A 765-home development at the former Homebase and Toys R Us site in central Reading will start construction early next year, after receiving secretary of state approval.

The first apartments at Kenavon Drive, which adjoins the River Kennet, are expected to be available from Spring 2021.

Berkeley Homes and L&Q will now work in partnership to deliver the riverside redevelopment, which includes 157 ‘affordable’ flats.

Councillor Tony Page, lead member for Planning at Reading Borough Council (RBC), said: “I am surprised it has taken them this long to get going.

"It has been looking a bit sorry since Homebase closed. It is welcome news that work is about to start.

“The design was one we were quite happy with and we are pleased with the riverside enhancements it will bring.

“At the moment that stretch of riverside is subject to anti-social behaviour and other problems.”

The 6.9-acre site will feature a central riverside square with bars and restaurants, a local store and landscaped open spaces along the river.

Plans for the redevelopment of the former Toys R Us and Homebase stores were approved at RBC's planning applications committee meeting on January 10, 2018.

The plans were referred to the Secretary of State for final approval due to the size of the site and work had been expected to begin this year but will now begin early next year.

The developers committed to ‘reflect and respect’ the former Huntley & Palmer Biscuit Factory, the Abbey ruins, and the listed prison opposite the site.

Matthew Biddle, managing director at Berkeley Homes (Western) said: “Berkeley Homes is delighted to play a key role in the redevelopment of Reading.

“We have a proven track record of delivering high quality new homes in the area, with our urban village, Kennet Island, on Reading south side now nearing completion and our latest scheme, Green Park Village, creating the first lakeside development in Reading.

“Working in partnership with L&Q to develop such a prime location, close to the city centre, will enable us to open up the riverside for everyone to enjoy”.