The Red Cow public house at the corner of Southampton Street and Crown Street was mentioned at last week’s Reading Borough Council (RBC) planning applications committee. Julie Williams, RBC acting planning manager, told the committee that during the ongoing refurbishment developers had been asked to rebuild a section of wall. This was because they had laid bricks in stretcher rather than Flemish bond and, as the pub is a listed building, the method used had to be in historically appropriate.
RBC approved the application for a change of use of the Red Cow to a restaurant with flats above in July 2018. Work on the extension on the north-west side of the building has been in progress all year and the rebuild can be seen in the images below.
In a long discussion of a planning application to replace wooden sash windows at Southcote Lodge (in Southcote ward) with double glazed UPVC versions, the Red Cow was used as an example of the protection given to listed buildings.
RBC planning officers recommended rejection of the application for listed building consent at Southcote Lodge because:
The proposed changes would result in substantial harm to the special architectural and historic interest of the Listed Building and features of special interest, notably the windows, contrary to the provisions of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, national policy contained within the NPPF and associated practice guidance and Policies EN1 and CC7, of the Reading Borough Local Plan 2019.
Two members of the planning committee, Southcote councillor John Ennis and Abbey ward councillor Karen Rowland, both declared an interest in this agenda item on the grounds of ‘predetermination’ as set out in RBC’s planning code of conduct* and could not speak or vote as members of the committee.
On the night before the General Election, Whitley ward councillor Emmett McKenna, chaired a surreal discussion of this agenda item. Councillors disagreed with one another as they wrestled with the apparently competing agendas of heritage and the comfort, health and wellbeing of occupants.
Southcote Lodge is a retirement housing complex comprising one and two bedroomed flats managed by Housing 21, who made the planning application but did not speak on the night. The property consists of a 1980s wing which already has UPVC windows and the historic house which, although it does not have original windows, had wooden sash replacements installed c. 1980.
The RBC acting planning manager presented a prologue in which the application and its history was explained.
Next on stage for act one were two residents who supported the proposal and stressed the need to replace the windows to conserve heat and for the benefit of elderly residents. They said that they would like to install heritage UPVC windows.
There then came act two in which three councillors spoke. John Ennis, lead councillor for housing, supported the residents of his ward and said that he had been working for years on a solution to the problem of window replacement. He hoped that heritage UPVC would balance the needs of residents with planning and heritage requirements.
Leader of the council Jason Brock, who is also a Southcote ward councillor, wished to speak and there was a tetchy exchange between him and the chair as to the order in which councillor contributions should be made. He then described the current state of Southcote Lodge as “a travesty of architectural vandalism”.
Councillor Karen Rowland, lead councillor for heritage, culture and recreation, said that she felt that the recommendation to refuse was correct but had spent a long time considering the application.
Councillors Ennis and Rowland left the council chamber.
There was then an interlude during which the committee inspected an example of a heritage UPVC window that a planning officer had been despatched to collect from the wings. So-called heritage UPVC has a slight grain and is said to be indistinguishable when viewed from a distance. The committee was advised that, aside from any other considerations, the historic fabric of Southcote Lodge might be damaged by installing such windows.
In the finale of act three, the remaining members of the committee, councillors Sokale, Page, Lovelock, McEwan, Carnell, Stanford-Beale, J. Williams and McKenna had their say and suggested alternatives to window replacement but finally agreed unanimously to reject the application.
- The Planning Code of Conduct is within the RBC constitution pp277-283. Section 5 deals with bias and predetermination.