Richard Willis's Blog

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IDR Slip Roads to be Kept Open

Plans to deck over the Inner Distribution Road (IDR) and close two key slip roads as part of Phase 2 of the Chatham Place town centre development are to be reconsidered by the Council’s Cabinet on 27 September. The previous Labour administration of Reading Borough Council entered into an agreement with developer MUSE in December 2003 for the complete redevelopment of the Chatham Street area of the town centre which included decking over the IDR and closing two key slip roads.

Construction on Phase One of the scheme began in 2006, was completed in 2009 and includes a new award-winning 600 space multi-storey car park, private and affordable residential homes and new retail facilities. The second phase of the scheme proposed the decking over of the IDR with new offices, open space and the possibility of a new hotel and swimming pool.

The change in economic conditions may mean a significantly smaller Phase Two development contained within the current Chatham Street boundaries. This will not include the decking over of the IDR, but will build on the quality of environment already established on the site by the successful first phase.

Since I took over as Lead for Strategic Planning and Transport I have been determined to find a way to keep the two slip roads open and avoid the traffic problems that would have flowed from their closure. A report will therefore be considered during the closed session of Cabinet on September 27 where future proposals for the development of Chatham Place by Reading Borough Council and development partners MUSE will be discussed. It is in the closed session because it includes confidential details of the development agreement with the Council’s partners.

If the report is approved then this will lead to MUSE carrying out a revised development which will result in the slips remaining open and there being no decking over the IDR. It would also mean that a Public Inquiry – called following concerns about the effect the stopping up orders would have on neighbouring streets and traffic flow on the IDR – would be cancelled.

I have had a number of meetings with Council officers and with MUSE in recent weeks to try and establish a way forward and ensure that there was a viable way to develop the remainder of the site. With the downturn in the economy it has become clear that decking over the IDR is not viable for the developer and therefore we have reached agreement that we will seek a further development option which retains the existing slip roads.

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September 21, 2010 - Posted by | Local

6 Comments »

  1. I am glad that you have come round to make a sensible decision councillor.
    I guess the headline ought to read ‘A Victory for Common Sense’

    Comment by Howard Thomas | September 22, 2010 | Reply

  2. It was a very poor decision to close these roads anyway.

    Comment by Adrian Windisch | September 23, 2010 | Reply

  3. You mention nothing about the new swimming pool, what’s happened to it?

    It’s a shame the covering of the IDR is not taking place as it strangles the centre of Reading and this would have been the start of putting right the wrong done in the 60’s.

    There is another alternative Richard. if the times are not right for doing a good scheme then wait till they are. I thought the history of Reading taught us that development is too important to be done at the wrong time at the wrong scale. Think how awful the Oracle would have been if it had been pushed ahead with during the recession of the early 90’s and a scaled down development taken place.

    Comment by theflashingblade | September 25, 2010 | Reply

    • flashingblade – the swimming pool was never a realistic outcome in that location; something that has been confirmed repeatedly to me. I am already looking to other possible locations and talking to colleagues.

      The principle of covering the IDR is a worthy aim but closing the two slip roads would have had a huge impact on town centre traffic, routing many people through existing residential side roads. I am amazed that anyone seriously considered it when looking at the transport impact! Perhaps that is why Labour were so keen on the one-way IDR plan.

      Whilst decking over may be a worthy aim of itself, it will not be done under this administration if it means closing the slip roads. Also it is worth noting that since Chatham Place was first discussed we have seen many other town centre office developments including Station Hill. At present the demand is limited and it would be worse to leave the remaining undeveloped area of Chatham Place, open and covered in weeds for the next few years.

      Comment by Richard Willis | September 25, 2010 | Reply

      • “it would be worse to leave the remaining undeveloped area of Chatham Place, open and covered in weeds for the next few years.”

        The same was said through the 90’s about the bus depot and land by the Kennet, but it was and we got a better development at the end that we would have during the recession, it’s worth waiting to get it right as what’s done will be there for 50+years.

        Comment by theflashingblade | September 26, 2010

  4. Just a thought……there is another swimming pool in town, owned by the council, and although in disrepair at the moment, a group of enthusiastic townfolk would very much like to renovate it and bring it up to standard and back into use to benefit the people of Reading.
    To be quite honest, I would have thought that it was the councils job to provide leisure facilities, rather than leave it to a group of volunteers to struggle with.
    Obviously I refer to Kings Meadow Baths. Perhaps a contribution to what ought to be a council responsibility could come from 106 money at some point.

    Comment by Howard Thomas | September 26, 2010 | Reply


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