The proposals bring this vacant, dilapidated and detracting site into a beneficial use that will provide a firm basis for the enhancement and regeneration of Queen Victoria Street and this part of Friar Street that is long overdue. The employment space is not fit–for–purpose in comparison to modern provision and the loss of which will enable comprehensive redevelopment of the site, including the provision of employment generating uses.
The proposals will reinvigorate these prime and essential primary retail frontages in the Primary Shopping Area that is a key gateway to the town centre. The redevelopment will create employment opportunities that are currently not provided by this predominantly vacant site.
The proposed development and uses are appropriate to the town centre location and will
enhance the retail and leisure provision (in this case C1) within Reading town centre.
The Annual Monitoring Report 2018–19 notes an exceptionally low provision of C1 floorspace within the monitoring year with 1,500m2 permitted within Reading but none delivered. The site is an appropriate location for an apart-hotel use and represents a use that has been under-provided. An apart-hotel will assist in the provision of short-term letting accommodation for people visiting Reading.The market square and general enhancement of the site and retail proposals will attract people to the town centre.
One organisation consulted has said:
• The scheme would add to the vitality of the town centre
• It would bring many local social benefits and aid small businesses
• They considered the scheme could be a symbol of recovery for the town centre post-Covid
• Incredibly forward thinking scheme which will arrest decline of Queen Victoria Street
• The scheme aligned with their visions/aims for the future
• The scheme supports the growth of Reading independent businesses and groups
The scheme and design proposed is as a result of the collaboration with the Heritage Consultant and is based on a thorough understanding of the history, evolution and changes to the building throughout its life and its current poor condition. The primary aim of the proposal is to restore the building and provide it with a viable use that will ensure that the future safeguarding of the heritage asset.
To facilitate this aim, whilst there is identified less than substantial harm, the scheme has been carefully designed to retain and, where possible, enhance the most significant aspects of the buildings, their external form and appearance as well as the clear majority of their historic fabric and surviving plan-form. In addition, there are considerable public and heritage benefits that would clearly outweigh against this harm because as it stands, the heritage asset is at risk.
Specific heritage benefits can be summarised as:
• Reviving the currently underused heritage assets by providing the listed buildings with an active viable use that will remove risk to the structures and see for their future conservation and maintenance.
• Preventing further deteriorating to the listed buildings, specifically 1–15 Queen Victoria Street and 148 Friar Street. These buildings are currently in a significantly deteriorating condition with the highly significant frontage at risk of collapse without swift intervention to halt decay.
• Reinstatement of appropriate and in–keeping shopfronts throughout the site, thus enhancing the significance and authenticity of the listed buildings.
• Removal of poor–quality additions to the rear of the buildings, many of which are currently abutted directly against the rear elevation of the listed buildings.
• Retention and restoration of key elements of heritage significance, for example the important façades, original staircases and elements of historically legible plan form
• Opportunities to reinstate appropriate detailing (fire surrounds, cornices and skirting boards etc.) in those areas of the listed building (primarily 5-15 Queen Victoria Street) which, internally, retain a higher degree of survival and plan form.
While interventions to the listed buildings are required to facilitate this, the proposals are based on a thorough understanding of the historic development, character and significance of the Grade II listed buildings. Through the design development phase, the project team has sought to minimise harm through good design and retention of historic fabric and maximise benefits.
The plans have been developed in close partnership with Heritage and Planning consultants to ensure that the proposals are respectful and subservient to the listed buildings. The following considerations have been incorporated:
• The extension gives separation and distance to No. 15 Queen Victoria Street.
• 'Apartments’ designed to minimise disruption to the historic fabric.
• Corridor runs along the back of existing building and utilises existing window openings
where passes through the existing party walls.
• Stair to No.5 Queen Victoria Street retained.
• Circulation core located outside of existing building footprint to minimise any disruption
to historic fabric.
• Lift pit set away from existing walls to avoid foundations and basement structures.
• Partitions retained to Nos. 5, 7, 9, 11, 13 & 15 Queen Victoria Street and No. 147 Friar
Street where of historic value.
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