I’ve followed the topic of city status for a while. So long, in fact, that I remember first learning that we’d lost out to Wolverhampton in 2000 by seeing the headline on an Evening Post seller’s newsstand on Broad Street. I duly placed my 20 pence into an aged ink-stained hand and read all about it. More memorable was 2012 when BBC Berkshire announced we’d won and played Starship’s We Built This City, before having to rapidly clarify that we’d actually lost to Chelmsford in a comedic episode of local radio. If anyone has the clip do share it! I was obviously disappointed enough to remember these moments, but am I in a minority favouring the accolade? Well, that depends how you count. Every social media post I’ve seen on the topic, such as the one below, yields the same outcome – a large flurry of casual positivity in the form of likes and up votes, coupled with a handful of almost entirely negative written comments. Surveys have been favourable, with the exception of one local commentator who asked only whether the bid had “strong support” and narrowly flipped the outcome. It seems Reading overwhelmingly supports City Status to a weak extent. Most of the people minded to speak out are those minority naysayers, and they have a collection of arguments. So let’s take a look at them and see if we can convince the doubters to come onboard…Continue reading “City Status – Convincing the Naysayers”
Yesterday, the council announced a deal for Blue Collar to take over the historic Hosier St market, along with plans to transform an adjacent yard into a permanent food and drink venue. An array of recent positive news gives us confidence the town centre is on the right path to reshape itself in the face of current challenges. I’m particularly excited by this one – but let’s save my further thoughts for the end. First, here’s the full lowdown from Glen Dinning, owner of Blue Collar, who has kindly talked us through the plans.Continue reading “Blue Collar Permanent Venue! …Interview”
Last week, final approval was given to minor amendments to the Friar’s Walk residential element of the Station Hill proposals. This follows another consent a couple of months ago for an office building next to Thames Tower and a link bridge between the two. I approached the developer’s PR company and managed to get a statement confirming that, finally, construction work is imminent.Continue reading “A Green Signal for Station Hill”
New plans have been lodged for a hotel to replace the former Bristol & West arcade opposite Reading town hall. This is something of a saga site, with a troubled recent history of abandoned construction and a multitude of stalled proposals that I’ve covered on these pages before. The latest plans constitute only minor amendments to the physical appearance of the most recently approved scheme. However, developers now propose a hotel rather than an office/retail hybrid.Continue reading “Jury’s Out for ex-Arcade Hotel Plan”
On these pages, I’ve frequently emphasised the need to drive Reading’s offer forward, to keep the visitors from neighbouring towns coming, and therefore to underpin the overall vitality of the town centre. Yet I reflect now that perhaps the biggest competition to those aims is not Oxford, Basingstoke and Newbury, but rather Amazon, Deliveroo and Netflix. Will the Covid lifestyle stick, or will there be a collective clamour to return to the physical, or the “in real life”? Thankfully, whilst lockdowns have shut us all indoors, that hasn’t stopped the investors and architects forming new plans to haul us off our sofas and back into town.Continue reading “Queen Victoria Courtyard Scheme Unveiled”
Readers may know this blog promotes the town centre. In the current Covid predicament, clearly the economic health of the high street is far surpassed as a concern by the public health risks of the pandemic. This is not a rallying call to head to the shops at the present time. But perhaps it is a good point to be asking questions about how we might plan for when the sun rises on a post-Covid Reading.Continue reading “After Covid…”
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.
In an unpredictable world, one constant we can rely upon is that every few months there will be new images of the potential regeneration of Reading’s Station Hill. The long-running saga has had more twists and turns than the landscaped pathways featured in the latest plans, so I’ll suggest you switch back to my previous posts for more on the history. This weekend’s exhibition coincides with the submission of a planning application for the northern part of the site. Let me take you through the new proposals. Continue reading “Station Hill North – Reflections on the Future”