Published: 06:00, 11 June 2021
| Updated: 15:23, 11 June 2021
A vital project that highways chiefs believe will help keep traffic moving in Herne Bay after an influx of more than 6,000 motorists will finally go ahead.
Kent County Council (KCC) is expecting to start construction of the multi-million-pound Bullockstone Road Improvement Scheme next April, after being given the green light for the project.
The authority says the road will reduce congestion through Herne, which will otherwise worsen once the town’s four largest housing developments are completed.
This comes after residents living in the historic village complained that fumes from the slew of cars travelling along the A291 has left them struggling to breathe.
Butcher’s Arms landlord Martyn Hillier said: “The pollution in Herne is getting unbearable. I have spent a lot of time in St Margaret’s Bay this summer due to Covid and it has made me realise just how polluted the air is in this village.
“My breathing has improved so dramatically that I no longer use my inhaler in St Margaret’s, but when I return to Herne, I can feel my chest tightening up within a day or so.
“The relief road is well overdue and should be started as soon as possible.”
Conservative councillor Joe Howes previously told KentOnline's sister paper, the Herne Bay Gazette, that villagers are refraining from opening their windows during the summer, for fear of sucking in the fumes.
The project will kick off with the installation of a roundabout at the junction between Bullockstone Road and the A291 Canterbury Road.
Bullockstone Road - a rat-run used by motorists travelling between Canterbury and Herne Bay - will then be widened, fitted with a pavement and have its speed limit reduced to 40mph.
KCC spokesman Thom Morris said: “It has been designed with the expectation that there will be an increase of about 6,300 daily vehicles by 2031.
“The aim of the Herne Relief Road is to direct traffic away from the constrained highway network through Herne and reduce pressure on the existing road network.
“Without it, a large proportion of this increase would likely route along the A291 and through Herne.
“The A291 corridor in this area currently has issues of road safety relating to its historic layout.”
KCC, which acts as the county’s highways authority, had been hoping to finance the work with £8.9 million from developers Redrow, Hollamby Estates and Taylor Wimpey.
When it emerged two of the firms still had not coughed up their contributions, it was feared the council would not begin the project until long after hundreds of the new homes have been built.
But a deal has been struck with government-funded South East Local Enterprise Partnership, which has loaned the authority the cash for the first two phases of the scheme, also known as the Herne Relief Road.
“This loan amount will be repaid as the development contributions are received,” Mr Morris added.
“The anticipated delivery timescale for these elements is 18 months...”
“Construction is currently planned to begin next April.
“The anticipated delivery timescale for these elements is 18 months.”
The final stage of the project will see a second roundabout added to Bullockstone Road close to the junction with Lower Herne Road, which in turn will be closed to general traffic.
But that will be delivered in conjunction with Hollamby, the developer of the 800-home Strode Farm site, when it constructs a spine road through its development.
Mr Morris says there are ongoing discussions between both parties “to ensure a collaborative approach to the delivery of both elements”.