Plans for a £100 million upgrade of a notoriously busy junction have been described as “short-sighted in the extreme” after a flyover was discounted as too expensive.
The A249 Stockbury roundabout is to be improved, boosting the capacity of the M2 junction to ease congestion for drivers at junction 5.
But the general feeling among residents, commuters and councillors alike, is that the people of Swale have been short-changed once again.
WATCH: This is what Highways England has planned for Stockbury roundabout
MP Gordon Henderson said he was very disappointed Highways England had rejected his preferred option of a flyover – what he believed was “the only sensible solution”.
“A flyover would have meant there would have been no need for the number of traffic lights that are there,” he said.
“I’m equally disappointed that the agency’s option will increase the number of lights and, in my view, will increase congestion rather than decrease it.
“Highways England has not, at the moment, taken in significant consideration the likely impact on junction 5 of the new Lower Thames Crossing, which will see much more traffic diverting from the M20 to the M2 to make use of the new crossing, rather than travel up the M20 to Dartford.
“Therefore, it seems short-sighted in the extreme to progress a scheme that will have to be changed at some future date, no doubt at additional cost, when progressing a flyover instead would solve the current and future problems.
“I appreciate that option is more expensive now, but it might well prove to be good value in the long term.”
He added: “I am delighted that something is being done but this is a one-off chance – we have got to get it right now.”
Mr Henderson said the agency had also refused his request to switch off the traffic lights at Stockbury roundabout until the improvement works begin.
Mike Baldock, Ukip leader on Swale, said the proposals had fallen “way short” of what people were hoping for.
He said: “This proposal will be a nightmare for residents around the Oad Street/Danaway area and won’t do anything to prevent rural rat-running.
“With a delivery date not now expected before 2023, at the earliest, it is imperative that major housing development in the immediate area be suspended until after the works are completed.”
Cllr Baldock also said he had concerns about what the back-up plans are when an accident causes the A249 to be closed.
“With the Danaway Road being closed off, that option seems to have been lost,” he said.
Cllr Roger Truelove, leader of the Labour group on Swale council, said after “all the fanfare”, the plans were somewhat disappointing. “They have gone for a cheap option, giving us, as a community, little say,” he said.
“In the long run the saving will prove to be uneconomic, as congestion continues along the A249.
“As it is, it only partially relieves the current problem.
“However, with the massive housing growth implanted into the Local Plan, things will only get worse. There is still going to be too much control by traffic lights. The slipway for north-bound traffic will only cause problems as it meets the main A249 flows of traffic.
“The creation of the rural ride from Maidstone Road to Oad Street and back to Stockbury isn’t going to solve the inevitable tailbacks on the Maidstone-bound side of the A249, but it will encourage more and more local traffic to go through Borden, Tunstall and south Sittingbourne.”
Highways England is hosting a series of consultation events up until Tuesday, October 17, for people to give feedback on the proposals.
The closing time for responses will be 11.59pm on the last day.
Residents still have the chance to view the plans and speak to representatives from the agency at the public sessions, which will be held at:
The Sheppey Gateway, High Street, Sheerness, from 2pm to 8pm, today (Wednesday).
Copies of brochures and questionnaires will be available at libraries throughout Swale.