THE extraction of more gravel at Sonning will bring the local infrastructure to “breaking point” if
THE extraction of more gravel at Sonning will bring the local infrastructure to “breaking point” if action is not taken, says the parish council.
It claims the roads will not be able to cope with the congestion and that local businesses could relocate.
It wants a third Thames bridge, which it says would ease congestion in the wider area and would be essential if there was a repeat of the floods early last year when Sonning Bridge was closed for several weeks, causing chaos.
Parish clerk Lesley Bates has written to Henley MP John Howell, Reading East MP Rob Wilson and Maidenhead MP Theresa May asking for their backing.
Lafarge has been given permission to extract 1.86 million tonnes of sand and gravel from its Caversham quarry over the next 15 years.
The parish council says this will result in 44 lorries a day going to and from the site. Ms Bates said: “This gravel extraction scheme will, the council thinks, be the straw which breaks the camel’s back in terms of bringing the road infrastructure for north/south movements in Berkshire to breaking point.
“Every 11 minutes there will be either an empty lorry into or a loaded lorry leaving the site through Caversham or Henley. The current situation of two bridges in Reading and one medieval single lane third bridge in Sonning is already impacting the Thames Valley/Berkshire economy.”
The council says businesses have found their staff have difficulty getting to work on time and deliveries are delayed.
Ms Bates continued: “There is a danger that companies will start to relocate away from the area if the road infrastructure is not significantly upgraded. If the Thames floods in Sonning both Reading and Henley grind to a halt and that is not acceptable to the world class global business community which has located here over the last 30 years.”
The council supports a plan drawn up by entrepreneur David Sherriff, who is responsible for the Redgrave Pinsent Rowing Lake. He suggested building a bridge that would be fed to the north by a new roundabout at the junction of Caversham Park Road and Henley Road and to the south by the existing roundabout at Thames Valley Park Drive.
Ms Bates said: “It would make sense for Lafarge to have access to their own feeder road from the west side of the plant, almost alongside the Caversham road, to access a bridge over the rowing lakes. This would get them on to the A4/M4 in about 10 minutes instead of a tortuous route through Henley and Caversham. The new bridge could have a park and ride at its Oxfordshire end next to a new roundabout opposite Caversham Park Village.
“The council feels the Sherriff plan is disarmingly simple, very simple. The addition of the Lafarge traffic to an already unacceptable level of congestion in Reading, Sonning and Henley is yet another obvious inducement to properly address the cold reality of needing another river crossing.
“The funds can be found if there is a political will to get this done and the project will create jobs and investment into the area.”
Mr Wilson said: “This is yet another demonstration of why the area desperately needs a third bridge over the Thames and a bypass. I will continue to make this a top priority.”
A Lafarge spokeswoman said: “We understand the concerns raised and have regular communication with local community stakeholders, including Sonning Parish Council. We are committed to responsibly managing the impact of traffic on the local road network.”