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.

(Photo: Hermes Property)

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.

(Photo: Aviva)

Cox & Wyman site construction plans published

The long-awaited demolition of the former Cox & Wyman printing works has begun.

Three Bell Tower members had the opportunity to visit the empty site and take photos before the main demolition started, providing a basic historical record of the interior of the original Victorian building and some of its features and signs of its history.

Work has started from the Addison Road end with the small building on the corner of Meadow Road and the Victorian façade, and will move towards Milford Road. It is understood that demolition will be finished by early April and construction is expected to start in May.

The developer has recently submitted a construction plan to the council – this can be downloaded from planning.reading.gov.uk/fastweb_PL/detail.asp?AltRef=200092. The plan shows the build starting with a temporary access road from Meadow Road and building the Cardiff Road terrace, a few show homes at the bottom of Addison Road and the lower floors of the flats first. The main terrace in Addison Road and townhouses near the centre of the site will be built later when the access road from Meadow Road is complete.

The lime tree in Addison Road near the corner of Meadow Road will be kept but the developer has applied to remove the other protected trees and replace them.

The new estate is being built on the site by Bellway Homes, and will consist of 48 houses, mostly terraces along Cardiff Road and Addison Road, and a block of 48 flats near the western end of Meadow Road.

(Photo: Bellway Homes)

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