Plans for Carters site revealed

After several months of waiting it has finally been revealed that Bellway Homes is the purchaser of the Carters site in Caversham Road. Bellway has just submitted a planning application to Reading Borough Council detailing proposals for the site.

The application is for a mix of houses and flats totalling 60 in all, with 30% (18) of the dwellings being ‘affordable’ (20% below market rates or the option of shared purchase) – so in a way similar to a scaled down version of the Printworks development on the former Cox & Wyman site. First impressions are that the quality of the design looks decent with reservations about how the Caversham Road frontage will fit with the townscape and questions about whether at least part of the existing Victorian facades could be retained. We are also unsure about the safety of the proposed entrance from Caversham Road, which is on the inside of a bend.

The full planning application can be viewed and comments submitted at

(Photo: Bellway Homes)

Bowling alley proposal for Caversham Road shop

The company Bowl Central is planning to take over the former Dawsons music shop at 65 Caversham Road, which closed last year, and convert it into a bowling alley and family entertainment complex. The facility would have seven bowling lanes, three interactive dart boards, shuffleboards and a children’s ‘redemption’ games area. The plan is to sell food as well, including pizzas, panini and salads.

Ahead of taking over the old Dawsons unit, Bowl Central’s owning company KTO Ltd has submitted a licensing application for the bar that will be located inside. The company has applied to sell alcohol and food and play music on site from 10am to midnight from Sunday to Thursday, and 10am to 1am on Fridays and Saturdays.

Since this article was published we have met the developer, who has offered to amend the licence application to change the closing time to 11pm weekdays and midnight at weekends. Our feeling is that this is a reasonable compromise, and if the application is amended we are happy to withdraw our objections. If you have any views please email us at

Planning permission granted for post office development

Planning application 182252 for 620 flats and townhouses with office and other space on the former Post Office site in Caversham Road has been approved by the council. This is an outline planning application to establish the principle of the development, so there is scope for further negotiation of the details (known as ‘reserved matters’).

David Neale from the Bell Tower Community Association spoke at the council’s planning committee in opposition to the application, expressing concerns about the scale of the development, particularly the 8-storey height proposed along Caversham Road and its impact on the local environment, including on the locally-listed Victorian malthouse that used to be occupied by Drews ironmongers. Concern was also expressed about the high density and lack of green space in the development leading to it being undesirable to live in, and whether the proposed office space was likely to be used.

After some discussion the planning committee eventually voted unanimously to approve the application. One factor that might have influenced this is the developer of the SSE site in Vastern Road recently making a successful appeal against refusal of their application, with councillors perhaps concerned that the owners of the post office site might also successfully appeal against refusal.

(Photo: Hermes Property)

Drews appeal dismissed

Good news for our area’s heritage, with the announcement that the planning appeal for the Drews site has been dismissed.

The government planning inspector’s report was published today (14 May), stating that “[the] benefits do not outweigh the significant harm the proposal would have on the character and appearance of the area and the significance of a non-designated heritage asset”. At the appeal meeting on 24 March, Mary Neale on behalf of Bell Tower pointed out that the proposed development would be out of keeping with the existing buildings on the western side of Caversham Road and stressed the former malthouse’s long and varied history and contibution to the area’s character. Bell Tower’s representation was also strongly supported by our local councillors at the meeting.

Developer S2 Caversham was proposing to demolish the main building and build a seven-storey block of flats. The council’s planning committee initially refused the application in October 2020 after receiving a petition with more than 1200 signatures in favour of keeping the former malthouse, which the Bell Tower Community Association had succeeded in getting locally listed earlier in the year.

The developer will now almost certainly have to look at how the building might be adapted and produce a new design that is more harmonious with the former malthouse and the character of the local area.

Drews application goes to appeal

The owner of the Drews building, S2 Caversham, has decided to appeal Reading Borough Council’s decision to reject its application to demolish the Drews building and replace it with a seven-storey block of flats.

Bell Tower has made a submission to and asked to take part in the appeal hearing with a planning inspector. We have argued that the building is a rare surviving malthouse both in the town and nationally and that the developer has shown no evidence it looked into the viability of retaining it. A national expert on maltings, Amber Patrick, says the complex marks the transition of the malting process in the 19th century from a traditional to a pneumatic one. This, we have said, re-enforces the heritage argument. Our statement also outlines how the proposed tower block would clash with the Victorian and Edwardian character of the area, particularly in terms of height, whereas the existing structure is in harmony with the way buildings in the area were used for residential, commercial and industrial purposes.

The council, the Conservation Area Advisory Committee and Caversham and District Residents Association, have all written to the planning inspector in favour of retaining the building. The appeal will be heard at an online meeting on Wednesday 24 March.

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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