On Friday, I called into the exhibition showing new development proposals for 175 Friar Street – the former Bristol & West Arcade. The developers appear to be trying to a new tactic of keeping expectations incredibly low. The advert for the exhibition, which was shared on social media, was a grainy black and white image of their proposed Friar Street frontage, which people on reading-forum had assumed must be the building to be demolished! Then they chose to host the event in Novotel. If you’re thinking of hosting a gathering of people potentially concerned with the evolution of modern Reading then the ONE PLACE you don’t take them is Novotel. The high-rise hotel, which has added some life to an area of no-man’s-land between the station and shopping area, did sadly herald the demolition of the art deco ABC cinema. That frontage should have been retained, and Novotel’s upper floors constitute a grey lumpy box that can be seen from miles around. When I entered the event, the bemused town planning consultant found herself listening to complaints about Novotel rather than her proposed scheme. I appeared to have stumbled into a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous hosted in a local boozer – was this going to end well?