WORK to regenerate Market Place will not be completed until at least mid-August, meaning it will be at least SIX MONTHS behind schedule.
As The Wokingham Paper went to press, Wokingham Borough Council confirmed that the date had slipped yet again. Last month, Cllr Philip Mirfin, the executive member for regeneration, said that the works would be completed by July 29.
The statement from the council said that it was “sorry to inform residents that the Market Place Improvement project will not now be completed until mid-August”.
The work fell behind schedule in the initial phase as the closure of the Peach Street end of Market Place dragged on due to unexpected pipework found underground. Over the past year, much of Wokingham town centre has been empty as shoppers stay away, despite campaigns to encourage them to come back.
The project, which will use York Stone to create a large, pedestrianised market place, is now due to be completed by August 18 or 19.
However, the council has said that a section of Denmark Street from Langborough Road to the Carnival roundabout should reopen sooner, which will also allow the restrictions on Langborough Road to be lifted. The target date for this remains July 27 but this is dependent on SSE completing its work at the bottom of Denmark Street.
Wokingham Borough Council said it will be commissioning an independent review of the project once it is complete. Full details have not been set but the review will look at the full scope of the project.
Cllr Philip Mirfin, executive member for town centre regeneration said: “We are truly sorry for the overrun and understand and share the frustrations of residents and businesses. We always aim to be a learning organisation and that is why I have called for a review of this project. But we have always maintained that this project must be of high quality and so we will not cut corners to save time at this stage.
“There are more and more areas of Market Place are emerging and it does look tremendous. Between now and the August end date, people will see more and more of the town centre opened up and I hope people will be able to come and enjoy the new appearance before the final end date.”
Cllr Mirfin added: “This work is part of a vision for Wokingham town that will, in the long-term, bring more people in to the centre to enjoy its shops, cafes, events and other activities. We stand by this vision and know it is the right thing for the town’s future. But we also know that, for many people, it is the here and now that is difficult and we can only ask for patience until the work is complete. ”
Wokingham Town Council is producing regular updates and a newsletter about the project and, anybody who wants to sign up to receive these please contact Wokingham Town Clerk Jan Nowecki on (0118) 978 3185 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org