Victims of Reading arson attack say they shouldn't have to pay for homes to be rebuilt

  • Report by ITV News Meridian's Mel Bloor

The victims of an arson attack at a block of flats in Reading say they shouldn't have to pay for their properties to be rebuilt.

Two men were killed in the blaze at Rowe Court in December 2021 and all 24 flats in the block had to be demolished.

Planning permission has been granted to rebuild the homes but a charge, known as the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), applies to all new developments.

It has been revealed a fee of £250,000 could be required to rebuild the properties.

The aftermath of the arson attack on Rowe Court.

Fiona Holloway, a leaseholder, bought her flat with her husband Steve which they rented out to help fund their retirement.

Mr Holloway passed away last year knowing that his wife would have to deal with the rebuild on her own.

Mrs Holloway said: "It is immoral because they will have already had that payment when these buildings were initially built.

"This is a rebuild. This building was destroyed by somebody who set fire to it and killed two people and everybody lost their property.

"We're in no man's land because they've now asked for this CIL payment, which the insurance company are adamant they are not going to pay."

Under national planning regulations, councils are required to ask for a CIL when new homes are built.

The money is meant to pay for things like road improvements or extra school places.

Residents say they shouldn’t have to pay as they are rebuilding properties burnt down in exceptional circumstances.

Reading Borough Council says it is looking to find a way to exempt the site and is waiting on the developer to provide certain information so they can waive the charge.

In a statement a council spokesperson said: “The Council would emphasise that it has deliberately not asked for any CIL payments at this point and has absolutely no intention of doing so until such time as we have a way to resolve the matter alongside the developer.

"We are of course very mindful of the unique and tragic circumstances surrounding Rowe Court and are therefore anxious to avoid anything which would cause additional stress to residents."

A derelict space now occupies what was once the homes on Rowe Court. Credit: ITV News Meridian

Pier Management own the freehold of Rowe Court.

A spokesperson from Pier Management said: “We are deeply concerned by the ongoing delay to the reconstruction of the apartments at Rowe Court and the impact on residents, many of whom remain in temporary accommodation.

“To enable us to begin reconstruction we need the council to agree, with the benefit of information provided by our insurers, an appropriate course of action on how to deal with CIL liabilities generated by the need to secure a new planning consent to rebuild the apartments in line with current planning and building regulations.

"We have repeatedly requested that our insurers provide all information required so that the council can urgently reach a view on how to proceed. Unfortunately, that information request has yet to be fully satisfied. We are continuing to press and expect it to be resolved imminently.”

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