A developer that will build more than 600 flats in Reading’s town centre has been chosen.

Reading Borough Council had been seeking to transform its former Civic Centre site to create a ‘destination area’ for living, eating and entertainment.

The area, which is to the rear of Broad Street Mall, has been quiet since the civic centre building was demolished in 2016. Now it is characterised by concrete open space leading to the Magistrates Court and the Lavender Community Gardens.

The council administration has a project to regenerate the area into the ‘Minster Quarter’ which will be made up of more than 600 flats, be a net zero carbon development, and link up to destinations such as the Blue Collar Corner and the mall.

Of the 618 flats envisaged, 30 per cent would be designated affordable housing, amounting to 185 apartments.

Now, a developer has been selected to make the council’s Minster Quarter project a reality.

READ MORE: Reading Minster Quarter project given go ahead - what happens now

In a meeting, Karen Rowland (Labour, Abbey) lead councillor for environmental services and community safety said the project would ‘knit back the civic heart of Reading’.

However, serious concerns were raised by councillor Rob White, the leader of the opposition.

Cllr White (Green, Park) stated that there were ‘unanswered questions’ about the net zero plans for the buildings on the site, and asked for a climate impact assessment to be produced.

He said: “I don’t think residents are getting the best deal on affordable housing.

“I’m concerned that as councillors we are making a decision, and then assuming everything goes well with the winning bidder.”

Councillor White previously argued that 50 per cent of the development should be affordable, amounting to 309 flats.

READ MORE: Clash in Reading over affordable homes at 618 flat Minster Quarter project

He added that he would only support moving forward if the council’s policy committee was given a final say on the designs.

Councillor Adele Barnett-Ward (Labour, Thames) accused councillor White of ‘nitpicking’.

Cllr Barnett-Ward, the lead councillor for leisure and culture said: “Obviously some people are never going to be happy with anything, and will make increasingly desperate attempts to try and pick holes.

“But I’m very excited that this has come forward, from a leisure and culture point of view it brings forward a fantastic setting for The Hexagon, it’s an area of the town that hasn’t had the love and care that it’s needed, it’s taken a while to bring this forward since the civic offices closed and so it’s really exciting that we’re in a position to move forward.”

She added work with the operators with Blue Collar Corner would continue. Organisers recently signed an extended lease to operate on the current site.

Reading Chronicle: Blue Collar Corner in Hosier Street, Reading town centre. Credit: Bluecollarfood InstagramBlue Collar Corner in Hosier Street, Reading town centre. Credit: Bluecollarfood Instagram

Micky Leng (Labour, Whitley), lead councillor for planning and assets disagreed with cllr White, stating that the project ‘far exceeds’ the council’s strategic aims, namely for providing affordable family-sized homes and its net zero climate goals.

He added that he would be ‘over the moon’ with the project and opportunities to regenerate the market.

The scheme was also welcomed by cllr Simon Robinson (Conservative, Emmer Green), who said: “If you walk around that area at night it’s not good, so I think anything that brings that area up in the world and regenerates that part of Reading is all for the good.”

Liz Terry (Labour, Southcote), the deputy council leader, said: “That area needs the regeneration, we need to seize the opportunity that this long and robust process has presented to us.”

The council’s policy committee selected the developer to build the Minster Quarter in a closed session on Monday, January 22.

Cllr White voted against moving forward in an earlier public vote.

The names of bidders could not be disclosed for commercial reasons, but will be revealed by the council after a minimum 10-day waiting period.