Recommendation: That the orders be made
Proposal: Diversion of parts of Wokingham Footpath 24 / Wokingham Without Footpath 9 and Wokingham Without Footpath 5, and the stopping up of part of Wokingham Footpath 25, Wokingham Footpath 10 and Wokingham Without Footpath 5 in support of the planning application for the construction of the South Wokingham Distributor Road (SWDR) and the Eastern Gateway between Finchampstead Road and Waterloo Road.
Applicant: Mrs Jean Mulovi, Wokingham Borough Council
The Committee received and reviewed a report about this item, set out in agenda pages 5 to 20.
The Committee were advised that there were no Members’ Updates.
Maria Gee, Ward Member, spoke in objection to this item. Maria was of the opinion that there were many good qualities about the proposed new footpath routes in the new proposed developments, including improved surfaces and improved access for disabled residents. Maria raised concerns that the footpaths were not suitable for shared use, and felt it was unclear what would be done to deter cyclists from using the existing footpaths without also deterring wheelchair users. Maria queried whether the Committee was convinced that the new designs would appropriately direct each type of path user. Prior to making changes to the existing network, Maria asked that the Committee look at the gaps between the boards of the boardwalk to see whether they had been considered in relation to the most commonly used wheels for pushchairs and wheelchairs. Maria sought confirmation that the boardwalk surface would not become slippery in winter. Maria was of the opinion that the design of the SWDR could potentially places obstacles in the way of increased pedestrian use due to a lack of controlled crossing points. Maria asked the Committee to consider whether the new designs were the best that they could be prior to removing or diverting the existing pathway network, and asked the Committee to confirm whether these plans had met Wokingham Borough Council’s duties under the Public Sector Equality Duty.
Simon Weeks queried whether any of the signage related to the usage of the footpaths would be changing. Andrew Fletcher, case officer, confirmed that officers were not looking to prevent use of the paths by cyclists, and cyclists would be entitled to use the paths under permitted use.
Simon Weeks queried whether the boardwalk would meet current standards related to pushchairs and cyclists. Andrew Fletcher confirmed that the boardwalk would meet the current standards, and officers were happy with the designs.
Angus Ross stated that much work had been done to ensure the continuity of the public rights of way system in the area, whilst taking into account the needs of future housing developments and major roads. Angus added that many of the public footpaths were currently well used, and the modifications suggested would maintain safety and usability. Angus stated that footpath 5 was currently seldom used due to the relatively unsafe entry and exit, however the proposals would improve upon this and should make it a much more useful walking route.
Stephen Conway stated that Local Transport Note 1/20 (LTN 1/20) promoted clear separation between pedestrians and cyclists, and raised concerns that should these footpaths not be separated then some users may be deterred from using the routes and instead rely on cars for transport. Andrew Fletcher stated that Section 8.2.8 of the LTN specifically discouraged separation of routes which were 3m wide or less. In those instances, as was the case for these footpaths, a fully shared surface was best as otherwise each side would only have 1.5m which could cause additional issues.
Stephen Conway queried what measures would be put in place to reduce slippage on the boardwalk. Andrew Fletcher clarified that the boardwalk would be made of timer decking with grooved boards with anti-slip slats. Gaps between boards would be a maximum of 12mm wide, which exceeded standards.
Andrew Mickleburgh queried whether any of the proposed diversions could make the routes more prone to flooding, and whether any of the amended routes could cause issues for some users due to increased length. Andrew Fletcher stated the proposals would make the footpaths more usable for most of the year compared to their current routes, and the footpaths would only become unusable during very severe weather conditions. Currently footpaths 9 and 24 were flooded during severe floods, and the proposals included an alternative path off of the highway which should alleviate issues during severe floods. Relating to the distance, Andrew stated that any increase to distances would not cause an issue for any user.
Rachelle Shepherd-DuBey was of the opinion that a fully segregated route for cyclists and pedestrians would be more suitable for the proposed diverted footpaths. Andrew Fletcher stated that bridleways had allowed cycle use since 1969, and many bridleways were narrower than 3m and generally had very few issues.
Abdul Loyes queried whether there were any standards stating how wide a public right of way needed to be. Andrew Fletcher stated that he could not answer related to an adopted highways standard, however from a public right of way perspective there were no minimum width standards.
Chris Bowring commented that officers had given assurances that the proposed routes were acceptable as shared use footpaths, given the width of the pathways. Chris added that these routes were required for the South Wokingham Distribution Road, which was to be considered by the Committee later in the agenda.
Carl Doran queried why the boardwalk was chosen to be 4m wide. Andrew Fletcher commented that he had received the application and checked that the boardwalk was acceptable, which it was in this instance.
RESOLVED That the orders be made, subject to the recommendations as set out on agenda page 6.