It’s been an interesting few months for Active Travel infrastructure planning in Wokingham Borough Council, taking some tentative steps forward, followed by some stalling and now a serious risk that we are heading back to the starting line. If this makes no sense, then hopefully the following will clarify…
Starting with a positive: it has been great to see WoBC continue to engage with cyclists in the Borough. Both the executive member Cllr. Pauline Jorgensen and her officers have been generous with their time and open to being contacted and discussing what is going on in the borough, which as I understand is different to their Reading counterparts.
The WATCH (Wokingham Active Travel Community Hub) group in Wokingham has been invited to have stakeholder input into the development of the delayed LCWIP (Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan) which is due to be completed this year and should support WoBC’s plans to improve active travel in the Borough.
Now for a negative: the Woodley Cycle scheme. The battle over the proposed cycle and walking scheme in Woodley and the local backlash against the scheme – in particular the change to Woodlands Avenue.
WoBC consulted on three potential schemes in the Borough, one which would link Thames Valley Park with North Woodley, another scheme which would provide safer cycling from London Road into Wokingham town centre and finally the central Woodley/Earley scheme that was chosen.
It was slightly opaque as to how the scheme was selected, although a final cost/benefit analysis was released, with people’s views on the scheme and the cost being the deciding factors.
The central Woodley scheme that was chosen was significantly cheaper than the other two and on the basis that this would provide best value for money it was selected. Around £550k of central funding was awarded to WoBC from Active Travel England to progress the scheme, which then went to a final public consultation.
Unfortunately, certain elements of the scheme, in particular the changing of Woodlands Avenue from bi-directional to one way, has met with considerable local resistance and the scheme is now on hold.
There was a public meeting on Tuesday 1 March where various views were put forward and at that point the way forward was decided. At present the deadline for finalising the plan is the end of March, which means should this plan be rejected, it would not give time for another design and consultation and this central funding would be lost and nothing would happen.
For anyone who walks or cycles and even those who need to drive around the increasingly congested streets in Woodley, this would be a massively missed opportunity.
It is hoped that if as expected the plan in its current form is rejected, WoBC will apply for an extension to reconsult and try to find a way around some of the major concerns that are stopping any progress being made.
How it got to this stage without these issues being addressed seems like a faux pas on the part of the WoBC planning team, but fingers crossed some compromises can be made.
It is the view of RCC and WATCH that to completely lose this scheme and the funding and therefore make no progress on the first major LTN 1/20 compliant scheme the council has undertaken would be a massively missed opportunity and risk setting a precedent for other future schemes.
Therefore, all the stops must be pulled out to make sure the money is spent on good Active Travel infrastructure that will benefit future generations.
To finish on a positive: it was great to see Cllr. Jorgensen at the last RCC meeting and even better to hear that she has (in principle) agreed to become a member of the RCC – we would welcome you and look forward to counting you amongst out number Cllr Jorgensen!
It was also good of Cllr. Jorgensen to share her budget calculations for active travel provision in the borough. This amounted to >£10 million over the next year, to be spent on walking and cycling infrastructure, which is great to hear.
Hopefully this money will continue to help reduce congestion and help people get around without their cars (driving is becoming increasingly expensive at the moment) for certain journeys.
As usual we at WATCH and the RCC will be looking at how this money is spent and holding the powers that be accountable for what this does or doesn’t do for active travel over the coming year.
I hope that in the newsletter this time next year, I will be able to happily reflect on how steps forward were boldly taken by a forward thinking WoBC giving us £10m+ of brilliant Active Travel infrastructure that we are all now happily using – WATCH this space!
WoBC Campaigner for RCC