A new residential district for Reading is proposed at Weldale St – the current disused Wickes site. The plans were on display this week at an exhibition at Greyfriars Church. For those who didn’t make it, here’s what was presented.
The scheme is by a company named Crossmark, and consists of 429 apartments in four blocks. The development has a working title of “Foundry Quarter”. I asked where the name had come from and was told the idea is to evoke Reading’s manufacturing past. The developer has certainly re-captured the analogue era – no sign of the plans on the internet, hence my grainy picture from a cardboard handout [13/2/17 now replaced]. In fairness, I quite like the name – and it certainly marks a fresh start from the present image of “Weldale Street”. It would be nice if they could have picked up some more specific history from the site, but I presume they couldn’t find much, and I guess Chatham Place/Street doesn’t have a great deal to do with Chatham either.
The plans have been scaled back from an initial concept that included a 20-storey tower. Apparently the council was none-too-keen on the idea of a tall building, even on the corner with the IDR and Chatham St, which I find slightly surprising given the proximity to the Chatham Place Tower. I was told that Reading Civic Society actually favoured the higher proposal to mirror that recent development, and that view seems to be echoed on Reading Forum, but the council has stuck firm to its tall building policy that outlined a maximum of 12 floors here.
Car parking will be provided underground, with 124 spaces in total. Clearly, they intend for many residents to live without a car, and in this central location that doesn’t seem too far-fetched. This development is not full of high-end concierge service, executive penthouses and the like. This is more modest accommodation aimed to address the shortage of property for local first-time buyers, and it will be for buyers rather than a dedicated rental development such as that proposed at Thames Quarter (we’ll have more than four quarters soon at this rate).
There’s little else to report: there’ll be landscaped pedestrian routes through the site, as well as some private gardens restricted to residents. One such fenced off area runs right up the the pavement beside the IDR, and I felt they could reduce that very slightly to allow a wider tree-lined pedestrian route alongside the IDR – anything to make that road less bleak. There’ll be a 200 sq. m. commercial unit at the base of the tallest building – that’s about the size of a tennis court, or as their representative described it “about the size of a standard Tesco express”. There might be some sort of clue there to its potential use…
All in all, it’s potentially welcome new housing, and the sprucing up of a tired part of central Reading. And I’d much rather a 100% residential development here than the one we’re threatened with at the prison, which we simply must turn into a cultural and leisure destination of which the town can be proud.
A planning application for the Foundry Quarter will be submitted soon, and then at least we know the council will do the honours of sharing the detail online. The developer hopes for shovels in the ground within two years.
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High res visuals from GetReading: