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

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

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