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Royal Elm Park Plans Move A Step Closer To Approval

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The application was discussed at the Reading Borough Council meeting last night.

Royal Elm Park
(c) Royal Elm Park

After a series of delays and technical requirements, the application for Royal Elm Park was finally put before Reading Borough Council last night.

The plan is for 618 apartments, a convention centre and ice rink, a 246-bedroom hotel, up to 102 serviced apartments, decked parking within the convention centre, retail, multi-storey car park and public open space.

Here are the key talking points from Wednesday's council meeting, at which GetReading were present:

Travel

It was announced that the football club would subsidise the cost of bus and train tickets to the tune of between £1 million and £2 million a year. This comes up after the Reading Chronicle reported that free travel to and from the Madejski Stadium would be offered through the Royal Elm Park scheme.

However, Cllr Ashley Pearce wanted more detailed travel plans would need to be submitted. Pearce, a season ticket holder at the club for 15 years, said:

“unless we saw the level of detail that indicated the modal shift from the private car to public transport this plan would not be approved”.

He added there was a “skeleton” of a workable scheme with free buses, paperless tickets and quick loading, but wanted more detailed plans to come back to the council.

Also on the subject of traffic, Mark Drucker, a resident of Whitley Wood objected to the plans in the meeting due to a concern about fans parking in his road and the problems with traffic in the area.

Housing

A REP officer recommended affordable housing should be provided on the site, whilst councillors will also have an option to accept a financial contribution to provide affordable housing off-site.

Cllr Jan Gavin was also keen to bring affordable housing into the phasing of building the residential blocks. However, Nigel Howe suggested the first block is likely to have minimal affordable housing as the convention centre will cost a lot to build. Reading's CEO claimed that the the convention centre was much needed and would prove very popular for large employers in the town told hold their staff meetings.

Howe also confirmed that the people of Reading would get a say in the naming of streets and residential blocks in Royal Elm Park to reflect the history of the town and the club. Steve Death Street or The Maurice Evans Estate anyone?!

Sport England

One of the major issues going into the meeting was the objection of the plan by Sport England, who were concerned that the demolition of the existing indoor training facility (the dome) would mean the loss of a sports pitch in the area.

However that was overcome and Sport England removed their objection with the provision that Wokingham Borough Council would approve a scheme to provide a new training ground at The Forest School.

Jobs

Kim Cohen from architect firm Barton Wilmore told the council that the football club is the largest employer in South Reading and claimed that if approved, Royal Elm Park would provide 800 construction jobs and another 1,000 jobs post construction.

Nigel Howe also emphasised how the club would not be able to run with the help of local people and this would not change with the creation of Royal Elm Park.

So what does all this mean?

It seems that Reading Borough Council are quite in favour of the application, depending on certain conditions being fulfilled such as detailed transport plans and affordable housing.

The evening concluded with an agreement to defer the the Royal Elm Park application to the head of planning for approval. The removal of Sport England's objection was a key reason for this decision. A legal agreement must now be signed by the developer by Friday, June 30.

The piece of information that caught my eye the most was from Councillor Tony Page who commented that he hopes the development will keep the needs of the football club and the fans at the fore. This echoes the feelings of many fans, especially after current co-chairwoman Sasima Srivikorn suggested a couple of weeks ago that the Thai consortium would still own Royal Elm Park. They are of course property developers at heart, and this has led many fans to believe that they will act in their own interests and not those of the football club.

For a full run-through of what was discussed at council meeting, click here.