The development of Reading: The vision of Reading2050

PUBLISHED: 16:11 22 January 2018 | UPDATED: 16:16 22 January 2018

Enjoy a social life around the Thames and Kennet & Avon Canal

Enjoy a social life around the Thames and Kennet & Avon Canal


The Reading2050 Vision puts green technology, culture and diversity and Reading’s rivers and parks at the heart of future development

Beer, biscuits and bulbs may be the three words which most often come to mind when those of us familiar with the story are asked to sum up Reading’s heritage. But the town has evolved and grown since the first brewery opened in 1785 and now, 233 years later, it remains forward looking as the Reading2050 Vision takes shape.

Principally put together by planning consultancy Barton Willmore, community interest company Reading UK and the University of Reading, the process of deciding what the Vision should entail began in 2013. It started with a workshop involving young property professionals in which they discussed what Reading could be. Over the next three years, more workshops ensued, alongside the ‘Where’s Reading Heading?’ project, Reading Year of Culture in 2016 and a lecture series in October last year.

The result is a Vision that is ambitious, focussing on a smart and sustainable future for Reading. It puts green technology, culture and diversity and Reading’s rivers and parks at the heart of its future development. The Vision looks ahead 33 years, focussing on these three core themes; underpinned by Reading’s existing strengths and natural assets.

Exploring the Reading2050 website, the artist impressions, videos and descriptions, this future Reading seems almost Utopian. River taxis drop off passengers along the Thames, buildings wear coats of green where allotments flourish and street art adds a splash of colour where there was once grey concrete. Interactive information hubs make it easy for visitors to get around and music venues promise to bring entertainment inspired by cultures from across the world. 

The Vision: Rivers, Parks & Waterways

With its position on the River Thames and the Kennet & Avon Canal, Reading has always had strong links to the water. The town also boasts plenty of green spaces, from Caversham Court and Christchurch Meadows to the Abbey Ruins and Forbury Gardens.

By 2050…

• Enhanced riverways and access

• Urban gardens and allotments

• Floating and waterside living

• Unique leisure facilities

• Established water transport network

• Pop up venues

• Open air education and entertainment

• Riverside cultural hub and theatre

The Vision: A Green Tech City

Science, technology and creative industries have already made their home in Reading, providing a thriving community and employment opportunities.

By 2050…

• Smart and sustainable architecture

• Modern transport infrastructure

• Collaborative workspaces

• Allotments

• Urban energy generation

• Dynamic public spaces

The Vision: A City of Culture and Diversity

With about 150 languages spoken across the borough, Reading is already for being a multi-cultured town. Its rich diversity is something the Vision is hoping to expand upon, delivering arts, culture and opportunities to those from all ages and backgrounds.

By 2050…

• Green transport

• Community growing/allotments

• Street art

• Street festivals

• City centre family housing

• Café culture and world cuisine

• Community hub

• Temporary music venues and performance areas

• Pop up shops

Nigel Horton-Baker, Executive Director Reading UK

“Our vision for Reading in 2050 is one which celebrates and builds on existing strengths and provides a shared ambition which brings benefit to all.

“Reading today is a defacto city with a powerful economy, vibrant retail and leisure centre, established cultural scene and a rich, diverse heritage. For many, economic success has brought with it a high quality of life and attractive work life balance. However, this success also presents a range of socio-economic and environmental challenges, not least in terms of equality of opportunity for everyone.”

Kim Cohen, Partner at Barton Willmore

“It’s fantastic to secure such high levels of engagement from the community who have become really enthused about what Reading could look like if we are ambitious and collaborate. The vision for Reading 2050 and the shaping of the City has been driven by more than 21,000 members of the thriving local and business community who live, work and play here. They have shared their ideas of how Reading can have a real sense of place and identity that is culturally diverse, supports green tech and celebrates its array of watercourses and open space.” 

Professor Tim Dixon, University of Reading

“A city vision helps us understand how we can work together and mobilise knowledge and resources to tackle longer term environmental change,”

“Many cities in the UK and around the world are developing long term visions that reflect shared expectations about a sustainable future. The Reading 2050 vision is important because it is founded on the principle of both smart and sustainable thinking, taking us beyond short-term fixes, and looking at tangible, longer term solutions to the main socio-economic and environmental challenges Reading will face over the next 30 years and beyond.

“The publication of the Reading 2050 Vision is only the start of a process. To realise this Vision we need to maintain momentum, secure cross-organisational collaboration, tell the world about our ambitions for Reading and invite people wherever they are to get involved.

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