A controversial road south of WOKINGHAM has been approved despite residents raising safety fears.

The main section of the South Wokingham Distributor Road was approved by Wokingham Borough Council’s planning committee last night (Tuesday, May 18).

It means a new road and shared cycle and footpaths will be built running from the proposed housing development south of the railway tracks to the Tesco Superstore in Finchampstead Road.

The road was approved despite opposition from residents and councillors, who argued a three metre shared path for pedestrians and cyclists would be dangerous.

READ MORE: Activists call for redesign of major new road in Wokingham as decision on project looms

Dr Alex Cran, a public speaker at the meeting, said: “This road is a once in a lifetime opportunity to get things right, and I don’t think the designers are getting it right. Opportunities like this don’t come along very often. The shared path footway is not suitable for cyclists or pedestrians particularly, it puts both into conflict with each other. Once it’s implemented it would be very difficult to change. I think if we don’t get this right now it’s going to cause a lot of problems going forward.

“The council has set targets for reducing pollution, addressing the climate emergency, and a lot of that relies on getting people walking and cycling more from a very low level, and with the plans as they are this is really not going to be suitable in any way.”

The residents and councillors argued that segregated lanes for cyclists and pedestrians would be safer.

Councillor Peter Dennis (Liberal Democrat) said: “A shared pathway leads to conflict between pedestrians, dog walkers, old people, young people, and later conflict with cars, crying out why are they not using the shared pavement?”

This was echoed by Cllr Carl Doran (Labour) who said: “I’m a cycle commuter, I don’t think it’s good to have us on the same shared area as pedestrians.”

However, the plan was approved by the committee by five votes to three.

READ MORE: Plans for 1,600 homes and major road south of Wokingham set to be approved

Speaking in support of the plan, Cllr Chris Bowring (Conservative), Vice Chair of the Committee, said: “There is no safety problem from what I’ve heard on having a non-segregated foot and cycle path, and I see no reason to refuse the application in that respect.”

The passage of the plan means work on the road can begin.

The road will have a 30mph speed limit. For public transport, a half hourly bus service between Wokingham and Bracknell has been proposed. 

Bracknell News: Plan for South Wokingham Distributor Road bus route, which would see a half hourly service run between Wokingham and Bracknell stations. Credit: Wokingham Borough Council

The service would be secured through conditions and a S106 Legal Agreement.

The plan also involves the demolition of 76A and 76B Finchampstead Road, which will be flattened so that the new road can be linked with Finchampstead Road. The council spent a total of £950,000 to purchase the two homes according to HM Land Registry data.

The current occupants of the homes will be relocated by the council’s housing department.

Bracknell News: 76A and 76B Finchampstead Road in Wokingham. Both homes are set to be flattened if the South Wokingham Distributor Road is approved. Credit: Google Maps

Those who voted for the Distributor Road were councillors Simon Weeks (CON, chairman), Chris Bowring (CON), Angus Ross (CON), Abdul Loyes (CON) and Andrew Mickleburgh (LD).

Those opposed were Stephen Conway (LD), Rachelle Shepherd-DuBey (LD) and Carl Doran (LAB).

Pauline Jorgensen (CON) was not allowed to vote as Executive Member for Highways and Transport. Gary Cowan (IND) apologised for being absent from the meeting – which meant he was not able to vote.

A bid to defer the decision for a redesign, proposed by Cllr Conway, was voted down.

The Western Gateway, a secondary aspect of the plan which involves expanding the roundabout for Finchampstead Road and Molly Millars Lane was also approved, with seven in favour and one opposed. The current three way mini-roundabout will now be replaced with a larger roundabout and a new toucan crossing.