READING Borough Council has expressed disappointment that its bid to purchase the Reading Prison has been rejected by the Ministry of Justice, but has now vowed to work with the successful bidder to ensure its huge historical and cultural value is recognised in any future development.
Reading Borough Council has always emphasised the historical and cultural value of the vacant Reading Gaol site, particularly in the context of re-opening the Grade I listed Reading Abbey Ruins. The Council’s position remains that the Reading Gaol site – sitting next to The Abbey on a site of national significance – offers huge potential for heritage-led regeneration.
The Council’s planning policies mean it is essential that any proposed future development of the site has provision of a cultural or historical element which draws on the significance of the Reading Prison site. Any proposals would also need to enhance the Abbey Quarter as a heritage and cultural destination. It is highly likely further archaeological assessments and investigations would additionally be needed to inform any future development.
Cllr Jason Brock, Leader of Reading Borough Council said:
The Council’s bid rightly focused on the historical and cultural value of the Reading Prison site and it was dependent on securing significant external funds to manage the risk of taking ownership of this historic property. We are naturally disappointed that the MoJ have rejected the Council’s bid.
“The purchase of Reading Prison comes with significant planning parameters which are fundamental to any development of the site and are designed to protect the prison’s historical, archaeological and cultural value, all of national significance. The developer will now need to pay very close consideration to the local and national and local planning policies set out by the Council in the Prison Framework and in our new Local Plan.
“I intend to meet with the successful bidder at the earliest opportunity to impress this upon them and want to work closely with them to ensure the historical and cultural value of Reading Prison is given prominence as plans are developed.”
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