A FOUR-storey retirement complex in the heart of Newbury town centre could be developed if new proposals to replace an “eyesore” building are approved.
Plans to build 61 retirement units at the soon-to-be-demolished Pearl House in Bartholomew Street have been submitted to West Berkshire Council and, if given the go-ahead, the scheme could replace currently approved plans for 47 open market apartments.
The site, home to the Regal Cinema complex before the construction of Pearl Assurance building in the 1960s, now consists of five empty retail units and Iceland supermarket, which is set to close at the end of December.
Demolition of the 0.33ha site is expected to be complete by the end of February.
In August 2016, West Berkshire Council granted planning permission to developer Lunar Retail SARL to build a four-storey apartment complex along with four ground-floor retail units.
However, the new plans would see a 61-bed independent living retirement complex built instead, featuring a landscaped communal quadrant, fitness room and residents’ lounge.
The main vehicular and pedestrian access would be from Oddfellows Road, while pedestrian access would also be provided via Bartholomew Street.
Parking space for 28 cars and cycle storage will be included.
The new plans also include ground floor shops fronting on to Bartholomew Street, although developer Eden (Pearl House) Ltd is proposing to build just two retail units.
As a result, the overall retail space would be reduced by a total of 2,799 sq ft compared to the already approved plans, and more than 4,300 sq ft less than currently exists at the site.
According to the application, the proposals seek to “bring vibrancy back to the underdeveloped site” and provide a “positive contribution” to the town centre.
The redevelopment of the “eyesore” site, which sits opposite the Kennet Shopping centre, was welcomed by many.
However, Newbury Town Council had criticised the lack of affordable housing in the already approved plans, while Historic England was critical of the design of the proposed 47-bed apartment complex.
The new application claims to have improved on the original proposals.
Referring to Historic England’s criticism, the application states: “The proposed scheme looks to address this comment with a confident, high quality, contemporary facade which has a variety of depth, texture and materiality to enrich the street scene.”
The building will consist of mainly a brick façade fronting on to Bartholomew Street.
The fourth storey will be set back to reduce the building’s scale when viewed from street level.
Newbury Town Council recently welcomed the forthcoming demolition of Pearl House, with council leader Adrian Edwards labelling the site one of the town’s worst eyesores.
The Pearl House regeneration is one of a number or residential developments in the pipeline for Newbury town centre as West Berkshire aims to meet its housing targets.
The coming years will see the face of Newbury change rapidly, with schemes such as the 72-bed apartment complex in The Broadway and the 232-home Market Street Urban Village scheme taking shape.