'Car free’ ambitions in a new planning framework for a key part of the town centre have split the opinions of local Labour Party politicians.

The Minster Quarter Development Framework gives guidance for an area including sites such as the former Civic Offices, Broad Street Mall, and the Thames Valley Police headquarters.

Developments with low numbers of car parking spaces will be encouraged, due to 'the sustainable location of the site and high access to public transport'.

The guidance, previously called the Hosier Street Area Development Framework, was approved at a standalone meeting on December 12, after an error delayed the decision.

Labour councillor Adele Barnett-Ward said: "Younger people are not as wedded to the private car as the older generation.

“When they do require a car, they are more likely to hire one or subscribe to a car club, which is possible within this framework.

“I think this is a good location for a largely car-free development because it has got excellent public transport links, easy access to the shops and town centre facilities.

“I welcome a development framework that promotes a future for Reading with sustainable transport as a default rather than as an add on.”

Officers had previously failed to include comments to the consultation from several respondents in the papers presented to the Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport (SEPT) committee on November 21.

The framework report states that increasing car parking in the area would exacerbate traffic congestion in the area and contribute to worsening air quality, but any loss of public parking must be justified by evidence.

Fellow Labour councillors Debs and David Absolom, as well as Conservative councillor Jane Stanford-Beale, backed the aspiration of car free living in the central Reading area.

Some party members have bemoaned the lack of car parking provision recommended in the framework, however.

Councillor Karen Rowland questioned whether 'car free living' offers a practical solution for the people of Reading.

In his response to the framework consultation, Matt Rodda, MP for East Reading said: “Car parking should be treated as a higher priority, particularly for residents who own a car and need to park it for long periods in order to commute to London or use public transport.”