Hopes are rising that a new £125m road and river crossing linking Didcot and Culham could be built sooner than expected and that would ease Long Wittenham’s growing traffic problems.
The village has major housing and business developments planned on its door step – the Ladygrove expansion with 1,800 homes, over 500 homes and more businesses at the Culham Science Park, a new technology park north of Didcot approaching Appleford, 3,500 homes on the old Chalgrove airfield plus the Didcot Garden Town project in which Long Wittenham is included.
All of these projects include improvements to the road network. The proposed new Didcot-Culham link road is seen as an essential part of the plan to ease traffic problems the developments are likely to cause.
The key link road scheme wasn’t expected to appear for another ten years by which time much of the housing and business projects would have been started but now pressure is growing to get the new road built much earlier.
An earlier starting date however depends on South Oxfordshire District Council agreeing to both the Culham and Chalgrove development schemes. While backing the Chalgrove plan the district council has concerns over Culham expansion because it says it would not be viable without the new link road.
But according to the Didcot Herald a “senior source” said government agencies could jointly provide “significant” funding for the road and bridge and other road schemes with the council borrowing the remainder.
The Herald quotes the un-named source as saying: “It has been suggested that it might be possible to deliver the bridge sooner rather than later… if the bridge is delivered then housing at Culham becomes a much more serious possibility.”
But the leader of the district council John Cotton is circumspect and is quoted in the Herald as saying: “We have always made it clear final decisions have yet to be taken so up until that point we will examine every opportunity presented to us.”
In addition to the bridge and link road plan bypasses at Clifton Hampden, Stadhampton, Benson and Watlington are being considered. Funding for these projects is expected to be announced in the Chancellor’s autumn budget statement.
The prospect of an earlier arrival of the Didcot-Culham link road is welcome news for Long Wittenham. The village suffers from passing traffic and fears even higher volumes once the ten-year Ladygrove expansion gets underway. This year the parish council urged the district council to get the proposed new link road in place before work starts on the Ladygrove expansion.
Parish councillor Gordon Rogers said: “The council has no objection in principle to much needed housing and business developments in the area but traffic and pollution issues must be addressed as a matter of urgency before problems arise. The county and district councils say they are listening to the concerns of communities in the area and now it’s time to back their words with action.”