A MULTI-MILLION-POUND plan to redevelop a shopping centre into 650 homes and more is facing a huge setback after a planning inspector said it would be a ‘severe blow’ for a local nightclub.

Following a three-day public inquiry in October, the Royal Borough Council’s compulsory purchase order (CPO), which would have enabled the redevelopment of the Nicholsons Centre, was refused.

Developer Denhead S.A.R.L, a joint venture between regeneration specialist Areli and investment group Tikehau Capital, needed to acquire the leases and freehold of several businesses at the shopping centre to start the £500m redevelopment.

But failed negotiations and a communication breakdown between Areli, the council, and the family-run Smokey’s nightclub were enough for planning inspectorate John Felgate to turn down the CPO request.

He concluded without adequate provision for Smokey’s, it will likely result in its closure, which would have a detrimental impact on the town’s youth and culture as well as be a “severe blow” to the family’s finances and wellbeing.

Slough Observer: CGI of what a redeveloped Nicholsons shopping centre could look likeCGI of what a redeveloped Nicholsons shopping centre could look like (Image: Areli)

Councillors approved the redevelopment in 2021, which is known as the Nicholsons Quarter and is led by Areli and Tikehau Capital. This would see 650 homes, 60 retail and hospitality units, 29,000sqm of office space, and a new multi-storey car park.

But in order for the development to go-ahead it required the freeholds and leases of the businesses situated within Nicholsons. The CPO was met with 11 objections from concerned businesses, including Smokey’s and WH Smith, after failings to reach an agreement.

At the hearing, brothers and Smokey’s owners Lee and Dean Page said their business, which opened as a café in 1962 by their father and changed to a nightclub in 1995, was facing the threat of ‘extinguishment’ as no suitable relocation premises was offered within the three years of negotiations.

Slough Observer: Smokey's nightclub Smokey's nightclub (Image: Smokey's Nightclub)

The brothers said the nightclub is a “central part” to their family life and, as such, would not only have a financial impact but also their emotional and mental wellbeing.

Between January and November 2020, Areli offered Smokey’s alternative accommodations in and around Maidenhead centre but was refused as it didn’t meet the nightclub’s needs.

Barbara Richardson, the then head of the council’s arms-length property company, stepped in on November 6, 2020, and said it was ‘possible’ for Smokey’s to move into a new unit on the ground floor of the new car park fronting Broadway.

This was welcomed by Smokey’s but emphasised it needed a legally compliant outdoor smoking area, which doubles as a breakroom, as it has currently.

READ MORE: New ‘Nicholson Quarter’ scheme in Maidenhead town centre approved

Months went by and no details emerged to relieve Smokey’s concerns. At the same time, Areli offered to pay for Smokey’s lease, which was rejected.

On top of that, Ms Richardson left her post in 2021. The Pages were left in limbo and no progress on the potential offer was made.

It was only a year later when Smokey’s was told outdoor smoking could not be accommodated, 16 months after initial negotiations. At this time, a CPO order was to all affected parties, including Smokey’s, that required the vacant possession of the nightclub in September 2023.

A new financial offer of about four-times more than the original for compensation and a new premise to be found, but this was counter-offered by increasing it by 12 per cent. This was the last interaction between Areli and Smokey’s before October’s inquiry.

Mr Felgate said the delays in exploring the issues and constraints regarding the outdoor smoking area showed a “lack of urgency and corporate commitment” on both parts of Areli and the council.

READ MORE: H&M to leave Maidenhead next week as store announces closing date

He also said Areli and the council did not consider alternative provision within the redevelopment plan.

Furthermore, he heavily criticised Areli’s stance to have been “more than a token” and had not treated Smokey’s with the “appropriate respect”.

The planning inspectorate concluded: “I am satisfied that the development of the Nicholson Quarter would bring substantial benefits to the town, and for the borough as a whole.

“However, the harm that Lee and Dean Page would suffer due to the compulsory acquisition of their business would be severe.

“It has not been demonstrated that the public benefits of the development could not be gained without the need for such a degree of harm to these objectors.

READ MORE: Maidenhead car park will remain closed for "foreseeable future"

“In these circumstances, the injury caused to Lee and Dean Page, as a result of the interference with their rights of ownership, would be disproportionate to the benefits.”

A council spokesperson said they were “surprised and disappointed” by the inspectorate’s conclusion and will review the decision “in full” with the scheme’s developer to “consider the next steps”.

They added: “The Nicholsons redevelopment is a crucial part of the ongoing regeneration of Maidenhead’s town centre, a crucial opportunity to secure major investment that would bring significant benefits for the social, economic, and environmental wellbeing of our town and wider borough.”

Mr Felgate dismissed the remaining 10 objectors’ claims.

Areli was contacted for comment.