ONE of just three driving test centres in Berkshire will soon be demolished and replaced with flats after an inspector overturned Reading Borough Council’s objections to the scheme.

The Reading Driving Test Centre in Katesgrove is a place where hundreds of people have fond memories of passing their tests and getting their driving licence, or failing and having another go. It is still currently in use as a test centre.

It attracts learner drivers from all over the county as one of just three driving test centres in Berkshire, the others being in Newbury and Slough.

But now the Reading centre in Elgar Road South is set to be demolished and replaced with 16 flats. That’s because developer Maxika Homes has won permission in an appeal to the government.

Reading Borough Council refused both this project and an earlier scheme to replace the test centre with a single new apartment building, containing eight one-bedroom, seven two-bedroom flats and one three-bedroom apartment.

Reading Chronicle: The refused plan for the Reading Driving Centre replacement, now allowed on appeal. Credit: Sawkings Harper ArchitectsThe refused plan for the Reading Driving Centre replacement, now allowed on appeal. Credit: Sawkings Harper Architects

Previously, plans to replace the centre were turned down three times including the first project refused by the council in December 2021. The reason for refusal included a ‘poor and insecure choice of layout’ and a ‘substandard’ cycle storage ‘at risk of break-ins’.

While the latest project was also refused by the council’s planning applications committee in December 2022, that decision has now been overturned by government planning inspector B Phillips. 

The council’s reasons for rejecting the latest proposal was down to not enough family-sized homes would be provided, and that the development lacked amenity space. However, these reasons were rebuffed, given the proximity of the site to Waterloo Meadow.

READ MORE: Designs revealed for what Waterloo Meadow play park could look like 

Inspector Phillips said: “The development would be located near to Waterloo Meadow, which is a substantial area of public open space to the west of the site, which I observed was within easy walking distance.

“It includes areas for cycling, play area, pitch, basketball and a BMX track as well as riverbanks, meadows and woodland.

“Whilst not providing the benefits of private space, this would then help mitigate against the inadequacy of any on-site outdoor amenity space and provide the future residents with acceptable living conditions.”

Furthermore, Inspector Phillips argued that the housing mix was appropriate and met the housing need in Reading.

Ultimately, Inspector Phillips concluded that the development was acceptable, with the appeal being allowed in April this year.

In a double blow, the council is being forced to pay the costs of the appeal to Maxika Homes.  Inspector Phillips judged that the council failed to substantiate this reason for refusing the application.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service has asked the council how much it must pay.

You can view the approved project by typing reference 220258 into the council’s planning portal.

Conditions state that the housing mix must remain the same, and Maxika Homes must provide 16 bicycle and 12 car parking spaces.