Friday, 21 October 2011

Improved Southcote community facilities a step closer

I've been getting a clear message from Southcote's residents has been quite clear - they want the old Happy Prospect site to be used and they want improved facilities to benefit the whole community in Southcote. A potential solution is close which could enable local people to work with the council to really improve community facilities on Coronation Square, while at the same time providing much needed affordable housing for rent.

I've been working with ward councillors, John, Pete and our wonderful Mayor, Deborah Edwards on this since we took back control of the council, but it's been something they have been championing for years. There are still a number of significant hurdles, including gaining planning approval, but we are getting there.

Local residents will be at the heart of the next stage - not just shaping what a proposed community facility would look like, but working with the council to deliver a facility that Southcote can be proud of. I'd encourage residents to get involved. Watch this space for the next opportunity to get involved!

Council press release:

Community facilities in Southcote could receive a significant boost if proposals for the possible redevelopment of the former Happy Prospect pub site are given the go-ahead.

The Happy Prospect pub was demolished earlier this year and a new use needs to be found for the site. The owner, PMC Construction, submitted a planning application for a 100% affordable housing scheme, which was then deferred at Planning Applications Committee to enable further discussions with the owner.

Before the planning application returns to committee however, Reading Borough Council's Cabinet on October 31st. will consider a proposal for the Council to support a 16 unit affordable housing scheme with a £280,000 social housing grant. If approved by Cabinet, funding for affordable housing would be secured.

Local residents have been consistent in their calls for improved community facilities in the area to support all age groups. The Council has received two petitions in relation to this site that call for community facilities in Southcote to be enhanced.

If planning permission for the redevelopment of this site is subsequently granted by Planning Applications Committee, any permission is likely to require appropriate mitigation for the loss of the former pub. This could involve securing a contribution towards enhancing existing community facilities elsewhere in Coronation Square, for example.

The Cabinet report on October 31 will also include proposals on the key role of local residents in determining what sort of enhanced community facility they would like for their local area, through a series of planned consultation events.

The possible future use of the site was discussed at a public meeting in July this year led by Rachel Eden, Lead Councillor for Housing and Neighbourhoods at Reading Borough Council.

Councillor Eden said: 'The message from Southcote's residents has been quite clear - they want the land to be used and they want improved facilities to benefit the whole community in Southcote. This potential solution could enable local people to work with the council to really improve community facilities on Coronation Square, while at the same time providing much needed affordable housing for rent. There are still a number of significant hurdles, including gaining planning approval, but this is a step forward in the process.

'Local residents will be at the heart of the next stage - not just shaping what a proposed community facility would look like, but working with the council to deliver a facility that Southcote can be proud of. I'd encourage residents to get involved.'

A separate Cabinet Report on October 31st will consider the release of the existing covenants on the site and access issues which would make the revised scheme a possibility.

The creation of additional affordable housing in Southcote - which would include four much-needed family-sized units - would have the added benefit of reducing the need to place homeless applicants in temporary accommodation, which in turn would reduce pressure on the public purse.
Following on from July's public meeting, an additional public meeting entitled 'Working Together for Southcote' will take place on Monday November 14th at the Southcote Children's/Community Centre on Coronation Square. It will run between 7pm and 9pm and look at how Reading Borough Council and local residents can work together to take forward improvements to community facilities in the area.