Newsletter

Updated 21 December 2022

Meetings and events

Our New Year Annual Lunch 2020 was held at Pepe Sale on Saturday lunchtime, Saturday 7 March.

Whilst some people decided to exercise caution in the light of the developing Conovirus over 40 members and their friends attended. Chris Widdows made his photo quiz even more challenging – it may be seen HERE . We were delighted that Jill Tait with her friend Jenny Tomblin encourage people to take part in the raffle. Thank you all for the donations the raffle raised £123. Chris Widdows images may be seen HERE

The Future of Reading Gaol 2022

In February 2020 I wrote to the then Minister for Justice, Lucy Frazer QC MP, lobbying for the bid process to give due weight to the desire by the community that the site not simply become yet another housing development. In March I received a reply which indicated clearly that RBC was not the selected bidder. 

So here we are in 2022 and 13 Ministers of Prisons since the closure of the Gaol was announced in 2013 and still no decision. 

In a meeting with Cllr Page and members of REDA in October Cllr Page briefed that “The MOJ have told us we will hear more in early 2023.  However  if there is a preferred bidder they have not contacted us to undertake due-diligence work.”  He has subsequently asked Reading MPs to lobby Minsters, yet again, for some common sense.  He plans to write to the Minister of Prisons in January 2023. 

Article in the Times  https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/comment/save-wildes-hellhole-for-all-our-sakes-pwzf0dtmm . and the Guardian HERE  

The original article in the Chronicle about the council’s bid is https://www.readingchronicle.co.uk/news/18045585.reading-gaol-big-agreed-reading-borough-council/

Engagement and Outreach

In 2019 I took part in several engagement events:

  • The University of Reading’s Community Engagement Event in the Autumn (thanks to Elaine Robson for telling me about this) with the next event on 26 March 2020.
  • 12 October – A very impressive meeting of the British Association of Friends of Museums which was held in the Victoria Hall.
  • 8 November Alison and I met the Chairs of the Wokingham and the Newbury Civic Societies to share ideas and challenges and our engagement with Civic Voice.
  • 14 November with members of the CAAC I was invited to take part in the visit to Reading by members of Historic England’s Historic Places Panel. Alongside members of Reading Borough Council we delivered briefs about Reading, its heritage, opportunities and challenges. We also accompanied their walk around the Town Centre, out to St Mary’s, Hosier Street and Oxford Road (which they were favourably impressed by in many ways) providing our take on the issues. At dinner in Thames Lido the initial feedback from the Chair of the Panel to the Councillors and Officers included “Be demanding of Developers”, “Don’t let Developers simply roll out designs they have implemented elsewhere”, “Don’t become another Croydon.” A report was published in Spring 2020.
Above the Historic Places Panel in Oxford Road

Events for Heritage Open Days.  To be held 9-18 September 2023   

HODs now runs for 10 days.

  • In 2021 a walk of Coley (old and new) was run of Castle Hill and Old Coley by Terry Dixon and RB.  In 2022 a new walk covered the edges of 3 Conservation Areas; The Mount, Christchurch and Redlands.  In 2023 a new walk will cover Caversham. 
  • We seek to organise one or two specialist talks.  In 2022 these were “Georgian Reading. Berkshire’s Bath Spa” and the Story of Buckler Cars

Talks

I have given talks to several groups about Reading Civic Society and the changes which face the centre of Reading as a result of the over 28 development proposals planned for the town centre:

  • 12 November 2019 to CADRA members “The Changing Face of Reading”. With Mark Worringham of RBC. Approximately 100 members.
  • 29 November 2019 to members of the Reading WEA 29 November “The Changing Face of Reading but focusing on the Prison site”. Approximately 25 members.
  • 14 January 2020 Visits Reading “Changing Face of Reading” Approx 80 members.
  • 3 February  2020 Friends of Reading Museum
  • 18 June 2021 Caversham  WI 
  • January 2023 Pangbourne Rotary Club. 

Each of the Changing Faces talks are different as between each several new planning applications have come forward. If you know of any groups who would be interested in such a talk please let the Chair know.

Activities of other Groups for members’ interest:

The committee have agreed to share details of events run by other groups which may be of interest to members: