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Wouldham residents take to the streets in traffic protest

It was pouring with rain but that didn't stop residents taking to the streets this morning to protest about traffic thundering through their village.

Around 40 protesters donned wet gear to protect themselves from the heavy rain and high visibility jackets to protect themselves from the the traffic and lined Wouldham High Street clutching placards proclaiming Twenty's Plenty and Don't Kill Us - We Live Here.

This morning's demonstration

Residents are angry because they have suffered a large increase in the volume of traffic travelling through their narrow High Street since the creation of the new Peters Crossing over the River Medway in September 2016.

The crossing was built to facilitate access to the 1,000-home Peters Village development, but one consequence has been to create a new rat-run for motorists seeking to move between the Medway Towns and the M20.

"We've become the A228 relief road," said Graham Gosden, one of the organisers ofWouldham Against Traffic. "We knew it would happen. That is why the village protested so vehemently when

it was first proposed that Hall Road be opened up to through traffic."

Although there is already a 20mph limit through the High Street that does not stop drivers speeding. But as the road is narrow, quite often HGVs and buses mount the footpath to get around obstacles, putting pedestrians’ lives at risk.

So far, the only mitigation that Kent Highways has suggested is to extend the length of double yellow lines in the High Street to reduce obstructions. Villagers say that will only encourage traffic to travel faster.

Residents line the street in Wouldham to protest against traffic on Wednesday morning. Picture: Chris Davey. (16109540)
Residents line the street in Wouldham to protest against traffic on Wednesday morning. Picture: Chris Davey. (16109540)

Mr Gosden said: "We want Hall Road closed to through traffic again, so as to block off the rat-run."

Cllr Dave Davis (Con) who represents Burham and Wouldham on Tonbridge and Malling council, said: "There is a huge problem in Wouldham.

"Before the bridge opened there only used to be one vehicle that transited through the village - the local bus. All that has changed.

"Wouldham developed as a village in the 1860s to support the cement factory. Its roads were never intended for cars and are now heavily congested with gridlock almost every rush hour."

Aside from a bypass, for which there was no money, Cllr Davis suggested the two measures that could be taken seemed to counter each other. He said: "We need both to improve the flow of traffic and kill the speed. Although it's a 20mph limit, many cars travel at well over 40mph when they can."

Cllr Dave Davis: 'Huge problem' (16113461)
Cllr Dave Davis: 'Huge problem' (16113461)

"Unfortunately we've had no support from the police, in terms of carrying out speed checks or the like."

Cllr Davis was less sure about closing Hall Road to through traffic. He said: "I think there are now a lot of people in Wouldham who use Hall Road to get out of the village."

Cllr Davis, who met the protesters this morning, said: "They behaved with great dignity and restraint."

The same was not true of many of the drivers who yelled abuse at villagers from their cars.

Cllr Davis said: "The villagers, many of whom had never joined a protest before, were very well behaved and a credit to Wouldham."

Residents line the street in Wouldham to protest against traffic on Wednesday morning. Picture: Chris Davey. (16109661)
Residents line the street in Wouldham to protest against traffic on Wednesday morning. Picture: Chris Davey. (16109661)

A second demonstration is planned for Friday (September 6), during the evening rush hour, between 4.30pm and 6pm.

Read more: All the latest news from Maidstone

Read more:All the latest news from Tonbridge

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