ASTRONOMY concerns have dominated discussions over a Reading charity’s plan to build affordable flats.

The discussion was being held over Reading Almhouse Charity’s plan to build 18 new flats for needy people on a field next to Liberty House, which it owns in Strand Way, Lower Earley.

Neighbours objected to construction of the flats due to their design, what they called a ‘dangerous access’ provided to the homes, and fears one neighbour would have to give up astronomy due to light pollution.

Speaking on behalf of neighbours, Alf Wojtasz said: “Light pollution from the development will directly affect one resident who’s a member of the British astronomical association with telescopes in his garden and undertakes professional research for the association in the southern skies.

“This development would prevent his valuable research, affecting the association and the worldwide astronomical scientific community such as NASA, and probably stop his professional activities which is totally unreasonable.”

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The agent on behalf of  Reading Almhouse Charity John Cornwell, who is also a trustee, said he ‘didn’t know where to begin’ in addressing Mr Wojtasz’s objections.

Mr Cornwell said: “Is it right that this application be refused because an astronomer lives next door?

“Is it sensible for an astronomer to live in the middle of Lower Earley? I’m left speechless.

“This charity has been around for more than 300 years.”

The charity is an affordable housing provider which owns Liberty House, Penton House and the Castle Street Almhouses.

But its plan to build the affordable flats in Lower Earley proved controversial, with Earley Town Council and 16 neighbours objecting to the project, which was discussed at Wokingham Borough Council’s planning committee yesterday (Wednesday, January 13).

Concerns were also raised about access provided to the flats, which will be contained in three new two-storey buildings, with objectors fearing the access to the ‘S bend’ of Strand Way could cause a crash.

Councillor David Hare (Liberal Democrats, Hawkedon) said it would be “an accident waiting to happen”, and the entrance and exits to the flats were “inappropriate”.

However, no objection to the visibility and road access was raised by the council’s highways officer.

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Members of the committee voiced concerns about pedestrian and cycle access provided to the footpath located to the south of the site, which runs from Kensington Close to Cutbush Lane.

There were worries that vulnerable people in the new flats and Liberty House could be disturbed by unwanted intruders coming from the footpath.

To address this, an informative by cllr Stephen Conway (Liberal Democrats, Twyford) was introduced that any new access to the footpath be restricted to residents only.

The plan was then approved unanimously by the committee.

You can view tweets from the meeting here: 

Of the 18 flats, 16 will be one-bedroom and two would be two-bedroom, with each building having six apartments within it.

Each flat has its own car parking space, making 18 in total.