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Heritage and Arts Hub Proposal at Iconic Cemetery Arch Set to be Progressed

  • Local arts group set to be offered window of opportunity to develop its plans for iconic Cemetery Arch
  • Council believes proposal provides wider economic, community and social wellbeing opportunities for Reading 

THE Council is set to offer a local arts group the opportunity to develop its proposals for a community Heritage and Arts Hub at Reading’s iconic Cemetery Arch.

A report to Policy Committee on Monday July 12 will propose entering into an initial 18 month year lease agreement with Junction Arch Heritage & Arts (JAHA). The agreement gives JAHA time to progress its proposed loan from the Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF) to restore the Grade II listed structure. If JAHA is successful, and if it secures planning permission, a 250-year lease of the property would be granted.

The proposal follows the Council placing Cemetery Arch on the open market last year.

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The Council believes JAHA’s proposal provides wider economic, community and social wellbeing opportunities for Reading. JAHA’s aims and objectives are to create a community space for both work and leisure, together with affordable office space for social enterprises. It also has aspirations to work with the Council and local businesses on a plan to regenerate the Cemetery Junction area.

JAHA’S proposal is in two phases. The first phase focuses on the conservation of the Cemetery Arch building, the restoration of rooms to create affordable office space and the creation of a food court area. JAHA propose to fund this work by securing a AHF loan.

If JAHA is successful, a longer lease would be offered and its second phase would be the creation of exhibition space of heritage and art, alongside the creation of  a single storey building and gardens for local businesses and community groups. JAHA propose to fund this element by bidding for heritage funding or through a range of other available funding streams.

Councillor Tony Page, Reading Borough Council Deputy Leader, said:

 “Reading’s Grade II listed Cemetery Arch is one of our most iconic and instantly recognisable landmarks. The Council’s proposal is to offer JAHA an 18-month window to develop its plans for a Heritage and Arts Hub further by bidding for relevant heritage funding streams.

 “JAHA’s bid offers Reading by far the best value in terms of the wider community benefits, which is why the Council is pleased to offer it this important window of opportunity.

 “We wish JAHA well in their bids for funding from a variety of heritage grants. We look forward to good news on this front, and to watching their plans develop in the months to come.”

Reading Borough Council’s initial 18 month lease agreement with JAHA is subject to the Council’s disposal of open space process, which relates to JAHA’s proposal to use a small parcel land to the south of the structure to create its business and community space.  If JAHA is unsuccessful in progressing its plans within the agreed 18 months period, the lease would end and the property would be re-marketed.

The Policy Committee report can be read at https://democracy.reading.gov.uk/documents/s17809/Cemetery%20Arch.pdf