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East Reading transport scheme criticised by planners

Reading planners have criticised planning documents relating to the East Reading Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) scheme.

This scheme is a new road for busses joining King’s Meadow Tesco with the new park-and-ride proposed for green space by the river Thames. The road would be built in the floodplain, and a new bridge would cross the mouth of the Kennet where it joins the Thames.

Because of the huge and destructive environmental impact of the East Reading MRT scheme, both Reading and Wokingham Councils are doing a detailed Environmental Impact Assessment of the project. The first stage of that is to decide what should be looked at as part of the Environmental Statement, which is submitted with the planning application.

Reading planners and Transport officers have commented on the scope of this Environmental Assessment.

The critical response from Reading planners reads: “It is the formal Opinion of the Local Planning Authority that in various respects, the issues and recommendations set out in the above mentioned Scoping Report are deficient and the scope/coverage of the document proposed is incomplete”.

The planning response goes on to say that “Open Space will be lost or significantly reduced as a result of the scheme” which is especially important as there is ‘very little alternative natural green space’ in the area. It says consideration of alternatives is inadequate and that the impact of the scheme has been downplayed.

The response also notes that the impact of the MRT scheme should be considered with the proposed park-and-ride by the Thames, which now has planning permission, rather than in isolation.

Brenda McGonigle, Green Party councillor for Park Ward, including Newtown which will be negatively impacted by the scheme said: “I congratulate the planners on their thorough work on this. Building a bus lane alongside/over the Thames towpath will destroy this part of important wildlife corridor.

“This precious area is much loved by many thousands of people who enjoy its tranquil beauty and it should be protected for future generations to enjoy as we now do. The financial and environmental costs of building so close to the Thames and Kennet far outweigh any small relief in traffic.

“We would like to see further consideration of alternatives from Reading and Wokingham Councils.

“Schemes such as a tidal flow bus lane on the London Road, or better use of the Winnersh Park and Ride need more exploration.”