Reading aparthotel and market plans approved

Sara Kirsch Sara Kirsch Uploaded 28 June 2021

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UK: The Reading Borough Council has unanimously approved plans to develop a town centre building into a market and aparthotel.

The building plans for the town centre development were approved on June 23 by the RBC’s planning application committee. The grade II-listed building will be both renovated and extended to bring the new development to life, with new features including a 41-bed aparthotel and 3,308 square metres of retail spaces.

The developer of the site, Thackeray Estates, which already owns other buildings in the town centre, cited Market Hall, Eccleston Yard in London, and Milsom Place in Bath as inspirations for the new development.

A representative for Thackeray Estates said: “The listed buildings on both Queen Victoria Street and Friar Street have been neglected over time and a series of unsympathetic additions and alterations have caused significant harm. The buildings are in serious need of repair and their existence relies on significant investment in the historic fabric. By putting the buildings back to use, this initial investment and ongoing maintenance can be secured, ensuring the building’s future.”

The current structure will be developed into the aparthotel, while old buildings in the back of the development will be knocked down to create the market square for boutiques and independent food traders. The outdoor space could also be used for alternative purposes such as: a farmer’s market, a Christmas market, a sport viewing area, live theatre, and street food.

There was concern among some council members as to if there would be enough demand to fill the newly-created retail spaces. These concerns were voiced by Ricky Duveen, a Lib Dem councillor who was unable to vote in-person, although he praised the idea of the development overall.

Councillor Tony Page, the lead member for planning, said that there were plenty of independent retailers in Reading. He explained that the pandemic had caused lower commercial rent prices, leading some businesses to get town centre spots that they could not have afforded otherwise.

Page said: “The issue is whether the owners of properties will pitch their rents at a realistic starter level that will enable those small businesses to get started.”

In the unanimous approval, the council members also praised the developer’s efforts to restore storefronts to their original appearance and to pay attention to historical details. Councillor Karen Rowland, lead RBC member for culture and heritage, called the project “the type of heritage-led regeneration that our town is really needing and craving”.

Rowland said: “It’s rare that you get an application where people don’t complain and indeed complement but this is truly one of those applications.”

Labour councillor Liam Challenger said: “It’s great to see something with such love and appreciation going into it. Seeing something so refined and simple really adds to the town, especially on a gateway through to the station.”

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