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Planning officers savage Robert Adam’s Reading towers

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A trio of classically-inspired residential towers proposed for a site in Reading have been recommended for refusal by borough planners

ADAM Architecture’s 352-home Swan Heights scheme features three towers rising from a four-storey podium, with the tallest strructure reaching 28 storeys.

Adam has previously argued that the design, which features a domed penthouse at the top of each of the towers, was an attempt to re-engage with the 19th Century history of US skyscrapers.

But papers to a Reading Borough Council planning committee meeting next week firmly oppose the development, recommending the scheme for refusal on a litany of grounds.

A report to the April 29 meeting said the proposals would deliver ‘an alien and confusing structure’ that was ‘out of context with this part of the town centre’.

Officers added that height and massing of the development, earmarked for a 0.45ha edge-of-town-centre plot on the site of a former car dealership was likely to mislead people into believing it was the centre of Reading.

They said the scheme failed to achieve every aspect of a core planning policy requiring developments to ‘respond positively to their local context and create or reinforce local character and distinctiveness, including protecting and enhancing the historic environment of the borough and providing value to the public realm’.

In total, Reading Council planning officers gave 11 detailed grounds for refusing the scheme, which also included its impact on a proposed mass-transit system, a lack of affordable housing, the ability of heavy goods vehicles to access the development, and its impact on historic buildings in the town.

Last week Hugo Haig, managing director of development backer Lochailort Investments, said the scale of the towers was in line with several others being considered by Reading.

 

Previous Story (AJ 20.04.20.2015)

Adam defends contentious Classical tower proposals in Reading


Robert Adam has defended his plans for a trio of towers in Reading which he hopes will revive a tradition of Classically designed skycrapers.

The architect also claims objections by English Heritage (now known as Historic England) to the application lodged by his practice ADAM Architecture have now been dealt with.

Under the plans, three residential buildings of up to 28 storeys in height will be built by developer Lochailort Investments, along with space for some 300 cycles and 118 cars.

The 350-home scheme, which will be considered by Reading Council on 29 April, was initially criticised by Historic England. The heritage organisation’s historic buildings and areas adviser Richard Peats told the local authority that the towers would ‘inevitably profoundly change’ the townscape and have an ‘impact on the setting of a variety of heritage assets’.

The setting of Kings Meadow Baths, an Edwardian lido with a grade II listing, would be ‘dramatically changed’, his submission continues. He added: ‘The scale of the proposal is such that a wide range of heritage assets are [also] likely to be affected.’

However Adam told AJ that Historic England had since confirmed they would not take their letter’s concern further.

He added: ‘Tall buildings started off as classical building in 19th century America and this continued up to the 1950s.

‘This is an attempt to re-connect with this history of skyscrapers.’

Another objection lodged with Reading planning officers came from South Oxfordshire District Council, a neighbouring local authority.

Tom Wyatt, a development manager at the authority said the planning document’s ‘visual analysis’ appeared to not have considered ‘views far outside the town’.

‘We consider that this [the analysis] should be widened further,’ it continues.

Only then could the authority decide whether Reading’s town centre would ‘suddenly’ become visible in its rural regions.

‘[These] included parts of the Chilterns area of [outstanding natural beauty],’ it adds.

Hugo Haig, managing director of project backer Lochailort Investments, said the scale of the towers was in line with several others being considered by Reading.

The council had already approved plans for a 32-storey tower and had in place a tall buildings policy that encouraged the development of skyscrapers.

This policy outlines the council’s ‘vision’ to become a ‘city and capital of the Thames Valley’.

‘Part of this vision includes the development of high-quality tall buildings within the city’s central area,’ it adds.

Haig said the towers aimed to be a landmark building. He added: ‘That is why we wanted a renowned architect and he has done a wonderful job in creating a beautiful design.’

ADAM Architecture’s blueprints have been largely welcomed by Reading Civil Society.

Richard Bennett, its chair, said the society would prefer the towers to be shorter but welcomed their architectural features and the neoclassical design.

‘We support the design features of the building but would prefer to see the overall height of the scheme reduced somewhat to take more account of human scale and to avoid some of the inevitable overshadowing,’ its submission says.

 

 

 

 

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