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Plan to ban cars in town centres across Kent and Medway

Cars could be banned from Kent's town centres in the future, a councillor has warned.

Kent County Council's main opposition leader, Cllr Rob Bird (Lib Dem), said the authority may have to prioritise other modes of transport in light of the climate change emergency, citing a similar proposal made by Brighton and Hove Council this week.

Kent County Council wants to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050
Kent County Council wants to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050

The move, agreed by the Green and Labour groups, could see cars taken out of Brighton city centre within three years as part of a drive to improve air quality and reduce emissions.

Brighton, Medway, and Kent County Council are members of an integrated transport shadow body, Transport for the South East (TfSE), which is intent on achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

This would be delivered through a more joined up road, rail and bus network.

Speaking during KCC's environment and transport committee meeting at Maidstone County Hall earlier today, Cllr Bird said: "Looking at the future we talk about tolling of vehicles, we also must consider absolute bans.

"Brighton are looking at a car ban. This is something we will be looking at in several Kent town centres in the near future... and it will have major ramifications getting in and out of town centres."

Campaigners earlier told KMTV Kent could be underwater by 2050

After the meeting, Cllr Bird said he favoured "radical" and "progressive" solutions to reducing emissions across Kent's town centres, but noted the difficulties of a complete ban of vehicles in congested areas like Maidstone and Canterbury.

KCC's highway cabinet member, Cllr Michael Payne (Con), said a benefit of the south-east partnership would be to "learn from the experiences" of other authorities, such as Brighton.

TfSE, which has recently released its draft strategy, has yet to be granted full statutory powers from the government but has already 16 authorities working within the shadow board, spreading from Kent to Hampshire, Surrey, and Sussex.

Some of the main initiatives proposed in the strategy include improving rail journey times from London to north Kent, Maidstone and east Kent; better connectivity to Gatwick Airport and potential freight expansion at Dover.

Cllr Martin Whybrow (Ind) said he supports the body's environmental pledges as well as prioritisation of railway improvement rather than "building more roads".

The Folkestone and Hythe member added: "There is a lot to be said about bodies co-ordinating transport outside of the county boundary."

But, Cllr David Brazier (Con), said the development lacked "substance" and added: "It's simply a piece of paper."

The draft strategy has undergone a public consultation and a decision is expected in the summer.

A Transport for the South East spokesman said: “Our 30-year transport strategy sets out a vision for the south east that is better for people, better for the economy, and better for the planet."

Despite being in its shadow form, Transport for the South East has already received a £1.5million grant from the Department for Transport, in the last financial year.

KCC continues to fund around £58,000 a year to the TfSE.

Read more: All the latest news from Kent

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