Slough BC’s chief executive Josie Wragg explains how the council intends to ensure the wider community prospers from major transport investment.
- Project: How Slough intends to use Heathrow’s expansion and Crossrail to spur inclusive growth in the town
- Objectives: To grow a place of opportunity and ambition
- Timescale: The next 20 years
- Cost to authority: £4bn (includes private and public investment)
- Number of staff working on the project: Cross directorate including economic development, regeneration, transport, housing, planning, communications
- Outcomes: stronger economy, higher productivity, new business, more jobs, more homes, a place where people want to live, work and stay
- Officer email or phone number: Josie Wragg, chief executive firstname.lastname@example.org
Welcome to Slough, a vibrant town of opportunity and ambition. Big things are happening with more to come.
Opportunities heading here in the next 20 years include the expansion of Heathrow Airport, just eight miles away, and the opening of Crossrail by 2021. Both are expected to bring new jobs, businesses and improved transport links to London and the airport. In fact, we are already starting to see investors funding new offices around our three train stations and across the town in anticipation.
But, we need to be prepared for these changes to ensure our residents can reap the benefits they bring.
We need our residents to have the skills to take on roles at a newly expanded Heathrow, with a potential new runway opening as soon as 2026, and in the industries that call Slough Trading Estate home.
There are more than 80,000 jobs in Slough contributing £7bn to the national economy. Our population is one of the youngest and most diverse in the country with 28% under 20 and 40% classed as Asian or British Asian. We need to plan for their future, so they can access the potential opportunities coming to Slough.
We need the infrastructure in place to make this possible. Housing demand is growing with estimates that our population has increased by over 8,000 in seven years. Slough’s road congestion, particularly at peak periods, is a serious threat to achieving the scale of growth we want. Without tackling the demand for travel by car we know that our ability to improve the town and encourage inward investment will be supressed.
Slough has also not been immune to the issues faced by retailers on the high street. But we are proactively managing our town centre now through Clean Safe Vibrant – our ‘meanwhile’ strategy, to give vacant properties a short-term use – enhancing it before the private owners of the shopping centres announce their expected multi-million regeneration and investment plans.
But how can we keep residents positive about the town, engaged and involved when some plans aren’t quite there yet?
We take our place-shaping responsibilities seriously and encourage residents to help lead the change. Our regeneration strategy is about making Slough a more sustainable town, including sustainable mobility with clean vehicles and a renewed transport infrastructure to reduce our carbon footprint.
In early 2018, we launched a new transport-led vision for the centre of Slough, which guides development and regeneration to 2040 and beyond. This vision intends to reverse the reliance on car use by providing alternatives, including a new MRT (mass rapid transit) route. This will start with buses then move to bendy buses and potentially to a tram system. Phase one of the scheme, from the trading estate to the train station, is running and we have secured funding for phase two to Heathrow including a park and ride at Junction 5 of the M4.
We have overhauled the road layout in central Slough from roundabout to cross roads and are looking at the next stage of traffic management once our public transport plans take more of the network. We’ve also delivered more car sharing options including smart apps to match residents’ travel activity and bring them together to travel to work.
We’re building a new network for public transport to provide the connectivity from Slough to London and Heathrow. And we’re working with Heathrow, so their planning application is in line with all of our growth needs.
We are showing our commitment to the town centre by relocating our HQ there, with the first moves starting this summer.
Proposals for a business improvement district have been put to town centre businesses. And we are one of only five towns in the country to trial the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government’s Open Doors scheme, bringing empty shop units to life through community use.
Our housing plans will bring more people into the town centre. Of our 900 per year quota, the majority will be built in the centre of Slough. With this will come new jobs. We are planning for an additional 15,000 with the redevelopment of the town centre as well as the expansion of Poyle Industrial Estate, which will provide airport-related jobs when Heathrow expands. We expect all of this to give an immediate boost to the town centre economy, which in turn will attract new business and investment.
Our simplified planning zone (SPZ), specialised planning permission applicable across most of Slough Trading Estate, has played a critical role in helping Slough to attract and retain business investment. The SPZ front-loads the planning approval process by providing permitted development zones, without the need for a separate planning application. This has enabled property development company SEGRO to deliver new industrial units.
Funding and finance are issues for us. With no funding from central government, we are forward-thinking in how we finance our plans. For example, Slough Urban Renewal (SUR) a 50/50 partnership between the council and Morgan Sindall Investments Ltd, has delivered our new and revamped leisure facilities, new school facilities and housing projects.
Our residents are concerned about sustainability. We have the third largest registration of electric vehicles in the country. Considering our small geographic size, that’s pretty impressive. To support them we want to put in place electric vehicle infrastructure. We’ve already secured funding from the government’s Office for Low Emission Vehicles for taxis and intend to use S106 receipts to roll out further infrastructure.
We are working closely with our communities to co-design the future for Slough. We are ensuring they have the right opportunities, skills and aspirations, can afford to live in our new homes and are mixing and interacting with all the new communities who will come as result of our growth.
For us it is not just about growth, it is about inclusive growth. We are absolutely clear, growth in Slough has to be positive for all and no-one gets left behind.