Planning inspectors have rejected a fresh proposal to demolish a ‘fine’ Edwardian house near Reading West station.

Reading Borough Council (RBC) has twice refused proposals to demolish 39 Brunswick Hill and replace it with nine flats and is currently considering whether to locally list the building.

Planning inspectors have now also twice refused the plans.

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But a third plan is already in the works, this time seeking to convert the Edwardian villa rather than demolish it and was sent to the council in December 2019.

The second plan was rejected by government planning inspector James Taylor on January 23 this year.

Mr Taylor said the loss of the heritage asset would conflict with Local Plan policies and described aspects of the planned replacement as “bland” and “lacking variety”.

He concluded: “The design would not be of a suitably high-quality design as to respond positively to the local context or reinforce local character and distinctiveness.”

An RBC report on the decision includes a response from officers, stating the inspector’s decision is “pleasing” and validates the local planning authority’s design concerns for this development.

Could the building be locally listed?

39 Brunswick Hill was previously rejected as a building worthy of local listing but the council is now reconsidering this decision.

Buildings that are not listed by Historic England can be placed on a local list by the council.

Unlike nationally listed buildings, they do not have statutory protection, but the interest of the building must be considered during the planning process.

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Councillor Tony Page, lead member for Planning, announced at a meeting in December that the council will reconsider locally listing the site as a heritage asset, having previously rejected listing the building.

However, the RBC comment on the appeal decision this month states the building does not meet the requirements for local listing status, suggesting it is likely to fail again to make the list.

Third time lucky for Mr Benjamin?

Having failed now with two plans, with both RBC and planning inspectors rejecting the attempts to demolish the Edwardian building, Mr Benjamin has not given up but has changed his strategy.

The latest plan from applicant Eric Benjamin seeks to convert the house into nine flats, with extensions at the front, side and rear.

When attempt number two was rejected, several objectors to the plans suggested a reconstruction or conversion might be accepted.

Evelyn Williams, speaking on behalf of Reading Civic Society and the Conservation Area Advisory Committee, said: “A sympathetic reconstruction would be more appropriate”.

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Conservative councillor and Planning committee member Jane Stanford-Beale asked: “Why not convert it?”

But the latest application has already received criticism.

Neighbour Richard Dadley called the plans “less worse” than the previous applications but said nine flats is “too many” and the extension is “too large and out of keeping with the hill and setting”.

He said he would support an application for six flats.

Om and Ambika Solanki, also neighbours at Brunswick Hill, set out a series of reasons they are opposed to plans.

Their objections include:

  • The characterful building will be destroyed and it will make the street look odd
  • There will be more traffic and parking congestion
  • Noise pollution of nine sets of families living in that small space
  • There are already too many flats in Reading