Latest on Planning & Listing

Updated 4 April 2020

Local Listing

The site of Drews DIY, 71-73 Caversham Road was added to the Local List on 11 February.

A collection of buildings at the corner of Caversham Road and Northfield Road, with strong historical/social and industrial connections to the Reading beer industry. original owner, Henry Pendlebury Dowson, was a notable Reading figure. He was a well-known local businessman and maltster who owned two other malthouses in Reading. The buildings were built for the purposes of malting in the latter part of the Nineteenth Century, but these were later converted to other commercial uses; although the principal structures survive. The buildings contain features notable to the area and the industry such as patterned brickwork and decorative arches and are an important feature in the local townscape. Full details HERE .

King Edwards Building Added to the Local List in Feb 2020

In February RBC added a new building to the local list, the King Edward Building, 1 Station Road/ 22 Friar Street (above) to the list of Locally Important Buildings and Structures of Local Heritage significance. This was at the initiative of RBC Planning Officers and Councillors, supported by information about the building provided by the Reading Conservation Area Advisory Committee. The building has been added as; it is substantially complete and unaltered and of definite significance, its architecture shows innovation as the building has noteworthy quality of workmanship and materials, the architecture is bold and striking and good quality, it is by a Hoare and Wheeler (notable local architects) , it is an early example of Neo-Classical design in Reading, the building has group value ( all 4 buildings at the corner of the crossroads exhibit strong architecture) and finally the building has prominence and landscape quality that is fundamental to the sense of place in this part of central Reading. This building becomes LL14, though as two buildings on the list have been demolished (Oaklands Hall and Rotherfield Grange were demolished to enable the Wren School to be built) it brings to total to 12)

Further proposals for Local Listing

The CAAC has recently proposed to RBC that a further 18 buildings be added to the list including; The former Gas Offices (now Haslams) and the former Post Office in Fiar Stret, the Former Co-op (now Primark), Elizabeth House in Gosbrook Road. The link to the proposals, with images, is HERE. Having the idea is one thing, we now have to complete the RBC form to justify the proposal. If you have suggestions for buildings to be added then please let RB know and say why, and please include images.

Updated information about plans for Reading Golf Club 18 February

A Civic Society member has advised us that information about the plans for Reading Golf Club may now be seen on their website https://www.rgcfuture.com. This gives access to the display boards and a plan of future of the site including housing.

The society does intend to comment on the application. Despite the very vocal anti stance of the Keep Emmer Green group there are some good things about the proposal. At the moment our minimum position is not to object, though we may be minded to be more positive in our support. In either case we will raise concerns about; access to the site along Kidmore End Road (which will be raised by everyone), how to restrict future development of the Oxfordshire part of the site (an understandable concern), the uninspiring design of the houses, the failure to include houses aimed at the over 55s (which might assist people wishing to downsize and thereby also upsizers). It is possible to complete a feedback form on line, some of the tick box questions are viewed by the local councillor and Keep Emmer Green to be simply twisting out positive statements, I leave you to form your own view. We will be interested to hear the views of members which should be sent to the Chair at bennettbaker@msn.com. The site plan is below and an easier link to the display boards is HERE

3 April 2020

SSE Site Vastern Road

An Exhibition was held on 27th February about the future plans for the site. Several members of Reading Civic Society attended. The full planning application is now live and the Society will comment supportively.

The view from the Thames.

A planning application for this site was submitted on 31 January. The exhibition explained about that design. There were a number of improvements since the last exhibition and changes to some of the carparking layout on site. The Planning Number is 200188 and the link to application on RBCs Planning site is Here. There are a lot of documents so it is usually best to look at the Design and Access Statement on Page 1. Members of Reading Civic Society have been engaged in the evolution of the design for the site over what seems to be 5 versions, each has been an improvement. We plan to support this scheme for what is a difficult and constrained site.

Plans for Station Hill

This update about Berkeley Homes plans for the former SSE site will show the 3rd iteration of the design. Each one has shown an incremental improvement compared to the previous proposal. A planning application was submitted on 31 Jan. The website provides information about the overall scheme, the previous proposals and the current design. http://www.vasternroad.co.uk/placemaking/ We understand that no parking is available this time.

An exhibition held at the end of January explained the next two phases of the Station Hill development by the US company Lincoln Property. Demolition work is almost complete on the old buildings in Friar Street and thorough to the Station. Garrard Street Car Park will be demolished in the summer. Phase I will provide 538 flats. A planning application has been submitted for Phase II which will provide a further 750. There are plans for two blocks of Offices and a 450 bed hotel The car parking spaces will reduce from around 850 to around 820 but instead of the parking being for the public use they will all be for residential, office and Hotel use. This site has been so long in abeyance it is good to see the company moving forward so determinedly on this scheme. The design overall looks very encouraging. The development is all Build to Rent so it will be interesting to see the level of demand for what will undoubtedly be high quality but, no doubt, expensive flats. There is a commitment to provide “affordable” rented homes. To quote the ever sound Steve Woodford (MD of Haslams Estate Agents) back in November about the numbers of Build-to-Rent flats in the Reading pipeline. He said: “My view is, ok, they can’t all go on the open market, but how many can Reading absorb and deal with?” To learn more best to look at the company website HERE . The Reading on Thames Blog covers the issues pretty well HERE

Update 3 April 2020

Station Car Park Development (the TGIF/ ALDI/ Majestic Wine Warehouse site) Caversham Road / Vastern Road. Application for Outline Planning Consent now submitted.

The initial design for the development which will run along Vastern Road and Caversham Road.

3 April 2020 An application for Outline Planning Consent has been submitted for this site No 200328. The link to the application on RBCs Planning site is HERE

A final exhibition was held on 30& 31 October.  The link HERE takes you to information about the proposals. On Social Media there are understandable concerns from local residents about the loss of the supermarket and other facilities, which will not be replaced for 5 years (the expected time the scheme will take to complete). If taken to completion this scheme will add some 900 flats and some office space with retail on the ground floors. The scheme raised a lot of opposition from people living in Caversham the company commented after the exhibition that “Most of the 220 comments came from Caversham residents and 70% objected.” The Reading on Thames Nov 2019 blog commented The height of the tall building has been pointlessly shrunk to placate the moaners from Caversham Heights.”

On 21 Jan Members of the RCS committee, the CAAC and CADRA met Barton Wilmore, the advisors behind the scheme, high up in the Blade to gain a better understanding of what is proposed here. When we meet developers and their agents in this way there is an agreement about confidentiality. It would not however be any surprise that as the site is owned by AVIVA (pension company) that Barton Willmore are developing a scheme which will lead to an Outline Planning Application, the site will then be sold on to a developer who will submit a detailed application with a view to implementation. We were given to understand that the leases on the sites end from 2021 to 2025. It will probably take upto 2 years to work up an outline planning application which gains consent so it is understandable why the scheme has been raised now.

The concerns we raised with BW included; how would construction be undertaken, would the whole site be worked on at the same time or would it work block by block as each lease came to and end (difficult either way), the challenges of all the construction traffic serving developments on Station Hill, SSE, Reading Metropiliation and this site all at pretty much the same time, the closeness of the accommodation blocks to each other, views though the site from the station to the Thames, how the design of the 3 nearby development sites work together (SSE Vastern Road, Reading Metropolitan (the former GPO Sorting Office)), pollution from the nearby road, the accumulated impact of the town centre developments on Healthcare facilities, what social facilities would be provided to build communities, are the units for sale or rent, affordable element? We have been offered a return discussion when there is more information.

Sad and historic barn, neglected for decades and seeking a loving future use. Will someone please look after this barn?”

Chazey Barn 14 Feb 2020 with the crack showing clearly

Chazey Barn (at the far end of the Warren, Caversham) is Reading’s only Grade I building which is not a religious building. The Listing information is HERE. It has been dated as being built in Spring 1611. Some history is provided HERE. Owned by the Mapledurham Estate it was let out in the mid 2000’s to a company who planned to erect a Care Home. Despite protests by local groups (“folly to build on a site which regularly floods, the difficulty of getting emergency vehicles down the Warren, and the isolation of people in such a care home”) permission was given by a Planning Officer under Delegated powers. A revised , larger, scheme was submitted but refused at the Planning Applications Committee, the applicant Appealed but the Planning Inspector rejected the appeal, however the company still had the original consent to do “something”. Groundworks were undertaken to the site in 2009, thus anchoring consent.

In early 2012 concerned about the gradually deteriorating condition of the barn, the brickwork has several large cracks in it and there are missing tiles etc, the Warren and District Residents Association and CADRA, supported by RCS, started to write to Historic England and RBC asking that action be take to require the leaseholders of Chazey Barn to undertake essential repairs. In 2016 we gained and understanding that the lease had gone bust. In August 2016 we finally had a letter from RBC Planning Dept; “In conjunction with Historic England, we have written to the landowners, developers and prospective occupier of the site ( the Inmind Healthcare Group) stating that unless work to prevent the barn deteriorating any further begins by the autumn, we will issue an Urgent Works Notice. HE has conducted a structural survey identifying work that needs to be carried out, and a copy of this was sent with each letter. We have had responses from the landowner and the prospective occupier and understand that the latter is currently looking for a contractor to undertake the work.” Despite correspondence with HE by W&DRA and CADRA nothing happened. We hassled again. In 2017 we were told by RBC that the Care Home company had gone bust and that they were liaising with . SAVE added the building to its Buildings at Risk in 2017. January 2017 letter from HE that they were ” assisting Reading Borough Council in the steps needed for them to serve an urgent works notice.” October 2018 correspondence from HE that “they were doing all they could to persuade Reading BC to take the appropriate action“. June 2019 RBC Planning Dept ” I am liaising with Historic England in order to issue an Urgent Works Notice in relation to Chazey Barn. The process for this requires several steps and that the Council has funding and contractor in place to undertake the works if the owner/ responsible party for the Barn do not carry out the works within a required time frame.”

In January 2020 the Reading Chronicle reported HERE Cllr Page ” This is a completely unacceptable situation where the owners and developers of a Grade I listed building in Reading have allowed it to deteriorate more than 21 years after planning permission was originally given. Planning officers have continued to monitor the condition of the structure since the last warning letter in 2016 and the council is now in the position where it intends to issue a further warning. A Reading Chronicle article in Feb 2020 HERE and Cllr Page is quoted ” …the council held back from serving the urgent works notice because the leaseholder said it was interested in carrying out the repairs. It is of course disappointing that two months on the works have still not been carried out but officers are now in dialogue themselves with the leaseholder.”

So I wonder when, or indeed if, works will be undertaken.

What are the options for the future?

We understand the council’s rational for approving a planning application which they hoped it would allow the barn “to be brought back into beneficial use”. d, perhaps, be seen as a desperate throw of the dice to find a solution, almost any solution. Whilst we thought it was sheer folly the council would have been engaged in deeper discussions with the applicant and would have known more. Sadly it proved to be a flawed solution then, it seems to us still to be a flawed solution.

There are however no easy solutions. A community use which would be practical, generate funds which would facilitate restoration and ongoing maintenance, would be ideal and good ideas are sought.  They are challenging to find.  Some barns such as this have been successfully converted to homes, however the extremely close proximity of the proposed large Care Home might discourage such an innovation.

In the meantime we support fully RBC’s action to have protective repairs undertaken. These will however not restore the barn so that it could find a new use. So all innovative ideas (and money) are welcome.

The future of Reading Golf Club (updated 18 Feb to reflect information on the banners)

Several of the committee attended the public exhibition on 11 February about the future of the Reading Golf Club site. The club has decided they have to close as it is not economic for them to maintain their grounds, which is not able to support golf all year. There are also too many golf clubs in the area and overall membership is falling at all but the most exclusive clubs. (this is an international problem). The plan is to “merge” with Caversham Heath Golf Club. The proposal outlined is:

1 Some 250 new homes, 80% being houses and nearly 65% being 3 + bed houses, affordable houses (tenancy / sale) which are “tenure” blind.  The house design a bit uninspired and conventional and it would be nice to encourage something a bit more inspired.

2.       A large proportion of the site (40% of the overall club land – in Oxfordshire and Reading) will become a public space (a new public park was the way they were explaining it).  At the moment members of the public have no right to access any of the land as it is all private so that has to be a big win.

3.       Within the area to be developed (30 acres) 64% is to be open Green space ( 37% being public).  Around 25% of the land in Reading Borough will be designated open or play space, with cycle and footpaths planned to connect the new open spaces to the land in South Oxfordshire that is within our site.

4.       Preservation of the Historic woods, 2 allotments, lots of good ideas on tree planting (orchard) which can doubtless be developed.   

5.       A mysterious “leisure use” on a relatively small area at the bottom left of the planned public space, they would not provide details (clearly commercial discussions ongoing)

6.       The plan includes an expanded  / relocated health centre (as big as Lidl it was said) with flats over (which seems a bit odd).  The way I heard it this has been developed with the local health centre and is significantly larger than the current one, however there seemed to be lack of clarity as to whether they local health centre would staffing it (i.e. can the surgery get the staff). We have noted in discussions with other developers that the Care Commissioning Group can be difficult to engage with to generate positive support for additional Health Care Facilities – in the centre of Reading we understand they say to developers “not required”.

7.       Traffic. The undoubted transport pressure points were clearly identified on the maps of Reading and there was and explanation about what would have to be done to “mitigate”.  The particular problem is along Kidmore End Road which, because of residents parking on one side of the road, is effectively allows just a single lane of traffic at a time. This will have to be addressed to make this scheme deliverable.

Looking more widely in the centre of Reading there are now around 30 schemes at different stages of the planning process or are being built which will add over 7,000 new homes if taken to fruition and there is not a single new health facility nor any changes to the road infrastructure. Also the constant grumble about brownfield developments in Reading is “not more flats”. People want new homes to be built, just not in their backyard! The land to build houses in Reading is very scarce and so, frankly something, has to give.

The locals Keep Emmer Green are naturally suspicious about the developer’s intent and don’t trust it not to plot to build on the rest of the site (in Oxfordshire boundary) once the first part is under way. The suspicion about developer’s motives is a national one. I think everyone can understand the need for new homes, but in this case it seems to be “not next to me thanks.”

The committee will review its approach over the coming week. A very negative article by Berkshire Live is HERE

Removal of the Trees in Chestnut Walk

Chestnut Walk

(some text with thanks to Friends of Reading Abbey, image Reading Chronicle whose report is HERE)

Chestnut Walk Tree Replacement is part of £160,000 Improvement Plan by Reading Council. A total of 18 distinctive mature horse chestnut trees along the Walk have been declining for a number of years, suffering from canker, fungal brackets and other defects. Inspections have found they are a risk to public safety and four have been felled previously for the same reason.
Work to remove the remaining horse chestnuts is set to begin on February 17th. They will be replaced with sweet chestnuts, a large, robust species known to be resilient to the issues that affected these trees, and for their tolerance in urban environments. Depending on the condition of the felled horse chestnut trees, some of the wood may be recyclable with a view using it for artwork or seating in other parks and open spaces across Reading.
Chestnut Walk did not have any pedestrian lighting. As part of the wider Council Improvement scheme, new lighting will also be installed, as well as a CCTV camera to improve security along what is already a popular direct route into the town centre.

There was a lot of ill-informed (being kind) opposition on social media to RBC’s well researched rational for having to take this action. One protestor suggested that the diseased trees had to be preserved as they “could have been seen by Oscar Wilde” . This being in 1897 so the trees would have been 123 years lower so hardly likely to have been higher than the wall at best. Simply bonkers!

19 November 2019 Electric Charging Points for Cars

RBC website advises that charging points are installed in lamp columns on residential streets and are operated by Vattenfall:-

  • St Batholomews Road x 2
  • Manchester Road x2
  • Coventry Road x3
  • Filey Road x1
  • Caversham Road x2
  • Wantage Road x3
  • Anstey Road x1
  • East Street x1

Parking against these is however not reserved only for those charging their vehicles. During the first month of operation these are free to use. After this initial period please visit Vaffenfall’s Incharge Website or download the Incharge App to register as a user.

Other publicly accessible electric vehicle charging points are available at the following locations in the Reading urban area:

8 November 2019.

The information panel about William Marshal, The Greatest Knight, was unveiled on 7th November. The cost of some £5,000 was funded by donations from some 50 members of Reading Civic Society and Caversham and District Residents Association, Gift Aid and CADRA itself. Eight Key Stage 2 children from Marshal House from Caversham Heights Primary School walked to the viewing point on Caversham Bridge to help ‘unwrap’ the plaque. The children really enjoyed learning more about the impressive life of William Marshal and his legacy, not only for Caversham, but for the whole country. They agreed it was a lovely event and were very grateful to Helen Lambert and CADRA for inviting them.

The project would not have been possible without the excellent response to the appeal for funds and we would like to thank the very kind donors for their generous donations.

Reading Borough Council have been very supportive of the project.

Reading Civic Society (a registered charity) has agreed to receive donations and apply for Gift Aid for the project.

See also CADRA’s Website CADRA Page about Wm Marshal Info Panel

Local Listing – Update 5 November 9:45

The government has decided to encourage councils to develop Local Lists (Lists of buildings which are important locally but which do not make the cut to be added to the National List managed by Historic England). We will give more information about this in due course. In the meantime Get Reading today provides information about, and images of, the buildings currently on Reading’s Local List. https://www.readingchronicle.co.uk/news/18013927.reading-11-important-local-listed-buildings/?fbclid=IwAR3aPjJn-GzAfX4NmBlueZDoa3hRE7kTaXNtdFVd1OiMIiUq6R3TSSD5hts

Reading Borough Council’s process of adding buildings to the Local List is not visible on their website. Anyone however can propose a building to be added to the local list. Reading Civic Society and the CAAC have had some success in having buildings added to this list. The council also proposes and consults with us about their ideas. The link to the RCS page about how to go about adding a building to the list is

http://www.readingcivicsociety.org.uk/wordpress/?page_id=1883

What is the weight given to Locally Listed buildings? Does it count for anything as two of the buildings which were formerly on the list have now been demolished? The recent evidence of Planning Appeal decisions in Reading is that it does. The Planning Inspector decided against the proposal to demolish 3 Craven Road – a key element of his decision was the Local Listing. The University’s proposals at St Patrick’s Hall, which would have led to demolition of part of the building, were also turned down by the Planning Inspector, after a hearing of 5 days, partly based on the Local Listing. However Local listing is not the ultimate protection and a use has to be found for buildings. Grovelands Church has we understand been sold by the church (so we hope for imagination there). The lease for the Rising Sun is £100,000 per year- so who on earth is going to pay that for the site… the owner is setting that up to say “we have tried to let it but surprise no one wants it so we now want to demolish it.” The building on the SSE site does not feature in the new plans for the site, though we have sought to encourage the developers several times to do so.

Planning -update 4 November 16:25

An interesting perspective on the Build to Let from Haslams MD Steve Woodford. The company research shows a total pipeline of 6.268 flats coming to EBC area with 1,650 being Build to Rent. Last week he spoke to Thames Tap about the numbers of Build-to-Rent flats in the Reading pipeline. He said: “My view is, ok, they can’t all go on the open market, but how many can Reading absorb and deal with?” https://tvproperty.co.uk/news/reading-could-face-build-to-rent-saturation

30 October 

New website for all Arts, Culture and Heritage Events 

“whatsonreading.com” was launched at South Street Arts Centre on 29 October. It will replace the existing Reading Arts and Venues website shortly.  The big change is that groups other than RBC related venues are able to add their events to the programme (after some training) and so far 60 groups have signed up to take part.  Additionally a full time post has been funded jointly by the Council and Reading UK for 4 years.  The site will become the Time Out for Reading and a Virtual Cultural and Heritage Hub.

https://whatsonreading.com.

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/RDGWhatsOn

Weldale StreetGet Reading suggest work due to start soon, at last. https://www.getreading.co.uk/news/property/developers-give-update-huge-reading-17159809

 

The Planning Handbook

“Reading Planning Handbook” provides much guidance on the Planning Process.   The link is https://www.planninghandbook.com/wp-content/uploads/handbooks/reading

13 October 2019 READING GAOL HUG 

Alok Sharma MP and Matt Rodda MP

Coming together for the Big Hug Reading’s MPs – L-R Rt Hon Alok Sharma MP and Matt Rodda MP

The Councillors join the Hug

The Deputy Mayor and Councillors join the MPs in the Hug and Oscar is there too.

The Hug in the Abbey

The Hug within the Abbey Ruins

A video by Andy Jones of BBC Radio Berkshire of the Hug In Progress may be seen:

Party politics were transcended on Sunday 13th October when Reading’s two MPs, Matt Rodda, the Rt Hon Alok Sharma (Secretary of State for International Development), and Reading Borough Councillors from all parties joined the 1,000 people who assembled in Reading Abbey Ruins on Sunday afternoon to stage a community Hug of the boundary walls of Reading Gaol. This was successfully completed despite downpours. People of all ages took part. 

The aim of the campaign is to encourage a more imaginative use for the closed Gaol than selling it for housing. The vision of Theatre and Arts in Reading and RBC is for it to be an Arts / Cultural Hub.

The event was initiated by Artist Linda Saul. The Reading Gaol Hug Society was formed to make her vision happen and was composed of 4 members of Reading Civic Society. We were guided on any issues about running the event by Cllr Karen Rowlands (RBC’s Lead Councillor for Culture, Heritage and Recreation), RBC staff and a member of the Baker Street Area Neighbourhood Association. On the day the support of around 30 Marshals and First Aiders, to ensure it all happened safely, was vital.

A Press Release can be seen Here.

Matt Rodda MP’s Petition campaigning for this vision has now reached over 7,000 signatures.

Support has come from many quarters including the Oscar Wilde Society and
the Vice Chancellor of the University of Reading.

Students out in Taiwan also did a virtual hug which may be seen on the
Facebook site.  HERE 

A good report was provided by The Wokingham Paper.

The report from the Reading Chronicle is Reading Chronicle report

The Reading Gaol Website is https://readinggaolhug.uk

Reading Civic Society Annual Party 2nd March 2019 – Pepe Sale

Some 57 members and their guests attended the annual Civic Society party at Pepe Sale on Saturday 2 March. As ever we were brilliantly looked after by Toni and the Pepe Sale team. It was terrific to see such an enthusiastic turnout with some new members attending and some long standing members attending an event for the first time in many years.

We were very grateful for the donations of prizes for the raffle which raised £130

A selection of images by Chris Widdows is below.

The Quiz by Chris Widdows