Reading Prison’s use should be ‘compatible with its heritage’, according to a government inspector.

The recommendation is one of a number of modifications Planning inspector Louise Gibbons has identified to make sure the council's forthcoming Local plan is 'sound'.

The blueprint puts Reading ‘in a strong position’ to save national and historic sites like Reading Prison’, according to its deputy leader.

Councillor Tony Page, lead member for Planning, said the case for saving the prison from sell-off to the highest bidder was ‘strengthened’ by the inspector’s comments.

He said the council has provided a full response to the MOJ about the prison site and are now awaiting its next moves.

Cllr Page added: “We will accept nothing but the fullest integration of the prison within the wider Abbey Quarter and a use in a way that compliments that setting whilst acknowledging that there will inevitably be some commercial activity at the site.

“In terms of historic sites of national and international importance – and both the Reading Prison and Caversham Park fall under that category – I believe that we are in a strong place to defend them.”

Efforts to preserve Reading Prison as an arts venue have been backed by a petition from Reading East MP Matt Rodda.

The Local Plan sets out the planning policies for an area and is the main consideration in deciding planning applications.

Publication of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) in 2012, which was amended again in 2018, meant significant changes were needed to the council’s current plan.

The draft local plan, which the council expects to publish by the end of 2019, states: “The prison building itself is of historical significance and is listed, and its historic significance will be conserved and where possible enhanced.

“The building would be used for a use compatible with its heritage, which might include residential or student accommodation, commercial offices or a hotel, and should include some cultural or heritage element or related retail and leisure that draws on its significance.

“The site is part of a scheduled ancient monument, and therefore any additional development will be dependent on a thorough demonstration that it would not have detrimental impacts on the significant archaeological interest.

“The prison adjoins the Abbey Quarter, and development should therefore enhance that area as a heritage destination.”

Public consultation on Ms Gibbons’ modifications is open until July 24.