THE former Arthur Hill swimming pool site will become affordable housing for key workers across Reading, if proposals are agreed next week.
Teachers, nurses, police officers and social workers would all be eligible to live in the new flats in east Reading, which would be built by the Council and rented out at 80% of market rental rates.
The locally listed frontage would also be retained under the plans and the 15 new flats could be available for rent in just over two years.
Reading Borough Council remains fully committed to providing a modern new community swimming pool for east Reading in Palmer Park, to replace the old Arthur Hill pool. The new Palmer Park pool forms part of a £30 million investment package by the Council in modern leisure facilities for Reading, with a progress report expected in the autumn.
The plans for new affordable housing for key workers in Reading will be considered at a meeting of the Council’s Policy Committee on Thursday September 26th https://democracy.reading.gov.uk/documents/s8486/Arthur%20Hill.pdf
Councillor Jason Brock, Leader of Reading Borough Council, said:
“We know key public workers like teachers, nurses, police and social workers all struggle to find affordable homes to rent in Reading. These are the people who provide vital public services for our town, but extortionate rental prices have a major knock on effect on recruitment for schools, hospitals, the police force and the Council.
“This is an important and imaginative proposal which makes best use of a vacant site by offering affordable flats to rent at 80% of the market price for key public workers. It is close to a number of important employment sites, including the town centre and the Royal Berkshire Hospital. We know that securing good, affordable housing is a challenge for many key workers in our town and this scheme would aim to help with the recruitment and retention of the talent, such as social workers, that our public services require.
“It also provides the quickest solution – a planning application could be determined as early as Spring and the flats could be available to rent just two years after a grant of permission.
“A new building would also be designed to the highest environmental standards, in recognition of the fact that this Council has declared a Climate Emergency and has committed to a carbon neutral Reading by 2030. This would also ensure that energy costs for occupiers are lower, contributing to making these homes as affordable for residents as possible.”
The proposal to build new key worker housing at the former Arthur Hill site has been made possible through a combination of the removal of the cap on Housing Revenue Account borrowing and an increase in ‘off site’ Section 106 contributions for affordable housing, negotiated by the Council as part of the planning process.
Converting the site would involve the demolition of the rear of the building whilst protecting the listed frontage. External specialists have now provided an updated condition report on the site, with a focus on the locally listed frontage. This has confirmed development of the site is feasible. The estimated cost would be £4.55 million and, if agreed at Policy Committee next week, a planning application could be submitted and determined in the next 6 months.
A decision to dispose of the freehold of Arthur Hill swimming pool was initially agreed at Policy Committee in July 2018 following a process to market the building. A preferred bidder was selected whose intention was to build private residential flats on the site, but the sale did not progress. The Council made clear earlier this summer that it will continue to consider the re-use of the site for housing, including Council housing, key worker housing, or other affordable housing provision.