Reading plan to replace student halls with flats rejected

Developer Hanslink had applied to knock down Trinity Hall, at the junction of South Street and Sidmouth Street, and replace it with a newbuild containing 22 flats.

Trinity Hall used to serve as student accommodation but has been vacant since 2014, which has led to reports of break-ins and anti-social behaviour.

The replacement project was discussed at council planning applications committee meeting, where some welcomed it as it would get rid of nuisance behaviour attached to it being vacant.

Speaking at the meeting, Faheem Ahmed, a Reading resident and worshipper at the Reading Islamic Centre in South Street said: “I’m all for the application for the development because that building is an absolute eyesore there with overgrown bushes all the windows are boarded up.

“You see frequent drug users, and it’s not very nice when you go on a Friday to pray and the building desperately needs development.

Additionally, Joseph Bowman, a representative of Hanslink, said: “We are all here because we all want to deliver more affordable homes for local people.

“The opportunity you have before you could not be better placed to deliver on that goal a 100 per cent affordable scheme on a brownfield site which has not been in use since 2014, and which is a very short walk from the town centre and the train station.

“It  has been left unused for almost a decade and has become the source of regular anti-social behaviour, trespassing and internal fire damage.”

Councillor Liam Challenger (Labour, Katesgrove), who represents the area, noted his first casework as a councillor was dealing with anrti-social behaviour at Trinity Hall, and also said South Street a ‘hodgepodge’ of different building styles, uses and sizes.

He said: “There are views about what can be a pretty building, I think we can all agree that an abandoned site isn’t one of them, so to see some progress and see an application that has potential is something that is really key.

“At one point in time Katesgrove had claim to the most pubs in Reading, it probably runs it now for the most abandoned sites.”

Ultimately, cllr Challenger called for the decision to be deferred so issues relating to securing a provider for the affordable housing and other matters could be resolved.

However, concerns about how the affordable housing would be managed and breaches of council policies on the size of the proposed building swayed members of the committee to vote against it.

Cllr Jan Gavin (Labour, Caversham) noted 10 planning policies that the application failed to comply with.

She said: “We really hope that an application for this type of development, on this site comes forward which is policy compliant. From the mood of members I think we could support such an application. But sadly, very sadly, this is not it.”

Only cllr Simon Robinson (Conservative, Emmer Green) voted against the plan being refused, in a 12 to one vote. The application, reference 220385 was rejected by the council’s planning committee on Wednesday, June 21.

Reading Chronicle | Town Centre