Saturday, 02 July 2022

Developer says parkland will be open to public

Developer says parkland will be open to public

A DEVELOPER has said it will open Caversham Park to the public for the first time in years. 

Beechcroft Developments, of Wallingford, bought the former BBC site in June last year and submitted a planning application for 153 homes and a care home at the 93-acre estate.

The Grade II listed manor house would be converted into 63 “assisted living” flats and four buildings along the access road would be converted into homes. The scheme includes 33 affordable houses to the west of the manor house together with the two-storey, 64-bedroom care home.

Another 41 houses and 12 flats would be built to the east, where there is currently a car park. The sports pavilion would be extended and refurbished to include two new croquet lawns, two bowling greens and an additional tennis court.

The developer, which specialises in both retirement communities and property conversions said there will also be a “walking trail” around the perimeter of the site accessible to residents and the public. 

Beechcroft’s managing director Chris Thompson said: “Caversham Park is mainly registered parkland, and we respect this special designation.  

“So, while the area within the red line is 93 acres, the built area will extend to just seven acres, or just 7.5 per cent of the whole site. 

“Significantly for the local community, this scheme will mean that for the first time in generations, access to the parkland will be available.

“More than 69 per cent of those submitting a feedback form at the public consultation expressed support.  We have listened to the public’s views and have amended our original proposals as a result.

“Beechcroft sees itself as the custodian of one of the most architecturally attractive buildings within Reading and the glorious parkland. 

“This is one of the most exciting planning proposals seen in the borough for many years as it addresses some of the real issues facing Reading.  There is a severe shortage of older persons’ housing, affordable housing, and publicly accessible open space.”

The council’s local plan said conversion of the main house may be acceptable if it sustains the significance of the building.

But campaign group Keep Emmer Green says the development should not be built so close to the former Reading Golf Club course, where plans for 223 new homes were approved in March. The main house at Caversham Park was built in 1850 by architect Horace Jones who was inspired by Italian baroque palaces and later went on to design Tower Bridge. 

It was constructed in a Neo-Georgian style, illustrating the continued trend for classical design during the mid-19th century.

During the First World War part of it was used as a convalescent home for wounded soldiers.  In 1923, the Oratory School bought the house and about 300 acres of the estate’s remaining 1,800 acres.

The Oratory relocated to Woodcote and with the onset of the Second World War the Ministry of Health requisitioned Caversham Park, initially intending to convert it into a hospital.  

However, the BBC purchased it and moved its monitoring services there in 1943 where they stayed until late 2017 when the BBC sold the site.

Beechcroft has also obtained planning permission for 40 houses and some commercial buildings at the site of the former Wyevale garden centre, off the A4155 Reading Road, in Shiplake.

The developer has also bought Joyce Grove, the former Sue Ryder care home in Nettlebed.  The Grade II listed Victorian building, in 27 acres of land, is understood to be valued at £20million and would be converted into housing.

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