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Sonning drivers frustrated by road repair delays
Published 08/08/14

REPAIRS to the road between Sonning and Playhatch have been delayed until the autumn.

The surface of the B478 was damaged by the flooding which closed the road for six weeks earlier this year.

Oxfordshire County Council had hoped to have started the repairs during the school summer holidays, when less traffic uses the road through Sonning.

But this week the authority admitted that the "like-for-like" repairs now won't even begin until mid-September and will mean more road closures.

David Nimmo Smith, the council's cabinet member for transport, blamed a contractor for the delay and said he was just as "frustrated" as the drivers who have complained about the lack of action.

He said: "I wanted the work done during the summer holidays and somehow or other it hasn't happened.

"I have told a number of people, including Theresa May MP, that we will have it done by the end of October.

"We had to wait until the water had gone from the road and for the ground beneath to dry out because we needed to check the ground conditions below the road base.

"The road base itself is pretty poor in places. We have had indicative results back so far but the final report should confirm what we know already that we have to do quite a lot of work there."

Councillor David Nimmo Smith, who is also a Henley town councillor, said disruption should be kept to a minimum during the work.

He said: "We will have to close the road fully at times because there is work that needs to be done across the whole carriageway. We don't want shut it for a month, which has been suggested that is not an option. We are trying to work out how to deal with it. It might be that we can do the work at weekends or during the week between 10am and 4pm, re-opening it at peak times."

The council had applied to the Government for 950,000 in order to raise the road to prevent flooding in future but was unsuccessful.

Cllr Nimmo Smith said: "We didn't get the funding to raise the road but what we managed to get, rather than it coming out of our budget, is like-for-like with a little bit extra. Raising the road was an aspiration. Modelling was done with the Environment Agency but we haven't got to the bottom of that and we don't have the money to pay for it.

"We can't lift the road but we are going to replace it on a like-for-like basis as well as doing some extra future proofing work on the edges so it is ready for when we do look to lift the road."

Cllr Nimmo Smith said the council would consult with residents and businesses in the area.

David Vass, general manager at the Mill at Sonning theatre, said: "We can't understand the delay as the road is a major artery, not just in Oxfordshire, but Berkshire as well. Closing the road would affect a great number of businesses. It is not a matter of inconvenience, it is a matter of survival.

"If people think that they can't get here then they don't book and that has a knock-on effect. If the county council was a business, it would be closed down."

Ronnie Emmanuel, who runs the French Horn restaurant in Sonning, said the road would now be closing at one of his business's busiest times of the year. He also claimed the road could be repaired without closing it.

• Temporary traffic lights on the Playhatch side of the bridge which are used to control traffic during the rush hours failed on Tuesday.

Published 08/08/14

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