A £20 million bid for levelling up money is to be made to move Reading Central Library to the civic offices and extend the Hexagon Theatre.

Reading Borough Council is to bid for £12m to add a flexible new space to the Hexagon for performances and community use. The council wants to extend the building to the right-hand side of the existing entrance with a new section directly off Queens Walk.

The council says it will improve accessibility and mean a wider variety of performances and uses can be accommodated. The Hexagon development will feed into the council’s plans to regenerate the Minster Quarter.

And the authority will seek £8m to rebuild the Central Library at its civic offices in Bridge Street (see image below).

The council wants improved accessibility and to be able to offer more modern services.

Both proposals focus heavily on improved sustainability as part of the commitment to working towards a net-zero carbon Reading by 2030.

The council’s bid is to the Government’s Round 2 Levelling Up Fund and – if successful – would be match-funded 10 per cent by the council. The bid is set to be submitted in July and news of whether it is successful is expected in Autumn.

Council leader Cllr Jason Brock said: “Both the Hexagon Theatre and Reading Central Library are major institutions in our town which continue to be very well-used and extremely popular.

“I think most people would agree with me, however, when I say that both buildings are dated and present limitations to improving our future cultural and learning offer to local residents.

“This levelling up funding pot now offers us the opportunity to do just that. If we are successful in our bid, it will offer us a once-in-a-generation opportunity to revitalise and breathe new life into the cultural and learning offer in this part of Reading. A brand new and additional flexible performance and community space would be created at the Hexagon Theatre.

“We would also construct a modern new custom-built Reading Central Library at the civic offices site on Bridge Street. Importantly, both projects would enable us to ensure much-improved accessibility so that everyone can use and enjoy the facilities.

“As a council, we are always looking for opportunities to invest in even better facilities for residents, whether that be brand new leisure centres and swimming pools, new affordable homes, new and refurbished train stations, cycle facilities or new playgrounds, to name but a few. These bids continue with that theme of investing in Reading and fit with this council’s ambition to create new opportunities for everybody in the town.

“I would encourage as many people as possible to feed back their initial thoughts, which will help inform the final project.”

The council has given a special email address for people to comment.

Contact levellingup@reading.gov.uk

Reading Borough Council is also developing a £20m transport bid which proposes investment in sustainable transport infrastructure, focusing on West Reading and South Reading.

The schemes are centred around meeting the transport needs of key areas of deprivation in Reading, ensuring connectivity to education, employment and skills centres, while also reducing the impacts of congestion across the road network. The transport funding would add to the £26m Bus Services Improvement Plan investment recently secured.

Images below show the proposed new library building at the civic offices and images of the proposed Hexagon extension.

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