WEST Berkshire Council’s planning strategy since the construction of the Newbury bypass has been heavily criticised in a new national report.
After the bypass was finished in 1998, the council has taken the ‘relief’ provided to the road network as an opportunity to permit a series of vehicle-dependent developments around the A339, according to the study from the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).
Dispersed out-of-town developments such as the Vodafone HQ, Newbury Retail Park, Greenham Business Park and the Racecourse development have led to pressure on the district’s roads, essentially negating the relief once provided by the bypass.
West Berkshire Council, however, has defended its development plan, which it says is “independently examined and approved by government planning inspectors”.
The CPRE report, titled The end of the road? Challenging the road-building consensus, examines highway development across the country and states that road-building is failing to provide the congestion relief and economic boost promised, while “devastating the environment”.
Concluding a case study on the Newbury bypass, the report says: “The overall pattern of development around Newbury is one of dispersed developments at highly car-dependent locations that are already bringing increased traffic pressure onto the old bypassed road and are set to add to that pressure until the congestion on the old road reaches or exceeds its pre-bypass levels.”
The paper says the council failed to take the opportunity to constrain traffic growth and make road space for public transport, pedestrians and cyclist.
The author continues: “On the contrary, the planning policies executed appear to have encouraged further traffic growth along the A339.”
And with further out-of-town developments in the pipeline, such as the proposed 2,000-home Sandleford Park scheme and a recently-approved 400-home development at Donnington, the situation is unlikely to improve, the study says.
Former Greenham councillor Tony Forward helped the CPRE with the report, providing local knowledge and statistics on the town’s traffic.
Mr Forward said he agreed with the author’s conclusion.
“The whole idea was to ease the traffic on local roads, but in fact that was seen by developers to fill up the slack that had been created,” he said.
“The whole thing is just a rising spiral that will eventually strangle the local road network.”
West Berkshire Council spokeswoman Peta Stoddart-Crompton said: “Our development plan (independently examined and approved by government planning inspectors) focuses development on centres with supporting services and infrastructure.
“The majority of new development in West Berkshire has been in and around the urban area of Newbury, where communities are serviced by good employment, services and infrastructure such as education, health care, transport, cycle and walking links.”
Construction on the nine-mile stretch of dual carriageway (forming part of the A34) began in 1996 with the aim of relieving pressure on the A339 through Newbury.
Requiring the clearing of 360 acres of land and the felling of thousands of mature trees, the scheme sparked fierce protests against its construction.