Wednesday saw South Street Arts Centre play host to Reading’s latest planning exhibition. This time around the proposed scheme relates to a fairly nondescript office block and its car park on Watlington Street. The existing building already has permission for conversion to 49 apartments. Now the developer wants to build a further 45 flats on the car park.
The working title for the scheme is “Royal Heights”. It seems Reading is trying to forge a royalty / car parking link, with Royal Elm Park planned on the Madejski stadium car park, and our attempts to find King Henry under the prison car park. Quite what’s “royal” about this latest car park apartment block scheme escapes me, although some flats will have as many as two thrones, and appliances will be corgi registered.
The town planner for the scheme talked me through the proposals. He was local and remarked how nice it was to be working on a Reading project – for only his second time (the first was Ikea… hmm, might be worth scrutinising this transport plan). He did seem genuinely proud of the plans, the architecture and the provision of the council’s target of 30% affordable housing.
Apparently, in days gone by there were buildings along the frontage of Watlington Street, and I agree the current open car park creates an odd hole in the building line. They insisted the proposed 10 storey element was ingeniously designed and positioned to have no material impact on daylight to neighbouring properties, and if that’s the case then I’ve no issue with the scale. The design of the extensions, with three separate styles looks like it works quite well, although artist’s drawings often prove flattering compared with the end result. The remaining parking provision of a meagre eight spaces is likely to be the main talking point. But the developer is keen to devote space for a courtyard garden for residents at the expense of parking.
Reading seems quite efficient at recycling buildings for new uses. Lately, this area has lost lots of office space to apartments, with the latest example being the short-sightedly named New Century Place currently being converted to student flats. My only fear is that subsequent “recycling” will be more complex, due to individual apartments being in separate ownership. If these now residential buildings do indeed enjoy a much longer life in their new use then there’s all the more reason to have a design that stands the test of time. When the planning application is submitted I’ll post it here for you to make that judgment for yourselves.Follow @readingonthames