The town centre will get a new hotel and pub, despite concerns over the “big and white” design.

Plans were approved last night (July 21) for the vacant former Bristol & West Arcade on 173-175 Friar Street to be demolished and replaced with an 182-bed eight-storey hotel.

As part of the plans, eight flats will be created at 27-32 Market Place, a new pub will replace the former Coopers Arms pub at 29-31 Market Place, which closed in 2010, and a courtyard will  be created. 

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Reading Borough Council’s Planning Applications committee approved the plans on Wednesday evening (July 21).

Evelyn Williams, chair of the Conservation Area Advisory Committee, raised “serious concerns” about the plans and said they should be rejected, calling for a new and better proposal.

She said the site should be subservient to listed buildings such as the town hall and museum but instead would be “big and white” and “leap out at you”.

Ms Williams added: “What we have now is much too big, glaring and not sufficiently broken it up. It is just a flat white wall.”

Reading Chronicle: PICTURES: The hotel designPICTURES: The hotel design

Councillor Simon Robinson agreed, saying he would like to see something more sympathetic to other historic buildings in the area.

But all other councillors on the committee lent their support to the plan, with councillor Josh Williams calling the new designs “a big improvement” on the current derelict buildings.

Councillor Tony Page, lead member for Planning, called the proposals “an exciting scheme, which represents a vote of confidence in what I hope will soon be a city centre” and described the design as “fresh”.

He added: “The worst thing you can have in a conservation area in a town or city centre is the long-term dereliction we have seen here.

“That has no benefit to anyone.”

The plans also include a bar, restaurant, gym and shops, while the former arcade route which runs through the site, connecting Friar Street to Market Way, will be retained.

Developer Sonic Star submitted the new plans for the site in January, having abandoned previously approved proposals for the former arcade on Friar Street.

The scheme replaces the previous plan for offices, 35 flats and five shops that was approved by the council’s Planning Applications committee in July 2018.

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The Bristol & West Arcade buildings on Friar Street were closed in 2007 and have remained vacant along with the listed buildings on Market Place.

The company acquired the site in 2017 and immediately boarded and secured the arcade for health and safety reasons.