Published: 06:00, 02 September 2021
| Updated: 14:39, 02 September 2021
A last-ditch bid to push through plans for the controversial Sturry bypass will be decided by councillors tonight.
KCC’s planning committee is being urged to rubber-stamp a revised application after its shock decision to reject the original in March.
If it fails to, vital government funding of £5.9 million will be lost to projects in Essex and the relief road scheme will be dead in the water.
It would also leave the city council with a self-inflicted headache, as it has already approved plans for more than 1,000 homes at Sturry and Broad Oak.
The first part of the bypass is proposed to run from Sturry Hill to a new roundabout in Broad Oak Road, passing through the new Sturry estate.
Vehicles can then continue along Broad Oak Road or turn onto a viaduct taking them over the River Stour and to a new roundabout on the A28 Sturry Road near McDonald’s.
KCC has already approved the first part of the bypass, but plans for the 250-metre road bridge have yet to be given the green light.
Tonight’s crunch meeting heralds the last opportunity to secure the £5.9 million funding from the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (Selep).
Geoff Miles, chairman of the Kent & Medway Economic Partnership, has written to planning committee members explaining the financial situation.”If planning consent is not granted for the link road by September 10, the Selep funding will be reallocated on this date to other projects,” he said.
“The vast majority of the £5.9 million will be invested in Essex, Southend and Thurrock council areas. Only £475,000 will be retained within Kent and Medway.
“While it has been possible to secure extensions in the past, this is not feasible on this occasion.”
Councillors rejected the viaduct application in April, despite KCC officers recommending it be approved.
It was thought the decision would see the £5.9 million funding rediverted, but Selep offered KCC an extension.
The authority later submitted a revised application, which has again been supported by its own planning officers.
While it is largely the same, a previous plan to ban city-bound cars from using Sturry level crossing has been dropped.
The proposal had been one of the main reasons for the application being refused.
Sturry county councillor Alan Marsh, who was not allowed to vote on the application, said at the time: “The most important issue is people from Thanet, Hersden and anywhere to the east would not be allowed to turn left over the level crossing.
“This is absolutely unacceptable. The left turn over the crossing is essential.
“This would divide the communities in Sturry and Fordwich.”
The junction is used by more than 20,000 drivers a day, and developers have already been given the green light to build 650 homes in Sturry and a further 456 in Broad Oak.
Mr Miles has warned councillors of the potential impact on the road network should the bypass not be approved.
“I am sure planning committee members will be aware of residential developments that have been built, where the houses come first, and then the infrastructure follows at a later date, or is not provided at all,” he said.
“I fear this scenario could be true for the Sturry and Broad Oak developments.
“If the planning committee refuses the application, then the traffic from the consented housing developments will have to access the A28 via the A291 Herne Bay Road and over the level crossing - a well-recognised congestion hotspot - or the equally unsatisfactory Shalloak Road.
“A primary school will be funded, however, the reallocation of the government funding, will mean the secondary school and community facilities will not be directly funded in all likelihood.
“I would therefore urge you to look favourably upon the proposal.”
Among the other concerns raised about the original application were the increased likelihood of the use of ‘rat-runs’ to avoid the link road and fears for pedestrian safety on Sturry Hill, and the impact the viaduct would have on water craft navigating the River Stour.
Traffic statistics upon which the project is based date back to 2015, so calls were also made to reassess the data’s validity in 2021.