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

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.