AN ASSISTED living complex offering 96 units for over-60s in need of care has passed the first hurdle in gaining planning consent.

The multi-tiered six-storey block is set to breathe new life into a semi-derelict site on the corner of Crown Street and Silver Street.

Planning leaders welcomed the much-needed provision for older residents who need access to care and praised the scheme for enabling people to downsize and free up homes for families.

The designs submitted by Montpellier Estates were granted outline planning permission at Reading Borough Council's planning applications committee.

Speaking at the meeting on Wednesday Councillor Tony Page, planning leader, said: "This application does address an identified housing need in the borough."

"The demand for such stock from older single people is considerable in the borough and this development is in an excellent central location to appeal to many such individuals."

Designs for the Katesgrove complex, which would replace an existing hand car wash, would offer 86 one-bed flats and 10 two-bed units in an L-shaped building spread across two wings.

Once built it would be up to the council to assess who was able to take up residence in the property which is aimed at those needing at least 1.5 hours care per week for physical or mental illnesses.

Cllr Jan Gavin praised the scheme and said: "We need to find suitable and good quality accommodation for older residents to move into to free up stock further down the line for families."

Members of the committee clashed over Cllr Isobel Ballsdon's call to remove the condition that residents be aged 60 or over.

However a compromise saw a slight amendment giving the council the power to allow younger people with care needs into the property if demand is not filled.

Cllr Matt Rodda, who represents Katesgrove ward, also asked whether plans for a community garden could be included into designs.

He said: "I wondered whether it might be possible for small piece of land to be considered for Newark Street, possibly as small as 2m by 4m with a bench and perhaps a flower bed or planter."

Cllr Page said if his colleague wished to pursue the idea he should speak directly with the developers.