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Gas works forces month-long closure of popular destination for lockdown walkers

SGN works
Parts of Kennetside will be closed to allow gas works to take place Picture: Phil Creighton

A GAS company carrying out ‘critical’ works has sought to reassure residents that a popular footbridge linking Wokingham borough with Reading will remain open throughout the programme.

SGN is to replace its gas governor which is by the Kennet & Avon canal in east Reading, a popular lockdown walking destination. 

To do this, it needs to close parts of the Kennetside towpath for four weeks from Tuesday, February 2. 

This means that Wokingham borough residents coming from Wokingahm Waterside Centre in Thames Valley Park won’t be able to walk along the canal, but they will be able to use the horseshoe bridge to get to Kings Meadow and the Tesco superstore.

However, Reading Green party campaigners say that Park Ward residents will be affected twice over as they won’t be able to use the horseshoe bridge and, as Network Rail has closed the nearby Napier Road underpass until April, they can’t use an alternative route behind the Forbury Retail Park that leads to reach the Tesco store. 

Green party councillor Brenda McGonigle launched a petition calling on SGN to maintain access along Kennetside to the Horseshoe Bridge, which has attracted around 200 virtual signatures.

“The Napier Road underpass is currently closed and now SGN are planning to close the Kennetside path to the Horseshoe Bridge,” she said. 

“This will be a massive inconvenience, especially at a time when this area is highly popular for relaxation and exercise. 

“Reading Council needs to apply maximum pressure on SGN to keep part of the path open and complete the works as speedily as possible.”

She called on SGN to look at alternatives including a floating path or working round the clock to reduce the length of the works. 

“We have also asked Network Rail what they can do to speed up the works on the Napier Road underpass but disappointingly they said ‘nothing’.”

However, SGN said that the Kennetside closure was necessary to close the footpath from Tuesday, February 2.

Newtown gas tower
The gas tower will be demolished soon Picture: Phil Creighton

Bradley Barlow, a spokesperson for the gas distribution company, said: “Following discussions with Reading Borough Council, we’ll be carrying out critical work to replace our gas governor near the Kennetside path in Reading from Friday, February 5. 

“It is important that we replace this crucial part of our gas network infrastructure now to ensure we can continue to provide a safe and reliable gas supply to residents and businesses in Reading.”

This closure also includes a parking suspension on east Reading’s Cholmeley Road on Friday, February 5, between 9.30am and 4pm, to allow for the delivery of specialist equipment. 

“We appreciate that removing access to this popular route will be frustrating for local residents but it is vital that our safety-critical project goes ahead now, rather than wait until the pandemic passes, to ensure your local community continues to receive a safe and reliable gas supply,” Mr Barlow added. 

“We’re working closely with the UK Government and public health bodies to make sure we work in line with expert advice during the pandemic. 

“We have extra safety precautions in place to protect our colleagues and our communities from catching or spreading the virus as we carry out our safety-critical project. 

“There’s more information about our coronavirus response on our website: sgn.co.uk/coronavirus

The Green party petition can be seen at: http://bit.ly/rdghorseshoe

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