WOKINGHAM residents will face a six-mile detour to travel half a mile across the town this weekend.
That was the warning from a councillor who slammed traffic bosses for adding to motorists’ mounting road woes.
Dozens of irate drivers contacted The Wokingham Paper earlier this week frustrated at temporary road closures and lack of diversion signs.
They complained they were stuck in lengthy traffic jams or had an hour added to their usual 20 minute commute.
Now Councillor Imogen Shepherd-DuBey says the closure of Broad Street from Friday evening through to Sunday morning will cause the perfect storm of road rage.
The extended closure is to allow Market Place works to continue and for the ArtFest and International Street Concert on Saturday.
During the closure, motorists will be unable to cross across the centre of Wokingham having to make a six mile return detour instead on already busy roads.
“Effectively, there will be no route from the eastern side of town to the west or south,” explained Cllr Shepherd-DuBey in a letter to The Wokingham Paper.
“If you live near London Road or All Saints Church, there will be no route to the train station or Tesco’s, unless you take the recommended detour down Easthampstead Road, to Nine Mile Ride and back down Finchampstead Road. A ridiculous notion, by any stretch of the imagination.”
The closure of Broad Street will greatly increase travel times for locals trying to access shops or the train station, she added.
“Normally, when Broad Street is closed for such events, Langborough Road is open and while it is not suitable for all traffic, it does provide an option for local traffic.
“Despite raising the Langborough Road closure as a concern and asking for the route to be re-opened for the day, the great Wokingham Borough Council machine still think it is acceptable to continue without this.
“I fear this is not being done with the best interests of our residents at heart, but only the desire to keep to the destruction of Elms Field on schedule.”
The route from one side of the town via the suggested diversion along Nine Mile Rid is three miles one way, meaning a six mile round trip instead of the usual half a mile across Wokingham.
Cllr Shepherd-DuBey said her concerns about the diversion were ignored when she raised them with the council.
“The music festival is an annual event so there has been plenty of time to figure out a better route for motorists but my concerns were effectively dismissed when I raised them. I was told the Nine Mile Ride diversion was the usual diversion and that was that.
“People attending the festival will not be affected which is good but locals going about their daily business will have to make a lengthy detour.”
But Cllr Philip Mirfin, the new Executive member for Regeneration, told The Wokingham Paper that one closure now was more preferable to one on Saturday and another one later on.
“It’s quite simple,” he said. “The concert closes the road every year and brings lots of people into the town and helps retailers as much as it can.
“This year, the decision to extend the closure was made in consultation with the council’s highways department to enable works in Market Place by HSBC.
“Without closures now, it means closures later, which would be silly.”
Cllr Mirfin also said that residents would be aware of other shorter, routes to take to avoid the six-mile diversions.
“Traffic between 8pm on Friday night and 6am is usually very light anyway,” he said.
While some have suggested re-opening Langborough Road for the duration of the Broad Street closures, Cllr Mirfin said it would be “too dangerous”, due to a very deep trench that is currently in place by Denmark Street.
“People are already abusing the one-way system by the Duke’s Head, it is just too dangerous on that corner.
“We are where we are and we have a lot of work to do and we have to do it in the drier period,” he continued. “It was never planned that the concert would clash with the Market Place works.”