The following newsletter has been received from our local MP and the sections of particular interest to Hollingbourne residents are highlighted. These include the plan to use the coast bound section of the M20 from Hollingbourne to Ashford to store up to 3000 lorries awaiting clearance through Dover and the Channel Tunnel if there are delays caused by strikes or the lack of a a seamless Customs arrangement after Brexit. The London bound M20 will be modified to carry traffic in both directions over the 15 mile stretch with presumably no hard shoulder along the way*. Mrs Whately has also commented on the reduction in the number of morning London bound train services from Hollingbourne.
Being an MP means keeping a lot of plates spinning. One minute you’re grappling with Brexit and the Customs Union, threats from Russia, or NHS funding, the next it will be primary school places, train delays, or Operation Stack. So here’s an update on how I’m staying on top of my campaigns.
Children in this area desperately need more schools to go to. It’s predicted that as many as 82 secondary school children may not have a place at a local school next year. With more housing on the way, the problem is only going to get worse.
Funding for a new Primary school in Bearsted was granted in 2017 and work on getting it open was pressing ahead. But a few weeks ago the whole plan was thrown up in the air. A mental health unit is currently being built on an adjacent site and the alarm was raised that a school and a mental health unit couldn’t be side by side.
That’s why I met with the Chief Executive of the company which will run the unit. He assured me that there really shouldn’t be a problem having a school next to their mental health unit. Clearly the concerns raised about having the two side by side need to be investigated, but it may be the school can be built there after all.
A new Maidstone School of Science and Technology was also due to open last year but has been held up by planning wrangles and worries about increases in traffic. I recently wrote to the Planning Inspector explaining that, unless we get this school open as soon as possible, pupils face being bussed long distance across the county to get to school, potentially being late and missing out on after-school activities.
I’m working with Maidstone Council, KCC and the Government to try to get this all sorted out and make sure new schools don’t add to the traffic problems, because the fact is, Maidstone’s children need more schools and we need them soon.
One thing we need to fix traffic problems in this area is an end to ‘Operation Stack’. New plans were announced last week that will allow traffic to travel in both directions between junctions 8 and 9 on the M20 while lorries are being queued for the Port of Dover and Eurotunnel.
This means people will be able to get on with their lives and businesses will continue to operate using the motorway, rather than being diverted onto smaller local roads. It should avoid a repeat of the nightmare of summer of 2015, where the M20 was closed for 32 days, costing the Kent economy £250 million.
Work will begin soon on reinforcing the northbound hard shoulder so that this can be used for ordinary traffic while lorries are parked on the other side. This interim solution is expected to be ready by 2019. I hope these contingency plans never have to be used – but I’m glad Highways England are getting grip.
While the Government is getting on with preparing our roads for Brexit, commuters are facing a rough ride on the trains – with delays, long journey times, and out-of-date carriages. That’s why I was dismayed when I saw the new timetables. The proposed new timetable would see the loss of a service arriving in London before 9am along the Maidstone East line serving Lenham, Harrietsham, Hollingbourne and Bearsted. I recently convened a meeting with fellow Kent MPs and the Rail Ministers to voice our concerns. We made it clear that it’s unacceptable for our constituents to face longer, less convenient journeys. Please let me know if your journey has been negatively affected by the timetable changes.
At the same time as commuters were grappling with the new timetable, Kent suffered a deluge. I was flooded out of my house, as were several others in our village and in the surrounding area. The Environment Agency has offered to help people struggling with the consequences of flooding and on improving flood resilience. There is a free 24 hour incident hotline: 0800 80 70 60. For all other queries and to sign up to receive free Flood Warnings they advise calling Floodline on 0345 988 1188 / checking their website or following @EnvAgencySE and #floodaware on Twitter for the latest flood outlook.
Do let me know if there is anything you would like my help with!
Member of Parliament for Faversham and Mid Kent
House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA
- There is a public consultation meeting about the future of Operation Stack at County Hall in Maidstone from 12pm to 6pm on 7th July. More details are at www.highwaysengland.co.uk/kentlorryarea
- Mrs Whately has been asked to consider the possibility that the new arrangements for traffic on the M20 which will mean some construction work will mean that local residents can claim for compensation under the terms of the Land Compensation Act 1973 which was used to compensate local residents who were affected by the HS1 and the M20 between Junctions 8 and 9. The new arrangements on the M20 are part of Operation Brock which will be used to store up to 3000 lorries awaiting passage across the Channel in the event of disruption caused by industrial action or delays through Customs if no arrangements are made for a seamless transit after Brexit. If Operation Brock becomes a regular event traffic in surrounding roads including those in Hollingbourne could be affected which would have an impact on the lives of local residents and their homes.