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."

                History - Plans for Wokingham Relief Road

Berkshire County Council Minutes:

Ashridge Interchange

Woosehill development

Highways and Transportation sub-committees

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 articles from 1968 and 1969 show how Wokingham's townspeople gradually turned against the idea of an Ashridge Interchange on the planned Wokingham Northern Relief Road. As far as possible, it has been the aim to transcribe all relevant articles and to present them here without bias - though the remarks of local resident Professor Colin Buchanan (author of the influential 'Traffic in Towns' report from the early 1960s) to a public meeting on 26th September 1969 have been highlighted in italics.

Note: Before Local Goverment Re-organisation in the mid-1970s,  'Wokingham Borough Council' covered just the town of Wokingham, while 'Wokingham Rural District Council' (WRDC) covered the surrounding parishes including Earley, Woodley, Winnersh and Wokingham Without.

September 12th 1968:

‘Wokingham man defies council over road plan’:

Because he objects to what he describes as secrecy surrounding the proposed A329 Reading-Wokingham relief road, Mr. Ernest Leader, of Buckhurst Nursery, London Road, Wokingham, says: "I will go to prison rather than bow down to the planners". His neat bungalow and cultivated gardens, home for himself and his wife for the last 20 years, are likely to become the subject of a Compulsory Purchase Order to make way for the new road. […] A circular letter to Mr. Leader from Berkshire County Council says that on October 1967 the council approved the route for the A329 relief road and that the county surveyor was preparing detailed engineering drawings. […]

January 20th 1969:

Press Notice of Compulsory Purchase Order:

Berkshire (London and South Wales M4 Haul Routes) Compulsory Purchase Order, 1968. [Details by parish].

February 6th 1969:

‘A329 relief road dangers’:

Opposition to the amended proposals for a new road in the Winnersh area to link with the M4 is being expressed by the Joel Park Residents’ Association. It says "The proposals are unacceptable to the association in their present form. They are designed to encourage traffic to use Forest Road, Commons Road, Emmbrook Road and Holt Lane to reach the link road".

Direct link wanted

This endangers unnecessarily the lives of hundreds of schoolchildren at the four schools in the area. The association says it intends to press for a direct link to the A329 (Reading Road) as an essential addition to the present proposals. It adds that its pressure though education authorities, and the Ministry of Transport, has apparently had some effect, in that the link road has been moved away from the Emmbrook Schools to a position which reduces noise to an acceptable level.

Future road network

This map in the Wokingham Times shows the relief road from its planned beginning north of Reading Station to Amen Corner

The amended proposals are for a new road to link the M4 to the A321 (Wokingham – Twyford Road) and to the A329 (Wokingham – Reading Road). The Ministry says the link has been designed to allow for easy incorporation into the future road network of the area and will connect with the A329 at Loddon Bridge and with the A32` south of the road’s junction with the B3034 [Forest Road]. The 2.76 miles long link road would be built as a motorway with dual 24ft wide carriageways and hard shoulders and will connect with the M4 through a two-level interchange.

February 20th 1969:

‘M4 and Reading – Wokingham Relief Road up for approval’:

[The Berkshire County Council meeting on Saturday 22nd listed the following costs for the County Council section of the Relief Road (not Junction 10 area):

From mouth of River Kennet to A4: £2,790,000;

From A4 to A329 at Loddon Bridge, £3,848,000;

From Twyford-Wokingham Road to Amen Corner, £1,727,000. ]

March 6th 1969:

Public Notice: The Ministry of Transport Highways Compulsory Purchase Order (M4 Motorway Theale – Winnersh Section) 19.

[Details by parish, including Theale, Burghfield, Tilehurst, Sulham, Reading, Shinfield, Earley, Woodley, Winnersh, St. Nicholas Hurst, Wokingham Without and Wokingham Borough, plus Arborfield and Newland, by land holding.]

April 10th 1969:

‘Serious objection to new roads to link with M4’:

Proposals for new roads north-west of Wokingham and south-west [should be east] of Reading in the M4 motorway scheme are meeting serious local objections. Areas directly and indirectly affected by the scheme include Matthewsgreen, Emmbrook, Winnersh and Earley. […] An extraordinary meeting of W.R.D.C. will be held on Saturday to discuss the scheme. At this meeting, Councillor A. J. Mottram will propose that the council lodges formal objection on the grounds that the Ministry’s proposals pre-determine the lines of future connecting roads. […] It will have connections to the existing road system north of Wokingham at a two-level interchange to be provided approximately 300 yards east of the Twyford-Wokingham Road A321. […]

April 17th 1969:

‘R.D.C. Objection to M4 link roads’:

By a small majority, W.R.D.C. lodged a holding objection to the Reading South East and Wokingham North West M4 link scheme.

May 1st 1969:

‘Concern over M4 link roads’:

‘If Wokingham is not to have continuous congestion and an intolerable increase in heavy traffic on its residential roads, the M4 link road systems must be opened at the same time as the M4 access point north-west of the town’, says the Wokingham Society. They suggest that the Ministry of Transport look again at their proposals and compare them with the Society’s alternative proposals.

"The link road from the M4 interchange east to Amen Corner is an essential east-west by-pass of the town and should take much of the present pressure off the town’s one-way system. However, there seems to be no by-pass for the traffic from the south of the town. This must be remedied, for it has been calculated that there will be 20,000 vehicles a day on this route in 1980".

The rough line of the Society’s suggested by-pass is from Amen Corner taking a simple arc across open country to a point down the Finchampstead Road. It can then be made in one section, the society says, without affecting any of the present roads during construction.

"A roundabout has been placed on the line of the road to the north of Wokingham and we have tried to find out why it has been put there, what standard of road it will be and where it will eventually end up. The results of our researches have been so disturbing that we believe that all those interested in Wokingham should be aware of them."

They say the roundabout is the first stage of a dual carriageway that will go south to the west of Wokingham to link to the A321 at Cadby’s Garage on the Finchampstead Road. Already planned in some detail, it will fly over Twyford Road and then over Reading Road to the station goods yard in Wokingham. Here the only access point for local traffic is a complicated intersection with the inner distribution ring road. The society say that the route from the station yard to the Finchampstead Road has not yet been planned in detail and official announcements are awaited. It will have to come out under the railway in at least two places and link with the A321 at some way down the Finchampstead Road, presumably at another roundabout. Finchampstead Road would have to be expanded from two lane to dual carriageway and all access points to the present roads would presumably have to be closed if it is to be a through route.

May 8th 1969:

‘New road a pistol pointing at the heart of Wokingham’:

Anger was mounting in Wokingham this week over a proposed M4 feed road system which many people feel could wipe the town off the map. Heading an outcry against the road threat are the Wokingham Society, pledged to preserve the town against development, and Mr. Kenneth Johnson, a 44-year-old airline pilot. Both the society and Mr. Johnson plan to mobilise a massive campaign in order to prevent a dual carriageway extension being built southwards, through Wokingham from the proposed Ashridge roundabout. They fear that the proposed dual carriageway spur leading from the roundabout will be further extended to bisect Wokingham and link up with existing roads to the south.

‘Improving access points’

And their anxiety was underlined this week when a spokesman for Berkshire County Council’s road planning department said an extension from Ashridge roundabout could be considered part of "an ultimate road scheme for Wokingham". He added: "It is possible that the dual carriageway could be brought through Wokingham because there must be some way of improving the M4 access points as outlined by the current proposals".

Objections to the existing proposals, already approved by Wokingham Borough Council, have to be lodged by July 4th. The Wokingham Society is calling a public meeting on May 28th at which it is hoped county council officials will be present and plans are also being made to lobby an ‘open’ meeting of Wokingham Borough Council on May 15th. "We must fight tooth and nail any road plans which directly affect Wokingham. Our main aim is to lodge all our objections against these new roads at one public enquiry", said Mr. Anthony Cross, chairman of the society.

‘It frightens me silly’

Mr. Johnson, whose home in Clare Avenue could be directly affected by a north-south by-pass, wants the Ashridge roundabout to be completely scrapped and has issued a draft objection to rally support. He said: "The extension spur from the roundabout is a pistol pointing at the heart of Wokingham. It frightens me silly to think this town may be cut in half by a vast road. It would wipe Wokingham off the map".

An alternative advocated by Mr. Johnson and the Wokingham society is for a route skirting the town to the south east, and linking to the A321 at Hand Post Corner to the new roundabout proposed at Amen Corner. The society says that if a direct north-south road were to be sliced through Wokingham, it would:

  • Directly affect about 300 houses, four schools, and an old people’s home;
  • Ruin the bowling club, the tennis club, the cricket club, the football ground, the public recreation ground, the two school playing fields;
  • Cost about £6 million and take more than 15 years to complete.

Map showing the Ashridge Interchange, the assumed route of the north-south link, and the suggested south-eastern by-pass

‘The threat to Wokingham’

This map, prepared by Mr. John Wymer of the Wokingham Society, shows at a glance the road threat to the town. Immediately to the north of Wokingham is the proposed Ashridge roundabout complex. Under the existing proposals a dual carriageway spur is to be built from the roundabout ending a few hundred yards south of it. The Wokingham Society fears this road will be continued through Wokingham and a possible path for such a route is shown in broken lines on the map. An alternative to this road, suggested by the society, is for a bypass to the south east of Wokingham joining the M4 link road at the proposed Amen Corner roundabout. This is also shown on the map.

‘Reader's Letter: M4 Link Roads’:

Cadby's Garage at Hand Post Corner has changed over 40 yearsWith reference to the article in last week’s paper re concern over the M4 link roads, I was concerned over the statement by Wokingham Society that the link road will link with the A321 at Cadby’s Garage and that the Finchampstead Road would be a dual carriageway.

I contacted Mr. I. Crail, our local councillor, who said that there was no scheme for a link road south of Wokingham to his knowledge.

Would you be so kind as to use the power of the press to obtain some official clarification of the matter I would like to thank you for bringing this into the open.

F. J. Symes, 330 Finchampstead Road, Wokingham.

May 22nd 1969:

‘Now Handpost Corner residents have a by-pass route’:

An alternative to the south-eastern by-pass of Wokingham suggested by Wokingham Society has been put forward by Handpost Corner Residents’ Society. This would be a route from Amen Corner to the junction of Sandhurst Road and Nine Mile Ride. The Wokingham society’s route is from Amen Corner to Cadby’s Corner on the Finchampstead Road. Handpost Corner residents say their rote is an improvement for the following reasons:

  • No buildings would be directly affected by routing a roundabout at the junction of Sandhurst Road and Nine Mile Ride. Many buildings would be affected by a roundabout at Handpost Corner.
  • The residential density is far greater at Handpost Corner than at the proposed roundabout at Nine Mile Ride.
  • The proposed roundabout would vastly improve the existing partial blind crossroads.
  • This route would provide a more logical entry and outlet west, south and east.

‘Public meeting question on motorway: Why did council not object?’:

The Ashridge motorway complex planned for the north of Wokingham was condemned at a public meeting held in the Town Hall on Thursday night.

More than 120 residents attending an open meeting of the Borough Council expressed their opposition by boldly applauding a resident who said: "Under no circumstances will the Ashridge roundabout be accepted"..

The chairman of the Public Works Committee, Ald. A. G. Skedgel, said the subject would again be brought before the committee for it to consider making a holding objection to the scheme. It had approved the scheme in principle but would reconsider it. The discussion had arisen from questions which had come from a number of sources. These were: What is the Council's present position to the Side Roads Order, and why did Council not object when they discussed it, because it is considered that the scheme threatens to cut the town in half?

Alderman Skedgel then read the following reply:

For many years pressure had been exercised for the by-pass for Wokingham to be provided to relieve the town of through traffic, and the construction of a by-pass. More recently a scheme to link a by-pass with the Winnersh intersection to the motorway was examined and approved in general principle. The Side Roads Order, although showing a modified line, was in essence what the Council had been pressing for and they had, therefore, not objected to the proposals, nor for the access at Ashridge which was designed to serve the town by connection to the existing road system and ultimately to the internal distribution road.

He said Wokingham Society's recent publication was based on mis-conception and a great deal of guesswork. But it was to some extent based on a plan approved by Berkshire County Council in 1961 to provide a road pattern linking the proposed by-pass with a town centre inner distribution road. The plan had not been approved by the Borough Council at any time. This 1961 plan showed a road from the approximate position of the by-pass, passing under Reading Road across Beches Manor land. Then to the station yard and along the northern side of the railway line to a roundabout at the junction of Finchampstead Road and Wellington Road, joining the inner distribution road. The line of this road was still being investigated and the plan accepted in 1961 was subject to review and modification.

Referring to a "scare" that a major traffic road would be built along Finchampstead Road, Ald. Skedgel said the council had been assured by the county surveyor that there were no proposals for this. Residents in Finchampstead Road knew of a provision for a possible widening of the road under provisions of the Restriction of Ribbon Development Act, 1930. But this had no relation to the planning of the traffic routes today, and this Act had been superseded by later Highway Acts, he said.

[NOTE: The plans to make the Finchampstead Road a dual carriageway were still in existence in 1972, as the Berkshire County Council Minutes show]. 

Discussions had been held with the county surveyor concerning the general road systems and consultations would continue to be held. Alderman Skedgel said the county surveyor had given the assurance that beyond the 1961 plan which was under reconsideration, no other road proposals had been prepared. He had undertaken to review the situation affecting Wokingham and district for the presentation of ideas to the county council and borough council later this year, possibly in September. He added that opportunity would be given for obtaining all views when further details were available. "But, in the meantime, speculation is neither helpful nor constructive".

In the general discussion which followed and in which residents criticised the council's "approval in principle", Ald. Skedgel said things were still very much in the air. "A good deal may have to be evolved on experience gained when the motorway and the M3 to the south had been constructed. At present it is but a matter of conjecture and until we see it we cannot deal with it. Rest assured we will deal with it thoroughly."

Replying to a question from Lowther Road Residents' Association asking the council to explain what factors led them to believe that Emmbrook would not be seriously affected by traffic seeking access to the M4, Ald. Skedgel said the council had not suggested this and that it was not his view that this would be a serious problem. The association asked what measures were in mind to alleviate the effects of increased traffic and Ald. Skedgel said if this disclosed a necessity for adjustments to road alignments, etc., these could be made. Referring to the question of child safety in the Emmbrook schools area he said this was a separate matter of grave concern which must be relieved in the light of experience and as effectively as possible.

Thanking those present for their attendance, the Mayor, Coun. Mrs. Jean Davy said: "I welcome you because I feel you have Wokingham at heart. We on the council also live in the town and pay rates; the town also means something to us. We are trying to do our best; we are not against you and are not wanting to do things that you do not want us to".

‘Meeting to discuss M4 link roads system’:

An open meeting to discuss the M4 link road systems proposed for Wokingham is to be held by Wokingham Society at the Town Hall on Wednesday May 28th at 8 p.m. Representatives from the borough and county councils have been invited to attend. The society intends to explain in detail to the public what is planned for the area and to discuss the implications of the system, particularly the planned traffic complex at Ashridge. The society points out that the last day for objections to the Ashridge plan is July 4th.

June 5th 1969:

‘Hush-Hush emergency meeting on M4 roads’:

Wokingham Borough Council is to hold an emergency meeting to discuss the big road interchange system planned for the north of the town at Ashridge. The meeting will be in committee. This means the meeting will be in private with the Press and public excluded. Ald. A. G. Skedgel has been re-elected chairman of the Public Works Committee which last week reconsidered the M4 Motorway Side Roads Order.

At its meeting on April 3 this committee agreed that "there would be no matters in the Order on which to raise objection". This decision raised a storm of protest by Wokingham Society which called a meeting to air its views. Previously, at an open meeting of the borough council, Ald. Skedgel promised reconsideration of the matter at the next meeting of the Public Works Committee. This was done, but the committee felt that the whole council should have an opportunity to full and frank discussions in private of a subject of vital importance to the town. Question before the council will be: "Do we object to the Side Roads Order?" The decision taken at this closed meeting will be made known at the normal full council meeting on June 25. If an objection is to be made, and this would mean a public inquiry into county proposals, it must be lodged by July 4.

‘CHAMBER AND WOKINGHAM SOCIETY’

Meanwhile Wokingham and District Chamber of Trade has condemned the Wokingham Society's objection to the Ashridge interchange and its desire, as stated by the chairman of its newly formed M4 Action Committee, to make the town a cul-de-sac.

A spokesman for the Chamber told the Times "We oppose this very strongly. Wokingham Society has not considered the town from a trading point of view. If it became a cul-de-sac, Wokingham would be isolated and no one would come to it. All roads would lead to Bracknell. If the society has its way this town would become a dormant historical monument. Wokingham relies on its outside traffic, and if the town is cut off this would be fatal for it. The society's system takes no account of the industrial site. With the town completely cut off this would be less attractive to industrialists". The spokesman added: "It has been proved that easy access from it to a motorway enables a town to develop. But surround it by a fast motorway and it will die".

At the open meeting of Wokingham Society, chairman Mr. Anthony Cross said they were not opposed to the M4 and wanted it built as quickly as possible. They were concerned, however, about the feeder road proposals and the effect of these on Wokingham and its subsidiary roads. They wanted the Ashridge complex scrapped in favour of a southern by-pass route connecting M4-bound traffic from the south to the motorway link road at Amen Corner. Dr. Michael Crowe told the meeting of over 200 that the M4 Action Committee had been formed to fight the feeder-road proposals which would "carve up the town and shatter the peace of the area. We will take strong action", he said. "Our elected officers are the correct people to take action, but if a decision appears to be wrong and they have made an error of judgment they must re-consider".

Support for the society's view has come from the newly-formed North Wokingham Residents' Association, who claim their homes are threatened by the proposed Ashridge complex.

‘HEAVY TRAFFIC AND ROAD DANGERS’

Their chairman Mr. Joe Darroch, of Benfieldside, Milton Road, plans to lodge objections to the scheme. They claim that in its present form the motorway access point will lead to a considerable increase in traffic using Matthews Green Road, Milton Road, Holt Lane, Glebelands Road, Rectory Road and Wiltshire Road. "These roads", the association says, were designed as quiet residential areas and were never intended to be used for heavy through traffic. The increased danger to pedestrians and school-children and the damage to existing property is not acceptable. The additional threat posed by the uncompleted dual carriageway spur at the southern end of the Ashridge roundabout complex is completely unacceptable to the whole Municipal Borough of Wokingham".

‘Relief road approval’:

Bracknell Parish Council has agreed in principle to the controversial A329 relief road system proposed for the New Town. A report prepared by a special sub-committee and adopted by the council on Friday, recommends the road be approved with two main conditions: first, that "adequate" compensation is paid to all displaced property owners and tenants; second, that proper safety precautions are built with the road.

Councillor Joe Brant, who angrily objected that 75 per cent of the public were against the road, was told by the Chairman, Coun. Francis Dixon, that they would have a chance to voice protest at a public enquiry. The parish council's acceptance of this road is based in the promise that all our conditions are assured", Coun. Dixon added.

June 12th 1969:

‘ "Stanstead fight" against M4 traffic’:

Stansted know-how as used in its successful anti-airport campaign is to be enlisted by Wokingham's M4 Action Committee in its fight against the proposed Ashridge traffic interchange. Mr. Roger Hawkey, leader of the Stansted campaign, has been asked for his help in the preparation of "battle tactics" against plans to divert M4 traffic through Wokingham. The committee is to seek a mandate from Wokingham residents authorising its approach to the Minister of Transport for information on road plans.

The public will be asked to allow this mandate at an open meeting to be held by the committee in the Town Hall at 8pm on Friday June 20. Dr. Michael Crowe, chairman of the committee, told the Times: "Our present information concerning the roads from the proposed Ashridge interchange or the A329 relief road scheme has forced us to take action". Wokingham Society and other residents have asked to see how these proposed roads fit into the long term road plan for Wokingham. To date they have come up against a wall of official silence. Given the mandate we propose to see the County Surveyor and the Ministry of Transport and even the Minister himself to ask to view these plans".

‘Royal County of Berkshire (A329 Relief Road) Compulsory Purchase Order, 1969, No. 1’:

[List of properties from Earley to Winnersh.]

‘Royal County of Berkshire (A329 Relief Road) Compulsory Purchase Order, 1969, No. 2’:

Notice is hereby given that the Berkshire County Council in exercise of the powers conferred on them by the above-mentioned Acts on the Sixth day of June, 1969, made a Compulsory Purchase Order entitles the "Royal County of Berkshire (A329 Relief Road) Compulsory Purchase Order 1969, No. 2, which is about to be submitted to the Minister of Transport for confirmation authorising them to purchase compulsorily for the purposes of:

(a) The construction of new special roads in the parishes of Wokingham Without and Binfield and the Borough of Wokingham in the County of Berkshire in pursuance of the Royal County of Berkshire (A329 Relief Road) Special Road Scheme 1969, No. 2, and

(b) The construction of new Highways and new means of access in the said Parishes and Borough in the County of Berkshire A329 Relief Road Special Road (Side Roads) Order 1969 No. 2 and

(c) The improvement of highways in the said parishes in the vicinity of the routes of the said special roads and new highways,

The land described in the Schedule hereto.

A copy of the Order and the map referred to therein have been deposited at Shire Hall, Reading and at the offices of the Wokingham Rural District Council, Shute End, Wokingham, and the Ministry of Transport at the address given below, and may be seen at all reasonable hours.

Any objection to the Order should be made in writing and addressed to the Secretary, Ministry of Transport, at St. Christopher House, Southwark Street, London, S.E.1 before the 4th day of July, 1969, and should state the grounds of objection.

SCHEDULE

Note: The numbers appearing in brackets after an item or group of items in this schedule are the numbers given to those items on the plan referred to in the Compulsory Purchase Order.

IN THE PARISH OF WOKINGHAM WITHOUT

Arable land forming part of Bill Hill Farm on the east side of Twyford Road (1).

In the Parish of Wokingham Without and the Borough of Wokingham: Pasture land forming part of Bell Farm and bed of stream (2).

IN THE BOROUGH OF WOKINGHAM

Woodland, pasture land and part of private access forming part of the property known as "Cantley" including Footpath No. 9 (3, 4 and 6).

Arable and pasture land forming part of land forming part of property known as "Glebeland" including part of public footpath No. 9 (5).

Arable land near to the north west of the junction of Mathewsgreen Road and Twyford Road (7, 8 and 9).

IN THE PARISH OF WOKINGHAM WITHOUT

Pasture land and woodland forming part of property known as "Ashridgewood" including part of Public Footpath No. 1 (10).

Arable land forming part of Ashridge Farm (11).

Arable land forming part of Ashridgewood Farm and beds of streams on both sides of Warren House Road (12, 13, 14 and 15).

Arable and Pasture land and part of woodland known as "Pebblestone Copse" forming part of Stokes Farm and part of Public Footpath No. 2 (16 and 18).

Pasture land forming part of Bean Oak Farm west of Binfield Road (17).

Rough land and woodland on the north-west side of Wokingham Road to the east of Plough Farm (20).

IN THE PARISHES OF WOKINGHAM WITHOUT AND BINFIELD

Arable and pasture land forming part of Murrell Hill Farm including parts of Public Footpath No. 5 (Parish of Wokingham Without) to the north-west of the Wokingham Road near Amen Corner (19 and 20).

IN THE PARISH OF BINFIELD

Part of land forming a W.T. Station near Amen Corner (21).

Shire Hall, Reading. E. R. DAVIES, Clerk to the Council.

 

June 19th 1969:

‘Motorway controversy enters new stage tonight: Face-to-face meeting will be M4 showdown’:

- by Tommy Thomson, Editor.

Wokingham's M4 feeder system controversy enters a new stage tonight [Thurs June 19] when residents and members of the Borough's Public Works Committee meet "face to face" in what is being described as an M4 showdown. At this confrontation the town's M4 Action Committee will put an 18-point questionnaire in a bid to obtain specific information on the system.

The meeting will be told of the council committee's decision which went forward as a recommendation to a special council meeting last night on Berkshire County Council's proposed Side Roads Order 1969. As promised at the last open meeting of the Borough Council, the Public Works Committee has reconsidered the proposals following its decision in March not to raise objections to them.

‘Veil’

Tonight the veil will be lifted on both council and committee decisions. A penetrating questionnaire brings sharply into focus the fears of residents. The 18 points raised are:

  • What is the approximate line within Berkshire of the A321 Distributor Road Relief Road mentioned in the N.E. Hampshire Urban Plan of December 1968?
  • Is there any possibility that this road will eventually link up with the Ashridge interchange?
  • What is the reason for the Ashridge interchange?
  • Why is there a stub of dual carriageway apparently aimed at the heart of the town?
  • Where will the extension of this dual carriageway from the stub eventually go and when?
  • When was the last Origin and Destination Survey of traffic carried out in Wokingham and the surrounding region?
  • What are the figures that are the basis for planning the Ashridge interchange?
  • Were alternatives considered? If they were, why were they rejected?
  • What is the estimated cost of the Ashridge interchange?
  • If it is felt that the interchange is necessary in its present form what road widening and improvement is envisaged, when would it be undertaken and what would be the cost on the rates?
  • What parts of the 1961 Road Plan approved by Berkshire County Council are still official policy?
  • Is it intended to link the Ashridge interchange directly with Beeches Manor Road and if so what is the new line in relation to Glebelands, Glebelands Road, Matthewsgreen Road and Twyford Road?
  • From where are the constructors of the Toutley Hall M4 main interchange likely to come and what routes will their vehicles take?
  • Has the County Council set aside funds for the A329 Relief Road and Ashridge interchange? If not, what economies or cancellations might be imposed?
  • Is there a real risk that the Ministry of Transport Link Road will be built as far as the Twyford Road and that county's A320 Relief Road may be shelved for some time?
  • Is there any risk that either the Ministry pf Transport or Berkshire County Council may provide money for the relief road as far as and including Ashridge interchange, but that the extension of the relief road to the A329 near Amen Corner might be cancelled or deferred? In this case would this not mean all the south-bound and east-bound traffic from the M4 coming through Wokingham?
  • If it is planned to build roads over existing public and private sports and open areas, what plans are there to replace and or add to the tennis courts, cricket field, bowling club and Carnival Field facilities and school playing fields?
  • If such replacements were planned would the council be able to guarantee that they would be available before existing areas were appropriated?

‘Inadequate’

Meanwhile Wokingham Joint Residents' Association has urged the Borough Council to lodge a holding objection to "the Ashridge interchange proposals as they are currently planned". The association believes that these proposals and related roads "are inadequate to deal with the extra traffic generated by the M4. They will, if implemented, endanger the lives of 1,600 schoolchildren, innumerable residents and spoil residential areas".

A full and open discussion on all the latest developments in the controversy will be held tomorrow evening at a public meeting in the Town Hall, called by the M4 Action Committee.

‘WITHOUT M4 FEED ROAD WOKINGHAM WILL DIE, SAYS CHAMBER OF TRADE’:

Wokingham Chamber of Trade decided on Tuesday to agree with the Minister of Transport's plans for a dual carriageway spur to point towards the heart of Wokingham. By so doing they disagreed with the policies of both the Wokingham Society and the M4 Action Committee. Mr. R. A. Ingram told the Traders' meeting" We as inhabitants and traders are [?]d with the same problem as 130 years ago with the railway coming towards a town. Where the railway avoided a town their trade has gone down and down. If Wokingham is completely avoided, the town stands little chance of progressing in trading. We must have a feeder road and the only feeder road is the one off Ashridge interchange".

‘Dangerous’

Declared Mr. Les Ilott: "I think we must have this feeder road and we shall have to agree with the Ashridge interchange. There has to be a connection between the south of the town and the M4. We have to decide as a town whether we want the major amount of traffic or whether it is diverted away from the town. We live in an age where heavy traffic is bounding through the town all day long. Are we going to transfer it through the south of the town or are we going to cut it off completely? You can go to Windsor or Slough quickly on dual carriageways. If we by-pass the town without feeder roads the town must die., particularly if the by-pass is directed towards Bracknell or Reading. From a trading point of view the Action Group's by-pass is very dangerous."

Mr. Ilott said that if they were to attract big firm traders to Wokingham they would have to make Wokingham accessible.

‘Unattractive’

"At the moment it is unattractive to these firms. If you by-pass it, it will look like a dead beat town right out of things. If we keep arguing, one day the Ministry will put the road where it wants it."

Only two of the 20 members at the meeting disagreed with the Minister of Transport's plane for the dual carriageway spur pointing towards Wokingham. Mr. M. C, Drury, secretary of the Chamber, and Mr. J. A. East, were appointed to attend the next meeting of the M4 Action Committee to put forward the views of the Chamber. Chairman of the M4 Action Committee, Dr. Michael Crowe, said yesterday about the Chamber's decision: " We are disappointed, but hope that in future negotiations with the Chamber some common policy can be worked out".

June 26th 1969:

‘New moves by M4 Committee to oppose Ashridge Interchange’:

A new move to organise opposition to the Ashridge Interchange for the north of Wokingham will be put into operation this weekend. The M4 Action Committee, headed by Dr. Michael Crowe, is to send out 5,000 letters giving guidance on how objections to the scheme should be lodged. Last day for objections is Friday July 4th. Dr. Crowe told me this week: "A lot of people who feel strongly about the proposals may not know they are entitled to object or to whom such objections should be sent. Our letter will tell them what to do". A packed meeting held by the committee in the Town Hall last week unanimously rejected the Ashridge overpass as it is at present planned.

‘Six-point plan’

A six-point plan to help in the fight against the proposals was put forward by the committee. Residents were urged to:

  • Write to the Minister of Transport lodging individual objections;
  • To attend the public inquiry which is expected to be held in September;
  • To sign a petition to be sent to the Minister;
  • To publicise the campaign through the use of car stickers;
  • And by talking to friends, neighbours and workmates to help in raising funds.

[There were only 5 points listed in the article.]

‘Carve-up’

The committee claims that the Ashridge Interchange will bring heavy motorway traffic through the heart of the town. It wants it scrapped in favour o a southern bypass route connecting M4-bound traffic from the south to the motorway link road proposed for Amen Corner. Dr. Crowe said, "We are fighting proposals which would carve up the town and shatter the peace of the area".

‘ "Give both sides of the story" demand’:

An invitation to Wokingham’s M4 Action Committee to "give both sides of the Ashridge Interchange story" has been made by a resident, Mr. J. R. Bailey of Copse Drive. He says: "If Ashridge becomes a non-event in any form, life for many in town would be impossible for ever. Is this really what the Action Committee want? A modified Ashridge linked to the Reading Road would ensure the future of Wokingham". Referring to the meeting of the committee last week, Mr. Bailey said a crowded Town Hall praised them for their enterprise. "The committee had emotion on their side but ultimately the bowling green, the cricket ground, the tennis court and part of the fairground field may make way for road proposals. The meeting therefore wanted to remove the Ashridge Interchange altogether. Certainly let the town promote action, certainly insist on them being given the complete plan – but please give both sides of the story".

Mr. Bailey said that out of all the emotion – amenities and schoolchildren – neither the committee nor those on the floor of the hall gave alternatives or indicated pitfalls to the removal of the interchange. "Perhaps the committee might lose momentum if both sides of the problem were stated", he said. "Doubtless any rebels or reformers from the floor knew that if they spoke they would have been roasted alive". He added that Ashridge might mean a break with the past. "But its loss would certainly sever our future. Let the Action Committee give us both sides of the penny".

‘Authority should state its case - Times Opinion’:

There is little doubt that a section of Wokingham’s community is deeply disturbed by proposals to bring a system of major highways and subsidiary roads to the area. Those residents likely to be directly affected by the lines of route are understandably concerned in that the pattern of their lives would be changed. Where the lines of route are known there is still time for manoeuvre and for objections to be heard.

In respect of the highway planned for north of the town, from Amen Corner to Winnersh, every yard of the way can be seen on the maps on view at the offices of Wokingham Rural District Council. Everything is comparatively clear cut. The road runs from ‘A’ to ‘B’ with a big interchange at Ashridge. It is now that the doubts and anxieties creep in.

Question being asked is: What is the relationship of this interchange with known road patterns in adjoining Hampshire? And: What is the proposed route for a road linking the Interchange with the Hampshire system? Wokingham could be sitting astride such a link. Is it too much to expect authority to be as forthcoming about this link as they have about Ashridge and its known feeder system? Must the town wait until this portion of the system is a fait accompli and the link subsequently a natural development from it?

Surely the time has come for a clearing of the air, for authority to state its case and to tell Wokingham residents what might or might not be in store for them. Democracy would then, at least, be seen to be working. And it could scotch some of the ugly suggestions rife in the town.

July 3rd 1969:

‘Ashridge spur not link road for motorways’:

A spokesman for Berkshire County Council has confirmed points put forward last week by Wokingham Chamber of Trade concerning feeder systems in the Wokingham area. They are: Berkshire County Council has no plans to make the Ashridge spur of dual carriageway a part of a link road between the M3 and M4.

It is not county’s policy to build major dual carriageway links in dense residential area when it is possible to site the road through rural areas.

‘No plan’

Finchampstead Road will not become a dual carriageway. There is no plan currently in use which shows this and since it was originally suggested some 20 years ago the specified width for a dual carriageway has been increased by six feet.

The Amen Corner interchange incorporates a spur similar to that at Ashridge and in long term planning it is more likely that this interchange would be developed than that at Ashridge.

The Ashridge interchange is designed for the future and will meet the requirements of the inevitable increase in local traffic in the future due to increased residential development. But Wokingham’s M4 Action Committee is not satisfied and meets next week to draw up plans to try and get more information from county about the proposed Ashridge interchange.

[NOTE: The Amen Corner roundabout eventually became a grade-separated junction in the late 1980s, when the Amen Corner office developments in Cain Road were built.]

‘Reader's Letter: Absence of through traffic would benefit Wokingham’:

I support those who object to the proposed Ashridge interchange. My objection is two-fold:

We are singularly lacking information as to the future intent of the three spurs shown to spring southwards from the interchange.

The siting of the interchange as we now know it, is bound to act as a magnet and draw traffic from the south and southwest of Wokingham in an increasingly heavy flow.

If the county council and the Ministry of Transport will tell us the electorate – theoretically the people for whom they exist – what the plans are, it is possible they might even convince us their case is sound. Until we do know precisely what it is all about – and we are entitled to know – many of us will wholeheartedly oppose the interchange.

As far as Wokingham Chamber of Trade is concerned, I believe an absence of through traffic in the town will be to its members’ benefit. In the light of their apparent pleas in support of the interchange, it would be interesting to know if they have carried out a survey to determine what percentage of their shoppers are residents and what percentage is passing through. Remarkably little of passers-through I would gauge.

I was close to the scene when Honiton Chamber of Trade opposed the town by-pass on the A30. Had their view prevailed they might well be now have been out of business. As it is they are flourishing because local people can get to the town unharried by continuous streams of passing through traffic. The same, I believe, will apply to Wokingham.

Nicholas Cory, 14 Heath Close, Wokingham.

‘Reader's Letter: Statements were out of context’:

It was with interest that I read the letter from Mr. Heuvel in the columns of your newspaper last week concerning the Chamber of Trade’s position on the proposed Ashridge Interchange and the northern bypass of the town. One seldom sees such a perfect example of completely misinformed comment and misrepresentation of statements by taking them completely out of context.

Perhaps, before he again sets himself up as self-appointed critic of the Chamber of Trade, its members, and its policies, he would take the trouble to find out the current facts of the case. If he is interested I would be happy to acquaint Mr Heuvel with the true thoughts and policies of the Chamber of Trade and he can write to me at Town Hall Chambers, Market Place, Wokingham.

M. C. Drury, Secretary, Wokingham and District Chamber of Trade.

July 10th 1969:

‘Faster and heavier traffic flow near Emmbrook School’:

One of the main worries of Wokingham’s M4 Action Committee – a faster and heavier traffic in the Emmbrook School area resulting from the proposed M4 feeder system – has been confirmed, says committee chairman, Dr. Michael Crow.

He told the Times yesterday: "Members of the committee were shown this week some maps at Borough Council offices and were told that Matthewsgreen Road could be made up to full width and the corner at the Dog and Duck improved. We were unable to see the complete route from Ashridge interchange as it might affect Wokingham".

‘Curve’

"But we saw a line drawn from the interchange stub and curving immediately to the right to head towards the main building of Glebelands. It was explained to us that this was Berkshire County Council’s projected line and it would be paying for the road. We were unable to ascertain where the line would go or when."

Glebelands

Dr. Crowe said committee members were told there were no plans for improving the Emmbrook railway bridge, and that replies regarding inquiries about Forest Road railway bridge were guarded. He said they were told that impressions were that with the possible extension of the Ashridge stub there would not be a roundabout where it crossed the Reading Road".

Dr. Crowe added that "the next move is to try to ascertain from other sources the planners’ thoughts behind these proposals".

July 31st 1969:

‘Inquiry soon into M4 Relief Road’:

The date of the local public inquiry into the M4 motorway and relief road is likely to be announced soon. Last week Mr. L. Goddard Smalley, Town Clerk, told the Finance Committee of Wokingham Borough Council it was expected the inquiry would last three weeks.

He sought the committee’s instructions on arrangements for representation at the hearing, and indicated that in view of the officers the present resources of the council did not allow for a comprehensive case to be built up in support of the council’s objection to the county council’s relief road proposals.

‘No burden’

Mr. Smalley recommended that counsel should be engaged to appear for the Corporation. The Finance Committee decided, however, that the Corporation should be represented by the Town Clerk, on the understanding that no undue burden of additional work should be placed on the council’s staff.

"Obviously we just cannot attend to the whole detail of it", Mr. Smalley said this week. We just couldn’t cope with the amount of work". It is estimated that to have engaged counsel for the Inquiry would have cost about £1,500.

August 7th 1969:

‘Town Clerk to argue Wokingham’s case at M4 public inquiry’:

Despite criticism from some members about the way the matter is being approached, Wokingham Borough Council last week upheld a controversial decision on how it is to be represented at the forthcoming public inquiry into the M4 and relief road proposals. In view of the importance of the issues involved, several Councillors felt it was unfair to the people of Wokingham not to have their view put across by Counsel at the marathon hearing, which is expected to be spread over nearly a month.

A bid by Coun. M. S. Foster-Moore to have the decision changed was defeated by 11 votes to nine, at the council meeting on Thursday night.

The Finance Committee proposed that the Corporation should be represented by the Town Clerk (Mr. L. Goddard Smalley) on the understanding that no undue burden of additional work on the inquiry should be placed on the council’s staff.

Moving reference back, Coun. Foster-Moore recalled that when the council decided to put in an objection, it did so in an overwhelming manner. "Many people serving on the council expressed concern about what was happening and about lack of information", he said. "We do have a duty to our ratepayers".

He thought perhaps they had better get back and think of their own people.

Coun. I. H. Crail said he was "equally horrified" about this.

"The officer has said he feels it is beyond the resources of this council at present, and that he is asked to help to fit it in", Coun. Crail continued. "I feel this is not possible". Coun. Crail asked if some immediate procedural information could be given before they got into the actual details, because the next meeting of the council was not due until after the holiday recess.

He was not sure of the council’s duty, but it would not allow much time. "We might very well get into trouble on timing. I wonder if we can be given some guidance on this", he added.

The Town Clerk, offering a note of explanation, said that the council minutes inevitably had to be brief.

He said the council had agreed to object to the M4 relief road proposals on the grounds of lack of information and the effect of traffic at Emmbrook through the possible routing of link roads in the M4 link area.

At the Finance Committee meeting, although the date of the inquiry has not been published, he had heard of a likely date for the inquiry which, as he understood it, was likely to deal with three aspects of the road system proposals.

It was assumed these would be the effects of the interchange and access on the rural district – particularly Earley, Woodley and that area; Wokingham by-pass considerations, and thirdly, objections to the proposed compulsory purchase orders.

Mr. Smalley said that although they were quite capable of handling the council’s objection, if the whole of the inquiry entailed a sitting extending to three weeks or a month, with detailed consideration of access to the motorway, it would be necessary to have somebody who was very capable and knowledgeable to present the council’s point of view.

"Background"

A scheme might be put forward that the link roads were further to the north, which would affect the borough; this was where "background" and knowledge were called for. It entailed not only investigation of matters relating to the council’s objections alone, but demanding a tremendous amount of research and work, if the council was going to spend the entire time of the inquiry challenging situations that could affect our borough.

"This committee was asked for instruction on this particular point", Mr. Smalley said.

If therefore we are going to deal with the objections of the borough alone. I am quite happy, but obviously the council’s resources are not such as to allow us to be represented throughout the inquiry".

He pointed out that while it should be quite possible for him to attend a great deal of the inquiry, much time was likely to be taken up, for instance, in the hearing of compulsory purchase objections, a matter in which Wokingham [Borough Council, as opposed to the Rural District Council] was not particularly involved.

Ald. F. Moles said the Clerk had explained the position the Finance Committee was faced with, and it was felt the committee could not recommend engaging counsel to attend the whole of this inquiry, especially as there were some matters of no direct concern to this borough.

On being put to the meeting, Coun. Fowler-Moore’s motion for referring back was defeated.

September 4th 1969:

‘County is planning something – but no blind approval from Borough (Councillor Crail)’

Wokingham Borough Council is not prepared to offer Berkshire County Council a "blank cheque" regarding the M4 interchange proposed for Ashridge. That is stated bu Coun. I. Crail in a letter to his constituents in Langborough Ward. Main cause for concern, he says, is that the county has planned a short stub of dual carriageway from the Ashridge intersection ending in a field near Cantley and pointing at Wokingham.

"They will not say where they plan to continue this road. Your councillors are of the opinion that giving approval to the intersection and the stub is as good as approving any extension which the County may put forward in the future. They are not prepared to offer the county this blank cheque."

Mr. Crail says Wokingham Borough agree with Wokingham Society that the evidence, such as rejected planning applications, indicates that the County is planning a road from Cantley to the town station via Beches Manor. "but we can find no evidence for the society’s conjectured route down Finchampstead Road. All through this summer county officials have stated in public, at private gatherings and to private applicants that they have no such intention".

Discussing an anticipated rise in the town’s population from around 20,000 to 25,000. Mr. Crail says that this 25 per cent increase will live in the arc between Reading Road and Finchampstead Road – mainly beyond Woosehill Lane – and will mostly work in places east of Wokingham. Peak-hour traffic flows show this is the present trend. "It is noteworthy", he continues, "that last summer the Borough rejected an application for extensive immediate development beyond Woosehill Lane due to the limitations of communications, particularly bearing in mind that, at present, either Oxford Road or the level crossing provide the main access routes."

Mr. Crail recalls that Prof. Buchanan stated that traffic increase was so rapid that by 1980 congestion in Wokingham would be as bad as at present, even with a by-pass and the present population. "We think the situation calls for a road from the Ashridge interchange to the station and indeed beyond, across the railway to remove the level crossing jam. Then probably to the south west rather than southwards. We cannot accept that Wokingham Society’s proposed alternative route would help this situation", Mr. Crail adds.

September 4th 1969:

‘Inquiry into M4 link on Tuesday, October 21st’:

A public local inquiry into proposals for an M4 link road system near Wokingham is to be held in The Pavilion, Woodford Park, Haddon Drive, Woodley, next month. It will open at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, October 21, and will be conducted by an independent inspector.

The proposals are for a new road near Winnersh to link the London – South Wales Motorway (M4) to the A321 Wokingham – Twyford Road and to the A329 Wokingham – Reading Road, and for the new roads to relieve the A329. They include the route of the 2.76-mile-long link road and of the connecting roads, a compulsory purchase order for the acquisition of land required for the scheme.

The proposals provide for two new lengths of special road to connect with the proposed link road. One length is from the link road east of the River Loddon, north of the Wokingham-Reading railway line, to Kennet Mouth from where it is proposed that it would eventually be continued into Reading. The other is from the A321 to the A329 at Amen Corner.

September 11th 1969:

‘Open meeting by M4 Action Committee’:

New facts about the proposed Ashridge Interchange are to be presented at an open meeting to be held by the M4 Action Committee in Wokingham Town Hall on Friday, September 26, according to the committee chairman, Dr. Michael Crowe. It will be the committee’s final open meeting before the local inquiry into the planned M4 link road system next month. At the meeting will be an official spokesman for the authorities involved, and an international authority on communications and how motorways have affected them will be making an impartial statement.

‘Wokingham RDC meet in secret to debate motorway links’:

[In text box:] "Something that will affect all our lives yet we are kept standing in the corridors of local government while they debate our future."

Wokingham RDC is to continue with its formal objection to the M4 Link Schemes and Side Roads Orders and the A329 Relief Road Special Road Schemes and Orders. This decision, reached at an extraordinary meeting of the council last week, belies reports that the objection was to be withdrawn.

The meeting was held in committee; the public and Press were excluded. It agreed that having considered an appraisal from its engineering consultants and advice from the briefing solicitors that the objection already lodged should be sustained. The council stated that expenditure in the matter would not exceed the product of a 1d. rate.

Some 20 residents from Woodley and Earley whose homes will be affected by the proposed link scheme were among those barred from the meeting. They had attended in the hope of listening to the council debate.

"Turfed out"

While expressing their satisfaction with the decision many residents were concerned that the discussion would be held in private. Mr. A. H. Woodham, of Anderson Avenue, Earley, was forthright in his views: This talking in secret is contrary to democratic government", he told the Times. "This is something which is going to affect the lives and way of living of all of us yet we are kept standing in the corridors of the council offices while they debate our future. I think it is a disgrace that we should not be allowed to hear what is being said".

Mr. P. D. Tribble, of Church Road, held similar opinions and added: "I am very sore about the whole matter and the way in which it has been handled from the start. Mr. E. Purcell, also from Anderson Avenue, said: "We came to listen and to learn. I object to being turfed out. There is too much being done in secret committee. I realise that we would not be able to comment at the meeting, but I cannot see why the discussion could not have been held in public". He added: "We have made a special effort to be here to find out what is going on. Was our journey necessary? We think it was, but the Council thought otherwise."

Apologising for the meeting going into committee, the council chairman Mr. E. S. Scott said: "It is completely alien to the principles of this council to go into committee".

September 18th 1969:

‘Times Comment’:

It is perhaps timely to take a cool look at the proposed M4 link road system as it affects Wokingham. Rightly, those with a view to express have been active, whether for or against. There have been attempts, not entirely unsuccessful, to whip up public opinion, to present the planners as a group of bogey men intent on disrupting the life of the town with a motorway cutting through its heart.

At present there appears to be no concrete evidence of this. But if the fears of the M4 Action Committee are to be assuaged there remains an urgent need for positive indications of the complete road patterns envisaged in the near and long term for this part of the county.

Ahead is a local inquiry at which every man jack of those likely to be affected will be listened to impartially and patiently. It undoubtedly will be enlightening. At a turning point as envisaged it will be here that the evidence for and against it will be presented.

If the open meeting to be held next week by the M4 Action Committee is designed to produce and construct a logical case for submission or to put the finishing touches to an already prepared case, then it is justified. But should it prove to be an occasion to preach to the converted – and the early indications are that it might be just that – it would seem to be a waste of time except for those seeking an evening’s entertainment.

September 25th 1969:

‘Council wants study on effects on area of M4 link and relief roads’:

In a six-point objection to the M4 link road scheme and the A329 relief road schemes. Wokingham RDC has called for a comprehensive study of the impact these would have on the town. It says the study should include a thorough analysis of information on regional and local traffic movements and the expected growth and changes in land over the next 10 years.

The council’s five other points why the schemes and orders should not be confirmed are:

  • The absence of carefully planned safeguards by the Ministry of Transport and Berkshire County Council, concerning the impact of the proposed road schemes in terms of noise, smell, nuisance, loss of amenity and community severance.
  • The absence of the allocation by the appropriate authorities of sufficient land for residential development to replace that to be taken by the proposed roads.
  • The absence of a detailed analysis by which each alternative route has been costed.
  • The absence of any undertaking that improvements to the allied road systems will be included in the rolling programme in time so that they will be in operation by the date on which it is proposed that the scheme routes will be open.
  • The council considers that the schemes and orders should not confirmed until it is certain that there are no plans for developing land in the area to be served by the road schemes for industrial purposes in such a manner as to invalidate the pattern of traffic management predicted by a report prepared by R. Travers Morgan and Partners.

October 2nd 1969:

‘Buchanan’s ‘wishy-washy council’ charge’:

Local councils were slated in a hard hitting speech by traffic expert Professor Colin Buchanan at an open meeting in Wokingham last Friday. Discussing the proposed M4 link road system for the town he said Berkshire County Council could not vouchsafe information while the Borough Council, "a wishy-washy council", did not seem to know whether they were on their heads or their feet. "Yet it is the most important thing they have on their plate. It is the future of Wokingham". He declared that the attitude of Wokingham Borough Council was "damn near a dereliction of duty".

Professor Colin Buchanan, of Rectory Road, addressing the meeting

He was speaking at the last open meeting of the M4 Action Committee before the local inquiry later this month into the proposed M4 link road system. Professor Buchanan lives in Rectory Road, Wokingham, and he told a meeting of over 200:

"Residents of a small town like Wokingham are entitled to be told fully before decisions are taken which are likely seriously to affect them. You are entitled to a full picture of the costs and benefits involved and the effect it will have on people’s living conditions. This is your Bill of Rights. I think you should be shown exactly what the problems are and ways of solving them.. You are entitled to demonstrations of the alternatives and to be told in terms the layman can understand and not in professional gobbledegook".

The M4 line was broadly settled and the A329 relief road settled in principle but there was argument about what should be done and at what stage. He thought the Ashridge interchange with its spur pointing at Wokingham was wholly unsatisfactory. "Nobody knows its purpose. It would be disastrous for Wokingham if it were extended through the town. We have just had a report from Government saying how important it is. Yet in this case there doesn’t seem to have been any vestige of public participation. Wokingham Town Council passed a resolution saying they would be represented at the public inquiry, but this was on the condition that no extra burden of work was placed on the officials".

He added: "We shall be at the public inquiry and will be asking the Minister to bear in mind the planning considerations involved. We shall ask that Berkshire County Council be instructed to re-think the matter in a proper spirit of participation."

Outlining the work of the action committee, its chairman, Dr. Michael Crowe said all householders would be affected by any link road system decision.

Pincer movement

Wokingham was in a pincer movement of two motorways and his committee thought there was a very strong case for a reappraisal of the proposed system and of the town map. Committee treasurer, Mr. Alex Salisbury, told the meeting that the figures from a traffic survey carried out by boys from Forest Grammar School last July show that very little traffic left the town by the north. Of the town’s traffic flow only just over 9.3 per cent used the northern roads. This meant that the natural flow in and out of Wokingham was from east to west and west to east. This indicated a need for a Wokingham by-pass and that there was no requirement for traffic going north. "We do not object to the A329 relief road but to the magnet of the Ashridge Interchange".

Mrs. F. M. J. Marshall, a member of the Council for the Preservation of Rural England, said Berkshire County Council had not yet published a plan for a route to take traffic from the south and from the factory area of Wokingham to the Winnersh interchange. "But it is surely obvious that if this through traffic were brought through Glebelands, across Beches Manor to the station this would entirely spoil the magnificent possibilities opened up by a modern town of Wokingham". She said that the Minister of Transport had advocated that roads should not be constructed in two halves. It was far cheaper to build in one piece. To construct in two halves destroyed the value of a plan.

"If the Loddon Bridge to Amen Corner link road is built in two halves it will not act as a by-pass for Wokingham. All the Bracknell M4 traffic will come roaring through the town. The County Surveyor says that they will do their best to build the second half in 18 months to two years after the opening of the M4. But do you remember being told that the one-way system in the town was a temporary measure on a six month trial? The Ashridge roundabout and spur are again the first half of the scheme to take traffic from the south and from Wokingham to and from Winnersh interchange. It would surely be better to build the link road in one piece at the same time as the M4 and leave the Ashridge roundabout and southern route or their alternatives to be constructed in one piece when more money is available. The expense of building a motorway and the hardship it causes to people whose farms or homes it destroys can surely only be justified if it does really achieve its object of taking traffic quickly and easily between centres of industry and avoiding towns and villages".

Answering a question Professor Buchanan said that a traffic problem was sometimes difficult to define. "Ask twelve different people in the street and you will get twelve different answers. It depends on their experiences in the last few minutes". Through traffic, he said, was obstructed by a town and was a nuisance in a town in a number of ways. "Yet we hear that streets must be congested if you are to have prosperity in the town. This is a notion which is dying hard among the tradesmen. If I had my way I would take the tradesmen by the ear and show them towns on the continent which are traffic free and prosperous", he added.

 

‘Speaking my mind’ – by Tommy Thomson:

All that was needed to complete the picture at the M4 Action Committee’s open meeting last week were a few "Zieg Heils". This meeting had everything, or nearly everything. Enthusiastic supporters, television cameras, sixteen floodlights, an impressive gathering of microphones, and stirring statements by "kleiner Fuhrers" who took the view that those not with them were agin ‘em. And it all happened in the sleepy hollow that is Wokingham.

There was something missing, however – verbal expression of opposition to the committee’s campaign of "No M4 traffic through Wokingham". Brave indeed would have been the man who ventured to stand up and voice an opinion contrary to that of the meeting.

Was it significant that many of those invited to attend in their official capacities could not do so because of other engagements? Apologies were received from the M.P. for Wokingham, because of a long-standing engagement, the County Council chairman, and the RDC chairman. Of the Mayor, aldermen, councillors and officers of the Borough Council, action committee chairman Dr. Michael Crowe told the meeting, "I fear I have no information as to whether they are coming".

They did not officially, and I for one don’t blame them. There were, however, a few councillors in the audience. Nevertheless the meeting was a good tactical exercise ahead of the pubic inquiry. It was a bid to keep the subject at boiling point and an opportunity for a dress rehearsal of the Committee’s case at the Inquiry.

How representative is the Committee of public opinion? The Committee’s "Big Gun" Professor Buchanan might himself have provided the answer when he said "Ask 12 people what they think and you will get 12 different answers".

October 9th 1969:

‘Apology demand for Buchanan charges – ‘wishy-washy council’ accusation’:

Incensed by Professor Colin Buchanan’s "wishy washy" and "dereliction of duty" charges, Wokingham Borough Council is to ask him for an apology and a public withdrawal. They were made by him at an open meeting of the M4 Action Committee in the Town Hall on September 26. At last week’s full council meeting, Coun. J. E. Chapman said that this was a serious charge. It meant an abandonment of duty. This is the charge that has been made and it is deplorable that people of standing should make a statement like this in public".

He said that in the 15 years he had been on the council he knew that mistakes had been made. "But at least they had been done with the council working with a clear sense of duty. I am not worried about these remarks, we have had them before and from other people who seek the limelight. These remarks were not made in the heat of a debate but to provide the speaker with an escape route to avoid making a positive statement".

Ald. N. C. Lawrence said he was ashamed of the way Professor Buchanan had spoken of the council. At the meeting a councillor and the Mayor had been "pulled to pieces" because they had previous appointments and could not attend. "I was ashamed of the whole attitude of this meeting. It made me fume".

Ald. A. G. Skedgel, who was not at the meeting because of a previous engagement, told councillors he had been appalled when he read the account of it. In my opinion they were looking for a free fight in public. They were looking for the opportunity to pull us to pieces on the spot. This council was unanimous that it should not send a representative to a meeting in order to be drawn. We should demand an apology".

Supporting Mr. Skedgel, Coun. E. E. Bland said that some of the things said at the meeting were deplorable. "It was a deliberate attempt to stir up public agitation." He added that much of the argument put forward by the Action Committee was based on conjecture and surmise.

Coun. Foster-Moore thought that the M4 Action Committee’s attitude was "in some ways a declaration of war". They were entitled to state their view and the council should not be thin skinned. He said he did not like the motion before council calling for Professor Buchanan to withdraw. "The committee feels we have failed in our duty. They are annoyed and their language is not diplomatic. We expect to have things thrown at us from time to time but it is wrong that a man of Professor Buchanan’s standard should take the liberty of talking to us in this way. He has been living in this town for a number of years and I would like to know what he had contributed to it".

Supporting the motion Coun. R. F. Board-Jones said it was thought that the committee’s action was pre-meditated. "They were doing nothing but being petty and rude, treatment not to be expected from educated men. Why should we be made a cockshy? We are entitled to kick back at what is merely a small pressure group in the town".

Professor Colin Buchanan, on his return from America earlier this week, told the Times he had no comment to make on his references to Wokingham Borough Council.

‘M4 link roads petition’:

Wokingham’s M4 Action Committee is backing a petition asking the Minister of Transport to reject a proposal for M4 link roads in the town. Organised by Wokingham Jojnt Residents’ Association the move will include a house-to-house collection of signatures.

The Minister is to be asked:

  • To reject the proposal of the Berkshire County Council to provide a link for M4 traffic direct to residential roads in Wokingham, either via the A321 or through the medium of the Ashridge Interchange, which must take heavy traffic through residential areas, past most of the town’s schools, many old buildings and through the town centre.
  • To reject the proposal to build the first section of a motorway standard road from the Ashridge Interchange. Southwards, without disclosing the route of the further sections which must cut the town in two.
  • To consult with the Minister of Housing and prepare alternative proposals for discussion with us in line with the Government policy for local participation in planning decisions.

October 16th 1969:

‘Reader's Letter: The council deserves Professor’s criticism’:

With reference to the M4 Action Committee’s open meeting in the Town Hall on September 26, may I be permitted to say that, after what has happened in Wokingham in the last six months (the creation of a motorway through the centre of the town), residents are very perturbed and worried.

The council is in office primarily to protect the residents’ – i.e. ratepayers’ – interests, not the unwanted traffic which is now invading the town and the unanimous decision to boycott a meeting to discuss such matters is deserving of Professor Colin Buchanan’s criticism.

V. P., Wokingham (name and address supplied).

‘Reader's Letter: Ironic that council should ask Professor Buchanan to withdraw his statement’:

I read with irony your report of Coun. Chapman’s request for a withdrawal by Professor Buchanan of his "Dereliction of Duty" statement regarding the local M4 project. When the current M4 plan was presented for discussion to our Wokingham council, is it not true that these Ministry proposals were approved without one voice being heard to question the proposition?

Certainly as a public observer the motion appeared to me to be carried without a solitary word of dissent. Whether these plans included at this time details of the Ashridge Interchange I cannot say as insufficient points were revealed for me as an observer to glean.

As a Wokingham resident without connection with either our council or the M4 Action Committee, I propose you publish the relevant minutes of council meetings and let all residents of Wokingham judge if there has been any dereliction of duty by Wokingham Borough Council.

After publication of such minutes I would be very surprised if our council members have the guile to pursue their withdrawal demands on Professor Buchanan.

P. Stollery, 18, Clifton Road, Reading [sic].

October 16th 1969:

‘No detailed plan for Wokingham development’:

Although a major development scheme is envisaged by Wokingham Borough Council for the Denmark Street area of the town it could be three years before it matured. This was revealed at the council’s open meeting last week, attended by 40 members of the public.

Ald. A. G. Skedgel, chairman of the Public Works Committee, said further discussions were going on and no scheme for a multi story car park had been prepared. There was an overall plan but no detailed plan, merely "a ring around a particular piece of soil" on a map."

He was replying to a question by the Chamber of Trade asking for specific details of a plan which the Chamber said provided facilities for approximately 2,500 vehicles. Mr. Skedgel said that 2,500 was a sweeping statement. "We do not have the exact area of the land in question". Additional parking was being considered on three sites – Denmark Street, Peach Street and Rose Street.

‘Three good car parks’

It was the intention to bring these sites into use over a period of years, firstly as surface parks and ultimately as multi-story car parks. Plans were prepared for Denmark Street and work could go ahead almost immediately to construct a barrier-controlled surface park. "With further discussions going on at present the use of this land for surface parking may be short-lived and the multi-storey car park incorporating a bus station could mature in, say, three years. We have in mind three good car parks in due course.

Referring to the fact that the Town Clerk, Mr. L. Goddard Smalley, will be representing Council at the public inquiry into the M4 link road proposals, Dr. Michael Crow, chairman of the M4 Action Committee, asked if the meeting could be told what Mr. Smalley had in mind. "Our desire", he said, "is to co-operate with the council in every way possible and we could do this more effectively if we knew what he intensed to do".

The Mayor, Coun. H. A. Chapman, said it was for the council to make decisions of policy and he was never happy for an official to answer for council. Its objections to the M4 link proposals were two-fold and had been made known.

‘A citizen’s right’

They were that more information was required regarding the stub from the Ashridge Interchange and for clarification and information that the proposals would not create increased traffic in the Emmbrook area. There was public anxiety and the council reflected this. The role of the Town Clerk was to present these two facts. "It is council’s job to take serious note of all representations made to it and the decision of the council is that these twp objections be made".

Dr. Crowe said that as only 10 days remained before the hearing his committee would like to see the Town Clerk and to show him "what we are thinking about in terms of evidence". The Mayor replied that any citizen of Wokingham was fully entitled to make approaches to officers at any time.

A member of Wokingham Society said he thought the Public Works Committee had put too much of a load on the Town Clerk. The council should have written a detailed case for the Inspector at the inquiry and this was a grave omission on the council’s part.

Mr. Skedgel thought the speaker was very out of touch with local government. "The Public Works Committee gave no instruction to the Town Clerk. It reported to the council which did not accept its recommendation. At a full meeting the council over-rode the Public Works Committee and decided to object.

‘Town clerk at inquiry’

"The council as a whole instructed the Town Clerk to deal with it in the manner you have heard".

Coun. I. H. R. Crail pointed out that the objections were so phrased because the council had inadequate information as to whether the interchange was a good thing or a bad thing. "Like other organisations we have been unable to determine the detailed road pattern from the intersection. Many have ideas but none has any knowledge of what may transpire."

That was why the objections were so phrased. "It would not be right to put up our representative at an inquiry with a motion which could easily be knocked down".

Answering a question from Dr. Crowe, Mr. Smalley said he would spend as much time as possible at the inquiry. It was likely to last three weeks and the time required for his attendance depended on its programme. He would certainly be able to cross-examine anyone who presented evidence.

The inquiry will be held at The Pavilion, Woodley Park, Haddon Drive, Woodley, and will open at 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, October 21.

October 22nd 1969:

‘Professor tells council: I write to express my views’:

Professor Colin Buchanan has told Wokingham’s Clerk he claims every right to express views about Wokingham Borough Council’s proceedings. In a hard-hitting speech at a recent public meeting in the town, Professor Buchanan accused the Borough Council of being "wishy-washy", and its councillors of being unable to decide whether they stood on their heads or on their feet".

A few days later, the Mayor of Wokingham, Coun. J. E. Chapman, said that it was deplorable that a man of such standing should accuse the Council of abandonment of duty. The council agreed that Professor Buchanan should be asked to apologise for his statement and withdraw it publicly.

At that time the professor was in America. On his return he wrote to the Town Clerk, Mr. L. Goddard Smalley, and his letter posted at the Municipal offices at the weekend, he said.

‘Jolly near’

"Your letter conveys a request from the council that I publicly withdraw my statement charging the Borough Council with dereliction of duty. I did not at the meeting on September 26, actually charge the council with dereliction of duty. I suggested (as your letter confirms) that the council’s actions came "jolly close to dereliction" which is somewhat different.

"But let me say that my concern was with the soundness of the council’s action. I did not intend to cast any slur on the integrity and zeal of council members in discharging their duties as seen by them. Since my words at the meeting seem to have conveyed that impression, then I willingly withdraw them.

"At the same time let me say that it is easy enough for remarks taken out of context to be blown up to a significance never intended. I doubt whether anyone who was actually at the meeting and caught its atmosphere as I made an off the cuff remark would seriously think I intended to be offensive.

"If more councillors had seen fit to attend this packed to overflowing meeting of their local people I daresay they would have got a different perspective.

"However, I have every right to express my view about the council’s proceedings. To make my position quite clear I would like to summarise my anxieties about the Wokingham traffic situation and the council’s attitude towards it. Speaking from wide experience of traffic problems in this and other countries, I would say that when a situation develops in which a small town finds that a major motorway with its interchanges is planned in the close proximity, then the alarm signals should be flashing in that town. The danger is that without anyone really appreciating what is happening, the town finds itself astride a feeder to the motorway. This is a real danger and I know what I am talking about.

"When I realised that such a situation was developing in Wokingham I was interested to learn what the Borough Council were proposing to do about it. Their position would appear to be as follows. The Public Works Committee, apparently untroubled, advised that no representations be made at the forthcoming inquiry. However, the council (influenced it is reasonable to suppose by submissions from the Wokingham Society) decided to lodge an objection on grounds of insufficient information being available concerning traffic patterns arising from Hampshire and Berkshire road proposals and the increase of traffic hazards in the Emmbrook area.

"Later the council rejected the idea of employing counsel to represent the Borough at the inquiry and delegated this duty to the Town Clerk with the proviso that no undue burden of work be placed on the staff in the preparation of the case.

‘Less than alert’

"I entirely accept your statement that the council gave "detailed and careful consideration to the matter". I am sure they did. But the point is not what kind of consideration they gave but what kind of conclusion they reached. I still think that their standpoint as summarised above shows less than the alertness required in a matter of great importance to the people of Wokingham present and future. As I suggested at the meeting, Wokingham Rural District Council’s resolution in connection with the forthcoming inquiry shows deeper understanding of the town’s problems than do the Borough Council.

"Finally may I refer to your reference to the "minority pressure group" which organised the meeting on September 26. One of the bodies involved in the organisation of the meeting was the Wokingham Society, of whom I have the honour to be the president.

‘Not bad idea’

"Since the coming into being of the Society is simply one manifestation of something that is happening all over the country: the growing unwillingness of many ordinary people to render all their trust all the time to the wisdom of their elected representatives; their demand to participate more directly in decisions that affect them; and as important as anything, their demand to be kept informed. This is a good development. It is one of the results of the steady improvement of educational standards. It does not necessarily make life any easier for local councils but many are now accepting that they have to live with civic societies and are it not such a bad idea after all.

"The Wokingham Society is desperately anxious to work in harmony with the council for the betterment of the town. I earnestly hope the council will reciprocate. If there is anything I can do to improve working relations I would like the council to know that I am only too ready to help."

‘Reader's Letter: I’m surprised at Tommy Thomson’:

- By Colin M. Burn, Wiltshire Farm, Wokingham.

[Mr. Burn explained that he was in Cornwall when the open meeting was taking place. He finishes as follows:] In Professor Colin Buchanan we have a resident with unique qualifications to advise and help our local "planners" with the traffic problems facing Wokingham – I hope his words are listened to with effect before it is too late.

 


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 both Wokingham and Bracknell Libraries.

Back to 'Wokingham Times' articles, 1968-9

Back to main History page

 

Any Feedback or comments on this website?  Please e-mail the webmaster