Call to convert office space across Wokingham borough into residential homes

New report suggests up to 800 homes could be created in the Thames Valley

EMPTY commercial properties could be converted into housing according to a locally-based planning and development firm.

Turley said that up to 800 homes could be created across the Thames Valley, including Wokingham, if its report was adopted.

In a new report, it is calling on half of the vacant commercial floorspace to be turned into residential apartments.

Released last week, Making Sense of Mixed-Use Town Centres aims to outlines a new framework for regenerating urban centres across the UK.

The company said that town centres such as Wokingham need to embrace mixed-use development to thrive in the future – and that there is currently 8 million square metres of unused floorspace across the UK.

Turley argues that a mixed-use development strategy could create more than 45,000 homes across the UK.

Sara Dutfield, director in Turley’s Reading office, said: “We know there is an ever-increasing need for housing within the Thames Valley Berkshire LEP area and that a number of those authorities are struggling to find sufficient sites to meet that need.

“This report highlights the role town centres can play and the importance of embracing mixed-use development on the high street.

“In some places this will mean a change to how local authorities plan for town centre development and this is to be encouraged.

“Within the wider South East region, the potential for homes to be delivered within town centres is even greater, especially within the London fringes and the south coast where the Metropolitan Green Belt and the South Downs and New Forest National Parks are acting as constraints to greenfield developments.”

The approach that Turley is advocating has been adapted by Wokingham Borough Council with its Peach Place developments: there is already housing above the redeveloped Clarks store and new homes for keyworkers will soon be completed.

Homes are also being developed on the Elms Field site, while planning permission was recently granted for a scheme in Carnival Pool which will see empty office blocks converted into residential housing.

To view the report, log on to www.turley.co.uk/comment/mixed-use-town-centres-report

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Phil Creighton

Editor of The Wokingham Paper, and has worked in local journalism for more than 20 years including the Wokingham Times, Bracknell Standard and Reading Evening Post. He's also written for computer magazines, The Baptist Times and, to his delight and probably not yours, interviewed several Doctor Whos.

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