Christchurch Bridge – Southern Extension Design Rejected
The cycle and pedestrian bridge over the Thames near Reading Station, or Christchurch Bridge to give it its official title, was opened in 2015.
On its southern side the bridge ramps down at right angles to the span, with access to Vastern Road then provided by a narrow and labyrinthine path.
However, at its inception RBC’s longer-term strategy for the bridge was always to improve its southern connection to Vastern Road when the SSE site between the river and Vastern Road was eventually redeveloped.
The SSE site redevelopment is now being planned by Berkeley to create 209 homes in a series of high-rise buildings and this proposal was considered by Reading Borough Council’s Planning Committee in March this year.
Berkeley’s proposed redevelopment shows the southern connection to Christchurch Bridge being made via two 1800 switchbacks, one of which forms the entrance to a proposed café.
During the prior public consultation stage, the RCC submitted comments to Berkeley advising that this was not a suitable design, and it seems the Planning Committee agreed. In fact, we could not put it better than what was written in the planning officer’s report to the Planning Committee:
“The development of this site is a one-off opportunity to secure a truly high-quality link through the site that must be seized.
“It is important to state that the quality of this link is not simply one of a number of competing priorities that must be weighed on this site, but, as Local Plan paragraph 5.4.6 makes clear, the main priority for the site, and must be considered accordingly.”
The 13 Councillors on the Planning Committee unanimously refused the planning application.
Provision for sustainable travel needs to be at the heart of new developments. We are cautiously optimistic that the Council is waking up to this; developers need to catch up.
New Segregated Cycle Facilities
At the end of 2020 Reading Borough Council was awarded £1.2 million through the Department for Transport’s Active Travel Fund (ATF) to support the implementation of walking and cycling schemes in the borough.
The funding is tied to the provision of quality infrastructure, which is expected to involve the reallocation of road space and physical segregation from motor traffic.
The Council has now undertaken consultation on concept plans for four schemes at the following locations:
- Bath Road/Castle Hill up to the IDR
- Southampton Street – from the Oracle roundabout onto Crown Street (A4)
- Shinfield Road – from Redlands Road to Elm Road
- London Road
Whilst we hope that all these schemes are implemented in the fullness of time, it is likely that only one can be built with the funding secured.
The Reading Cycle Campaign has submitted comments on the concept plans and indicated that we favour prioritising the schemes that help connect to the town centre (Castle Hill and Southampton Street), albeit we believe that concepts for dealing with roundabouts on the IDR will need a careful rethink.
Once RBC has decided which scheme is to go ahead detailed design will commence. Issues will undoubtedly include cycle lane widths, the form of segregation from traffic, dealing with side streets as well as the difficulty of mixing cyclists with busy roundabouts.
We trust we will be engaged with this process so that we can fully support the eventual scheme.