SLOUGH town centre’s ‘city-like’ makeover was defended by developers as councillors criticise the ‘lack’ of affordable housing.

By the end of the month, planning bosses at British Land will be submitting the long-awaited scheme to redevelop the 1970s Queensmere shopping centre and the surrounding area.

If plans are given the go-ahead, up to 1,600 flats could be built with 550 car parking spaces, up to 40,000sqm office space, as well as new retail, restaurants, music venues, cinemas, bars, takeaways, and new public realm.

Demolition and construction could start in 2023 and the redevelopment with a potential finish date of 2036.

READ MORE: What will a redeveloped Queensmere shopping centre look like?

While certain aspects of the scheme were welcomed by councillors on the planning committee, who were presented a pre-application presentation by British Land, some had their reservations and concerns.

The council has a policy in place where major developments must deliver 30 per cent affordable homes. However, only 12.5 per cent of the revamped Queensmere will be affordable homes.

Speaking at the meeting on Wednesday, October 13, Cllr Haqeeq Dar (Ind: Wexham Lea) said the development “is not a good start” with the level of affordable housing proposed despite being told the council’s policy.

Russell O’Hare, development director at British Land, acknowledged it wasn’t policy-compliant but said it is not viable to add more affordable homes to the scheme.

A redeveloped Mackenzie Street

A redeveloped Mackenzie Street

He said: “The challenges that we face here, and they are not unusual in Slough or other town centres across the UK, with large scale regeneration is the volume of demolition that we are undertaking and also importantly the quantity and quality of the public realm being brought forward.

“Those things in particular when we compare them to more standalone sites, they create pressures on viability that then creates that pressure on what it becomes the direct link through to the quantity of affordable [homes] that can be offered.”

However, Mr O’Hare added a “review mechanism” will be in place, meaning they will conduct another viability survey to see if they can increase the number of affordable homes.

The buildings in the town centre will range from six-storeys to a whopping 18-storeys in height

The buildings in the town centre will range from six-storeys to a whopping 18-storeys in height

The scheme was also criticised for proposing two humongous 18-storey buildings in the town centre as well as a range of six to 12-storey blocks, which residents have slammed as being ‘city-like’.

Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service after the meeting, Mr O’Hare said: “The height is something we had conversations with the council around.

“They have not discouraged us to consider height, mass, and density. In a town centre location, as dry as a response may be, that’s the nature of the council’s spatial strategy. So, we’re responding to an emerging policy.

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“I don’t feel 18-storeys in a couple of individual locations is too high. I think it’s appropriate given the nature of what’s coming forward, particularly when we look at the office quarter to the northwest.

“Again, it’s popping up in a couple of areas. The average is 12 to 13-storeys and I am more than comfortable it’s appropriate for the location and more importantly it will be responding to the spatial strategy that exists within the council.”