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Bad planning has led to more traffic congestion around Newbury, says new report

National report blasts wasted opportunity to ease pressure after bypass was built

Chris Ord


01635 886639

Delays for motorists after A339 lane closures

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.

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Article comments

  • MartinB

    25/05/2017 - 13:01

    Since Vodafone have already closed down one of their buildings (and more likely to follow) the pressure should reduce? More traffic heading out of town than in. Might be more sensible to wait to see if the economy contracts as expected, before investing in an expansion that may not be needed?


  • Racegoer

    25/05/2017 - 09:09

    Much A339 traffic is to/from Basingstoke and the Greenham Industrial Estate. Add in the Hambridge Road industrial area and that is a heavy base load of traffic that cycling will not remove. I'd go for a new Eastern road linking A4 - end of racecourse to Greenham and to the A339. Local traffic will continue but proper cycle paths, separate from the roads will certainly help, as will then growth in autonomous electric vehicle from c.2025.


  • philjay2

    24/05/2017 - 20:08

    The traffic within the Newbury area has been squeezed onto fewer roads. The park lane bridge that replaced the "American" bridge is now reserved for taxis and buses despite being paid for by all residents. The pedestrianising of the town centre removes another through route during the day but is at least open at peak traffic times. Added to this we have an ever increasing density of housing where old houses are replaced by blocks of flats. The cycling lobby is keen to claim benefits for its adoption but the aging population is not really able to take advantage of this and comparisons with the Netherlands are pointless. They have a flat country suitable for mass cycling , we don't.


  • Oldmoaner

    24/05/2017 - 15:03

    Why am I not shocked by this report, West Berkshire Council planners are a complete waste of money they would be a joke but they are not in the least bit funny. They waste money on visions with no plans and plans with no vision. They are developer led at great detriment to the town. If they used the developers contributions to build roads for through traffic avoiding the town they would not need all these crackpot schemes they keep dreaming up. Without the A339 Basingstoke traffic and the A4 Thatcham through traffic there would be sufficient roads for cars, cyclists and pedestrians. The actions of this council will continue to drive away businesses and thus create more traffic because people will need to travel further to work.


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