News of regenerated town centres in Maidenhead, Newbury and now Aldershot suggests a welcome kind of thinking in redesigning these places.

For years clone towns were a common bugbear. Why visit somewhere else when you’ll find all the same shops that are in your home town?

But as Rob Tincknell, developer of the proposed new Maidenhead, pointed out to Thames Tap, both in a podcast and a story earlier this year, the new thinking is not to depend on retail rents but to develop sufficient residential so that the retail mix can be chosen to match what people want.

That would mean the kind of independent shops and restaurants people have been asking for for decades.

In the coming years Maidenhead, Newbury and Aldershot could be fascinating places to visit, boasting a variety of retail, restaurants and leisure rarely seen in recent times and giving each its own individual identity.

If you were allowed a day out in Newbury right now you would find two largely empty shopping centres. In Maidenhead you would find a failing centre with little, other than a Tesco, to attract anyone.

In Aldershot, a run down centre has shopping arcades which are not old or run down, yet they lie mostly empty.

In these uncertain times the prospect of giving new life and new, less-corporate, identities to town centres offers a rare cause for optimism.

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