Wednesday, 25 November 2020

Third Thames bridge not a “done deal”

A THIRD bridge across the Thames near Reading is not a “done deal”, says Henley’s county councillor

A THIRD bridge across the Thames near Reading is not a “done deal”, says Henley’s county councillor.

David Nimmo Smith spoke out after an impact study being carried out by Wokingham Borough Council was renamed the “strategic outline business case”.

Wokingham is working with Reading Borough Council, which supports a third crossing, and Oxfordshire County Council and South Oxfordshire District Council, which currently oppose the idea.

David Bartholomew, who represents Sonning Common division on the county council, claimed last week that the new title suggested that all the councils supported the idea of a new bridge.

He added that most of the parish councils in the nine parishes he represents had “reservations” about it.

Any new bridge would probably link the end of the A329(M) in Berkshire to Playhatch in Oxfordshire.

Councillor Nimmo Smith, cabinet member for environment, which includes highways, said the study was meant to be an information gathering exercise and should not be seen as a statement of intent.

He said: “We are not trying to prove that we need the bridge, we are looking at the likely effects of a new bridge. They [Wokingham Borough Council] have changed the name but the principle of the study is the same.

“It is wrong to imply or suggest that the county and district councils are in favour. It is wrong to imply it is a done deal. We think there are obstacles in connection with how to deal with the traffic that would come across the bridge into Oxfordshire.”

Cllr Nimmo Smith said a report on the study should be completed later this year and the four councils would then discuss the next step.

“Once we have got the report we can sit down and look at it,” he said. “What the study will find is the impact of the bridge and the displacement and encouragement of traffic and how that affects Oxfordshire.

“I have been in this part of the world for 40 years and the notion of a new bridge in the Sonning area has been around longer than I have been here.”

The councils agreed to carry out the study in June 2014 at a summit meeting in Westminster hosted by Henley MP John Howell and Reading East MP Rob Wilson and attended by Home Secretary and Maidenhead MP Theresa May. It was the second meeting called to discuss traffic problems caused by the closure of Sonning Bridge for six weeks earlier in the year due to flooding and the closure of Whitchurch toll bridge for refurbishment.

Windsor and Maidenhead councils are also in favour of a new crossing, which woud cost an estimated £100 million.

Councillor John Kaiser, Wokingham’s executive member for planning and highways, said: “The outline business case is a very high level assessment of the viability of the new crossing and follows some even higher level work done to look at traffic flows.

“It will look at the strategic and economic case initially. If these prove to be positive we would move on to other considerations but not until we have agreed that step with all the partners.”

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