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"West Berkshire residents love their cars"

District council chief executive wants another crossing over the river Kennet to help ease congestion on A339

Fiona Tomas

Fiona Tomas

fiona.tomas@newburynews.co.uk

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01635 886639

"West Berkshire residents love their cars"

AN additional road crossing over the River Kennet, to the west of Newbury, is needed to alleviate congestion and pollution on the A339.

That was the view of West Berkshire Council’s chief executive Nick Carter, who has said the scheme was needed to ease the traffic flow at the three roundabouts along the road, which are operating “at capacity”. 

These include the Burger King, Sainsbury’s and Robin Hood roundabouts.

He also conceded it “wouldn’t be easy” to get people in West Berkshire to give up using their cars.

Mr Carter made his comments at a networking conference on Wednesday, February 13, which was organised by the Thames Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Mr Carter was one of four panellists to speak at the Have Businesses Outgrown Newbury? breakfast event at the Donnington Valley Hotel.

When asked what was being done to minimise congestion in and around Newbury town centre, Mr Carter revealed that the proposed widening of the Robin Hood roundabout would help lessen the busy route’s “hour-glass” structure from traffic vertically accessing it from the north and south.

Mr Carter said: “The proposal at the Robin Hood is to effectively widen the Robin Hood, particularly for the traffic that is coming from the south and travelling east along the A4.

“There is a scheme ready to be implemented that will effectively widen the Robin Hood and create that capacity.

“The funding of it is linked to the approved at appeal housing development close to Vodafone. 

“That development at the moment is not progressing.

“Once it progresses, we will have the funding to have that move forward.”

Mr Carter also shed light on the “longer-term issue” of building another crossing over the River Kennet, which he said would have to be located to the west of Newbury and built in conjunction with a housing development.

A 2016 survey by West Berkshire Council identified the A339 as one of the town’s points where pollution thresholds of nitrogen dioxide – a colourless gas emitted from exhaust fumes – are sometimes exceeded.

Andover Road at Wash Common, Shaw Road, and Chapel Street in Thatcham were also highlighted as major pollution points.

The Burger King roundabout was also declared as an Air Quality Management Area.

The conference also heard from Rob Howes, a representative from Green Commute Initiative – a London-based social enterprise with a branch in Lambourn, which aims to get commuters out of cars and onto bikes.

Mr Howe asked what the council was doing to reduce car usage throughout the district.   

In his response, Mr Carter was quick to acknowledge the affluent and rural nature of West Berkshire, where it is not uncommon to find up to five cars per household.

As well as increasing electric car points and the introduction of car clubs, Mr Carter also highlighted the £18m investment to upgrade Newbury railway station, which will include more spacious parking areas and facilities for cyclists, including a cycle hub.

But, at a time when a growing number of UK councils have already declared a “climate emergency” in their localities with a move to become carbon-neutral, the chief executive warned that a shift away from car usage in the district was not as straightforward as some might assume.

Mr Carter said: “West Berkshire and its residents love their cars.”

He added: “I think politically, certainly locally – perhaps nationally – the move towards low carbon and the whole fossil fuel debate is starting to come very much up the agenda.

“I think it’s been absent for the last few years.

“I wouldn’t want to underestimate the task of getting people out of cars in West Berkshire.”

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