THE OWNER of a ‘fine’ Edwardian House has finally been given the green light to turn their property into flats having been knocked back on six previous occasions.

The home, at 39 Brunswick Hill near Reading West station, has been the subject of three planning applications in three years.

Each time the applicant was told their plan to convert the property into a number of flats was not acceptable and each time a subsequent appeal was thrown out by national planning inspectors.

But a fourth plan, to turn the house into eight new flats, was approved by councillors earlier this week despite opposition from more than a dozen neighbours unhappy at the changes proposed to the ‘fine’ and ‘attractive’ villa.

The fine Edwardian house

The fine Edwardian house

Speaking at a meeting of Reading Borough’s planning committee, an officer said the proposal had ‘overcome the reasons for dismissal of the previous appeal’.

READ MORE: The key changes to the controversial Edwardian house plan

The key difference from the plan rejected in October 2020 was a change to the extension plans at the back of the property, with a smaller part three-storey, part single-storey rear extension planned rather than the previous three-storey rear extension proposed.

The previous application, the third in three years, was to convert the “fine” and “attractive” villa on Brunswick Hill into eight flats, adding two-storey side extensions and three-storey extensions at the back of the house.

And applicant Eric Benjamin’s proposal even survived a last-ditch attempt from the Reading Civic Society to save the home from development after they sent a letter to the council arguing the extensions would make the property ‘out of keeping with the area.’

The fine Edwardian villa

The fine Edwardian villa

Addressing the planning committee, Labour councillor Karen Rowland said: “This has been a long-haul with this item and I think we deserve to pay it some attention.

“The comments from the Civic Society made some good points, in regards to the specialness of Edwardian buildings such as this.

“Their owners are really only custodians for future generations.

READ MORE: Councillors issue warning to Edwardian House owner

“It has been through a number of appeals and each time there has been push back from the inspector and commendation about how outstanding this building is despite it not being a listed building.

“That’s really important because I think together we’ve all come on a journey with the numerous applications on this site that we really do have a special building here.

“I think finally the needle has been threaded. I would regret having anything done to this building. I think we have set forward many times this is a plenty large building that should be able to converted to housing without an extension.

“I’m still aggrieved the owner seems intent on an extension, but it is his right to do so.

The fine Edwardian villa

The fine Edwardian villa

“We need to be helpful when we can, and this time we’ve had engagement from our urban design officer, who has engaged on the process since the last decision in 2020, and has worked down the size of the extensions.

“So now, you are getting an extension there that is in keeping with the scale of the property while still respecting its elevations and its intrinsic character.

“I think we have come up with an answer that is acceptable. Am I happy about it? No. Do I think we would lose an appeal? Absolutely.

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“It would be my recommendation to [...] as a committee join hands and say we have done the right thing.

“Every time we have pushed back and it has come back and we have arrived at where we need to arrive that.

“We have made a journey to a point where I think it is acceptable.”

Cllr Rowland praised neighbours for ‘fighting the good fight’ in opposing changes to the property since the first application to demolish the house was submitted in 2017.

She joined her committee colleagues in voting to approve the latest plan put forward by the landlord.

This means the ‘fine’ Edwardian house will now be converted into a building containing one studio flat, five one-bed apartments, and two two-bed flats.

The committee met on Wednesday, March 3.