WOKINGHAM councillors last night refused the controversial Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) public transport link for a second time in six months.

The original application was refused in June due to concerns with the scheme’s environmental impact and its viability as a mass rapid transit scheme.

On Wednesday evening (December 12) the council’s planning committee refused an amended scheme which had been brought back to Wokingham by Reading Borough Council because there was not a “sufficient change” in the proposals.

Councillor Carl Doran moved a motion to refuse the application after saying: "I'm the only Labour member on this committee and I am embarrassed that this has been brought back with so little changed.

“There's no support out there for this really. It is all objection. We must not let Reading Borough Council make us look like idiots.”

The new application for the public transport link, which would have been used by buses, cyclists and pedestrians between Thames Valley Business Park and Napier Road, outlined changes to the scheme including a camouflage addition, in which “planters containing ivy, or a similar plant,” would provide a “greening of the structure”.

But this failed to convince the majority of the planning committee as six councillors voted to refuse the scheme, one more than when the application was refused in June.

Cllr John Jarvis, who voted to approve the application in June, said he was “very concerned that the application failed to take the initiative to change the design.” He added: “All we have got is a little bit of ivy to cover it."

The previous application was also refused last time due to concerns over its viability as a Mass Rapid Transit link.

Cllr Andy Croy, who is not a member of the planning committee but is a ward member for Bulmershe and Whitegates, an area that would have been affected by the scheme, said: "This application is the same application which was rejected earlier this year. This application should be rejected for the same reasons it was rejected earlier this year.

"It still looks like a concrete jungle being dumped onto Wokingham Borough by our neighbours.

"And it is still a road, not an MRT.”

Dozens of members of the public watched the councillors debate the application for more than two hours including members of campaign group Save Our Ancient Riverside (SOAR) Reading.

So many wished to watch proceedings that some members of the public were forced to watch a live stream from the council chamber.

The application received more than 350 letters of objection from members of the public and 3,500 signed a petition against the scheme, with many concerned about the potential loss of more than 700 trees across both boroughs and the impact on the local environment.

Councillor Wayne Smith said: “From all the time I have been here I've never had so many letters and emails about an application. The public are speaking to us."

He added: "There is a problem with this scheme. Reading Council have done a poor job of this and we are picking up the pieces. It should go back to the drawing board and come back with something better than before, and not just ivy."

Councillors Chris Bowring, Tim Holton and Angus Ross voted for the scheme to be approved, with the latter praising the “access benefits getting into Reading” of the scheme.

A Wokingham Borough Council representative said the scheme was supported by Reading Buses, University of Reading and the Thames Valley Local Enterprise Partnership.

However councillors voted to refuse the application two hours and fifteen minutes after the meeting started.

After the vote, SOAR spokesman John Sharpe told the News: “A lot of people here tonight have had their faith restored in local democracy.

“Various members of the planning committee saw through transparently misleading information that was being put forward. They tore it to pieces.

“It’s so different from what we saw at Reading Council - I’ve been to so many Reading Council meetings and they trot out what they’re told to say - there’s no thinking at all.

“Here we saw a group of people acting as concerned citizens. It was a fantastic exhibition of local democracy in action.”

Councillor Tony Page, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Member for Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport, said:

“The Council is very disappointed by the decision of Wokingham’s Planning Committee. The principal aim of the scheme is to offer a quick and sustainable public transport alternative for the many thousands of car journeys which take place between Wokingham and Reading every day. The scheme would help manage levels of congestion and air quality to mitigate the many thousands of new homes which will be built in the area over the coming years. Without it roads in East Reading will face even worse congestion and increased air pollution. These negative effects will be felt by both commuters travelling in from Wokingham and residents living in the east of the Borough.

“The decision means the scheme will not be progressed at the current time as the Local Enterprise Partnership funding - which the Council successfully bid for to fund this scheme - will now be withdrawn. It means Reading has lost in the region of £19 million of funding for transport infrastructure improvements to help alleviate congestion and air quality problems. The scheme however still forms a vital part of both Reading and Wokingham’s strategies to manage the planned levels of economic growth and housing delivery in the area.”