"The Ashridge Interchange Movement ('AIM') is a non-party
organisation that exists to promote the
History - M4, A329(M) and the proposed IDR
Berkshire County Council Minutes:
Wokingham Times Articles, 1968-9, by subject:
Wokingham Times Articles, 1971-5, by subject:
The following articles from 1971 to 1975
cover the M4, the A329(M) and its links, and proposals for an Inner Distribution
23rd December 1971:
‘M4 opened yesterday’:
The final stage of the motorway linking London with Bristol and South Wales was opened yesterday. But until the interchange at Winnersh is opened, motorists from Bracknell will have to join the motorway at the Holyport interchange near Maidenhead, and Wokingham drivers will have to travel to the intersection at Shinfield.
‘Relief road plans on public view this weekend’:
After all the controversy the special scheme has aroused, recommendations on the A329 relief road from Reading to Wokingham and connection to the M4 now await consideration by Berkshire County Council. If approved, the scheme, consequential orders and compulsory purchase order, will be submitted to the Minister of Transport for approval.
The county council meets on February 2. It is being asked by the Highways and Bridges committee to:
Detailed plans approved by the committee will be available for public inspection tomorrow from 2-9 p.m. at Woodford Park Hall, Woodley, and 10a.m. to 2 p.m.
on Saturday at St. Peter’s Hall, Church Road, Earley. Engineers from the County Surveyor’s department will be there to explain the details.
Meanwhile, progress is being made in the extension of the M4 (London- South Wales Motorway) to Loddon Bridge.
1st February 1973:
By Quentin Falk. [later to be known as a film critic]
The protest storm over the controversial new M4 motorway link road raged right up to its opening on Tuesday. And that opening of the stretch of road between Loddon Bridge and Twyford Road, including the Winnersh "spaghetti" interchange was delayed for two hours while a last-minute mud clearing operation took place.
People in Wokingham are terrified of the dangers of the temporary link on to the comparatively minor Twyford road just outside the town. And they wanted the interchange to stay closed until the whole relief road was completed up to Amen Corner at Binfield. But setbacks over the purchase and licensing of land have meant a possible two-year delay in the completion. Representatives of organisations claiming to represent 75 per cent of people in the town petitioned Environment Minister Mr. Geoffrey Rippon calling for action to save Wokingham in its "hour of need".
At very short notice MP Mr. Bill van Straubenzee met spokesmen of three major groups who had written to him about the likely effect on the town of motorway traffic.
They were Mr. B. Wales-Smith of the Joint Residents’ Association, Mr. Roy Oliver of Wokingham Society and Mrs. K. McPhail for the Council for the Protection of Rural England and the Transport Reform Group.
The MP said he shared their concern and agreed that the consequences must be very closely monitored with the possibility of a rapid road closure kept in mind. He said that the letter and petition had been placed on the Minister’s desk on Monday. And he agreed to look into the reasons for the delay on the relief road completion and to press for a speedy start to the work. Mr. van Straubenzee also agreed to take with the County Surveyor the matter of road signing, traffic management and additional safety precautions urgently.
The representatives told him they thought that lack of proper safeguards would lead to chaos in the same way as the now-abandoned experimental one-way system.
They hope to hear further from the Department and from the MP just what action is going to be taken. Mrs. McPhail said she was particularly worried about the splayed T-junction on to the Twyford Road. And to some extent her and other people’s fears were justified when I took to the stretch in my car as the first driver coming from Loddon Bridge. The T-junction proved a terror with precious little help from signs and confusion over lanes.
As police prepared to take down the barriers they warned that the snaking Winnersh interchange had several sharp bends where speed is restricted to 30 m.p.h. A Thames Valley Police spokesman said: "There will be close police supervision until traffic is running properly and smoothly. We warn people to take great care until they are familiar with the interchange".
Berkshire County Council is confident that the interchange opening will not mean traffic saturation of Wokingham. But contingency plans to combat "intolerable" conditions have been drawn up – just in case. It would be an emergency one-way system in the town "much improved" on the last effort with "proper provision for pedestrians".
Autumn of 1974 should see the completion of the relief road but the County Council were, last week, still waiting for a 75 per cent Department of the Environment grant to arrive.
Travelling from Wokingham to the Twyford Road, the motorist is greeted by a forest of road signs, a proliferation of lanes and a number of posers, including "Just where do I give way?".
This week’s aerial view of "spaghetti" interchange with Wokingham away to the top right. The Twyford road link is in the top left and the M4 Motorway itself runs from left to right. [The label on the M4 is wrong. It should read ‘M4 to Reading and South Wales’]
8th February 1973:
‘If you’re an M4 driver’:
[The Road Research Laboratory wants volunteers for a survey to investigate the use of the M4 and A4].
‘Relief road to Amen Corner underway by August’:
Work on the remaining section of the Wokingham relief road to Amen Corner at Binfield should be underway by August. This was confirmed in a statement from Wokingham MP, Mr. Bill van Straubenzee this week. And he said that "from personal observation" and after questioning a number of people, it appeared that original fears about the opening of the temporary link on to Twyford Road were not really now justified.
"I think it is generally known I have been watching very closely the effects upon Wokingham and the immediately surrounding district of the recent opening of the link with the M4 motorway," said Mr. van Straubenzee.
"I was first asked to look particularly at the present signposting on the A329 at Loddon Bridge. The County Surveyor has assured me he will watch this very closely, but points out, I think reasonably, that one of the danger points in my constituency is the so-called ‘Murder Mile’ at Winnersh and that for that reason it must make sense to direct traffic making for Wokingham along the new route.
"I was also asked about the signposting of traffic turning left at the A329(M) when it was on its way to Bracknell and district. I am told that a preliminary assessment since the opening of the new link suggests that one vehicle in three already turns left at the A321 without specific signposting. But this too will be watched closely, as will all other aspects of the effect upon Wokingham of the new link.
"I am bound to say that from personal observation, questioning a considerable number of people, and reading the local Press it seems to me that the fears and anxieties of those who were originally opposed to the opening of the link road have not been justified. Furthermore, I do have to remember that a very large number of my constituents positively want to reach the M4 at the earliest convenient opportunity, and many of them bought their houses in and around Wokingham on that assumption. It was frankly for these reasons that I did not feel able to support the last ditch effort to stop the opening of the link.
"I found from the deputation from the amenity societies which I talked with on January 26 that they were suspicious of the county council’s intentions so far as the remaining link of the relief road to Amen Corner is concerned. I have been looking very carefully into this anxiety.
"It has I think to be remembered that when the compulsory purchase order for the relief road was approved by the Secretary of State in November 1971 he made two major modifications of the original plans of which the removal of the Ashridge Interchange was the one which got the most publicity. But he also said that instead of dual three lane carriageways, the extension should consist of dual two lane carriageways.
"Incidentally, I make no apology whatever for the length of time taken over the inquiry, since I was largely myself responsible for it ever taking place at the request of the resident’s associations and amenity societies in my constituency in Woodley and Earley.
"Not unreasonably in my view, the next 12 months were taken up by the redesigning of the scheme, the obtaining of the appropriate planning consents, and in particular by an imaginative landscaping scheme which required the voluntary selling of land which was outside the compulsory purchase order confirmed by the Secretary of State. The County Surveyor now tells me that he hopes to submit the whole scheme for grant by March 1 – perhaps to be able to shorten some of the procedures, and to make a start on the ground in August this year.
‘Not holding back’
"I have seen it said in certain quarters that the purchase of the necessary land has not been proceeded with. This is not so. The Secretary of State has confirmed the necessary compulsory purchase order and this means that the county council are only required by law to give 14 days notice of their proposals to enter the land in question. The owners of the land, or their agents, have all been approached and all know that their land is required.
"Finally, the County Surveyor assures me categorically that the County Council is fully committed to this scheme and that there is no substance in any suggestion that they are deliberately holding back. He tells me that so far as he is concerned, he has one of the best teams engaged in the completion of the design work, and that they are committed to a great deal of overtime to get the scheme off the ground.
"In view of anxieties expressed earlier by various amenity societies, I think these facts should be widely known".
Construction of Phase 2 of the A329(M) slipped a bit, but got underway in late September 1973:
6th September 1973:
‘Relief Road Scheme may start in Autumn’:
In a statement this week, Mr. W. R. van Straubenzee, M.P. for Wokingham, said: “Knowing that a great many of my constituents are anxious to see the completion of the A329 relief road scheme, I have throughout the summer, as I promised earlier this year, been keeping very close indeed, both to the Department of the Environment and to the county surveyor. I attach very great importance to the completion of the next stage of the relief road scheme so that the pattern of road works can be properly completed. I am glad to say that I have received formal notification from the Minister concerned, that the Department of the Environment has made the necessary 75% grant to the county council.” […]
20th September 1973:
‘Wokingham By-pass work to start’:
Work on Wokingham’s long-awaited by-pass – the extension to the A329(M) to Amen Corner – will start this month. The dual carriageway road, which takes the major volume of traffic out of the town’s desperately overcrowded centre, will take until December next year to complete, at a cost of almost £1¾ million. Members of Wokingham Town Council and residents’ associations have been pressing for years for a by-pass to the north of the town.
The Department of the Environment approved their grant for the scheme last month, but because of the amount of local interest in the plan, County Surveyor Mr. Edward Davies took the unusual step of getting tenders from seven major contractors before the approval.
The contract has been awarded to Costain Civil Engineering who submitted a tender for £1,751,615. The Department of the Environment will foot 75 per cent of the bill.
When the first section of the A329(M) was completed earlier this year, a temporary junction was made at its junction with the A321 Twyford Road.
The extension will be built as a dual, two-lane motorway and when it is opened the Warren House Road, Binfield Road and Twyford Road will be carried over on bridges. A footbridge will be provided at Pebblestone Copse to carry the footpath from Binfield Road to Keephatch Lane. At its eastern end, the extension will finish at a new roundabout connecting it with the existing A329 Wokingham to Bracknell Road.
A county council spokesman said this week that a comprehensive landscaping scheme has been worked out to accommodate all the surplus excavation on land next to the new road. This means that roads in the area will not be burdened unnecessarily by extra lorries.
Some construction traffic, he said, is inevitable, but Mr. Davies is to restrict this as far as possible to main roads which are adequate to carry the loads. None of the minor roads in the area between Wokingham and the road line should be affected.
The extension further east of Amen Corner is in the Department of the Environment preparation list, but is not being planned as a motorway and is not expected to be built before 1980.
New Wokingham Society warning on Ashridge danger
The Wokingham Society has again warned about the dangers of building a motorway interchange at Ashridge. In an editorial in their latest newsletter, members say that if an interchange is built at Ashridge, more and more motorway traffic will pour into the town “in ever-increasing volume”.
They have again applauded the building of the extension to the A329(M) link road to Amen Corner. This, they say, will mean an extra few minutes’ journey for motorists who want to join the M4, but will keep Wokingham much more free of traffic.
The society has been dead against the idea of an interchange at Ashridge – a few hundred yards north of the town – since before the public inquiry into the plan in 1969.
Then, a scheme to have an interchange at that point was turned down. This would have included a dual carriageway road across Milton Road, the Reading Road between St. Paul’s Church and St. Paul’s School, down the back of Station Road, through to the Carnival Field and up a widened Finchampstead Road. “And all for non-Wokingham traffic to be brought right through the town”, says the society. “What a scheme! Fortunately, common sense prevailed and the scheme was thrown out, thereby preventing one, at least, intrusion on the sanctity of the town.”
But, it adds, there are people who would like to see the scheme “resurrected”. Some of them so that five minutes could be knocked off a journey. It goes on to say that when the extension to Amen Corner is opened, the entrance and exit on to the A321 Wokingham to Twyford Road will be closed and motorists will have to travel to Winnersh or Amen Corner. This, it says, will be “very hard” on them, but will be much better than the “miseries” of a dual carriageway through the town.
A recent traffic survey on Finchampstead Road raised howls of protest when motorists were held up approaching Wokingham. “Our sympathies go out to them, but the point we are trying to make is that a large part of the ‘queue’ was composed of traffic from outside Wokingham making for the motorway”, says the editorial. “If there were no access via the A321 Twyford Road or the like, but instead the access points were at Winnersh or Amen Corner, the traffic would have to find alternative routes which do not involve the busy streets of Wokingham. Put an interchange at Ashridge and we have got it for ever – with its traffic from the south in ever increasing volumes”.
Dr. Peter Wilford, the society’s expert on roads and traffic, warns that a close watch should be kept on the traffic survey now being carried out in the area by the county council.
The survey is being carried out with an Ashridge interchange in mind. Berkshire County Council has promised that the survey would be extended until after the Amen Corner road is opened, to give a better picture of traffic flow. But this is not due for completion until next year, and some of the survey results are expected in December.
“One hopes that the councillors concerned will not put too much faith in these interim figures”, writes Dr. Wilford. He says that this could lead to “dubious results”. Figures could be used to justify the “re-birth” of the Ashridge scheme, “We must be on our guard”, says Dr. Wilford.
In November and December 1973, there was a flurry of articles and letters on the Interchange, and whether the temporary exit should remain open or not. The correspondence started with this full-page article:
‘A direct Motorway link to Wokingham: Dagger or Saviour?’:
By Frank Emery.
Anyone who has travelled along the main Bracknell to Wokingham road in the last couple of weeks cannot help but have noticed that work on the A329(M) link road is already underway. If you have not seen the lorry-loads of concrete and cement rolling onto the site, you could not have failed to notice the huge blue board on the side of the road announcing in bold white letters that construction of the road is now taking place. Soon the bulldozers and excavators will arrive and then the mammoth task of gouging the 3½ mile [sic] stretch of two lane dual carriageway will begin in earnest.
Go-ahead for the £1¾m scheme (the Department of the Environment are footing 75 per cent of the bill) was given at the end of September and it is estimated that work will be completed next December. The link road, which, in effect, will act as a by-pass for the town, has been hailed as the saviour of Wokingham by the town council and various residents’ associations.
They feel that it will take the major volume of traffic away from the town’s desperately over-crowded streets. But are things as simple and straightforward as that? Most certainly they are not. The more I have studied it the less I have become convinced of the logic behind the scheme.
Nobody could reasonably deny that the by-pass will deflect traffic away from Wokingham. That is understood. But just as there are two sides to every coin, so this scheme has its advantages AND disadvantages as far as Wokingham is concerned.
When the link road to Amen Corner is opened, the present access to the motorway, the A321 Twyford-Wokingham Road, will be closed and motorists wishing to get to the M4 will have to travel via Loddon Bridge or Amen Corner.
Back in 1969 when the initial plans were formulated, provision was made for an interchange at Ashridge which would give direct access from Wokingham to the M4. However, following a wave of objections from towns-people, the Ministry excluded the interchange from the scheme on the basis of insufficient evidence. The case for it had not been adequately proved.
But the idea of an Ashridge interchange, which has been described as a “dagger to the heart of Wokingham”, was never dropped altogether and even now remains a possibility. “At the moment, it is no more than an idea which still has to be proved”, said Mr. Dave Sanders, press officer for Berkshire County Council. “But it is still feasible”.
And it is this uncertainty which has resurrected a good deal of ill-feeling in the town. This is what the Wokingham Society, renowned opponents of any direct motorway access to the town, had to say in a recent editorial:
“The society were leading campaigners, along with others, in successfully opposing the hair-brained scheme to have an interchange on the A329(M) between Loddon Bridge and Amen Corner at Ashridge, which was the high-level start of a dual carriageway road crossing Milton Road, the Reading Road between St. Paul’s Church and St. Paul’s School, down the back of Station Road, through the Cricket Club and into Carnival Field and then presumably being taken up a widened Finchampstead Road. And all for non-Wokingham traffic to be brought right through the town. What a scheme! Fortunately, reason prevailed and the scheme was thrown out, thereby preventing one, at least, intrusion on the sanctity of the town. That was some years ago, but it seems that there are those among our county council now who cannot leave well alone and wish to have the whole thing resurrected. Why? Could it be to ‘knock five minutes off a journey’?
“It sounds very hard on the motoring fraternity of Wokingham, but surely it is worth a few minutes extra on a journey to save ourselves the miseries of having a dual carriageway bulldozed through or adjacent to the town. A recent traffic survey along the Finchampstead Road raised howls of protest and fury when motorists found themselves delayed for as long as three quarters of an hour on approaching Wokingham. Our sympathies go out to them, but the point we are trying to make is that a large part of the ‘queue’ was composed of traffic from outside Wokingham making for the motorway. If there were no access via the A321 Twyford Road or the like, but instead the access points were at Winnersh or Amen Corner, the traffic would have to find alternative routes which do not involve the busy streets of Wokingham. Put an interchange at Ashridge and we have got it for ever – with its traffic from the south in ever increasing volumes”.
I do not wish to shoot down their argument in cold-blood but I would suggest it is a little short-sighted in certain aspects. It takes a devil of a lot longer than five minutes to drive from Wokingham to either Loddon Bridge or Amen Corner especially in the morning and evening rush hours, the times when most people will want to get to the M4.
Probably the person who stands to lose most if there is no interchange is the motorist who lives in Wokingham and works in London. Whereas now he can be on the motorway and heading towards London in a comparatively few minutes, in the future, he will have to go to Loddon Bridge or Amen Corner and then all the way back along the link road [that is, the A329(M)] before he can even start his journey. Whichever way he plays it, approximately 12 extra miles will be added onto his daily journey to and from London.
This may not sound much, but when it is considered that such a journey would mean an extra 60 miles per week which works out at an additional 3,000 miles plus a year, you begin to appreciate its importance.
Mr. Mark Sleep, a lecturer in London and, incidentally, a fully paid-up member of the Wokingham Society, is in such a position. And he is firmly in favour of an interchange at Ashridge:
“They are trying to divert traffic away from the busy A329 but what in fact is going to happen is that there will be jams up to Amen Corner and jams up to Loddon Bridge”, he said. “The aim of a by-pass should be to serve the residents but this scheme is more of an inconvenience and a hindrance, What you are doing, by closing the only direct access road from the town to the motorway, is closing the fast link to Reading from Wokingham, closing a potential fast link to Bracknell, and closing a fast link to the M4, South Wales and London. You are also shutting off Hurst and Twyford completely and running the risk of getting all motorway-bound traffic from these two places coming through Wokingham”.
Mr. Sleep also warned that the value of land and houses in the town could diminish if the nearest access point to the M4 was moved from being one mile away to being something like six or seven. Mr. Sleep, of Rectory Road, Wokingham, is only one of many residents who work in London and rely upon a quick and easy access to the M4. And there are signs that more and more people are being won round to the idea of an Ashridge Interchange.
Only a few weeks ago the town’s Chamber of Trade agreed that some kind of interchange was essential if Wokingham was not to become an “ineffectual dormitory town”. County Councillor Ken Johnson has gone down on record as sayong, “My views are that we need some direct link to Wokingham from the motorway. If not, Wokingham will be by-passed.”
The need for a direct link to the M4 becomes even more necessary when it is realised that the M3 and the M4 will probably be connected eventually. For centuries, Wokingham has been a prosperous market town situated at the cross-roads of two major routes from Reading to Windsor and from Camberley to Henley. It would be sad if the town were to be left out in the cold now.
The whole question of an interchange for the town is due to be discussed by the county council later this year. So, it may well be that the people of Wokingham will be hearing more of their legendary “dagger” in the not too distant future.
13th December 1973:
‘Wokingham Society and Ashridge interchange’:
Members of Wokingham Society have denied a claim by Wokingham County Councillor Ken Johnson that they failed to reply to a letter he sent them about alternatives to the controversial Ashridge Interchange. And in their letter – which, they say, was certainly sent – they put forward two priorities if there is any money available for further road building.
The first would be the completion of the Wokingham Inner Distributor from Rectory Road to Finchampstead Road. This would enable the Peach Street are to be pedestrianised.
The second, say the Society, should be the extension of the A329(M) beyond Amen Corner to link with the A322 dual carriageway coming north from the M3 and Bagshot.
In an article in last week’s Times, Coun. Johnson was quoted as saying that Wokingham would have a direct link to the M4 whether it liked it or not if the massive Woosehill development was given the go-ahead. And he warned that unless the town could come up with a viable alternative before June, it would be stuck with the Ashridge Interchange – the “dagger to the heart of Wokingham”.
He made it clear that he was not in favour of the interchange in its present form but had come to the conclusion that some form of link was inevitable. Accordingly, he had written to nearly 30 organisations and bodies of people in the town, including the Wokingham Society, which is adamantly against any kind of direct link to the M4, and numerous residents’ associations, to sound out opinion on possible alternative routes.
The Ashridge scheme was shelved in 1969 following a public inquiry, but was never dropped altogether. Coun. Johnson has recently had discussions with the county surveyor who has said any feasible alternatives will be fully investigated.
The county council is undertaking a special transport study and the results will be known about June next year. Coun. Johnson had said that the Wokingham Society had not replied or acknowledged his letter sent to them in August. But this week Dr. Peter Wilford, who is a member of the Society’s executive committee with special responsibility for traffic and roads, said a letter certainly was sent to Coun. Johnson.
He produced a copy of the letter posted to Coun. Johnson by the society’s chairman, Mr. Anthony Cross. “It must either have got lost in the post or someone got their wires crossed, but it was certainly sent”, said Dr. Wilford.
In the letter, the society’s Traffic and Planning Group put forward their two priorities and say that until they have been completed a local link to the A329(M) would be “folly”. “It would never be a local link only”, they say in the letter. “It would inevitably act as a magnet for traffic from the south thus increasing the traffic problems of this town”.
Mr. Cross says to Coun. Johnson at the end of the letter: “You and I were members of the M4 action committee when our watchword was ‘A dagger pointed at the heart of Wokingham. Nothing has made me depart from the view we all held at the time – that an Ashridge-type interchange is a threat to the town which must be fought at all costs”.
13th December 1973:
Letter: ‘Wokingham Society has its own view of A329(M) access’:
In an article in the Times on November 29, Frank Emery puts the case for an access point for Wokingham on to the A329(M). He makes the point that the person who stands to lose most if there is no interchange is the motorist who lives in Wokingham and works in London. This is, of course, absolutely true, but he forgot to add that this group is a minority of the total population of Wokingham. The Wokingham Society believes that if there is any money available for roads in the town, then this should be used for the maximum benefit of all the residents.
The society’s priorities here are, first, the building of the south-east section of the inner distribution road linking the London Road and Finchampstead Road, and, second, the construction of a motorway standard link between Amen Corner and the A322 coming north from Bagshot. Completion of the proposed section of the inner distributor would allow pedestrianisation of much of the town centre.
Completion of a local access point for Wokingham before these two schemes would be folly, as such a link on its own would inevitably act as a magnet for traffic, particularly from the area south of the town.
Later in his article, Mr. Emery quotes a local resident as saying that by closing the direct access from the town to the M4, a fast link to the M4, South Wales and London would be closed. Further, shutting this will bring M4-bound traffic from Hurst and Twyford through Wokingham.
Now, undoubtedly, the journey to the M4 will be a few miles further if the access points are at Amen Corner and Loddon Bridge only, but to imagine that this removes a fast link to South Wales is nonsense. Also, the M4-seeking motorist from Hurst or Twyford, who has any local knowledge at all, will use the Hurst/Winnersh road to get to Loddon Bridge.
Finally, mention was made of the Chamber of Trade’s view that some kind of interchange was essential if Wokingham was not to become an “ineffectual dormitory town”. Strong words, but before going any further the Chamber of Trade should contact their opposite numbers in Honiton. In that town, trade increased when the town was by-passed.
- Dr. P. Wilford, Chairman, Traffic and Roads Group, Wokingham Society
13th December 1973:
Letter: ‘Most people do not want A329(M) Interchange’:
Mr. Frank Emery suggests we need a new A329(M) interchange to bring the M4 a bit nearer to residents of Wokingham. It seems to me that it is all a matter of priorities. No doubt there are some residents who would prefer this new interchange so that they can get up to London that much quicker. But what about everyone else?
Most people in Wokingham work locally, and of those who do commute to London I expect most of them go by train. The question is: Should we have the Ashridge Interchange solely for the benefit of those few people who, for good reason or bad, insist on driving to London every day?
I suggest that the majority of residents do not want this interchange, and are quite happy with the existing proximity of the M4. After all, we are no further from the M4 than parts of Reading, and just as near to it as Bracknell.
Nor is there any chance of Wokingham becoming an “ineffectual dormitory town”. Development of Woosehill and further long term plans for the Reading area will soon see to that!
For those few persons who must have immediate access to a motorway I suggest that they take steps to move nearer to the existing access points and not expect further roads to be provided just for them. I might add that I have no objection to the existing junction on the A321 Twyford Road remaining there, but fail to see any point at all (as far as the majority of residents are concerned) in reviving the Ashridge “dagger”.
- C. D. Allan, 58 Priest Avenue, Wokingham.
13th December 1973:
Letter: ‘Confusion over Ashridge’:
There seems to be some confusion. Ashridge is already a motorway interchange, between the M4 and the A329M. The Wokingham Society disputed the spur shown on the original plan, leading nowhere but pointing straight at the centre of Wokingham.
When the A329M is extended to Amen Corner there would be no question of having immediate access at Twyford road, even if the spur now existed. A feeder road system would have to be agreed and financed.
Wokingham Society’s view, surely still a correct one, was that a spur should not be built before a road plan was produced which justified it. After all, in all probability it would turn out that the spur was at the wrong point but Wokingham would then be lumbered with it.
No; let’s have the plan first. If the plan is what Wokingham needs and it includes access to the A329M, then everyone is happy.
- Mr. J. B. Heider (C. Eng), 13 Osborne Road, Wokingham.
13th December 1973:
Letter: ‘Motorway link – good or bad?’:
I refer to your article on a “Motorway spur for Wokingham”. Are we not rather spoilt by this existing facility? How did we manage before? One need not necessarily use the dog leg from either Loddon Bridge or Amen Corner to reach the M4 from Wokingham.
To avoid the increased mileage of the proposed spurs, there is still the old Maidenhead road to Exit 8/9. Surely, this slight inconvenience is a small price to pay in keeping ANY traffic out of Wokingham which has no business there.
Your article did not mention traffic already on the motorway which might find a short cut through Wokingham better than coming off at Loddon Bridge or Amen Corner. The argument that Wokingham has been the prosperous market town for centuries situated at the centre of routes from Reading to Windsor and from Camberley to Henley can have no meaning in today’s traffic conditions.
I dispute the fact that not having a spur will affect property values. I personally viewed the Motorway as an added bonus when originally moving to Wokingham last year. Now I view it with some apprehension. I commute daily to London Airport.
- P. J. Walsh, 30 Rectory Road, Wokingham.
27th December 1973:
'Wokingham could be more traffic-choked, warns councillor’:
By Malcolm Deacon.
Sandhurst and Wokingham could become even more choked with traffic when the latest plans for an M3 link to nearby Blackwater go ahead. This was the grim warning on Monday from Sandhurst councillor, Ken Harris. He put forward two solutions which, he said, would stem the problems the two communities face.
The first is the continuation north and south of the proposed Sandhurst dual carriageway “by-pass”. This road, due to serve the massive Owlsmoor development, is planned to stop in a roundabout on the A321 Sandhurst to Wokingham road. This, he said, would result in a “properly planned” link-up of the two motorways. “It is time it was done properly and not in one-at-a-time pieces”.
The problem, said Coun. Harris, had come up because of pressure from councils in Camberley for a second link from their area. They have had “chaos” in their town as they have only one link at the moment. The second link, due to be started in two or four years, will join the A320 in a roundabout at Blackwater. Traffic from there, if drivers want to get through to Wokingham or the surrounding area, will, as things are at present have to pass along the A321 through the village.
Plans at the moment only allow for it to go as far as the grounds of Broadmoor Hospital. If the road was taken south to the A30 – where the spur from the M3 will end – and then taken northwards to the Nine Mile Ride area, this would take traffic away from Sandhurst, he said.
His second solution, to relieve pressure from Wokingham, would mean continuing the A329(M) motorway link from the M4 to the dual carriageway Bagshot Road. At the moment, it is due to end in a roundabout at Amen Corner, just outside Bracknell.
“This road is already crowded”, he said. He added that surveys showed pedestrians had six seconds to cross the road at off peak times – less in the rush hours. Villagers had already pressed for – and been granted – a pedestrian crossing in central Sandhurst because of the volume of traffic.
So far as Wokingham is concerned, the link from the M3 will result in more and more traffic passing through the town on its way between the two motorways. Coun. Harris said that traffic surveys have been carried out in the area “and it is time we saw the results”. He said he did not blame councils for applying pressure to get roads. But he thought there should be a really comprehensive system.
The Wokingham Society has always advocated the extension of the A329(M) link to the Bagshot Road, and Sandhurst Residents’ Association has agreed with them that this is necessary. The residents’ association had been pressing for the Sandhurst “by-pass” to be continued south, even before the M3 link was proposed.
Coun. Harris said a comprehensive system such as the one he envisaged would mean the “juggernaut” lorries which at present use the existing roads would use the quickest and easiest links. Only a small minority would use the country roads.
‘New road opens’:
The new A329 motorway, Reading’s first dual carriageway link with the M4 which stretches from Sutton’s Seeds to the Loddon Bridge interchange, opens to traffic today at midday.
The two and a half mile stretch of road, which cost 5½ million, should mean shoppers from Bracknell and Wokingham will be able to get into Reading quicker either by the new route or the old route, the A329. The new stretch will siphon most of the traffic off the A329.
Traffic on the new section will be diverted on to one carriageway on the viaduct over the River Loddon where work has yet to be completed.
21st February 1974:
‘Bracknell to press for better public transport rather than M4 link’:
[There were 3 proposals for direct link from Bracknell to the M4 – 2 via Winkfield, and 1 via Warfield - but the proposal was later dropped.]
‘Amen Corner – M4 link will open next week’:
The A329M link from Amen Corner to the M4 will open next Thursday according to Berkshire County Council. Mr. Graham Barwell, agent for Costain, the contractors on the scheme, said "This is a very well run job. If there is no extra work in variance with the original contract, we usually do complete ahead of time".
Christmas Eve had been the estimated date of completion. However, as from Monday, Bell Foundry Lane, Wokingham, will be closed to traffic for several weeks due to road works. Police warn that until the opens this will mean intense traffic congestion at the junction between Milton Road / Glebelands Road, Wokingham, affecting Reading traffic in particular.
For Wokingham drivers heading for the motorway [when the new road has opened], the alternative route to going all the way to Binfield on the London Road particularly for westbound traffic is the Loddon Bridge roundabout interchange at Winnersh. And the advantage for non-motorway users in Wokingham is that the town will be relieved of much of its traffic pressure as lorries to or from the west to Bracknell, for instance, will be able to stay on the motorway as far as Amen Corner.
For London commuters, however, several extra miles will be added on to the daily journey by the new relief road. Berkshire County Council’s surveyors will be keeping a close watch on the new pattern of traffic which is expected in Bracknell, Wokingham, Twyford and Winnersh from Thursday. There are number of "short cuts" open to local drivers who know the area, and the surveyors’ department may decide to introduce traffic regulations along some of these if they become overloaded.
Said a spokesman: "The siphoning-off of this traffic from the present A329 should therefore benefit Wokingham town centre particularly and we aim to ensure that as a result of providing the new road and its new access, the new traffic movements do not harm the environment of other people in the neighbourhood".
‘Bracknell link to M4 opens’:
The last stretch of the A329(M) motorway link road between Reading and Bracknell opened last Thursday without fuss or ceremony, and six weeks ahead of schedule. Costains the civil engineering contractors and Berkshire County Council planners who ordered the job were equally pleased with the combined effort.
Costains had also a special word of praise for the Wokingham residents who have put up with a considerable amount of inconvenience for some months.
Officials from the county and contractors Costain took part in a cavalcade down the 2¼ miles motorway standard dual carriageway just before 11 a,m, on Thursday and after they passed, the new link road was open to the public. And with the opening of the £1.75 million road, traffic problems in the market town of Wokingham could be eased considerably.
The road will provide a direct link between Reading and Bracknell new town as well as giving quick and easy access from the two towns to the M4 between London and Wales. The new stretch is a continuation of the rest of the A329(M) which has been open for well over a year.
The temporary access on the Twyford-Wokingham road is to close and the road will pass over the new motorway link by flyover, keeping through traffic out of Wokingham. Access to the link road and motorway will now be at a new roundabout at Amen Corner on the outskirts of Bracknell, or via the Loddon Bridge roundabout, Winnersh. Sign posts will be put up along main roads leading to the new access points.
The 3.5 kilometre bypass for Berkshire County Council was built by Costain Civil Engineering Ltd. under a £1.75 million 15-month contract.
It takes the form of dual 7.3m carriageways, 3.3m hard shoulders, 3m central reserve and 1.6m verges, to full motorway standards with about 2.5 kilometres of side-road diversions. The structures comprise three road overbridges, one pedestrian overbridge and various culverts.
Earthworks involved the excavation of some 400,000 cubic metres of predominantly clay soil, with a maximum depth of cutting of 8m and a maximum embankment height of 4m.
The three overbridges have a skew of approximately 20 degrees and each supports a single 7.3m wide carriageway. Each structure comprises a continuous four-span in-situ, reinforced concrete deck slab. The circular reinforced concrete columns to skeleton abutments and supports are on spread foundations, as is Pebblestone footbridge, which has reinforced concrete staircases and a post tensioned, pre-stressed, concrete deck.
Three culverts are of rectangular precast concrete and one of circular precast concrete construction, with in-situ aprons and headwalls.
The work was carried out under the direction of Mr. G. H. Potter, DLC, FICE, FIMunE, county surveyor of Berkshire.
Opening day smiles from the men who planned and built the by-pass A329(M) road (from left): J. F. Potter, county surveyor; Peter Dorson, design engineer; Graham Barwell, of Costain; and David Clack, contract engineer. Second from right is Sgt. Robert Painter of Thames Valley police.
Part of the new by-pass A329(M) completed by Costain Civil Engineering for Berkshire County Council six weeks ahead of schedule.
‘Motorway link brings worry to Binfield’:
[The level of traffic at the 'Shoulder of Mutton' junction had increased by 50% since the A329M had been extended to Amen Corner.]
‘Ashridge controversy will flare up again’:
By Steve Moffatt.
The bitter controversy which raged for years over a proposed interchange at Ashridge in north Wokingham will be reopened today when Berkshire County Council’s highway planners unveil their road network scheme for Wokingham.
The stormy history of the interchange goes back to 1969 when the initial plans for the A329(M) link road were drawn up. They included the spur which would have provided direct access from Wokingham on to the M4. But the idea caused such a furore among local amenity groups and residents that the Ministry dropped the interchange from the scheme on the basis that the case in favour of it had not been adequately proved.
The Wokingham Society described the proposed interchange as "a dagger to the heart of Wokingham", while in 1973 Wokingham Chamber of Trade members were saying that unless some sort of spur to the M4 was provided between Loddon Bridge and Amen Corner, Wokingham was in danger of becoming "an ineffectual dormitory town".
Since then the future of the controversial scheme has hung in the balance, but now with the county’s latest suggestion the hornet’s nest will be stirred again. At a press conference, county representatives said the thinking behind the suggested Wokingham road network relied on long distance and heavy traffic being creamed off local roads on to the county’s "motorway grid".
They justified the re-introduction of the Ashridge scheme by saying that it would attract traffic on to the motorway and would relieve the presently overloaded A329. East/west through traffic will use the A329(M), they say, and there are schemes in the pipeline to deal with north-south traffic.
These schemes include the Crowthorne/Sandhurst by-pass; the improvement of the A3095 (Maidenhead Road) in Bracknell; and the extension of the A329M) from Amen Corner to Bracknell. When these schemes are completed the A321 will be relieved.
Mr. John Wardle, assistant county surveyor, explained some of the problems in trying to draw up a viable road scheme for the area. "We had this dreadful problem of a developed area with railway lines cutting across and we had to try to find a road pattern that would not obliterate the town. The first thing was to get through to the public is that the A321 was not being used as a link road between the M3 and the M4. We were also very concerned about the poor access to Wokingham from the north/south direction across the railway line, where there are two low bridges and a level crossing. This is patently not satisfactory. But our most important concern was traffic in the town centre. Everyone is dissatisfied with Peach Street as it stands at the moment", he said.
Mr. Wardle said that if the county’s ideas were adopted by the public and the town and district councils, parts of the town centre would inevitably be pedestrianised. But this, he added, was something which should be looked at within the context of a local plan by the district and town councils. Referring to Berkshire’s "motorway grid", Mr. Wardle said this would be completed when the Department of the Environment had finished the M25 at Staines, which would link the M3 and M4,
The first section has already been completed and the county are pressing the Department to press ahead with the next section as soon as possible to relieve traffic around Windsor. Mr. Wardle said he did not believe the A321, which cuts through Wokingham town centre, would become a major through road between the two motorways.
From a census taken south of the railway bridge in Finchampstead Road, which forms part of the A321, the county found that only 27 per cent of the traffic originated from outside the county. Of the rest, 35 per cent was starting or finishing in Wokingham and 38 per cent in the county. He said 4,000 vehicles a day were using the A321 approach to Wokingham and this, he felt, was "undesirable".
The county had looked at ways of by-passing Wokingham but there was not a sufficient flow in a given direction to warrant it. Besides, he added, it would be very difficult and very costly to build.
Summing up, Air Cdre. Henry Blair, chairman of the county’s Environment Committee, said: "This is in all quite a large plan, and it is not going to happen next week. Because of its size and the work involved it will be a very expensive scheme. It will take a considerable amount of time to design and the people of Wokingham will have a chance to say what they think about it. That is why we have put on this exhibition. The very last thing we want to do is rush this through".
Air Cdre. Blair added that there would probably be another public exhibition if and when more detailed plans were drawn up.
Out today comes the county council’s plan to ring Wokingham with a fairly complex road system aimed eventually at making the town centre virtually free of traffic. I predict it will start an unholy war between the planners and local amenity societies, to name but a few, and disturb the peace as well as destroying the homes of quite a number of people.
Casualties are inevitable in this kind of war. So, too, is the amount of hot air that will be blown about. Truth being the first casualty in any war, a full, free, frank discussion is a must.
The planners’ views are by no means sacrosanct. The axiom should be: approach with caution. The sort of advice organisations like the Wokingham Society, Chamber of Trade, residents’ groups and the doughty Mrs. F. M. J. Macphail’s Wokingham branch of the Council for the Protection of Rural England, don’t really need. They are spitting on their hands already. A long succession of barneys is inevitable.
It would appear that the likely principal critics have already decided to approach the plan with caution. Those the Times contacted this week, who are usually forthcoming at the drop of a hat, wanted to "thoroughly examine" the public exhibition which opens in Wokingham District Council offices in Shute End today. There is method in their shyness.
When I rebuked (light-heartedly, I thought) a few of these for their touching, even perplexing coyness, they reacted like poker players who were holding at least a full-house, and a couple of them might even have had four of a kind. "Wait till after Thursday…" was all I could get out of them. I can hardly wait. No so Mrs. Macphail, whose incisive mind, and ability to absorb detail, is matched only by her eloquence in belting home an argument.
Yes, you have probably guessed, the sort of woman who can scare the living daylights out of the happy planner who hopes the lay critic will not be able to lay bare the pitfalls in his best laid plans. She is one of the two women in Wokingham whose tenacity, and sheer aggression in protecting all things bright and beautiful on her patch of rural England can scare the Hell out of Old Adam. I’ll leave you to guess who the other is. Both leave me with the feeling that all my male chauvinist pig instincts are in mortal danger.
I am well aware of those who think that Mrs. Macphail talks too much. To them I would say: Underestimate her articulation and brothers you are in trouble. Her mind is razor-sharp, which my friendly psychiatrist up the road interprets as the basis of my apprehension. He can be quite insulting in his diagnosis at times!
Mrs Macphail has opened her attack on the proposed ring plan with a hefty swipe at the raising from the dead of the Ashridge interchange. She calls it monstrous and laments the spending of so much money on the A329(M) which the planners now want to make a funnel, thereby attracting all the traffic they set out to avoid.
If my memory serves me correctly few of us really believed that the Ashridge interchange plan was ever quite dead. Apart from anything else, planners don’t give in without a struggle when people march across their plans with muddy boots. They are also experts in the subtle art of disguise. But let’s be fair. They do not seek to destroy the town, and they do not necessarily pander to the motorist.
This newspaper has long campaigned for the eventual pedestrianisation (a horrible looking word, but it does mean ‘get that damned car out of town’) of Wokingham. It can be done, and the plan as it stands at present is at least a step along the road. I cannot accept Mrs. Macphail’s somewhat emotive argument that the whole scheme is aimed at making things easier for the motorist. It is laying it on a bit thick to suggest that no thought seems to have been given to the people who walk around the town.
Mrs. Macphail claims that some of the hardship involved will be great, particularly for the elderly, and gives as an example the Little Court Day Centre for the Elderly, on Reading Road. Because part of the proposed ring road will involve a new stretch through Wokingham Station to a junction with Reading Road near Little Court. I quote these remarks by Mrs. Macphail as an example of what I would call bad argument.
The day centre is where it is because we had little alternative. Obviously when multi-million pound highways are being planned they can’t go zig-zagging all over the place at every outburst. This is the sort of thing to be avoided by well-intentioned amenity groups. Hair-splitting will only eventually antagonise those with the final say. Criticism of the proposals must be constructive. To get traffic out of town, the approaches to Wokingham must be reasonable.
I am more concerned about old people crossing the road in Peach Street, Denmark Street and Broad Street than problems on the Reading Road at a roundabout. Let’s get the darned motor car out of the heart of Wokingham. And here I declare my interest. I dice with death umpteen times a day in Peach Street, where I live as well as work. For a long time I have had the feeling that for the first 200 yards up Peach Street, at one Hell of a rate of knots at times, our friendly neighbourhood road hogs are aiming at pedestrians, and yours truly in particular.
The exhibition at Shute End is on for three days. Make a meal of it. Whatever happens I don’t doubt for a minute that there will be plenty of opportunity to modify the plans. I look forward to a good, clean verbal punch up with the planners, and don’t forget that the columns of this newspaper are open at all times for the views of both planners and their opponents. It should be quite a battle, despite the sinking feeling I get when I think of the labyrinth of words I shall have to negotiate in the coming months.
‘Traders slam road system for Wokingham’:
By Denise Murphy.
Wokingham’s town centre could become cut off and "dead", with a "near-speedway" slicing through its residential streets, if the new ring road proposals for the town are implemented. This was the warning given by members of Wokingham Chamber of Trade when they met to discuss Berkshire County Council’s traffic suggestions last week. "The town could become a dreadful place if the plans go ahead", said Mr. Peter Dimont, "and would be split up simply to satisfy the motorist".
He said that he had visited the exhibition at Shute End recently, and had talked to a lot of people about them. "The impression I gained was that they were making it easier for the motorist to get around Wokingham or get out of the town, and that is not the thing to do. If you make it easier to get out of Wokingham, then the shopping centre will become a dead place. It is an ill-planned use of finance".
Mr. Dimont said that the town centre would be made into a completely commercial organisation, with the houses being pushed out. "The residential areas will be on top of a near-speedway, which is not what we want", he said.
Mr. Ray East, who also visited the exhibition, warned of a problem which could be escalated by the publicity which was being given to the proposals. "This has a tremendously adverse effect on property values", said Mr. East, an estate agent in the town. "It will make it almost impossible to sell certain properties. If we have any objection to this plan, we should feel sympathy for the large number of freeholds who may be affected. The plan is hanging over them all the time".
Mr. East said that the proposals were just a repeat performance of the old Inner Distribution Road of several years ago.
The Chamber’s secretary Mr. Mike Drury said that the ring road was still very much in the future, as he thought the cost would prove too much at the present time. The proposed link between the A329(M) and the M3 could radically change the traffic patterns in Wokingham, and Mr. Drury felt that the Chamber should not give its views until more information about this was available.
Members agreed that there was insufficient information available from the county council, and decided to withhold their views. The Chamber members are not the only people in Wokingham who fear the consequences of both the ring road and the Ashridge Interchange.
Various residents have expressed their deep dissatisfaction with the traffic plan. Mr. M. J. Trewayas, of 9 Glebelands, Wokingham, said he totally rejected the county’s proposals because he stood to lose a lot if it were implemented. "Every town could be said to have a traffic problem", he said. I am not aware that Wokingham’s is so bad as to justify expenditure of my money on the scale which would be involved.
"Nowhere have I seen a clear statement of what the problem is that the proposals are supposed to solve. The only vague clues to the problem if there is one, seem to be contained in statements like ‘everyone is dissatisfied with Peach Street as it is at the moment’. Are they? What evidence is there? I am not dissatisfied and I travel along it every day".
Mr. Trewavas said that he has only just begun to enjoy again the freedom from heavy traffic in Glebelands, as a result of the A321/A329(M) access being closed. "The situation now is similar to what it was before the A329(M) was built.
"Although the closure of the access has added 20 minutes a day in travelling time for me – at a cost per annum of £40 in running costs and a loss of 1½ per cent of my life – I am more than prepared to accept this sacrifice to be free from the rumble of heavy traffic at all hours, and the worry of accidents to my children".
Mr. Trewavas said he would be prepared to sacrifice some of his garden in the interests of national security for example, but if as he suspected, he was to be served with a compulsory purchase order so that the council could widen Glebelands, he would fight with all the means at his disposal. "Would you please leave Wokingham alone, and go and find a real problem?" he appealed to the county council.
Approval of the ring road scheme has come from Mr. P. S. Ford, an agricultural merchant of Peach Street, Wokingham, who welcomes the idea of a traffic-free town centre. Mr. Ford said that towns with traffic free shopping centres always appeared very prosperous, and drew trade to them because of this. "This is, of course, after the initial resistance of the ‘no change at any price’ brigade", he said. He would also welcome a closing of the town centre on Saturdays only, to help shoppers, and encourage business.
Whatever does result from the county scheme, for every person who welcomes the new traffic system, there will be at least one who resents and stands to lose by it.
‘Important to recognise the scale of Wokingham road proposals’:
When appraising the county’s road proposals for Wokingham, it is important that their scale is recognised. Except for the link between the Reading Road (A329) and Twyford Road (A321) they are two-way single carriageways. This means that at most times of the day there will be little opportunity for overtaking so that traffic speeds should not be excessive.
Certainly, care will have to be exercised in the provision of pedestrian crossings but, providing this aspect is dealt with satisfactorily, there is no reason why these modest road widths, which are little different from existing Wokingham roads, should present the fearsome barriers some people imagine. Town shopkeepers should welcome the proposals. Surely, more space available for people to walk about in will not reduce the attractiveness of the shopping centre. Are not pedestrian precincts the provision a lot of people have been asking for?
The loss of houses and land is regrettable but it will be over a very long period of time, unless the country’s economic situation improves dramatically. In that time, Woosehill development, with all its housing, is likely to be completed, as well as other schemes. An additional point is that with the provisions of the Land Compensation Act, ameliorative works can be built in to protect neighbouring properties. Of more concern in housing loss, I would suggest, is the change of use of central properties to offices.
The importance of the road proposals is that they are a part of the local plan for Wokingham. Hopefully, before too long, the detailed land use plan for Wokingham should come forward for public discussion. Then the provision of public open space to the north of the town, the likely development on the areas up to the A329(M) and similar important aspects can be determined.
The provision of a junction on the A329(M) at Twyford Road has raised objections but there are points in its favour. Again, the proposals shown by the county are fairly modest and more so when compared with the original Ashridge fantasy. With its provision, traffic from south and west Wokingham, including the new Woosehill development, would be able to use the A329(M) to reach the M4 or Reading without being a nuisance and danger to residents along Reading Road or shoppers at Winnersh.
It is interesting to consider how Winnersh residents might feel when they have two motorways cutting through their area and it is suggested that the heavy traffic along the Reading Road should be perpetuated. After all, the A329(M) was described as a "relief road", presumably to Winnersh also.
Allegations that Wokingham would be swamped by traffic interchanging between the M3 and M4 don’t bear close examination. Few drivers between M3 west and M4 east would not use the Hook junction on the M3 via A32 and A33 to the Basingstoke Road junction south of Reading on the M4 and vice versa. The best route from M3 east to M4 west, even at present, would seem to be from Bagshot junction on M3 via Bracknell joining the A329(M) at Amen Corner and so on to the M4 and vice versa. If the A329(M) is extended eastwards and other Bracknell road schemes are implemented, the route would be even better. Any route using Wokingham, even the proposed network, would be too winding to be attractive.
An important point to bear in mind is that anything like the proposals will not be with us for a long time and, over that period, other towns will be making their demands on the financial resources available. If improvements in pedestrian conditions in the town are really wanted, then road improvements are required and the county planners should be given some encouragement to give Wokingham schemes the necessary priority.
- David Feather, 13 Woosehill Lane, Wokingham.
‘Five Points on Road Plan’:
By Steve Moffatt.
Wokingham District Council has called for a closer look to be taken at the "environmental impact" of the suggested road network and has told Berkshire County Council that it will oppose any plan to build a link road across the Carnival Field.
At a special meeting on Monday night the council endorsed the views of three of its committees – the community services, housing and estates and planning – and unanimously passed a five-point motion by Coun. Fred Webbing. Coun. Webbing proposed that the following points should be made to the county council, in addition to the planning committee’s comments.
Coun. Webbing told the council: "When these proposals were presented to us we were told that the implementation of a road scheme such as this would be one of the most important steps to be taken concerning the town. "A decision cannot therefore be taken lightly or hastily, and due consideration should be given to all aspects of this scheme".
Coun. Webbing said that over the years traffic had been one of Wokingham’s biggest problems. The county’s suggested scheme had been prepared by highway engineers for road users. It would be up to the district planning department to deal with plans for pedestrian, service roads and car parks. Highways were very much part of the "forward planning process" and it was essential that the whole scheme and its impact on the town was studied before any decisions were made, said Coun. Webbing.
Coun. Webbing’s motion was seconded by Coun. Bob Bramall, chairman of the planning committee. Coun. Capt. Peter Washington asked that the council’s disabled working party should be consulted over any plans to pedestrianise the town centre. He said that Camberley, Bracknell and Reading had all tried pedestrianisation with varying degrees of success, and Camberley, in particular, was badly designed for handicapped people.
Coun. Ian Crail took up Coun. Webbing’s suggestion that it was a highway plan and did not take into account everyone’s point of view. How were people going to cross the roads – by footbridges or subways? Would businesses be affected, he asked.
Coun. Michael Flaherty said that it was inevitable with any major road plan that it would "lay waste a great mass of human debris". He referred to the 126 properties – some commercial and many residential – that would be affected by the plan.
He warned: "It should be clearly understood that people are not fully compensated when they lose their homes for road proposals – I have a great deal of experience of this". He said it was essential that as well as being given compensation for the cost of their homes the affected owners should also be given substantial sums for the cost of "upheaval and distress".
"People will be affected in human terms. They will lose their homes and I ask that we make whatever representations we can in whatever quarters we can so that these people are compensated as adequately as possible", said Coun. Flaherty.
Coun. Geoff Cook said that there was confusion over the highway proposals – it was a suggestion not a definite plan, he said. "If this was a definite plan I could not give it any support for the reasons discussed here tonight", he said.
One of his main concerns was the southern part of the inner ring road, running parallel to Peach Street. It was far too close to the town centre and would overload the roads behind, like Westcott Road, Denton Road, Sturges Road. He said he would prefer to see the road further back with service roads into Peach Street and Denmark Street.
‘Link Road would cut Wokingham traffic’:
Allegations that a road linking the A329(M) with Twyford Road will increase the volume of traffic using Wokingham have been rejected by the county surveyor. His observations on the many comments and criticisms received by Berkshire County Council since the plan to update Wokingham’s road network was published, were presented to the Environment Committee recently for consideration.
Mr. G. H. Potter claims that there is no evidence to support such an allegation, and says that there would be less traffic using the town from north of the link road or the motorway itself than there had been before the interchange was closed. "In addition to reducing traffic on the A329 in Wokingham, an A321/A329(M) link would considerably reduce traffic on Forest Road to the benefit of rural communities in the area", he says.
Mr. Potter insists that benefits to the town from the proposed ring road system will be high. Fears expressed by local residents that excessive speeds will result due to the design of the ring, especially on the dual-carriageway link between Reading Road and Twyford Road, are dismissed in his report. He points out that the highway proposals are not of the standard which would produce high speeds. The roads consist of two-way single 24 foot carriageways with closely spaced junctions, which will all control the speed of traffic movement, he says.
Neither is Mr. Potter as worried as some residents about the threat of through traffic in residential Emmbrook and West Wokingham. "If problems of this type develop, traffic regulations could be introduced to restrict such movement", he says.
One aspect of the pedestrianisation proposals – which have been generally welcomed locally – has caused some disquiet, and was the subject of several comments. This involves the routing of roads through existing houses, which will involve demolishing certain properties along the way, with the inevitable heavy cost resulting.
But Mr. Potter claims in his report that pedestrianising Peach Street with adequate service and parking facilities, would be useless without first widening Wiltshire Road.
After the public exhibition to introduce the road proposals to Wokingham had been closed, a large volume of comments were sent to the county surveyor, and many of these expressed concern about the siting of the ring road. Suggestions that the ring should be moved outwards "allowing the town to breathe", with the possibility of improving Bell Foundry Lane and Holt Lane, were made to the council. However, Mr. Potter was of the opinion that this would be "environmentally damaging", and in addition would involve much property demolition.
Finally, the claim that Wokingham has no traffic problem, and that the opening of the A329(M) to Amen Corner has removed most of the traffic from the town centre, is not accepted by the county surveyor.
"The impact of traffic upon such streets as Peach Street, Shute End, Station Road, Wiltshire Road, etc., together with accidents in the town centre, does in my opinion constitute a problem which can only be solved by the road network suggested", he sums up.
Many other comments and suggestions were made to the county surveyor about the proposals and these along with his observations are available from Berkshire County Council’s surveyors department, Kennet House, 80/82 Kings Road, Reading.
‘Public view on road ‘ignored’ – Wokingham Society’
By Denise Murphy.
Little if any note was taken of the public’s invited comments on the major new road system for Wokingham before Berkshire County Council gave its approval. This is the accusation aimed at the environment committee whose members agreed to the scheme in principle last week.
Although a public exhibition of the proposed plan was held in Wokingham, and residents were urged to make their view known and offer alternative suggestions, no changes have been made.
At a meeting of the Wokingham Society on Monday, members censured the committee for giving the go-ahead to the scheme. "Wokingham District Council, Wokingham Town Council, the Council for the Protection of Rural England, the Wokingham Society and many individuals all rejected or had considerable qualifications about these proposals", said Dr. Peter Wilford, the society’s traffic expert, after the meeting. "Yet all are ignored. Further, at the time of public meetings on these plans, the Wokingham Society specifically asked about the connection between the plans and Area 8 studies.
"We were assured, somewhat to our surprise, that there was NO connection, but we now learn that the implementation of each part of the plan would be review in the light of Area 8 proposals". Dr. Wilford insisted that the society’s proposals were far preferable to the county’s own, and they would allow for early pedestrianisation of the town centre at a very much lower cost.
The county council environment committee passed the plan in principle at a meeting last week, with a vote of 10 to seven. They agreed to go ahead with the road scheme in two phases:
The project will be closely monitored to measure the effect of each section of road as it is completed, and later stages will only go ahead if they can be justified at the time. All of the stages will have to fit in with the future structure plan for central Berkshire and plans for the major growth zone of Planning Area 8.
The scheme is going to be programmed to begin about 1979/1980. With the plan accepted in principle, detailed design work will now be carried out. The top priority in the ring road scheme will be given to the section from London Road to Wellington Road, and the pedestrian precinct. All the other schemes affecting the town centre have now been dropped, and the new road lines will be protected against development.
Thanks are due to Surrey and Berkshire Media, owners of the 'Wokingham Times', for permission to reproduce these articles. Note that microfilm copies of these newspapers can be viewed at Bracknell Library, while those up to the end of 1971 can also be seen at Wokingham Library.
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