Sunday, 01 August 2021

£7.5m to stop busy road from flooding

A BUSY road which is prone to flooding would cost up to £7.5 million to repair, according to officials.

The B478 Playhatch Road near Sonning would be raised by about 40cm, or by 80cm at its lowest point, which would require full or partial closure for up to three months.

Details of the project were revealed at a meeting of Eye and Dunsden Parish Council by David Bullock, highways and transport asset manager at Oxfordshire County Council, the highways authority.

The road was closed for six weeks early in 2014 due to flooding from the River Thames and damage to the road surface, causing disruption on surrounding roads at peak times.

Almost 40 residents attended last week’s meeting, which heard the council was preparing a business case for around £7 million of funding from the Department for Transport.

The authority says that raising the road would reduce the risk of it flooding again from once in five years to once in 20 years.

It says it wants to improve the durability of the road with no increase in flood risk to nearby properties or businesses and to provide a “desirable economic benefit”.

It has calculated the cost to the economy of the road being unavailable and the benefits from reduced long-term maintenance, based on the cost of recent repairs.

One of the options being considered is installing box culverts under the road — 14 at the lowest point and 54 along the rest of the road. Each pre-cast concrete box culvert could be installed in three days.

David Woodward, chairman of Eye and Dunsden Parish Council, said: “It was reassuring to hear that the county council were going to so much trouble to consult with the local community and to hear them promise the work would not make house flooding worse in Sonning Eye or Playhatch.

“It’s strategically important for the area because of the 14,000 vehicle movements along that road every day.”

Councillor Woodward said there was still some concern about the potential impact of the work itself.

He added: “Speaking for myself, I think the construction is an inconvenience that we have got to put up with in order to secure the road for the future.”

Sally Hughes, managing director of the Mill at Sonning theatre, said: “As long as they do it talking to all the businesses and making sure the road isn’t closed permanently, keeping half of it open, and it is in conjunction with the residents of Sonning Eye then, yes, I think it should be done because, in the end, it is going to help all of us.

“Because of the publicity that is given when the Playhatch road floods everyone immediately thinks you can’t access the Mill, although I will stress that customers can get to us from Sonning bridge.”

The Sonning Eye Action Group has claimed the work would cause a dam and make the flooding problem worse.

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