CAMPAIGNERS have sworn to continue fighting a controversial road plan south of Wokingham.

Activists are in a struggle with Wokingham Borough Council over the South Wokingham Distributor Road, which was approved by its planning committee last week (May 18).

The campaigners are clashing with council planners over not including segregated footpaths and cycle lanes along the new road, which will run from Waterloo Road to link up with Finchampstead Road near the Tesco Superstore.

READ MORE: £1.75 million spent to buy homes in Wokingham to make way for major road

In July 2020, the Department of Transport released Local Transport Note (LTN) 1/20, which advises councils to segregate pedestrians and cyclists.

Wokingham Liberal Democrats have called for the road to be redesigned to comply with this guidance, arguing that it makes journeys for pedestrians and cyclists safer.

Councillor Maria Gee, (Lib Dem, Wescott) said: “I accept that this road needs to be built.  What we’re frustrated about is the lack of understanding of the importance of providing safe, attractive infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists, and what that infrastructure should look like.”

“If we’re serious about meeting our climate change targets, as well as improving air quality and public health for our communities, the council must significantly change its ideas.

Bracknell News: Plan for what the South Wokingham Distributor Road will look like once built. Residents and councillors expressed concerns that a shared path for pedestrians and cyclists would be dangerous.

“The road hasn’t been built yet, it is still at the initial design stage, so there is still time for Wokingham Borough Council to think again, and we will continue to lobby on this very important issue.

“Do I think that there is a possibility of a redesign? I think this particular Conservative led council is not completely committed to tackling climate change. If they were, they would have steered this road towards pedestrians and cyclists.

“I’m not confident that it will be redesigned, but I will lobby for changes to be made.”

The road was designed in November 2014, prior to the council’s declaration of a climate emergency in July 2019 and the publication of LTN 1/20.

READ MORE: Major road in Wokingham approved despite safety fears

Cllr Pete Dennis (Lib Dem, Wescott) said: “The highway design team painted quite an apocalyptic scenario at the planning meeting should the committee request improvements to the scheme being proposed. They made out that the entire strategic development plan would collapse, when all that was being asked was a reallocation of some of the grass verge to make a cycle lane.”

The prospect of a redesign was shot down by officer Connor Corrigan, the council’s Service Manager for Strategic Development Locations and Planning Delivery. Mr Corrigan said: “Our other roads are built to the standard we’re looking to do here, we don’t have any reports of accidents, the road safety audits all passed on those roads, so there’s no safety implication.

“The 15 per cent land take required for that [segregated cycle lanes] probably doesn’t sound a lot, but it actually has significant consequences on the council. So there’s a delay in terms of the redesign of the road, and there’s significant cost implications to the council in coming forward, and there’s significant implications to the actual number of housing that we can achieve in South Wokingham.

Bracknell News: The design for South Wokingham Distributor Road, including a three metre shared path for pedestrians and cyclists. Credit: Wokingham Borough Council

"Strategic Development Locations are designed to not allow speculative housing developments elsewhere where we don’t get the infrastructure, those houses are going to go somewhere else with no infrastructure.

“We are talking about a major delay here, we’re not talking about six months, twelve months, we’re talking years, and it could three to four years. It’s not simply putting two metres on the side of a road.”

Plans for the road were approved by the committee by five votes to three.

Simon Weeks (Conservative), Chris Bowring (CON), Angus Ross (CON), Abdul Loyes (CON) and Andrew Mickleburgh (Lib Dem) voted for the road, with Stephen Conway (Lib Dem), Rachelle Shepherd-Dubey  (Lib Dem) and Carl Doran (Labour) voting against.

Cllr Gee said: “We’ve got to make the road safe and pleasant for pedestrians and cyclists and its not.”