Friday, 20 October 2017

Villagers want to ‘reclaim the streets’ from drivers

RESIDENTS of Sonning Common want to “reclaim the village” from drivers.

RESIDENTS of Sonning Common want to “reclaim the village” from drivers.

This is one of the aims of the neighbourhood plan that were set out at a public meeting at the village hall.Other targets include:

* Creating a safe, calm and peaceful place to live and enjoy.

* Avoiding cluttering the streets with signs and road markings.

* Maintaining the village centre with thriving shops.

The neighbourhood plan working group is looking at how to improve infrastructure, including transport, parking, the environment, economy, health and social issues and the village centre for when new homes are built.

Craig Henderson, a resident and associate member of the group assigned to assess traffic and parking, said maintaining the bus service to and from Reading and Henley was “critical”.

But he warned that the village was being used more frequently as a car park by people commuting into Reading.

“It’s not a particular problem at the moment but it’s starting to happen,” he said. “We don’t want it to become a real issue.

“There’s a suggestion to introduce time-limited parking to discourage people from parking here all day.” Mr Henderson said the lack of street lighting meant the village was dark and that some people carried torches because they felt unsafe.

He said footpaths in the village were narrow but many couldn’t be widened.

Instead, developers would be encouraged to give more consideration to access for people on foot.

The pavements were also said to be in a poor state of repair and were often obstructed, making it difficult for people with pushchairs and wheelchairs and those with visual impairment. Mr Henderson said: “They are often very narrow. There also seems to be a problem with parking on the pavements, which makes them even narrower.

“We need to understand why people park on pavements in order to find out how this can be discouraged.

“If there’s a conscious decision we need to understand what those reasons are.”

He also suggested having signs welcoming “careful drivers” on entrances to the village.

He said 20mph zones in urban areas had become more popular but warned against overloading the roads with signs. “If you put too much in you start to get clutter so it needs a careful design,” said Mr Henderson.

He said traffic congestion was not a major issue but he had found “pockets” of it around the primary school in Lea Road and Grove Road.

One way to ease the problem would be a “walking bus”, where children walk to school with adults while wearing high-visibility jackets.

The parish council has been trying to find more car parking in the village centre but Mr Henderson suggested this may not be necessary.

He said: “There’s a big car park at the health centre but outside of its opening hours it’s not used much.

“There’s a reason why people are using the roadside rather than the car park. Sometimes it’s because it’s full but it’s not always.”

He said marked parking spaces would be beneficial in four places in Wood Lane, outside Davis Tate, Occasions, the chemist and One Stop.

He also suggested installing a layby in Peppard Road to prevent drivers from parking on pavements and introducing “no waiting” conditions on the B481 between Josey Close and Sedgewell Road.

Mr Henderson had attended a talk at the village hall by urban designer Ben Hamilton-Baillie who suggested removing signs because he believes they are ignored by drivers and they clutter the environment.

* What do you think? Write to: Letters, Henley Standard, Caxton House, 1 Station Road, Henley, RG9 1AD or email letters@henleystandard.co.uk

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