The council will move forward with the first phase of a major three-part town centre regeneration costing millions – which, under revised plans, will see the building of a popular fashion retailer change hands, and, in the long term, a reimagined marketplace become a reality.

Buckinghamshire Council has agreed to progress the first tranche (£6.7 million) of Future High Streets Funding (FHSF) that could see key areas of High Wycombe transformed in the future – and, in the near term, a shopping centre, a major retailer, and the market undergo changes.

It is part of a staggering three-part scheme titled ‘The Western Gateway, Old Town-New Town, and The Southern Gateway’, which is a “revised down” version of plans revealed in March.

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The council was awarded £11.8 million by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) over three years in December 2020, although it had bid for £17.2 million in July of the same year.

It has committed to top up the grant for a total investment of £15 million.

The council’s revised scheme is detailed below – however, it believes “there is potential to substitute some elements back into the programme.”

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The Western Gateway

Originally, plans favoured “repurposing” The Curve on Oxford Street – formerly known as Octagon Parade and which housed Pure nightclub – by turning it into commercial space, as it had been vacant since 2011.

There had also been aspirations to redevelop the “redundant” 7,035-sqm Chilterns Shopping Centre, and Primark, by replacing them with 300 homes and relocating Primark (and potentially Wilko) into Eden Shopping Centre.

The council said this was “the largest single transformation project in the town centre”, that it remains a “key ambition”, and that it could mean “an estimated £56 million of investment” for High Wycombe.

Bucks Free Press:

The Curve on Oxford Street

The Curve owners, McLaren Group, now have a buyer, releasing this £5 million project from the FHSF programme.

The council now proposes to ‘acquire the Primark building for its investment value (£7.5 million) and dispose of it to Chilterns Shopping Centre developers for its lesser redevelopment value (£4.5 million), using The Curve grant to “plug the gap”.

Bucks Free Press:


Old Town, New Town

As part of its Old Town-New Town strategic aim, the council intends to continue to repurpose vacant properties for alternative uses “that are complementary to, not in competition with” Eden.

It hopes to “create a flexible modern-day agora” by bringing the spaces underneath the Guildhall and The Little Market House into use.

“This will enable the area to create a critical mass of activity just outside the doors of Eden,” a report states.

Bucks Free Press:


It also said two original targets (Argos, and Helen & Douglas House) are no longer available.

However, “progress has been made” on acquiring 16 Church Street, and numbers 7, 8, and 37 on the high street.

Bucks Council also has its eye on the former Boots chemist (4 High Street), but the owners are “unwilling to sell at an acceptable price”, it said.

The Southern Gateway

Finally, in The Southern Gateway section of its strategic aims, the council wants to create a “cultural cluster” to increase footfall.

Last year, High Wycombe Social Club (the former Liberal Club) was under option to be used for restoration and display of the town’s Chair Collection, above a new social club.

Under the revised scheme, the Liberal Club is “still willing to proceed with a sale and leaseback”.

Bucks Free Press:

High Wycombe Social Club

However, given the “uncertainty over the feasibility” of displaying the Chair Collection, “discussions have commenced with an alternative potential commercial occupier”.

Another aspiration which “cannot currently be met with the reduced FHSF” is developing “airspace” at High Wycombe Fire Station as affordable housing, the council said.

It also hopes to upgrade the exterior of The Riverside Club (formerly The Royal British Legion Club).

The council also envisions a “new riverside piazza” in front of the Swan Theatre, “enabling more pedestrianisation of the St Mary Street Arts Cultural Entertainment zone”, linking the high street to the university.

A further report is expected in September.

The fund must be spent by March 31, 2024, according to a report.

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