Entertainment company FunBox is set to introduce bowling, virtual reality (VR) games, arcade games, a restaurant and more in the former New Look and coronavirus vaccination centre in Broad Street Mall.
Councillors heaped praise on the project during a meeting where the planning application for the mall units was decided.
Councillor Karen Rowland (Labour, Abbey) said: “I’m very positive about this, the employment contributions to the town centre is one aspect, but the energising of the Queens Walk, and giving it another area along there will be very very positive.”
Cllr James Moore (Liberal Democrats, Tilehurst) said: “I’d say one of the things I hear from residents the most is that there’s not enough for young people to do in Reading.
“And this is something we do not have in Reading, there is no place where you can play Mario Kart with your friends on a big arcade machine or do VR gaming or things like that, so this is a really nice thing.
“I’ve been to places like this before, they’re all over London, there is one in Thatcham it seems like they are everywhere but Reading did not have it, I’m really happy that this has come forward.”
Cllr Moore was referring to the Meet Space VR gaming centre in Pipers Court, Thatcham.
Cllr Micky Leng (Labour, Whitley) added: “It’s fantastic, it’s a bit like the stuff you get on a pier but we don’t have the sea.
“It’s just what the town needs, and more importantly, it’s what residents want.”
Simon Robinson (Conservative, Emmer Green) said: “Anything that re-energises and provides a good reason to bring people into the town centre and increase footfall is a fantastic endeavour in my opinion.”
However, he did raise concerns about adequate parking, as the car park in Broad Street Mall could close for a year to clear the way for mall owner AEW’s plans to build 601 apartments to the rear of the centre.
Answering that concern, Julie Williams, the council’s planning manager replied: “It will be below the mall car park, there are also loads of bus services in this area.
“Transport officers are content that this facility is as well served as the previous New Look and vaccination centre was. There are no concerns about parking.”
Meanwhile, cllr Josh Williams (Green, Park) questioned whether FunBox could introduce 18+ gambling machines to the centre.
Planning manager Williams replied that the company would be in breach of its licence if such machines were introduced without licensing consent.
FunBox was recently granted a licence to sell alcohol and provide regulated entertainment such as arcade games until midnight on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 11.30pm on Wednesdays and 10.30pm for the rest of the week.
The application was approved unanimously by the planning applications committee on Wednesday, December 6.
You can view the approved application by typing reference 231464 into the council’s planning portal.