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Delay on Trenport's 950-home scheme at Eccles, Bushey Wood over fears on impact on M2 and M20

A controversial plan to wrap 950 homes around a small village – more than doubling its size – has been halted by National Highways.

The body, responsible for major roads and motorways in England, has stepped into the row over proposals for a large development at Eccles, at a location known as Bushey Wood.

An artist's impression of the proposed community hall at Bushey Wood
An artist's impression of the proposed community hall at Bushey Wood

Developer Trenport said it would be lodging an appeal with the planning inspectorate as the Tonbridge and Malling council had failed to reach a decision on the scheme, 12 months after it first submitted its application.

But National Highways – a statutory consultee on all large applications – has now advised the authority it should not make a decision until at least May 15.

It says it needs time to assess the likely impact of the new homes on the road network and accused Trenport of failing to provide sufficient justification for the methodology it had used to assess the traffic impacts.

The road body says the plans would particularly affect the M2 at J3 for Blue Bell Hill and the M20 at J6 for Maidstone.

Although the developer has collected traffic flow data at seven locations, it had not included any data collected at the motorway junctions.

Eccles residents protesting against the Bushey Wood scheme
Eccles residents protesting against the Bushey Wood scheme

National Highways said the applicant also needed to submit data on collision assessments at the intersections – and because of the reduced traffic during Covid – this data should extend back five years pre-pandemic as well as the years since.

It said the applicant had also not provided a travel plan in accordance with national guidance.

National Highways said at this point, it did not have enough information to properly assess the impact of the application.

Trenport's proposals, which would wrap new housing around three sides of Eccles, have been met with considerable local opposition.

More than 800 letters of objection have been filed – more than the number of homes in the village, which stands at 752.

The proposed Bushey Wood development site in Eccles is outined in red
The proposed Bushey Wood development site in Eccles is outined in red

The National Highways objections can be viewed here.

Details of the Trenport application can be viewed here, under application number 22/00113.

The scheme covers a 63-hectare plot and would involve demolishing the existing St Mark's Primary School and building a new larger one.

It comes amid growing fears of urbanisation in the area with The East Malling Trust also wanting to build a 1,600-home new community across Ditton, Aylesford and East Malling.

Meanwhile, Burham Parish Council has written to the borough for a second time, objecting to Trenport's transport arrangements.

An artist's impression of how the Trenport development in Eccles will look
An artist's impression of how the Trenport development in Eccles will look

The parish says the firm's intention of closing Bull Lane would put extra traffic on Alex Hill – a particularly poor stretch of road, often impassible in poor weather.

When the road is blocked, residents of the new estate wanting to get to Blue Bell Hill would be forced to travel through Aylesford village which already has traffic restrictions in its narrow High Street, they argued.

Burham Parish described a proposed change of priority at New Court Road/Rochester Road junction as "totally unacceptable," saying it would lead to increased traffic speeds of New Court Road, where there was a pedestrian crossing.

It pointed put that Trenport's traffic surveys had been conducted during the pandemic and were now out of date and that the bus service, that the developers had referred to, had since been considerably reduced.

Objectors also pointed out that Trenport has made no assessment of the sometimes lengthy delays at the level crossing in Aylesford, and how this can lead to tailbacks that block key junctions in the village.

Tonbridge and Malling council leader Matt Boughton
Tonbridge and Malling council leader Matt Boughton

Trenport said it had not yet lodged its appeal, but said: "We expect this to be done in the coming days."

The company also said: "We have received comments from National Highways who have asked for information to be provided in line with the very newly published Department for Transport Circular (dated December 2022).

"Trenport’s team is therefore liaising with National Highways and this information will be submitted to them shortly."

The leader of Tonbridge and Malling council, Matt Boughton, said: "It is really disappointing whenever an applicant wishes to appeal any planning decision. It takes the decision out of the hands of locally elected councillors.

"The notice to appeal was lodged just a few days after the close of the latest consultation too, which is not fair on everyone in Eccles and the surrounding villages who took the time to share their thoughts.

"As the comment from National Highways demonstrates, there remained issues to be worked through before a decision could be reached and this is what the council was doing."

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