The street party’s back! Saturday 17 June

We are pleased to announce the date for our street party this year – Saturday 17 June, starting at 1.00pm – and we hope to hold it in Newport Road again if residents agree. As in previous years we are choosing the Big Lunch weekend because this is our opportunity to apply for a street closure without having to pay the usual fee.

We had live music for the first time at last year’s street party, along with a drumming workshop that many people enjoyed. We hope to have more live music this year, along with another music workshop, and are still looking for more musicians that would like to join us and perhaps play on the day – please get in touch if you are interested.

Would you like to help us? We always need extra helpers, whether it’s for putting up bunting, setting up the tables, organising activities – whatever you can help with we’d be delighted to hear from you. If you’d like to set up a small stall that would be great too – we just ask for a small donation if you are a commercial organisation.

If you would like to help or have any suggestions please contact David on 07890 118167 or by email at david@bell-tower.org.uk.

The end of Papa Gee’s? Budget hotel planned for Caversham Road

Plans to convert the Rainbows Lodge in Caversham Road into a super-budget easyHotel have been submitted to Reading Borough Council. The hotel would have 53 rooms, some of them windowless, and the existing Papa Gee’s restaurant would be converted into rooms.

Booking can only be made online, rooms are just big enough to accommodate a bed, housekeeping services are extra and there are no tea and coffee making facilities in rooms.

Full details and the opportunity to comment on the proposal can be found on the council’s website at http://planning.reading.gov.uk/fastweb_PL/detail.asp?AltRef=170366.

Housing development for Cox & Wyman site?

The owners of the former Cox & Wyman printing works have expressed an interest in developing the site for housing.

The site has been used as a warehouse by Kept Set Logistics, a company that stores film props and scenery, since 2015.

At a recent meeting with Abbey ward councillors Tony Page and Bet Tickner, representatives from the Bell Tower Community Association discussed proposals to date. It is believed that the site owner is proposing a development of around 90 dwellings, with terraced houses facing towards Addison and Cardiff Roads and some taller buildings further away near the corner of Milford and Meadow Roads. The main entrance is expected to be in Addison Road, perhaps where the old gates are currently situated.

Bell Tower broadly welcomes the extension of residential development westwards, and will be keen to press for a design in keeping with the Victorian character of the area and an accessible public space such as a park within the development. A residential development would make it easier to put permanent road closures in place to separate the area from the industrial estate, preventing rat running, which would probably increase when Cow Lane is widened.

Cllr Page pointed out that there would be some reluctance to lose too much commercial space in the area because of a shortage of small industrial units in Reading, but agreed that there would be a good case for a residential development on this site.

A planning application is expected later in 2017.

Take a look at our area’s history

As with many older areas of town, the Bell Tower area has plenty of history. We’ve been doing some delving into our area’s heritage and have found out plenty.

Do you remember St Paul’s Church, which stood where New Hope is today?

You may have read about the proposed ‘Foundry Quarter’ development for the Wickes and Iceland site in Weldale Street, but our area’s where many of the foundries were around the turn of the century, producing parts for the railways and items such as our old cast iron lamp posts.

Caversham Road has a rich industrial history – Warricks, for example, made ‘stop me and buy one’ tricycles, and Bucklers made sports cars.

And then there’s E P Collier School (originally Swansea Road Board School) – did you know that its architect also designed several pubs and hotels, and the Cox & Wyman works?

We’re always keen to hear from anyone who remembers the area from years ago – perhaps you have some old photos or stories that you’d like to share? Please contact us at info@bell-tower.org.uk if you are interested.

Here are the three presentations given at our recent ‘History in our backyard’ event – we hope to have more local history features soon:

New development for Wickes and Iceland sites

Plans for a £120m redevelopment of the Wickes and Iceland sites in Reading town centre will be unveiled this week.

An exhibition at Greyfriars Church on Thursday 9 February will be a first look at the planned transformation of run-down units on Weldale Street into The Foundry Quarter.

The Wickes site is at the centre of the proposed development of 429 homes and shops, public space and walkways by Crossmark Developments on behalf of Ropemaker Properties.

Everyone is invited to view the plans at the church in Friar Street on Thursday 9 February, between 2.30pm and 7.30pm.

This article originally appeared in Getreading.

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