The proposed redevelopment of the Woodley Arms site on Waldeck Street into 40 student apartments was again refused by Reading Borough Council’s planning applications committee on 20 July.
Local residents objected that the proposed new building would still be a dominant feature of the streetscape despite the developer’s revised plan to reduce the height of the building by sinking it into the ground, and that the basement flats of the revised building would be dark and damp.
Local residents told the committee that the revised building would still be “a dominant and jarring feature of the street scene,” and the Whitley Pump’s own Evelyn Williams said she disagreed with the archaeological report and offered evidence that civil war defences had been found nearby.
The developer’s agent responded that the pub had been vacant since 2012 and had been subject to crime and vandalism, and the proposal to increase student accommodation was supported by local and national policies.
He added that the objections to the previous application, which included the bulk of the building and windows overlooking the amenity space, had been addressed.
But councillor for Katesgrove Rose Williams said “there is no way to make it look smaller. It’s just huge and doesn’t fit the space. I just think it’s awful.”
“There is inevitably an element of subjectivity when it comes to the assessment as to whether something is a dominant and jarring feature… but the changes that have been made here do not overcome that,” said councillor Tony Page. “The sinking of some of the accommodation partially below ground level is not something that I regard as acceptable for a new development. We are starting off by a ground floor sunk half way into the ground… far from ideal in a new development.”
“The basement windows and the basement apartments are dismal to say the least, with a minimum amount of light coming in, even for students!” said councillor Ricky Duveen, “It’s far too big and too cramped.”
Councillor Isobel Ballsdon supported the refusal of the application saying, “I think it’s an unacceptable, overly dense massing of the development on the character and appearance of the area, and for the prospective future residents.”
The decision to refuse the application was unanimous.