said they had never shopped in the city center. It is now so much higher.

“There was tumbleweed in the old town center at five o’clock, now it’s a booming economy.

“We have around 28 independent stores in the city center. It is a city center that has survived and survives the evolution of retailing around the world.

“We had two new announcements yesterday that Kokoro and Gail will be opening soon. It’s huge and there is even more to come.”

Brunel-Walker attributed the economic and social success of Lexicon to the “impact and strength” of the relationship between the council and its public-private partnership.

Did the Lexicon save Bracknell?

The Local Data Company conducted a scan of Bracknell’s Main Street in 2015, before the Lexicon opened, and said it understood why some people thought it was “quickly becoming a ghost town.”

They also said that “the city would appear to be stuck between a rock and a hard place” because of the shopping and leisure facilities that appear “diametrically opposed to the demographic profile it supports.”

The Independent article highlighted the lack of retail in the city at the time and detailed new plans for the regeneration of the city center, with the council issuing a framework for future development with Legal and General in 1995.

Brunel-Walker explains that “it was a city in technical terms in managed decline”.

The lexicon has made a huge difference in attracting people to the city

After the plans began in 1995, the city’s applications were presented by Secretary of State John Prescott in 1999 and the council approved a new downtown plan in 2002. The plan was to build 600,000 square feet. of commercial development with 600 new homes.

Bracknell Regeneration Partnership then filed its planning application for the new downtown area in 2004 and the building, dubbed “The Eye” received planning permission in 2006.

However, these plans were partially abandoned after the 2008 global financial crisis. As Brunel-Walker explained, “nobody was building anything at that time.” A new development was then planned and signed by 2010.

In 2013 the demolition of the city began, however, one of the partners involved in BRP decided to get rid of their downtown assets, as the retail market continued to decline, so BFC added 12, £ 4million to the plans, encouraging the partner to stay, meaning the plans could be approved in 2015.

The Lexicon was finally built in 2017 after about 22 years of planning and applications in an attempt to regenerate the downtown area.

In 2015, before the Lexicon was built, the core commercial vacancy rate was well above the national average, but now Brunel-Walker describes the city as “booming.”

Speaking about how the Lexicon changed Bracknell, Brunel-Walker explained that “people used to despise Bracknell” but now they are “generally more proud of where they live”.

“There’s a lot more pride. It’s their downtown,” he said.

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