Reading Station Shopping Park


The latest planning exhibition last week featured plans for the TGI Friday/Mothercare/Aldi/Range units on Vastern Road – technically Reading Station Shopping Park, as absolutely nobody calls it. We could be looking at upwards of 900 apartments, although plans are fairly vague at this stage, and if office space is included at the eastern end (as shown) and/or a hotel at the western end then that number could reduce considerably. With an imminent planning application only at the outline stage, further stages could see the plans refined within the broad layout and building heights being proposed now.

This is actually the second presentation of the proposals following a public consultation on the first. The presentation boards include an analysis of the feedback from that initial viewing, with the most interesting aspect of those results being the geographical spread of respondents, located disproportionately north of the river and not especially near the site.

Feedback has centred around the potential loss of the specific retailers, particularly Aldi. Berkshire Live describes shoppers as “reeling” from the news. Oh Caversham – look how far you’ve come! Leaving your choice of supermarket behind for one moment, and assuming jobs can be retained at alternative locations, I’d be in favour of losing bulk single-storey shed retail from this site so close to the station. Shoppers here are predominantly driving, clogging up the centre of town with congestion and pollution, and unlikely to be contributing to the wider town centre economy. Clothing retailers, especially Mothercare and, at a similar location Matalan, could draw custom into town where other shops and food/drink establishments could mutually benefit from extra trade. Aldi is said to be looking for eight more stores in Berkshire, so RG4 might well get a replacement at another location.

However, whilst accepting a redevelopment here could be beneficial, that doesn’t mean this scheme is the answer either. A residential-led scheme of course does contribute to the housing need, and is an environmentally responsible approach. Yet, I would rather precious highly accessible development land around the station be used to provide reasons to visit Reading, rather than using our improving rail connections to attract yet more commuters heading away to London every day. I proposed some other ideas when I previously covered the similar plans at the adjacent ex-sorting office site so I’ll not repeat.

The landmark office building – the only potentially architecturally interesting element of the plans – has been pointlessly shrunk by a couple of storeys to placate the moaners from Caversham Heights, who I suppose could conceivably catch a glimpse of it from the attic Velux. Then mid-rise apartment buildings dominate, shown indicatively as red brick boxes, with a handful of extra floors transitioning to that grey cladding they use on modern ugly towers where they want to disguise their existence against our overcast skies rather than design something attractive.


More positively, a pedestrian avenue (branded a linear park) will be carved through the middle of The Range, hopefully providing an attractive route out to the Thames (when combined with the SSE site redevelopment- see below). Vehicle access is provided on a further alignment, this time cut through the centre of the current plot occupied by Aldi. It’s unclear whether the public art contribution could be a commemorative sculpture of a power sprayer or inflatable canoe, but I’ll definitely submit “aisle of dreams” to the street naming committee.


Further positives include a dedicated segregated cycle path created along the full Vastern Road stretch being developed. And a planning technicality preventing ground floor residential forces some greater thought into the street layout to provide a sequence of viable small retail, leisure, and food & drink units fronting the central avenue bounding this scheme from that at the sorting office. The council must now work with both developers to ensure the schemes fit together and create a positive new public space.


We definitely need some further work on this scheme so make sure you share your views. The developer Aviva is welcoming feedback on its latest plans by Friday 8th November.

Catching up on progress over the road at the SSE site, and illustrating the value of responding to these consultations, we are seeing Berkeley gradually improving their plans. Gone are the weird pedestrian tunnels through the apartment blocks, replaced with clearer spacing. The styles have become more attractive and varied, and different zones have their own theme. I fear they might be synthesising slightly more industrial history than the site can reasonably claim with the apparent installation of a disused rail siding for artistic effect, but maybe it can work. Most positively, the riverside café, added following our collective feedback has evolved to having its own pavilion-style building and raised terrace in the prime spot within the site. Latest images from the developer’s site included below.





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Reading Station Shopping Park

11 thoughts on “Reading Station Shopping Park

  1. Dan Grey says:

    Need to think about Reading Railway Station Retail Park a little more (going to call it that all the time now) but the SSE site plans are good. Just… Maybe a bit tall for right next to the river?

    Yes. Yes I live in Caversham.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Reading General says:

    Nice one.
    I will never understand the opposition to height in Reading.The buildings which already exist, notably the recently finished Verto, prove that these buildings don’t dominate areas as much as perceived, often end up being mid rise stumps and all could be a few floors taller. I have pointed out before that if all our tall buildings finish at the same height, the skyline will simply end up a wall, so in effect lopping floors off the top can make a view look worse. A distant, occasionally glanced at view from a window being spoiled should not be a legitimate reason to hold up development, and I imagine this is probably a diversion tactic to limit development by those worried about queuing traffic or the possibility of getting up slightly earlier to queue in traffic and I don’t doubt that, should Aldi attempt to build a branch north of the river, it will meet opposition from the same folk who wish to keep their practical amenities on the ‘rough’ side of the Thames where they can’t see them, and as far from their house as possible (see the Heights school affair). Caversham isn’t north Oxford, it’s a fairly average, albeit nice suburb where all the house designs match the rest of the town, from the victorian terraces to the corporation council houses. Why on earth this area feels it’s occasionally glanced views are precious I will never know as, with the view from Balmore Walk in mind, even a 120 metre building wouldn’t tower over northern Reading!
    That said, so far this development looks to be a box ticker rather than anything of merit, the top part of the now decapitated office building was actually the most interesting part. The residential buildings aren’t particularly interesting, and I feel it’s about time balcony style either moved on or just disappeared, most I see simply store stuff like bikes on. Why architects stick to copying the docklands style of apartment building from the 90’s rather than borrow the style from average, attractive apartment buildings of the past I don’t know. People could suggest it must fit in with the style locally, but what is that in this area? The Victorian terraces? The Drew’s building? The 70’s concrete storage place? The ridiculously style-less lump of Great Brighams Mead? (actually I would prefer any of the other styles to Great Brighams Mead). If it was down to me (probably best it isn’t) the development would be predominantly commercial (this isn’t a dormitory town), with buildings facing up to the street, the plots uneven in size and something of local interest and leisure on the TGI corner, with different architects for each building use, office, residential, etc.
    Great report as always.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Anonymous says:

    First of all thanks for actually aggregating this sort of thing, like i’m sure a lot of younger (30s) residents I don’t pay too much attention to this kind of stuff unless it’s shoved in my face.

    My first impression after looking at the plans for the three areas is that building a wide tower at the narrower end of the old sorting office location will cast a shadow for half the year over the other flats at the reading station shopping park location. I understand their idea of having a distinctive tower you can see as you pull into Reading does add a certain something to the area but they probably wouldn’t make the top floor a viewing platform. I agree that having a narrower more eye catching tower would look more modern and I think serve that purpose better.

    I think the SSE site is fine although I see no point in having balconies on the blocks of flats that aren’t next to the river and feel the central building that they depict in pink would be better served (at least it’s bottom floor) as some sort of central meeting space for the area or people walking along the Thames.

    I can’t really say no to more living spaces but I imagine they won’t be spacious. Just an attempt to cram as many people in as possible, yet still have extremely high prices as they’re next to the station. Obviously a new convention centre in Reading would be incredible for us living here as we’ll get more
    culture. Perhaps a hybrid of smaller convention halls and business meeting spaces could work well and serve TVP, Green Park and the University (i.e. visitors would not need to travel to their campuses, just get off the train).

    The only real negative for me is what they’re calling “green spaces”. These “micro parks” are just a waste of time, without constant care they will get eroded and aren’t big enough to do anything useful for wildlife, even insects. I would rather they somehow conglomerated them into a larger proper green space and just put the buildings a bit closer to the road. It might make the area look more concrete by removing these tiny slivers of green but frankly they’re just lip service. Also, why do we never build proper car parking under the flats like in a lot of Europe, too expensive? People are going to have cars and just park all over the place in the nearby areas instead.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I understand that removing single story sheds is worth while, do you not also think having a supermarket next to a bus and rail nexus would actually be a good thing? We do almost all our shopping there since its literally on the commute home, and I’m sure thats the same for a lot of other people – so i dont see why having a cheap small supermarket there should be an problem. Where will all the people who live here go shopping .. ? would be nice if the council could actually do something about its “Climate emergency” apart from provide flats for London commuters. [yes – i also live in Caversham ..but we dont all live in the clouds with the Heights].

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, completely agree there should be space in either the sorting office scheme or this one for a small metro-style supermarket (of any brand) to allow commuters to pick up tonight’s dinner and a bag of supplies to take home on the train, as well as serve the surrounding apartments. But some operators, including Aldi, would only really go for sites with ample parking, which will likely rule them out in this location.
      I think the town centre could support a larger supermarket somewhere and it’s likely the council might include one in their civic quarter redevelopment.


  5. Richard Stainthorp says:

    I agree that the SSE site has much improved since Version 1 and would like to think that this is largely a result of the comments made at the various exhibitions held – this is a good example of a developer genuinely reacting to consultation.

    On the Reading Station Retail Park proposals I wholeheartedly support better use being made of what is currently being wasted on wrinkly tin warehouses and car park but I do have a problem with the monolithic appearance of what is being proposed – my first thought was that they resembled Soviet era East Berlin.

    Aviva seem intent on rushing this through and it is noticeable that the second consultation was significantly less well advertised than the first – could this be because the comments I heard at the first were overwhelmingly negative? I attended the first and asked that I be kept informed of developments but have no record of being invited to the second. Hopefully they will take a leaf out of the Berkeley book and have a series of consultations that can develop a detailed submission and react positively to informed comment from the public.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Alan MacLean says:

    I note they carried out the second consultation very quickly after the first and in school holidays – seems very rushed! Are they trying to get in before the other two major developments next door?
    Overall the SSE development seems to have had a lot more thought put into it – it’s interesting that from speaking to them the height of the building next to the river was not a first choice but partly a result of the remaining power equipment pushing the taller bulidings away from the centre – but the RSP development feels half-baked:
    A new car exit directly onto massively busy Vastern Road? Not sure the council will like that.
    Cycle route doesn’t do what the local plan says and link to Christchurch Bridge / Caversham but takes the lazy option of connecting to the other pedestrian crossing
    Visualisations are unrealistic – look, loads of trees next to the station! On land that isn’t part of this development and is either council owned or Network Rail owned! Blue skies and pale / bright colours everywhere!
    Buildings look very boring – nothing particularly interesting or characteristic
    Refers to ‘consideration of mature trees’ not committing to them
    Actual information on facilities other than flats / offices is scant.
    Shadow study has gone for 21st March – ie the last date which could be considered as the ‘winter months’, not showing them at their darkest in December which would be more sensible.
    Leading questions: ‘do you agree with the reduction in height of the tallest building from 20 stories to 18’ – yes, but most would like it shorter…

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Top marks to Berkeley Homes for their consultations – in my own view there are a few aspects of the latest design that have been a bit of a retrograde step (in particular, I’m not keen on the more difficult to negotiate cycle route and the flat-roofed penthouse apartments overlooking the Thames), but on the whole they have shown that they do listen, and the wharf-style Vastern Road side, in particular, looks pretty good in my view. If this development gets built I’d say it’s time for the rusty railings on Christchurch Bridge to go too.

    I can understand the view that the landmark office building earmarked for the retail park site has “been pointlessly shrunk by a couple of storeys to placate the moaners from Caversham Heights”, but no one ever seems to mention the views of those of us that live in the considerable stock of low-rise Victorian housing right next to this development site. Are we just not vocal enough?

    It isn’t just the view from Caversham Heights that matters (I agree that a few more blocks wouldn’t greatly affect the view from Balmore Park and might if sensitively done even be considered a slight enhancement) – it’s massive blocks towering over those of us that live less than 400 metres away as well. Lynmouth Road, De Montfort Road and Swansea Road, in particular, would have something pretty substantial looming over their horizon, and in the case of the former two streets there would be a significant loss of sunlight in winter.

    At least Aviva have been consulting – since a single exhibition in late 2018 (the result of which seems to be no significant change anyway – I doubt they took residents’ views on board) Hermes have been silent, with just an outline planning application. The Aviva design looks pretty bland, and will hopefully be improved over further iterations; the Hermes proposals just look incongruous, with another excessively tall ‘landmark’ building (shouldn’t these really be reserved for Station Hill?), a block that to me would make walking along Caversham Road seem akin to walking alongside a battleship, and some pointless and barely habitable town houses with very limited daylight.

    Finally, I know a lot of us will miss Aldi (it’s where I do most of my shopping), but there is a serious question raised by its loss. Where are the residents of this development expected to do their food shopping, given that most of them won’t be able to own cars? Are we to expect endless fleets of Tesco vans and Deliveroo scooters plying the area? A small Metro sized store would help, but would it be sufficient for a population that is increasing by around 4,000 in the next few years?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Alan Maclean says:

      FYI, regarding the SSE site, the decision to put a dogleg into the cycle route was because it is a shared use path, they wanted to slow down the cyclists which might speed through if it was a straight route, according to one of the staff at the consultation.

      Liked by 1 person

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