A SUMMIT meeting is to be held to discuss the possibility of a new bridge over the River Thames.
Henley MP John Howell and Rob Wilson, MP for Reading East, have invited local councils to get together following fresh calls for a third crossing between Caversham and Reading.
It follows two weeks of traffic chaos in Henley, Caversham and Reading while Sonning Bridge was closed due to flooding.
The bridge was only re-opened after the morning rush-hour on Monday.
Reading and Wokingham Borough Councils are in favour of a new £100 million crossing but South Oxfordshire District Council is concerned about the extra traffic this could create north of the river and is supported by Oxfordshire County Council.
Mr Howell said: “Since the issue is being talked about informally, both Rob Wilson and I are sending out invitations for a big summit. That will call all the local authorities together within the next couple of months to discuss the issues openly and explain exactly where we’re coming from.
“There’s a lot of misunderstanding about it and we need as much clarity as possible. The only way to get clarity is to have formal discussions with the councils involved.”
Mr Howell said he sympathised with the district council’s concerns.
He said: “We need to resolve those issues. If we can then so much the better but if we can’t then we can’t. We should give it a good try.”
Mr Howell said that even if all parties could reach an agreement, it was unlikely that the Government would fund the bridge.
Mr Wilson, a fellow Conservative MP, said: “We think it’s much better to have everyone’s views out in the open and to try to come to an agreement where we can all move forward. We’ve been trying to make progress for about 50 years and we haven’t made any.”
A district council spokesman said: “We are aware of the problems that affect people wishing to travel across the Thames between South Oxfordshire and neighbouring districts.
“It is acknowledged that there has been pressure for an additional bridge but Oxfordshire authorities consider that if the capacity of the crossings is increased it will lead to unacceptable increases in traffic on the limited road network in South Oxfordshire.
“We recognise that alternatives need to be explored and will continue to work with the local authorities on both sides of the river to ensure that traffic and environmental conditions in South Oxfordshire are improved by implementation of measures which could also improve access to Reading.”
Tony Page, Reading Borough Council’s lead councillor for strategic environment, planning and transport, said he hoped other council representatives would listen to the proposals with an “open mind”.
He said: “I’m sure we can deliver the necessary assurances to work together to promote a bid for central government funding in the interests of South Oxfordshire and communities south of the Thames.
“There’s a lot of nonsense talk in South Oxfordshire about the bridge and we need to get a reality check. The best way to do that is for everyone to get round the table.”
David Nimmo Smith, cabinet member for the environment on Oxfordshire County Council and a Henley town councillor, said: “We will go in with an open mind but whether it will take us any further forward, I don’t know.”
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