Beauty spot bridge plan raised at special planning meeting

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River Thames
The Thameside path links Reading to Sonning and is under threat from plans to build a single track bus lane bridge over the Kennetmouth

AN EXTRAORDINARY planning meeting will determine the future of a much-loved beauty spot.

On Monday evening, Wokingham Borough Council’s planning committee will consider proposals to turn land by the River Thames into a concrete bridge over the historic Kennetmouth.

It will sit next to a railway bridge designed by Brunel and will be supported by concrete columns and steel beams. The bridge is known as the MRT and will link a 277 space park and ride car park, which already has planning permission, with the Vastern Road entrance to Reading Station.  

Last month, despite protests and a stormy meeting, Reading Borough Council’s planning committee approved plans for its side of the project and on Monday, it will be Wokingham’s turn.

The application notes that insufficient detail has been provided on a number of issues with the application including a reptile mitigation strategy and the external lighting strategy.

It also notes that under the scheme, which is being designed to reduce traffic, “congestion could increase” as a result. And the scheme “would harm the setting of the historic asset” of Kennetmouth, although “this should be weighed against the benefits of the scheme”.

Earley Town Council has issued an objection to the scheme on the basis that the bridge design is “unsightly” and the scheme means a loss of wildlife habitats.

There were only four letters in favour received, while there were 85 objections sent in.

Campaigning against the proposals is community group SOAR and one of their representatives will speak on Monday.

Spokesperson Tamzin Morphy said: ‘The environmental impacts of the scheme are certainly substantial and would irrevocably change the area’.

“Artificial light will be introduced all along the riverbank in Wokingham’s area where it never was before. If the MRT were only for buses it could be largely unlit, but as pedestrians and cyclists will use it, it will have to be lit all night.

“The site is locally important for Grass Snakes and Slow Worms and these reptiles are likely to suffer during construction and have reduced habitat when the project is complete. The proposal to capture and relocate them will be distressing and disruptive and may be unsuccessful.

“The MRT will have a devastating impact on biodiversity and tree life. At a minimum 766 trees will be felled. Only 77 trees will be replaced. That is less than 10% of the overall total that will be felled. This in no way meets Reading’s objectives to improve biodiversity as a result of the construction. This is why Dr Sam Cartwright of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) strongly objects to the scheme. She says: ‘Put simply, the scheme as currently proposed will be highly damaging to Reading’s local natural environment’.

“This scheme offers small benefits at great cost – much cheaper and less-damaging alternatives have been proposed and must be tried.”

Bulmershe and Whitegates councillor Andy Croy has previously expressed his concerns over the plans.

He said: “I will be at the planning meeting on Monday and I will be speaking against the plans for the ‘MRT’ as I spoke against the Park and Ride when the Park and Ride scheme came before the committee.”

The meeting takes place in Wokingham Borough Council’s Shute End offices on Monday, June 25 from 7pm.

 

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