Happy New Year and welcome to 2021 and it feels a little bit like Groundhog Day for so many reasons.
Unfortunately, the COVID pandemic has spiked and we are back in another national lockdown; in addition, the Active Travel revolution heralded by the government and many local authorities last year hasn’t really materialised and whilst there is lots of impressive talk and vision, it feels like very little is changing.
Let’s focus on the positives first. In Wokingham Borough we are managing to build a reasonable coalition of groups keen to promote active travel.
I have been working with and become part of the WATCH (Wokingham Active Travel Community Hub), who are aiming to provide a cohesive and united Active Travel voice for issues over the borough. We have so far managed to establish links with the Council and Council Officers and associated Council Groups such as ‘My journey Wokingham’.
Through 2021 the idea is to continue to link up local Active Travel organisations through the borough and participate in regular meetings with Council Officers and organisations, so we can have more influence over infrastructure and developments at an early stage and not just before these are signed off and are already a foregone conclusion.
In addition, we are pushing hard to have access to and influence the Wokingham Local Walking and Cycling Infrastructure Plan (LCWIP) as this will set out the direction of Active Travel over the next 10-15 years.
At the moment, the WATCH group only has a presence on Facebook but has plans eventually for a website and social media, so if you haven’t had a look already please do check out the WATCH Wokingham Facebook page and group.
As all the aims of this group align with the RCC, I do not feel there is any conflict in cross promotion and hope that others will feel the same way.
Concrete successes are hard to come by, but I have been liaising with a group from Charvil and together we submitted several objections to a building and additional access development that would have significantly affected a shared use pavement, used by a lot of people around Wargrave, especially children walking and cycling to the Piggott School.
I was pleased to hear from the Charvil group that this planning permission was rejected. It may be a small thing but it’s things like this that over time can make or break Active Travel participation in an area and in addition it is important that we don’t lose sight of the small victories in amongst all the negatives.
Starting 2021 the two big projects on the horizon and ones I will be keeping an eye on and attempting to influence are the consultations and development plans for the Wokingham South Distributor Road (SDR) and the plans for how the Tranche 2 Active travel funding will be spent.
The SDR is a new road (effectively a South Wokingham bypass), that will take traffic from close to the Coppid Beech roundabout (on the Bracknell side of Wokingham), around to the Finchampstead Road/Tesco roundabout.
The idea is to divert traffic away from the congested town centre and also to service the projected 2,500 homes that will be built in the South Wokingham Strategic Development location (around the current Gray’s Farm).
Plans for the ‘Western Gateway’ (the roundabout at the current Molly Millars Lane/ Finchampstead Road roundabout) are currently open for public consultation and myself and others have serious concerns about its suitability for walkers and cyclists and would recommend anyone interested look up the plans and comment.
The allocation of £576,650 to Wokingham in Tranche 2 Active Travel funding is a big improvement on the £76,000 that was allocated in Tranche 1 (and achieved nothing apart from some temporary bollards that were removed after a few months).
The two projects that have been submitted to spend this funding are apparently improvement of the A4 road between Reading and Twyford (which would link up with some improvements planned by RBC) and improvements to cycling access to Wokingham Town Centre.
We will keep an eye on both of these and comment as soon as any consultations are open – again the WATCH Facebook page is a good way to keep up to date with what consultations are active.
This update has been a bit of a disorganised stream of consciousness, so well done for getting this far. As always I remain focused on the positives, of which there are definitely some, and hopefully this time next year I’ll be able to write about a successful suppression/eradication of COVID and a genuine change in direction of Active Travel leadership and provision in the area… here’s hoping!
WoBC Campaigner for RCC