Council reveals £20 million bid to revitalise Hexagon and Central Library
- Council to submit £20 million bid for Government ‘Levelling Up’ funding
- Opportunity to revitalise and breathe new life into Reading's cultural and learning offer
- Proposals to transform the Hexagon and build a new Central Library
EXCITING proposals to revitalise Reading’s cultural offer by transforming the much-loved Hexagon Theatre and building a modern new Central Library are revealed by the Council today.
Reading Borough Council’s ambition is to do everything it can to ensure that every single resident, whatever their circumstances or background, can share in the town’s success. As part of that continuing drive, the Council now plans to submit a £20 million bid for Government ‘Levelling Up’ funding to breathe new life into its cultural and learning offer for Reading residents.
The Council’s bid is made up of:
An £8 million investment to rebuild Central Library at the Council’s Civic Offices in Bridge Street: The existing Central Library on the King’s Road is well-used but is located in a dated building which is set over a series of floors, making accessibility difficult without significant investment. A brand-new custom-built Central Library added to the current Civic Offices site would create a modern and open space, offering a much-improved, accessible environment for everyone. The ambition would be to create a flexible space for the whole community that embraces not only the traditional offer of book loans but looks to the future with our digital and learning offer.
A £12 million investment to revitalise Reading’s much-loved and popular Hexagon Theatre, creating an attractive, flexible and exciting new space for performances and community use: The 1970s-built Hexagon has a number of limitations for future improvements due to its design and age. The proposal is to extend to the right-hand side of the existing building with an entrance directly off Queens Walk offering much-improved accessibility and new multi-function community space that can accommodate a wider variety of performances and uses.
If the Council’s bid is successful, this will form the first phase of a longer-term regeneration of the Hexagon.
The Hexagon development feeds into the Council’s ambitious and wider plans to create the ‘Minster Quarter’, transforming a significant area of the town centre by building hundreds of new homes – including much-needed affordable housing and creating a new heart to the community in this location - as well as bringing new jobs and growth which will benefit local residents and the local economy.
Both proposals focus heavily on improved sustainability as part of the Council’s commitment to working towards a net-zero carbon Reading by 2030.
The Council’s bid is to the Government’s Round 2 Levelling Up Fund and – if successful - would be match-funded 10% by the Council from its own capital investment fund. A bid is set to be submitted in July, with news of whether it has been successful expected in autumn 2022.
Designs and artist’s impressions have been created and the Council is very keen to hear from residents, including regular users of the Hexagon and Reading Central Library, partners and other organisations.
There will be further opportunities for residents and stakeholders to engage with the Council as the projects develop and if the bid is successful.
Reading Council Leader Jason Brock said: “Both the Hexagon Theatre and Reading Central Library are major institutions in our town which continue to be very well-used and extremely popular. I think most people would agree with me, however, when I say that both buildings are dated and present limitations to improving our future cultural and learning offer to local residents.
“This Levelling Up funding pot now offers us the opportunity to do just that. If we are successful in our bid, it will offer us a once-in-a-generation opportunity to revitalise and breathe new life into the cultural and learning offer in this part of Reading. A brand-new and additional flexible performance and community space would be created at the Hexagon Theatre. We would also construct a modern new custom-built Reading Central Library at the Civic Offices site on Bridge Street. Importantly, both projects would enable us to ensure much-improved accessibility so that everyone can use and enjoy the facilities.
“As a Council, we are always looking for opportunities to invest in even better facilities for residents, whether that be brand new leisure centres and swimming pools, new affordable homes, new and refurbished train stations, cycle facilities or new playgrounds, to name but a few. These bids continue with that theme of investing in Reading and fit with this Council’s ambition to create new opportunities for everybody in the town.
“I would encourage as many people as possible to feed back their initial thoughts, which will help inform the final project.”
The Government’s £4.8 billion fund runs until 24/25 and is designed to invest in infrastructure that improves everyday life for local residents by supporting town centre and high street regeneration, local transport projects, and cultural and heritage assets. More information about the Levelling up Fund can be found at https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/levelling-up-fund-round-2-prospectus
In addition to the Council’s £20 million cultural regeneration bid, the Council is also developing a £20 million transport bid which proposes investment in sustainable transport infrastructure, focusing on West Reading and South Reading. The schemes are centred around meeting the transport needs of the key areas of deprivation in Reading, ensuring connectivity to education, employment and skills centres, whilst also reducing the impacts of congestion such as poor air quality across the road network. This funding would complement the £26 million Bus Services Improvement Plan investment recently secured by Reading Borough Council.