Community-led Appraisal of St Peters Conservation Area

20 January 2018

CADRA, in partnership The Friends of Caversham Court and other interested groups and individuals, has prepared a Community–led Appraisal of St Peters Conservation Area. This document was approved by the Conservation Area Advisory Committee at their December 2016 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 below includes  a wealth of background information and research which went into the preparation of the document.

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  Many are out of date.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.

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.

Background to the preparation of the Appraisal of St Peters Conservation Area

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 StPeterCA@cadra.org.uk

November  2015

A 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.