An overhaul of tower blocks plagued by ‘rats the size of cats’ has been approved.

Reading Borough Council’s (RBC) Planning Applications committee approved the plans for three Coley tower blocks on Wednesday evening (July 21).

The makeover of the three blocks of flats on Wensley Road is the second phase of a scheme from the council which includes the development of 46 homes and two play areas and was approved in August 2020.

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As well as renovation works to improve the look of the tower blocks – 193 Wensley Court, 203 Irving Court and 205 Riversley Court – the works will include changes to the problematic bin situation and fire safety improvements.

Reading Chronicle: PICTURE: How the blocks are expected to lookPICTURE: How the blocks are expected to look

Councillor John Ennis, who was until recently lead member for Housing, said the plans are a “massive investment” into the area that will “change lives in a positive way forever for many of our people in Reading”.

New lead member for Housing councillor Ellie Emberson praised the changes to bins to address rat concerns, the improved sustainability, which will reduce the carbon footprint and energy bills at the site, and the addition of new cycle lockers.

‘Rats the size of cats’

Over the past few years, residents have complained of “rats the size of cats” and demanded action on the infestation, with the council struggling to tackle the issue.

All bins will move inside, under the new plans, with the ground floor to be extended to provide increased capacity for refuse and recycling storage and management.

A “robust brick base” will also be put in place at all three buildings up to the second floor window height to prevent rats entering through to the insulation.

What else is planned?

The renovation works will also include replacement windows, new brickwork and 45 new cycle lockers.

The plans also include new cycling and walking routes and woodland planting.

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Fire safety is also a big part of the plans, with plans to replace the existing external fabric of the building with a non-combustible system and sprinklers and a new fire alarm system currently being installed.

RBC is also planning improvements at the nearby Courage Park, including improved access, lighting and play facilities.

Reading Chronicle: PICTURED: How the site could look after the overhaulPICTURED: How the site could look after the overhaul

The three tower blocks, which contain 267 flats in total, with 89 apartments in each block, were built between 1958 and 1960 and last renovated in 1993.

The overhaul is part of controversial development of build 46 homes at the site, which is expected to be completed sometime between December 2022 and March 2023.

Among other criticism, residents have slammed plans to build new roads in Coley as part of the project as a “recipe for disaster”.

But the council said these concerns were assessed by the Planning Applications committee when the phase one plans were approved last year.