"The Ashridge Interchange Movement ('AIM') is a non-party
organisation that exists to promote the
History - Developments in Wokingham Town
Berkshire County Council Minutes:
Wokingham Times Articles, 1968-9, by subject:
Wokingham Times Articles, 1971-5, by subject:
The following articles from 1971 to 1975
show how Wokingham learned to cope with the new motorway.
11th November 1971:
‘Emmbrook crossing to be made safer’:
Safety measures for a major Wokingham road near the scene of a fatal accident last week are to go ahead in the new year. A series of central reservations and bus lay-bys will be constructed on the A329 Reading Road at Emmbrook at the staggered junction of Woosehill Lane and Emmbrook Road.
This move follows a six-year campaign by local residents and two fatal accidents within the last two years. Only last week 14-year-old Neil Godfrey died in hospital after his cycle had been involved in an accident there. And at last Thursday’s open meeting of Wokingham Borough Council the mayor, Dr. Reginald Child, announced that work on the safety measures was to go ahead.
"As soon as I heard of the fatality I took the question up with the Borough Engineer and Surveyor", he said.
Proposals for these measures was originally in the county estimates for 1973/4 but it has been brought forward. "It is now included in the current year’s estimates. There have been problems over land acquisition which have held up work. But it should now go ahead in the new year. And our officers will keep an eye on any delays".
The Mayor was answering a question from Mr. Peter Harmes of Westward Road, Wokingham, who said that residents of the area were becoming more and more concerned.
"The traffic along the road has become worse due to the closure of Forest Road", he said, "and there was a fatality there last week. About a year ago, after discussions with the Borough Engineer, a scheme was submitted to the county council. We were told that no money was available at the time, but we are now in a new financial year".
After the meeting, Mr Harmes who, with other residents, has been campaigning for safety measures for over six years, said that originally they tried to get a pedestrian crossing.
"These new islands will make it safer for turning traffic", he said, "and they will enable pedestrians to get across the road in two stages. I personally would have preferred a pedestrian bridge which was the subject of our original petition years ago. But there are problems with prams and old people. The suggested plan will be better than the present state of affairs".
One of the major campaigners, Mr. Richard Dadd, of Emmbrook Road, added: "At present there is a big temptation to try to get across if you are catching a bus. You see young children halfway across in the morning. It is terrifying. There is no lollipop man there because no one is willing to commit suicide".
The Borough Engineer and Surveyor, Mr. H. G. Bathurst, said after the meeting that the work should be completed by the end of the financial year. "In my opinion these measures will make a considerable improvement;" he said, "the central reservations will mean that people crossing the road only have to pay attention to one stream of traffic. And the bus lay-bys will take standing traffic completely off the road".
11th November 1971:
‘Relief road will do little to ease town’s traffic snarl-up’:
Traffic flow in Wokingham town centre may drop with the opening of the A329 relief road – but before many years it is likely to be back to present levels. In the long term the construction of inner distribution roads and possibly pedestrian precincts are expected to overcome the problem. But the high growth in car population throughout the country means that the benefits of the relief road will be short-lived.
This is the view of Ald. William Smith, chairman of Wokingham Borough Council’s Public Works Committee. At the open meeting of the council last week, he said that the relief road would remove large quantities of heavy through traffic from the town centre.
"Local traffic attracted to the town centre would be distributed to surface car parks, using the present one-way system in the short term and the inner distributor roads in the long term. But it must be appreciated that although traffic flows will drop initially on the opening of the relief road, the high growth of car population will have the effect of returning traffic flows to their original levels before many years."
Ald. Smith was answering a question from Mr. Michael Drury on behalf of Wokingham Chamber of Trade, who asked about the council’s proposals for the town centre. Pedestrian precincts, he said, are a long-term policy of the county council.
Coun. John West was convinced that Wokingham town centre would become a pedestrian precinct. "There was a plan for it back in 1963", he said. "We could have been pedestrianised by now".
‘Closing Forest Road has led to snarl-up in town centre’:
As a Wokingham resident who used to use Forest Road daily from its junction with Reading Road, I am sure I was not alone in being dismayed by the short paragraph saying that the road was to close at this point permanently. I now sit in my car as I try to take the diversion through Wokingham town centre, and contemplate the traffic tail back to the Rifle Volunteer during morning rush hour.
There are, of course, alternative routes via the congested lanes passing Emmbrook primary and Holt schools, but I’d rather not add to that melee thanks! I wonder if any other readers find it rather irksome that when bridges for roads, farm tracks and even footpaths appear to cross the new motorways in expensive profusion, with rarely any traffic crossing them even by foot (or hoof), that the well-used Forest Road has to be truncated.
I can only imagine that some neat little planner came along one bright sunny day and thought that no one would mind if this little by-road was closed. Please, someone, tell him this road is used by many people to by-pass Wokingham in the rush hour, especially those travelling to Windsor, Maidenhead and so on.
It seems ironic that what will, I am sure, be a fine new motorway and by-pass should destroy another by-pass, albeit a mini one. If there are any plans to do the same to the A321 (I see the hedges either side of the road have gone), I feel that the centre of Wokingham really will be in for a nasty "snarl-up" one foggy winter’s morning or night. Worse, that is, than the normal chaos!
Please planners, some side roads are used. Don’t close them at a stroke; the alternatives are often to everyone’s detriment.
Roland Fox, 41 Brookside, Wokingham.
[Note: Brookside is off Oxford Road via Arthur Road.]
[Wokingham has indeed been snarled-up on many occasions since then. On 5th February 2010, a fatal cross-over accident on the A329(M) north of the M4 in the evening rush-hour resulted in the A329(M) junction at Coppid Beech being closed by the police. All roads between Bracknell and Winnersh were grid-locked well into the evening.]
16th December 1971:
‘Town traffic scheme to be reviewed’:
A scheme which would have brought busy traffic into a quiet residential estate in Wokingham has been reviewed. The plan to cope with traffic in the town after the opening of the M4 interchange at Winnersh brought protests from the estate at Milton Drive and Milton Gardens.
But at tonight’s meeting of Wokingham Borough Council, members will hear that the county surveyor has rejected the scheme. His staff are to undertake a detailed traffic review with Wokingham’s Borough Engineer and Surveyor Mr. H. C. Bathurst, and a joint report will be prepared early in the New Year.
The original plan was for the construction of a new road across Beches Manor, variously estimated at a cost of £50,000 to £80,000. The new road would link Reading Road with Glebelands Road. Both ends of Milton Road were to be closed and this would have diverted all the traffic using that road through Milton Drive and Milton Gardens.
Letter: ‘Delay over By-Pass Road angers Wokingham Society’:
The Wokingham Society is extremely concerned over the lack of progress on the Wokingham bypass and over the directions in which traffic for Wokingham and Bracknell from Reading is to be sign-posted via the A329(M).
The society has received a letter from the County Surveyor’s Office saying that tenders for the bypass are not to be sought until the summer. We find this very protracted delay quite inexplicable, especially since the Ministry of Transport’s letter of November 1970 (announcing the Minister’s decision on the previous year’s A329 Relief Road Public Enquiry) spoke of a grant to allow construction of the bypass to start during the financial year 1972/3. The society intends to make vigorous representations to Wokingham’s county councillors, and if necessary the MP, to secure the earliest possible construction of the bypass, thus relieving the town of the burden of through east-west traffic.
As regards the signposting of traffic, the Society have objected to the county council over the sign at Loddon Bridge directing Wokingham Traffic along the A329(M) and over the sign at the junction of the A329(M) and the Twyford road directing Bracknell-bound traffic through Wokingham.
If drivers proceeding from Reading to Wokingham or Bracknell follow the signposting, they will all be using the stretch of road between Matthews Green Road and Jubilee Avenue which is highly unsuitable for a heavy flow of traffic. In addition, motorists with local knowledge wishing to go to West or South Wokingham will naturally be inclined to use the even more dangerous Holt Lane. These roads will be congested and chaotic enough because of the vast amount of Motorway traffic proceeding to and from the Winnersh Interchange [now simply known as Junction 10].
If the Wokingham and Bracknell traffic is added to the motorway traffic the situation will become completely intolerable. There is a footpath on one side only of Milton Road and this is on the wrong side of the road for children attending the Holt and Emmbrook schools. These children find it difficult enough to cross Milton Road at present; with all the additional traffic this will be impossible. The Society is approaching local organisations concerned to enlist their support for a different routing of the Wokingham and Bracknell traffic coming from Reading.
Anthony Cross, Chairman, Wokingham Society.
25th January 1973:
‘Last-ditch attempt to prevent opening of Winnersh Interchange’:
A large group of local organisations have petitioned Wokingham’s MP, Mr. Bill van Straubenzee, in a bid to stop the opening of the Winnersh Interchange. The date set for the opening is January 30. The organisations want to meet the Secretary of State for the Department of the Environment, Mr. Geoffrey Rippon, or his assistant secretary.
A statement from the organisations says: "We wish to meet the Minister with a view to discussing the likely effect on the town of this enormous volume of motorway traffic forcing its way through Wokingham over the next three years. This is the time we consider it will take for the link road to be continued to Amen Corner as Berkshire County Council has not even begun to negotiate with the farms for the purchase of the land required. Once the purchases are completed, the work will be put out to tender and then construction completed. If we cannot keep the Interchange closed, at least some other concessions, such as traffic lights on London Road at the junction of Rances Lane and Binfield Road, and the direction of some traffic on to Forest Road, with a pedestrian crossing in Denmark Street, are minimum requirements".
The organisations and individuals who have signed the petition include the Wokingham Society, the Wokingham Joint Residents’ Association, the Chairman of the Governors of the Emmbrook Schools, the headmasters of Emmbrook Junior Schools, the National Council of Women, the National Housewives’ Register, the Catholic Mothers’ Union, the Pre-School Playgroups Association, and the Cinema and Television Benevolent Fund’s Glebelands Home.
Other names on the petition are the Wokingham Liberal Association, the Wokingham Women’s Liberal Association, the Labour Candidate for Berkshire County Council in Wokingham East, Mr. Andrew Bellchambers and his Conservative opponent Coun. Ken Johnson, an Independent Councillor on Wokingham Borough Council, Coun. Mrs Jean Day, the Council for the Protection of Rural England, the Transport Reform Group (Mrs. Angus Maude), and the headmaster of St. Crispin’s Secondary School.
Letter: ‘Setting the Record Straight on Wokingham’s Traffic’:
Wokingham Joint Residents’ Association met on February [sic] 20 and asked me to set the record straight on our policy on traffic in and around Wokingham.
When represented in a discussion with our MP, the Council for the Preservation of Rural England and The Wokingham Society on January 26 about traffic problems likely to arise from the A329(M)-A321 junction, we were supporting a move designed to focus attention on the possible adverse effects on the town at any time in the next two or three years and not just in the first few weeks. We are thankful that there have been no serious problems so far.
Your readers will remember that we were by no means alone in expressing concern; the organisations and individuals listed in your issue of January 25 make an impressive and responsible tally.
We were worried about road safety and, far from regarding Winnersh as no problem of ours, suggested a 30 m.p.h. restriction along "Murder Mile". We also suggested that eastbound traffic to Bracknell be sign-posted via the A329(M), A321 and B3034 (Forest Road) and Wokingham traffic remain on the A329. This was to relieve the A329 and keep Bracknell traffic out of Wokingham. This suggestion was turned down on the grounds that the B3034 is not a principal road; but neither are Glebelands, Rectory or Wiltshire roads of principal status until press-ganged into service!
The same view on signing has been expressed in the borough council by the Mayor and by Coun. K. Johnson.
We are pleased that our talk with Mr van Straubenzee led to the detailed accounts about the completion of the A329(M) to Amen Corner and we hope the target date for this essential link will not have to be postponed again. We asked for assurance that traffic flow would be carefully monitored and action taken promptly to halt the development of unsafe patterns; these assurances, also, followed the discussion.
A major cause of general concern has been the lack of reassuring information available to the Press. The A329(M)-A321 link, understood to be planned as a simple, flared T-junction, has actually been constructed to a more elaborate and far safer plan than we were led to expect. Even on January 25, the day before we met the MP, we read that "a plan" – (not described) – "would only be used if traffic conditions in the town became intolerable". Is it surprising that many citizens were reluctant to wait and see if things got as bad as that!
We are sure that none of those who have suggested caution wish to be proved right at the cost of accidents and we recognise the convenience of a local access to the A329(M) and M4. If such an access could be provided, with no risk of an associated southward link across the west centre of the town (as resisted by civic societies in 1969) it might well be accepted by many if not most residents as a desirable measure.
The much-discussed southward extension from Amen Corner and the badly-needed Wokingham inner distribution road will, when completed, cater for many of our remaining transport needs.
B. G. Whales-Smith, chairman, Wokingham Joint Residents Association.
22nd February 1973:
Letter: ‘Urgent priority demand for Wokingham’s Road Improvement Scheme’ [from Mrs. T. M. J. MacPhaill, Hon. Sec., Wokingham District C.P.R.E. concerning the Inner Distribution Road.]
‘Bell Foundry Lane to be closed despite protests’:
Wokingham’s Bell Foundry Lane is to be made into two culs-de-sac, despite claims this will add miles on to people’s journeys round the town. The road has been a major route for motorists heading for the M4 link road and Keephatch Residents’ Association complained to the borough council about the damage being caused to the road surface.
The council decided last week to make Bell Foundry Land into two culs-de-sac until the Link Road is carried on to Amen Corner. But an attempt to have just a weight restriction put on the road failed when the rest of the council decided the surface was deteriorating too quickly and drastic measures had to be taken. And claims that money could be spent on improving the surface were fiercely denied by chairman of the finance committee, Alderman Alf Skedgel.
Ever since the A329 link road was opened several months ago, motorists have been using Bell Foundry Lane as a quick way to get to the motorway. The narrow road is now used as a ‘mini by-pass’.
Alderman Reginald Board Jones said he was extremely sorry to see the road was being closed as it serves a lot of people driving to places in that area of the town. "I can fully understand that the amount of traffic going through Bell Foundry Lane at the moment is rather high", he said. "But I would have thought it would be possible to repair it at a reasonable cost".
Councillor Mrs. Marion Fergusson Kelly added she used the lane several times each day and thought the council had "gone a bit far" in closing it altogether. "I would have thought a weight restriction would have been much better than to close it altogether", she said. But other members said the road surface was getting so bad, no delay could be afforded.
Councillor Bob Naish said the council had delayed repairing Matthewsgreen Road some time ago and when they finally got round to it, they had to pay out a great deal of money to restore it. "The only alternative is to make a cul-de-sac of it", he said.
Councillor Ken Johnson said that at least the closure would mean traffic would be diverted through the town and kept on a major road. Alderman Alf Skedgel said the council had no money at all in the present estimates to repair the road. "There is no money at all for this", he said. "Anyway, a short detour is not asking a lot".
[The following week, there was a letter from Mike Collett, chairman of Keephatch Residents’ Association insisting that it is kept open.]
‘Now it’s one-way in Bell Foundry Lane’:
Wokingham Borough Council’s Finance and General Purposes Committee recommended that the controversial lane should remain open after all and be subject to a weight restriction. However, the full Council decided on Thursday that it should be closed to two-way traffic. So, in addition to a 3-ton restriction, there is to be a one-way system in the lane, probably operating in the Twyford Road – Wiltshire Road direction. […]
'Farmers angry at one-way Bell Foundry Lane':
By Wendy Tobitt.
Hundreds of pounds could be lost by farmers if Bell Foundry Lane is made one-way. One has said that more than a thousand extra miles a year would be covered by tractors, and muck-spreaders will trundle through the centre of Wokingham.
Mr. H. R. Jameson of Ashridge Farm and Mr. S. Bovingdon of Bell Farm are two farmers who will be seriously affected by the decision to make the lane one-way, confirmed at last week’s finance and general purposes committee meeting of Wokingham Rural District Council. They accepted a recommendation that the lane should be made one-way from Twyford Road to Wiltshire Road. The farmers were represented at the meeting by Councillor R. N. Boyd who said that “A one-way system will have adverse effects on their livelihood”.
And this week Mr. Jameson described the conditions that the farmers may have to work under. “Access for tractors, implements and other equipment to Ashridge Farm land to the north of the Water Reclamation Plant would be cut off in one direction. Instead of travelling 300 yards to or from the farmstead, a detour of the order of three miles would be necessary and this could be with slow moving tractors and so on via the centre of Wokingham”.
He envisages seven-foot wide muck-spreaders going through Peach Street to get to fields at Matthewsgreen. “Just think of trundling through the town with a combine harvester. Something in excess of 120 tons of farmyard manure is carted from the cattle yards by muck-spreader during the autumn, winter and sometimes early spring months; these loads are routed via Bell Foundry Lane.”
Later in the spring, equipment, fertilizers, and seeds (including nearly 10 tons of seed potatoes) must reach the land without loss of valuable time. At harvest time between August and November something approaching 150 tons of produce has to be carted off this land via the same route thus involving many journeys with harvesting equipment, tractors and trailers.
“It will be clear that the introduction of a one-way system in Bell Foundry Lane would very considerably increase the time required for these operations and could put them at risk”.
The National Farmers Union sent a representative to Ashridge Farm on Tuesday to see the situation and discuss what action should be taken. The wear and tear of the extra long journeys will put up the costs of farming and the longer working hours needed to get the amount of work done will mean s higher cost of labour. “Anything that takes more time puts costs up. You cannot assess how the loss of time will affect the loss of profit in adverse weather conditions”.
Mr. Bovingdon has 100 beef cattle that he has to move from fields near Bill Hill and also carry muck up to these fields. For him too this will mean going through the town. The only alternative route for the farmers is via Warren House Road and Forest Road. This means negotiating the dangerous crossroads at the Changa service station.
Both farmers would like to see the speed limit lowered in the lane. Mr. Bovingdon suggested between 20 and 30 mph. was a “sane” speed.
9th August 1973:
Letter: ‘Bell Foundry Lane facts to awaken “sleepy heads” ’:
With regard to the Bell Foundry Lane controversy, the Keephatch Residents’ Association feel that, despite public pressure and the individual letters to borough councillors, the extent of the problem is not fully appreciated. I should like to elaborate on Wendy Tobitt’s article in last week’s Times and offer a few facts which may awaken some of the sleepier heads.
The conclusions to be drawn from these facts are:-
Perhaps our Councillors would be advised to
They may then wish to reconsider their hasty and ill-judged decision.
D. Gebbett, 39 Bowyer Crescent, Wokingham, Berks.
27th September 1973:
‘Part one-way in Bell Foundry Lane’:
A decision to keep Bell Foundry Lane open to traffic has finally been taken, more than six months after the council decided that it could not afford to spend £12,000 to repair the road. At a meeting of the Finance and General Purposes Committee of the borough council last week, members voted in favour of imposing a one-way system on part of the lane, making through traffic possible in only one direction.
Vehicles travelling in an east-west direction will still be able to go from the town to Twyford, and gain access on to the M4 interchange. But going in the opposite direction, anyone using Bell Foundry Lane will come up against a “No through road” sign, and will only be able to travel along half the length of the road.
The decision to keep the road open to through traffic was made after residents protested and campaigned in favour of keeping traffic out of the town’s already overloaded one-way system. It was originally intended to turn Bell Foundry Lane into two culs-de-sac, because in its present state, the road is of insufficient width and poor construction, badly aligned, with poor sight lines and visibility. The use of the road by heavy lorries only added to its poor condition.
Before reaching a decision, the committee noted that the exit from Bell Foundry Lane to the Twyford Road could cause difficulties and delays to traffic using the A321, and this would not normally be contemplated on the grounds of highway safety.
At the time, the chairman of the Public Works Committee, Councillor Bob Naish, said that there was not sufficient money to make the necessary repairs. “The only thing we can do is to stop heavy traffic going up there, but it takes time”. Councillors at last week’s meeting were of the opinion that there would be no point in spending money on repairing the road at the moment, when the new district council is due to take control of the borough in April.
The following correspondence appeared in the weeks immediately after the Woosehill Public Inquiry had finished:
Letter: ‘Wokingham and the Channel Tunnel’:
The probable route for freight going by rail from Reading and intended for the Tunnel is likely to be via the Wokingham-Guildford-Redhill line. In 1968 British Rail were considering a marshalling yard aw Wokingham for this Tunnel traffic.
Whether such a yard is still under consideration or not, it would seem likely that once the Tunnel is open there will be an increase in the number of trains on the Wokingham to Guildford line with either an increase in the number of closures of the level-crossing gates at the station or a lengthening of the period of their closure.
The intolerable conditions along the Oxford Road already caused by the volume of traffic seeking to by-pass the level crossing and further worsened if Woosehill development goes ahead on the Barkham Road can only lead to a completely justifiable demand for some relief.
Yet it is the obstruction to traffic coming up from the south presented by the railway arches and the level crossings which have protected Wokingham so far from a far greater flow seeking the motorway.
The road connections between this area as a whole and the Tunnel could either make for the special White City Terminal for the Tunnel trains via the M4 to Chiswick, or make use of the A322 Bracknell to Guildford road continuing by the M25 to pick up the Folkestone Road. For either route a complete A329(M) is crucial together with its planned extension from Amen Corner into the Bracknell urban motorway system.
If the A329(M) is to act as a true by-pass for Wokingham then there cannot be any spur road into the town, because such a route would at once set up enormous pressures for a north-south road which must come through the town.
Hampshire County Council has been pressing Berkshire for some time for an A321(M) dual carriageway road coming up the Blackwater Valley from the Farnborough access to the M3 and linking up with the M4. Ashridge only makes sense if it is to take such a road.
The map will show that this new A321 is likely to go through part of the Finchampstead Ridges and Heath Pool as well as a good many houses along the Finchampstead Road before it reaches the railway arches by Molly Millars Lane. Here the road would require to be sunk to provide more head room and this would also involve the Emmbrook and strengthening the arches.
At the public inquiry in 1969 the road then continued in dual carriageway across the Carnival Field, the cricket ground, the tennis courts and past the station through par of its car park to come on to the A329 through or close to Little Court (Grade 2* Listed House and the new home for W.A.D.E.). It then crosses the A329 by roundabout to go through the former grounds of Beeches Manor and so up to Ashridge by way of the grounds of Glebelands Home.
The purpose of this letter is to inform people (who have enjoyed having the access to the M4 on the A321 and may wish to keep that convenience) what is involved and what disadvantages are likely to come along with the advantages if Ashridge is created.
The sheer cost of the road in its entirety would seem to suggest that we would get it only in stages and in the meanwhile the traffic would be brought into the town and have to fight its way south across a busier level crossing and beneath railway arches with low clearance. There is no doubt at all that the A321 northwards through Hurst and Twyford from Ashridge would then require “improvement”.
Anyone interested and whose house could be involved should seek information from the County Surveyor’s office or their county councillor. It is often difficult to obtain such information, but once the decisions have been taken it is even more difficult to halt the proposals.
Mrs. M. Macphail, Keep Hatch Farm, Wokingham.
Letter: ‘Provide continuing access to A329(M)’:
In Mrs. Macphail’s letter of September 20, a number of reasons were put forward for not having a direct connection from Wokingham to the A329(M) Relief Road when it is continued through to Amen Corner. In common with those of a large number of other amateur traffic “experts”, the basis of the arguments used hinged on the premise that traffic originates at minus infinity and travels to plus infinity.
It may come as a surprise to few people that a large number of the residents of Wokingham not only own a car but actually drive it and gain great benefit and/or pleasure from doing so. The demand for car parking in the town centre is a measure of this. However, Wokingham people do not want only to travel to the town centre, and, when they travel further afield, it is not unnatural to want to drive on the best and safest roads available, i.e. the motorways.
Wokingham now has a population that justifies a good convenient connection into the motorway network. The present temporary connection is well used, yet few of the problems foreseen by the prophets of doom have materialised.
We are now to lose this facility, and access to the A329(M) will then have to be via Amen Corner or Loddon Bridge, i.e. along the A329. How much relief is the A329(M) to provide then?
I would like to see some continuing access to the A329(M) provided. An agreed road plan for Wokingham, including a practical connection of suitable scale into the A329(M) should then be pursued as quickly as possible.
There is no reason why the scale of any such proposals cannot be designed to satisfy the Wokingham area traffic demand without encouraging longer distance traffic onto them. These, including the long discussed Ring Road, will not necessarily lead to the destruction of the Town, but, with the right approach, could preserve the town against the pressures of its future population growth.
David Feather, 13 Woosehill Lane, Wokingham.
Letter: ‘Retain the present access to A329M, says Wokingham man’:
Mr. Feather is presenting a valid case in arguing that the present access to the A329(M) should be retained when the extension to Amen Corner is opened. Its benefits to many local residents have been obvious, and, contrary to the predictions of the protesters, it has not had a catastrophic effect on Wokingham’s traffic.
I live close to the Wellington Road and I have not observed a large increase in traffic from the south. Other parts of the town may have been more affected, but opening the extension will undoubtedly reduce this by removing Bracknell-bound traffic.
Closing the present access will entail substantial detours for a large proportion of local residents. From the centre of Wokingham a motorist heading for London will have to make a large zigzag east to Amen Corner and then back again to the motorway. This will add four to five miles to a single journey, up to ten to a return one. Even on the modest basis of 1,000 vehicles per weekday, this amounts to some three million wasted miles per annum!
Surely the sensible approach to this problem is to leave the present access open for a trial period, during which the volumes of traffic choosing the alternative routes could be measured? Preferably, it should be combined with a traffic census to determine the proportion of through traffic.
John A. Silk, 5 Albert Road, Wokingham.
Letter: ‘Bell Foundry penance’:
Your correspondent Mr. J. E. Woollett of Matthewsgreen Road calls on me to do penance, in Milton Road, for unnamed sins. Perhaps my letter to you about Bell Foundry Lane has offended him.
The chairman of WJRA is the servant of the town’s residents’ associations assembled in committee, and not their master. Thus I can claim no more than a share of credit for successes and of blame where we fail to please. If we all did penance together we might make the situation in Milton Road even worse!
Our record with regard to the A321 and Milton Road should please rather than annoy Mr. Woollett. We supported the Borough in opposing the opening of the A329(M) on to the A321 to prevent the sort of thing about which Mr. Woollett complains. Turning to Bell Foundry Lane – surely, if the lane is closed the traffic along Milton Road increase (as far as the Glebelands Road turning)!
We shall shortly resume our discussions on ways of providing local residents with access to the A329(M), when it has been completed to Amen Corner, without local inconvenience or a mortal wound inflicted by the well-remembered “dagger at the heart of Wokingham”.
B. G. Wales-Smith, Chairman, Wokingham Joint Residents’ Association.
Should Wokingham Station’s level crossing be replaced by an automatic barrier? Investigations into a plan to do away with the gates are being carried out by British Rail and Berkshire’s Highways and Bridges Committee. But British Rail have been unable to estimate how many minutes are saved by replacing gates with automatic Continental barriers.
Consequently, the county surveyor was recently instructed to undertake a study comparing the Wokingham crossing with the barrier crossing on he A329 at Sunningdale. The survey showed that the time which elapsed between the signalman starting to close the gates and the moment the gates were fully closed was on average about 18-20 seconds. At Sunningdale the time from the amber signal to traffic and the moment the barriers were fully lowered was 20 seconds.
The committee, in their latest report, says: “The part of the operation which could not be accurately assessed, however, was that relating to the time required to select a suitable moment to start the operation of closing the gates. With the automatic barrier the operation begins exactly when required by the indication to road traffic of the imminent closure of the road. With a manually operated gate there is no indication given to road traffic and therefore the signalman has to visually select a suitable gap in traffic”.
The committee conclude that considerable improvements would be gained by installing an automatic barrier at Wokingham Station.
[Believe it or not, British Rail had refused to pay to replace the old manually-operated wooden crossing gates because they had “years of life left in them”, so the local councils offered to pay to replace them instead. This saved seconds every time that the new barriers were lowered.]
At the time of massive expansion in Wokingham, the local bus service was deteriorating rapidly. Two companies - Thames Valley and Aldershot & District, had been merged under one management as 'Alder Valley'. Because of the high cost of housing, the company was chronically short of drivers, conductors and maintenance staff. The services suffered, as this article shows, and local people learned to rely on their cars instead.
6th December 1973:
‘Former mayor demands Government inquiry into bus services’:
A full-scale Government inquiry into the “totally inadequate and unreliable” Alder Valley bus service has been called for by Coun. Ian Crail, deputy mayor of Wokingham. At a meeting of the borough council’s finance and general purposes committee on Thursday night last week, Coun. Crail said six months had elapsed since the change of management in the bus company. At that time the council had had discussions with Alder Valley.
“The new management undoubtedly had several problems to overcome. But a considerable time has gone by and there has not been much progress – the services are as inadequate as ever”, Coun. Crail said.
“It is not just a question of there being not enough buses – it’s just that there are those which are on the schedule but are not running. The service is totally unreliable”.
Coun. Crail said he used the buses every day and sometimes he had to wait for three-quarters of an hour for a bus from Bracknell. “This time of year it is extremely cold waiting for buses – how the elderly manage I just don’t know. You have no idea when the next one is coming.”
He said he expected there was “a clerk somewhere in the department of the Environment” who had responsibility for the bus services, and he moved that the council should ask for an inquiry into the situation.
Coun. John Tattersall, Labour, seconded the motion and said that, particularly in view of the fuel crisis, the situation was going to be a lot more difficult. “People are going to rely on buses a lot more, and at the moment they just can’t make the journeys”, he said.
Ald. Stanley Bowyer, Mayor of Wokingham, said the committee should write to all the local authorities in the Alder Valley are asking for their support. Coun. Crail said they should also write to Berkshire County Council. The motion was passed unanimously.
‘Wokingham Society answers charge of ‘being too political’:
Has Wokingham Society become too politically involved over the fight to stop the Woosehill Development proposals? That was one of the questions the society faced when they held their annual meeting at the Old Town Hall, Wokingham, last week.
In their report, the executive committee said: “There are strong and well-grounded fears that the Secretary of State for the Environment will base his decision – if, indeed, it was not taken in advance – on political rather than planning and amenity grounds. Politicians should remember that such a political decision could have political electoral consequences”.
Asked if the society was getting too involved in the political aspects of Woosehill, the society’s secretary, Mr. Barry Parker said they would attack any Government or party that advocated the Woosehill plan. “The society has fought the Labour-controlled Land Commission’s proposals for Woosehill in precisely the same way as we fought the Conservative county council”, Mr. Parker said.
Mr. Roy Oliver, vice-chairman, added that the society would remain totally without affiliation to any party, but this would not deter it from using political weapons against decisions which are being made on political grounds.
Introducing the executive report, society chairman, Mr. Anthony Cross, said most of the committee’s time had been spent in fighting off Wokingham’s “irresistible attraction to ‘out-of-town developers’. “The apparent countryside disease of making a fortune out of somebody else’s misfortunes has been battering at our door with ever increasing intensity. The society has done, and will continue to do, its best in repelling such unwanted incursions”.
Throughout the year the society has been campaigning against “planning by appeal”. They have attacked the persistent rejection by the Secretary of State of recommendations by his inspectors for the dismissal of planning appeals. In their report, the committee says: “The Pyke’s Farm, Luckley and Rances Lane appeals are glaring local examples. This ‘planning by appeal’ makes a mockery of decent and accepted procedure and wastes the very great amount of time, money and effort spent by all those preparing for and attending inquiries.
“The executive committee consider that the Secretary of State has been in breach if his duties, and are accordingly trying to refer the matter to the Ombudsman”.
On the road front, one of the society’s biggest concerns was the proposed interchange at Ashridge on the A329(M) between Loddon Bridge and Amen Corner. “Thise people who think that such a road will reduce the time to the M4 by the odd minute or so should ponder on the fact that Ashridge, in any form, would act as a magnet for traffic from the south and would exacerbate all the traffic problems of the town”, the report says.
“We realise that some residents would like to keep an M4 access point close to the present temporary one, but we feel that if there is money available for roads in Wokingham, then this should be invested in such a way as to benefit the whole town and not be frittered away on trying to knock the odd minute off the commuting time to West London”.
The society’s two main road priorities would be:
· The building of the south-east inner distributor (the London Road/Finchampstead Road link) coupled with the link between Rectory Road/Wiltshire Road junction and London Road.
· A motorway standard link between the A329(M) at Amen Corner and the A322 coming up from Bagshot.
“Only after these two requirements have been satisfied should any thought be given to a Wokingham-only access point to the A329(M). To do so before would be folly”, the report said.
After the meeting, Mr. Cross announced a new scheme of action groups, one for each area in the town centre. They would be staffed by volunteers who would examine their own area in detail and make suggestions, perhaps in collaboration with the Chamber of Trade and other organisations, for its improvement.
25th April 1974:
Letter: ‘Appalling Wokingham traffic’:
[‘Harassed Motorist’ reported a journey from Bracknell and being caught in a 15-minute jam from St. Crispin’s to the west end of Peach Street, caused by a delivery lorry parked in Peach Street.]
14th November 1974:
‘Wokingham traffic diabolical’:
[says Cllr. Mrs. Anne Crail of Wokingham Town Council.]
‘Flooding in Wokingham’:
[several photos; the news article concludes that the A329(M) drainage alterations have not caused the problem, despite claims from residents.]
‘Militancy likely to end road danger at Emmbrook’:
[This article reported residents' demand for a footbridge over the Emm Brook at Toutley Road]
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 Bracknell Library, while those up to the end of 1971 can also be seen at Wokingham Library.
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