COUNCILLORS agreed to grant planning permission for more than 400 homes in the town centre despite a 'derisory' offer towards affordable housing.

Derelict land between Weldale Street and Chatham Street is set to be transformed, but Reading councillors made a split decision after revealing only 10 per cent of the accommodation would be affordable.

The council would normally seek an indication of 30 per cent.

Ropemaker Properties sought planning permission from Reading Borough Council's Planning Applications Committee for 427 flats at the meeting on Wednesday evening.

Councillor Tony Page, deputy leader of the council, said the decision was made with 'bitter regret' and expressed his anger and fury at the Government.

He said: "While I welcome the principle of this application, it is with bitter regret that, in my opinion, we have no reason to refuse this application and we should be venting our anger, our indignation and our fury at the Government for having permitted to a planning regime that allows this sort of non-compliant development to be imposed on Reading."

Cllr Page did welcome the scheme's potential to rejuvenate the 'slum' area, but politicians on the other side of the room felt the offer of 10 per cent was not enough to accept, including Councillor Ricky Duveen.

"The walkway through to Chatham Street is regarded as a slum area," Cllr Page added.

"It is used by street drinkers and others. It is a rubbish tip and the proposal will offer substantial improvement.

"Until recently there were a lot of overgrown bushes and people camping in them. That has now been resolved, but an important site like this will need to have quality landscaping in the future."

As well as removing the Wickes building, the Iceland supermarket a two-level car park will also be demolished to make way for the new project.

The plans include four large blocks - some as tall as 11 storeys - containing one, two and three bedroom apartments, with a shop or restaurant and cafe also being considered for the ground floor.

Developers have suggested building two car parks containing 124 spaces to account for the residents.

The majority of parking is likely to be underground.

A handful of formal objections were raised surrounding the loss of sunlight, noise pollution during construction and risk of anti-social behaviour increasing at the site.

Officers from Reading Borough Council did suggest that parts of the site 'potentially includes contaminated land'.

There was also concern about the height of the project affecting the listed Greyfriars Church, but the plans were revised following initial consultation.