Item 54 – North Wokingham Distributor Road
Consultation on the route of the road was carried out in the Autumn of 2013 and showed a clear preference for Route B, which involved building the road right across the floodplain of the Emmbrook, not just in one place, but on both sides of Toutley Industrial Estate. Keith Baker raised this as a potential problem at a North Wokingham Community Forum in January 2014, and Angus Ross raised it again at the Executive meeting in March 2014 when it was decided to proceed with working up option B as the route the Executive wanted to carry on with. The Refinement report produced in preparation for tonight’s meeting shows that environmental impact and increased flood risk to residential and commercial properties was a major factor in changing the choice of route from option B to what is almost identical to option C. The Council knew the Emmbrook flooded, and they knew about the risks of building on a flood plain. Why did you continue with option B when you knew about the flood plain risks?
At the March 2014 Executive meeting it was resolved to allocate funds to progress with the refinement of the North Wokingham Distributor Road option B design options to gain greater confidence in scheme delivery ahead of a later Executive decision to proceed with a Preferred Scheme for detailed design to be agreed. At the time there was not conclusive technical evidence that the route through the flood plain was undeliverable. The additional work commissioned did demonstrate this to be the case and so this section of route option B no longer forms a part of the preferred route
The Leader of Council provided the following response:
As you have quoted me in this question I welcome the chance to correct an inaccuracy in your question. First of all the route is not identical to route C. It is actually a combination of parts of routes A, B and C as I explained earlier so I am not going to repeat them here.
Now remember that three out of four respondents to the consultation wanted the road to go across the flood plain if it was technically possible. The vast majority of these, and you have acknowledged that in your question, would have known about the flooding possibilities yet they still chose that route rather than route C which would have avoided this issue from day one. Therefore it was only right and proper that Officers carried out the detailed technical evaluation to see if there was any possibility that this could be achieved. Technology is advancing all the time so there could have been a solution but unfortunately in this case there was not.
Councillors in Wokingham were briefed about the likely route in April and I understand that Emmbrook Councillors were given an earlier briefing in February.
In a leaflet that Philip Mirfin put out in the May elections, dated 7 May 2015, he said “option B is still expected with minor adjustments around the flood plain to be the chosen option.” Why did he say that and why in June, when a public meeting was held had it already been taken off the considerations?
Supplementary Answer provided by Councillor Mirfin
Because at the time quite simply that was what we believed and it was only at a later stage that we found out that that was not possible. Quite simply we believed that to be the case at the time and that is why we said what we did.