The landmark Cemetery Junction archway is back on sale after the council rejected a bid from the local community to turn it into a heritage and arts hub.

The Grade II-listed arch was previously advertised for auction sale by Reading Borough Council (RBC) in May 2019 as it was no longer required for council purposes.

But Reading Borough Council (RBC) withdrew the listing a week later to allow the local community to develop and progress its bid.

READ MORE: Town’s landmark junction history

Volunteers set up Junction Arch Heritage and Arts (JAHA) as a Community Interest Company (CIC) to turn the iconic east Reading arch into a National Lottery-funded heritage and arts hub.

But Reading Borough Council (RBC) has now once again put the vacant, Grade II listed landmark building up for public auction with a guide value of £100,000.

 A spokesman for the council said:“The previous marketing of Cemetery Arch was paused following firm interest from a local group, to allow it a period of time to work up a detailed proposal to improve the building and bring it back into use supported by heritage grants.

“That proposal was unsuccessful and, as a result, the Council has now re-opened the formal bidding process which runs until March 19, 2021.

"Bids are welcome from all parties, including local voluntary and community organisations, and any groups which were previously unsuccessful, together with the general property market."

A chartered surveyor for JAHA valued the building at £0, as it said it would cost £293,000 to refurbish and convert and would afterwards have a value of £165,000.

But sales agent professionals have estimated the current value to be around £100,000, according to the council.

The spokesman added: "It is always the Council’s obligation to get the best possible value out of any asset but, as with every bidding process, the wider benefit to local community will be taken into account alongside the financial offer, before any final recommendation is made.

“Our ambition remains to secure a viable and ongoing use of this historic arch to improve and maintain it as a Grade II listed building for the foreseeable future."

If a long term lease is progressed, the council will continue to own the building.

If the leaseholder is unable to carry out the necessary repairs, the council will be able to recover the building with a view to it being restored by another party.

JAHA published its proposal for the site earlier this month.

A spokesman for JAHA said: “This is disappointing as we continue to engage with RBC and make the case for a “community asset transfer” of the building which we believe is the most viable option for it and in the best interests of its conservation.

“This would mean that the ownership of the building would be transferred, with no fee, to a community organisation that has a detailed proposal for its conservation and reuse, and through ownership can attract enabling funding.”

The auction listing

The two-storey bath stone carriage arch, also called the Cemetery Junction gatehouse, is advertised as having scope for conversion into two or three residential dwellings.

The building only has planning permission for community and police use but could become flats if the necessary planning consent is obtained.

RBC would continue to have rights of gated access through the archway into the cemetery and access by the public and the council’s grounds team would continue as normal.

Roman Auctions, based in Wokingham, are once again handling the sale of the gatehouse.

The community plans for the site

JAHA’s plans, to be funded by the Architectural Heritage Fund and National Lottery funding, included:

  • Full restoration of the arch
  • Creating a food area with shipping containers
  • Building a single-storey building as a community space for exhibitions and art
  • Turning the arch into offices or a co-working space
  • Small community garden

READ MORE: Food hall and bar in a cemetery? Latest plans revealed for junction arch

The arch’s history

The arch was also previously put up for sale in August 2016 but no offers were received.

It has three rooms on each side of the archway, extending to a total of about 70sqm.

There are also two storage outbuildings and parking for several cars

The archway gives access to Reading Old Cemetery and gained nationwide prominence as the setting for 2010 film Cemetery Junction, directed by Stephen Merchant and Ricky Gervais.

Originally built in the 1840s, the archway was designed by local architect William Brown and is constructed in imposing bath stone.

The cemetery was taken over by the council in 1959.