Location and buildings history
The site lies within a prime position in Reading Town Centre, on the corner of Friar Street and Market Place. The Bristol & West arcade fronts onto Town Hall Square and is opposite the Grade 1 listed St Lawrence Church with its distinctive sandstone and flint facades. It is also opposite Reading Town Hall, the Grade II* listed building featuring a Victorian Gothic façade.
The site is just a few minutes’ walk to Reading rail station and to key town centre destinations such as Broad Street shopping and the Oracle to the south.
The proposal will reopen the historical arcade link from Friar Street through to Market Place Square creating an attractive and an improved pedestrian route as well as a new open space as a destination point within the town centre.
173-175 Friar Street (Former Bristol and West Arcade)
This building was constructed in the 1950s and comprises the covered vacant retail arcade with three floors of vacant office accommodation above.
27-32 Market Place (listed buildings)
These three properties are all Grade II listed, but all are currently vacant.
The last use of 27-28 Market Place was as a shop on basement and ground floor levels and with offices on the three upper floors. To the rear, the rooms formed part of the adjoining pub.
No.29-31 Market Place is the former Coopers Arms pub, which closed in 2010.
The last use no.32 Market Place was as a bank on the ground floor with ancillary offices on the upper floors.
The Bristol & West Arcade buildings on Friar Street were closed in 2007 and have remained vacant since along with the listed buildings on Market Place.
Planning permission was obtained in 2007 for the partial demolition of the Friar Street building and redevelopment to provide a health club and 14 dwellings. The listed buildings on Market Place were planned for major refurbishment. These works were partially started, before they were halted due to the economic downturn. This planning permission sets a precedent for redevelopment and the creation of additional height and massing over the existing buildings.
Since that time, the buildings and particularly the arcade have become derelict and in very poor condition. Sonic Star Properties acquired the site and the buildings in 2017 and immediately boarded and secured the arcade for health and safety reasons.
In 2017 and 2018 plans for 43 apartments, three storeys of office space, seven ground floor shop units and the refurbishment of the public house were prepared following consultation with the local community and with Ward Councillors and Borough Council officers. The scheme was granted planning permission in January 2019.
However, due to a lack of demand for new offices and more retail shops in Reading, the plans for the Friar Street building have now been revised to create an alternative commercial use as an hotel. And key to this change of use has been working within the parameters established by the 2019 consented scheme including height, mass and design principles. Comparisons with consented 2019 scheme can be seen here.