The apparently relentless drive to convert the area’s pubs, offices and vacant lots into flats and HMOs (houses in multiple occupation) continued apace this year. Some proposals, including the demolition of the After Dark Club and the Woodley Arms, were rejected, whilst others, such as the new residential care home near the Rising Sun Arts Centre, will proceed. The saving of the South Street Arts Centre was a major success in keeping Katesgrove at the front of Reading’s arts scene.
The Council launched a consultation on issues and options for the new local plan. This is the single most important planning document for Reading for the period to 2036. The consultation ran until early March and a statement of consultation has already been published. A draft local plan was expected at the strategic environment planning and transport committee in November, but that meeting was told that it would be delayed to co-ordinate better with adjacent authorities. The draft local plan is now timetabled for consultation starting in April 2017. The lengthy process is not expected to be completed until January 2019.
The Whitley Pump studied the housing section of the new local plan. This made an assessment of the western Berkshire housing market area and identified a need for 2,855 homes of which Reading should provide 699 each year. Fewer homes could only be provided if some of the need was met outside Reading.
A second application was filed to convert the Woodley Arms on Waldeck Street into student flats. The first application in 2015 had been rejected on appeal and the second was rejected by the planning applications committee in July . Local residents and Katesgrove councillor Rose Williams spoke against the development.
An application was submitted to convert the Red Cow to a restaurant with flats above. This is another of Katesgrove’s closed pubs, at the corner of Crown Street and Southampton Street. The application was withdrawn in April.
Planning permission for a residential care home at the corner of Crown Street and Silver Street, granted in 2015, returned to the committee in April when it was agreed that the development would take place in two phases.
A new application was submitted to convert Jacksons department store to flats and retail units. The application was approved at the final planning applications committee of the year. Councillors on the committee were favourably impressed by the way in which the frontage of Jacksons had been retained and the heritage of the building was treated.
Proposals by the University of Reading to demolish St Patrick’s Hall and replace it with a modern halls of residence created national interest and protests from the Victorian Society. The application was withdrawn in November.
Approval was given for the demolition of the Zoar Baptist Chapel on South Street. The chapel is next door to the South Street Arts Centre, which was also in the news when it was saved from closure by a half million pound Arts Council grant to fund refurbishments.
Approval was given for new signage at the Museum of English Rural Life (MERL). The MERL was closed for most of 2016 for a refurbishment and re-opened to the public in October.
Reading’s Gillette building on Basingstoke Road could be undergoing some changes, although the iconic frontage will be preserved. The application was made in November but has not yet been decided upon.
This is also good news for Reading conservation areas as one of the grounds for recommending the rejection was:
This would have a significant detrimental impact on the rear setting of principal Listed Buildings on London Street, failing to preserve or enhance views in this part of the Market Place/London Street Conservation Area.
- New Local Plan for Reading
- New Local Plan – Housing
- Proposed demolition of St Patrick’s Hall sparks protest
- Work underway at South Street Arts Centre
- Work restarts on old Wellington Arms building
- Planning Applications Committee 7 December 2016 – papers and webcast
- Reading Borough Council planning portal
- Planning Inspectorate (for planning appeals)
- Reading Borough Council’s New Local Plan