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Maidstone Borough Council warns plans for dual carriageway over Blue Bell Hill could 'cut into' protected countryside

Plans for improvements at two major junctions may lead to "further cutting" into the North Downs and woodland, a local authority has warned.

Maidstone Borough Council (MBC) raised the concerns about Kent County Council's (KCC) scheme to upgrade the dual carriageway over Blue Bell Hill, which links the County Town and Medway.

KCC wants to reduce congestion on the dual carriageway
KCC wants to reduce congestion on the dual carriageway

The first steps of the project were announced last month and a consultation has been launched by KCC for three designs to revamp junctions on the A229 at the Maidstone end, junction 6 of the M20, and the northern end of the edge of Medway, junction 3 of the M2.

The authority has asked for feedback on the three options to help determine which should be progressed, or if a combination of ideas from each would be better suited, to address traffic issues.

Two of the options would involve widening the A229 Maidstone-bound carriageway, prompting concern about what it could mean for nearby land.

In its response, MBC said: "This is likely to mean further cutting into the scarp slope of the North Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) plus the adjoining North Downs Woodland Special Area of Conservation (SAC)."

The council also asked for further details on plans for a national cycle path, which runs from Rochester to Folkestone, via Maidstone and Ashford, and a footpath next to the eastern side of the A229, which will be affected.

The Blue Bell Hill junctionPicture: KCC
The Blue Bell Hill junctionPicture: KCC

KCC says "alternative provision" will be provided to maintain the route, but MBC said more information is needed to assess whether it is a "suitable replacement".

The council says it wishes to ensure that KCC takes account of the need to safeguard, conserve and enhance the Kent Downs AONB and nearby SAC.

MBC's response was approved yesterday evening by its strategic planning and infrastructure committee.

It is not clear yet how much neighbouring countryside will be impacted by the scheme.

In consultation documents, KCC admits nearby residents and Public Rights of Way users "may experience a change in views".

A landscape strategy will aim to mitigate potential impacts and improve the environment where possible.

A KCC spokesman said: “We are still at the very early stages and whilst the consultation summarises what we currently understand in terms of the potential environmental impact of the three options, further reports and studies will be completed.

“We will work with MBC as studies on environmental impacts are completed to ensure the best outcome for the borough.”

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