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”
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”
Reading’s long wait to restore town centre ten-pin bowling could be about to end as Hammerson submits a radical proposal for a leisure-led makeover of its House of Fraser department store. Plans also include a food hall, an indoor golf complex, a new cafe on Bridge Street, and some remaining retail space inside the mall. Undoubtedly the most significant development at The Oracle since its final phase linking to Broad Street opened in 2000, let’s take a look at the plans and how we’ve ended up here. Continue reading “Bowling, Golf and Food Hall to replace House of Fraser”
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. Continue reading “Reading Station Shopping Park”
We had Sir John Madejski’s original Station Hill plans, then Station Hill 2, and SH3. The latest developers are trying to leave the past failures behind by ditching the numeric suffix. Thankfully they’ve also avoided named alternatives, like Vista or XP. No, we’re keeping it simple – not Station Hill Goes Forth, or Station Hill – The Goblet of Fire, just plain old Station Hill. And in fact the main evolution from Station Hill – The Prisoner of Azkaban is that they’re saying Expelliarmus to Garrard St car park and installing a podium to remove the ‘Hill’ altogether. Unique, of course, to the novels of the Station Hill series is that nothing actually ever happens: so many plots yet no storeys. But without going over the top, I feel we might have captured the golden egg at last. Welcome to Station Hill – Millennial Edition. Continue reading “Station Hill 4 Revealed – Let’s get on with it”
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!”