Eden, High Wycombe
Eden is a shopping and entertainment complex in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire in the south east of England. With a floor area of 850,000 square feet (79,000 m 2), it is the 28 th largest shopping centre in the United Kingdom and the largest in the surrounding area. The centre includes 107 shops, a bowling alley, a cinema and a library (which opened on 3 June 2008), as well as parking for 1600 cars on site with Car Parking other car parks available nearby. The complex is part of a major regeneration of High Wycombe in a bid to transform the town into a regional shopping destination. The complex includes a new bus station and 48 residential apartments. The shopping centre opened on 13 March 2008, the bus station opening earlier in July 2006. Eden managed to attract one million visitors just fifteen days into opening and regularly attracts over 350,000 visitors per week.

Before Eden existed, the town centre of High Wycombe contained two shopping centres, the Octagon Centre and the Chilterns Shopping Centre. The Octagon which opened in the 1970 was dated and was incorporated into the redevelopment. High Wycombe has a population of 118,000 people and the town centre previously was not much of an attraction, with shops spread out of a large area. Moreover, the town was seen as being overshadowed by nearby towns with larger shopping centres ( Slough's Queensmere Observatory, Reading's Oracle , Uxbridge's The Mall and The Chimes, Watford's Harlequin Shopping Centre and Milton Keynes's Central Milton Keynes Shopping Centre (the only one larger than Eden itself). A new shopping centre was agreed to rejuvenate the town and the name 'Eden' chosen and announced in June 2005. The new shopping centre would include a new bus station, library as well as entertainment in the form of a cinema and a bowling alley. 48 new apartments would also be built.

The site for the new complex was to be just south of Oxford Road, a dual carriageway section of the A40 on two flat car parks. The centre would also extend over the site of the old bus station and connect to the existing Octagon Centre, which would be re-named as the Eden Centre. The Tesco store would remain in position throughout, a decision which has been criticised as the centre had to be built around the Tesco. The Tesco building is considered by some to out of place, compared to the new, modern-looking buildings. Construction of the new centre begun in October 2005 and was to take about two and a half years. As well as the new building containing the new shopping centre, a new multi-storey car park was built to connect with the existing Newlands Car Park and the old part refurbished. The new bus station was built alongside the shopping centre, with direct access to the shops from the bus station. The old bus garage was viewed as dangerous at night with little lighting so the new station was welcomed. The new bus station opened in July 2006.

Eden officially opened on 13 March 2008. Free rides on a large ferris wheel named the Wycombe Eye and carnival style celebrations were major parts of the opening ceremony. The actual opening ceremony involved a lone musician beginning in the high street, walking towards the new complex where he was joined by more musicians and dancers. The opening ceremony was meant to represent the town's ethnic minorities and included lightly dressed dancers. Wycombe Islamic Society criticised the dress of some performers as being inappropriate. The entertainment complex and library were both officially opened on 9 July 2008 by Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex who unveiled a plaque in the library.

Centre features
As well as the shops the new centre contains a 12 screen Cineworld Cinema, a 22 lane AMF Bowling Centre, a 58,000 book library, up from 45,000 books held at the old library. The new library is step free. Also constructed along with the centre were a modern 18 bay bus station, with a direct link to the shopping area and a cafe, a 1,500 space car park, which is an extension of the old car park which is located on top of the Tesco's. 48 new apartments were also built on the south side of the centre. The shopping centre contains 107 shops, of which 54 were new to the town and 53 resited from elsewhere in the town. Notable stores include House of Fraser, which is the largest store in the centre at four stories high, The second largest is a branch of Marks and Spencer which moved to the Eden Centre from the Chiltern Shopping Centre. The complex also includes eleven restaurants and cafés.


Park and Ride
A park and ride operates services between a large car park near junction 4 of the M40 motorway and the town centre, serving Eden as well as the railway station and the hospital. The service began on 5 September 2005 and operates every 15 minutes during the day for a £1.90 return fare off peak and £2.30 in the peak.

High Wycombe railway station, located near the High Street, is operated by Chiltern Railways with services to London Marylebone, Aylesbury railway station and Birmingham Moor Street railway station

Effect on the town centre

High Street
In recent years, the town centre of High Wycombe has gradually been moving west and the High street is no longer the place for high-brand shops. The High Street still contains an Argos and a McDonald's amongst others so is still used by shoppers. The High Street is notable for containing many banks like HSBC and Barclays Bank and leading the way to the train station so its usage should remain high.

The Chilterns Shopping Centre
The shopping centre is really a covered thoroughfare with shops on either side. With the opening of the Eden Centre, there was fear that business would be pulled away from the centre, as shops such as Marks and Spencer and Wallis moved to Eden. However, the managers of the centre were more optimistic. and in October 2004 it was announced that a major store would replace the Marks and Spencer. In February 2008 the store was confirmed to be Primark, the new store opened on 1 October 2008. The centre also includes a large post office and a Wilkinsons.

The large out-of-town John Lewis near the M40 has received competition from Eden, especially House of Fraser but store bosses are confident that John Lewis's reputation will enable to attract customers.

Time capsule
In November 2007, a 'time capsule' was buried underneath part of the shopping centre. Various items were placed in the capsule, which is not expected to be dug up for fifty years.

Public opinion
The Local Newspaper The Bucks Free Press has received many complaints about the design of the shopping centre, especially the fact that there is not a proper roof, resulting the centre being compared to a 'wind tunnel'. This is disputable, as the designers had to work their way around the existing Tescos. However general response to the centre is positive. with the centre remaining very busy as of June 2009.


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