CONTROVERSIAL plans to build five-storey university accommodation blocks were thrown out.

Despite council officers advising members to approve the proposals, Reading Borough Council's planning committee rejected an application to redevelop St Patrick's Hall.

University of Reading wants to knock down the existing building in Northcourt Avenue and replace it with a mammoth structure, which will provide living space for more than 1,000 students.

Residents claimed the scale of the building would overwhelm the surrounding area and called for the application to be turned down.

Ian Kemp and Richard Bennett, speaking on behalf of residents of Northcourt Avenue, told the meeting: "We accept that the university would like to expand and that the site is suitable for development.

"However, we object to the scale of the development.

"The visual impact would be enormous.

"You cannot hide nearly six-story buildings of such scale and mass."

Speaking at a planning meeting at the council's civic offices on Wednesday, February 7, university representatives argued that more accommodation was needed for students.

Rose Lennon, welfare officer at Reading's Students' Union, said: "Living in student accommodation means students are more likely to complete their studies.

"With increasing student numbers the need for student accommodation is becoming more and more desperate."

However, council members decided the proposed building would overshadow the nearby Pearson's Court, a locally listed building.

Cllr Ed Hopper, Conservative, said: "In general I'm in favour of dedicated student accommodation.

"I do agree with other members that this is overbearing in size in terms of its relation to the locally listed heritage asset and to the general area.

"On the basis of the size of the building and the impact on the local area I will be objecting to it."

Marian Livingston, chairman of the planning committee, added: "We are unanimous in saying that we are going to refuse this application on the grounds that it contravenes quite a number of policies."