I'm gutted I missed the recent exhibition about the proposed plans for dualling the A21 between Tonbridge and Pembury. I feel only half informed considering the scale of such a local project. I've seen maps and plans, but think the virtual reality tour would have been invaluable in helping me understand it. I've found these plans online, but not the virtual reality which I think is an over-sight of the Highways Agency - many of us did not have the opportunity to get to the exhibition at the Angel Centre which only ran for 2 days.
I remember being given this as a Geography project at school - to find a solution to the congestion on this stretch of the A21. That was some 20 years ago and the debate has been raging since way before then, with congestion now at an all-time crush.
I'm really in two minds - I think the plans look HUGELY damaging to the immediate environment and natural habitat, but as a road user I often go to Tonbridge via the lanes through Capel and Tudeley, so improved flow on the A21 could ease traffic through these Kent hamlets, with obvious environmental benefits. Keeping traffic flowing along the main road will also help to reduce emissions in the area, and there are reportedly ongoing bird, amphibian, bat, reptile, badger, fungal and dormouse surveys taking place as part of the scheme. The newsletters don't explain what action will be taken however (apart from mentioning the possible need for badger tunnels and the like).
There are also enormous consequences for those property owners and residents along the stretch, many of whom face compulsory purchase orders, but conversely those remaining along the main road will be given 'local traffic' underpasses allowing for travel without having to use the dual carriageway. Speaking of which, the map below shows where the current road differs from the new one - will those sections remain as part of the 'local traffic' network, or will that land be reclaimed back for nature / agriculture?
This from the Highways agency website:
If, after this period of public consultation, there are objections to the draft orders there will be a Public Inquiry starting in summer 2010.
The report of the Public Inquiry is submitted to the Secretary of State and if supported a decision to proceed can be expected by December 2010.
If the scheme is approved, construction is anticipated to start towards the end of 2011 or beginning of 2012, and be completed by the end of 2013.
The road widening scheme has been penciled in to start in 2012 and be completed within two years. Public comments or objections to the proposals will determine whether a public inquiry is held.
The plans have been displayed at Town Halls and public libraries in Tonbridge, Pembury and Tunbridge Wells since December. They also were also on show at a two-day public exhibition at the Angel Centre in Tonbridge last weekend.
People have until March 5 to comment on the plans, which can be viewed at www.highways.gov.uk