Ashridge Interchange  

The Ship Inn from London Road, with Peach Street to the left

Market Place and Broad Street from Cockpit PathShute End looking northwards, with The Terrace on the right

   "The Ashridge Interchange Movement ('AIM') is a non-party organisation that exists to promote the
   best possible traffic solution for Wokingham for the least overall environmental impact."

                History - The M4 moves south of Reading

Berkshire County Council Minutes:

Ashridge Interchange

Woosehill development

Highways and Transportation sub-committees

Reading Mercury and M4 junctions, 1967

Summary of Wokingham newspaper reports, 1968 and 1969

Wokingham Times Articles, 1968-9, by subject:

Bracknell Town

Wokingham Town

Wokingham One-Way System

The Land Commission and Woosehill

Reading Road and Winnersh

Build-up of opposition to Ashridge proposals

Public Inquiry
Week 1

Public Inquiry
Week 2

Public Inquiry
Week 3


Newspaper reports, late 1970

Summary of Newspaper reports, 1971-5

Wokingham Times Articles, 1971-5, by subject:

Wokingham Town

Woosehill

Woosehill
Public Inquiry, Summer 1973

Winnersh

Woodley and Earley

The M4, A329(M) and IDR

 

The Woosehill Planning Inspector's Report, 1974

The 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 May 1965)

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 direction.

“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.

“(5) 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.

“(6) 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 evening.

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”.

Coun. Brackston 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 in public.

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.

In submitting the latest proposals to the local authorities, the Minister had asked for their comments to be sent to the Ministry by May 31st.

COMMONS' QUESTION

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.

This 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. Southern.

M4 – northern deviation favoured:

(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 there.

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 constructed.

[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 Booth!]

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 farm.

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.

When John 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.”

Minister 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 Liddington.

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.

In 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 development.

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 routes run.

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 soon.

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 to landscaping.”

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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