West Berkshire Council applies for major expansion at Berkshire Records Office
The Berkshire Record Office, where archives from across the county are held, could get a major expansion due to a lack of space at the current building.
West Berkshire Council (WBC) has applied for permission from Reading Borough Council (RBC) to build a two-storey extension to the current building at 9 Coley Avenue.
Storage at the Berkshire Record Office is “approaching capacity”, according to planning documents, and, without space for new collections there is a risk that, in future, valuable community assets might be lost.
A statement from county archivist Mark Stevens describes why an extension is needed.
He writes: “The present Berkshire Record Office storage is approaching capacity.
“Without space for new collections there is a risk that, in future, valuable community assets might be lost.
“Providing additional storage will enable us to continue collecting and keeping the archives that local people care about.
“The benefits stretch further afield. The Record Office has an international audience, with some 90 per cent of public contacts from the rest of the UK or overseas. The county’s archives are many people’s route to discovering Berkshire more widely.
“Providing new, sustainable storage for these archives is a legacy project that has support from colleagues across the unitaries.
“We recognise that we are temporary custodians of a unique, permanent and precious resource. We hope to leave it in fine condition for the generations to come.”
The proposal is to construct a two-storey extension, to provide increased storage capacity with two large strong rooms, general storage and space for additional mechanical and electrical requirements, while providing a link to the existing building.
The Berkshire Records committee was established by the Berkshire County Council in 1939. Its job was to consider how to look after the many official and private records that were stored in the basement of the old Shire Hall in the Forbury, Reading.
Today, West Berkshire Council is in charge of the joint archives service in Berkshire, based at the Berkshire Record Office, providing the service under an agreement signed by all six Berkshire districts.
The joint archives service stores historical collections from across the council: from hospitals, courts, councils and schools; businesses, charities, clubs and societies.
It provides a safe repository for 900 years of documentary heritage and facilities for sharing that heritage across the globe.
In pre-application discussions between the councils, concerns were raised by RBC officers in the following areas:
- Loss of an oak tree
- Impact on listed buildings
- Impact on adjacent properties and gardens
- Loss of parking
West Berkshire Council says it has addressed these concerns.
A tree survey has been undertaken, which found the Holm Oak tree has structural defects and needs to be felled and replanted in a new location.
A heritage statement has also been undertaken, which concluded the proposal would have minimal impact on the neighbouring Grade II-listed Yeomanry House and the Russell Street and Castle Hill Conservation Area.
In terms of the impact on neighbours, the council says the extension is within the necessary guidelines and would not overlook neighbouring properties.
And for loss of parking, it says there is significant room within the site to relocate lost parking spaces and add further ones.