Chazey Barn: a sad state of repair

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 Tony Page said: “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, where 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.

William Marshal: ‘The Greatest Knight’

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

Planning update: November 2019

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?”

Reading Gaol Hug

13 October 2019 – READING GAOL HUG 

Alok Sharma MP and Matt Rodda MP

Coming together for the Big Hug

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 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 Rowland (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

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

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