Page last updated at 13:11 GMT, Thursday, 24 September 2009 14:11 UK

Approval for 400m revamp project

Artist's impression of the development
Station Hill will be built on a five-acre site (two-hectare)

Plans for a £400m leisure, retail and housing development in the centre of Reading have been given the go-ahead.

Station Hill, opposite the train station, will see a 1.72m sq ft project built over five acres (two hectares).

Reading Borough Council backed the initial plans as part of an overall regeneration which will include a £25m upgrade of the station's interchange.

Work will be carried out by Sackville Developments Ltd, owned by Sir John Madejski, chairman of Reading FC.

The development will see the creation of four tower blocks for office and accommodation space of up to 27 floors.

An arts venue, bowling alley, health and fitness facility and a central public square will also be created, as well as restaurants and cafes.

'Unfounded criticism'

Developers said the Station Hill project would integrate with plans by Network Rail and Reading Borough Council to invest £825m in redeveloping Reading Station and provide a new public transport interchange.

Previous plans for Station Hill were vetoed by the government after being accepted by Reading Borough Council in 2007.

The veto was imposed after concerns were raised by the Commission of Architecture and Built Environment (Cabe) and English Heritage.

It's an excellent agreement that will deliver major regeneration benefits to the town
Councillor Tony Page

Sir John said the development was "the right thing at the right time" for the town.

He said: "We are grateful to Reading Borough Council, both for its support and for defending the scheme against unfounded criticism. With a scheme of this size and importance there are always going to be sceptics.

"Thankfully, the council has taken a positive stance and recognises the huge value that Station Hill will bring to Reading, the Thames Valley and the south of England."

Some critics have argued that the town will lose out on a transport interchange as the bus station will be moved.

Councillor Tony Page, lead member for planning and transport with Reading Borough Council, said the new developments would enhance mobility in and around the town and that a new concourse would improve public transport by bus.

He said: "It's an excellent agreement that will deliver major regeneration benefits to the town."

Station Hill will be built on a five-acre site

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