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Joint Transport Committee calls for changes to Sutton Road junction improvement scheme at Willington Street

January 20, 2018 11:21 PM
By Brian Clark

A junction improvement scheme proposed for the A274 Sutton Road, Willington Street junction was rejected at Maidstone's Joint Transport Board last night. The developer-funded improvements from three Langley park housing sites, were approved in 2014. The scheme proposed tree felling and a width reduction along part of the Bell Meadow grass verge to accommodate widening of the A274. Speeches from residents, highlighting impact on nearby properties, were followed by lengthy debate by councillors, culminating in a motion proposed by county councillor Gary Cooke (Con) to reject the proposal and to develop a smaller scale scheme, without grass verge reduction [Cllr Cooke later conceded in the meeting that verge space may be required].

Cllr Brian ClarkCllr Brian Clark (Lib Dem), who had earlier expressed concerns, proposed an amendment, requesting that KCC Highways officers return to the following Joint Transport Meeting [18/04/18], with a specific timeframe to develop an improved proposal. The amendment included removing the mention of reduction in scheme size or inclusion of further constraints, to allow KCC officers the freedom to fully mitigate the impact of increased traffic, while recognising some of the concerns raised by residents. Although seconded, the chairman did not accept this amendment, and the initial motion was carried.

Cllr Clark later stated, "While the public and Joint Transport Board members raised some valid reasons to amendment the design, I felt officers should be allowed to consider these concerns and develop a revised or new plan without constraints being set "on the hoof" by the committee. With funding in place and the views of the committee clear, specifying a "reduced scheme" and adding further constraints was unnecessary and could ultimately lead to increased traffic congestion, air pollution and misery for road users along the A274. When asked, officers made it clear that a reduced scheme would not meet the needs of future traffic growth".

He continued, " A timeframe must also be agreed. If the money is not spent by 2021 for the purpose for which it was approved, as part of planning permission for the Sutton road Developments, it will revert back to the developers and be lost."

Cllr. Rob BirdCounty Councillor Rob Bird (Lib Dem) stated, "I have made clear to Kent Highways that we will not support a purely cosmetic change, which does not deliver improved traffic flows. Furthermore, I have stressed that the hold ups on this scheme should not delay other priority hot-spots such as the Wheatsheaf and Fountain Lane junctions. To lose the LEP monies in such circumstances would be clearly inexcusable."