More homes in Wokingham and construction problems

As I drive around the constituency visiting people and looking at problems on the ground I have seen the rapid quickening of the pace of development this year. In the first quarter of 2016 118 new homes were started in the constituency. In the second quarter this leapt to 222, around four times the national average for a constituency, and way above the levels in Wokingham in 2015.

The Council is also busy trying to get the roads and facilities upgraded to handle all the extra people and vehicles. The first part of the Winnersh by pass is being dug. The Shinfield relief road and motorway crossing is almost complete. The new secondary school at Arborfield has opened for pupils this September. The new road to the north of Wokingham in Emmbrook is taking shape.

I am all too conscious of the impact these construction works have on the neighbours. Building inevitably produces dust and mud. It bring substantial heavy lorry and plant movements. It creates noise when the machinery is operating to dig, mix and fix. People living by can feel invaded by the intense activity and sounds.

The Council has powers to ameliorate and regulate the noise and disruption. As the local highways authority the Council can create routes for heavy traffic that avoid the more sensitive residential areas or divert traffic to larger roads where their impact is diluted. As the Planning authority they can lay down restricted hours for site working and control the contractor’s access to public property and to the existing highways and utility networks. As Building Regulation authority the Council can also satisfy itself about the impact any new development has on existing water, power and highway structures and supplies. I am keen that any new development takes into account the inevitable impact on flood waters, and contains within it ways of improving the area’s resilience to flash floods and general flooding.

Anyone with a worry or problem with site nuisance should get in touch with Wokingham Borough direct to see how they can help. I also take up these issues with Councillors and Council executives when people write to me about them, conscious that the powers lie with the Council to alleviate the impact on the local community.

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8 Comments

  1. lustra
    Posted September 20, 2016 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    Considering the shocking problems of over-reliance on motor vehicles (traffic congestion, obesity-related diseases, RTA casualties, and air pollution) and the infrastructure being put in place to increase this over-reliance and intensify all these problems, would you consider it appropriate to alleviate the impact on the local community by putting pressure to bear for suitable investment in sustainable transport options, particularly cycling?
    The UK disgracefully spends a tiny £1.50 per person on cycling protection, compared to the Netherlands £28 per annum.
    The key person responsible for the UK’s genocidal death rates from transport pollution and inactivity diseases due to lack of protected cycle lanes is the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
    This has got to change urgently – almost all of us are breathing this polluted carcinogic transport pollution, it is damaging the lungs of our young children and millions of us are obese and unfit because we are afraid to cycle to our local shops, schools and work-places due to lack of protected cycle lanes.
    I would be interested to hear a rational, evidence-led argument from you as to why you do not lobby for such improvements which have been shown to work effectively in the Netherlands and elsewhere.

    • alan jutson
      Posted September 21, 2016 at 8:59 am | Permalink

      lustra

      Have you not noticed the huge investment (over £1,000,000) made in the new cycle lane provision along the Lower Earley Way and A329 in the last 18 months, and yet cyclists still cycle on the road and paths, ignoring these specific area’s and the investment made.

      Lower Early Way cycle path now used by more dog walkers and joggers that cyclists.

      Unless you build cycle lanes which are well away from the roads, there is no benefit of so called clean/fresh air for cyclists to consume.

      • lustra
        Posted September 27, 2016 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

        If a cycle path is any good then obviously people would use it. I don’t use this one because it is not on a route I travel but in the UK most cycle paths/lanes are very inconvenient for cyclists being shared with pedestrians and being forced to give way at evey junction and are normally poorly surfaced and maintained. The point about encouraging cycling is that it benefits everyone because motorists are not just poisoning and endangering cyclists, but everyone including their own children and themselves.

        • alan jutson
          Posted September 28, 2016 at 6:57 am | Permalink

          Lustra

          Take note of your comments, and agree that pedestrians and cycles do not make a happy mix, but absolutely dedicated cycle lanes for cyclists alone, how would you police this when joggers also tend to use them for the very same reason that you suggest.

          I see it was reported that Brighton have just dug up a 3 mile dedicated cycle lane, which cost £3,000,000 due to lack of use, and reconverted it back to road.

          Either someone is not doing their research before such projects are started, or cyclists are not as plentiful as you suggest.

          City centres are clearly a potential dangerous place for cyclists, but then this would be the most difficult area to resolve, due to a constraint on available space.

          • lustra
            Posted September 29, 2016 at 10:26 am | Permalink

            I have never suggested cyclists are plentiful in the UK. That is because most people who would like to cycle are too scared to do so. Putting in one piece of cycling infrastructure is not going to change that.

            However there are places not far from us where significant investment has been made and where about 50% of journeys are by bicycle. It simply requires government investment to make cycling convenient and safe so as to benefit everyone.

            New segregated cycle lanes in London have attracted more cyclists. The fact that the occasional jogger may use a cycle lane, or indeed the road, is more a problem for the jogger than anyone else and obviously not a significant or serious problem.

            There were reports in 2011 that the anti-cycling Brighton and Hove council were intending to remove some cycle lanes. I have never seen any report that this was actually done so I would be grateful if you could provide a link.

            City centres are the best place for utility cycling and this is easily achieved by taking space from the motor vehicle and providing it for cycling, as has been done in many cities in Europe.

  2. Lookingatanostrich
    Posted September 20, 2016 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    It was a mistake – a monumental, world-class mistake. Cars for everyone was one of the most stupid promises politicians ever made. Cars are meant to meet a simple need: quick and efficient mobility. Observe an urban artery during the school run, or a trunk road on a bank holiday weekend, and ask yourself whether the current system meets that need. The vast expanse of road space, the massive investment in metal and fossil fuel, has delivered the freedom to sit fuming in a toxic cloud as your life ticks by.

    The primary aim has become snarled up with other, implicit objectives: the sense of autonomy, the desire for self-expression through the configuration of metal and plastic you drive, and the demand for profit by car manufacturers and fossil fuel producers whose lobbying keeps us on the road rather than moving along it.

    Step back from this mess and ask yourself this. If you controlled the billions that are spent every year – privately and publicly – on the transport system, and your aim was to smooth the passage of those who use it, is this what you would do? Only if your imagination had been surgically excised.

    Three-quarters of people living in cities want clean air zones, poll finds
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    Even in a small, economically mature, densely populated nation like the UK, where change is easy, we’re still driving in the wrong direction. The government boasts that car use is rising again, after being knocked back by the recession. It is spending £9bn of our scarce money on roads every year, 70% of which is on new capacity. Thanks to the cuts, bus services supported by local authorities reduced their mileage by 10% last year.

    Over half the car journeys people make in this country are less than five miles: this is what policy failure looks like. Why don’t people cycle instead? Perhaps because, though the number of motorists killed or seriously injured has fallen sharply, the number of cyclists killed or hurt on the roads has climbed since 2003. This now accounts for 14% of all casualties, though cycling amounts to only 1% of the distance we travel.

    The simplest, cheapest and healthiest solution to congestion is blocked by the failure to provide safe transit. Last year the transport department crowed that it could cut £23m from its budget as a result of an “underspend on the Cycle Cities Ambition budget”. Instead of handing this money back to the Treasury, it should have discovered why it wasn’t spent, and ensured that it doesn’t happen again.

    The undercapacity of the roads arises from the overcapacity of the vehicles that use them. Average occupancy of cars in the UK is 1.6; and it seems to me that the bigger the car, the fewer people it tends to contain. With a few exceptions (such as
    Mayor Sadiq Khan’s plans for London), almost nothing is done to change or challenge this.

    When a major feeder road was resurfaced in my home city, I heard people complaining that it took them an hour and a half to travel two miles to work. They could have walked in half the time, or cycled in one-tenth. The council had a perfect opportunity to intervene, with notices beside the road urging people to switch to two wheels or two feet. But it sat and watched, as trapped in its mindset as people were in their cars.

    Our problems are dwarfed by what is happening elsewhere. Global car production has almost doubled in 10 years. The number of cars on the planet is expected to rise from 1.2bn to 2bn by 2035. Carmageddon beckons: a disaster for the climate, public health and our quality of life. Yet it is still treated as an indicator of economic success.

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    We are told that this is about choice. But surely there should be a hierarchy of choice: the choice of whether or not to suffer a premature death should take precedence over our choice of transport mode.

    Our brains are filled with metal particles, our children’s lungs and mental development are stunted, and an epidemic of heart and lung disease is catalysed – all to grant people the choice of stewing in a traffic jam rather than getting there by other means.

    In a recent YouGov poll in Britain, 76% of respondents opted for clean air zones in their cities, enforced by taxes and charges. Sorry, wrong kind of choice.

    So here’s a novel idea: how about a 21st-century transport system for the 21st century? Helsinki is making public transport as convenient and flexible as private transport. For example, by aggregating people’s requests via a smartphone app, minibus services can collect people from their homes and deliver them close to their destinations while minimising their routes. Hamburg is building a network of cycling and walking paths so safe, pleasant and convenient that no one with the ability to do otherwise would want to take a car.

    Let’s set a date by which no new car is manufactured unless it’s electric. Let’s set up household charging points, allowing people to plug in without having to take their car off the road. Let’s introduce a scrappage payment, not to replace old cars with new ones but to replace old cars with no car at all. It would take the form of public transport tokens.
    How about facilitating “walking buses” to school, with parents taking turns to lead a crocodile of children? How about local drop-off points, so that parcel companies don’t clog our streets and we never miss deliveries? How about providing bikes for hire at stations, and – yes, I believe in miracles – synchronising bus and train timetables?

    Let’s reopen old rail lines closed in the mistaken belief that train travel was on the way out (it has grown 74% since 1995) and build new lines to bridge the gaps. Let’s bring train services under public control and use the money now spent on road-building to make tickets affordable for everyone.

    Let’s implement the brilliant plan proposed by Dr Alan Storkey for an intercity bus network faster and more convenient than car travel, using dedicated lanes on the motorways and interchanges at the motorway junctions. Let’s build new settlements around public transport hubs – light rail, tram and electric bus systems – rather than around the car.

    What is difficult about any of this? What technological barriers stand in the way? None. Transport is among the simplest of our problems to solve. Yet our governments are stuck in a 20th-century gridlock, still committed to their great mistake.

  3. alan jutson
    Posted September 21, 2016 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    lookingatanostrich

    Yes I would be all for extending public transport, but is it being used to capacity now ?

    I live on a major road and bus route, and yes I do use public transport occasionally when travelling into Reading.

    True at peak times the bus is full (like trains) but most of the day the bus only has a handful of people on it, most of whom seem own a bus pass or some sort of other discount card, few seem to pay the fare with money.

    So the question is who will subsidise this mode of transport if buses (trains) are not utilised efficiently during non peak hours.

    Cycling yes for those who want and can cycle, no problem, indeed was a keen cyclist myself many years ago, but not now.

    Walking yes, again for those who are able, but age, fitness, distance, and weather plays a part here.

    Investment in electric cars for the future yes, but so far no one has invented a battery which will make even medium distances possible, and until that happens the internal combustion engine (in which massive improvements have been made with emissions and efficiently) will continue to reign supreme for most journeys, simply for convenience and cost.

  4. alan jutson
    Posted September 21, 2016 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    Shame the infrastructure was not put in place BEFORE new development started taking place.

    Thus we face more traffic chaos, evidenced by the lengthening queues of traffic on our so called local major roads.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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