Berkshire County Council Minutes:
Highways and Transportation
Reading Mercury and M4 junctions, 1967
Summary of Wokingham newspaper reports, 1968 and 1969
Wokingham Times Articles, 1968-9, by subject:
Wokingham One-Way System
The Land Commission and
Reading Road and Winnersh
opposition to Ashridge proposals
Newspaper reports, late 1970
Summary of Newspaper reports, 1971-5
Wokingham Times Articles, 1971-5, by subject:
Inquiry, Summer 1973
Woodley and Earley
The M4, A329(M)
The Woosehill Planning
Inspector's Report, 1974
Woosehill Inspector's Report four decades on
Work on the Maidenhead By-Pass started in the 1930’s
as a dual carriageway with cycle tracks and several junctions, but WWII
intervened with just the River Thames bridge parapets in place. In 1946, the
'London-South Wales Motor Road' was announced. Its original route was to take in
the path of the Maidenhead By-Pass and then extend westward through Winnersh
roughly where the M4 is now, and continuing south of Reading, Newbury
and Hungerford before taking a more northerly route to Bristol.
The planned route was later changed to avoid south Berkshire beyond Maidenhead.
In 1959, the first section of what became known as the M4
opened as the Maidenhead By-Pass. It was extended eastwards in the early 1960’s
to Chiswick, and was intended to extend westwards through south Oxfordshire and
Wiltshire towards Swindon, Bath and Bristol.
In 1965, the planned route was changed yet again, and
the Reading Mercury recorded the developments as the
year progressed, with a whole set of articles on May 1st alone when the
story first broke. A Berkshire County Council
meeting was disrupted when the leader of the Labour group wished to find
out about a confidential letter that leaked the new M4 route.
The County Council agreed to a joint meeting of its Highways and
Planning Committees in order to discuss the still-secret proposals
and aimed to remove the secrecy so that debate could take place.
Despite the secrecy, the residents of
Stanford Dingley, near Bucklebury, had managed to raise a
petition objecting to a proposed
southern deviation of the M4 passing south of Theale and
through their village, as reported on May 1st.
On May 8th, the 'Mercury' reported on Reading
Borough Council's plan to expand its boundaries to take in Woodley, Earley
and the northern part of Shinfield, along with parts of Tilehurst and
Caversham. Nothing came of these plans. The proposed boundaries
(see below) seem to have taken into account the proposed line of the M4.
Contrary to later reports, Oxfordshire councillors
were not against the original route of the M4 through Oxfordshire. Indeed,
Henley Town Council registered its
disapproval to a suggestion that the M4 should go south of Reading
at a meeting of the Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Reading Joint Advisory
Committee. Later, Oxfordshire County
Council voiced its own concerns about the chanjge of plan,
since it had gone to a lot of detail about feeder routes to the M4 route
through Oxfordshire which then had to be abandoned.
On 22nd May, the Reading Mercury reported on the
joint County Council Highways and Planning committee meeting which
recommended the route through Berkshire rather than south
Oxfordshire, but choosing a northern deviation instead of the southern
deviation to which the residents of Stanford Dingley had objected.
Further discussion took place through the summer, and
the Mercury of 14th August finally revealed the
Transport Minister Tom Fraser's plans for the M4
as shown in the map below.
Further details were revealed in 1967 when
a simple link road had been proposed by the
Ministry of Transport from Loddon Bridge on the A329 to the A321 south of
the M4. However, the County Council had been developing their
own plans for a much more ambitious link road from the A4 east of Reading
to somewhere near Bracknell. The sheer lack of transparency sowed the
seeds for fear, uncertainty and suspicion, and resulted in a highly
dysfunctional road network that has multiplied local journey lengths and
caused chronic congestion around Wokingham and Winnersh.
M4 'Leak' Alleged:
(Reading Mercury, 1st
Efforts by Mr. S. Freeman, the
Labour group leader, to raise the question of an alleged leak of
confidential information about the proposed route for the London – South
Wales Motorway (M4) were overruled at the Berkshire County Council's
meeting on Saturday.
Mr. Freeman tried to raise the matter after
the chairman (Air-Commodore L. W. Dickens) told the Council that a letter
had been received from Mr. L. R. Spiller, Labour councillor for Newbury
North, drawing attention to the publicity given to a confidential letter
received by the county council from the Ministry of Transport about the
proposed line of the M4.
Air-Commodore Dickens said that the letter
would be considered at a joint meeting of the Highways and Bridges and
Planning Committees on May 6th, when a report about the Ministry's letter
would be placed before the meeting. Any recommendation of the joint
committee meeting would be considered at a special meeting of the county
council to be held towards the end of May.
Mr. Freeman said he
wished to move that in the light of the chairman's statement, the council
should go into committee at that stage to consider the implications “of
this thing”. There were certain implications which were very serious and
should be dealt with by the council.
The chairman ruled Mr. Freeman
out of order, whereupon Capt. M. F. Turner-Bridger said that he thought if
Mr. Freemen had an important and confidential matter to raise they should
go into committee to hear it. The chairman replied that he had given a
ruling and, in any case, the matter had not been raised by Mr. Spiller,
who had written the letter.
This brought Mr. Freeman to his feet
again. He said that under the council's standing orders any member could
move that they went into committee.
The chairman repeated that he
had already given a ruling and he stood by that.
Motorway – Village Petition:
(Reading Mercury, 1st May 1965)
Residents of Stanford Dingley have submitted
a petition to the county council opposing any suggestion that the M4
should pass through their village. The petition was approved at a special
parish meeting held on Monday.
It stated that the residents of
Stanford Dingley had been informed that one of the proposed routes for the
M4 motorway would pass through the village on a line from the eastern end
of the historic avenue of Bucklebury parish, through Bushnell's Green and
then over open farm land of the Pang Valley in a roughly north-western
“In expressing our opposition to this proposal”,
continued the petition, “we would ask the Berkshire County Council to take
note of the following facts:
“(1) Undulating nature of the
country. The course of the proposed route covers an area north of
the Kennet river and north and south of the River Pang. This area, much of
it farm land worked by comparatively small farmers, consists of a series
of steep ridges.
“Even in flat countryside the construction of the
motorway entails the despoiling of many acres; when large rises and
valleys are encountered the acreage despoiled is vastly greater.
Furthermore, the necessity of building embankments on low-lying ground
increases the nuisance of the noise factor of M roads and spreads the
unsightliness further. None of these disadvantages are so great in the
case of the proposed northern route in our area.
“(2) Noise factor.
If the proposed northern route was adopted the considerable area of
woodland through which the route would pass would minimise noise and would
to some extent screen the road.
“(3) Pang River. The
ground on either side of the Pang river is marshy and the proposed
southern route crosses the Pang river twice.
“(4) Frost and fog. Stanford
Dingley lying in a somewhat basin-shaped valley is well known to be both
frosty and foggy. This is not a good recommendation for a motorway.
Local amenities. For years we have, as a village, concerned
ourselves to keep open the ancient rights of way and footpaths in this
area. Many people not only from Reading and Newbury, but from much farther
away have found recreation in the walks they find in this countryside.
General. We are well aware that every proposal for the
consideration of a motorway must meet opposition from those who live in
the vicinity. However, apart from any natural opposition to a proposal
which would ruin the amenities of our countryside, we are also firmly of
the opinion that the southern of the two proposed routes in this area is
much the less desirable.”
South route not favoured by Henley:
(Reading Mercury, 1st May 1965)
On behalf of Henley Town Council, Coun. R. H. Brackston with the Mayor
of Henley, Coun. Mrs. M. Rowe, registered their disapproval to a
suggestion that the M4 should go south of Reading at a meeting of the
Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Reading Joint Advisory Committee on Tuesday,
Coun. Brackston revealed at the Henley Council's meeting the same
The Advisory Committee meeting was arranged to consider
the Ministry of Transport's possible routing of the motorway south of
Reading, although Henley Town Council want it to run north of Reading
“as being the line most beneficial for traffic relief in the districts
of Oxfordshire affected by the project”.
commented: “They were not very interested in our views whether it should
go north or south of Reading.”
Councils consider M4 route:
(Reading Mercury, 1st May 1965)
The latest proposals by the Ministry of Transport for the route of the
London – South Wales Motorway (M4) are to be considered by a joint
meeting of the Berkshire County Council's Highways and Planning
Committees next Thursday. The matter will then go before a special
meeting of the county council later in the month on a date which has yet
to be fixed.
Unless the Minister of Transport lifts his direction
that councils should regard the proposals as confidential, the Press and
the public will not be admitted to the county council's meeting.
A county council spokesman said this week that in view of the publicity
already given to the Ministry proposals, they were trying to get the
secrecy restriction removed so that their deliberations could take place
Committees of the Reading Town Council are also in the
process of considering the M4 proposals. The matter will finally come
before a meeting of the full council on June 9th.
the latest proposals to the local authorities, the Minister had asked
for their comments to be sent to the Ministry by May 31st.
When Mr. Donald Box, M.P. For
Cardiff North, asked the Minister of Transport, in the Commons on
Wednesday, when he expected the M4 motorway to be completed, Mr. Tom
Fraser, in a written reply, said, “By the early 1970's. Westwards from
Tormarton in Gloucestershire the motorway will be completed within a
year or two. The statutory process still have to be gone through for the
sections east of Tormarton to the Maidenhead by-pass, and it is too
early to forecast completion dates.”
Newbury Town Council met
secretly on Tuesday at the request of the Minister of Transport to
discuss his well publicised proposals for the M4 motorway from
Maidenhead to Liddington.
Press and public were excluded on a
motion moved by the Mayor, Coun. R. H. Burgess, who said the Ministry of
Transport had informed county and district councils that they must treat
his proposals as confidential.
The clerk, Mr. Leslie Southern,
said after the meeting that the council considered it essential that
there should be good access from the motorway to Newbury and district.
In particular the A34 to the borough should be improved and a northern
leg to the north-south relief road should be constructed.
was the only comment the council had to make on the Minister's proposals
and their views would be made known to the county council, added Mr.
M4 – northern
(Reading Mercury, 22nd May 1965)
A committee of Berkshire
County Council have [sic] recommended that the Minister of Transport's
suggested route for the M4 motorway from Maidenhead by-pass skirting
Reading to the south and passing at a point by Three-Mile-Cross and then
upwards north of Newbury, should be accepted, it is understood.
The committee have declared that they want the more northerly of the two
suggested routes from Three-Mile-Cross to Hermitage to be the one chosen
at this point. This goes from Hermitage south of Yattendon, north of
Bradfield, crossing the A340 south of Tidmarsh and the A4 east of Theale
to join the other route near Three-Mile-Cross.
The southerly of
the two routes would impose itself on the more attractive scenic
landscape, but it was not for this reason alone that the other route was
recommended. The county council have been advised that to have put
through the southerly route would have called for a
mile-and-a-quarter-long viaduct beginning in the vicinity of the
public-house known as Jack's Booth, on the A4, and continuing to the
Pangbourne turn, and rising to some 80 feet to clear the escarpment
The possibility of the motorway in this area could be of
major concern to Theale. For it is understood whatever route passes
Theale, a by-pass taking all the traffic out of its main street will be
[Note: The southerly route would have taken the M4
south of Theale and then cross the A4 at the Three Kings (known as
Jack's Booth) in Sulhamstead Abbots, whereas the northern route crosses
the A4 just north of Theale at the site of the White Hart, which closed
in 1968; ironically, the White Hart's landlord then took over Jack's
It is thought that there is certain to be a public
inquiry but not over the actual over-all line of the route. This inquiry
would deal only with such factors as individual appeals for slightly
different routeings to avoid such possibilities as the cutting up of a
There is every indication too, that the Minister intends
the route to get priority. It will take some two years for all the
formalities to be completed, and completion is not likely before 1970.
The Minister's decision to route the line south of Reading brought
no congratulations from Oxfordshire County Council. They had planned
feeder roads to be places through the county to syphon off the traffic
from the Midlands direct on to the M4 in the vicinity north of Reading.
Now these plans may have to be shelved. For the very routes they
were working on would bring a great volume of traffic into Reading via
Caversham, and the difficulties of getting a good traffic flow in thos
area is complicated by the need for better bridges.
Astor, M.P. For Newbury, asked the Minister of Transport this week if he
was aware of the concern caused to residents by the uncertainty over the
proposed route of the M4 motorway through Berkshire, and when he would
publish his proposals, Mr. Tom Fraser, in a written reply, said: “Yes,
but I cannot publish my proposals until I have received the views of the
local authorities concerned. I expect to receive them soon.”
decides on Motorway route. Detailed line out in six months
(Reading Mercury, 14th August 1965)
After years of confusion
and controversy a definite decision has been made on the route the
London to South Wales Motorway (M4) is to follow through Berkshire. Mr.
Tom Fraser, the Minister of transport, this week announced details of
the line he proposes to publish as the draft scheme for the M4 between
the Maidenhead by-pass and Liddington, south-east of Swindon.
Perhaps even more remarkable than the fact that a decision has at last
been made is the local reaction to the choice of route. Throughout
Berkshire there seems to be a general acceptance of the route even if in
some cases it is only a reluctant acceptance based on the feeling that
it could have been worse.
The proposed line, about 47 miles long,
would leave the Maidenhead By-pass near Holyport, just west of the
junction with the A308, cross the A329 at Winnersh, past just south of
the Reading borough boundary and cross the A4 to the west of the town
near Theale. It would then turn in a westerly direction to pass north of
Bradfield, Frilsham and Hermitage and south of Welford before turning
north-west to follow the general line of Ermine Street as far as
In a statement issued this week the Ministry of
Transport said that surveys of the various sections of the route were at
different stages, but the Minister hoped to publish a draft scheme for
the first section – the 19-mile-long Reading By-pass from Maidenhead to
Theale – within six months, and the remaining sections by the middle of
1966. These draft schemes would be open to objection for three months.
A Berkshire County Council spokesman said that until the draft
schemes were published, the detailed line of the route would not be
known, thus at this stage it was not possible to say how individual
property owners would be affected.
The Ministry statement said
that many routes over a wide north-south band of country had been
considered in the past for the Maidenhead to Liddington section of the
motorway, and consulting engineers had carried out detailed surveys of
the most promising.
The Minister announced in February that since
these surveys had been conducted there had been certain significant
developments, notably those arising from the Channel Tunnel project and
the South-East England Study, and that further information had also
become available from the Reading and district traffic survey.
these circumstances he had asked the consulting engineers to re-examine
certain sections of their report and the line now announced was the
result of this re-examination. Except for the eastern 13-miles section,
which had been protected for some time in the Berkshire County
Development Plan, it was a completely new route.
A motorway route
to the south of Reading would permit traffic bound for the extreme
south-east of England, including the Channel Tunnel terminal, to avoid
central London. Another firm of consulting engineers was now carrying
out a study of the approaches to the south of London and the south-east
of England from the M4.
The route was also further south than the
route known as the modified direct route and thus passed closer to the
Newbury area in which the South-East England Study envisaged large-scale
Before reaching a decision, the Minister consulted
the Berkshire and Wiltshire County Councils and Reading County Borough
council. Berkshire County Council were invited to state their preference
between two possible alternative sections of route each covering about
11 miles in the county.
All three councils had informed the
Minister that they would have no objection to the publication of a draft
scheme on the lines of the route announced by the Minister. Berkshire
County Council also expressed a strong preference for the more northern
of the two alternative routes put to them. This was supported by
Bradfield Rural District Council, through which most of whose area both
Hungerford and Newbury Rural District Councils had
expressed misgivings about some aspects of the route as it concerned
their areas and these were likely to be discussed with the Ministry
The statement added: “The Minister realises that any route
for his section of motorway must inevitably pass through some of the
most attractive countryside in the South of England. He has, therefore,
paid particular attention to this aspect in choosing the route, and is
satisfied that the road could be constructed without serious damage to
the amenities of the area. Particularly careful attention will be paid
Setting out the advantages of the route now
decided upon, the Ministry state that it avoids the necessity for two
expensive Thames bridges and their approaches and viaducts, which would
have been required had either of the direct routes passing north of
Reading had been selected.
By passing to the south of Reading,
the route took advantage of a line protected for many years in the
County Development Plan between Holyport and Shinfield. The route
between Shinfield and Theale crossed an area which was being extensively
worked for gravel and its effect on amenity there should be small.
By passing to the south of Reading it would enable the industrial
areas of the town, which were mainly situated on the south, to have good
access to the motorway and would remove from Reading itself a large
amount of the through traffic which now passed through the centre of the
town on the A4.
Between Theale and Chieveley, the line would
cross an area of extreme natural beauty, and particular care had been
taken in the siting of this section so that it would be as unobtrusive
as possible near the villages of Bradfield, Frilsham and Yattendon.
In the neighbourhood of Chieveley itself the line was being
re-examined to see whether it was possible to avoid passing between the
villages of Chieveley and Downend, but there were difficulties in going
to the north of Downend, partly because of greater length and also
because of the more difficult ground which would have to be crossed.
Nevertheless, the Ministry was trying to find a solution to the problem.
There had also been suggestions that the line should turn north-west
in the Chieveley area to rejoin the modified direct route in the area of
Leckhampstead, and should follow the modified direct route from there to
Liddington. But this would necessitate passing through very undulating
ground and would entail substantial earthworks which might be as much as
20 per cent greater than on the route now proposed. It would also leave
severe scars on the countryside and entail greater absorption of land.
All this would add to the cost.
The Minister had come to the
conclusion that the route following Ermin Street was less damaging to
amenity, because although the motorway would pass close to the road, it
would, in fact, be tucked away below the crest of the hill and would not
be visible from the road over most of its length.
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