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M20 junction 7 traffic light plan hits roadblock after £4.7m funding taken away

Plans to install traffic lights at junction 7 of the M20 - hailed as a massive boost for drivers - have hit a roadblock after highways chiefs failed to secure crucial funding.

Details of an £11million project to upgrade roads and infrastructure near the junction were revealed last year, including signals controlling vehicles using the roundabout from the coast-bound M20 slip and the A249 in both directions.

However, Kent County Council has now announced significant changes to the plan after the £4.7m it was looking to secure from Highways England via the Growth and Housing Fund was pulled.

Traffic lights at junction 7 of the M20 have long been trumpeted as a potential solution to help solve some of Maidstone's congestion woes
Traffic lights at junction 7 of the M20 have long been trumpeted as a potential solution to help solve some of Maidstone's congestion woes

The council says alternative funding options are being investigated with the aim of starting work next summer but for now it means the scheme needs to progress without the much-anticipated traffic lights.

In better news for drivers, it has been revealed that the nearby A249 Bearsted Road roundabout will be upgraded from three lanes on each side to to four.

Under the plans, the junction will soon be fully signalised, with two lanes at each entry point for the first exit, and another two to use for going round the roundabout.

The KM's front page coverage from when the junction 7 upgrade was proposed (10454763)
The KM's front page coverage from when the junction 7 upgrade was proposed (10454763)

Splitter islands will be added on all three approaches, so there will always be a division between those turning left and those going round the roundabout.

Furthermore, Bearsted Road itself will be widened with a second lane added eastbound and vehicular access to Newnham Court Farm removed.

Other improvements will see the New Cut Road roundabout become partly signalised, while Newnham Court Shopping Village will be provided with new access for traffic off Newnham Court Way from the New Cut Road roundabout.

The improvement scheme around junction 7 of the M20 and the A249 Bearsted Road (10711821)
The improvement scheme around junction 7 of the M20 and the A249 Bearsted Road (10711821)

Furthermore, the existing paths will be widened to create a share footway and cycleway, with another footway created on the eastern side of New Cut Road.

A new ragstone retaining wall will also be built along the north side of Bearsted Road between the two roundabouts, in keeping with the crematorium wall on the opposite side.

However, a new pedestrian crossing which was proposed at the New Cut Road end of Bearsted Road has been scrapped due to safety concerns.

The A249 Bearsted Road roundabout is to be upgraded to four lanes (10446436)
The A249 Bearsted Road roundabout is to be upgraded to four lanes (10446436)

Work on site will begin later this year and is expected to be completed in autumn 2020.

A Highways England spokeswoman said: "When the government published its draft Road Investment Strategy 2 recently it confirmed the Growth & Housing Fund will not be continuing beyond March 2020 in its current form.

"Realising that this might mean schemes in the GHF pipeline such as the M20 J7 might not proceed, Highways England is now speaking with other funders to see if they are able to offer support to these projects.

"It is hoped these discussion will be concluded over the next few months."

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