Grade II-listed buildings in Reading’s town centre will be transformed into a market square and apartment-hotel.

The plans from Thackeray Estates to transform 1-15 Queen Victoria Street and 147-148 Friar Street were approved by Reading Borough Council’s (RBC) Planning Applications committee on Wednesday, June 23.

The buildings will be renovated and extended to provide an apartment-hotel and old buildings at the back will be demolished to create a market square with boutique retailers and independent food traders.

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Labour councillor Liam Challenger said: “It’ s great to see something with such love and appreciation going into it.

“Seeing something so refined and simple really adds to the town, especially on a gateway through to the station.”

Councillor Karen Rowland, lead member for Culture & Heritage at RBC, said the application is “the type of heritage-led regeneration that our town is really needing and craving”.

She also praised the attention to details in regenerating the historic listed buildings and restoring store fronts back to their original appearance, calling it “wonderful work”.

Cllr Rowland added: “It’s rare that you get an application where people don’t complain and indeed complement but this is truly one of those applications.”

Lib Dem Cllr Ricky Duveen, who was not able to vote due to not being able to attend in-person, also praised the scheme but wondered if there will be enough independent retailers to fill the new spaces.

But councillor Tony Page, lead member for Planning, said there is no shortage of independent retailers in the town.

He said: “The issue is whether the owners of properties will pitch their rents at a realistic starter level that will enable those small businesses to get started.”

Cllr Page said one of the few good things the pandemic had caused is lower commercial rent prices and this had led to some independent retailers getting more prominent spots in the town centre.

The developer owns several other buildings in the town centre and Cllr Page said he hopes the quality of this development will be reflected in other future applications from Thackeray Estates.

Councillors unanimously approved the plans, which include 3,308sqm of retail space and a 41-bed apartment-hotel.

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The outdoor space could include farmer markets, sport screenings, street food, a Christmas market and live theatre.

Developer Thackeray Estates said: “The listed buildings on both Queen Victoria Street and Friar Street have been neglected over time and a series of unsympathetic additions and alterations have caused significant harm.

“The buildings are in serious need of repair and their existence relies on significant investment in the historic fabric.

“By putting the buildings back to use, this initial investment and ongoing maintenance can be secured, ensuring the buildings future.”

The developer has highlighted Market Hall and Eccleston Yard (London) and Milsom Place (Bath) as examples it is seeking to follow.