A new road, which has a separate footway and cycleway on both sides to improve access for all and encourage active travel, is now opening to serve new homes at the former Arborfield Garrison.
Nine Mile Ride Extension, the southern half of which will be fully open by tomorrow (Thursday, 10 November), runs between the A327 Eversley Road roundabout to the west of the major development and the junction of Park Lane and the existing Nine Mile Ride to the east, forming a 2km route to help residents reach local amenities and travel further afield.
Wokingham Borough Council, which led the project in partnership with contractor Balfour Beatty (image credit), hopes as many journeys as possible will be made on foot, by bicycle or using public transport, and it is working to make this safer and more convenient across the borough.
Working with others to provide funding
The extension was funded and built, in part, by developers building new housing in the area, under legal agreements reached when they got planning permission. The council is facing unprecedented financial pressures but is doing all it can to reduce costs and protect vital services.
Although it must sometimes provide new roads to serve new housing imposed by the Government, as outlined in its local plan, the council remains committed to helping its residents reduce their car use in favour of more active and environmentally-friendly trips.
This is part of its pledge to tackle the climate emergency, improve air quality, help everyone get active and make it more affordable to get around as living costs rise. It is also urging the Government to reduce the number of homes that the borough must take to a more reasonable, sustainable level.
A complex project successfully completed
Work on the northern half of the extension, between the A327 and the Bohunt secondary school and Arborfield Green Leisure Centre, was carried out by the developers and this has been open for some time. It will also serve a district centre with shops, a pub, a community centre and more, for which Crest Nicholson is expected to submit a planning application soon.
Balfour Beatty then finished work on the southern half, which will serve new homes at Finchwood Park in the former Hogwood Farm area. This took longer than expected to open because, as is common with large-scale schemes involving many parties including landowners, several complex administrative issues had to be resolved and the council is pleased that this is now done.
The work involved improvements to the Park Lane junction and redirecting a small section of the road, which was completed and reopened earlier this year.
By creating a link between two major routes, Nine Mile Ride and Eversley Road, this extension will also reduce commuter traffic on smaller residential roads, reducing congestion which is detrimental to air quality because of engine idling.
The council has also completed a small section of a bridleway extension providing access to surrounding green spaces, the rest of which will be completed by developers.
Building transport networks for the future
Cllr Paul Fishwick, executive member for active travel, transport and highways, said: “There are times when we have to build new roads, given the pressure we face from the Government to take new housing. However, we’re doing all we can to keep new development in the borough to a reasonable, sustainable level that meets genuine local need while minimising its impact.
“A key element of this is our renewed focus on enabling active and sustainable travel, which will tackle issues like congestion, air pollution and the climate emergency at their source by making it easier for residents to drive less – especially for shorter local trips.
“On top of that, we’re continuing to roll out electric vehicle chargers with Government funding so that when people do have to drive, they’re able to do so in a less damaging way for our environment.
Looking further ahead…
As well as providing a footway and cycleway at Nine Mile Ride Extension, the council is separately building a largely traffic-free greenway from Arborfield Cross to Wokingham town via Woosehill. This follows the provision of a nearby greenway to Finchampstead via California Country Park.
Additionally, as part of its Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan, a long-term document aimed at providing improvements over the next decade or so, it is proposing a wider, safer, and better lit route for pedestrians and cyclists along the existing Observer Way relief road at Arborfield Cross.
It has already carried out improvements to roads in the Arborfield village and Arborfield Cross areas, including measures like lower speed limits to make them safer for pedestrians and cyclists, as part of its commitments linked to the Observer Way scheme.
It is also working to save bus networks as operators grapple with the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic, and was recently successful in obtaining Government funding for an additional 38 electric vehicle charge points across the borough – bringing the total so far to about 175.
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