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."

                Newspaper Reports, late 1970

Berkshire County Council Minutes:

Ashridge Interchange

Woosehill development

Highways and Transportation sub-committees

Summary of Newspaper Reports, 1968-69

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 following extracts have been taken from the 'Wokingham Times', with the permission of Surrey and Berkshire Media. Back issues are held on microfilm at Wokingham and Bracknell Local Studies Libraries.

Thursday 12th November 1970

“Society wins battle of the Ashridge Interchange”

by Alec Reid

It can be done. Public opinion has won the fight to save Wokingham from the proposed Ashridge Interchange, thinks Mr. E. A. S. Cross, Chairman of the Wokingham Society.

It was announced last week that John Peyton, Minister of Transport, has accepted the recommendation that a decision on the need for the Ashridge Interchange should be postponed until a detailed study of Wokingham's road and traffic requirements has been carried out.

The Wokingham Society objected to the proposed interchange as a dual carriageway spur projected from it, pointing at the centre of the town.

The M4 Action Committee, headed by Dr. Michael Crowe, of Wokingham, was formed to oppose these road plans. It has now gone into “hibernation”.

Happy

Mr. G. S. McIntyre, Inspector at last year's public enquiry into the matter, wrote in his report: “I think the objectors made a good case”. He called the interchange “premature”, considering that the road planners had not examined the traffic problems likely to result.

The scheme had been developed by the Ministry of Transport and by Berkshire County Council.

The Wokingham Society is happy with the plans for a by-pass of the town, said Mr. Cross. This is to leave the A321 between Wokingham and the Forest Road, joining the A329 at Amen Corner, Binfield. Work on this is to start in 1972-73, or possible before.

This by-pass is an eastern extension of the new road to link the M4 at Winnersh with the A329 at Loddon Bridge and with the A321 south of its junction with the B3034, the Forest Road. Another extension will go westwards towards Reading.

Ideas

The link road, 2.76 miles long, will be a dual carriageway. Work on it is expected to start in the spring.

Mr. Cross hopes that the Wokingham Society's recruiting drive, soon to be launched, will get off to a flying start after this success.

Decision upsets traders

Wokingham and District Chamber of Trade and Commerce are very disappointed with the Minister's decision, says their secretary, Mr. Michael Drury.

“We feel that commercially and industrially the town must suffer”, he said. “It will not be as attractive from these aspects as surrounding areas with better access to the motorway. This must have an adverse effect on commercial and industrial property values”.

At some stage of the controversy into the relief road proposal a year ago, he seemed to recall that the aim of the Wokingham Society was to maintain Wokingham as a medieval sort of town. Now virtually as a result of the enquiry, they looked like achieving that.

Disappointed

Mr. Drury said the traders to whom he had spoken had been very disappointed. He thought that firms on Wokingham industrial estate who operated their own transport could be affected to some extent.

Mr. Ron Bryant, director and manager of Slumberland (Southern) Ltd., bedding manufacturers, told me that he had not studied the approval notice in any detail, but from the fact that the M4 was to be more adjacent, his firm were going to be happier.

“We supply principally to the London area shops and house furnishers, with vans going up every day”, Mr. Bryant said. “It will mean that we will be able to get on to the motorway quicker, without having to travel through Bracknell and Ascot to the Windsor spur”.

C. F. Taylor Ltd., who made aircraft galleys and deliver to Heath Row [sic], also welcome the decision for the same reason.

Action Group's Delight

Dr. M. J. Crowe, chairman of the M4 Action Group said “This is a triumph for Wokingham residents – the Action Committee, Amenity societies, residents' associations and individual objectors, in collaboration with the borough and rural district councils.

“We have proved that the reluctance felt by many people to fight the bureaucratic machine is misplaced when the cause is both just and of fundamental importance to the community at large.

“Given determination on the part of the individual, democracy does work. This was truly  joint effort, spearheaded by a group of determined residents relying entirely on their own resources without recourse to expensive legal or professional assistance. “May we take this opportunity of thanking all the many organisations and individuals who gave so much generous help, support and encouragement during the campaign.

“Public participation must now be taken seriously. A great deal of time, effort, money and effort was expended upon the public enquiry, much of which might have been saved had the public been consulted before the various proposals were finalised.

“We hope that the improved relations which now exist between the various local authorities and the residents will ensure that a similar situation never arises again.

“Removal of the Ashridge Interchange means that the Wokingham Town Plan can be prepared in relation to the Strategic Plan for the south east without the imponderables of incomplete major road plans confusing the issue.

“The need for a proper land-use transportation study of the Wokingham area has been recognised by the Minister, and it is to be hoped that this will be closely co-ordinated with planning studies for the area as a whole.

“Our only regret is that the County Section of the A329 Relief Road between the A321 Twyford Road and Amen Corner is not programmed before 1972. Nevertheless, we are encouraged by Berkshire County Council's reported intention to complete this section as soon as finance is available. If this interim period can be reduced by the County Council, then well done indeed”.

 

Editor Adam McKinley's column

Adam McKinley supported the Wokingham Society over the Chamber of Trade. Here is some of the comment:

“As it is, the town is already overburdened with traffic, and whether the traders like it or not, most townspeople, as I see it, would welcome relief from the cluttering up of the main streets.

“We have more supermarkets to the square yard than any comparable town of its size in the South of England. There is little evidence that Old Adam can see of the traders going broke.

...

“Professor Hall says: 'If the planners attempted to force or even merely permit growth in shopping and other activities into the centre of Wokingham the result would be ludicrous'.

“But then, Professor Hall is not a trader. For which old Adam is very grateful indeed.

“For I, like so many Wokingham people, think Wokingham is one of the few remarkably unspoilt towns left in the bustling Greater London area”.

Thursday 19th November 1970

“Wokingham Society pooh-poohs threat to town's traders”

The annual meeting of a triumphant Wokingham Society last week rejected warnings that the scrapping of the Ashridge Interchange will “stagnate” the town.

Mr. Anthony Cross, chairman of the Society, told a large gathering in the Town Hall: “The statement that the town will now stagnate is one of the most old-fashioned things I have ever heard”.

On hearing of the decision of the Minister to delete the Ashridge Interchange from the M4 plan Wokingham Chamber of Trade claimed the town would “die”.

Mr. Cross compared their fears with those of people being frightened of being left off stage coach routes. “But the railways came in the middle of the last century and the stage coach went”.

“People who know Honiton or Sevenoaks know what appalling places these were. Both have now got by-passes and now both are very pleasant places to live in and visit. The shopkeepers' trade has also improved.

“On economic grounds the removal of traffic from a town does not decrease prosperity, but makes it better to live in and for people to shop there”.

Mr. Cross said he regarded the axing of the interchange as “very encouraging”.

“The number of local organisations which objected to the M4 plans was very impressive. The Wokingham Society does not take credit for the victory, but it does take credit for starting off the campaign.

“We published a pamphlet telling of the threat to Wokingham. From this it grew and we won. It is very encouraging because the Jeremiahs thought it once plan were decided upon you were hitting your head against a wall. The wall gave way and we have still got our heads”.

No different

After the meeting Professor Peter Hall of Reading University spoke to the society about the Strategic Plan for the South East. He said Wokingham town centre faces a definite threat of being torn apart if it continues to grow.

Mr. Hall went on, “Basically Wokingham town centre is no different from 100 years ago. It has been asked to do more and more in a bigger and more affluent society. The time can come where the strain can tear a town centre apart.

“I believe this is a very real danger where physical heritage is worth preserving – as most people say it is in Wokingham. You can't go on pumping town centres like Wokingham up like a tyre because eventually they will burst resulting in the destruction of the place”.

He said that this would lead to new buildings being surrounded by car parks and six-lane highways.

“Planning with a unique physical historical heritage like Wokingham is not so easy to rebuild in this way.

“We have badly got to provide for the growth of shopping and services outside the existing town centres such as this.”

Mr. A. F. Gregory, the manager of Glebelands – the Wokingham home belonging to the Cinema and Television Benevolent Fund – asked last week if the people of Wokingham were aware of the effort made by the staff of Glebelands to stop the plans for the Ashridge Interchange. “We have spent more than £2,000 fighting the case”, said Mr. Gregory.

If the Interchange plan had gone forward, Glebelands' 48 acres would have been bisected by a dual carriageway road.

Town Clerk

Mr. Gregory is pleased that the “rural amenities” of Wokingham will be preserved.

Also sharing in the credit is Wokingham Town Clerk, Mr. Leonard Goddard Smolley.

[In the same issue, the retirement was announced of Mr. Hawkins, the butcher at David Greig's supermarket in Market Place, who was aged 78.]

[The same issue had a photo showing the M4 bridge over Reading Road being put into place. Concrete slabs for one carriageway were installed between Saturday evening and all day Sunday. The process was to be repeated the following weekend for the other carriageway.]

Thursday 3rd December 1970

The Wokingham Society announced their exhibition at Montague House on Saturday 12th December on “The Future of Wokingham”. This was reported on 17th December, along with a photo showing a placard, which stated:

WE ALL KNOW THE POPULATION DOUBLED IN 10 YEARS,

BUT WHAT OF
          THE PARKS
                    THE SCHOOLS
                              THE DRAINAGE
                                        THE CAR PARKS.

                                                  HAVE THEY ALL DOUBLED?

WE ALL KNOW THE ANSWER.

Wednesday 23rd December 1970

Tenders had been invited for the A329 relief road from the A4 at Sutton Seeds to Loddon Bridge. This would involve the demolition of 96 houses. The M4 was scheduled for completion at the end of 1971, while the various link roads were scheduled for August 1972. 

There was a discussion about housing. By 1971, there would be around 21,000 in the town; by 1986, this might rise to 47,000.

AIM's comments on the views expressed in the Wokingham Times
in 1970

This series of articles gives the impression that the main fear at the time was the destruction of the town centre; witness also the changes that had taken place at the Butts centre in nearby Reading, where the heritage of the area was simply bulldozed away. The proposed link road from the Interchange was to be a dual carriageway, which would have been grossly insensitive in the area around Glebelands. At the same time, there were plans, later abandoned, to build a 'motorway box' around central London.

By contrast, both the Lower Earley Way and the Bader Way, built rather later to serve new housing developments, were single-carriageway.

It is hoped that objections can be overcome by the suggested single-carriageway 'Emmbrook Way' and a bridge (from Oxford Road) replacing the level crossing. This route would direct traffic away from the town centre, and would preserve the very atmosphere that the Wokingham Society wished at the time.

Not all of the town centre was a visual delight. There were some ugly developments in Peach Street in the 1960's, and at least one of them is ripe for replacement.  Unfortunately, the Rose Street Piazza scheme, originally planned in the mid-1990's, still hasn't started.

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