In order to delivery high quality cycling infrastructure for new development, it is important that we engage with West Berkshire Council through their planning process. This post looks at some of the ways that we do this and describes some of the improvements that we are aiming to achieve or that have already been secured as a result of this process.
The Local Plan is a key document that sets out the Council’s plans for how the area should be developed. It is currently being reviewed and once adopted, it will set out the Council’s policies for the period to 2036. We responded to the recent consultation on the Local Plan Sustainability Appraisal Scoping Report to highlight the need for investment in cycling infrastructure to help mitigate the transport effects of new development. In particular, we identified the need to create new cycle links to greenfield sites such as Sandleford and North Newbury, as well as improving the existing network, including of the Kennet & Avon Canal towpath.
We also pressed for the Local Plan to safeguard the route of the former Newbury to Didcot Railway Line as a traffic-free cycling and walking route. This would provide opportunities for active travel to help make outlying villages such as Long Lane, Curridge, Hermitage, Hampstead Norreys and Compton, more sustainable locations for development. The first phase of making the dismantled railway track accessible to the public between Hermitage and Hampstead Norreys has begun this year and is expected to be complete by 2019. More investment and commitment to a vision to open the entire route would provide a community asset for West Berkshire residents that would become a tourist attraction in its own right.
One of the biggest developments in the area is at Newbury Racecourse and as part of the planning consent, the developer is required to contribute £300,000 towards upgrading the Kennet and Avon Canal towpath. We have been working with the Council to advise on where the money should be spent and what specification should be adopted. We have asked for the money to go to the most heavily trafficked section between the football club and the back of Tesco on London Road. We have also requested that they use a bound surface. Although more expensive than the current, unbound surface, it will last much longer and will prove more cost effective in the long-term.
In addition, our eagle-eyed Highways Officer is always on the lookout for major planning applications where there are opportunities to improve provision for cyclists. For example, he recently commented on an application at Newbury Business Park, seeking improved cycle access to the north to improve access to Trinity School and Vodafone, as well as improvements to on-site cycle parking. Elsewhere, we have identified an opportunity to link proposed developments off New Road and Pyle Hill in Greenham. These may seem like small things, but they all add up and help to ensure that new development is cycle friendly.