Controversial plans for 46 affordable homes in Coley, dubbed “planning vandalism” by neighbours, could be approved next week.

Reading Borough Council (RBC) planning officers have recommended the flats and houses plan at Wensley Road be approved, despite agreeing the proposal would cause harm.

The RBC plan seeks to demolish 29 garages and build 46 homes, at least 37 of which would be at social housing affordable rates.

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Planning officer Jonathan Markwell identified five key ways the development would cause harm to the area:

  • Significant reduction in open space
  • Removal of play facilities
  • Net loss of trees
  • Increased density of development, making the living environment more overbearing for some residents
  • Loss of garage facilities

But officers have recommended the plans be approved, as they believe the benefits of the scheme, including net zero carbon emissions on-site and affordable housing, outweigh the harm.

Mr Markwell said: “In particular, the development facilitating the provision of 46 affordable housing units is a considerable planning benefit, when set within the context of a pressing need for housing, and affordable housing in the borough.

“The sustainability credentials of the proposals are another factor which, when applying an overall critical planning balance of all material considerations, tips the balance in favour of the proposals.”

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While 39 of the 46 units will be secured as affordable housing via a legal S106 agreement, the council wants all homes to be at social housing rates.

The plan aims to achieve Passivhaus standards – provide a high level of comfort while using very little energy for heating and cooling – and has been called an “exemplar” development by council planners.

A petition has been signed by more than 600 residents, who say the area is already over-populated, are opposed to any new properties being built on the Coley Estate and have requested the council find a more suitable location.

But the council has pushed ahead with the scheme, saying no other scheme could meet the timetable for Homes England funding.

The plans include:

  • 26 three-bed houses
  • Two four-bed houses
  • Ten two-bed flats
  • Eight one-bed flats
  • Play areas and an outdoor gym

Four of the homes would be wheelchair-accessible, parking in the area will increase to 230 spaces and bin areas will be upgraded.

Bins have been a big issue in the area, with neighbours at Riversley Court speaking of the horror of ‘a sea of rats the size of cats’.

Officers have recommended that, if the plans are approved, measures be put in place to stop rats and other pests and vermin from accessing bin stores before anyone moves into the new homes.

RBC’s Planning Applications committee will vote on the plans next Wednesday (August 12).