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Road improvement could be waste of money
Published 05/05/14

PLANS to spend around £1 million raising the road between Sonning and Playhatch could be a waste of money, it was claimed this week.

The B478 was closed for six weeks earlier this year due to flooding from the River Thames and damage to the road surface at the Playhatch end of the road.

The closure led to congestion on approaches to Henley and Caversham bridges and re-ignited calls for a third crossing in Reading.

Oxfordshire County Council wants to raise and widen the road to prevent flooding in future and has applied to the Government for £950,000.

But the chairman of Sonning Parish Council claims another section of the carriageway would still be liable to flooding, meaning the road would have to close again.

Councillor David Nimmo Smith, the county council’s cabinet member for transport, said raising the carriageway was one of three options and could not be completed before the winter of 2016. The other two were either a like-for-like replacement of the road or widening the embankments. Both of these could be implemented by the end of this year.

The first option is being considered by the Environment Agency to ensure it wouldn’t cause flooding elsewhere.

Cllr Nimmo Smith said: “It is on the flood plain so we need to know how the water would be displaced and to see if it would have an adverse effect on the surrounding area.”

He said he was expecting council engineers to give an indication later this month of whether the work would be feasible.

At the moment, the road still has temporary lights that are being controlled by a member of the council’s staff during the rush hours to prevent traffic jams. Cllr Nimmo Smith added that if the application to the Government failed, then the money would have to come out of the council’s works budget, meaning other work would be delayed.

Pat Doyle, who chairs Sonning Parish Council, said: “The proposals just don’t address the problem.

“Yes, fix the road, it is in a bad state, particularly after the entrance to the gravel works towards the Playhatch roundabout, but raising the road won’t prevent the road going through Sonning from being flooded.

“It floods badly by the French Horn and the road was closed for weeks. The river rises and floods the gardens of the Horn right around the farm behind it and out on to the road where it can be 1ft deep. There were cars stranded in it.”

He insisted the best option would be to build a third bridge across the Thames, adding: “It is a no-brainer.”

But Cllr Nimmo Smith insisted the plans would solve all the flooding issues in the area. He said: “I am aware that there are two patches of road that flood and I have asked the officers to deal with both of them.

“The patch outside the French Horn is tricky to do as there are manhole covers which water comes up through before the river comes up and I have asked the officers to look at it.”

David Vass, general manager of The Mill at Sonning theatre, agreed a new bridge would be the best option but welcomed the road repairs.

He said: “I would say raise the road but put culverts underneath it because it would allow water to bypass the road. By just raising it, the road will act as a dam so you need a way of letting the water through.

“It is the best of bad options — the best way to do it is to put the money into a third bridge.”

• What do you think? Write to: Letters, Henley Standard, Caxton House, 1 Station Road, Henley, RG9 1AD or email letters@henleystandard.co.uk

Published 05/05/14

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