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Keep Maidstone Moving public consultation reveals opposition to £16.4m plans but council officers want to proceed with scheme

Hundreds of people disagree that £16.4 million congestion-busting measures will actually work at a key Maidstone bottleneck.

The public have been consulted on the Maidstone Integrated Transport Package, unveiled last year by Kent County Council.

Maidstone Borough Council wants to improve traffic at six hot spots in the town
Maidstone Borough Council wants to improve traffic at six hot spots in the town

It will see major changes at six of the County Town ‘s gridlocked junctions, but the consultation results shows people are split over whether they will work.

Almost 70% of 351 survey respondents disagree with traffic-easing plans for Loose Road near the former Wheatsheaf pub.

In total, 538 people gave their views - much fewer than Maidstone’s Joint Transportation Board expected. Plans for Loose Road near the Wheatsheaf gained the highest number of respondents. It is suggested the pub is demolished and replaced by a garden, at the centre of a whole new traffic light and lane system.
But 67% of people disagree with these proposals: a fifth of respondents think the changes might just move congestion further down the road, many don’t want nearby Cranbourne Avenue to be closed and others dismiss plans for the tavern to be bulldozed.

Further along the Loose Road at Armstrong Road and Park Way, Kent County Council suggests widening the road into three lanes for traffic heading away from Maidstone to create a dedicated right-turn lane on to Armstrong Road, among other amendments. More people agree (55%) than disagree (42%) with this, with comments focussing on a need for easing traffic turning right into Armstrong Road.

The majority of people who took part in the public consultation don't agree with plans for Loose Road near the former Wheatsheaf pub
The majority of people who took part in the public consultation don't agree with plans for Loose Road near the former Wheatsheaf pub
The current Wheatsheaf junction (28363087)
The current Wheatsheaf junction (28363087)

At the junction with Cripple Street and Boughton Lane, a new inside lane will be created, from the ambulance station towards town, and traffic will only be able to turn left onto Boughton Lane, among other changes. Just over 50% of the 186 people disagreed with this and some argue there isn’t an issue with traffic turning into Boughton Lane and changes will cause more problems.

The three other junctions are the A20 Coldharbour roundabout, the Ashford Road junction with Willington Street and the A274 Sutton Road.

Views on the roundabout, which could be widened into three lanes at certain sections, are split 50-50. Just under half of respondents (49%) oppose the changes at Willington Street - which will see the lane on the Ashford Road travelling towards Bearsted split into two further back from the junction - with 86% voicing at least one concern.

And 52% disagree with proposals for Sutton Road, which could see new bus lay-bys on each side and lanes split into two at certain sections. Many feel it is only a short-term solution and doesn’t address the issues.

It has also been revealed work on the Keep Maidstone Moving scheme has slipped back to next year.

This is what the new Wheatsheaf junction could look like
This is what the new Wheatsheaf junction could look like

It was hoped to start phase one - the A20 roundabout - in May. However documents show the project has been pushed back to 2021.

Maidstone Borough Council officers recommend councillors proceed with the proposals despite the results of a public consultation “appearing to be negative”.

The latest report reveals many of the comments may be negative but are not related to the project specifically.

For example, 41% of people said there is a need to reduce building of houses to help with congestion on the roads, and 36% said a ring road is needed to limit traffic going directly through the town.

Comments which actually address the proposals focus on fears of money being wasted, plans being too short-term and a desire for other means of transport to be promoted instead.

Around 50% of respondents disagree with plans for the A20 Ashford Road junction with Willington Street
Around 50% of respondents disagree with plans for the A20 Ashford Road junction with Willington Street

The report concludes although “disagreement to the scheme seems high”, most objections are due to “a feeling that what is proposed will not deliver the benefits it sets out to do so”, and many of the issues “cannot be overcome predominately due to the funding and land constraints.”

So, officers recommend proposals are carried out, as long as certain problems are addressed.

These include an alternative solution to the Loose Road junction with Cripple Street and Boughton Lane in light of concerns raised by residents; an alternative design for the Wheatsheaf junction, although this will still require the closure of Cranbourne Avenue; and more engagement sessions with the public.

It is also recommended plans for the Sutton Road junction with Willington Street are not taken any further until “an alternative can be found which satisfies the requirements of providing capacity improvements and having a low impact on the surrounding vegetation.”

And a further consultation will be carried out on relocating a Ragstone Wall on the A20 Ashford Road junction.

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