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Scheme to reduce traffic in Wouldham High Street likely to stay despite some knock-on problems

It looks likely that an experimental traffic scheme to reduce traffic in a congested village will remain in place.

Kent County Council (KCC) introduced the scheme in Wouldham High Street in May of last year.

Wouldham High Street - there is no pavement to protect these householders
Wouldham High Street - there is no pavement to protect these householders

The narrow road had already been busy, but the additional traffic through the village in recent years generated by the construction of Peters Bridge and the building out of the 1,000-home Peters Village had made life unbearable for many.

The High Street has a number of residential properties with front gates opening directly onto the road and is also a route for children walking to school.

Walter Burke Avenue, Portland Road, Ferry Lane and Rectory Close are all accessed via the High Street, which crucially is the route of the Nu Venture No 29 bus service.

The experimental scheme restricts vehicles travelling southbound on the High Street, by implementing a No-Entry point at the northern end of High Street, for vehicles travelling south from Borstal (with an exemption for buses). Traffic instead has to turn left along School Lane and then follow Pilgrims Way to the junction with Knowle Road.

At Knowle Road, smaller vehicles can then turn right into Knowle Road and proceed westbound back towards the High Street, but larger vehicles need to proceed along Rochester Road until they reach New Court Road.

The Wouldham Experimental Traffic Scheme
The Wouldham Experimental Traffic Scheme

Right turns from Rochester Road into Scarborough Lane and Church Street for vehicles travelling southbound along Rochester Road were also banned in a bid to prevent drivers using these narrow roads in an attempt to reach Court Road.

Subsequently, a public consultation has been carried out to test the reaction to the scheme, including a letter-drop to every property in Wouldham and Burham.

There were 304 responses, of which 190 supported the scheme and 114 objected.

Among the 124 Wouldham residents who responded, 81 supported the scheme and 43 objected.

Some of those objecting were concerned at the length of the diversion route to reach the lower end of the High Street.

A bus attempting to navigate through Wouldham High Street before the traffic scheme was introduced
A bus attempting to navigate through Wouldham High Street before the traffic scheme was introduced

Some asked for an exemption for cyclists and equestrians to travel through the ‘No Entry’ gateway, as is the case with buses.

KCC conceded it would be possible to do this if the experimental scheme were made permanent.

Currently, there is no enforcement of the ‘No Entry’ gateway, but a survey carried out by Wouldham Parish Council over a two-hour peak travel period in May 2023 and then again in December 2023 showed the number of vehicles travelling south along the High Street had reduced from 490 to 78 - an 85% reduction.

KCC said that as a long-term aim, it may be possible to introduce ANPR cameras at the gateway to enforce the rules, but there is no immediate plan to do so.

Members of the Tonbridge and Malling Joint Transportation Board meet today (Monday) to decide whether to keep the scheme permanently, but officers are recommending they do.

Wouldham villagers protesting back in 2019
Wouldham villagers protesting back in 2019

A spokesman said: “The scheme appears to have been largely well-received, and the trial looks to have been successful.”

In the past, before the scheme was introduced, Wouldham residents had several times taken to the streets with placards protesting that their High Street had been turned into a rat-run by the opening of Peters Bridge, for motorists seeking to move between the Medway Towns and the M20.

KentOnline asked residents what they thought of the scheme.

Dennis Dean, of Oldfield Drive, said: “Traffic is better with the No-Entry junction and passing through the High Street is much better.

“However, it would be great if the council installed a camera to stop all the No-Entry jumpers who are putting law-abiding drivers at risk.

The No Entry must apply to all

“Jumpers from the Borstal direction speed up and fly through the No Entry thinking that if you rush through no one will notice.

“Some fool who lives in the houses just past the junction claim they have an exemption to drive through the No Entry, other jumpers see this and follow suit. The No Entry must apply to all.”

Zoe Tapson, of Knowle Road, said: “Although it has definitely solved the traffic issues in the High Street, it has just moved the problem to School Lane and Knowle Road.

”Traffic, noise and pollution on Knowle Road has increased to an unacceptable level, and where vehicles had to drive slowly through the High Street due to oncoming vehicles, on Knowle Road they are able to speed down from the quarry, causing numerous vehicles to screech to a halt on the corner of Cornwall Crescent.

“As with the High Street, we have a number of animals and children on our road and the school crossing at the bottom. I do worry for the lollipop lady sometimes!”

An image of a gridlocked Wouldham High Street before the new scheme was introduced
An image of a gridlocked Wouldham High Street before the new scheme was introduced

“I know that there were other possibilities to look at when this proposal was introduced, one was that the parking from the very narrow part of the High Street be suspended with vehicles using the parish council-owned car park at the rear of their properties. This seems like a more sensible solution.”

Gill Streeter said: “There was a lot of moaning about the scheme at first, but I think that as people have got used to the new layout opinions have changed to be in favour.

“The daily gridlocks during the rush hours have stopped, traffic volumes have reduced and there is obviously less pollution and noise.

“There are issues with speeding down Knowle Road and people just plain ignoring the No Entry sign, but hopefully this could be resolved with a camera at the No Entry and some sort of traffic calming or speed camera on Knowle Road.

“Personally, I’d be disappointed if it reverted back to how it was.”

An aerial view of Wouldham
An aerial view of Wouldham

Mick Stevens lives on the High Street. He said: “The No Entry ️has made a massive difference with traffic flow and pollution. It was very bad when all that traffic was just sitting in queues of stationary vehicles right near my house.

“I couldn’t open the windows because of the fumes and vile language from the road rage that used to happen daily. But I see drivers ignoring the No Entry. The council really needs to enforce this No Entry before an accident happens.

“I am definitely for keeping the No Entry ️- going back to the grid-locked traffic would be horrendous.”

Caroline Collier-Ward also lives on Knowle Road. She said: “I can appreciate the benefits of the scheme and think it should be kept.

“However, I feel strongly that the additional flow of traffic down Knowle Road as a result needs to be addressed as many drivers come down from Pilgrims Way at very high speed. They ignore the speed limit signs and the give-way just above Cornwall Crescent and race down the hill.”

There are literally hundreds of vehicles that pay no regard to the signs

“There are children who cross this road and people who need to come out of Cornwall Crescent or off their drives- and it’s quite hazardous at times.”

Sarah Hutchinson said: “The traffic has gone down a lot, but it would be good to have an ANPR camera so that residents that live between All Saints Church and the Medway Inn can drive through and do not have to go the long-way around.”

Jenny Day said: “People who live in the High Street have benefitted enormously from the reduction in traffic and pollution, especially from the HGV’s which were increasing since Peters Bridge was built.

“The number of water leaks has reduced, thereby reducing the inconvenience of road closures for repairs to be carried out. The damage to residents’ vehicles and property has reduced too.

“Road rage was also becoming a problem with increased horn use from very early in the morning to late in the evenings. The trial system seems to have almost put a halt to this.”

Norman Kemp, who owns Nu Venture
Norman Kemp, who owns Nu Venture

“All in all, the benefits far outweigh the inconveniences of the residents who have to drive further to reach their homes.”

Alan Grange, of Oldfield Drive, said: “On several occasions, as I've rounded the bend on School Lane heading to Borstal, I have been involved in extremely close encounters with vehicles continuing at speed straight through the No Entry section of the High Street.

”There are quite literally hundreds of vehicles that pay no regard to the signs, and this should, without any doubt, be enforced with a camera.

“Otherwise, the scheme is very good. It is rare now to get caught in the High Street gridlock that used to be common.”

Lynn Russ, of the High Street, said: “I have much appreciated the No Entry, from the perspective of getting off our drive more safely, as well as not having queues of traffic outside.

“I find it frustrating that so many people still abuse the no entry and I would like to see a camera in place there.

“But if the plan is adopted, some other improvements would need to be carried out: passing places along Pilgrims Way and School Lane, plus better Give-way markings at School Lane-end of the High Street, and the same for Hall Road where drivers are not all giving way to those coming down Knowle Road (outside the Medway Inn).

“I also suggest that Hall Road has double yellow lines on both sides, from the Medway Inn along to the traffic lights at the roundabout, as there is often a bottle-neck of traffic there causing risks for everyone, including pedestrians, especially at school times.”

Norman Kemp is the owner of Nu Venture buses. He said: “The best I can say is that getting a bus through Wouldham is no worse than before the new system, but of course the number of buses at Wouldham has fallen drastically in recent years as a result of the complete collapse in 2022 of developer-funded plans to enhance the bus service through Wouldham, Burham, Peters Village, Eccles and Aylesford.”

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