Wednesday, 16 August 2017

‘Land grab’ accusations over bridge debate

A THIRD Thames bridge east of Reading could solve traffic problems in Henley, according to a new survey.

However, town and county councillor David Nimmo Smith has branded the plans as “land grabbing” and claims Reading borough council has a “hidden agenda” over the matter.

Earlier this month, Reading borough council’s transport chief Tony Page told the county council to “accept the facts” of the survey, which was carried out by Wokingham Borough Council.

Cllr Nimmo Smith attended a meeting in Wokingham on Friday, July 11, which was chaired by Henley MP John Howell and Reading East MP Rob Wilson.

He said: “At the meeting the results of the survey were put in front of us. Some of the information was wrong: they called the B480 the A4074, and we found it was inconclusive about the long-term benefit of the bridge.

“It might have been conclusive to Cllr Page but not to anyone else at that meeting. We can’t see any economic benefit to building the bridge. The only thing it will do is make it easier to cross the river.

“Where is the money going to come from? The government will only give money if it has an economic benefit. The bottom line is we are not convinced.

“Reading are gearing themselves up for a land grab but they won’t admit that. We think there is a hidden agenda.”

In response, Cllr Page said: “We have been quite clear what our agenda is, we want a third bridge east of Reading, as do Windsor and Maidenhead, Wokingham and West Berkshire.

“Each time we meet there is a fresh string of excuses from Oxfordshire County Council, which is why we agreed to have this assessment. The study should be sufficient for any reasonable person. There’s no secret agenda.

“The agenda is that there’s some people in Oxfordshire who don’t want a bridge at any cost. Certain Oxfordshire and South Oxfordshire councillors are looking for any excuse to delay further discussions.

“I think they were hoping the survey would have produced the reverse results so they could walk away from the table.

“There’s no evidence for a ‘land grab’, quite the reverse. We work well with Wokingham, why can’t Oxfordshire and South Oxfordshire take lessons from them?

“The pressure for a land grab comes from their stubborn refusal to work with Reading.”

The next meeting on the bridge will be held in September.

Cllr Nimmo Smith added: “We have that meeting to see what else we need to do to take it a stage further on. We are happy to talk and move things on.”

A spokesman for Oxfordshire County Council said: “This was an initial high-level test and while it is interesting, it is not capable of giving a true picture of the impacts.”

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