CAMPAIGNERS and councillors clashed over controversial plans for a major transport scheme.

The East Reading Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) - a dedicated public transport link - was approved by Reading Borough Council's planning committee on Wednesday.

The £20m scheme will see more than 700 trees cut down and members of Save Our Ancient Riverside felt they were being deliberately misled by councillors about the environmental damage that would be caused.

A demonstration was held outside the Civic Offices before the heated meeting, as picketers brandished placards and chanted in their dozens to show their disgust.

Councillors claimed the development would help reduce congestion and cut down the alarming levels of pollution in East Reading, but members of the audience continued to accuse the committee of lying and making up facts.

Tamzin Morphy, a concerned resident, said: "Knowing the destruction that the MRT will cause, how can you do this?

"The minimum number of trees that will be felled is at least 766 and only 77 will be replaced."

Councillor Josh Williams (Green) added his concerns, stating the council had gone against a number of its own policies in order to push the application through.

He said: "The council must conserve biodiversity, but that is obviously not happening here.

"The applicant thinks it is a good idea, but everyone else is against it and the council have tried to hide the reality of this scheme from our residents."

"Does this council care about the environment at all? How will history judge this scheme and will our children thank us?

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"This is a scheme that fails in its own stated aims and it fails the people of Reading. It is a road to nowhere. I move that we refuse this application."

Despite the barrage of concerns from the public gallery, which resulted in one man being ejected from the meeting, councillors voted in favour of the application.

Councillor Tony Page, the planning, transport and environment chief added: "Tens of thousands of new houses will be appearing in Wokingham over the next 15 to 20 years.

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"We have to face the reality that we cannot plan for that growth in the form of cars. Nobody wants that.

"This proposal is a crucial link that delivers that extra capacity that is simply not possible elsewhere."

The MRT is a joint project between Reading and Wokingham Borough Council and will run between Thames Valley Business Park and Napier Road.

Substantial funding was unlocked for the project from Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership.