Residents of Northcourt Avenue in Reading will take an active part in an eight-day planning appeal this month brought by property developer UPP to build new multistorey student accommodation blocks at the St Patrick’s site for Reading University.
Northcourt Avenue Residents Association (NARA) have been granted section 6 status which allows interested parties to take part in the appeal process. NARA will support Reading Borough Council’s unanimous decision to oppose plans to build four and five-and-a-half storey accommodation blocks taken by the Council’s planning committee in February 2018.
“The residents are not against development, but it has to be appropriate to the site and community,” said Simone Illger, NARA chair. “This overbearing, high-density proposal will do considerable harm by its height and close proximity to locally listed heritage buildings like Pearson’s Court, whose large windows and open green will be dominated by five-and-a-half storey blocks crammed into the remaining space.”
UPP’s redevelopment would increase student numbers on the site by 64%. There are currently 1105 student bedrooms on the whole of the St Patrick’s site; the proposal to demolish some existing buildings and build 654 new student bedrooms will make a total of 1759 students compared with the residential non-student population on the avenue of around 350.
“The University and the developers UPP failed to carry out a meaningful consultation with local residents and other stakeholders at the pre-application stage of the development proposals,” added Ms Illger. “The public inquiry route may never have been necessary had developers listened and responded to initial local opinion. Meaningful consultation involves a two-way process of dialogue and engagement, rather than a one-way dissemination of information.”
“Reading University has sufficient land on its main campus to meet student demand for halls accommodation; it should consider using this first.”
Richard Bennett, Chair of Reading Civic Society, will present evidence on the heritage aspects of the proposal at the inquiry.
The public inquiry will open at 10am on 19 March in the Waterhouse Chamber at Reading Town Hall. It is expected to take eight days and the appeal decision will be made two to three weeks later.
Northcourt Avenue Residents’ Association (NARA) is an active residents’ association that serves Northcourt Avenue, Wellington Avenue and Stansfield Close in Reading. Their elected committee meets regularly to discuss matters likely to impact on the neighbourhood and character of the area. The group also plays an important part in providing community cohesiveness, bringing neighbours together regularly.
Simone Illger is chair of the Northcourt Avenue Resident’s Association.
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