Council Fully Supports Application For a National-Level Layer of Protection For Town’s Black History Mural

READING Borough Council today expressed its full support for an application which has been made to Historic England to give the town’s black history mural a national-level layer of protection.

As Black History Month begins, a formal application to list Reading’s unique mural and the former Central Club building it is on, has been submitted. Historic England will carefully consider the application, before making a recommendation to the Secretary of State for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, who makes the final decision on all listing cases. Reading’s historic black history mural is already classified as an Asset of Community Value. Earlier this week the Council also reiterated the position that it remains fully committed to retaining and restoring the town’s black history mural in its current location. Importantly, the site already benefits from a level of local protection by being located in a Conservation Area, which means that planning permission is needed to demolish the building. The site is also identified in the Council’s Local Plan, with an explicit requirement of any schemes to redevelop the site ‘to retain the iconic mural on the northern frontage’. If the mural is listed it would add yet another important layer of protection by securing statutory protection. The bar for national listing is high and it exists to recognise a site’s special architectural or historic interest. Listing also brings historic sites under the consideration of the planning system, so that they can be protected for the future. If the listing application is successful, any potential planning application to redevelop the former Central Club site would have to carefully consider the future of the mural. Reading Borough Council is now throwing its full support behind the application as it runs parallel with the Council’s own categorical commitment to retaining and restoring the mural in situ as part of any potential future development.

Reading Borough Council Leader Jason Brock said:

“The Council fully supports this application made to Historic England to list our town’s historic, unique and much-loved black history mural.

“If successful, the listing would add yet another important layer of protection for the mural, alongside the fact it is already an Asset of Community Value, the site sits in a conservation area and that its protection is explicitly expressed in our Local Plan. There is of course also the Council’s own categorical and public commitment to retain and restore it in situ, which we reiterated earlier this week.

“The potential listing in effect provides a ‘double lock’ of planning protection for the mural, adding a national level of protection to the existing local one. It also is important to note that the Council would remain the freeholder of the mural during any future development. I hope this adds to the reassurance the Council has already publicly provided on numerous occasions that the mural will be protected as part of any future development of the former Central Club site.”

Karen Rowland, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Heritage, Culture and Recreation, added:

“The mural is a fixture in Reading, representing our town’s rich cultural history. I am delighted that on the first day of Black History Month we can announce that Heritage England is already in the process of considering the mural for listing to give it a national level layer of protection.

"As a Council we remain absolutely fully committed to retaining it and restoring it in its current location. It is here to stay and a national listing by Historic England will only cement that position further.”