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Mixed views over early Thatcham bridge proposals

Residents have their say on proposed 950-home scheme

John Herring

John Herring

john.herring@newburynews.co.uk

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01635 886633

Mixed views over early Thatcham bridge proposals

THERE’S a long way to go before a scheme that could deliver Thatcham a bridge over the railway becomes a reality.  

At a public exhibition last Thursday,  residents were able to have their say on the proposals put forward by the Colthrop Village Consortium.

The plans include 950 new homes, a primary school, sports facilities and a riverside park on the 36.2 hectares of land at Rainsford Farm and at the former Colthrop Mill site.

Two bridges, one connecting the proposed development to Pipers Lane and another spanning the River Kennet from Chamberhouse Mill Lane, are also included.

While there have been calls for a bridge to ease the congestion hotspot at the level crossing since the 1970s, some residents at the exhibition were not impressed with what they saw. 

One said the scheme as it stands would dump more traffic on to Pipers Way and the Kennet Lea estate.

He said “I just think it’s poorly planned out.

“There’s no reason why they can’t build a bridge up to the A4; move the bridge closer to Colthrop and have the traffic go on to the A4. 

“When you think of the man hours lost each day, it would pay for itself in a short time. 

“It’s a sweetener, but there’s been no thought or consideration in it for residents.” 

Display boards at the exhibition showed that the consortium would build the bridges before any development occurred and that they would be built within three to five years after being adopted into West Berkshire Council’s plan, with the crossing being closed afterwards.

However, another resident said: “I don’t think it’s been very well thought through. I think it’s the wrong location for such a large development.

“The implication of it could be greater flooding than Thatcham has had before.

 “I think it sets a new dangerous precedent for building on flood plains.”

A Crookham Hill resident added: “I can’t see how it would be viable financially. 

“The infrastructure generally and all the traffic going to be pushed back on to Crookham Hill.

“My concern is it’s going to generate lorry movements, so that would need to be enforced.”

He also expressed concern about how Kennet School would cope with the extra numbers.

The Rev Mark Bennett added his concerns on education.

“I think we have come to the point where we need a strategic approach to education, rather than just looking at it development by development,” he said.

“A bridge is a nice idea, but there are considerable issues with traffic flows that have to be dealt with.” 

However, Bob Champion said: “I think it’s an ideal site.

“If you have got to build additional homes, build them as close to the railway as possible.

“The railway has to be central to West Berkshire’s plan for new homes and we can improve the train services.

“Plus we need the bridge to have more trains during rush hours.”

When asked whether this would push Thatcham towards a commuter town, he said: “If you want to turn down economic growth you do become a dormitory town.

“You are either growing or going backwards.” 

Planning agents gathered feedback from the exhibition and the consortium is preparing more detailed information to submit to West Berkshire Council.

Director of planning at JSA Architects Mark Berry said: “The event is very much all about listening and learning, not just about promoting our ideas.

“This is a high level consultation, not a detailed planning application.” 

When asked whether the bridges were sweeteners, he said: “All we are saying at the moment is our engineers are saying it will cost around £20m and that Network Rail may be able to provide funding.

“They would save £1m a year for not having a crossing there, so there’s a discussion to be had.”

He added that Network Rail was keen on closing the crossing. 

On the impact on education, Mr Berry said: “That’s for West Berkshire Council to consider.

“We represent the land owner and the district council will consider all the options and they have to choose which sites to promote through the local plan.

“If it’s accepted we will do all the modeling and design work.

“It’s very much for the council to tell us what they require.

“At the moment we are working on provision for a primary school.”

And commenting on concerns about the flood risk, he said that the Environment Agency would assess the site.

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Article comments

  • Bombey

    01/08/2018 - 14:02

    Let us make £££££££ and we'll build you a bridge to save 10 mins....

    Reply

    • NewburyLad

      02/08/2018 - 09:09

      If you aint making £££££££ then there's no £££££££ to pay for things.

      Reply

      • Bombey

        02/08/2018 - 10:10

        Not so - a Bridge was built at Ufton Nervet without anyone building 950 houses.

        Reply

        • NewburyLad

          02/08/2018 - 12:12

          And you know full well why that was built to replace the automatic half barrier crossing that was there - for obvious safety reasons.

          Reply

        • Bombey

          02/08/2018 - 13:01

          Adding another half a barrier would have been cheaper. But a bridge was built, without a single house being built.

          Reply

        • ARealThatchamResident

          02/08/2018 - 11:11

          Funny that and I bet FGW with all the profit made from charging £6000+ for a season ticket just to stand didnt have developers helping to pay for that bridge - I wonder why .....

          Reply

  • ARealThatchamResident

    01/08/2018 - 09:09

    We live in a capitalist society and profit as such is not a dirty word but when a scheme like this marketed as though its almost some kind of pseudo community scheme to free road users of the burden of waiting at a rail crossing for a few minutes that's when it leaves a bad taste in the mouth. When an already wealthy beyond our dreams landowner and Grundons (not exactly known for their green credentials) get together to destroy another several hectares of flood plain and offer such a blatant 'bribe' in terms of a bridge and market their money making scheme as a new community when it will destroy an existing one and create a giant 'rat run' between Thatcham and Basingstoke and elsewhere is quite sickening. The cries of "NIMBY's" will no doubt ring out but at what point will there be a stop to the wholesale destruction of the environment by those who only seek to further increase their personal or shareholder wealth.

    Reply

    • grumpy

      01/08/2018 - 15:03

      yeah, but its not a FEW minutes is it ? I have been stuck there for 20 minutes, maybe more, queuing all the way back up to Thornford Road. Its easier to go through Newbury. I think a bridge is a great idea.

      Reply

    • NoisyNortherner

      01/08/2018 - 09:09

      I'm afraid profit is a dirty word when it comes to certain aspects of society. There are several areas which should absolutely not be open to profiteering companies, and I believe that housing should be one of them. Construct homes to meet the demands of the local area, not the dividend requirements of the shareholders and executives.

      Reply

      • ARealThatchamResident

        02/08/2018 - 07:07

        You are so right and feathering the pockets of rich nameless landowners and known polluters like Grundons who think they can so easily influence us and much more importantly West Berkshire Council with such a blatant 'sweetener' is beyond patronising. Perhaps an alternative to the crossing is a good idea but separate that from the plan to destroy flood plains and if thats the only viable site for almost 1000 homes and rising then make the decision on its own merits but the winners will only be Grundons and already super rich landowners.

        Reply