This is my first post since the tragic events at Forbury Gardens. It’s a desperately sad time, and others have contributed far more eloquently than I could. There have been tremendously moving tributes and reflections. Is it too soon to be talking about anything else in Reading? My reason for doing so is prompted by one social media post I saw suggesting that many ‘safer’ open spaces exist locally and that people should use those instead. I think we must disagree. People should not be fearful of going out or visiting our town. And as we emerge from Covid-19 lockdown, I hope people will show the defiance to carry on, to maintain and even enhance the energy, diversity and spirit that makes Reading a great place to be.
In the current circumstances, it doesn’t feel comfortable to be backing proposals for high rise flats whilst comfortably holed up in a suburban family home with a garden. The advantages of city living: being in the thick of the action, near entertainment, transport links and workplaces, have been entirely nullified for an extended temporary period. Towns and regions as concepts are largely irrelevant as only your street and your country really count, together with access to local open space.
Yet it’s been a busy few months of local development news since my last update so here are some of the main stories, inevitably viewed in the context of the Covid-19 crisis. Continue reading “Parks and Recreation”→
It’s a case of “Anything you can do” for Reading’s Broad Street Mall. Following news last year that The Oracle has lodged plans for bowling and mini golf to replace the lower floors of House of Fraser, the Broad Street Mall has found a tenant to provide… mini golf and bowling. “Bunker Reading”, in the storage basement of the former Argos store, would provide a 12-hole mini-golf course, together with a two-lane bowling lounge. It’s a bold move to go up against Hammerson’s much larger leisure scheme, but I think this place looks the business, and they look likely to strike first.
Looking down my (admittedly not especially long) list of email subscribers, it’s clear I’ve collected a fair few from the property sector. I’m glad to have you here. My theory being that having some community-led optimism and engagement in the changing face of our town is a positive thing. The world is moving fast, and differences are stark between town and city centres that continually reinvent themselves and, well, Northampton. Reading is the right side of the line, and to stay there we need the people with the money to have confidence to invest locally.
We understand that Reading Gaol is soon to be auctioned off, so below I’ve put together a little investors’ guide to help those considering a bid. Because whilst it’s great you’re keen, on this one specific and rare occasion, in the nicest possible way, please sod off. Continue reading “Gaol For Sale!”→
This week I attended a consultation event for a new development proposal beside the Thames in Reading. With the Environment Agency also currently seeking feedback on their own significant scheme for flood defences in the town, which incredibly include a whole new section of river, it seems like a good time to review both projects, as well as revisit why I write Reading-on-Thames in the first place. Continue reading “A New River and a Better Reading Riverside – Proposals Flooding In”→
Would you vote for an extra tax? You might be surprised to hear a voting process is underway right now in Reading for exactly that. It’s a simple Yes/No referendum. On this occasion, it’s not residents being polled – frankly nobody’s in a hurry to ask the public to make any more binary political choices at the ballot box. But thankfully it’s not us being taxed either. The votes on two separate town centre “Business Improvement Districts” (BIDs) ask local employers to agree, by way of a majority, to a 1% levy on their business rates (taxes) to fund a range of initiatives to “enhance their trading environment”. Continue reading “Town centre bids for success”→
I think residents underestimate the influence they have on the development of our town. One small decision locally stood out for me over the summer: the refusal of flood lights for existing tennis courts in suburban Reading. Whilst the main reason for refusal was linked to the light directly, the documentation reveals local complaints related to noise were also upheld:
“Youthful high spirits!” Look, I’ve nothing to suggest the correct laws and processes weren’t applied. Maybe those laws should be reviewed, but my main point here is that we need people to be more community-spirited than the folk at number 23. Wouldn’t it be great if people directed their energy and influence to making exciting new things happen, rather than constantly protesting against the endeavours of others? As it happens, this week – Wednesday 5th September – you have a chance (actually a second chance) to do exactly that. The council is consulting on initials ideas for the regeneration of a swathe of central Reading, including Hosier St, the former civic centre site, and the police station. I went to the first consultation earlier in the summer. Continue reading “Have your say on Hosier St Plans”→
I find whales fascinating. (Bear with me.) After millions of years, fish evolved into creatures that ultimately ventured out of the water onto land. We lost the gills, gained some lungs, and mammals then roamed the earth. Some of those mammals then stumbled across the oceans and quite enjoyed a swim, eventually giving up the land entirely for an evolutionary path leading to whales. Over a slightly shorter timeframe, we’ve seen the street food concept burst out of the kitchen to roam free. Yet apparently now it’s ready for a further progression – heading back indoors. Like the whale, street food appears to have gone full circle, lured to return to its physically constrained origins. Okay. Tenuous. But you’d get bored with yet another “I’ve just spotted a new planning application…” post wouldn’t you? Continue reading “Street Food heading indoors”→
The community interest company known as Theatre & Arts Reading (TAR) has today released details of its vision for an arts complex at Reading Gaol. The 1970’s Hexagon theatre is a true Reading landmark, and is well loved locally having endeared itself to at least a couple of generations over the years. My childhood Hexagon highlight was the Sooty show, whilst more recently, if I admit it, I do quite enjoy the travelling West End musicals my wife “drags me along to”. I’m perhaps not the culture vulture that TAR is aiming at, but when I’ve spoken to people who are closer to the arts scene, they tend to complain about the Hexagon. Continue reading “Gaol Hype”→
After a lot of interest in my last post about Christmas trade, I thought it would be good to get the opinions of the great and good on the future of the town centre. To give you an element of relief from my own ramblings, I wrote to some of the town’s movers and shakers to get you some further insight. I’m pleasantly surprised to have received many great responses, so here you are – the views that matter… ok, and maybe one or two of my own as well. Continue reading “Centred about Town, with guest opinion”→