Saturday, 13 August 2022

Villages fear extra traffic if third river crossing is built

Villages fear extra traffic if third river crossing is built

COUNCILLORS in Sonning Common and Peppard are concerned about the prospect of a third bridge over the River Thames.

They fear it would lead to more traffic going through the villages, impairing the lives of residents.

They say that if the bridge is built a relief road should be created to discourage drivers from using the B481 through the villages.

The bridge, which would cost more than £100million, is currently being discussed by Wokingham and Reading Borough Councils, which are both in favour, and Oxfordshire County Council, South Oxfordshire District Council, which are thought to oppose the idea.

It would go from the Thames Valley Business Park in east Reading over Caversham Lakes to the A4155 at Playhatch in South Oxfordshire. Drivers could then join the B481 at Emmer Green via Caversham Park Road.

Among opponents’ concerns is that the bridge would provide a link between the M4 and M40, via the A329, which the bridge would connect to.

Councillor David Bartholomew, who represents Sonning Common and Peppard on the county council, said the bypass was not included in the feasibility study as it would add extra cost which would make the whole project impossible.

He said: “If you’re making the case for a relief road I have to say there is no chance of that happening whatsoever. This is because the Berkshire parties oppose a relief road as it would destroy the business case for the bridge.

“The quote for the bridge is £110 million. A relief road connecting to the bridge would cost the same. It is not going to happen.”

A report for the councils by engineering consultants WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff said the third crossing would relieve congestion in Sonning and Henley and reduce traffic flows on many South Oxfordshire roads.

But there would be a significant rise in traffic on the A4155 through Caversham, which is already a busy pinch point. Traffic on the B481 between Emmer Green and Peppard and Sonning Common would also increase, especially in a southward direction, and on Gallowstree Road between Peppard and the A4074.

However, there would be less traffic on the B481 from Peppard to Nettlebed and northbound traffic between Sonning Common and Peppard would also decrease at busy times.

Councillor Bartholomew claimed the report was not objective and was designed to make the case for the councils in favour of the bridge.

“The data is open to interpretation,” he said. “While it does say there are benefits for Henley and Sonning there are increases in traffic on the B481. People will know there is a new bridge they can use to get to the M40 via the B481.

“County council officers say this has not been stress-tested properly. If there is an accident on the A404, for example, what’s going to happen?

Sonning Common Parish Council has agreed to renew its position on the bridge, which it first agreed in 2014.

It accepts a bridge is needed, subject to the following conditions:

• The road infrastructure can cope with the extra traffic without adverse effects on Sonning Common.

• There is no question of Reading using the existence of a third bridge to claim any part of South Oxfordshire.

• That South Oxfordshire is provided with formal green belt planning guarantees that neither the bridge nor the road route will be used to justify approval of further housing or other development along it.

Peppard Parish Council also wants to know what traffic relief measures would be taken and has concerns about the effect on the environment.

In a letter to the Henley Standard in October, council chairman Simon Crouch said: “Clearly, something has to be done and a third bridge might ultimately be the answer.

“However, we are being kept in the dark and our concerns are largely being ignored.

“Our representatives are excluded from key meetings and the strategic outline business case is currently only accessible via the Freedom of Information process.

“At the moment it seems that the project sponsors are blinkered, not only to the impact on folk in South Oxfordshire, but also on their own residents in Caversham Park and Emmer Green.”

The next stage for the bridge project is to find £750,000 to fund an outline business case. This would be a detailed analysis of the achievability, cost, funding, benefits and risks.

• Both parish councils will send representatives to a meeting for local villages to discuss the bridge and its potential impacts at Highmoor village hall on January 18.

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