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Opinion : How should the £15m be spent to improve Wycombe town centre?

| January 15, 2021

High Street, High Wycombe.

It seems that £15m has been allocated to invest in High Wycombe town centre.

According to the news article headlined ‘High Wycombe town centre to benefit from £15m cash injection‘ which appeared on the news section of this site a few days ago, the money comprises of £11.7m in the form of an award from The Future High Streets Fund as well as £3.4m of capital funding from Buckinghamshire Council.

Surely this is good news, indeed it’s nice to see investment taking place in Wycombe?

However my good self is rather sceptical, in fact possibly even worried, at the prospect of yet another ‘improvement’ project being unleashed on the town.

To put things into perspective £15m is about the same amount that was spent recently reshaping several roads as part of the town centre ‘Masterplan’, a project which cost around £14.53m.

So how would my good self spend the £15m?

Well, like many in the town yours truly thinks the Masterplan was a terrible mistake so at £15m there is enough money in the kitty, including a small allowance for inflation, to undo the Masterplan and put the roads back to being normal roads again that serve a useful purpose so people and businesses can get about easily. This would most likely be welcomed and deemed sensible by an awful lot of people, sadly my good self fears that sense may not be a priority.

Alternatively perhaps the money could be used to re-shape the High Street?

Things in the High Street area went downhill in the early 1990’s when the once wide thoroughfare was pedestrianised. As customers could no longer park beside the road many of the businesses closed and the rot set in.

So how about using the £15m to rip-up the 1990’s ‘fake antique’ cobble stones, bulldoze those hideous Atlas balls and return the High Street to a wide asphalt thoroughfare with narrow pavements on each side? There could even be some seats placed along the pavement and plenty of short term roadside parking similar to Marlow High Street.

By allowing traffic along the road again it would mean that customers could park and business would start to thrive again.

Having a wide expanse of flat asphalt would mean that at certain times the road could be closed and communal events could be held there such as concerts, parades and fairs without the iron bollards and other street furniture getting in the way as is the case currently.

Most worryingly to my good self it seems that a ‘regeneration board’ is to be convened to oversee the rejuvenation plans which makes my good self fear for the worst.

There have been too many ‘improvement’ projects in Wycombe over the decades, starting with the pedestrianisation of the High Street back in the 1990’s. In my opinion they have all been disasters which have led to the catastrophic state Wycombe finds itself in today.

But will Wycombe actually see £15m of ‘real’ investment? My good self fears not and the rejuvenation project will only serve to keep the workers at the powers that be on the gravy train doing the designing, planning, administration and other background work for the implementation of the improvements for the town.

Also, I wonder how much of the £15m will go on contractors profits for carrying out the improvement works on the ground?

By the time all the ‘administration overheads’ and ‘contractors profits’ are taken into account I do hope that Wycombe gets more than a few spruced up signposts and some new litter bins in the town centre for the £15m….

Remember the rejuvenation is not happening organically, the money is being given because the town centre is in trouble and not because it’s thriving and growing by itself. If policies were in place to make the wider town and the town centre thrive again there would be no need for the £15m to be given to us in the first place.

Yours truly is thinking of writing a short series on how to resurrect each area of Wycombe town centre so, as they say ‘watch this space’ to find out my other ideas to ‘save Wycombe’.

What do you think?

My blogs are published regularly here on the WycombeToday.com website.

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