A huge office block in Reading town centre can be converted into more than 100 flats after plans have been approved.
Tene Living, the owners of the Soane Point building at 6-8 Market Place had applied to convert it from offices into 144 studio apartments.
Initially, the scheme was rejected by a Reading Borough Council planning officer over concerns that noise from fans would disturb future residents and highlighting a contamination risk coming from fumes from a car park.
However, Tene Living have successfully appealed against the refusal to the planning inspectorate, meaning the development can now go ahead.
The decision to approve the development was made by planning inspector Rachael Pipkin on Wednesday, May 25.
She concluded that Soane Point would be suitable for future occupants after Tene Living produced an updated contamination risk assessment and gas monitoring report during its appeal which addressed concerns raised by the council’s planning officer.
Additionally, inspector Pipkin felt Tene Living had effectively addressed noise concerns by successfully moving commercial fan equipment away from the proposed new apartments.
Soane Point has a total of six storeys, with five being above ground and a basement level.
The building is currently home to Tesco Express and Puresmile Dental Practice, both of which will be retained as part of the proposal, with significant adjustments made to the other floors.
Conversion of offices into homes fall under permitted development rights, which means developers can undertake the conversions without submitting a full planning application as long as they meet requirements such as having enough space and natural light.
There is also no requirement for permitted development schemes to provide affordable housing.
Bizarrely, although there are currently 98 car parking spaces provided on the ground floor and basement of Soane Point, the plan makes no mention of reserving these spaces for future occupants.
Internal designs show each room coming with a double bed, a cooking and sink unit and a shower and toilet.
In a letter demonstrating the benefits of the application, Peter Lawson, of Turley planning consultants, said: “The development makes progressive use of tired office town centre office space, with its reuse adding to the vitality and viability of Reading town centre.
“The proposed development is targeted at the growing requirement for small self-contained, affordable, conveniently located, residential units, enabling independent living.
“Covid-19 has seen the market demand for such units grow exponentially at the expense of similar sized accommodation with shared, rather than independent, facilities, as there is less risk than that associated with ‘communal’ living.
“Accordingly the accommodation is suited to young professionals, students or those with long-term health conditions to whom shared accommodation might present a particular risk.”
You can view the scheme by typing reference 210478 into the council’s planning portal.