Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Planning briefing Crescent Road site

I recently asked officers about what changes to the planning system might mean for the Crescent Road site and the owner's plans to develop the site. I got a fairly comprehensive and informative reply so I am reposting it here:

"I refer to your enquiry below. The site, which includes the former TVU buildings (now in the ownership of the University of West London) and the tennis courts (currently used for parking) is a proposed allocation within the Sites and Detailed Policies Document (Submission version July 2011). The allocation identifies the site for ongoing use for Further and Higher Education. Where it can be demonstrated that the loss of FHE will not have a detrimental effect on the overall FHE provision, the site will be used for education use or, if not needed for any education use, then residential.

Other education uses means any education use other than FHE. The site could be used for primary/secondary school if a need is established.

Paragraph 13.4.4 indicates that the development for residential would not include the adjacent playing fields. The playing fields have no planning designation.

The former Thames Valley University ceased operations during summer 2011, and the site has been vacant since then. At the end of 2011 it was marketed by the current owners, the University of West London, for residential development.

The site was discussed as part of the recent Examination in to the SDPD undertaken by an independent Examiner (end of November to mid December 2011). At the examination, there was discussion regarding the recent application to the Secretary of State for Education by Oxford and Cherwell Valley College, supported by Reading Borough Council, for a 14-19 University Technical College (UTC)[1]. This application was approved by the Secretary of State for Education in October 2011. The UTC project has the Secretary of State’s support to open as early as 2012. It is understood that Reading UTC School Trust intends to submit a planning application to develop a school on the site at the earliest opportunity. However, it is understood the UTC project will not involve the whole of the site that is currently available. It is likely that some of the site will, therefore, remain with the University of West London and that their intention will be to dispose of that holding.

The Inspector’s report has not yet been published and currently we are consulting on proposed main modifications, none of which relate to this site.

The government published the National Planning Policy Framework last week. This Framework gives a lot of weight to adopted local plans where they are up to date and quite a lot of weight to emerging plans such as our Sites and Detailed Policies Document. So I would say that the Council has a strong policy that will certainly allow the council to fully explore how the site could contribute to future educational needs before any other form of development of the site needs to be considered."

[1] Information on what a UTC is can be found at: http://www.education.gov.uk/schools/leadership/typesofschools/technical/a00198954/utcs

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