A row has erupted between activists and Wokingham Borough Council over a major new road that is due to be approved south of WOKINGHAM.

The road, dubbed the South Wokingham Distributor Road, involves building a road parallel to the railway track south of Wokingham, linking a proposed new community south of the track near Waterloo Road to Finchampstead Road and the Tesco Superstore to the west.

Wokingham Liberal Democrats activists have called for the road to be redesigned to make things safer for pedestrians and cyclists.

Currently, the plan is for pedestrians and cyclists to share a three metre wide path.

Bracknell News: The South Wokingham Distributor Road design, with a three metre shared pedestrian and cycle path. Credit: Wokingham Borough Council

Peter Dennis, the recently elected Liberal Democrat councillor for Wescott ward, said: “Mixing pedestrians, cyclists and motor vehicles in the way that the road is currently designed will not support growth in walking and cycling.   It would be madness to build a major new roadway that actually hinders this growth and is less safe than we can for those wishing to walk and cycle.”

There are doubts over whether the campaign will be successful, as the road project is set for approval by the council’s planning committee tomorrow.

The South Wokingham Distributor Road is just one part of a larger project called the South Wokingham Major Development, which will see a total of 2,500 new homes, schools, community facilities and a nature park built.

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Liberal Democrat activist Rob Comber said: “The new road network expects pedestrians and cyclists to share the pavement or cyclists to share the road.

“These houses are in ideal walking or cycling range of the town centre.  With 2,500 houses planned in this area, plus through traffic, congestion and safety concerns on the pavement will be a real barrier to people travelling on foot or by bike.

“The Council should build this road to encourage a significant growth in walking and cycling. This will help to ensure an improvement in air quality and a reduction in carbon production at the same time as improving physical and mental health and even reducing obesity.”

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A Liberal Democrat petition calling for a redesign obtained 208 signatures. However, the council has swatted away the prospect of a redesign.

The council has responded by stating "the new road is now at an advanced stage in the design process and any changes would have a number of implications such as: an increase in land needed, a reduction to the area of floodplain, increased span of the bridge over the Emmbrook with subsequent loss of vegetation and habitat, increase to time and cost and major masterplanning implications for the development.

Bracknell News: South Wokingham Major Development Phase 2b within the wider plan. It would see homes that will be connected to Wokingham proper being built south of the railway for the first time. Credit: Wokingham Borough Council

"The current design, which follows suit of many other major developments within the borough, has been designed in line with the guidance available and adopted at that time. Independent road safety audits have also been carried out on the current scheme design. In light of new guidance issued since, the design was reassessed, and the council believe that the scheme design is a good fit with placemaking guidance for Wokingham.

"It should however be noted that pedestrian and cycle guidance is not new to Wokingham, and existing Wokingham Borough Council guidance is robust and has seen significant infrastructure provision provided throughout the delivery off the current local plan."

Plans for a new road, a total of 1,649 homes, a school, community facilities and a nature park are all set to be approved by the council’s planning committee tomorrow (Tuesday, May 18).

The planning committee is made up of five Conservatives, three Liberal Democrats, one Labour councillor and one Independent councillor. The Liberal Democrats are hoping to force the council into a redesign if the plan does not pass at the meeting.

You can observe plans for the road by entering reference 192928 into Wokingham’s planning portal: https://planning.wokingham.gov.uk/FastWebPL/welcome.asp .