TONY JOHNSON: We’re on the road to somewhere

Shinfield Relief Road
The A327 Relief Road at an earlier stage in its construction

While last week’s commentary took a brief look at the overall scope and content of the proposed Local Plan, this week examines one part of it which is carried over from the old Plan into the new one.

SDLs and Roads

The old Local Plan called for four SDLs (Strategic Development Locations) at Arborfield Garrison, South of the M4 (Shinfield), North Wokingham and South Wokingham.

The Arborfield Garrison SDL is getting a bypass to help north-south traffic get past Arborfield Cross without the delays that its five-way roundabout causes.

The noisy and much delayed Shinfield Eastern Relief Road bypasses Shinfield village and the SDL and is already due to undergo some redesign (if WBC’s budget gets approved today).

North Wokingham’s SDL has the North Wokingham Distributor Road (NWDR) taking traffic from  the M4 overpass on the A329 Reading Road over to London Road near Coppid Beech, along a route that residents voted against.


The South Wokingham SDL also has a Distributor Road (SWDR) starting on the other side of London Road near Coppid Beech and joining up with the Finchampstead Road on the south side of town.

The SWDR through Montague Park is now open and it connects to the entrance of the Floreat Montague primary school, which is also up and running.

It’s then planned to go over the Waterloo Railway line, then across fields via junctions with Waterloo Road and Easthampstead Road, before crossing the Emm Brook and joining the Finchampstead Road by the Tesco roundabout.

Bridge bend tree

Crossing the railway line, vehicles will be some 10 to 20 feet above the fields and the design has the road bending 45º right as it descends down to a new roundabout with a veteran oak tree in the middle.

With black ice or a careless driver, it’s a toss-up as to whether they go flying off at the bend or run smack into the veteran tree. And if the tree gets damaged, either by the crash or from hitting the roots while digging the roundabout’s foundations, then the SDWR will need to be closed while WBC pays for tree surgery.

Going in the opposite direction if they were leaving the road on the left-hand bend coming down from the bridge, they’ll crash right into the primary school. Let’s hope it never happens.

Jam today, more tomorrow

The traffic jams on the Finchampstead Road were the subject of a public petition a couple of years ago, since when the hastily convened public meetings have ceased but the jams haven’t.

Any SWDR traffic wanting to go to Molly Millars Industrial Estate will further strangle traffic on the Finchampstead Road, leading to more costs and delays for drivers on the south side of town.

Two bridges

Whether the Tesco roundabout will be able to cope, or will end up costing more, aren’t the only concerns.

There are proposals for both of the Victorian railway bridges either side of that roundabout to be rebuilt and the budget a couple of years ago showed costs as £5M and £7M respectively.

However, as WBC ‘discovered’ when digging into the Victorian era foundations of the Market Place, ‘unforeseen engineering works’ drove costs from the original £1.5M to over £4.5M.

Bypass, what bypass?

In 2017, at least one of the Borough’s ruling group was referring to the SWDR as a bypass, because when it’s finished it will allow HGV’s bound for the Industrial Estate to get there without going through Wokingham’s town centre.

There are already concerns about vehicle speeds on the SWDR as evidenced by the short term measure of speed bumps bolted to the road. Add in HGV’s thundering past a primary school …

Molly Millars Industrial Estate

There’s a honking great industrial estate stuck inaccessibly on the south side of a town that wants to reduce traffic through its town centre.

Rather than developing the slums of the future via the government’s “permitted development” to convert good offices into poor houses, if you were revising the Local Plan, what would you want the planners to consider?

Especially when, less than a mile to the north of Wokingham, there’s plenty of land that’s served by a local motorway on one side (the A329M) with a national motorway on the other (the M4).

The Last Word

Perhaps whoever dreamt up the SWDR proposal could be redirected into trying to solve traffic problems rather than creating them?

And while SWDR could be an acronym for Substantial Waste, Draining Resources, there’s a prize on offer for the funniest alternative.


The Acton Diet

At last week’s planning committee, it became clear that the number of mature trees being cut down as part of various planning applications doesn’t appear to be matched, in terms of carbon neutrality, by the number of whips and saplings being put back in.

One wonders whether the Climate Emergency policy has reached through to planning reality?

Or whether it’s like WBC’s Sprinklers policy (in new school buildings) – which the Borough Solicitor explained to the planning committee as having no weight
in either legislative or planning

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