20 August 2020
Boaters and walkers who venture to the end of the Slough Arm will find an uninviting and neglected basin on the edge of Slough town centre. The basin has been like this for many years and there is little here to encourage a visit other than a water tap and a winding point. To encourage boaters to travel the length of the Arm the IWA has made the basin one of the listed locations to visit by boat for the Silver Propeller Challenge.
The Canal & River Trust owns a limited amount of land at the end of the Arm but this is not of sufficient size for development that would lead to regeneration of the basin area. The situation changed in 2017 when Travis Perkins sold their builders yard site, to the south of the basin, to Slough Borough Council. Slough Borough Council have set up a joint venture partnership with Morgan Sindall Investments Limited to redevelop various sites in Slough to provide new homes, leisure facilities, schools, hotels and community buildings. The joint venture operates as Slough Urban Renewal (SUR) and one of the sites that SUR is proposing to develop consists of the land around the canal basin and the former Travis Perkins site. SUR has named the proposed development Stoke Wharf. As some of the land for the Stoke Wharf development is in the ownership of the Canal & River Trust the project will be delivered in a partnership arrangement between SUR and Waterside Places (a further joint venture partnership between CRT and Muse Developments). The situation is further complicated by the fact that Muse Developments is itself part of the Morgan Sindall Group.
Illustrative drawings for the Stoke Wharf scheme were put on display at last year’s Slough Canal Festival and this was followed by a public consultation exhibition in the town centre. The most contentious part of the scheme is the proposal to construct four blocks of flats fronting the canal on the northern part of Bowyers Playing Field. This will result in the loss of green space and will separate a recreational amenity area from the canal. Overall the proposed scheme provides approximately 270 new residential units, improvements to the existing canal basin including mooring spaces and a ‘boat servicing area’. There will also be some commercial space, which could include a bar/restaurant and a canoe club.
IWA West London Branch has commented on the public consultation proposals. Our main objection is the loss of publicly accessible green space and the flats that would create a barrier between the canal and what is left of the Bowyers Playing Field. Although we welcome the proposed improvements around the basin we consider the scheme could be significantly improved by a marginal increase in the size of the basin to provide additional water space for up to six residential moorings and a potential trip boat mooring. The inclusion of a small convenience store as a facility for the new housing would also encourage boaters to visit the end of the arm. The possible bar/restaurant is considered to be ‘off pitch’ and not viable in the proposed location to the east of the basin. We have proposed instead a café located to one side of a small public square on Stoke Road. This would have a better footfall and open up views of the basin from Stoke Road. In September 2019 SUR suggested that they would shortly be submitting a planning application for the Stoke Wharf scheme. However since that time the proposals to develop Stoke Wharf seem to have stalled.