A campaign has been launched to open up space at Caversham Park to the public, amid reported plans to turn the stately home into retirement accommodation.

Local campaigners and councillors are calling for Reading residents to come forward with evidence of closed rights of way at the site.

Beechcroft is believed to be interested in buying the historic site and turning it into sheltered retirement accommodation.

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Although local campaigners and politicians have called for rights of way at the site to be re-opened as part of any development, it is not clear if there were ever any legitimate rights of way.

A right of way is a legally protected right of the public to pass and re-pass on specific paths.

According to Reading East MP Matt Rodda, when the site was used by the BBC rights of way were closed.

Mr Rodda said: “I would like to encourage residents to share their memories of the building and working there but also help document any rights of way.

“If people in the area know of any rights of way, the council may be able to help to open it or encourage a developer to open it.”

He is also pushing for the new development to include a small museum to celebrate its history.

Caversham Park is the historic home of the BBC Monitoring service and has an extensive history, with the present building, inspired by Italian palaces, built in 1850 after a fire.

The 93-acre site and Grade II-listed Victorian stately home has been on the market since 2017 for a rumoured £20 million, with recent reports suggesting developer Beechcroft wants to turn it into sheltered accommodation.

The BBC Monitoring Service and BBC Radio Berkshire occupied the premises from 1943 until 2018.

Reading East MP Matt Rodda and local Labour campaigners put together a survey asking for the views of residents on the future of the site and also organised a public meeting.

The survey received around 900 responses, with around 95 per cent asking for “something to be done for the community”.

The most popular request was public access to the green spaces, according to the campaigners, and there were a variety of other widely requested ideas such as a museum reflecting the history and importance of the site, nationally and locally.

The public meeting on April 29 was hosted by Mr Rodda, along with local Labour campaigners James Denny and Caroline McArthur, with guests including former employees at Caversham Park.

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Mr Rodda said he is “really excited” at the progress made at the meeting.

He said a lot of the former BBC employees would like the heritage of the BBC to be celebrated, while residents have mostly expressed the desire for the re-opening up access to the land and for “the look of the building” to be protected.

Reading East MP Matt Rodda praised the work done so far

Reading East MP Matt Rodda praised the work done so far

While Mr Rodda expressed his excitement at the progress made, Reading Borough Council (RBC) deputy leader Tony Page, who is also lead member for planning, said “there isn’t anything new” happening yet.

Cllr Page said: “We are awaiting to hear if this ever results in anybody purchasing it.”

And he did not hold up great hopes for opening any possible rights of way.

He said: “We don’t know that there are any. Lots of comments have been made. They are all unsubstantiated.

“We have invited people to submit evidence. A footpath doesn’t necessarily mean it is a right of way."

But he said, if there is evidence, the council will be the first to investigate it and he encouraged people to come forward with any proof, adding that the council has a statutory duty to maintain and re-establish rights of way.