Plus sign

photo (12)As the R+ development takes shape on the site of Aldwych House, it’s becoming clear that the new exterior actually looks pretty good.

Furthermore, the tendency for planners to talk about having to keep developments looking similar to neighbouring buildings is shown to be wildly off the mark.

Here R+ is clearly totally different from the Museum/Town Hall building opposite it yet looks a neat contrast. Considering it has Apex Plaza on the other side, architects of R+ seem to have done a neat job of creating a pleasing building which sits well alongside an awkwardly diverse street scene.

If only the rest of town was built as carefully. Old photos show that fantastic buildings were demolished in Hosier Street and The Forbury in the 1960s and 70s and doubtless in other areas too.

Those that replaced them are, in some cases, coming down now. R+ is a sign that in 50 years from now, developers and planners may just think these are a little more worthy of keeping than the ones they replaced.

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Costa success

photo (11)About 20 years ago the council had a vision of a cafe culture in Reading. The idea was we would all be sitting drinking coffee and socialising rather than simply trudging the shops.

Well much as I was sceptical, it really has happened. And it’s great.

So what’s to be made of yet another Costa, this time being created just inside Debenhams in The Oracle. About 100 yards along the mall is another Costa. A hundred yards further, there’s another on Coffee Corner along with two competitors. Go the same distance the other way and there’s another Starbucks.

You can’t blame an industry where mark up is everything and where the demand just doesn’t seem to stop, for making the most of it.

But its seems they are going to fill the town with them until there just isn’t any more demand they can squeeze out of the locals.

And I’d guess there is still a way to go.

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Home rules

photo (9)Anyone who remembers the controversy over the closure of the Arthur Clark care home and Albert Road day centre might find the hoarding on the buildings now a little much to bear.

The council blowing its own trumpet over its care for the elderly must be rather galling for anyone booted out of the home in the first place. the story was extensively covered in getreading and there were no end of protests.

It’s not that the council need employ any PR experts, just not be stupid and insensitive. They have a PR department but quite who dreamed this kind of banner up, wherever they work, should be made to explain it.

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Connected to success

photo (8)Among the many new developments at The Oracle the revamp of the Vodafone store must be one of the more surprising, Barely two years since it was refitted it seems to be going through another upheaval.

In fact trying to think of a mobile phone shop that hasn’t been refitted in recent times is quite difficult. So despite the fact they seemed to have saturated the market a few years ago there is still a buoyant trade in people getting new phones.

Remarkable too that until recent months there was a mobile phone cover shop in Broad Street that lasted for years.

Quite who is changing their phone so often that these places do so well is a mystery. But it suggests that despite the UK’s debts and deficit, some in this area are doing very well indeed.

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Whose wealth is it anyway?

ViewEven in this grainy view from Balmore Park, developments are evident across Reading.

The Thames Tower and Station Hill schemes are sandwiched between several cranes to the east and Chatham Place to the west.

A crane count is normally a sign of prosperity but this has to be questioned in a town like Reading. The low paid people on the Whitley estate aren’t going to be jumping for joy over pricey rents in the new flats but buy-to-let investors are.

Jobs in the new town centre offices mean little if you can’t get childcare or you don’t have qualifications in law or accountancy. Plenty will travel in by train for those jobs.

Flats and offices are flourishing to the east of the town centre with the same issues around them.

It seems no matter how wealthy Reading gets, the people who benefit are often not those who live here.

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Wealth without the health

Wok Just as Bracknell is upgrading we now see Wokingham ready to beef up its leisure offer with bowling, improved swimming and more.

What then can you make of leisure in Reading? The barely reasonable facilities at Rivermead, the outdated Central Pool and the way-outdated Arthur Hill pool are about as far as it goes for swimming.

Bowling has now gone and so have many of the children’s indoor and outdoor play areas.

There are two every more pricey cinemas and inadequate theatre provision. A private lido/spa is coming but that’s got a rather fine tuned market.

It’s time those talking up the town gave up the spin and looked at what we are missing. We might be top ten when it comes to tech and shopping but it seems while we are patting ourselves on the back, healthy leisure (all apart from the surge of gyms – and that’s hardly leisure) has been forgotten.

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Sheeplands takes a dip

SheepThe long running saga over Sheeplands garden centre at Hare Hatch seems to have a reached a sad but necessary conclusion.

If the owners were allowed to flout planing laws and build all sorts of extensions without permission, Wokingham borough council would have no answer when anyone else did the same.

So despite all the protests, this popular place has to come into line.

Barnet FC built their new stadium higher than planning permission had allowed but the cost of enforcing the rules was enough to deter its council from fighting it.

And you rather wonder how many other businesses have done the same a got away with it.

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