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GIANTS BATTLE OVER TOWN CENTRE REDEVELOPMENT

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A row between rival firms over the right to redevelop Bracknell town centre is about to come to a head, reported Su...
A row between rival firms over the right to redevelop Bracknell town centre is about to come to a head, reported Sunday Business (p12).

The opportunity to transform the heart of the Berkshire town is exciting the sort of emotions the City normally reserves for takeover battles and hostile bids.

Private property developers Allied London Properties, backed by Schroders, and Legal & General - supported by Bracknell Forest BC - both tabled multi-million pound development proposals in 1996.

John Prescott will have the final say on which is built. A planning inspector's report will land on his desk soon and he is expected to issue his verdict by October.

Legal & General plans a huge 1.2 million sq ft shopping centre - about the same size as Lakeside shopping centre in Thurrock - at the northern end of the town centre.

ALP's£400 million proposal, centred round Princes Square to the south of Bracknell's prime shopping area, is only slightly smaller, but a covered centre will acccount for just a third of its scheme.

The conflict is fierce. ALP feels slighted by the council because it submitted its proposals first and the borough seemed keen to endorse them. That changed when Legal & General tabled its plans a few months later, but the argument is academic. The decision on which scheme will go ahead is out of the council's hands.

One thing that both sides agree on is that Bracknell's retail offering is abysmal.

Nine out of 10 residents travel to nearby towns like Reading or Slough to shop. The problem is that a new centre in Bracknell would probably reverse the trend, drawing people from other Thames valley locations into the town.

Bracknell would not be able to cope with the increased traffic, but proposals for more car parking spaces are politically sensitive. Government transport and planning policies are designed to discourage motorists from driving when they can use public transport instead, and Mr Prescott is unlikely to approve 10,000 parking spaces in a town centre.

A spokesman for Bracknell Forest BC said: 'The L&G scheme involves a massive investment in public transport.' But so do the alternative proposals. A massive new bus station is planned by both sides.

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