Reading is already a town with many things going for it. Located in the London commuter belt and close to the M4, it is in an affluent part of the country and it will soon gain the benefits of even better connectivity with the capital when Crossrail finally gets up and running next year.
Add to that major new town centre developments and Reading is clearly a place on the up – and potentially more so with other possible new initiatives, such as a bid for city status, the fourth one it will have made. While some towns around the country are described as ‘left behind’, Reading most certainly isn’t one of them.
However, there remains the question of whether some people will be left behind as an already affluent place grows further. For instance, if Reading becomes more of a property hotspot due to Crossrail or other developments, will the housing needs of some groups be ignored, such as those needing homes built or modified to help disabled people live independently?
This kind of question is always worth asking when a location becomes a property hotspot. And Reading may be about to get hotter.
Among the reasons for this is the question of possible city status. The Queen’s platinum jubilee next year will see an unspecified number of towns made into cities. While Southend has already been granted the status in honour of the campaign on this issue by its recently murdered MP Sir David Amess, Reading and others may follow.
Property Today recently predicted Southend could see a price boom prompted by city status and Mike Shearn of estate agency Haslams has told Get Reading the same could happen if the Berkshire town receives its own royal charter.
He said the status will “only improve our profile” and the article pointed to research by GetAgent showing that towns that recently gained city status have seen prices rise by above the national average. Examples included a 20 per cent rise in Brighton and Hove in the 12 months after city status was awarded in 2000, while Wolverhampton’s elevation prompted a nine per cent rise.
All this may get the developers moving in with the hope of getting good prices for new-builds. But the question remains whether facilities like the number of accessible kitchens in Reading will rise accordingly, not least as the population continues to age.
In 2020, EY’s economic forecast for the first three years of this decade tipped the Thames Valley to be the fastest-growing regions in the UK, bucking the trend for big cities to siphon growth away from their hinterlands, and including projected annual gross value added growth of 2.2 per cent for Reading. And all this was without any mention of possible city status.
Haslams and no doubt other estate agents are confident about Reading’s growth prospects. The key issue is just how much the expected growth of the town – or perhaps the city – will impact the make-up of new housing developments in type and provision, and how well this will match the realities of the local demographics.