Civic Society Membership renewal

The membership year runs from January to December and so renewals are now due.  We do hope that existing members will wish to rejoin to support our activities. In March we are planning hold the AGM (these are always brief) along with a talk.  COVID may however push us on line.

The membership renewal form may be accessed Membership renewal form 2022  The annual fee is £10 (single) or £15 (for two people at the same address).  The membership form gives details of our bank account to enable payment electronically.  We do however accept the good old fashioned cheque.

Activities 2020, 2021 and 2022?

Updated 30 November 2021

Activities for 2020 were curtailed with effect from mid March because of CV19. The  annual lunch, in Pepe Sale was however held on 7 March.

Plans for members of Gloucester Civic Trust to visit Reading have not been possible  – 2022 perhaps? 

Two Heritage Open Day walks “South of Castle Hill and to Coley” were held in September 2021 .

A churches tour in September 2020 and 2021 were not possible.  Our thoughts were to head into Hampshire to visit some churches in and around Overton.  2022? 

Plans to visit Oxford Colleges may be possible for 2022? 

In previous years members have been able to attend the High Sheriff of Berkshire’s service to mark the start of the Judicial Year in Reading Minster in October. In 2020 a much simpler service, for 25 people and no other guests, was held in the Chapter House of Reading Abbey ruins. It was probably the first time in over 450 years that such a service had been held. In 2021 the service was held in St James Church for the first time ever.  A number of Civic Society members attended. 

Our hopes for “normal service”  resuming in 2021 were only partly achieved.  The economy has in the meantime been savaged.

Station Retail Park development plans submitted

Station Retail Park Development (the TGI Fridays/ 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 2019.  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 January members of the RCS committee, the CAAC and CADRA met Barton Willmore, 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 up to 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 Metropolitan 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.

New proposals for Local Listing

Further proposals for Local Listing

The CAAC/ RCS 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.

Drews buildings added to local list

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.

Plans for Station Hill

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.

SSE site, Vastern Road

An exhibition was held on 27 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.

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. The developer’s 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.

King Edwards Building added to local list

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)

The future of Reading Golf Club

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.

Updated information about plans for Reading Golf Club

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