Work is about to start on the next phase of Wokingham Borough Council's greenways, a network of typically traffic-free paths linking key destinations across the borough.
The authority’s contractor Volker Highways is set to resurface Coombes Lane and Coles Lane near Barkham from the week beginning 24 October. This will take about five days and will involve a closure for some of that time, typically from 8am to 6pm.
Progress will depend on the weather and any delays will be communicated through signs on site. Residents should still have access to their properties where safe, and they are asked not to park on or block the road the night before work starts.
Unlike much of the greenways network, this new stretch will remain open to traffic as part of a wider route between Cantley Park in Wokingham town (pictured, above right) and Arborfield Cross via Woosehill Meadows and the adjoining countryside.
It will be more accessible to pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders than before and will be followed by a new, improved bridge at the Coles Lane ford.
Added benefits with no adverse impacts
Given the cost of living crisis and the council’s own need to find savings to protect vital services amid growing financial pressure, it wants to assure residents that this scheme is mostly funded by statutory contributions from developers building new homes in the area.
This is “ring-fenced” for this purpose, meaning it can’t be spent on other areas like running costs.
The council is also aware of local concerns about the adjacent protected woodland at The Coombes, which in recent years has been subject to various enforcement actions to protect it from unauthorised, inappropriate development.
It is still committed to preserving this green space and the greenway is not connected to this issue, nor is it being carried out to enable any kind of development.
Landowners have been informed of the upcoming works and the council has sought independent advice to minimise the risk of any impact on the woodland and local wildlife.
These works will follow the successful completion of another section of the same greenway at Woosehill Meadows, which is proving popular with residents including children who attend nearby primary schools such as Hawthorns, Windmill and St Paul’s Church of England Juniors.
A greener route for all kinds of journeys
Cllr Ian Shenton, executive member for environment, sport and leisure, said: “Work at Woosehill Meadows has now finished and we're getting some fantastic feedback from residents, so we're looking forward to moving ahead to the next stages of this project.
“We understand that there will be some disruption but this will bring benefits to everyone, whether walking, cycling or using other types of active travel, for many years to come while providing one of many new connections between Wokingham town and other towns and villages.
"This will have enormous benefits for the environment and help residents lead healthier lives, whether they're using the route for day-to-day travel or leisure.”
The final stage of this route will run from Heron Road to Bearwood Road via the woodland at Fox Hill, with the exact route to be agreed with landowners. The borough’s first greenway, running from Arborfield to Finchampstead via the California Way through California County Park, opened in 2020.
The council is committed to providing more ways of walking, wheeling and cycling around the borough as part of a comprehensive range of measures to reduce vehicle emissions, air pollution, traffic congestion and inequality and help people live more healthily.
This includes encouraging and supporting businesses and residents to embrace sustainable and active travel while driving less.
It recently finished consulting on plans to improve walking and cycling links across the borough, subject to funding and further public consultation, and will announce more soon.
It is also working to protect bus services as operators grapple with the ongoing financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
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