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Last Updated: Monday, 12 February 2007, 11:26 GMT
Slough fights those 'friendly bombs'
By Kieran Fox
BBC News, Slough

Brunel Roundabout, now Slough's best known landmark

"Modern", "attractive", "healthy" - not words usually associated with Slough.

The much-derided Berkshire town has become used to handling an image crisis.

Poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman savaged the place, writing: "Come, friendly bombs, and fall on Slough, it isn't fit for humans now". His daughter later apologised.

Then Ricky Gervais did little to help its image when he based the hit BBC comedy The Office on its vast trading estate.

Coupled with unsympathetic post-war planning, Slough has had a rough ride.

But now it is fighting back.

The council recently gave its backing to the Heart of Slough project - an ambitious town centre makeover set to cost about 400m.

The infamous Brunel roundabout and its maze of underpasses - as featured in The Office - will be flattened and replaced with a crossroads.

SLOUGH
Ricky Gervais starring as David Brent in The Office
Population: 119,000
Famous for: Astronomer Sir William Herschel, radar, Horlicks, Mars Bars, The Office
Interesting fact: The first recorded mention of Slough was in 1196 - it was spelt 'Slo'

The project includes 1,300 new homes, offices, relocation of the main bus station and a landmark new library building.

Mayor David MacIsaac stopped short of calling it a "new dawn" when asked by BBC News what impact the project could have.

"[But] it's about doing justice to the town", said councillor Dexter Smith, the council's commissioner for planning and transport.

"There's a lot of redundant under-utilised space. I think that's one of the reasons why you see that picture of the town in The Office.

"It just looks not very interesting. I think we could better utilise the space.

"The whole thrust is around creating a sustainable community."

BBC News asked some of its residents their opinion on the Heart of Slough project.

Patrick McCart
Patrick McCart
Life-long resident

"My father brought my family here from Scotland when I was two," said the 48-year-old businessman.

"There's a healthy economy and lots of opportunities here. The area is very good for work and education.

"The reputation is probably down to a combination of poor post-war planning and 1970s concrete structures.

"People have often looked at the negatives, but you've got to look at the economic benefits.

"I think Slough is quite an economic barometer for the rest of the UK."

Rajiv Kapoor
Rajiv Kapoor
Shopkeeper

"I've been running this shop for 21 years," said the 48-year-old. "The town has changed a lot in that time.

"There are more migrants here than there used to be. Here we have all walks of life.

"A lot of manufacturers have closed down in the town but there's still a demand for residential property.

"I think the project will be good for the town. The Office was good, I enjoyed it, but it was not very complimentary to this town."

Tom Fuller
Tom Fuller
President of the Slough Chamber of Commerce

"People have tried to have a dig at Slough. But it's been done from a position of ignorance.

"It has one of the biggest industrial parks in Europe and has suffered bad press.

"But about 80% of the workforce either commute out to London or commute in so there's a skill gap.

"I think the project will stimulate the town.

"In terms of a place to work, so close to Heathrow and London, this is a fantastic place."

David MacIsaac
David MacIsaac
Mayor of Slough

"I hope the project will promote our image better.

"People don't always get a nice image of Slough because a lot of people just drive through.

"Of course, there was the poem, which we got an apology for. Then The Office - although it was a very good programme, it did present a certain image.

"When the industrial era started, the first priority was industry and then houses were built afterwards but not properly planned.

"Over the last few years we've come to grips with that.

"It's a good town with a lot going for it. I think the reputation has been undeserved.

Richard Kulisa
Richard Kulisa
Young professional

"It's got a lot of employment opportunities," said the 28-year-old finance manager, originally from Birmingham.

"There's a lot of different communities and I enjoy that.

"But it's quite an unsightly town. It seems the last concerted building effort here was in the 1970s.

"Also, I think the phonetic of the word 'Slough' does not sound nice and that doesn't help."


SEE ALSO
Backing for town's 400m makeover
21 Dec 06 |  Berkshire
20mph speed limit plans for town
26 Sep 06 |  Berkshire
Poetic justice at last for Slough
16 Sep 06 |  Berkshire
17.5m agreed for town's makeover
31 Jan 06 |  Berkshire
New poem praises 'unfit' Slough
27 Apr 05 |  Berkshire
4m art revamp for maligned town
10 Mar 05 |  Berkshire
Office jibes anger Slough bosses
20 Sep 04 |  Berkshire

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