News | Relief road

Panel chairman GeoffMiles with (fromleft) county councillors Paul Cooper and Gary Cooke,MPs Helen Whately and Helen Grant and Cllr FranWilson

‘Nomeans to fund a route’

CLLR Gary Cooke (pictured), who organised the meeting, said that there “has to be an equal con- sideration between the need for new housing and the interests of existing communities and resi- dents”. He added: “Moreover, the duty

to co-operate between differing local authorities that goes both sideways as well as up and down, more often than not is overlooked at the expense of existing local communities who are then left to live with the consequences of those decisions." He said KCC cannot offer any

routes for a link at this time nor any mechanism to fund the relief road. But he added: “What Kent County Council has been doing and I hopewill continue to do…is to fund the preparatory work. “These are investigative works

that need to be done to develop the potential routes that can be brought forward for consultation, together with a business case that would detail each potential route coupled with associated benefits that each routewould provide rel- ative to cost. “In short, the business casewill

need tomake the case forwhether a relief road can be justified. So this is where we are no matter how much I or you wish it wasn’t so. No matter how much I or you mightwish the adopted Local Plan had includedmitigation provision for a relief road, or even wished that we had actually acted upon this 20 years ago.We arewherewe are.”

Hundreds pack hotel for relief road debate

MAIDSTONE'S MPs have vowed to force the leadership of Maidstone Borough Council and Kent County Council into talks to bring a “collab- orative” approach to solving the long-running issue of a Leeds-Langley relief road.

Helen Grant (Maidstone and the

Weald) and HelenWhately (Faver- sham and Mid Kent) told a packed publicmeeting onNovember 2 that a resolution can only be found if the tensions between the two authori- ties can be eased. TheMPswill personally broker a

private summit between KCC leader PaulCarter,MBCleader Fran Wilson,MBCchief executiveAlison Broome and one other to thrash out their differences for how funding might be unlocked to pay for a by- pass to ease traffic problems across south and south-eastMaidstone. MrsGrant told almost 400 people

at the gathering, at the Mer- cureMaidstoneHotel: "Wewill sit themin a roomandwewill not come out until we have made some progress – and that's a promise." The summitwas due to take

place on November 24, after DownsMailwent to press. Those attending the relief

but these are not decisions forMPs. I would urge that Maidstone Bor- ough Council and Kent County Council work closely, cohesively and carefully together. If they can- notwork together, it’s not in the best interests of anyone.” The meeting heard contributor

after contributor from the floor about the issues facing southMaid- stone and, in particular, the rural villages. Manywere incredulous thatmore

than 17,000 homes are to be built in the borough with no serious infra- structure tomitigate against the an- ticipated increase in traffic on

nore his village’s lorry ban and the 20mph speed limit outside the school is broken because neither is policed. Langley Parish Council chairman Cheryl Taylor-Maggio is worried a relief roadwill simply at- tract evenmore housing and cut off LangleyHeath. She added: “Like it or loathe it, the

Local Plan is based onmodal shift.” CllrTaylor – to jeers – saidthe bor-

ough council must champion elec- tric vehicles. Tory group leader at the borough

road rally, which had as its panel county councillors Paul Cooper and Gary Cooke, the MPs and Cllr Fran Wilson, were left in little doubt of the dis- tance between Tory-run highways authority KCC and the Liberal De- mocrat-majority MBC, which is in charge of planning. The MPs' pledge was music to

their ears of Jenny Sutton, founder of the relief road pressure group WILLact, who joked afterwards: "I like the idea of those two MPs in a room with these people – if they want, I'll stand guard outside." Earlier, Mrs Grant told the hall: “Helen (Whately) and I can support,

18 Maidstone Weald December 2017

Otham’s Gordon Newton: “You need to get your act to- gether...because I am fed up with it.”

already clogged-up roads. There was scorn for MBC mem-

bers who opted recently to spend developer contributions (section 106 money) on persuading people to walk, take buses or cycle in its “modal shift” idea rather than pour the cash into a relief road project. Leeds Parish Council chairman

JohnGovett said that a contribution of £2,500 on 18,000 homes could re- alise £45m of the estimated £70m cost of a relief road. He said that articulated lorries ig-

council, Cllr John Perry, said: “The two most dreaded words in the English language are ‘modal shift’ but I amafraid to say that it is not going to solve anything.” Otham councillor Gordon

Newton said his village is now“totallywrecked” by de- velopment

and added:

“Whether you are MBC or KCC, you need to get your act together...because I amfed up with it.” Cllr Wilson said she too

supported the idea of a relief road and cared passionately about the issue of traffic but

said unlocking section 106 money was “a lot tighter” than it used to be. Bearsted Conservative borough

councillor Val Springett, a relief road supporter,warned a link could be a “two-edged sword” bringing with it unwanted development. She blamed the Lib Dems at the town hall for scuppering section 106 money being directed towards a by- pass. She urged the MPs to put pressure on communities secretary Sajid Javid “and have aword” about funding.

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