Plans that would see furniture stores and a KFC flattened and replaced with flats at a retail park in Reading have been blasted as ‘a travesty’ by neighbours.
Scottish investment company Abrdn recently submitted its plans to demolish big box stores and a KFC drive-thru at the Forbury Retail Park near the town centre and replace them with 12 apartment towers.
These towers would contain 820 flats providing a mixture of one, two and three-bedroom homes.
But the plans have not been well received by neighbours, who have called the scheme ‘ridiculous’ and ‘a travesty’ when reacting to the emergence of the plan on Facebook.
Richard Mason expressed concern that the sheer amount of flats provided would have a profound impact on vital infrastructure and facilities such as roads and surgeries.
He said: “This is bordering on ridiculous now. We simply don’t have the infrastructure to cope with all these developments.
“People will look back in years to come and say how the hell did all this happen!
“Enough is enough!”
These concerns were echoed by Kadir Bashir, who said: “[It’s a] travesty… Reading is turning into a lifeless concrete jungle with more awful buildings and more traffic…”
The development would provide 200 car parking spaces and 53 parking spaces for retail and commercial units provided in the scheme.
Stantec, an engineering services company commissioned by Abrdn to conduct a transport survey concluded that the site’s proximity to the town centre and cycle and bus routes fulfils the council’s goals of encouraging active and sustainable travel methods.
James Allen questioned which type of people would occupy the towers if they were given the go-ahead.
He said: “In China, they have whole cities with apartments completely empty of people because they thought building them would sustain the economy and it’s gone completely wrong. Who will actually live in these places?”
‘Ghost cities’ have been noted as a phenomenon in China where developed areas have seemingly been left abandoned.
Reading Borough Council has been under pressure to allow developments to meet government-imposed housebuilding targets.
On the other hand, one neighbour argued that building homes on already developed sites is preferable to building in the countryside.
Sue Mears said: “We constantly hear we need more homes. No one wants our green fields covered in houses so surely this is the alternative.
“I agree we need the facilities to support these people but it’s a chicken and egg situation
“If you have more schools you need more teachers that need somewhere to live. It’s the same for every other service.
“My only hope is that these flats are affordable for those needing homes and built to a decent specification.”
A financial viability assessment submitted with the application suggests no affordable housing would be provided on the site due to the costs of delivering the development.
Meanwhile, Andrea Woods expressed a fear that the development would be a move towards Reading becoming a ’15 minute city’.
While supporters argue that the 15-minute city concept would provide convenience for residents and reduce pollution caused by car journeys, opponents have raised concerns that enforcement measures such as CCTV cameras restrict freedoms.
Earlier this year, a spokesperson for the council said it had no plans to transform Reading into a 15-minute city.
You can view the application, which has been called ‘Kings Meadow View’ by Abrdn, by typing reference 230822 into the council’s planning portal.