Hermes’ plans for 620 homes and office, retail and community space in Caversham Road, Reading have been approved – with a warning that the scheme must progress quickly.

Reading Borough Council’s planning applications committee unanimously approved outline plans for the Reading Metropolitan scheme which includes blocks of up to 24 storeys on the 2.2-hectare former Royal Mail depot on the north side of Reading station.

Cllr Tony Page, lead member for strategic, environment, planning and transport, said: “There’s a view among some of us that this is a site that is ripe for onward sale and that it then gets passed around and resold, and development thereby delayed, particularly as it’s an outline application.”

But Barry Kitcherside, director of Chartplan which represents Hermes, said the developer wants to pursue its scheme despite interest in the site from other high-profile organisations and that its proposed development partner has already been introduced to the council.

Mr Kitcherside said it would not be traded in but he warned: “We are at a very delicate stage in the field of property. Building costs are rising like there’s no tomorrow. Money is going to be a difficult problem. The world we are going to live in in 18 months’ time – if, hopefully, we can get through all the worldwide issues that are going on at the moment – will be very challenging to developments such as this.

“But this needs to come forward and it needs to come forward collectively. We will work with you and we will work with your residents and memberships to bring forward something you support.”

Design of the buildings will be dealt with at the reserved matters stage but Cllr Page warned that with rising costs, one of the first economies could be design quality.

Mr Kitcherside said his client will retain tp bennett as architect throughout but had a further warning over potential delay.

He said: “This is a pivotal moment in the history of development in this country, right over the next 12 months. We are carrying a development forward over a two-three year period when we don’t know what is going to exist.

“If we snap it now, work hard with your guys now, this site will come forward. If it lies sterile for a few more years, we don’t know what’s going to happen. On that site at this moment in time, sits a very valuable piece of real estate – that Royal Mail facility is really much sought after – and that (delay) should not be allowed to happen but it’s available to happen if this site does not come forward.

“That is not a threat by any stretch of the imagination. We want to do this scheme and my client has the money to do it. It’s got third parties ready to rock up and work forward the development.

“We’ve got an architect that has been with this development from cradle to grave, hopefully, and we will continue to work with your authority, work with your membership and work with local residents.”

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