Wed, 01 Aug 2018
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.