A fresh plan to demolish a historic ironworks store in Reading and replace it with a six-storey apartment block has emerged.
In 2019, developers S2 Caversham submitted an application to replace the old Drews the Ironmonger store with a seven story building containing 44 apartments.
However, its plan was rejected in 2020 over concerns about its size and the loss of the historic buildings, with an appeal against refusal dismissed in 2021.
Now, S2 Caversham has submitted a fresh plan to replace Drews with 29 apartments – a reduction of 15 units.
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The new building would stand six storeys tall and be called ‘The Malthouse’ to reflect the building’s history.
The buildings 71-73 Caversham Road date back to 1871, when they were built as malthouses, where cereals are converted into malt and eventually into beer.
The malthouses were used by Simonds Brewery, but the buildings were eventually possessed by architects who converted them into shops in the early 1900s, with Drews opening circa 1931.
It closed 87 years later in December 2018.
Drews was locally listed as a heritage asset in early 2020 thanks to an application by the Bell Tower Community Association (BTCA), which represents households surrounding EP Colier School with its impressive bell tower.
Although local listing does not shield a building from possible demolition, it is a factor in determining applications and whether the loss of it is outweighed by the benefits of the proposed scheme.
The development team has consulted the BTCA, but rebuffed a suggestion to make the proposed apartment block smaller.
A document submitted in the application states: “The BTCA suggested that the new proposal represents a significant improvement, with retention of the majority of the malthouse buildings being very welcome.
“The main concern was around the six-storey height of the new development.
“There were discussions if the scheme could be reduced to five storeys while keeping the same number of apartments by extending further to the rear (westwards).
“However, the additional building footprint does not allow for extra apartments because the new development is not able to have any windows on the south elevation.
“The apartments are only able to increase in depth.
“The proposed detailing was welcome, with minor concerns on the use of contrasting buff brick and the proposed detailing for the retail frontage design.”
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The fresh application does not provide any affordable units, contrasted with five the original scheme had.
The developers have argued they are not required to provide any affordable housing due to ‘financial viability’.
However, they have agreed to pay Reading Borough Council £165,000 towards affordable housing provision.
Of the 29 apartments, 22 would be one-bed, six would have two-bedrooms and one would have three bedrooms.
The development would not only be made of apartments either as new retail space would be provided where the ironmongers store once stood.
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Of the 14 car parking spaces provided, five would be for residents, four ‘office’ car spaces, a commercial parking space, and four spaces for customers of the new store.
You can view the plan yourself by typing reference 220922 into the council’s planning portal.