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Thursday, 14 November

Royal for Reading

Royal Elm Park, the £500 million landmark development adjacent to Reading Football Club’s Madejski Stadium, has been approved by Reading Borough Council, subject to conditions.

The development will deliver a world-class convention centre, hundreds of new homes, significant new public space, an exciting mix of high-quality retail, leisure and hotel space, all of which will be supported by a substantial investment in public transport for both match and non-match day visitors.

The centrepiece of the 15.5ha scheme will be a new landmark 28,000sq m convention centre, intended to provide a powerful attraction for future inward investment.  Known as The International, the centre will play host to a wide range of events, concerts, conferences, leisure pursuits and community uses, and will become the largest dedicated conference venue in the south of England. With a capacity of 6,000, The International will enable Reading to compete on a world stage, enabling it to host larger events than ever before, and will serve as a powerful catalyst for growth in Reading and Berkshire more widely. It will also deliver a new ice rink, which will be made available for both leisure use and competitive sport.

Royal Elm Park will also deliver more than 600 new homes. A mix of one, two and three bedroom homes will provide much needed new housing with dedicated resident parking, extensive landscaping, helping to create a new community with Madejski Stadium at its heart.

The scheme also includes more than 18,000sq m of new public open space. A new public square of 8,000sq m will form a focal point for residents, football supporters and visitors, and will include over 2,000sq m of new retail, leisure and restaurant facilities.

Royal Elm Park is set to deliver a significant stimulus to the region, further supporting Reading’s position as one of the UK’s fastest-growing cities.  It will create more than 1,000 new jobs once development work is complete, and is set to boost inward investment into the area by offering larger and better facilities for large businesses seeking a home in the south east.

Reading’s role as an economic engine room has grown over recent years, with the city now ranked as one of Europe’s fastest growing investment destinations.  Over the past two decades, Reading and the Thames Valley has become home to a significant number of global businesses and earned a reputation as an international centre of excellence for technology, innovation, research and development.

This role is set to be boosted further through increased connectivity, with Crossrail services offering new direct links to central and east London from 2019 and the potential for enhanced international links should Heathrow Airport’s third runway be approved in the Autumn.  Royal Elm Park is also paving the way for a new mainline station to be created at nearby Green Park, offering residents and visitors direct rail access to local destinations, the south west, the Midlands and the North.

Commenting, Nigel Howe, Chief Executive of Reading FC, said: “This is a huge boost for Reading, and will deliver a step change in the city’s ability to host international, large-scale conferences and events, which the business community here has long sought.  But the scheme delivers more than that.  It delivers a new and reinvigorated destination for businesses and the Reading community, and will significantly enhance the match-day experience for our supporters, the driving force behind the Club’s success. 

“Royal Elm Park is emblematic of the city’s vision for the future, and will play a significant role in driving new and enhanced inward investment, which will underpin the regional economy going forward.”

Praphant Asava-aree, Director of RFC Prop Co, added:

“Royal Elm Park is a bold and ambitious scheme, and is a tangible demonstration of our vision for the Thames Valley.  Today, that vision becomes a reality.  Creating 1,000 new jobs, new economic and social infrastructure for the benefit of the community and regional businesses, enhanced facilities for Reading FC’s supporters, and new and improved transport links, is a testament to the vision of the City and the Club, and we are delighted to be playing our part in stimulating further investment into this vital part of the UK.”

Nigel Horton-Baker, Executive Director, Reading UK CIC, said: “The Royal Elm Park scheme will make Reading an international centre for conferences and major events, attracting new business to the town and providing a major new resource for the many businesses and organisations already based here.

“The scheme will also provide 2,000 jobs through the construction and operation phase and Reading UK CIC will be working with Reading Football Club to maximise the opportunities and benefit to local people and in particular those living in South Reading near the development.”

The scheme will now progress to the final stages of the planning process.  Subject to completing the final planning requirements, construction is planned to commence in early 2018, with The International operational in 2020.  Final completion is expected in 2023.

Picture: Artists Impression

Article written by Brian Shillibeer

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