Planners back Metro Bank for Reading
April 17, 2012
A decision by councillors to go against planning officer recommendations has helped secure a new tenant in a prominent empty unit at the Broad Street Mall.
Planning officials felt Metro Bank’s proposed alterations to the old Ethel Austin unit and the installation of five illuminated signs would be out of keeping with the building. But the applicant, with the support of centre manager Steve Fawke, convinced members of Reading Borough Council’s planning committee to give the scheme the thumbs up.
Mr Fawke said he breathed a big sigh of relief when the applications, including change of use from retail, were approved on Wednesday, April 4. He said: “Metro Bank had made it quite clear to me that if they didn’t get through they would probably not come to Reading.
“We did question the planning officer’s comments that it was poorly designed. At the end of the day, if you look at what we have got now and look at what we have coming, how can anyone say it is not an improvement?”
Abbey ward councillor Tony Page, who sits on the planning committee, said it was very much a subjective matter of design and taste.
He said: “Some people could describe it as an ‘in your face’ design, but the existing building is not a thing of beauty, and I think people felt it was pretty tired, and went along with the applicant’s argument, supported by Steve Fawke.
“I was happy to go along with the view of the committee that we should give it approval.”
Metro Bank will be spending around £1.4 million on creating the new branch, which will result in 25 jobs. The bank, which should be open by the end of August, will be open seven days a week, 361 days a year.
Craig Donaldson, chief executive of Metro Bank, said: “We are very excited that we can now begin in earnest bringing the banking revolution to Reading.
“We’ve had huge support from local businesses already and are recruiting for around 25 exceptional employees to help us bring Metro Bank’s revolutionary style of banking to Reading. We can’t wait to welcome local customers and businesses to our brand new store in the Broad Street Mall.”
Slaters fashion store is also taking a 10,000 sq ft unit in the mall. The chain, which offers men’s and women’s clothing, will take the old NatWest unit in Oxford Road and above Peacocks.
Also, discount shoe shop Shu-Time has moved into the old Jonathan James unit and Virgin Media is opening in the old perfume store near the main entrance, while Julian Graves is closing down.
Elsewhere in the town, Santander is closing its branch on the corner of Friar Street and Cross Street in June but says there will be no redundancies.
New to the town is not-for-profit store Evolution Gifts, which is moving into Broad Street West, and offering interesting gifts which meet ethical trade standards.