Published: 12:49, 30 May 2018
| Updated: 13:21, 31 May 2018
Highways England has bowed to public pressure and agreed to build a £100 million flyover at the M2’s junction with the A249 Sittingbourne and Sheppey turn-off.
A series of exhibitions will now be held for the public to comment on the new design for the Stockbury Roundabout at Junction 5.
Planners initially ruled out a flyover on the grounds of cost and wanted to revamp the busy roundabout and retain traffic lights.
But Sittingbourne and Sheppey MP Gordon Henderson, Kent County Council and Swale Borough Council all rejected the scheme.
A spokesman for Highways England admitted: “There was little support for Option 12A with 68% of the general public against it.
“The MP, local authorities and South East Local Enterprise Partnership expressed a preference for a flyover. We therefore undertook a review of the rejected flyover option (Option 4) to determine if there were opportunities to reduce the cost while maintaining the benefits.”
A revised scheme called Option 4H1 was published on Wednesday.
The spokesman said: “This option delivers the Roads Investment Strategy 1 outcomes, increases safety benefits over Option 12A and ensures there are no traffic signals on the A249.”
Although cheaper than the first idea, the new scheme is still said to be above the original £100 million budget.
Highways England has been promised an extra £2.5 million from Kent County Council.
Steve Hoesli, Programme Leader Highways England, said: "The Stockbury roundabout junction is a vital interchange between two of the county’s busiest roads. These improvements will simplify journeys for people travelling to and from Sittingbourne, the Isle of Sheppey, the port of Sheerness and Maidstone, which is great news for anyone living, working or travelling in the area.
“Around 2,000 people took part in the consultation; it was clear from people’s feedback that these improvements are desperately needed but also that just upgrading the roundabout would not be enough.
"This announcement takes that feedback on board. The A249 flyover will provide additional benefits for anyone using the junction.
"Excellent infrastructure is vital to a successful economy. The investments we are making in Kent will deliver massive benefits for people and businesses across the region.”
A series of drop-in events will be held towards the end of the year for comments. Highways England says it will now begin negotiations with landowners.
It is hoped to begin work on the 18-month project no later than March 2020 with the revamped junction expected to be finished by the winter 2021.
Transport bosses agree the junction can no longer cope with the existing traffic.
More traffic to the thriving Sheerness Docks, Morrisons distribution depot at Iwade, the planned new Aldi distribution depot on Sheppey and thousands of new homes on the Island and around Sittingbourne has led to increased pressure on the road.
Highways England admitted: “At certain times of day, there are high levels of congestion and delay on the A249 towards Maidstone and Sittingbourne and on the approaches to the junction and on the exit slip road from the M2 towards Stockbury Roundabout.
“Congestion is expected to get worse because of planned development and population growth.
“Drivers are already using alternative rural routes to avoid the congestion, putting undue pressure on smaller roads not suited to large volumes of traffic and increasing safety risks.”
The junction is one of Britain’s 50 most dangerous places. There were 111 injury accidents between January 2011 and December 2015. Nearly half happened during morning and evening rush-hours.
MP Mr Henderson said: “I opposed the previous design because it introduced more traffic lights and did not provide the through route for A249 traffic via a flyover. I have been lobbying government and Highways England for many months, as I know Kent County Council and others have. I am delighted our voices have been heard.
“The long overdue improvements will be welcomed by the thousands who currently queue there each morning. The new junction will also address the safety issues at the existing roundabout and on the approaches on the A249. The area has one of the worst safety records on the road network.”
He said the cost would be £85 million.
Work will include replacing the existing roundabout with a flyover to provide free-flowing movement on the A249; two new dedicated free-flowing slip roads; a left turn for traffic travelling from Maidstone on the A249 to the M2 towards London and a left turn from Sheppey on the A249 to the coast-bound M2.
The connection from the Maidstone Road to the A249 Stockbury Roundabout will be closed and Maidstone Road re-routed to link with Oad Street. The junction of Oad Street and the A249 will be closed and a new link provided south of Oad Street to connect directly with the A249 Stockbury Roundabout. The Honeycrock Hill junction with the A249 to be closed for safety reasons.
To comment, write to: M2 Junction 5 Project Team Highways England, Bridge House, 1 Walnut Tree Close, Guildford, Surrey GU1 4LZ
By email: M2J5@highwaysengland.co.uk
By phone: 0300 123 5000 (24 hours)