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Bid for 187ft navigation tower at IKEA Reading grounded

"This is England, not Sweden"

Bid for 187ft navigation tower at IKEA Reading grounded

IKEA says it is “considering its options” after seeing plans for a 187ft navigation tower at its Calcot store refused.

The Swedish ready-to-assemble furniture manufacturer had applied to build the structure to help direct customers to its Pincents Lane store.

But the plans have been shelved for now, as West Berkshire Council has refused to grant planning permission.

The structure would have overlooked the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the Theale High Street conservation area.

This, the council said, would have “significant disbenefits in terms of visual amenity, resulting in harm to both the character and setting”.  

IKEA had argued that the tower would provide customers with earlier decision-making and reduce the chance of an accident on the M4.  

However, the council’s principal conservation and design officer, Dennis Greenway, said: “Ironically, although the tower will be highly visible from local roads (where local customers will be more aware of the location of the store), for customers travelling from further afield, it will not be seen until quite close to the store when travelling along the M4 from the west, and even from the east it does not really pinpoint where to turn.”

Both the council and Highways England raised no objections on highway safety.  

The council received 20 letters of objection to the tower from residents, along with neighbouring parish councils and the Englefield Estate. 

Calling the application “ridiculous”, the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) said: “This is England, not Sweden. IKEA is just another store with no special significance.

“Once people have visited it they will know where it is.

“The tower would be visible from many miles away, having a major impact on the landscape.”

District councillor for Theale, Alan Macro (Lib Dem), said: “It’s a very welcome decision and obviously the right one. 

“When I refer to it at home as a navigation tower, I’m quickly corrected that it’s an advert, which it is.

“A large number of people have sat navs these days and even those that don’t would know it’s near junction 12.”

On transport safety, Mr Macro said: “It does attract attention for a fraction of a second.

“If something else happens in that fraction of a second, then you could have an accident.

“A bit of an issue is that the only signs are on the road and they might not be seen.

“Signs around junction 12 would be a lot better.” 

As previously reported in the Newbury Weekly News, customers have been trapped in IKEA’s car park on several occasions since it opened last July. 

“They might want to focus on helping people get out of the car park rather than get them in,” Mr Macro said.

When asked whether it was appealing the decision, the real estate manager for IKEA UK and Ireland, Tim Farlam, said: “We are disappointed that our planning application for a navigation tower at IKEA Reading has not been approved.

“Installing a navigation tower would make it easier for IKEA customers to identify the correct junction from the motorway leading to our store, potentially preventing them from a round trip of 24 miles that they would have to travel if they miss the junction.

“We are considering our options at this current time.”

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