‘Southern Distributor Road will endanger our children’

Picture: Wokandapix from Pixabay

RESIDENTS of Montague Park fear the opening of the Southern Distribution Road will increase the accident risk to their children.

For more than two years, families along William Heelas Way say they have been calling for increased road safety as their children walk to Floreat Montague Park Primary School.

Mark Calmiano, who moved to the area five years ago with his family, said it is extremely frustrating being “batted between developer and council with nobody taking responsibility” for the road safety.

With the estate still unadopted by the council, and David Wilson Homes still completing construction work, Mr Calmiano believes neither side is taking action.

He said residents are trying to be proactive to stop a serious accident from happening in the future, but thinks the council and developer only act after such an accident occurs.

His six- and seven-year-olds both attend Floreat Montague Park Primary School, and he is worried about them crossing the road safely.

Although the developer has installed one toucan and two zebra crossings, residents say there is a third location that requires white stripes.

“Pedestrians are expecting cars to stop but cars do not realise it is a crossing,” Mr Calmiano said. 

In December, Cllr Peter Dennis, Liberal Democrat councillor for Wescott East on Wokingham town council, presented a petition to the borough council.

He called for a review of the safety of estate roads, before William Heelas Way becomes the Southern Distribution Road.

He also said the road design, that was thought to slow traffic, is not working and would like to see some additional traffic calming.

Wokingham.Today has spoken to residents, who did not wish to be named, who said they fear their children may be hit by lorries once the relief road opens, and felt that neither the developer nor the council were taking road safety seriously. 

They said that children were walking into the road, and vans were seen driving on paths and pavements, something that they felt could be avoided if railings were installed. 

A spokesperson for David Wilson Homes Southern said the safety of Floreat Montague Park Primary School pupils has always been an absolute priority. 

“Vehicle activated signage has already been installed, which signal a 20mph speed limit at the beginning and end of the school day and 30mph during the day and night,” they said. 

“While we would be more than happy to install a pedestrian barrier, we are currently in the process of having the road adopted by Wokingham Borough Council and any new additions or alterations must be approved by the council prior to installation.”

Cllr Dennis believes the estate adoption process itself is flawed.

“Once plans are put into practice and actually used they need to change,” he said. “The council’s stance has been to say that the plans are done and there can be no changing. 

“The developer has been saying that they are developing to the council’s plan. And so the residents, who are living in the place, are left without recourse and stuck in the middle.”

He suggests the adoption process is reformed, to allow for continuing assessment once the project has reached a habitable stage.

Cllr Wayne Smith, executive member for planning and highways said: “I understand the frustration of residents at Montague Park and want to assure them that we have listened to their concerns. However, the planning application for Montague Park has been assessed against national and local standards including all aspects of the road design and safety. The scheme has been designed in accordance with national highway standards and has undergone safety audits. The road is safe and built in accordance with the approved design.

“Only once a road is built to the specification agreed with the council, will the council adopt it and take on responsibility for it.”

This, he said, is to ensure public money is not wasted on undertaking repairs to the road, should the work be incomplete or unsatisfactory.

He added: “Prior to the road being adopted, the land and road remain in private ownership and the council has limited legal powers.

“So in this case, David Wilson Homes remain responsible for the site. We continue to liaise with David Wilson regarding the necessary works and we are hoping to start the process of adopting the roads in the next few months, subject to the roads being completed satisfactorily and the necessary legal processes being completed.”

Cllr Smith said residents need to take matters up with the housing developers where they have issues. 

“This is the established process which operates in house building across the UK,” he said. “As such we have no authority to seek further works to be undertaken over those approved or to accelerate the process unless Government changes the legislation nationally.”

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