Community-led Appraisal of St Peters Conservation Area

17 March 2018

In January 2018, RBC responded to the Draft Appraisal and set out a programme and method for approving community led appraisals together with some detailed comments and suggestions on the St Peters appraisal itself.

The St Peters appraisal is effectively acting as a pilot for other appraisals in Reading which are now underway. On February 22nd , Planning Officers from RBC and CAAC members undertook a walkabout in the Conservation Area principally to look at the proposed extensions to the area and the proposed Buildings of Townscape Merit now set out in the draft appraisal.

There was broad agreement on both.

The formal agreement programme set out by the Council has several stages, the immediate next steps are for the CAAC to now agree a final draft of the Appraisal with Planning Officers which will go before Councillors at the Strategic Environment Planning and Transport Committee in July this year.

There is then a further statutory consultation period and other formal processes. It is hoped that the new Appraisal will have been adopted by the Council by the end of 2018.

Read the backgound to where we are today at: Background

See the Document and Resources section, which includes a wealth of information and research that went into the preparation of the document.

What we do

Preservation is one of our key aims and CADRA works with other groups across Reading to try and address areas of deterioration.

Conservation Areas in Reading

Information on Conservation Areas in Reading, including two in Caversham, St Peters CA and Surley Row CA, can be found at: Conservation areas

Reading has 15 Conservation Areas. They should be appraised every 5 years to ensure that they reflect the up to date situation and are continuing to do the job they are designed for – to protect areas ‘the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance’.  Many are out of date. CADRA has been working with other groups across Reading to try and address the deterioration in many Conservation Areas.

Conservation Area Advisory Committee (CAAC)

In 2015 Reading Civic Society, along with the Baker Street Area Neighbourhood Association , CADRA , The Friends of Caversham Court Gardens  and other Neighbourhood Action Groups started to work with Reading Borough Council to establish a basis by which the existing Conservation Area Appraisals could be progressively updated.  The aim was also to examine how to  enhance what we have and how to arrest deterioration.   Historic England has provided advice and guidance.

The Strategic, Environment, Planning and Transport Committee (SEPT) of Reading Borough Council in April 2016 endorsed the CAAC being set up.  The first meeting was held on 19 May 2016.

The CAAC is an autonomous advisory body.  The aims for the first year included:

  1. To take the lead in updating Conservation Area Appraisals and make proposals for the enhancement and general care of maintenance of CAs.
  2. To further Education about Conservation Areas.
  3. To advise the Council on certain Planning Applications, Pre-Applications or other matters referred to it, which affect the character or appearance of a Conservation Area or Heritage Site or other area of Historic import.
  4. To advise the Council on schemes of public realm/ public highway which may be referred to it.

A major long-term task of the CAAC  is to review and update the appraisals that justify all 15 Conservation Areas, two of which - St Peters and Surley Row - lie north of the river.

Community-led appraisals will involve local people in assessing their CAs.  Once a series of stages have been successfully completed the new appraisals will be formally adopted by Reading Borough Council and they will inform local planning decisions. The first Reading Conservation Areas  to begin their community–led appraisals were the Russell Street & Castle Hill CA, a large densely populated  CA experiencing many of the problems of multiple occupation and inner city living, and St Peters in Caversham.

Background to the Appraisal of St Peters Conservation Area

December 2017

The results of the community consultation (Jul to Aug 2018) on the St Peters appraisal were very positive. Over 160 responses to our questionnaire were received and these overwhelmingly supported the proposals in the Appraisal, in particular 98% of respondents were in agreement with extending the boundaries of the Conservation Area to include the Church St/ Bridge St junction, the whole of Bridge St, and Caversham Bridge itself. Following some minor editing and the addition of the consultation results the document was approved by the Conservation Area Advisory Committee at their December 2017 meeting and subsequently forwarded to Reading Borough Council for their consideration.

Following a consultation process initiated by the Council, it is intended that the document will be adopted as formal policy by the Council.

You can read the appraisal of St Peters Conservation Area here.

The Document and Resources section includes a wealth of background information and research which went into the preparation of the document.

July 2017

The Draft Appraisal was launched at St Peters Church Fete on Saturday 8th July 2017. The consultation period ran from July 8th to August 19th.

Two copies  were available in Caversham Library during the consultation period. A consultation leaflet with some simple questions could be returned to Waltons Jewellers on Prospect Street, who kindly agreed to collect the completed forms. The consulation form could also be completed online and comments could be emailed or posted to CADRA.

The publicity for the launch stressed that this was the main chance for the public to comment on the document and also  that it would  be important to able to show that the appraisal has public support.

The results of the consultation were that there was an extremely high level of support for the appraisal and the ideas it put forward.

July 2016

In July 2016  a launch event for the appraisal was held in St Peters Church. 28 volunteers  heard two presentations one of the history of the area and one on the Oxford Toolkit. They then walked parts of the area to identify features of importance as well as things that detracted from the area, using the Oxford Toolkit  to record information contributing to a Character Assessment.

The presentations can be read here: initial presentation and second presentation.

A key proposal was to extend the Conservation Area to include the Church Street/ Church Road/ Bridge Street junction, Bridge Street, and Caversham Bridge.

As part of the exercise, historical maps, photographs and other information were gathered. People living locally were encouraged to  contribute information about individual buildings or about the conservation area in general, via

November  2015

paper on Protecting and enhancing Conservation Area, prepared by community groups across Reading, was presented to the Strategic Environment, Planning & Transport Committee on 24 November 2015.

In anticaption of the planned work to review the St Peters Conservation Area CADRA presented a paper on the issues within the conservation area.

Advice from Historic England

Historic England has a statutory role to give expert, constructive advice to owners, local authorities and the public, and to champion the wider historic environment. (English Heritage – now an independent charity – manages heritage sites and buildings.) Historic England have recently been advising both the Council and community volunteers. In April 2016 they organised training in Reading for local volunteers to teach them how to do appraisals of Conservation Areas using a The Oxford Toolkit to analyse the characteristics of an area.

Historic England were clear that the appraisal process should include local involvement and should capture local views on what makes the area special and distinctive.

Chilterns Conservation Board

The Chilterns Conservation Board is an independent statutory body which was established by Parliament in 2004 to conserve and promote the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

The Chilterns lie on Caversham’s doorstep: their woodland, hills, views, chalk streams and history provide a huge recreational asset for all of us, as well as a rich and diverse habitat. But such a lovely area so close to London is under huge development pressure, not only from housing but from big infrastructure projects like HS2.