Three huge towers with hundreds of homes will be built on top of Broad Street Mall, after plans were approved last night.

Plans to build three 18-20 storey towers above the mall containing 368 flats were approved by Reading Borough Council’s (RBC) Planning Applications committee.

Another smaller five-storey building with 42 affordable housing flats will also be built above the mall.

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Full approval of the plans is subject to the council and Broad Street Mall owners Moorgarth agreeing how to cover the car park, with councillors not happy with the amount of greenery proposed.

The two parties will discuss this and the application will come back to a future committee meeting with revised plans to be voted on.

Councillor Tony Page (Labour), lead member for planning, said the mall has “decayed” under the previous owners and praised the commitment of Moorgarth to develop the Minster Quarter.

He said the council is also committed to redeveloping the area and the Broad Street Mall plans will be “one small part of the major regeneration which we aspire to”.

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Moorgarth Chief Executive Tim Vaughan said the development will act as a catalyst for further regeneration in the area and will support the sustainability of the mall, keeping it “relevant, vibrant and appealing”

Five members of the planning applications committee rejected the plan (councillors Josh Williams, Ricky Duveen, Karen Rowland, Jane Stanford-Beale and Simon Robinson) but a majority of members voted in favour.

Conservative Cllr Robinson said the committee should vote to preserve the town’s character, while Cllr Duveen said the towers are not affordable and are not being built for the people of Reading.

Cllr Williams (Green) said: “This is a utilitarian site that causes harm to the historic context.”

Lead member for Heritage Cllr Rowland (Labour) said her problem with the plan is the design, which “needs to be exemplary but is not”.

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The meeting was paused twice for a total of 20 minutes for committee members to read late information provided by the Historic Places Panel.

The independent experts raised concern in the document that the Broad Street Mall development would cause harm to the town and said the council must ensure the highest standards of design and public benefits.

Evelyn Williams, chair of Reading Conservation Area Advisory Committee, and Anthony Ihringer, vice chair of the Baker Street Neighbourhood Association, called for the plans to be rejected or a delay until the Historic Places Panel documents could be looked at in more detail.

Ms Williams said the towers are “excessively tall” and will loom over St Mary’s Butts.

She said the mall was not designed to have towers built on top of it and described the smaller block of flats as “ugly”.

Block A, the tallest of the towers, will contain 148 flats, and will be 20 storeys high.

The other two towers will both be 18 storeys but Block B, which will contain 115 flats, will be taller than the 98-flat Block C. All homes will be built for rent.

Only 10 per cent of the flats will be at affordable rates after Moorgarth and RBC agreed the project would otherwise not be viable.

Moorgarth said if the project is more financially successful than expected they willadd extra affordable flats to the site.

All affordable homes will be in the smaller block but any new additions would be in the towers.