Published on

20 March 2024

Improvements to California Cross are on track

Works to create a better village centre at Finchampstead are still progressing well, with support offered to the local business community

Workers in high viz digging up a section of the road where utliity pipes are underneath

The new and improved California Cross at Finchampstead is taking shape, with work to create an attractive village centre for everyone - and improved road infrastructure - on track.

These improvements, which come at no cost to local taxpayers, will create an appealing and safe centre that works well for people walking, cycling or driving.

The condition of the road and overall quality of the footpaths meant the junction would have needed investment soon, so the work includes replacing and upgrading infrastructure like drainage and gullies to ensure that major upheaval isn’t needed in the near future.

Once the work is complete, there will be a three-year protection to stop utility companies digging up the road except in an emergency. This, along with the new drainage and tarmac, should mean a long period where the crossroads will not experience any roadworks.

The project is going well and on schedule to have the roads re-opened in early summer. Anyone who wants more detailed updates can sign up to the council's dedicated California Cross newsletter.

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Working as quickly as possible

Cllr Paul Fishwick, executive member for active travel, transport and highways, said: “This is an extensive project and a lot of changes are needed to turn an unloved road junction, which has been dominated by traffic, into an attractive village centre that people can enjoy.

“We will also be improving the road infrastructure so it is better able to cope with traffic volumes, as well as improving the drainage.

“I’m pleased to say the early work has gone well and, although you can never be certain what will be found when you dig up a road, things are good at present. We know this work needs to be done as quickly as possible, to minimise disruption as we create the village centre that the area deserves.

“Once the work is done, the area will be protected from being dug up again by utility companies, except for emergency safety work, for the next three years.”

Supporting and promoting local businesses

The council knows there has been local disruption and an impact on businesses from the work, so it has been working to minimise this and support the businesses by:

  • Maintaining access to businesses at all times
  • Providing clear signage to show shops are open and let people know how to get to them
  • Meeting businesses daily to discuss deliveries and plan work around these where possible
  • Making sure teams working on site use the local businesses every day
  • Promoting local businesses with wider communications, including social media posts, to encourage residents and others to support their local shops and businesses

Cllr David Cornish, executive member for economic development, said: “We know this is a difficult time for local businesses and are helping them as best we can. In the long-term, the improvements will benefit businesses by making the area more attractive and easier to get around for everybody.

“And while the work is being done, we’re helping the businesses promote themselves and making residents aware that they are open. We’re also talking with businesses regularly to make sure access is maintained, signage is right and delivery schedules are understood.

“Our economic development team is also available to provide advice and support as needed.”

Backing applications for rate relief

Any directly affected businesses can apply to the national Valuation Office Agency (VOA) for a temporary reduction to their business rates.

Full details on how to apply are available on the Government's website and Cllr Stephen Conway, the leader of Wokingham Borough Council, will be writing to the VOA to support local businesses’ case.

Cllr Conway said: “As part of our help for businesses, I’m writing to the VOA to support our local businesses’ case. The best way for them to get financial help is from the VOA, so we are keen to help where we can.”

The council cannot justify paying compensation to businesses temporarily affected by roadworks because it would not be right or fair for council taxpayers from across the borough to pay for support to businesses in one location.

In exceptional cases, and only when the VOA has decided not to amend their business rates following an application from a business, the council can consider applications under its Hardship Fund.

If businesses meet the qualifying criteria, it is possible for the council to reduce the rates payable.

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