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Students discover green benefits of newly finished road

Students discover green benefits of newly finished road

27 October 2021
Emmbrook Ashridge NWDR visit web.JPG

Pupils from The Emmbrook School in Wokingham enjoyed a visit to a new public green area at Ashridge Farm to the north of the town.


The 4.5-hectare open space, which includes numerous features to protect and improve the diversity of local wildlife, was landscaped by highways contractor Balfour Beatty and civil engineering partner Scape as part of a new road project which has just finished construction.


The 550m carriageway connects Bell Foundry Lane with Dalley Road and will provide access to new houses being built by David Wilson Homes as part of Wokingham Borough Council's North Wokingham major development.


It is the penultimate section of the North Wokingham Distributor Road, which will relieve congestion by providing a quicker route between Reading Road near the M4 to the west of the town and London Road near the A329(M) to the east, to be finished. Only a section to the west of Old Forest Road remains and this should open by summer next year.


The Emmbrook pupils, who are all in Year 7, and their associate headteacher Craig Johnson were given a guided tour of the green space by Balfour Beatty's team, who answered their questions.


The open day was attended by residents living near the development, one of whom brought their Harley-Davidson motortrike for the occasion and allowed the children to sit and pose for photos in the passenger seat.

Designed with wildlife in mind


The green space boasts two ponds with a total area of about 1,500 sq m, one of which is an “eco pond” that will attract crested newts, dragonflies and damselflies and grass snakes.


The site has footpaths with natural topsoil surfacing as well as hibernation quarters for small mammals, bat boxes and “beetle hotels” made of wood from the site.


There are also tunnels to allow newts to cross under the road safely and barriers to stop them trying where it isn't safe.


It has been seeded with grass, wildflowers and wetland marsh plants and up to 70 trees will be planted on site, about four times the number removed to make way for the road.


Much more open space will follow as part of the new housing and this will link to existing green spaces to the east and west, also funded by development.


Work on the road itself, which has footpaths and grass verges on both sides as well as a zebra crossing, began in November last year and the project finished earlier this month.


It included a diversion of the Ashridge Stream to run beneath the carriageway and a date when it will open to traffic will be announced soon.


The North Wokingham Distributor Road is part of the council’s major highways project, which will see more than £100million invested in new roads and is funded by statutory contributions from developers building new housing in the borough.

'A beautiful, relaxing environment'


Cllr Pauline Jorgensen, executive member for highways and transport, said: “We're delighted that this section of the North Wokingham Distributor Road has been completed and will soon play a crucial role in keeping traffic moving.”

Cllr Parry Batth, executive member for environment and leisure, said: “The many features provided for wildlife at the green space demonstrate our commitment to maintaining a green borough by conserving and enhancing biodiversity.


“It will offer a beautiful and relaxing environment for residents of all ages to visit and enjoy while allowing the many plant and animal species which are native to this area to thrive.


Cllr Gregor Murray, executive member for resident services, communications and emissions, said: “By increasing the area's biodiversity, this scheme will also help meet our ambition to make Wokingham borough carbon neutral by 2030.”


Cllr Wayne Smith, executive member for planning and enforcement, added: “These benefits were made possible through the council's strategic approach to housing development, which ensures we provide residents with suitable high-quality infrastructure to support the delivery of new homes.”


Andy Bradshaw, project director for Balfour Beatty, said: “We're excited to have completed the penultimate link in the North Wokingham Distributor Road and provided enhancements which will bring so many benefits to the community.


“As well as setting up access to new housing developments, we're proud to have ensured a net gain to biodiversity in this rural setting.”


Craig Johnson, associate headteacher at The Emmbrook School, said: “It’s been incredibly exciting to learn about the ecological side of this project and the ways in which sustainability sits at the heart of it.


“The students really enjoyed finding out more about how local wildlife including newts and bats are provided for. We're very green at our school and always seeking opportunities to raise our students’ awareness of ecological issues, so this visit was highly useful.”

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