Tuesday 27 April 2021

A4074 highways safety works for The Heights at MPF, Upper Woodcote Road

Highways works are ongoing to improve pedestrian safety on the A4074 / Upper Woodcote Road in preparation for The Heights school relocation to Mapledurham Playing Fields after half-term.

View up A4074 towards access (24 April)

Following the reopening of the Pavilion's car park, I've received complaints from residents about the latest highways works. I hope the information I've managed to put together from my various requests for information are helpful.

Lack of notification of highways works

I am sorry and disappointed residents were not notified in advance of the current highways works as those next to the works all should have been, out of common courtesy. The Department for Education (DfE) or their contractors, Kier, should have contacted you and other stakeholders to explain what they were about to do and provide timescales.

Timescale of restrictions

I've been trying to find out for how much longer the works and traffic management (ie the temporary lights) are likely to be in place. I had hoped a meeting between the DfE, Kier and Reading Borough Council's (RBC) Highways would have taken place today (27 April). I'll update this post when I have confirmation.

Speed camera

Following RBC consulting Thames Valley Police, it has been necessary for the speed camera to be relocated to avoid the introduction of the school 'keep clear' restriction. I believe this is so that the speed camera's white lines for measuring vehicle speed do not conflict with the zigzag and 'keep clear' markings.

RBC officers have told me the speed camera's new location, after the access to the Pavilion and school, will result in vehicles slowing down as they pass the entrance and approach the camera. They've added that the sight of the zebra crossing and school keep clear restriction should also help advise drivers of the increased pedestrian movements and therefore slow their speed accordingly.

Officers have added that were the speed camera to be located prior to the school it would need to be located 46m east of the proposed 'keep clear' restrictions which would be approximately 63m from the Pavilion / school entrance and is therefore likely to lead to some drivers accelerating as they pass the school.

The speed camera's location does not require planning permission. The decision ultimately is for Thames Valley Police as the infrastructure belongs to them.

Pedestrian refuge

The proposed pedestrian refuge island is to aid pedestrian movements to and from the school / playing fields and this has been designed to ensure that 3m wide lanes are provided in both directions complying with National Standards and that the island is sufficient in size to accommodate a person waiting with a bicycle and /or an increased number of pedestrians.  To achieve this the carriageway width has been increased by 22cm on both sides to provide a taper around the pedestrian refuge island. The granite sett kerbs have been replaced with standard kerbs to ensure that the pedestrian refuge crossing facility can be provided.

Zebra crossing

An assessment undertaken at the planning application stage identified that a signalised pedestrian crossing was not justified and therefore any request for this by the Council would not have met the relevant tests to secure planning obligations.  The scheme does include the provision of a zebra crossing on Upper Woodcote Road east of the proposed school entrance, which was secured through the planning process.  A zebra crossing is regarded as a controlled crossing facility and will aid the movements of children and parents to and from the school in a safe and efficient manner.

Width concerns of access junction's bell-mouth

Having watched vehicles turning in and out of the newly constructed junction bell-mouth, I raised concerns with RBC about the width. I've seen vehicles fail to stay to their side of the access road. The Highway Authority's view is that the current conflict is because of the works not yet being complete. They have reassured me that an officer is overseeing the works to ensure the access road has been constructed to the correct width and officers will request the developer include signage (if possible) so that vehicles exiting the site keep to the left as much as possible.  

Road safety audit

The Heights School proposal has been assessed by Highway Officers and is deemed to meet the appropriate design criteria and standards with a Road Safety Audit being undertaken for the proposed Highway works which found no fundamental concerns with the scheme.  I was asked by a resident why Hewett Avenue, rather than the A4074, had been designated as the access to the school. The RBC response was: it is accepted that Hewett Avenue may be a quieter road in terms of traffic flow however, the Council can only assess the proposals that are submitted at the planning application stage.

A review of the roads will be undertaken by RBC once the school is occupied. It will establish whether changes to the speed limit are required and assessing what parking restrictions may need to be implemented as a consequence of the school opening.

Officers have advised that should a speed reduction be proposed it is likely that this would be in the form of a 20 mph zone which would require the need for physical speed reducing measures, ie speed cushions, chicanes, etc in order to have a direct impact on slowing vehicles. Officers point out that this would have resulted in increased costs for the DfE and also would not have met the planning tests. Any such proposals for a 20 mph speed limit would need to be put forward to the Network Management team for review.

Inspection of highways works

RBC have assigned an officer from Highways to inspect the works to ensure that it is complete to the required standard, should this standard not be met the works would need to be rectified.  In most cases it would not be the developer that would have to pay for the items to be rectified but that of the contractor undertaking the works and therefore there would be no additional public money spent to facilitate this.


RBC are having to wait until after the Local Elections before they can go out to consultation on highways works. This is far from ideal but it is not possible to circumvent purdha rules.

I will update this post when I have further information, particularly on when the temporary lights will be removed.