Rejuvenated Reading

Town gets go ahead for £1bn regeneration scheme - despite CABE's objections to the scheme

Reading has been given the go-ahead to a £1bn scheme to regenerate the centre of the town - one of the first major such projects since the start of the recession.

Last week the borough council's planning committee gave the go-ahead to two neighbouring schemes that together will cost more than £1bn, with an upgrade of the railway station and other transport links and a large amount of new office and shopping space and public facilities.

The projects will transform a hitherto unappealing corner of the centre that has long detracted from the town's image as a beacon of the high-tech Thames Valley.

Developer Sackville Properties, whose chairman is Sir John Madejski, also chairman of Reading Football Club, is planning to redevelop the five-acre Station Hill area with a series of tall buildings that will provide a mix of offices, housing, shops with cafes, restaurants and food outlets. About 5,000 people will collectively live or work in the new development. Sackville's £400mn plans also include an arts venue, a health and fitness facility, new public spaces and a central public piazza.

The Station Hill scheme will be integrated with plans by Network Rail and Reading borough council's plans to spend £825m to redevelop Reading station and provide a new public transport interchange.

Work on Sackville's scheme could start in 2011 with the first phase completed by 2014. The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE), which objected to the first version of the Station Hill scheme, has also criticised the latest plans by both Sackville and Network Rail latest plans and said the two projects are not sufficiently integrated.

Tony Page, lead councillor for transport at Reading borough council, said he was disappointed by CABE's comments and believed their concerns had been "fully addressed" in a lengthy committee report.

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