New plans exhibited for housing in Vastern Road

Berkeley Homes are planning to build nearly 200 houses and flats at the former Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) site in Vastern Road. The plans would also include a direct walkway and cycle lane linking Vastern Road with Christchurch Bridge.

The developer is looking to demolish a number of buildings on the site and replace them with homes including blocks of flats which could be as high as 11 storeys.

Revised plans for the former site of SSE in Vastern Road were shown at an exhibition on Wednesday 8 May. The developers have taken into account feedback from the last exhibition in February, including making the way through from Christchurch Bridge to Vastern Road easier to navigate, giving the development more of a ‘wharf’ feel and lightening the view of the development from the river using yellow brickwork.

The developer is looking for feedback before a planning application is submitted to Reading Borough Council later this year.

The draft plans can be viewed online and comments can be made at www.vasternroad.co.uk.

Planning application submitted for post office site

An outline planning application has been submitted for redevelopment of the former Royal Mail site in Caversham Road. ‘Reading Metropolitan’ will contain around 650 flats, along with community space and a possible health centre.

The tallest building will rise to 25 storeys and will be next to the north entrance to the station, where it will face a new station square. The building has the potential for retail units at ground floor level.

The flats will include studios as well as one, two and thee bedroom units and there will be some affordable units. In addition to the apartments there will also be a small number of town houses at ground level.

A community centre is planned towards the Caversham Road side of the scheme, and this may include a dental practice and GP surgery. There will be a number of basement parking spaces across the development.

Details and the opportunity to make comments can be found on the council’s planning website at planning.reading.gov.uk/fastweb_PL/detail.asp?AltRef=182252

Celebrating our area’s character

The Bell Tower Community Association has been working on getting a special designation to reflect the area’s Victorian character. We are pleased to announce that we have been able to get a stage further with this recognition.

Many towns, particularly in south-east England, have Local Areas of Special Character (LASC) or similar designations; examples of these are in Kingston, Woking and Croydon. These areas are not quite eligible to be designated as conservation areas but have a character that is considered worth preserving.

At present Reading does not have any such areas, but we have now succeeded in getting the council on board and have helped draft a formal planning document that councillors will consider later this year.
We hope the LASC document will be adopted by the council into its planning policy, at which point two areas will initially be proposed for LASC status – the Caversham Road area, which includes the Bell Tower area, and Northcourt Avenue, near the university. It is likely that further areas will be suggested later.

When an LASC is proposed an appraisal document is submitted describing the character of the area.
While this has less statutory weight than a conservation area appraisal, the LASC appraisal provides a useful reference document for planning officers when considering applications in the area and nearby, to help determine whether a proposed development is in keeping with the area’s character. For example, planning officers might ask for computer-generated views of a proposed large-scale development from viewpoints in the LASC which might otherwise not be required.

We have also been working on an LASC appraisal document for the Caversham Road area, and hope to provide an update on the progress of this project later this year once the council has agreed in principle to the introduction of LASCs in Reading. In the meantime here is a presentation given by Bell Tower member Mary Neale on LASCs and the area’s Victorian character.

Power plant planned for Cardiff Road

A planning application has been submitted for a gas-fired micro power station in Cardiff Road, near the Cow Lane end. The proposal is for two generators housed in containers similar to those in the photo.

The Bell Tower Community Association has concerns about the potential for additional noise and pollution from the plant. The air quality report shows a measurable increase in NO2 levels over an area extending as far as Caversham Road, and this part of Reading is already a designated Air Quality Management area because of its high levels of pollution. We are also not sure about noise levels for residents of Cardiff Road, some of whom are less than 300 metres from the site.

We recommend looking at the planning application on the council’s website and giving your views using the online feedback form. You can find details and give feedback at planning.reading.gov.uk/fastweb_PL/detail.asp?AltRef=182242.

Date set for lamp post refurbishments

We have now got a confirmed schedule for refurbishment of the Victorian cast iron lamp posts in Addison Road. This will start on Monday 25 February working from the Cardiff Road end northwards.

The work will be carried out by SSE, and will involve installing a small bollard near the lamp post, typically just across the pavement, replacing the swan neck and fitting a new LED lantern similar to the ones recently installed on new lamp posts. The contractors expect to be able to refurbish two lamp posts per day, so should finish the job the same week.

Although some lamp posts have recently been replaced in the area, we have been assured that all our remaining cast iron lamp posts will be kept unless they are found to be unsafe.

We don’t yet have a date for the remaining cast iron lamp posts in York Road, Newport Road and Barry Place, but would expect these to be completed in the next 2-3 months. There will be a separate programme to paint the lamp posts, which is expected to start in the spring.

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