A CONSULTATION on ideas to improve Wokingham borough's walking and cycling links is being relaunched (click here to take part) to ensure all residents, businesses and other interested parties can have their say.
Since 11 July, Wokingham Borough Council has been seeking people's views on its draft Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan - a strategic document outlining where routes could be made easier and safer for everyone, including those who wheel, scoot or skate.
It is part of a wider effort to get more people travelling actively and sustainably rather than driving, which also includes greater support for the borough's bus and train services and the provision of infrastructure like new traffic-free greenways.
This is important as the council is committed to improving air quality, tackling the climate emergency, reducing inequality and improving people's physical and emotional health. It has pledged to do all it can to make Wokingham borough a net-zero carbon producer by 2030.
Up to the previous closing date of Sunday, 4 September, the survey attracted almost 11,000 comments from more than 2,000 individuals, which was well above expectations for a survey of this size, and these will still be counted so there is no need for previous respondents to post again.
However, the council knows some people may have struggled because of technical issues with the interactive map on the website, which was created and hosted by an external organisation, while others found it hard to use.
It was still possible to respond, as hundreds did, but this wasn’t as easy as it could have been and the council does not want anyone to be excluded.
It is therefore moving the questions on proposals for specific neighbourhoods to its own Engage Wokingham Borough platform, where they will stay until 2 October.
Engage is free and easy to use and registering, which is required to check that comments are genuine and not repeated from the previous consultation site, takes only seconds.
Anyone who wants to view the plans or respond in a different format should contact the council's customer services team on 0118 974 6000 or visit one of the borough's libraries.
What the consultation is about (and what it isn't)
Crucially, this is not the final chance to comment on the plan. This is a “high level” vision outlining schemes that could happen in the next decade or so, potentially including better cycleways, footways and crossings, new road layouts and lower speed limits.
It’s been proven that this kind of provision encourages more people to travel actively where they might not previously have considered it. As a result, fewer journeys are made by car so this also tackles the root cause of congestion and is more effective than managing existing traffic flows.
However, nothing is set in stone and the plan will remain subject to change after publishing. All its proposals would depend on funding being available and none is currently allocated for any of them. No schemes would go ahead without further consultation.
But while these could still be a long way off, the council must publish the plan now to have a better chance of getting Government funding later. It hopes to do this in the next few months and will announce more as soon as it can.
From the outset, it has done everything possible to raise awareness of the consultation including releases to local media, articles in its email and printed newsletters, social media posts and direct contact with community groups that could help to spread the news.
Although it had received over 8,000 comments from over 1,600 people by the original closing date of 19 August, it agreed to extend it until the end of the summer holidays to give everyone time to respond. This relaunch provides even greater opportunity to have your say.
Make the most of the extra time
Cllr Paul Fishwick, executive member for active travel, highways and transport, said: “We thank everyone who has made the effort to share their views so far - we know many residents are busy and their time is precious, so it's greatly appreciated.
“We're also very pleased with the responses to date, which shows there has been a wide awareness of this process, but we were disappointed to hear from a smaller number of people who didn't feel able to leave comments.
“While this wasn't an obstacle for everyone, we know the alternatives weren't clear and some people may have been deterred as a result. If anyone left the consultation without commenting, I urge you to revisit now and tell us what you think.
“We've worked hard to publicise this and I believe we’ve succeeded - but even if this is the first you've heard of it, you still have almost four more weeks to take part.”
The council also recently finished consulting on revised plans for a new £4 million cycling and walking link from Woodley town centre to Palmer Park, at the Reading borough boundary, to be funded by the Department for Transport’s Active Travel Fund.
This was changed in response to residents’ concerns about an earlier design in the spring, including the removal of a proposed one-way system on part of Woodlands Avenue between Lytham Road and Howth Drive. More will be announced on this in due course.
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