Published: 06:00, 22 July 2020
| Updated: 12:53, 24 July 2020
Construction of a new bridge to connect to the A2 will start next month despite pleas from villagers and campaigners to rethink the planned upgrades.
The flyover in Bean will form part of road improvements to reconstruct the Bean and Ebbsfleet junctions.
KMTV report on the work getting underway
But controversial slip road orders and a compulsory purchase order paving the way for the demolition of properties have been met with disapproval.
Dartford council had previously criticised the plans in a March 2019 report in which it said the plans failed to provide a "robust solution for the future".
It found the proposed scheme did not allow for future widening of the A2 and added the proposed design "is unlikely to ease traffic movements" during periods of congestion.
A public inquiry was ordered in October 2019 and an inspector's report was prepared for the Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps.
But notice of his final decision – which approved the slip road orders – was only published last month, after the initial ground works for the scheme had been laid.
"I was quite happy living there; I got on with my neighbours."
He also authorised Highways England to issue a compulsory purchase order (CPO) to seize control of adjacent land and bulldoze 11 properties in Bean Lane, including Ightham cottages.
Land occupied by the Spirits Rest Horse Sanctuary has also been affected and its rescue horses, cats and foxes have been relocated to a new grazing site.
Duncan Wood had lived in one of the cottages in Bean Lane for more than 12 years before he says he was forced out. The Bean parish councillor has since moved to another home nearby and says he was fortunate, financially, to secure a property in the same village but added others might not have been.
"I was quite happy living there; I got on with my neighbours," he said. "I didn't mind the traffic problem because I faced the roundabout."
Mr Wood said his big fear was how the new layout would work once completed.
He added: "I don't think they took enough care on traffic planning but I'm no expert."
The route serves as the main access point for Bluewater Shopping Centre and is often plagued by long queues and traffic jams.
As part of the scheme, existing roads and roundabouts will be modified and a new Bean bridge constructed over the A2 for southbound traffic.
In total, five new slip roads will be put in place and the Ebbsfleet Junction – considered the "gateway" to 15,000 homes planned at Ebbsfleet Garden City – will also be widened into a dual carriageway.
Objections to the scheme were made by Bean Residents' Association, which expressed concerns over the effect on air quality, noise and added traffic congestion. Ashley Johnson, the association’s assistant secretary, labelled the plans "chaotic".
He said: "We are pleased that the scheme is going ahead but it is quite painful what they have come up with. We put forward an alternative scheme, not to put a slip road but to improve the existing roads to the A2."
But he says these plans were ignored and proposals for traffic lights to break up congestion were scrapped.
Mr Johnson believes these modifications to the scheme following the inquiry were simply designed to save money.
It would be open to Kent County Council as the highway authority to insert traffic lights should the impact on vehicles entering the roundabout be regarded as unacceptable but the authority said this was not currently being considered.
Highways England believes the new scheme will provide additional capacity at each junction to accommodate the new developments, while improving journey times and increasing safety.
They say the project will help unlock future economic development in the area, including jobs and house growth.
In addition to this the highways improvements will also provide better facilities for cyclists and pedestrians, as well as access to public transport, they claim.
But concerns have also been raised about the safety of the trunk road which has been the site of various collisions.
It comes after a fatal accident involving two cars on the north side of Ightham Cottages roundabout in 2011. The driver went the wrong way down the dual carriageway and no-entry signs were later erected at exits as a result.
Alex Hills, chairman of the Dartford and Gravesend branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) believes the proposals are ill-thought out.
He says the scheme is "not as safe as it could have been" and will lead to more frequent "shockwaves" – an after effect of when a vehicle brakes harshly and the driver behind must follow suit.
The safer cycling campaigner hastened to add the group was not against the scheme in principle and, in fact, thought Highways England needed more money to make the proposals work.
"Our biggest thing all along is what they have come up with will not solve the problem," he said.
It will increase the amount of vehicles able to come in, he says, but without suitable changes to pinchpoints like the access road to Bluewater he doesn't expect to see the pressure relieved.
He added they could soon "be out of date" if proposed developments such as the London Resort theme park go ahead. "Bean residents are going to suffer because of it," he said.
A Highways England spokesman said: "The scheme is needed to support significant new residential developments and employment in the region.
"We continue to work very closely with local residents, businesses and local authorities to keep them informed of the progress on the scheme, including construction, and are addressing local concerns where possible."
A spokesperson for Dartford council said: "The council supported the principle of the junction. The traffic modelling was reviewed by Kent County Council and found to be acceptable and the response from the Borough Council in 2019 specifically noted it did not dispute those findings.
The borough council simply raised concerns as to whether the junction would provide resilience during periods of congestion when there are incidences on the network and request that Highways England look into this matter.
"However, the council’s response specifically advised that they would not wish to see the junction improvements delayed.
"The matters raised by the council were considered at the Public Inquiry held into the scheme."
The council added it was pleased work had already started on the preparation works for the junction improvements and that Highways England are seeking to progress the works in a short as timescale as possible.
Initial work to accommodate a new concrete barrier and lay the foundations at Bean Bridge will start on Monday next week.
Construction will take place between 8pm and 6am for three weeks.
Highways England says this will inevitably create some noise for those who live close by but said it would do its best to minimise this.