CORR: Paragraph 20 edited to clarify that councillor Tony Page was talking about a specific area of the proposed East Reading MRT site when stating that "there is no wildlife there", that people were lying about the scheme and that it is a "rubbish dump". 

Revised plans for a mass rapid transit scheme in East Reading were slammed “lipstick on a pig” at full council on Tuesday, October 16.

The new East Reading MRT application will be submitted later this month for determination in early 2019, with a green camouflage on the structure the only major change.

Campaigners have slammed the council for wasting resources on the scheme after it was rejected by Wokingham Borough Council (WBC).

Councillor Tony Page, lead member for strategic environment, planning and transport, said: “The proposed new scheme will reclaim, rejuvenate and regenerate a section of Reading’s run down riverside.

“This scheme will deter drug-dealing, fly-tipping, illegal mooring and other anti-social activity, which has made this an unfriendly and quite threatening area by day and virtual no-go area at night.”

Councillor Rob White, Reading Green Party leader criticised the updated scheme at full council.

He said: “The changes could be summarised as lipstick on a pig.”

Campaigners Save Our Ancient Riverside (SOAR) called Cllr Page’s comments a cynical attempt to devalue the location where the council wants to build the road.

The main adaptation is the inclusion of plants and natural vegetation, which Cllr Page says will deliver a softer and greener structure.

Councillor Page said: “There are no other changes needed. All other environmental elements were included in the original application.”

He added that the update is consistent with WBC’s recently updated proposals for a new park and ride site at Thames Valley Park which was approved by their planning committee on October 10.

Wokingham Borough Council rejected plans for a dedicated bus, pedestrian and cycle route by a single vote earlier this year.

Reading Borough Council (RBC) approved the East Reading MRT scheme designs, but Wokingham councillors raised serious concerns about damage to the environment.

SOAR said: “RBC are trying to push through a £31.5 million concrete flyover that would fell over 766 trees and destroy a peaceful Thames riverside location enjoyed by thousands of local residents.”

“The scheme has already been rejected by Wokingham Council for contravening multiple local and national planning policies designed to protect the environment.”

Councillor Page said that tree count includes weeds, trees that have sprouted baby trees and saplings; he considers only mature trees to count.

He added: “All trees will be replaced; none are more than 40 years old.

“The area was a coal yard: Huntley & Palmers. It was always industrial land. It is a complete misnomer to describe it as ancient riverside.”

The deputy leader said critics of the scheme are deliberately trying to mislead.

He said: “There is no wildlife [in the relatively small area of land to the immediate east of the Horseshoe Bridge within Wokingham borough]. The people that claim that are lying. It is a rubbish dump.

“I am partly to blame for allowing SOAR to misrepresent the scheme.”

“The Loddon Lily is the one bit that might be affected by bank works but we are making sure it won’t be.

“The main area that people use – Thames Valley Park – is unaffected.

He added: “Opponents do not have an alternative route. They pretend employment growth and housing is not taking place.

“The best we can hope for is to absorb the growth onto mass rapid transit.

“Otherwise people coming in from Wokingham and Bracknell will be stuck in a bottleneck from Thames Valley Park roundabout to Cemetery Junction.”

As part of the plans, RBC will tidy up and lighten up the riverbank area, replacing illegal moorings with legitimate ones.