John Howell has issued the following statement after a Radio Berkshire broadcast yesterday about the building of a third bridge across the River Thames:
“I want to correct the impression given by broadcasts on Radio Berkshire yesterday that a new bridge is about to be built across the Thames to the east of Reading. It is not.
A meeting was held on Monday 18th September between councillors from Berkshire and Oxfordshire and the two MPs for the areas concerned. The Local Enterprise Partnerships were represented and consultants who had done relevant research were present. We listened to a presentation from Wokingham Borough Council on the traffic modelling work we had asked them to do and we took a decision on the next steps. The meeting did not agree to build a bridge for which, amongst other things, there is no funding in place.
At the meeting is was agreed that we would draw up a common statement for the press and media. This has not yet been done. I personally declined the offer of a broadcast and am therefore disappointed that others did not stick to the agreement. I regard any statement made to date as inaccurate and premature. I now feel the need to correct this misrepresentation.
The meeting agreed that the traffic modelling contained some interesting results which we needed to study in detail and explore further when the detail is provided. We also needed an opportunity to discuss these with residents. In addition, the question of funding of the next stage of the business plan was discussed and further work agreed.
There is no agreement that a bridge can yet be built.”
Oxfordshire County Councillor, David Bartholomew has responded by saying:
“I was angered to learn on Monday that a meeting had been convened of the Third Reading Bridge Steering Group and I had not been invited. The nine parishes I represent are the ones that would suffer the greatest impact from the bridge being built.
I can only conclude that the reason for my exclusion was the deep reservations about the proposal that I expressed at the last meeting of the Steering Group in June 2016.
When I last spoke to Matt Rodda MP shortly after he was elected, he said we had to find a way to cooperate on this matter. Denying democratically elected dissenters their voice is not my idea of cooperation.”