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St Peter's Bridge cycle lane to be removed after plans approved for Baltic Wharf Ltd's development of St Peter's Street in Maidstone

By Ed McConnell

Angry cyclists won't be getting on their bikes if plans to scrap Maidstone's only cycle route across the River Medway go ahead.

A petition against the proposals to scrap St Peter's Bridge's existing cycle lane to make way for a fourth lane of traffic, which come as part of Baltic Wharf Ltd's planned regeneration of St Peter's Street, has been launched on www.change.org and will be presented to Kent County Council.

The planned development centred around the dilapidated, Grade II listed Powerhub building would see a new supermarket, shops, restaurants and cafes built.

Planning permission has been approved for the development of the Powerhub building on St Peter's Street

However, the predicted 66% increase in peak traffic from 228 movements per-hour to 376 would mean that the only designated cycle way over the river would be removed and the pavement narrowed to make way for a fourth lane of traffic over St Peter’s Bridge.

As a result cyclist James Gower from Maidstone has launched the petition against the proposals.

He said: "The removal of the cycle lane will stop many people from being able to cycle into the town centre and make people on foot have to make large detours to cross the river.

"Whilst we recognise the need to regenerate the area this scheme is completely inappropriate and extremely damaging for Maidstone."

The only designated cycle lane across the River Medway is in jeopardy after plans for the development of St Peter's Street were approved

Local residents are also deeply concerned about the plans which they say would put pedestrians and cyclists at risk.

Bridge Residents Society, who represent homeowners in the area, said that the development is set to increase traffic by 50% which will pose a substantial risk to both cyclists and the 3,000 to 4,000 schoolchildren who visit the area every day and will now have to use a narrower pavement.

Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Maidstone, Jasper Gerard, said: "It is bizarre when pollution is choking the town and everyone agrees we need to get more people out of cars, that the road is being widened and the pavement and cycle lane narrowed. This is only going to exacerbate health problems and clog up the town with more traffic."

Green leader Stuart Jeffery said that the proposals meant that cyclists will not be able to cross from one side of the town to the other without using an exceptionally busy and dangerous road.

The application was originally rejected by Maidstone Borough Council in January but after a public inquiry was launched in April planning inspector John Gray approved the scheme earlier this month.

Kent Highways made no objection to the plan.

David Brazier, Kent County Council cabinet member for environment and transport, said that whilst a designated cycle lane would be removed the pavement, which will be narrowed to 2.5 metres, will be available to both pedestrians and cyclists.

He added: "We accept that these measures are not helpful to cyclists in a location where cycling on the actual carriageway would be extremely difficult. However, my officers did not consider that we could sustain an objection to the development on these grounds."

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