Exciting times as the borough mayor opens a major new road in Arborfield to traffic for the first time.
Construction of Observer Way, the new Arborfield relief road, began last summer. Now open, the road connects the A327 Reading Road to the A327 Eversley Road, taking traffic around the villages of Arborfield and Arborfield Cross. Final landscaping works will take place over the next couple of months due to supply chain issues, which may result in periodic traffic management being required in this period.
The new 2.3km road is part of the council’s major highways project which will see over £100million investment and has been funded through developer contributions and a grant for the council’s major new roads programme from the Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership. It is part of the new community in Arborfield, on the site of the former garrison. The relief road will reduce congestion and create opportunities for more sustainable travel, providing traffic relief in Arborfield and Arborfield Cross and the surrounding rural lanes.
The council’s 2010 local plan included a relief road for Arborfield to support the new 3,500 home development at the Arborfield Garrison, which was then scheduled for decommissioning, and the nearby major development in Shinfield Parish. The council considered four potential routes for the new road and recommended Option A as the preferred route in a consultation. Residents preferred Option B, with an overwhelming 70 per cent. The council listened to residents and Option B is the route the road takes today.
Cllr Wayne Smith, executive member for planning and enforcement said: “The opening of this road is an incredible milestone for the borough. This road has been over 10 years in the planning and building, and has been a success for the council and residents all the way along. This is very much a case of ‘You said, we listened’. When we consulted in 2013 on four options, with a clear preference from us for technical reasons, residents strongly came back and told us that wasn’t what they wanted. We listened and the road we have today reflects that.”
Chairman of Arborfield & Newland Parish Council Mark Picken said: “The Parish Council is pleased to see the relief road opening as scheduled. We have been very much included from the beginning and are pleased to have worked with all involved, especially regarding the naming of the road and bridge and honouring those who served in the Royal Observer Corps (ROC). Arborfield has changed dramatically over the past few years and the relief road is a real bonus for the village.”
Alison Webster, chief executive of Thames Valley Berkshire LEP added: “This scheme is the single largest Local Growth Fund project that the LEP is delivering for Berkshire. We have worked closely with Wokingham Borough Council to help provide relief to the existing A327 through the village of Arborfield and reduce the traffic impacts of the strategic development at Arborfield Garrison and South of the M4 (Shinfield and Spencer’s Wood), which will enable the development of 3,500 new homes.”
Key features of the road
Multi-use path: The new road is not just for vehicles to navigate the borough, there is also a shared pathway alongside but separated from the road for cyclists and pedestrians. This is part of the council’s Greenways Project, an ongoing programme to create a network of safe paths connecting the major growth areas with established centres across the borough for cyclists and pedestrians to encourage more sustainable travel.
Observer Bridge: In May this year a wildlife friendly green bridge across the road opened, following the route of an existing public right of way, linking Arborfield Court Woodland and Spring Copse, which lie on either side of the new relief road. The green bridge offers a safe route across Observer Way for ramblers, cyclists, horse riders and wildlife, specifically badgers and bats. Hedgerow planting, trees and grassland will help to ‘signpost’ badgers and bats safely over the road, using the bridge to navigate through the countryside. Tunnels and fencing will also encourage wildlife to use specially designed crossing points along the road.
Memorial stone: The council worked closely with the Arborfield Local History Society to install a memorial stone as a fitting tribute to the brave members of the Arborfield Royal Observer Corps who manned the above-ground observation post from 1936 that was sited nearby, which was also later used as an underground monitoring post from 1961 until its closure in 1968. The memorial stone is located near Observer Bridge.
Village improvements: The project has also provided an opportunity to maximise the benefits the relief road can bring the local community – through improvements to the local roads around Arborfield and Arborfield Cross villages. The proposed improvements will reduce through traffic from the village centre and result in traffic flows more appropriate for the village streets. The latest local consultation with residents took place over the summer. The results of the consultation are available on the council’s website (insert link). The changes are currently planned to be in place by September 2022.
Cllr Pauline Jorgensen, executive member for highways said: “The road opening is such an achievement and I would like to say a massive thank you to everyone involved in making this happen. This project finished on budget and on schedule, despite having the major disruption of a global pandemic halfway through.
“It has been a long journey from the abstract early strategic plans, collaboration with our residents, to the construction of the road, pathways and the green bridge over the last year.
“There has been a lot of change in the borough over recent years, through development of new communities and we are committed to ensuring the infrastructure we need is built at the right time and in the right places. The council is investing £1billion in a wide range of infrastructure including new schools, open spaces and leisure facilities, community facilities and roads to ensure our new communities have what they need to thrive.”
To find out more about Observer Way (formerly called the Arborfield Cross Relief Road), visit the council website and search Arborfield Relief Road.