KEEP Calm and Carry on Shopping.
That’s the message from business leaders and council bosses as work starts this week on the £3.8million revamp of Wokingham town centre.
The 10-month scheme will transform the area around the historic Town Hall into a continental-style shoppers’ paradise with new pavements, outdoor seating, more parking and less congestion.
There will also be plenty of café and eating spaces, more greenery, a dedicated entertainment space and a brand new home for the weekday and Saturday markets in the heart of the town.
These have moved to a temporary site at the Plaza near Argos and the Gig House, thanks to owners Aviva and Axa, and plenty of car parking is available at the Carnival Pool car park and Denmark Street.
Disabled bays are available in Rose Street and Broad Street and, when complete, the Market Place will have more disabled bays than before.
As the first diggers rolled into place last week, councillors and retailers united with one simple message: “We’re still open for business.”
Wokingham Town Council Mayor Cllr Peter Lucey said: “We are extremely grateful to both Axa and Aviva management for working with us to ensure we have a temporary location for our markets which allows the traders to continue trading until the new Market Place is complete.
“We hope that there will be a real hub of activity in the coming months where traders and businesses work together and residents and visitors can stop, relax, enjoy a coffee or a meal and browse the market.”
Cllr Gwynneth Hewetson added: “We are all working together to achieve the building projects in the quickest time possible and minimise the disruption across the town.
“Please bear with us. We look forward to celebrating the reopening of the Market Place with you all next spring followed by Peach Place at the end of next year.”
The multi-million pound project, which will be done in stages, is a joint venture between Wokingham Borough and Wokingham Town Councils.
Officials are working closely with local shops and businesses as part of an Open for Business drive. They are helping to provide banners and advertising throughout the town to get the ‘Business As Usual” message across.
The Eye People’s Melanie Key was upbeat about the revamp: “The work now going on will deliver us all a great place to live and work.
“You cannot make an omelette without breaking some eggs and so it is important for us all to work together while the improvements are underway.”
Her view was echoed by Cllr Chris Bowring, executive member for Highways and Transport: “We do acknowledge that building works and change is hard for a town to accommodate but is necessary for a town to evolve and thrive.”