Councillors and officers in Reading are discussing possible legal options after Berkeley Homes won its appeal to build 209 homes on the former SSE site in Vastern Road.

Reading Borough Council’s planning applications committee refused the proposal in April 2021. Key reasons for refusal were the lack of what the council calls a ‘high quality north-south link’ for cyclists and pedestrians and the scheme’s height, massing and proximity to the Thames towpath.

But, in a decision published on Thursday, March 17, planning inspector A J Mageean upheld Berkeley Homes’ appeal.

Reading Borough Council’s lead member for strategic environment, planning and transport, Cllr Tony Page said details of inspector’s report are being carefully looked at by officers.

He said he could not comment in detail but he told Thames Tap: “I am very disappointed in the inspector’s decision and the council are looking very closely at the appeal and we are reviewing our legal options as a result.”

The scheme will have six blocks of between one and 11 storeys and a retail unit, likely to be a café, close to Christchurch Bridge.

The inspector’s report states: “The scheme would deliver a key section of the north-south pedestrian and cycle link, connecting the bridge and river towpath with the station. It would provide an important link supporting the council’s aspirations for this key movement corridor, enabling sustainable and healthy travel choices.

“The opening up of the riverside area and provision of a café would support the attractiveness of this route. The continuation of this north-south link is a policy requirement. Nonetheless, this has been a policy objective for some 20 years, with the supporting text to Policy CR11g setting out that achieving the north-south link is the main priority for the site and should be given substantial weight in development management.

“Further, given the evident challenges of achieving a viable route through the site, my view is that securing the delivery of this important piece of infrastructure would be a benefit attracting significant weight.”

The report suggested the council’s decision, during the Local Plan process, not to extend its tall buildings cluster to allow tall blocks closer to the river, made the relocation of the substantial electricity plant on the site unviable.

Only 0.76 hectares of the 1.24-hectare site is being developed due to the decision not to remove the electrical plant.

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