Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Flats on old Bayer site move a step nearer

The redevelopment of the former Bayer headquarters in Newbury in to 191 flats has passed another planning hurdle.

West Berkshire Council is now confident the building will have sufficient drainage to cope with the extra demand.

Developers got outline permission to convert the offices into homes in 2018.

The office buildings cover approximately 1,300 sq m in area. The site contains around  344 car parking spaces of which 279 would be made available for proposed development.

Newbury Town Council had objected to the refit, saying the exit from Strawberry Hill already has a large backlog of traffic at peak times.

It also said that although the offices may be outdated by modern standards, they may be suitable for conversion to smaller offices, start-ups, and incubation hubs, of which Newbury is in considerable need.

Bayer announced it was leaving Newbury in 2015 after 32 years in the town to shift employees to a site in Green Park.

The Bayer site is one of a number of former office buildings being converted in to residential accommodation in West Berkshire.

In 2016, five office buildings at Overbridge Square Business Park in Hambridge Road were given permission to be converted into 107 one- and two-bed apartments, meaning the loss of 60,000 sq ft of business land.

More than 100 homes at Emerald House on Newbury Business Park have already been converted.

West Berkshire also has a lack of social and affordable housing, so on the face of it, refitting old offices into new flats seems equitable.

But the move to ‘residentrify’ isn’t going down too well.

“The supply of offices in Newbury is very low at the moment,” said John Varney, director at Newbury commercial property letting agents Deal Varney. “Over the last 15 years we have lost around a million square feet of office space. A lot went to make way for Parkway, but the rest have gone for residential conversion.

“It seems counterintuitive to lose office stock when the district is trying to attract inward investment.”

At Newbury Business Park, baby buggies outside and curtains which don’t quite fit the office windows give away the blocks now turned into social housing flats.

One young man, who didn’t want to be named, said he really liked living on the business park.

“It’s nice and quiet,” he said. “But you can tell it used to be offices, as the walls are very thin. It’s a bit like staying at the Travelodge as you can hear everything. But the flats themselves are really nice.”

Across the way, young mum Bryony Keyes said she moved to Newbury Business Park over a year ago with her daughter, now two.

“The council put us here,” she said. “But I have a private landlord. It is really nice here and feels safe for my daughter.

“The best thing is it is quiet outside, although the walls are a bit thin. I’d be happy to stay here. I like it.”