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Controversial Sturry relief road - envisaged to ease Canterbury congestion - approved by Kent County Council

Controversial plans for a £30 million relief road have now been given the full seal of approval, just in time to make use of a government funding cashpot.

Kent County Council’s (KCC) planning committee has overwhelmingly agreed to construct the major link between A28 and A291 Sturrry Hill, Canterbury, to relieve pressure in the highly congested area.

How the viaduct taking drivers off the A28 is proposed to look
How the viaduct taking drivers off the A28 is proposed to look

About 1,200 vehicles use the snarled-up Sturry level crossing every hour, and with approved plans for 1,086 homes nearby, there are fears the existing infrastructure will not be able to cope.

KCC members voiced strong opinions during today's crunch meeting, with the application described as "complicated".

It was refused five months ago due to concerns over the proposed route and environmental implications, yet the project has now been given the go-ahead at the second time of asking.

It means a three-lane 250-metre viaduct, which makes up part of the 0.9-mile bypass, will be built stretching over the River Stour.

Today's decision means all aspects of the relief road have now been approved, meaning motorists will be able to opt between using the bypass or taking the traditional route over the level crossing.

Sturry level crossing is the most snarled-up in Kent, and one of the top 10 worst in the UK
Sturry level crossing is the most snarled-up in Kent, and one of the top 10 worst in the UK

Speaking at the meeting, Cllr Rosalind Binks (Con) said: "It might look good on paper, but unless the road is wider, this will not work in practice.

"You will get a queue going all the way up the hill, with all the air pollution they are currently experiencing."

In the council chamber, members were told Canterbury City Council supports the proposal after recently granting permission to build hundreds of homes in the area, with another 5,000 planned near Hersden and Herne Bay.

In addition, a government pot of £5.9 million cash - put forward to help finance the project by the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) - remained available.

Had the bypass plan been rejected, the cash would have been pumped into projects in Essex.

Cllr Rosalind Binks
Cllr Rosalind Binks

Sturry Parish Council and Fordwich Town Council raised objections, stating how the new road infrastructure would “inevitably encourage” greater use of cars; increasing noise and air pollution.

Ann Davies, who represented Sturry Parish Council, said residents were "angered" about the proposals, warning that the money from SELEP was better needed elsewhere, including affordable housing and a new school.

She said: "This is money that would have provided two-thirds of affordable housing, a new community building, a very-much needed preschool and we are left without a single square inch of sports field."

In the final count of 12 votes, 11 elected members voted in favour during the lengthy and heated two-hour public debate.

Maidstone Cllr Nick Chard (Con), who sits on the committee, said: "It is complicated and quite often it does elicit strong emotions from various people, namely local residents.

The bypass will cross both the rail line and the Stour
The bypass will cross both the rail line and the Stour

"I fully understand and accept that. We are here to determine a planning application on planning issues."

As part of the plans, a new roundabout will be built on the A28 between the Vikings car showroom and Perryfield Farm.

Drivers will access the viaduct off the roundabout and go across the elevated road, before either turning left onto Broad Oak Road, or turning right onto a new roundabout and heading through a yet-to-be-built 650-home development and onto Sturry Hill.

The viaduct will operate with a 30mph speed limit through the housing developments and 40mph on the viaduct section over the railway and down to the A28.

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