At a public meeting tonight attended by 400 local residents in the Maidstone Mercure Hotel in Hollingbourne KCC Councillor Gary Cooke confirmed that there was no route or funding for a Leeds to Langley bypass despite decades of discussions on the matter and increasing traffic on the B2163 through Leeds which result in traffic jams in the area including around Junction 8 of the M20 in Hollingbourne. On the panel with Councillor Cooke, who is a member of the Hollingbourne Pantomime Group, were local MP’s Mrs Helen Whately (Faversham and Mid Kent which includes Hollingbourne) and Mrs Helen Grant (Maidstone and Weald) as well as Councillor Fran Wilson, the Leader of Maidstone Borough Council.
Councillor Cooke did say that Kent County Council would be looking at the matter at the end of November but that there was no overnight solution to the traffic problems despite the newly approved Maidstone Local Plan including 18,000 new homes in the area where there is already substantial housebuilding under way. In the audience was Councillor Paul Carter, Leader of Kent County Council, plus several MBC Councillors including David Burton and Marion Ring.
Mrs Whately followed Mr Cooke by and she explained that she had many complaints from her constituents about traffic particularly in the Willington Street area and that she had tried to “call in” the Local Plan because of the lack of local infrastructure including roads, schools, and healthcare facilities to support the planned 18,000 new houses. Unfortunately Mr Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government decided not to “call in” the Plan which was adopted last month by Maidstone Borough Council.
Mrs Helen Grant then spoke and said that the building and financing of any new road was not the responsibility of local MP’s and that it was a matter for Kent County Council and Maidstone Borough Council.
Councillor Fran Wilson then said that Maidstone Borough Council looks forward to a KCC Strategic Impact Assessment for a new road.
Local Parish Councils were then asked for statements and Councillor John Govett, Chairman of Leeds Parish Council then asked why Maidstone Borough Council had not done a Strategic Impact Assessment before approving the Local Plan for 18,000 homes. He also suggested that a Section 106 charge of the maximum £2500 per home for new roads might have raised £45 million towards the cost of a new road. At this point and he was loudly applauded by the audience. He also complained that Government and KCC funding cuts had meant that there was nobody to police the speeding and traffic calming measures in Leeds where parts of the B2163 are single track. He also suggested that the posters in the village calling for a relief road and an end to the traffic madness summed up the situation.
Councillor Cheryl Taylor Maggio from Langley Parish Council followed and said that a solution for Leeds might cause problems for Langley, as any new road might go through Langley Heath, and that a better solution might be to have more public transport services. This speech was not cheered from the floor although it did receive polite applause.
Questions from the floor followed including one from a lady who expressed the opinion that local Councillors should put their political differences aside to work to a satisfactory outcome and that perhaps the impact of development on the infrastructure should have been considered before the Local Plan was adopted. Councillor Fran Wilson said Mr Sajid Javid had threatened to add more houses to the Maidstone Local Plan if it was not adopted despite general reservations about the local infrastructure.
Mrs Grant commented that she felt it was unlikely that MBC and KCC could work together to find a solution to the traffic problem.
Questions from the floor continued. The Chairman for the evening was Mr Geoff Miles, the Chairman of Maidstone Studios.
As the audience arrived at the Great Danes – Mercure Hotel they were given flyers from the promoters of the Broomfield Eco Village who appear to be offering to pay for a new road from the B2163 at an unspecified point to their new development. No further information is available.
Junction 8 of the M20 in Hollingbourne, which might be the connection for any new road through to the Sutton Road (A274), is the point where the M20 is closed when Operation Stack is activated when there are problems in Calais or the Channel Tunnel. When this happens and trucks are parked on the M20 there are traffic jams all round. At the request of Hollingbourne Parish Council and local KCC Councillor Mrs Shellina Prendergast, KCC has written to Mr Christopher Grayling MP, Secretary of State for Transport, to request details of the Government’s plans to arrange the seamless transfer of goods across the Channel after Brexit without any Customs delays which might lead to Operation stack on a daily basis.
If the UK leaves the UK in March 2019 without any Customs arrangements it could be the only country on WTO terms, which may lead to traffic problems, and the Government is planning to use the 3000 truck capacity Manston Airport as a parking lot for any of the 11000+ trucks that currently cross the channel each day. It has been estimated that a 2 minute delay in the normal 2minute Customs transfer time will result in a 17 mile traffic jam on the M20. The average time for non-EU trucks to go through Customs is 20 minutes, so the possibility of major traffic jams locally is significant.
Woodcut Farm at Junction 8 of the M20 has been the site of several development schemes since 1992 and most developers rely on a new road from the A274 through Langley to the A274 to reduce the traffic impact. Despite opposition from KCC, MBC, Leeds Castle, CPRE, Natural England, local Parish Councils, and thousands of local residents, development at Junction 8 is now in the Maidstone Local Plan. Up to now there have been at least three public inquiries where plans including those for the very unpopular Kent International Gateway (KIG), have been defeated at a cost of at least £3 million in legal fees to Kent council tax payers.
Pictured below are some of the speakers at the public meeting in the Great Danes-Mercure Hotel in Hollingbourne.