Reading Borough Council’s (RBC) planning applications committee will discuss the Royal Elm Park development on 26 April. Public consultation on this development near the Madejski Stadium started in October 2015.
The committee describes the application as ‘hybrid’ because some parts of the application are only outline proposals. The detailed elements include:
- 196 residential units,
- a convention centre and ice rink,
- a 246 bed hotel,
- up to 102 service apartments and
- retail units, car parks, transport interchange and public open spaces.
In their 143 page report, RBC planning officers recommend that permission is granted, but add that there are controversial aspects to the development.
Sport England has objected to the scheme because it will mean the loss of a playing field when the indoor training pitch is demolished. Alternative facilities may be available and the issue could be resolved in advance of the committee date. If this objection is not withdrawn and planning permission is granted by the committee, the application will be referred to the Secretary of State.
The site was previously used for landfill and is still contaminated. Development on the site is challenging because decomposition of the waste produces methane and carbon dioxide, which increases health risks during construction and subsequent occupation. The papers going to the committee include detailed explanations about how these dangers can be controlled and managed.
RBC officers said that solutions already exist to allow residential development on sites with such problems, and risks could be reduced to “acceptable levels” if these solutions were designed, installed and maintained properly. They concluded that:
… subject to appropriate planning obligations and conditions, … planning permission can be granted for this development on this site.
Supporters’ Trust at Reading (STAR)
STAR originally raised objections in March 2016 that the concerns of Reading Football Club supporters were not being considered in the development. The report includes these objections, although they were withdrawn on 19 April after a meeting with Reading Football Club.
RBC planning officers state that the benefits of the scheme outweigh any concerns:
It is the view of officers that, technically, the site can be developed safely subject to stringent conditions and S106 obligations…
While the proposals are not fully compliant with all relevant policies, and there will be some impacts, the officer view is that the significant economic and other benefits of the scheme as a whole outweigh those concerns.
The application is therefore recommended for approval…