The Courier map of the road is very distorted in our view. It shows the proposed route to be a straightening out, but the DoT’s maps show an extra bend to cause the road to go around Castle Hill on the west side instead of the east as the existing road does. Val Catt and myself have seen the editor of the Courier Martin Oxley, about the map and the loaded headline ‘improvement’. We thank Mr Oxley for seeing us and hearing our concern. The result published the following week was surprisingly good given the loaded question: 280 for 60 against, and for Lamberhurst 172 for 39 against.
Courier, 8/8/97 Should we improve the A21? By Claire Foy-Smith
THE DUALLING of the A21 between Tonbridge and the Pembury by pass is a move that has been hotly debated and nearly undertaken for several years. In 1993 the issue came to a head, and after a public enquiry, approval looked likely before it was put on hold by the government of the day. When the policy on road building changed, and the government decided to build roads with the help of private finance under the Design, Build, Finance and Operate scheme, plans reached an advanced stage with offers for the job tendered by contractors. With Labour in office, the roads programme as a whole was put on hold pending a White Paper fundamental review of transport policy but 12 schemes were singled out for accelerated review, including Weald and Downland. o which the A21 dualling is part. Minister for Transport, Gavin Strang, announced the result of this accelerated review last week. Some of the schemes, including the Salisbury by-pass were cancelled, others such as the Birmingham North relief road were allowed and the A21 was put back to be considered with the rest of the transport strategy in the spring White Paper. Local opinion remains sharply divided on the issue. Motorists would love to see the end of congestion and local businesses argue that improved road transport links would bring benefits. Environmentalists highlight the scar the new road would leave on Castle Hill and question the sense in building yet more roads instead of moving towards public transport. For now the jams are set to continue on the A21 bottleneck while the short term and long term actions necessary to deliver an integrated transport system are weighed up by the government. YES says Archie Norman Upgrade vital for prosperity of the district THE decision by the Labour Government to defer indefinitely the dualling of the A21 makes a mockery of any transport strategy for West Kent and East Sussex. The proposed improvements are supported by the county council and all the other local authorities. They are financially sensible and the contractors were well advanced with the tenders: in fact it will cost the taxpayers money to cancel! We have all experienced the problem of driving smoothly down the A21 from the M25 as far as the A26 turn off then coming to an abrupt halt as we hit the single lane highway up to the Pembury bypass. What logic is there to dualling the first section, and dualling the Pembury by-pass, but leaving a go-slow zone in between? The answer is none! It makes financial nonsense and traffic nonsense. The single lane section is carrying three times the traffic it was designed for. Lamberhurst is congested, polluted and unsafe for pedestrians. These sections are the “missing links” in an otherwise improved route. Business It is not just a question of lost time and inconvenience. The business and employment development of the area depends on road improvement. The future of the industrial estate, for instance, depends in part on the new road link. Now we are told the improvements will he considered as part of the Labour Government’s overall review of the roads programme. No timescale. No criteria for decisions. Just an overall review. And this is from a government who acclaimed loudly the need for an integrated transport strategy. This from a Government, too, who said they would invest more in the NHS. First no hospital, now no road improvement – some strategy! The truth is we have become the victim not of a new strategy but of a weak transport secretary under pressure to save money. The A21 improvement is vital for Tunbridge Wells and the surrounding villages. We cannot let the matter rest – I urge all road users and businesses in the constituency to write to Gavin Strang at the Department of Transport and copy me at the House of Commons. The campaign begins here. Archie Norman is the Tory MP for Tunbridge Wells NO, says Val Catt More roads then more cars – it’s a vicious circle THIS development is part of a huge scheme stretching from Chevening and Sevenoaks down to Hastings and Brighton. If six extra lanes are created here, as proposed, how much extra width will be added all the way down to the coast and how much land will be lost as a result of that? The M25 may then be further widened as the A21 is a feeder into that with more countryside lost. Under the scheme of Design, Build, Finance and Operate, which will be used on this stretch, it is necessary for investors to attract as much traffic as possible to pay for the scheme. They are paid by the government in relation to the roads usage and so will encourage cars onto the road. More cars on the A21 will mean more cars on secondary roads in the area such as Longfield Road, Ferndale and around Sherwood, areas that are already very busy with traffic. If we are going to ease traffic problems in the town this development will be counter productive. A huge piece of countryside, Castle Hill, will be destroyed by the route including ancient gills, streams and a pond of Great Crested Newts, which are a protected species. Polluted The area will be torn up, spoilt and polluted. No full environmental assessment has been done. The huge elevated roundabout will be a scar on the landscape. What a lovely view for: the people of High Brooms and Sherwood. Pollution will rise in the creation of the road and afterwards. This is not a cure for congestion, it exacerbates it and makes it harder for us to turn around to a different way of living. In 15 years, the road will be congested and what will we do then? Build another one? There is a railway line a quarter of a mile away which, with development of a siding at Longfield Road, could take passenger and freight traffic off the road. Why is all the waste from Tunbridge Wells taken away by road when the tip backs onto a railway Line? It is time to think again and find a different way of operating. If not now, when? Val Catt is a Labour councillor for Sherwood on Tunbridge Wells Borough Council.