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Opinion : Will spending £15m on High Wycombe town centre make any difference?

| August 3, 2021

It seems Wycombe town centre is set to receive £15m of investment to ‘make High Wycombe town centre proud of its past and fit for the future.

Indeed you may have seen the article headlined ‘£15m to be invested in High Wycombe town centre‘ that appeared in the news section of this website a short while ago.

According to the news article the grant of £11.7m from the Government’s Future High Streets Fund (FHSF) is to be ‘topped up’ by the Council to make a total sum of £15m.

The money, according to the news article, will be spent on projects to ‘help improve perceptions of the town and revitalise its older areas‘ such as:

  • Improving the town’s Southern ‘Gateway’ on properties fronting Abbey Way Gyratory and the Swan theatre frontage.
  • Improving the town’s Western ‘Gateway’ by downsizing retail floorspace with potential alternative use development.
  • Re-purposing vacant shops by acquiring and refurbishing them and making them available to independent businesses at affordable rents.
  • Making better use of the under-utilised historic building under-croft space at the Grade II listed Little Market House (known locally as the Pepperpot Building) and the Guildhall in High Wycombe High Street.

But hang on, aren’t some of the above tired old projects that have been around for ages?

For several years now there has been talk of redeveloping the area where the old ‘Liberal Club’ building is located fronting the Abbey Way Gyratory. There were also plans floated in the not too distant past to convert the underneath of the Little Market House in the High Street in to a coffee shop.

It’s worth noting that the money for the work is coming from a fund called the ‘Future High Streets Fund‘ yet will any of the plans listed in the news article actually prepare Wycombe’s High Street for the ‘future‘? (Whatever the ‘future‘ is deemed to be.)

In actual fact my good self is surprised that other old, tired and aching plans haven’t been added to the list such as the driving of an unwanted path through the wonderful Library Gardens in Queen Victoria Road or the construction of a large sports stadium in Booker.

As for using the money to acquire vacant buildings using an extension of the ‘Retail Recycling Units Fund’, in my view we first need to find out why there are so many vacant buildings in the first place. Does it by any chance have anything to do with the act of madness that hit Wycombe around 13 years ago in the form of a gigantic shopping centre that ripped the heart out of the town?

Sadly it seems the ‘mopping up operation’ of dealing with all the empty buildings created by the foolish construction of such a large and unneeded shopping centre is still ongoing all these years later.

It’s interesting to note that, from reading the aforementioned news article, there seems no mention of improvements to Frogmoor.

So will spending £15m on the projects mentioned in the news article make any difference to High Wycombe? In my opinion no, especially if the money is going to be spent on the projects mentioned in the news article, indeed the money would have as much impact on the town if it were packed into a case and floated down the River Wye into oblivion.

As for some of the ‘improvement’ proposals that may happen to our town, well, rather than have any messing about with the Little Market House or the Guild Hall my good self feels it would be more palatable to have HS2 come through the middle of Wycombe.

I fear £15m is about to be wasted on daft and cranky plans while so many in the town are struggling financially and some are even going hungry. The money would be better spent eliminating poverty and ensuring the people of High Wycombe have enough to eat.

What do you think?

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

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