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February 2022 – Published by Reading UK
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Pictured above: the warm colour of Reading brick gives the town its unique identity.

Pandemic recovery strongest in Reading

Reading has made the fastest economic recovery from the pandemic in the UK, with its productivity already 4% above its 2019 level, according to EY's latest Regional Economic Forecast.  Measured by Gross Value Added (GVA), the South East’s economy is set to grow 2.9% per year between now and 2025, but Reading is out-performing its regional rivals. Looking ahead, Reading's productivity is forecast to grow by 3.1% in the years up to 2025. 

What does the Government Levelling Up White Paper mean for Reading?

Amongst all the parliamentary gossip and smoke about Christmas parties, Boris and Michael Gove finally launched the long awaited (300 page) Levelling Up White Paper this week. The White Paper talks of ‘levelling up all parts of the UK’ but does it deliver anything for Reading, asks Nigel Horton-Baker, Executive Director, Reading UK in a new blog. 

Read the Levelling Up blog

Secrets of Reading's success 

The annual Centre for Cities Cities Outlook is a useful benchmark through which to measure Reading's economic success and potential. The 2022 edition, published last week, shows that Reading continues to perform well relative to the other 62 largest UK urban centres analysed by the report. Areas where Reading performs particularly well :- 
 

  • Knowledge intensive jobs (1/63)
  • GCSE results (3/63)
  • Business stock (4/63)
  • Productivity (4/63)
  • NVQ+ qualifications (5/63)
  • Unemployment (7/63)


As in previous years, Reading still lags behind in areas such as housing/wages ratio and air quality. The report also assesses the pandemic's impact on city centres and Reading along with many other relatively affluent cities in the south east has taken a bigger hit with the equivalent of the loss of 39 weeks of retail sales in 2021.  However, the report also points out that Reading's affluence will mean that it bounces back much quicker than many other cities.

COVID grant applications open

The latest Council-administered COVID grants application process is open for businesses affected by the Omicron variant in the following sectors - hospitality, leisure and accommodation. The Omicron Hospitality and Leisure grant was announced by central Government before Christmas and Reading Borough Council has now published the guidance on criteria and the application process. Grants of £6,000, £4,000 or £2,667 are available to eligible businesses, depending on numbers of employees. Full details of this one-off grant on the Council website. Deadline for applications is 28 February. 

Investment continuing to flow into Reading

Despite the pandemic, Reading continues to be attractive to investors. 

Property investors AEW continue to grow their investment in Reading town centre, according to UK Property Forum, with the acquisition of the blocks on the corner of Friar Street and Station Road. They have already acquired properties on Broad Street and are reputed to be purchasing Broad Street Mall.

Farleigh has secured a £4.5 million funding package to support a new residential scheme on London Road to develop 21 one, two and three-bedroom apartments (pictured below). Work on the scheme has commenced and it is due to be complete by May 2023. 

Just 3 apartments (of a total 535) remain for sale at Berkeley’s prestigious Huntley Wharf riverside scheme, opposite Readng Gaol. The scheme has been very attractive to international investors, despite the pandemic. Ben Ivey, Sales & Marketing Director, Berkeley Homes Oxford & Chilterns comments: “We are delighted with how quickly the properties at Huntley Wharf have sold. In spite of the pandemic, the build programme has remained on track and the sales have been consistent, with many investors recognising the capital growth potential of investing in such a strong economic hub”. 

Reading Borough Council has been awarded £25,000 to help create a long-term housing regeneration plan that will set out the exciting opportunities to replace and upgrade its existing properties and estates .

Residential property developer King's Oak has purchased Great Brighams Mead on Vastern Road from McKay Securities for £19m. Great Brighams Mead was developed by McKay as an office building, but has received planning permission for conversion into 110 apartments and will be sold with vacant possession.

Rebel Business School starts next week

Reading’s entrepreneurs of the future are being offered free support thanks to a new collaboration by Reading UK and a number of Berkshire local authorities. The online two-week course starts next  Monday 7 February and is designed to help would-be start-ups get their ideas off the ground and existing businesses to grow.  

The course covers all aspects of running a business, from sales, marketing and websites, to tax and legal issues. Previously known as ‘PopUp Business School’ previous courses in Reading have attracted over 100 learners and created dozens of new businesses.  Its core message is that no one needs to get into debt to start a business – making it perfect for those who can’t secure finance, or don’t want to risk personal financial security.  

You can book a free place via the Rebel Business School website

Businesses needed for the Pancake Race

The much-loved Pancake Race is back for 2022 and local charity Launchpad is inviting local businesses to sign up for some flipping great fun and to batter it out on Broad Street to raise vital funds for people who are homeless in Reading.
 
The cracking community event takes place on Shrove Tuesday, 1 March from 12.30pm at the Broad Street Mall end of the high street where teams of four from businesses across Reading will don their best fancy dress and flip pancakes while relay racing. 
 
Wherever you work in Reading, you can secure your spot and batter it out with other businesses by emailing fundraising@launchpadreading.org.uk by Tuesday 15 February 2022. 

Half term in Reading

What's on Reading has lots of ideas for things to do with the kids this February, from hop hop to theatrea and classical music. 

Brewery Tour and Tasting - 1st and 3rd Saturday of the month

Reading's micro brewery and tap room Double Barrelled offer regular tours and tastings. 

The Royal Philharmonic - 26 Feb

One of their regular visits to the Hexagon, this month's concert features the music of Bruch and Tchaikovsky with young violinist Ellinor D’Melon making her debut with the RHO.


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