By Tevye Markson, Local Democracy Reporter

A NEW church in Whitley is set to be approved despite a nearby manufacturer’s concerns that it would place users at risk of ‘hazardous substances.’

Reading Family Church’s (RFC) plans to transform its office space on Basingstoke Road into a church were met with opposition from American multi-national Procter & Gamble (P&G).

However, the company has come to an agreement with Reading Borough Council (RBC) over the issue.

The application has been supported by Reading West MP Alok Sharma and councillors John Ennis and Sophia James.

RBC's planning committee will meet on Wednesday.

Alok Sharma, MP for Reading West, said: “During my time as an MP, I have been impressed with the outreach work the church undertakes and I welcome their aim to invest these profits back into the local community.

“Also, given that there is a plan to mitigate potential congestion, I am supportive of this planning application.”

P&G expressed concerns about the proposed site’s proximity to its factory, which is identified by RBC as a Control of Major Accident Hazards site.

The P&G factory uses flammable substances and its gas tank control room is near to a proposed community café at the church, with the company concerned about potential BBQs, fire displays and smoking.

However, the company agreed that controls to the external activities at the church site would be an acceptable way of dealing with the concerns.

The proposal allows for two-thirds of the building to be used for offices to be rented by a range of local businesses, charities, start-ups and community groups, with an expected 60 full time employees.

The remainder of the site will be used for community activities, including 65 days of Christian worship and a wide range of outreach programmes such as supporting adults with learning difficulties and a food bank.

P&G also expressed  concern over loss of employment land in a core employment area.

Case officer Alison Amoah reported that, although the development would involve the loss of some employment floor space, the significant community benefits, combined with retained employment uses outweigh the cost.

Cllr Sophia James, lead for neighbourhoods and communities added that the area is not well served by community facilities, and the proposed use would provide benefits to the community, faith group and local businesses.

RFC currently holds Sunday meetings at Reading Girls' School and South Streets Art Centre.

Councillor Ennis, lead for housing, said : “The Church are inclusive and supportive of working with communities throughout the Reading area and they have been particularly supportive with vulnerable people who need assistance and help.

“If they were to succeed in their application then this would enhance their work further and help communities which I represent.”