Questions have been raised about what will be happening to the Bristol & West Arcade in Reading town centre.
The arcade has been closed for years, and a series of planning applications have been submitted to rejuvenate the building.
One plan involved transforming the building into a 182 bed, eight-storey hotel with a restaurant and a pub a street level.
The application was approved by Reading Borough Council’s planning committee last July.
The Local Democracy Reporting Service identified this as one of the biggest developments anticipated in Reading for 2022.
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Another plan, approved in 2018, would have involved demolition of the arcade and its replacement with 35 apartments, offices and five retail units, and the conversion of one of the buildings on the site to provide eight apartments.
However, neither of these plans have been acted upon.
It is possible that these plans have not been initiated because ownership of the building has changed hands.
The application for the hotel in 2021 and the mixed used development in 2018 were both submitted by Sonic Start Properties Ltd.
The Bristol & West Arcade was sold in an auction held in December last year.
Recently, new applicants Mountley Ltd have applied to convert the existing buildings into a total of 26 apartments.
Of those, 20 would be located at 173-174 Friar Street and six would be contained at 175 Friar Street.
The 20 flats would be split into 17 one-beds and three two-bed apartments, with 12 of the one-beds reserved for single occupants and five being appropriate for couples.
The six flats at 75 Friar Street would all be one bed.
The plan is split into two applications, one for the 20 flats (reference 220579), and the other for the six flats (reference 220577).
You can view both plans by typing in the references into Reading Borough Council’s planning portal.
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These applications only relate to the upper floors of the building – no plans have been submitted by Mountley Ltd for the ground floor yet.
Part of the ground floor would be adapted to provide cycle and refuse storage to new occupants.
No car parking would be provided if the plan goes ahead, as Mountley’s agents Allen Planning have pointed out that the arcade is in “a highly sustainable location” with supermarkets and services in walking distance, as well as multiple bus services.
The applications have been submitted under controversial ‘Permitted Development’ planning rules, which makes it easier for developers to convert offices into homes.
The rules were introduced by the Government in 2013.
They mean that the principle of converting offices into homes are acceptable, as long as the impacts are mitigated.
Photos taken inside the arcade show it stripped out and derelict, with only the unit for The Bag Shop appearing to be intact.
The Bag Shop has long since moved to the Butter Market.