Plan for 449 flats at The Oracle in Reading submitted

A plan to transform The Oracle shopping centre in Reading by adding 449 flats to it and replacing the existing cinema has been submitted.

Hammerson, the company that owns The Oracle in Reading’s town centre, has submitted plans that were first teased in Summer 2022.

The transformation involves demolishing the Vue Cinema building and partially demolishing the former Debenhams unit and building two towers containing a total of 449 flats in their place.

All of the apartments will be ‘build-to-rent’ and managed by the company ‘Packaged Living’ which claims to provide cleaning services, flexible amenities, a home sitting service and more in its rental accommodation packages.

Co-working office space, new retail and restaurant units, and a replacement cinema would also be built as part of the development.

READ MORE: Reading developments coming in 2023 that could change town forever

Commenting on the submission of the plans, Harry Badham, chief development & asset repositioning officer, Hammerson, said: “These proposals are designed to reinvigorate and reposition The Oracle by introducing sustainable new homes for rent, as well as incorporating new typologies and configurations of commercial space that will provide opportunities for new styles and types of retail, hospitality, services and amenities to enhance the customer experience.”

Meanwhile, Mark Woodrow, joint managing director of Packaged Living, commented: “We are delighted to be providing much needed housing to the local area.

“The scheme demonstrates our commitment to deliver properties that are fit for the future, combining high quality finishes with high energy efficiency, low carbon solutions and importantly lower costs for the residents that will live there.”

READ MORE: Plan to transform The Oracle in Reading scrutinised as more details are revealed

According to statistics from the development partners, the new buildings would provide 28,000 sq ft of film space for the replacement cinema and 28,000 sq ft of entertainment, leisure and flexible workspace.

The amount of apartments has been revised down from 475 to 449.

Last year, the Local Democracy Reporting Service reported that six open restaurants would be ‘at risk’ of closure due to the demolition plans.

Furthermore, the Vue Cinema would go and the development could have an impact on the operations of Next Beauty at Home, which took over the former Debenhams unit in December 2020.

Reading Chronicle: The former Debenhams, now Next Beauty at Home in The Oracle, Reading town centre. Credit: James Aldridge, Local Democracy Reporting Service The former Debenhams, now Next Beauty at Home in The Oracle, Reading town centre. Credit: James Aldridge, Local Democracy Reporting Service

Hammerson and its development partners state 38,000 sq ft of retail space will be retained as part of the transformation.

Additionally, they project 85 permanent jobs will be made, and 260 jobs created during the construction phase.

Finally, the developers state they will plant 37 new trees and create a  1,900 sq ft ‘pocket park’ as amenity space.

READ MORE: Public sceptical as initial plan to transform The Oracle is unveiled 

Although the plan has been submitted to Reading Borough Council, it has not been validated yet, which means it does not have an application reference number and therefore cannot be found on the council’s planning portal.

That means members of the public cannot fully view the plans yet.

Reading Chronicle | Town Centre