The first phase of a long-awaited development in central Reading including more than 500 homes was given the go ahead last week.

Station Hill developer Lincoln MGT was given planning permission by Reading Borough Council (RBC) to build two 12-storey buildings with a total of 538 build-to-rent homes.

Demolition is underway at the 2.56 hectare Station Hill site, which is between Garrard Street, by Reading Station, and Friar Street.

Councillor Tony Page, lead member for Planning said: “A number of us have been around this course. This is probably the fourth occasion now.

“Redevelopment and regeneration of this area is long overdue and the demand for it is clearly great.

“This Station Hill scheme offers the further potential to build on Reading’s enhanced status as the capital of Thames Valley.

“We have a developer that I think has the track record of being able to take on this site unlike some previous owners.”

The first approved application is for 370 homes with 1,151sqm of retail floor space, while the second will be 168 homes with 1,046sqm of retail and leisure floorspace.

Lincoln MGT will provide 20 per cent affordable housing, with five per cent on-site and 15 per cent off-site.

The developer says all homes will be zero carbon, with the build-to-rent proposal allowing one provider to provide 100 per cent renewable energy.

The applications are the first phase of a huge project which could see more than 1,000 homes built.

Developers have been attempting to build on the derelict site since 2006, when John Madejski’s plans were rejected by the government.

Lincoln MGT expects the 538 build-to-rent homes to be completed by the end of 2022.

It would then be followed up with another two phases, which include plans to take the number of homes to more than 1,000.

Councillors divided over cycling

The application revealed a split in opinion on segregated cycling from two of RBC’s environment and transport figureheads.

Councillor Adele Barnett-Ward, chairman of the newly-created Cleaner Air and Safer Transport Forum, raised concern about the layour of the site for the wider Station Hill development.

She said: “It’s going to be a really key site for people travelling sustainably from the station through into the town’s centre.

“I have some concerns about the layout.

“This is going to be what people see as they come into the station.  It needs to speak to those people about what we value as a town.

“We value sustainability, we value our ambition to get to carbon neutral by 2030 and enabling safe walking and cycling routes is crucial for that.

“There needs to be segregation of people on foot and people on bicycles. If you build that from the start you can produce something really beautiful.

“What I am frightened about is that we are going to end up retrofitting something that will be not attractive and not work well.”

Lincoln MGT’s planning Consultant said there will be plenty of room for safe pedestrian and cycle routes but Cllr Page disagreed with his fellow Labour member that cyclists and pedestrians should be segregated.

Cllr Page said: “I don’t agree entirely with Cllr Barnett-Ward’s assessment that we require segregated cycle ways through this development.

“We decided very early on not to have a segregated cycle lane over Christchurch Bridge because we did not want to effectivley condone high speed cycling over that bridge.

“Accommodate cyclists we must do but it needs to be cautious and responsible.

“We all know there is a minority of cyclists who regard speed as the ultimate goal and pedestrians are expected to get out the way.

“That is not acceptable and will not be acceptable in this area.”

One of the conditions of RBC granting planning permission was that the developer submits an integrated cycling strategy for cycling routes and other facilities, within and surrounding the wider Station Hill site.