Saturday, 28 November 2020

Third Thames bridge - ‘extra traffic & no benefit’

A PROPOSED location of a third crossing over the River Thames near Reading has been revealed.

A PROPOSED location of a third crossing over the River Thames near Reading has been revealed.

A report on the “strategic outline business case” for the bridge says it would go from the Thames Valley Business Park, off the end of the A329M, over the river and Caversham Lakes to the A4155 Caversham Park Road, near Playhatch.

It would cost between £100 million and £200 million to build.

The report was compiled by Wokingham Borough Council following meetings with representatives of Reading Borough Council, South Oxfordshire District Council and Oxfordshire County Council as well as Henley MP John Howell, Reading East MP Rob Wilson and Maidenhead MP Theresa May.

The borough councils are in favour of a new crossing while the two Oxfordshire councils are not.

County councillor David Bartholomew, whose ward includes Playhatch, said seven of the nine parishes he represents opposed the plans. He said: “Obviously it’s early days with the study so we will wait and see what the results show.

“The concern I and others in Oxfordshire have is a four-lane super-bridge ending in Playhatch and the traffic going on to the B481 through Sonning Common and Highmoor up to Nettlebed or on the A4155 through Shiplake to Henley.

“Originally I thought we had subscribed to a traffic modelling study but it turns out it is a strategic outline business case, which is more wide-reaching.

“My concern is not with economic development but with the impact on lives of people in Oxfordshire.

“Some of those in favour of the study have spoken about getting 55,000 cars out of the centre of Reading. That isn’t much help to us if they’re coming into Oxfordshire.

“We’re talking about a fabulous amount of money — figures of between £100 million and £200 million have been bandied around. There is a huge desire for this bridge from various councils and business groups in Berkshire but that enthusiasm is not matched by Oxfordshire.

“Many people think we would get all the problems with few benefits.”

Councillor Bartholomew said he was hoping to join a working group discussing the bridge idea with the support of county council leader Ian Hudspeth and David Nimmo Smith, cabinet member for environment.

He said: “The summit meetings on the bridge were proposed and organised by the MPs. Then various council leaders were invited on to the working group.

“I asked if I could go on to this as the people in my parishes are affected by it more than anyone else. My early requests to attend the meetings were all rejected.”

The results of the study are due in the autumn.

Cllr Bartholomew added: “The next stage is a move on to the full business case. I don’t like the title of that as it seems to me to indicate that commercial or economic interests take precedent over the people of Oxfordshire. Their quality of life is what I am there to defend.”

Councillor Nimmo Smith said: “The date of the next meeting is flexible. Wokingham are driving it because they have the modelling facilities and they’re doing the study. Once they do it, which I hope will be fairly soon, we will get together, look at the report, decide what to do at that point and see what it will tell us that we don’t already know.”

The county council is contributing £20,000 towards the modelling work.

Cllr Nimmo Smith added: “The reason we are contributing is because we wanted to stay at the top table and not be on the back foot with a report done by others.”

Henley MP John Howell said there was no confirmed location for the bridge, merely “a line on a map”.

He said: “These are just proposals and have to be discussed and agreed by the group and agreed.

“I can assure you there will be a fierce discussion about the suggestion they [Wokingham] are making.”

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