An inquiry into the rejection of the University of Reading’s (UoR) application for 836 new student flats started on Monday with a legal representative for the university calling a residents’ associations objections ‘mostly parasitic’.

The University of Reading (UoR) is appealing Reading Borough Council’s (RBC) decision to reject its application to extend and upgrade student development at St Patrick’s Hall, Northcourt Avenue.

Representatives from the council, the UOR and Northcourt Avenue Residents’ Association (NARA) will be cross-examined on a range of issues over the next week.

The eight-day planning appeal started on Monday, March 18 in the Waterhouse Chamber at Reading Town Hall and is expected to last until Friday, March 29.

The three interested parties delivered opening statements, before the inquiry delved architecture, the first of several key disagreements, which include heritage, trees, the community and visual impact.

Dr Ian Kemp, summarising NARA’s position, said the association is not against re-development of the site but believes the proposed development is ‘not popular, proportionate or respectful of local heritage’ and is ‘unnecessary on the proposed scale’.

He added: “The groundswell of opposition by the local community is extensive.”

Craig Howell-Williams QC, delivering the university’s opening statement, described NARA’s case as ‘mostly parasitic on the council’s case’.

Mr Howell-Williams added: “The scheme is a well designed and well considered scheme, sympathetic to its site and surroundings and respectful of local heritage interests.”

One NARA member said: “Calling residents parasites isn’t getting off to a great start.”

NARA believe the development would be too tall and densely packed and place pressure on local services due to the large new student population, as well as the issues over the impact on locally listed heritage site Pearson’s Court.

Barrister Matthew Dale-Harris, representing RBC, said: “Pearson’s Court is recognised to be a valuable asset and its protection should be given particular weight.”

Planning permission was refused by the council in February 2018, with the Planning Applications committee deciding the development would harm the surrounding Northcourt Avenue area.

The university appealed to the government’s Planning Inspectorate after the decision, stressing the urgent need for accommodation, with some students having to start their first year in hotels this year.