There is just over one more week for residents to have a say on Reading Borough Council’s Local Plan update, which defines where new housing can be provided in the town.
Sites for flats and housing were suggested by landowners last year, and were made public as the council launched a public consultation into the update, which was adopted in November 2019.
There were 20 sites identified for development in the partial update, some of which have commonalities.
Sites for residential development at Aquis House, Norman Place, Reading Bridge House, Kennet Place and Sapphire Plaza would all involve either converting office buildings into apartments or demolition and replacement.
But a head council planner has clarified that not all of these sites will be selected for residential development.
In a webinar on the partial update, council planning policy manager Mark Worringham said: “We have not yet made any judgement on whether these sites should be included.
“We do want to ask for your views on those sites before we make decisions.”
However, the council owns some of the suggested sites, and one site does have planning consent for a development.
Last year, the council’s planning applications committee approved plans for 42 one-bed sheltered housing flats and a daycare centre in Hexham Road, Whitley, and a 46-home development in Upper Crown Street.
Both of these developments feature in the suggested site list.
Furthermore, John Lewis is moving ahead with a pre-planning application consultation into its proposal to build 200 homes at its distribution site in Mill Lane, and Packaged Living is also holding a pre-application consultation into its proposal to build 240 homes at Norman Place.
Meanwhile, there are two other council-owned sites suggested: the Central Library and the old Southcote Library.
Both have been earmarked for either residential development or commercial and community uses.
Site owners have suggested that hundreds of flats could be provided. For example, the suggestion for development at Reading Bridge House could see the building provide 300-400 apartments.
Yet not all of the suggested sites will be designated for housing, or may have the amount of homes provided curbed.
Mr Worringham explained: “It’s fair to say I don’t expect all of these sites to end up in the plan.
“I also think it’s fair to say that many of those that have nominated a site have been reasonably ambitious over the amount of development the site can accommodate.
“The council will need to do our own work to come to a view on how much development could be accommodated on the sites that we do consider to be suitable.”
The Local Plan does not just cover sites where new homes could be built.
It also contains policies focused on the Labour administration’s stated aim of building more family-sized and affordable housing.
Currently, on sites of 10 or more homes, 30 per cent of those should be designated affordable.
In smaller developments, the council asks for a financial contribution so that it can build affordable homes elsewhere.
For five to nine homes, this contribution is 20 per cent, and 10 per cent for one to four home proposals.
The council’s administration is seeking to change its affordable housing policy so that its housing department will be considered to manage social housing if no registered independent social housing providers come forward.
It is understood that council officers will also encourage developers to provide on-site affordable housing in schemes of nine homes or less.
The Local Plan partial update is currently open for public comment on the Consult Reading website, and will close on January 31.