Councillors approved plans to add 422 flats to Reading’s Broad Street Mall at their March 4 meeting – and discussed long-abandoned plans to raft over the IDR.

Reading Borough Council’s planning applications committee approved Moorgarth’s proposals to build four blocks of flats at the centre, a proposal seen as the first step in the Minster Quarter regeneration which covers the area of and around the former Civic Centre.

Tony Page, lead councillor for strategic, environment,  planning and transport, requested an amendment to the application that a £633,000 contribution from the developer for parks in Reading is ringfenced for the Minster Quarter area.

He said that would not be specifically for rafting over the IDR but that work, he said, is vital.

He told the meeting: “I think it is absolutely fundamental to the future success of the Minster Quarter, that the IDR is decked over. This is the only area where we can deliver green open space.

“It will fill and cover an environmental catastrophe, namely the IDR.”

Greening of the top deck of the Broad Street Mall car park was also discussed at the meeting and plans may be amended at a later stage so that there is more green space created there. Councillors discussed at length a report by the Historic England’s historic places panel which considered the development’s proximity to the Minster Church and being within a conservation area.

Moorgarth chief executive Tim Vaughan pointed to five phases of refurbishments and improvements at the mall since the asset manager took over in 2015, including retaining tenants and bringing in more varied ones.

Moorgarth, he said, resisted the opportunity to convert its 80,000 sq ft of office space into residential through Permitted Development and chose instead to retain the employment use.

Work on the new foodhall at the former Poundland store will start in the summer.

Mr Vaughan added: “We have proven our ability, through phases one to five, to carry out the absolutely essential repositioning of the centre to make it really vibrant and appealing.”

Plans for new leisure operations at the House of Fraser store at The Oracle were approved at the same meeting.

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