Plans for a £10 million road to facilitate future housing while also easing traffic, noise and air pollution in Watlington, have been heavily criticised. Businesses say they will be badly affected. 

Local trader and Watlington resident Loraine Daniels told the BBC there was a “lot of concern” among shop owners in the area.

Ms. Daniels, co-owner of the Bella Luce lighting shop on Watlington High Street for the past eight years, said that the vast majority of their business came from passing traffic drawn by their storefront displays. “Without a doubt, 90% of our customers come because of our windows,” she explained.

“I can promise you that there is a lot of concern amongst all the high street traders.”

Oxfordshire County Council has applied for planning permission to build the road. A spokesperson said the aim is to reduce congestion, noise and air pollution in the village centre and to enable future housing developments. The county council is unable to say where future housing development will be locally to utilise the expensive and environmentally damaging new road. The housing development for 3000 homes at Chalgrove Airfield was shelved in May 2021.

Cllr Judy Roberts, Oxfordshire County Council cabinet member for infrastructure and development strategy, has been criticised over the relief road plans. Cllr Roberts briefed the press the road was needed because of Watlington’s “one-lane only, traffic-light controlled bridge.”

Chris Church of ORAA, the Oxfordshire Roads Action Alliance, said: “The reality is that there are no traffic lights in Watlington and it does not have a one-lane-only bridge.

“It is shocking that someone who is so clearly ill-informed or poorly briefed is making important decisions on new infrastructure, spending millions of pounds of taxpayers money.

“We can only conclude that she has confused the village with the larger town of Wallingford, several miles away.

“The County Council’s desire to build more and more roads to allow for even more new homes on green field sites is becoming a farce.  Councillors and officers need to get their act together, and recognise that building new roads is not solving our transport problems.”