The proposed scheme would see a little over 300 parking spaces and a bus stop created on land known as Broken Brow. The site is scrubland owned by Oracle (the computer company, not the shopping centre) immediately west of the roundabout at the end of the A3290 at Thames Valley (Business) Park. A new exit from the roundabout would lead into the car park. Planting would take place to ensure walkers on the Thames Path would be screened from the site.
Reading Borough Council is separately planning a new public transport-only road link from the Broken Brow site, across a new bridge over the mouth of the Kennet to Napier Road near Tesco. The proposed car park and access will be layed out in such a way that the proposed new road could be accommodated. However, the representatives at the exhibition were at pains to be clear that the schemes are separate.
Recent reports in the local press have featured fears from the Green Party that the two schemes might not be so separate. Whilst they oppose both, it is the new road that concerns them particularly, on the basis that it might be subsequently reclassified to allow use of the evil private motor car. I think those fears are unfounded. It’s difficult to see Napier Road and Vastern Road roundabout being able to cope with any more traffic than they currently carry, let alone the volumes from what would be effectively a Cemetery Junction by-pass. Moreover, the council and the Greens are in broad agreement that anything that temps more traffic into central Reading purely as a through-route would be incredibly counter-productive. On that basis, the prospect of a fast public transport link from the East into the town centre should probably be welcomed from an environmental standpoint, given its potential to provide a compelling alternative to driving into town.
Perhaps stronger grounds for disgruntlement at the Park & Ride plans would be that they constitute a fairly uninspiring use of a rare Thames-side site that is suitable for some form of development. The adjacent ‘Wokingham’ Waterside Centre, although cheekily named by our landlocked neighbours seven miles down the road, is an excellent example of a riverside leisure facility. Broken Brow could surely be better exploited with an extension to those water sports facilities. Equally, with the clamour for new housing stock, it’s surprising that this site isn’t being considered, if it’s now deemed suitable for conversion from green to tarmac black.
One interesting aside to this development is the fact that it will give the abandoned and isolated Dreadnought Inn – the only building on this stretch of river – direct access from a huge new car park. A few years back, there was a proposal to convert it to a riverside Tea Room. Those plans have gone nowhere, and the site has no use besides storing a few boats in its beer garden for the university. Assuming the building structure is sound, with the addition of easy parking access, the site constitutes a great opportunity for some entrepreneur out there to create a busy gastro-pub that could quite conceivably become a Sunday lunch and walk hub for East Reading (sorry, north Wokingham), as well as doing a brisk trade during the week for business lunches from Thames Valley Park.
But back to the Park and Ride. The idea is actually quite neat. They’d simply use the existing Thames Valley Park shuttle buses to pick up on their way back to the station in the mornings (they currently go back empty), and vice versa in the evenings. Assuming these two sets of users don’t just swap jobs, this would make much better use of those buses, and subsidise the costs of running the service. And that is probably why Oracle is prepared to give over the land for that use. For weekends though, this is the new Dreadnought pub car park.