Listening to the deputy director of planning and transport at Reading Borough Council, Giorgio Framalicco, was unusually refreshing.
Given the subject of town planning, not usually the most riveting, it was rewarding for the audience at Reading Social on January 7 to hear a Local Plan presented with real belief and enthusiasm.
Reading appears to have a plan which is focused on the needs of the residents and the businesses wanting to live, work and play in the town.
With the arrival of new transport links in the shape of the Elizabeth Line, investment at Station Hill and numerous housing projects close the station, the property story looks strong for the next few years.
However, a few caveats might calm this hubris.
Reading Borough Council’s solution to the housing crisis is to increase density levels with a number of tall buildings which are at the planning stage, under construction or at completion.
These changes will put massive pressure on the identity of Reading as it grapples with the changing topography. Will Reading just become a rather convenient suburb for London, rather like Nine Elms in Vauxhall is becoming? Or can it build upon its heritage as the capital of the Thames Valley and offer a unique experience for its inhabitants?
Investment in placemaking and softer development issues are now critical if Reading is to maintain its identity. The town needs to ignore the black hole which is London and look to other cities such as Cambridge, Manchester and Nottingham for inspiration.
Now is the time to build upon Mr Framalicco’s vision.
© Thames Valley Property No 193 (tvproperty.co.uk)