"The Ashridge Interchange Movement ('AIM') is a non-party
organisation that exists to promote the
History - The build-up to the Public Inquiry
Berkshire County Council Minutes:
Wokingham Times Articles, 1968-9, by subject:
Wokingham Times Articles, 1971-5, by subject:
How fear, uncertainty and doubt removed the Ashridge Interchange from the planned A329(M)
This brief summary shows how the mood changed first in Bracknell and Ascot, and then in Wokingham, towards a relief road extending south-east from M4 Junction 10, amplified by transcripts of articles from the 'Wokingham Times' from 1968 until the end of the Public Enquiry held in late 1969. Thanks are due to Surrey and Berkshire Media, owners of the 'Wokingham Times', for permission to reproduce these articles.
To set the scene, the advent of motor traffic had encouraged ribbon
development along the main roads out of Wokingham along Reading Road, London
Road, Barkham Road and Finchampstead Road. By the 1930s, this form of
development was discouraged nationally, but the pattern had been
well-established in Wokingham, Winnersh, Binfield and Bracknell. By the end of
that decade, Berkshire County Council was laying down standards for the width of
major roads, aiming for by-passes of dual carriageway standard.
After Bracknell had been designated a New Town in the late 1940s, Wokingham Town grew very quickly, doubling its population during the 1960s with large estates in Emmbrook, Simon’s Lane, Bean Oak, and off Molly Millar’s Lane and Evendon’s Lane. By late 1968 Wokingham town centre’s one-way system was imposed - as an experiment.
The Reading Road had become known as ‘Murder Mile’ with fast through traffic in Winnersh and not one set of traffic lights to moderate the speed, resulting in many fatal accidents. The B3034 Forest Road was a useful northern by-pass for Wokingham.
By this time, the built-up area of Reading had over-spilt into the area covered by Wokingham Rural District Council, into Earley and Woodley. Meanwhile, in Winnersh, housing estates were built either side of the railway, and on the other side of Reading Road and in Sindlesham at Mayfields.
The Land Commission was looking for major housing sites, and proposed one at Woosehill, which was condemned by the then MP, who fought the very existence of such a body as the Land Commission, and wanted to take the pressure of development away from Wokingham.
When final plans for the M4 were published in 1968, an 'A329 relief road' was proposed from Reading to Amen Corner and through Bracknell and Ascot to Virginia Water and eventually to reach the M3. After an outcry from Bracknell residents in 1968, the route was shortened to end at the Bagshot Road, which then became an M3 link.
South of the M4, a junction had been proposed at Ashridge Interchange as well as at Amen Corner.
At both points the approach spur roads were to be of dual carriageway standard, as can readily be seen at the eastern end of London Road leading to the Coppid Beech roundabout, shown here.
In early 1969, as reported in the Wokingham Times of February 6th, Joel Park Residents’ Association expressed their opposition to the Ashridge Interchange as shown on a recently-published map, unless a direct link could be made with the Reading Road, which would discourage rat-running through Emmbrook.
Gradually during 1969 a ground-swell of opinion built up against the Ashridge Interchange based on a fear that Berkshire County Council and Hampshire County Council were planning by stealth a dual-carriageway link from the M4 to the M3 through Wokingham. The proposed spur from the interchange formed a ‘T’ at Cantley Park. There were fears that the dual carriageway would extend through the town, and Wokingham Society speculated that a partly-elevated dual carriageway road would pass through the then Station Yard and down Wellington Road, taking up land used by the Bowling Club, Cricket Club and Tennis Club and the Carnival Field. The Society feared that it would continue down Finchampstead Road which many years before had been planned to convert to a dual carriageway (but the plans had long since been dropped).
The Wokingham Society proposed instead a southern by-pass from Amen Corner to the junction of Finchampstead Road and Sandhurst Road at Handpost Corner, which upset the residents living near it who proposed instead that it should terminate at the Queensmere junction on Nine Mile Ride.
As the July 4th deadline for objections to the A329 Relief Road scheme approached, the newly-formed ‘M4 Action Committee’ and the Wokingham Society organised public meetings and leafleted residents, fanning the flames of opposition. If their fears were realised, the town of Wokingham would have become unrecognisable and conditions would have become intolerable for many residents. The Chamber of Trade’s strong support for Ashridge counted for nothing.
On September 26th, the Wokingham Society and others held an open meeting addressed by, among others, Professor Colin Buchanan. He referred to the then Wokingham Borough Council as "wishy washy" and their actions as "damned near a dereliction of duty", whereupon the Borough Councillors demanded an apology and a public withdrawal. At that time, Professor Buchanan was in the United States, but on his return he responded and defended his statements.
A Public Inquiry into the A329 Relief Road was held at The Pavilion, Woodley Park, Haddon Drive, Woodley, for nearly one month from Tuesday October 21st. The Inspector's Report took almost a year before it was published in 1970.
In December 1969, Berkshire County Council Planning Committee considered a planning application for a "Proposed development by the Land Commission, Woosehill Lane, Wokingham". No fewer than 25 land-owners were party to the planning application covering 360 acres, and Compulsory Purchase Orders would be required. The Officers recommended rejection on the grounds of prematurity, noting that:
"The only satisfactory method of dealing with traffic likely to be generated on the Woosehill Site will be by means of a major access on to the existing A329, but this could only be after completion of the A329 Relief Road, and the construction of a link road between the relief road and Wokingham north of the town, in the vicinity of Ashridge Farm."
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