The owner of a retail park including The Range, Aldi, and TGI Fridays in Reading town centre has been slammed over plans to redevelop it.
Back in February 2020, Aviva Life & Pensions UK Limited submitted an outline plan to redevelop the Reading station retail park in Vastern Road.
The plan involves replacing the retail park with around 600 homes and new offices and retail space.
An aerial CGI of the proposal shows approximately 14 towers replacing the retail park, which is currently occupied by Aldi, The Range, Majestic Wine and TGI Fridays.
The plan was meant to be decided on in July last year, but was not, which led Aviva to submit an appeal against the non determination of its planning application.
But councillor Tony Page (Labour, Abbey) said the delay was down to Aviva failing to provide enough information.
Cllr Page explained: “We have been waiting to get information from the developers on a range of issues.
“The developers only sent in additional information a few weeks ago.
“This usually happens with large applications.
“Responsible developers will agree to an extension to deliver consent.
“The council is not objecting to the principle of development but we believe there is too much, and they have not been willing to work properly with the council.
“That’s regrettable. They’ve exercised their legal right to appeal, we hope they will be unsuccessful.”
At a meeting today (Tuesday, February 15) Reading Borough Council’s planning committee unanimously voted to refuse it.
The key reasons for the refusal were that the plan failed to provide an effective north-south link between the train station and Caversham, and that the proposed buildings would dwarf the surrounding homes in Vastern Road, Caversham Road and the Bell Tower area.
There were also questions over whether the development complies with the Reading Local Plan.
Although the retail park is identified for redevelopment in policy CR11e of the Local Plan, cllr Page argued Aviva had failed to work with other landowners Hermes, which has its own plan to build 620 homes at the former Royal Mail depot, and Network Rail, which owns the station multi-storey car park.
Cllr John Ennis (Labour, Southcote) said: “This is akin to ‘build what you like when you like’.
“This is developers not talking to the council and other developers. We can’t tolerate that. It’s not good planning.”
Cllr Jane Stanford-Beale (Conservative, Peppard) added: It’s very disappointing to receive this application, because it does not please.
“We don’t mind tall buildings, but they have to be in the right place with affordable housing.
“This application does not have that.”
Because an appeal has been lodged, the planning committee was not able to make a final decision on it.
However, the seven committee members present agreed that, if they had been able to determine the planning application, they would have refused it.
The appeal was lodged on December 23, 2021.
To view the plan yourself, type in reference 200328 into the council’s planning portal here: http://planning.reading.gov.uk/fastweb_PL/welcome.asp .
You can view the appeal by using reference APP/E0345/W/21/3289748 on the Government’s planning inspectorate website.