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                                                                                            17 August, 2000

Access to Hastings Study Newsletter 3

Dear Kate,

I understand that GOSE has asked groups represented by steering group members to forward SDG more detailed comments on the strategy options. The following comments have been copied to other members of the group.

Here are the comments:

1) Reflecting a negative agenda – The only view point published in the press or represented in strategies 3 to 5 is the dirtiest vision of the future, but that’s not the only view. A few years ago many of the local papers gave good coverage to concerns people like myself have about a new section of trunk road at Castle Hill. Our concerns are visual intrusion, noise carried across the valley between, poor air quality in Longfield Road, and harm to the natural environment. This same view point was expressed by Tunbridge Wells Borough Council at the public inquiry in 1993 with similar press coverage.

2) Strategies 3 to 5 – It is very apparent that little traffic travels as far as Hastings to Tunbridge Wells, is there any reason to anticipate considerably more traffic. Is encouraging more road usage sustainable anyway I think not. These are strategies from the past that used COBA to justify any grandiose road building schemes. The predictions of 1993 inquiry were very wrong in the case of new section of trunk road at Castle Hill. Providing based on such prediction is flawed, and is counter to the way for example Kent County Local Education Authority works when considering the case for building new schools. Similarly commercial practice does not invest until there is a very apparent need, not a wish. The COBA 9 model for Castle Hill shows a positive or neutral benefit for an 18 lane section of road, this is ridicules. The failure of the Weald and Downland DBFO scheme should have been the final death nail for these old grandiose road building schemes. The Castle Hill dualling gives no long term local benefit, and dualling all the way to Hastings would only save five minutes journey time from Hastings to the M25.

3) What are the consequences to the natural environment, is any of it sustainable? Building a new section of trunk road at Castle Hill even if less than six lanes will lead to much of the need for borrow pits and 65,000 lorry movements originally predicted. This through ancient woodland with nightingales and a pond with Great Crested Newts. There are already strong interests wishing to build in the High Weald AONB south of Castle Hill and between the Pembury Bypass and Longfield Road. But still no environmental assessment of the area has been carried out. The road inquiry inspector express a strong wish that environmental assessment should happen, the multi-modal study has a wider view an environmental assessment should have a wider view.

4) The first two strategies seem much like the widening of the A21 through villages that has already occurred. All strategies include measures on the A26, are these the same as the bus and cycle lanes on the A26? It appears to me that the complimentary measures on the A26 are the measures to restrict traffic I was told by the Department of Transport in 1992. In the letter of reply I was told that Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells Borough Council’s has such plans. At that time Tunbridge Wells Borough Council Highways Officer James Whithorn expressed no knowledge of the plans.

5) None of the strategies look forward and consider Sustainability and non-transport alternatives.

6) Why do you have to choose between better rail service to Hastings or Wadhurst? Would for example widened for dual working the Tunbridge Wells Central Rail Station south east tunnel lead to improvements to all rail services? If the rail line Tunbridge Wells to Lewes were restored accessibility of Tunbridge Wells would be further improved. A local transport authority, like London Transport could be set up to integrate all public transport to make the buses arrive and on time. Shuttle trains could run between long distance services, the loop restored at Eridge to facilitate trains passing. The creation rail freight sidings to carry waste from the Industrial Estate Longfield Road, could additionally allow long distance trains to pass shuttle trains.

7) Severance could be minimised with traffic lights at Longfield Road /A21 junction give everyone a fair turn for all including cyclists.

8) The Castle Hill at present has very low serious injury rates (one fatality in five years), but crashes due to the Pembury bypass are comparatively high. The Pembury bypass provides no journey time savings and contrary to what may have been wished for Pembury Village is the bypass for traffic cueing to enter Tunbridge Wells in the morning. There is a good case for detrunking the whole of the A21 south of Tonbridge, and making a staged speed reductions at the end of the Tonbridge bypass.

8) As four lanes instead of six are to be considered then the two published routes and the Tunbridge Wells Borough Council’s alternative of 1992 may be more suitable. I don’t support any of them.

9) People in Tunbridge Wells wish traffic moderation and to that end, they support public transport, and presumably non-transport alternative solutions, what ever their view of trunk road building. The study has given little education and opportunity to think about this as a possibility.

10) People had come to realise that road building had come to an end and it was now time to switch away from private car use. Traffic appears to have reduced in recent years on the A26 into Tunbridge Wells, until the recent road building hysteria when the trend reverted.

Yours sincerely

Andrew Lohmann

for Tunbridge Wells FoE and Stop the Road (A21)