The council could purchase Reading Town Police Station as part of its plans to redevelop the town centre.

Reading Borough Council (RBC) has included £5 million in its draft budget for next year to invest in buying the Castle Street police station site.

Thames Valley Police (TVP) is moving its Reading headquarters out of the town centre after 40 years.

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Councillor Jason Brock, leader of the council, said: “We know the police are moving out. It is whether it might be possible to realise what we want to do with the site.

“It was inserted into the budget as a placeholder. It is not a purchase price. It wouldn’t be prudent to not put something in.

“If we have the opportunity it would give us an opportunity to holistically shape what happens in the Minster Quarter.

“It is an area that clearly needs investment.”

The plan to purchase the police station was revealed in the council’s latest budget plan, which was approved at Monday evening’s Policy Committee for a four-week consultation.

RBC unveiled plans last year to develop the Minster Quarter and reconnect with Reading’s historic town centre.

The area includes the council’s old civic offices, the police station, the Magistrates’ court, the Hexagon theatre and Broad Street Mall as well as St. Mary’s Church.

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Cllr Brock said the council can progress the Minster Quarter redevelopment without the police station “but it is an obvious element missing”.

The police station proposal is one of several plans to invest in the town over the next three years, with the council also set to spend £9 million on road repairs.

Where are the police moving?

Police will move to Atlantic House, in a £10 million project, a smaller office near Reading FC’s Madejski Stadium.

The force is expected to move to the ‘modern’ three-storey building in 2021.

Thames Valley Police has been seeking a move away from the existing site since 2012, due to the deterioration of the building and high running costs.

The force would look to secure a smaller town centre base for neighbourhood officers, which could be at the council’s Civic Offices, on Bridge Street.

How can the council afford to buy the station?

Cllr Brock told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS): “It has taken quite a few years of a lot of hard work.

“We have struggled in the face of huge cuts but we have risen to that challenge and find ourselves in a position of financial stability.

“We still have less money than we had back in 2010 but having that platform of stability allows us to make investments.

“We are able to be a bit bolder. In particular, we want to deliver things that will benefit every resident.”

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The proposal is part of the council’s capital programme, funded from a combination of:

  • Successful bids for grants
  • Cheaper borrowing available to councils
  • Developer contributions
  • Infrastructure funding
  • Capital receipts from selling buildings.

This pot of money cannot be used to fund day-to-day services or to balance the council’s revenue budget.

The council still has to make £33.1 million of savings in the next three years to deliver a balanced budget despite being in a more stable position than previous years.