The third roundtable in Pitmans Law’s pioneering campaign to shape Reading’s future saw the complex subject of infrastructure in the town tackled.
Attendees from Ardynt Consulting, UK Property Forums, Peter Brett Associates (PBA), the Thames Valley LEP and many more heard speakers Tom Barlow, senior policy advisor (Infrastructure) of the CBI, Scott Witchalls of PBA and Graham Cross from Heathrow Southern Railway (HSR).
Chaired by Pitmans Law’s construction partner David Gwillim, the discussions were extensive. Scott Witchalls talked of how flexible working can have a huge impact on the transport network.
He said:” “We as a business are rolling out genuine flexible working which takes huge pressure off our office space, but it’s also better for the transport infrastructure. People are much happier for this too.”
He asked delegates to be upfront about congestion. “Providing capacity for growth will not necessarily solve the issue of congestion – and we should be honest about that.” he said. He added: “Tackling air quality will be a priority for local government, and should be a priority for businesses too.”
Tom Barlow of the CBI said only 27% of businesses were satisfied with the infrastructure in the Thames Valley and talked of digital connections. He said: “It’s important that we also support the soft infrastructure projects in the area – we need the area’s digital connectivity to meet the demands of businesses and residential homes.”
Graham Cross spoke about the HSR project which is being privately financed and which should be completed by 2026 to coincide with the third runway at Heathrow.
He said: “It is a transport planning failure that places like Reading, Basingstoke, Guildford and South-West London aren’t connect to Heathrow – this is what we’re planning to change with Heathrow Southern Railway.”
He also said: “The perception is that the Thames Valley is rich and can pay for its own infrastructure. It’s therefore important to have a narrative for what the business case is for investment in the region.”
Tony Pettitt of Reading Buses spoke of the company’s commitment to improving the infrastructure. He said: “Development is not just about long-distance transport links, but also the first and last mile of people’s journeys. Sustainable local channels are equally important.”
The fourth and final roundtable on Investing in Commercial Property will be at 4pm on February 13, 2019, at The Roseate Forbury Hotel in Forbury Square, Reading.