News on the Highways England proposal for the M4 Junctions 3 to 12 Smart Motorway
I attended and spoke on noise abatement and local traffic at the Planning Inspectorate Open Floor Hearing in Reading on 16 November. It was good that several other Earley residents also spoke.
Highways England has already agreed to use lower noise tar on all lanes which will help reduce our noise. Councillors, residents and our MP John Redwood are pressing them to do more in noise hot spots throughout Wokingham Borough. I believe the Planning Inspectors have taken on board our pleas for more noise abatement to be built into the scheme where houses are close to the motorway and some form of barrier is appropriate. I also felt they had grasped the large number of people affected when I met the Inspectors on the Site Visit at Maltby Way, Earley on 10 November.
I also spoke at the Issue Specific Hearing on Environment on 17 and 18 November. This Hearing covered noise, traffic forecasting, air quality, visual impact and flooding. At this meeting the Planning Inspectors asked Highways England to include in their thinking enhancements (ie things above and beyond the minimum they must do). During the meeting Highways England indicated they will shortly publish an enhanced noise mitigation strategy and confirmed that consideration of noise barriers on the stretch of motorway passing Earley will be a priority. This is not yet a commitment to do anything further but significant progress I hope.
Following the Environment Hearing there was an Issue Specific Hearing on Road Safety which I also attended. The main concern raised during that Hearing was what would happen in the event that a vehicle broke down on a running lane at a quiet time. At peak times the detectors in the road would pick up the traffic queuing behind the broken down vehicle and alert operators to switch on warning signs. At quieter times how would other drivers be alerted and move out of that lane? It seemed the system currently proposed would sort that out after several minutes but there was increased danger in the minutes following breakdown. More work to do on that issue I think.
I was asked by the Planning Inspector to identify the location of houses in Wokingham Borough that are most adversely affected by noise and will do so by the 26 November submission deadline.
I look forward to reviewing the Highways England enhanced noise mitigation strategy once submitted in December or January.
Dr Norman Jorgensen
Member for Hillside Ward in Earley
22 November 2015