City status could help Reading compete with Oxford and Cambridge, according to one of the town’s major developers.
Thames Tap asked some of the biggest stakeholders in the town, including those behind Station Hill and Thames Quarter developments, as well as The Oracle and some of our own Valley Voices, their thoughts on the borough council’s latest attempt to give Reading the crown it has been seeking for more than 20 years.
Hugo Haig, director of Thames Quarter developer, Lochailort, said: “Lochailort is a local developer and we have always thought of Reading as being a city – and wish it every success with its bid to achieve official city status.
“We have recently completed Reading’s first, state-of-the-art, purpose built, multi-family Build-to-Rent development at Thames Quarter with a huge range of communal facilities for the residents which will work well on the back of the economic success of this major town.
“Reading is the go-to town in the Thames Valley and, as the major town of the district, it should be able to achieve city status, defiantly, and compete head on with the likes of Oxford and Cambridge.
“It has excellent schools, a world-renowned university, great transport links and a strong economic pedigree.”
Alex Aitchison, director of development at Lincoln Property Company, part of Lincoln MGT, the joint venture behind Station Hill, said: “As significant investors in Reading, through our £750 million regeneration at Station Hill, we recognise Reading’s long-overdue city status, a designation that would only help to drive and enhance an already thriving economy.
“Whilst the biggest and best companies in the world are already headquartered in many of its surrounding business parks, we chose central Reading for our first UK project because we wanted to create a true capital of the South East.
“We hope our vision for Station Hill will be the catalyst for further regeneration projects in the heart of Reading, ensuring this latest bid for cityhood cannot be ignored.”
Andy Briggs, general manager of The Oracle, said: “The Oracle Shopping Centre is at the heart of Reading and is integral to the local economy and culture, so we welcome the council’s bid for city status.
“This is an opportunity to increase inward investment, attract new businesses and retain a skilled and vibrant workforce. Reading has long been an attractive place to live and work and it deserves to be recognised, not only in the UK, but also internationally.”
Nigel Horton-Baker, executive director of Reading UK, said: “Reading UK has been promoting Reading as a ‘de facto city’ for several years, a status that is well-recognised in the business world in which Reading competes with UK and international cities as an economic powerhouse.
“Reading boasts all the hallmarks of a successful city, from a great quality of life to global companies, excellent transport infrastructure to a clear sense of identity, powered by its people. It is now time for the UK political process to acknowledge that reality by designating Reading a city in 2022.
“The Reading 2050 City Vision, led by Reading UK in partnership with the University of Reading and Barton Wilmore, sets out an ambition for Reading to be a smart, inclusive and sustainable city which has green tech, culture and heritage and green spaces at the heart of its future.
“Post-Covid, Reading is already exiting the economic recession brought about by the pandemic faster than most other cities. The future looks bright for Reading and we hope all of Reading will get behind the council in championing Reading for city status.”
Phil Brown, head of Savills Reading, said: “Arguably Reading is already the capital of the Thames Valley. Benefitting from excellent transport connections and a leading university, it attracts economic investment and is a key driver of the Thames Valley economy.
“It boasts a skilled workforce and, because of this, has become a sought-after location for blue chip companies. Increasingly recognised for its lifestyle offer, Reading is also an attractive place to live and work. It is right therefore that Reading receives the recognition it deserves through being awarded city status.”
Nick Burrows, chairman & partner of Blandy & Blandy, said: “With an urban population already larger than that of many cities and, given its location and ever-improving connectivity with London and other key destinations, Reading should have its strongest case yet to achieve city status.
“It is a fantastic place to live and do business. Reading is consistently named among the UK’s fastest growing and best performing economic regions and it is home to one of the country’s most qualified and employed workforces.
“It also ranks highly for important factors, including education and quality of life, whilst it more than holds its own against leading European cities when it comes to attracting UK and inward investment.
“As a town, Reading has grown and achieved a great deal in the past 20 years but gaining city status will no doubt help to further propel things forward even more so.”
Kim Cohen, planning partner at Barton Willmore, based in The Blade, said: “It was clear from all our engagement to develop the Reading 2050 Vision, across the business and wider community, that Reading is a hugely successful town, and a city in all but name.
“By sharing the exciting ambitions and opportunities the vision identified, as well as our well-established standing as a successful place to live work and play, I and my colleagues at Barton Willmore, believe Reading stands an excellent chance in this latest bid for city status.
“We are a city of rivers and parks, of culture and diversity and of green tech, and this status would play a big role in aiding our drive to deliver more.”
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