Alok Sharma, the Member of Parliament for Reading West, has expressed his frustration on behalf of individuals and local businesses affected by the Whitchurch Bridge closure and is seeking an urgent meeting with the Whitchurch Bridge Company and their contractor Balfour Beatty.
Alok has written today to Whitchurch Bridge Company Chairman Mike Beckley and Andy Bowler, Managing Director of Balfour Beatty Construction Services UK seeking the meeting following the news that the bridge is to remain closed for three months longer than expected.
Alok has already been in contact with the Valuations Office Agency to seek a reduction in business rates on behalf of local businesses, which are facing a significant loss of trade during the bridge closure.
Alok said: “I have written today to the Whitchurch Bridge Company and Balfour Beatty asking for an urgent meeting to update on the reasons for the unexpected three months delay. We have had about five weeks of bad weather, but that does not explain a three month delay and unless there is a focus on this I am very concerned that the timetable will slip further. I will be proposing to the companies that we set up a local liaison group, involving representatives of local councils and businesses, to monitor progress of the works.”
Alok continued: “Thousands of local residents will now face inconvenience as a result of this unscheduled delay in the bridge opening as well as a continued loss of trade faced by Pangbourne businesses. Before Christmas I wrote to the Valuations Office Agency to seek a reduction in business rates on behalf of local businesses which are facing a downturn in trade during the bridge closure and I hope the Valuations Office will consider any submissions for a reduction favourably.”
Pangbourne District Councillor Pamela Bale said: “I am very disappointed to hear that the planned opening of the new bridge has been significantly delayed. I appreciate that the severe weather has prevented the contractor from working on the River Thames for some 5 weeks, but the delay will further exacerbate the impact on businesses in Pangbourne. “