Northcourt Avenue Residents’ Association (NARA), which represent views of people living in the avenue as well as surrounding roads, say:
Residents feel that the proposal for the bland, featureless blocks to be built adjacent to the retained locally listed Pearson’s Court is characterless and soulless.
UPP is developing the site for Reading University and plans to retain that part of Pearson’s Court which was built in 1913 and has been locally listed, but intends to demolish St Patricks New Court and replace it, as well as other buildings and nearby green space, with purpose-built student apartments up to six storeys high. Full details of the university’s proposals are available as a PDF from their website; this includes maps of the previous and latest proposals, plans for managing traffic and parking as well as mock-ups of what the new buildings will look like.
NARA is concerned that the loss of mature trees as well as the mass of the development would impair the character and appearance of the surrounding area, and have provided a number of sketches to show how the new development is out of scale with both the residential neighbourhood as well as Pearson’s Court.
“The main problem is that the proposed development is too big, it’s too high and is for too many people,” said NARA’s Simone Illger, who added that living near the students of St Patrick’s hadn’t been a problem over the years. “At the beginning of term you get a bit of riotous behaviour as students escape from home, but then it usually calms down. In the past the university has been quite reactive to problems like drunkenness and littering, but the impression you get now is that this is left to UPP to manage.”
“Although the land at St Patrick’s belongs to the university, it’s not really the campus. That’s at Whiteknights,” said NARA’s John Bayes, who said that there was land on the Whiteknights campus near Earley Gate, currently occupied by pre-fabs housing the arts and typography departments, that might be more suitable for large accommodation blocks.
NARA has commissioned an alternative low-rise student accommodation scheme to show, in principle, how most of the university’s requirements could be met without tower blocks overwhelming the local area.
“The developers and the university appear to be unwilling to engage with local residents to explore a mutually satisfactory design,” said NARA’s Ian Kemp.
Reading Civic Society said that the new design “seems almost brutal in its overall footprint and impact,” that it was out of keeping with the surrounding residential area and crowded out Pearson’s Court:
This submission is very disappointing for a university which has a new School of Architecture. It should be seeking excellent design, impact and community engagement.
“The effect of this application… would be to change a green and pleasant arts and crafts road into an… over-developed urban area containing many modern tower blocks”, wrote Reading East MP Matt Rodda in a letter to Reading Borough Council’s (RBC) planning department.
RBC will discuss Reading University’s latest St Patrick’s redevelopment plan at a public planning meeting at the Civic Offices, Bridge Street on Wednesday 7 February at 6.30pm.
In 1996 NARA published a history of Northcourt Avenue, by Penny Kemp, which is available here.