Funding set aside for a new bus service could be pumped into upgrading a road junction after a council U-turn.
Maidstone council is to go back to a developer and ask that money allocated to run a bus service to a new housing estate be used instead to fund a long-awaited junction scheme.
The council's planning committee granted developer Taylor Wimpey permission in January last year to build 181 homes at The Peafield in Barming, but only on the condition the company signed a Section 106 agreement to pay £246,159 towards supporting a local bus service.
It was envisioned that the money would be used to provide a peak-time bus service - defined as between 6.30am and 8.30am and between 4.30pm and 6.30pm - so that a bus could visit the new estate and carry its new residents into Maidstone town centre.
Previously, the council heard how there wasn't anywhere near enough money in the Section 106 kitty for the £3.2m junction project because there was no working proposal in place at the time agreements were drawn up.
But Cllr Peter Holmes (Con) told a meeting of the Joint Transportation Board: "This is a hot topic and a pertinent matter for local residents.
"Pertinent because buses have been in the news lots recently due to their lack of use resulting from a change in travel habits since Covid.
"This bus is not wanted nor needed. It's a white elephant scheme."
Cllr Holmes, who is not a member of the board, told colleagues: "The money will be squandered and will be of no benefit to Maidstone."
Instead he suggested the cash be put towards paying for the planned improvements to the junction of Fountain Lane with the A26 Tonbridge Road in Maidstone. That scheme is currently stalled because there is no money to pay for it.
His request resonated with members of the board.
Cllr Paul Cooper (Con) said: "It is tremendously old-fashioned to be still subsidising bus services.
"The trouble is that national planning policies put a high value on public transport when the reality is that we don't live in 1975 any more."
Heath ward councillor Ashleigh Kimmance (Lib Dem) said: "The issues with the A26 junction have been going on for donkey's years. Mitigation measures for that junction should have happened long ago, but this is a bus to nowhere.
"People (from the new homes) will easily be able to walk to Maidstone Hospital to pick up the existing service."
Cllr Tom Cannon (Con) said that providing the bus service would be "the sort of waste of money that residents find exceedingly annoying".
He said: "After three years, when the subsidy runs out, the bus service will be gone.
''Strategic infrastructure in Maidstone is far more important than a bus route that nobody wants. We need to keep Maidstone moving.''
The council's chief planning officer Rob Jarman was asked whether it was possible to get Taylor Wimpey to switch the money.
He explained that a Section 106 agreement was a legal document and part of the planning permission. He said: "Taylor Wimpey would have to apply for permission to vary their own Section 106.
"It would very much be down to Taylor Wimpey wanting to play ball."
But he also warned that even if it were possible to transfer the money it would not fully fund the planned junction improvement, which was costed at £3.2 million.
While supporting the sentiment behind the proposal, council leader David Burton (Con) urged caution in the way the developer was approached. He warned that if the council said the bus service was not required, Taylor Wimpey might simply decide to pay nothing.
He said: "It will be better to have the bus funded than nothing."
The board voted in favour of approaching Taylor Wimpey, with only Cllr Brian Clark (Lib Den) abstaining.
Afterwards, Cllr Holmes told Kent Online: "Residents of the existing new developments at Orchard Fields and Oak Apple Place are annoyed and frustrated with this proposal. Local opinion is that no resident will use the service and so is a waste of valuable developer money."
He also suggested that some people did not want buses trundling past their homes, adding: "Some residents also claim to have not known about the bus route when buying their homes and said that if they knew this from the start they would have not bought a family home in this location."
Cllr Holmes, who himself works as a project manger for a developer, St Modwen Homes, said: "I have seen a few of these bus schemes over the years and believe you me, once the funding ends, usually so does the bus."
He said: "To even get the bus into these developments there will be the upheaval for residents of road widening, grass verge reduction and junction works. All unnecessary and not needed."
"All we need is Taylor Wimpey to put an amendment forward to MBC Planning for changing the allocation of money.
"There is no argument for this bus. There is good access to existing buses on Heath Road/Hermitage Lane/Beverly Road all within 10 minutes walking distance.
"I just hope Taylor Wimpey listens to local residents and this matter can be sorted."
The Taylor Wimpey application for the Peafield can be viewed on the council's website, planning reference number 20/501773.