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thecasea

Created; < 2009, Changed 08/10/2017, 08/05/2014

THE MAIN CASE AGAINST

We urge you to oppose the Department of Transports’ (DTp) road scheme called ‘A21 Tonbridge Bypass to Pembury Bypass Dualling’. The DBFO tenders come to parliament in about June.

* Our Summary of the Case against the published trunk route This is an additional section of trunk road that also runs parallel with existing A21, and the main line rail London to Hastings. We believe the environmental assessment which points out important environmental points, is inadequate. The concern about the assessment is supported by the inspector for the inquiry in April – June 1993 who says under the heading “Wildlife and Nature Conservation”- “…it is clear that detailed, sophisticated research is needed, preferably in partnership with the nature conservation interests…”. If this section of trunk road were to be built it would be the only section of 6 lane (dual 3 lane) carriageway the length of the A21 creating bottle necks. Bottle necks could be used to justify further sections of trunk road. The DTp say the existing section of trunk road is below current standard and needs upgrading. The DTp predicts more traffic in the design year on this and local roads studied. They use a predicted drop in traffic on the road A26 to justify the scheme locally, but they predict traffic will increase above present levels in the design year. The A26 is the main road through Southborough and Tunbridge Wells. The scheme does nothing to by-pass it. The extra traffic brought in to Tunbridge Wells on other roads in the DTp study will then presumably pass through residential areas. There is no other place for it to go. The proposed route can be viewed from many parts of Tunbridge Wells and the area is a local landmark. It is also known by the Pembury TV transmitter. From Tunbridge Wells, Castle Hill is visible from a 4 mile radius through 100′ angle. The Local plan pays attention to protection of the natural surround of Tunbridge Wells. This new road would go across an iron age settlement, Castle Hill, cause the loss of semi-natural ancient woodland, including what is believed to be a relic of the extensive ancient forest of Andredsweald. The road goes through a pond with Great Crested Newts, an endangered species. This contravenes accepted law. Material of archaeological interest in the ditch surrounding Castle Hill was lost when the previously built connecting section of A21 was constructed. Another section of this trunk road is proposed to go through the grounds of Scotney Castle the South East head quarters of The National Trust. The grounds have many popular public foot paths and feature much natural wildlife. Lamberhurst the village nearby has built up like most villages over time because of the trade the major road brought. To remove passing trade could see the demise of local business and the death of a viable village.

* The Case in more detail

* Local plan and protection of the surround to the town: The Local plan makes particular reference to protection of the natural surround to Tunbridge Wells. At the Public Inquiry the Department of Transport said that the proposed new road would restrict the area that could be developed. We don’t know how the DTp could say that as they are not the planning authority. We don’t believe it. There could be great pressure to build alongside such a route, on a visible site.

* A local landmark: Castle Hill is a local landmark mentioned above, and is visible from much of Tunbridge Wells, High Brooms, and Bidborough. From Tunbridge Wells the industrial estate, lying in a hollow, is not seen. From the A26 near Bidborough is the only view that reveals the eyesore of the industrial estate. The Published route will be visible from all of these points, and the din of traffic may travel far.

* Natural Environment: Standing on the foot path in the Field between Calves Lodge Wood, and Pilgrims Wood, which the published Blue Route crosses, looking south along the road, just to my left on the verge of the proposed road is a pond with Great Crested newts a protected species. In front of me is one of the 4 Ancient Woodlands, which the road will go through. On my right from where the Published road will be, you can see all over Tunbridge Wells from spire of St James Church to Southborough and High Brooms. There will be a cutting behind me into Castle Hill, and Embankment in front of me. These are some of the cuttings and embankments which are a feature of the scheme. No doubt a large number of people in Tunbridge Wells will be able to see this trunk road, and may hear the traffic. Other issues we have not particularly covered but concern us are aggregate extraction from elsewhere such as from the Fort William area of the Scottish Highlands. There are mountains being ground down for aggregate to build roads. There is a SSSI very near by “The Pembury Cutting”, and adjacent to the area is a SNCI.

* Tunbridge Wells Friends of the Earth Group has said: “We are concerned with the loss of ancient woodland, semi-natural ancient woodland, including what is believed to be a relic of the extensive ancient forest of Andredsweald, as well as ordinary fields which are a feature of the countryside and the loss of all types of animal wildlife not just for instance the Nightingales or Great Crested Newts of Castle Hill Wood.”

* The DTp’s environmental statement: The statement says {2.6.2} that the study area includes ancient woodland, the majority of which is identified in the Draft Provisional Inventory of Ancient Woodland prepared by English Nature and is thought to be a relic of the extensive forest of Andredsweald. The Northern Part of Castle Hill, Western extension of Pilgrims Wood and Prowles Gill show few signs of recent management, which increases their ecological interest. {2.7.4.1} Numerous woodlands within the study area subject to Tree Preservation Orders. From the Inspector’s report of the public inquiry in April – June 1993: – though recommending the DTp’s preferred route, he says under the heading: Wildlife and Nature Conservation:- 289. The area is rich in wildlife and habitats, especially in the ancient semi-natural woodland and replanted ancient woodland. Such areas have a high degree of naturalness, diversity of species and stability and represent a serious loss, largely because of their qualities are difficult if not impossible to replicate. With this exception, however, the ecological impact of the published route is slight. To some extent this seems to be a somewhat fortuitous outcome. Only limited information was available before route selection was made and, even now, it is clear that detailed, sophisticated research is needed, preferably in partnership with the nature conservation interests – for example the Kent Trust for Nature Conservation – to ensure that the ecological harm of the route, If it is built, is kept to a minimum and the most appropriate mitigation measures put in place.

* Effect on the human Environment: It is important to note that the DTp cannot demonstrate that there will be a long-term reduction in traffic on the A26 through Tunbridge Wells by the year 2011 – It is claimed that one of the benefits is that traffic can transfer from the A26 to the A21, but their own figures predict that traffic will initially reduce then increase to the present level by the year 2011. In any case such diverted traffic will seek to reach its original destination using less appropriate roads in addition to all being more congested. It is anticipated by the DTp that there will be a doubling of road traffic by the year 2011 on the following roads: A21 Tonbridge/Longfield Road proposed section, A21 Pembury/Kippings Cross Section, Longfield Road (Industrial Estate), A264. At Inquiry the DTp agreed the point that they were not easing the traffic situation in Tunbridge Wells as they could not offer a reduction of traffic on the A26 but they argued that if they did not proceed with the road improvement the traffic would increase further. We don’t believe it. The A26 has been at saturation levels of traffic for more than 25 years. The DTp ridicules the suggestion that the large proportion of local traffic on the A26 be alleviated by public transport. The A21 trunk route competes directly with the main London-Hastings rail line. The DTp’s system of costing used at the time called COBA creates a ridiculous justification: The peculiar cost benefit system COBA which the DTp use designed to justify roads for highly paid people on business was criticized at the inquiry of being capable of producing unrealistic results. One objector gave examples using the DTp COBA system and shown in this case that it would be financially worthwhile for the DTp to build a dual 6 lane carriageway, and could be, under a low growth prediction, worthwhile to build a dual 9 lane carriageway (12 and 18 lanes). With a high growth prediction 18 lanes are justifiable. Their SANCTRA system ranked this road as priority 2.

* What people think: Is 3 lane dualling necessary (that is 6 lanes), why not just 2 lane dualling or just one lane? Some objectors at the inquiry in 1993 thought adding another lane to the existing road would be better, and traffic management on this road with no widening would be ideal. Their ideal would be to cut transport requirement using the principle of local goods for local needs. The Local Labour Party view varies from provide a Crawler Lane only on the hill, to provide one extra lane, to don’t do anything. The following resolution was passed at Southborough and High Brooms Branch Labour Party meeting of 10 March 1993: “This Branch Labour Party is opposed to all three suggested routes or any combination of those routes of the Department of Transports ‘A21 Tonbridge Bypass to Pembury Bypass Dualling’ road scheme, and suggests that the DoT should restrict itself to an on-line road improvement of the existing road with the minimum amount of realignment in order to minimise environmental damage.”

* Alternatives: Abandonment of the whole scheme, and spend the money saved on road maintenance to save vehicle wear and tear, traffic calming, and public transport. There is a move to re-open the Brighton to Tunbridge Wells railway.

* New cost of DBFO: The bottom line is the cost could be 5 times the previous DTp estimate if built using the new Design Build Fund and Operate scheme. In 1992 the DTp estimated the scheme would cost £16 million, by 1993 the figure was £17 million. The lack of concern for local people was evident in the answer to the question about local disruption during the construction stage “Where will the 65,000 lorry movements go?” Their answer was “The contractor’s problem”. In other words we don’t care. This seemed to be their general attitude.

Andrew Lohmann Southborough Town Councillor
Val Catt Tunbridge Wells Borough Councillor
The DTp’s Figures on traffic were compiled by: WS Atkins Consultants Limited, Woodcote Grove, Ashley Road, Epson Surrey. KT18 5BW.

SUPPLEMENTARY

  • Archaeological Aspects: A Roman Mile stone, Somerhill Park which is of historic interest and Castle Hill an Iron Age settlement. – see news item 3 There has been no archaeological survey of Castle Hill Fort – This is believed to be pursued by Kent county council archaeological division of their planning department.
  • Their has been no archaeological investigation of Castle Hill has been done. It is probably pre-roman and is likely to be a bronze age settlement. The Romans for the Celtic tribes who lived in the area became the name we use Kent. Castle Hill may have been reused in Arthurian times as a military settlement.
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