Thackeray Estates’ plans to develop in Friar Street in Reading will bring some welcome smartening up to an area that’s been left to decay for more than 20 years.

Ever since The Oracle opened in 1999, Friar Street, already the secondary retail area to Broad Street, has existed with much of the commercial life removed from it.

The new Jurys Inn will sit directly opposite the Novotel and Ibis hotels which opened in 2006 but there’s an interesting comparison.

To build the Novotel the developer had to demolish a half-decent ABC cinema building along with a much-liked 16th Century pub called the Boar’s Head. Both had architectural interest, especially the pub, but English Heritage refused to list it.

Along came the hotel building, which at ground level looks respectable. But from further away the modular design of the rooms is crudely evident.

It has to be one of the least appreciated developments in Reading of modern times. Unseemly and bulky, the full horror of it can be appreciated from the top of The Oracle’s Holybrook car park.

From that viewpoint it’s difficult to understand how it ever got permission.

But now Thackeray Estates plans a less intrusive Jury’s Inn hotel directly across the road but, rather than seek to bulldoze everything in its way, this developer seems to have set out to incorporate The Bugle public house, the one bit of character that people largely wanted retained.

The result is a much more interesting sight along Friar Street and the scheme even encourages the public to wander into Fife Court, somewhere few of us had really noticed before.

Thackeray Estates has already got permission for its Queen Victoria Place scheme, a potentially superb open courtyard amid listed buildings next to its proposed new development.

Now it seems to have taken a similar approach in its latest proposal. The result would seem to be a hugely positive one for Friar Street. It’s just a shame there wasn’t a similar thought process by the developer of the Novotel years earlier.

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