Changes have been made to a project to build flats by the river in Reading – but neighbours raised fears that the new blocks will tower over existing homes.

Housebuilder the Berkeley Group has had plans to build 209 apartments on the south bank of the River Thames for years.

The project involves the demolition of the old power station previously owned by SSE so that eight new blocks containing apartments can be built.

While the project was approved by the government planning inspectorate back in March 2022, changes had to be made for it to comply with government fire regulations requiring buildings over 18 metres tall to have two staircases.

READ MORE: Essential changes submitted for more than 200 flats at Reading riverside 

Meanwhile, Ben Ralston and other people living in neighbouring streets objected to the project, arguing the blocks would tower over their homes.

The changes were discussed by Reading Borough Council’s planning applications committee.

At a meeting, Mr Ralston representing neighbours in Lynmouth Road, said:  “I was very disappointed that the council’s original rejection of the plan was overturned by central government.

“The tower blocks moved closer to Lynmouth Road and a little bit higher, and also to the Thames.

“Residents feel uncomfortable with large buildings like that so close to the Thames.”

He also argued one of the towers overshadows Christchurch Bridge, which provides walking and cycling access to the site.

READ MORE: Designs revealed for flats plan to replace offices by the riverside in Reading

Caroline McHardy, a land director at Berkeley Homes, said that improvements brought by the development included the delivery of ‘high quality’ new homes, opening up the site for greater accessibility and promoting walking and cycling between Reading and Caversham.

The committee ultimately agreed that the benefits of the development outweighed the negatives.

Micky Leng, lead councillor for planning, acknowledged the ‘elephant in the room’ that the committee rejected the project in 2021.

However, he argued that some of the changes were ‘very beneficial’.

Councillor Leng (Labour, Whitley) said: “Let’s face it, it’s a pretty tired old industrial site, and I think they have been very sympathetic of keeping the character of an industrial type heritage, I congratulate them on that.”

Praised Berkeley Homes for employment initiatives at previous developments in Reading, and honouring the heritage of the site with building names such as The Turbine Hall, The Generator and The Coal Drop building.

Reading Chronicle: The named buildings plan for the Berkeley Homes old power station development in Vastern Road, on the south bank of the Thames in Reading. Credit: Berkeley HomesThe named buildings plan for the Berkeley Homes old power station development in Vastern Road, on the south bank of the Thames in Reading. Credit: Berkeley Homes

Mr Ralston was unconvinced by the arguments made.

As the committee was set to vote, Mr Ralston exclaimed: “Are they really going to go up from four floors to five floors behind my house?

“They will already look into my back garden, they are going to go further up?

“Is that what you are approving here? You talk about benefits, what benefits, to Berkeley Homes? What about the residents?”

The adaptations were unanimously approved by the planning applications committee on Wednesday, March 27.

Design changes meant that nine two-bed flats had to become one-bed flats instead to accommodate additional staircases required by law.

The development will now be made up of 70 one-bed, 127 two-bed and 12 three-bed flats.

You can view the approved project by typing reference 231673 into the council’s planning portal.