PLANS to regenerate part of Newbury town centre with new shops and 47 flats have been given the go-ahead.
West Berkshire Council has this week approved proposals that would see Pearl House, opposite the Kennet Centre, undergo a complete redevelopment.
Developer Lunar Retail SARL is looking to demolish all of the existing buildings on the Bartholomew Street site and erect four new retail units on the ground floor, with 47 one- and two-bed flats on the upper three floors.
The four-storey development will also provide parking facilities for 47 cars and 93 cycle spaces.
Giving the development the green light, West Berkshire Council planners say the it will bring economic benefits to the town, despite the loss of more than 1,500 sq m of retail space, while the loss of what they call “the unattractive facade” of Pearl House will be a “substantial” improvement to one of Newbury’s main shopping streets.
The plans for the flattening of the brutalist building were also welcomed by Historic England.
However, the government body said the developer had failed take to the opportunity to “create a really fine building” to go in its place.
Earlier this year, the regeneration of the town centre site had been welcomed in principle by Newbury Town councillors, although members ultimately objected to the proposal owing to the lack of social housing included in the development.
West Berkshire Council policy states that at least 30 per cent of the homes should be affordable, however, the developer is proposing to include no affordable housing at all.
Lunar Retail SARL has claimed through a viability assessment that if it were to include any affordable homes the site would no longer be viable – a claim that has been backed by council planners.
Pearl House was previously home to the Red Stores department store in the early 20th century before being redeveloped to make way for the Regal Cinema.
A five-storey office block was built on the site and stood until the late 90s, before being partially demolished, leaving the lower floors, currently occupied by a selection of retailers, including Wild Sports, Nail Bar and Iceland, that exist today.
The development of the site must start within the next three years.