Some colour for December

There will be a little more colour around our area in December as three local organisations have pooled their resources to turn the area into an Advent Calendar. New Hope Community Church, EP Collier Primary School and the Bell Tower Community Association have combined to exhibit art created by pupils at the school on the themes “Light in the Darkness and Hope in Times of Trouble”.

From 1 to 25 December the art will be displayed in windows around the community. The map to hunt down the daily pictures can be downloaded here. Hidden on the frames is the title of a well-known Christmas carol. The first to find all the letters and unscramble the words will win a prize.

If you are feeling creative and would like to join in the fun you can also take part. An exhibition of the school entries as well as other children’s and adults’ pictures is being planned at the beginning of January. Please send your entries to abi.ord@greyfriars .org.uk.

You can download the map here. Happy hunting!

Planning committee refuses application to demolish Drews

Some good news about the Drews buildings – for now at least. On 7 October Reading Borough Council’s planning committee unanimously voted to refuse developer S2 Caversham’s application to demolish the main building and replace it with a seven-storey block of flats. This went against the planning officer’s recommendation, so is a significant win for us.

Speaking online at the committee, David Neale of Bell Tower said “You can’t replace heritage; once it’s gone, it’s gone”. Many of the committee agreed, and even those that were less concerned about heritage had reservations about the height of the proposed block and its implications for the area.

The buildings at 71-73 Caversham Road, Reading, home to Drews ironmongers for nearly 40 years, have a long and varied history. They were built in 1871, making them the oldest surviving buildings in the area between the railway and the River Thames. These were originally Henry Dowson’s malthouse complex, serving Simonds, Reading’s largest brewery and one of Reading’s most famous industries.

In 2020 the Bell Tower Community Association successfully applied to have the buildings locally listed. Although the buildings have been used for many purposes since the 19th century they retain plenty of their original features and have been deemed worthy of preservation by Reading Borough Council.

Although the planning committee has decided to refuse the application that doesn’t mean the buildings are safe as the developer will almost certainly appeal or try another application. Please sign our petition today to show how important these buildings are to the community. You can sign at www.change.org/p/reading-borough-council-save-the-historic-drews-building-from-demolition

Are you interested in the history of this site? Watch our documentary (the history of these buildings starts at 5:07).

Sign our petition to save the Drews building!

The buildings at 71-73 Caversham Road, Reading, home to Drews ironmongers for nearly 40 years, have a long and varied history. They were built in 1871, making them the oldest surviving buildings in the area between the railway and the River Thames. These were originally Henry Dowson’s malthouse complex, serving Simonds, Reading’s largest brewery and one of Reading’s most famous industries.

In 2020 the Bell Tower Community Association successfully applied to have the buildings locally listed. Although the buildings have been used for many purposes since the 19th century they retain many of their original features and have been deemed worthy or preservation by Reading Borough Council.

Site owner S2 Caversham has made a planning application to demolish the main buildings and replace them with a seven-storey block of flats, and the planning officers’ report recommends approval of the application. As well as destroying a valuable locally listed building, the development would create a block nearly twice as tall as any surrounding building and severely compromise the character of the low-rise Victorian housing nearby.

How could a council add a complex of buildings to its local list of heritage assets and less than a year later recommend demolition? We call upon Reading Borough Council to demonstrate its commitment to preserving the town’s valuable heritage by refusing the planning application.

URGENT – the last date for submissions is Friday 2 October 2020 so please sign this petition NOW! You can sign at www.change.org/p/reading-borough-council-save-the-historic-drews-building-from-demolition

Interested in the history of this site? Watch our documentary (the history of these buildings starts at 5:07).

Brewery applies to extend licensing hours

The Phantom Brewing Co. in Meadow Road has made an application to extend its licensing hours. The application is to extend its hours for selling alcohol as follows:
Wednesday-Thursday: 1700 to 2200
Friday: 1500 to 0000 (midnight)
Saturday: 1300 to 0000 (midnight)
Sunday: 1300 to 2000.

We believe that the premises are generally popular and well-managed, but residents may be concerned, in particular, about the application for an extension to midnight and the possible additional late night noise in quiet streets. If you have any comments on the application please address them to licensing@reading.gov.uk. The deadline for representations is 3 August 2020.

Updated proposals for post office site

Hermes, the company that owns the former post office site in Caversham Road next to the railway, has put in amended proposals for its outline planning application for redevelopment of the site. The tallest tower would be reduced by 9 metres and one storey, and there would be less residential accommodation and more office space.

The Bell Tower Community Association has always had serious concerns about the proposals for this site, and while a small decrease in height of the tallest tower is welcome (although we believe it is still too tall), in our view most of the updated proposals do not represent an improvement.

In particular we believe that the increase in office space will be unnecessary given the current trend of increased remote working, and the complete loss of affordable housing is to be deplored. It should also be borne in mind that planning permission is currently not needed to convert office space into residential units – so we can foresee conversion to low-quality accommodation with no contribution to local infrastructure when it is found that the office space is undesirable.

There will be a small increase in the number of 3-bedroom units, but one of the blocks will also lose communal outside space.

We are therefore going to be objecting to the proposals, and see little benefit to them. To view the amended plans and make comments please visit planning.reading.gov.uk/fastweb_PL/detail.asp?AltRef=182252. The deadline for comments is 30 July.

Retail park site plans submitted

An outline planning application has been submitted for the retail park site containing Aldi, The Range and TGI Fridays.

Owners Aviva are looking to redevelop this site for housing as and when leases run out on units in this retail park. Initial plans and feedback form at www.rssp.co.uk/. As well as a large number of flats, plans include a hotel, pub, offices and leisure faclities.

We are starting to look at the details and will provide more information when we have had more time to study the plans.

The planning application has now been submitted and comments are invited – this is at www.planning.reading.gov.uk/fastweb_PL/detail.asp?AltRef=200328

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