In July 2013 the Executive added options B and C to the consultation on the route of the Northern Distributor Road, which was originally only going to include Option A. 76% of people wanted option B. One of the main reasons people in Emmbrook wanted Option B was that it meant traffic would be diverted away from Toutley Road. In March 2014 the Executive resolved to continue working up Option B as the route of the road. 18 months later, the report in the agenda says the route will be Option C with a small part of Option A, which means all the traffic will be using Toutley Road after all.
Why have you allowed people to go on thinking Option B was going to happen for the last 18 months?
The Executive considered the matter at their meeting on 27 March 2014 and the report to that meeting reported that the public preference was for alternative B; one of the three alternative route options in Emmbrook supported by 76 of the consultation responses.
The consultation raised a number of other route variations that required further investigation and the report summarised the requirements to refine engineering, environmental and planning issues prior to any formal preferred route being seen by the Executive.
There was no commitment at that time to simply go away and come back with the same scheme. The agreed process was to find a technically feasible and deliverable highways solution. The minutes record the allocation of funds to progress the refinement of North Wokingham Distribution Road option B design options to gain greater confidence in the scheme delivery ahead of a later Executive decision to proceed with a preferred scheme for detailed design.
The 18 months since 2014 have been used to refine engineering, environmental and planning issues which has resulted in the scheme before us.
The Leader of Council provided the following response:
Since I was the individual involved I thought I would provide some background. First of all on no occasion did any cast iron guarantee be given by anyone that route B would be what was delivered. Yes it was the favoured route by residents but all communications clearly indicated that the final route was not set in stone.
The route is actually a combination of parts of routes A, B and C. The Twyford Road along Toutley Road to Old Forest Road link is actually from route A. The link between the Toutley Road/Old Forest Road to the new part of the road, which swings over to the Arboretum, is from both routes A and C. The small part of the road which actually takes the road over there, towards the motorway, is from route C. Finally the Route through the Arboretum and down to Reading Road is from both routes B and C.
On 20 January 2014 I presented to the North Wokingham Forum and the final slide had a Health Warning and the Health Warning said quite clearly “the Council cannot confirm the approved route until all of these steps are completed.” This “Health Warning” was highlighted in as many ways as possible to reinforce the importance of this statement. Until the detailed technical study had been completed nothing could be confirmed.
At the Executive Meeting on 27 March 2014 the report had already suggested variations from the “pure” option B creating option B2. This was to go along Matthewsgreen Road and then swing through the Toutley Industrial Estate. Very few, if any, complaints were made at the time.
In July 2014 the Council reiterated that “the exact position may be affected to some extent by the location of the SANG and other factors such as avoiding the flood plain.” So yet another warning that the route was not set in stone.
That is at least three such caveats that the route was not set in stone and there were many more repeat warnings in many e-mails between myself and others.
The adoption of the small bit of Old Forest Road from the Toutley Road junction then swinging across to the Arboretum from options A and C actually benefits a huge number of residents; in fact almost all of Old Forest Road. This is because the section from Reading Road and this particular point will become very unattractive to anyone going to Toutley Industrial Estate. That will mean a reduction in heavy traffic right in front of their houses. So if we did stick to exactly the route B as you want then every single resident in that part of Old Forest Road would actually lose out which I think is frankly nonsense.
The fact is that the route is going down Toutley Road. What are you going to do to protect the people who live there from the future impact of the traffic?
At the moment the detailed engineering work is being carried out and until that is completed we will not be able to answer that question adequately. The engineering work will follow the decision tonight.