An inconvenient truth

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29 May 2011
Local politicians of all parties have for some time now extolled the transport benefits of the Northern Relief Road, after all this fantastically expensive transport solution to Sittingbourne’s town centre congestion problems must surely be welcome by everyone, right?

But what if the real reason for constructing the Northern Relief Road was never about relieving traffic congestion, but simply opening up a vast area of land to the north of the town for development. After all the road did actually start out as the Northern Distributor Road and was only latterly renamed.

The Council have for some time now acknowledged that completing the road will impact severely on the A2 corridor to the east of Sittingbourne and as such must abide by planning conditions that stipulate that a solution to this must be found before the final stretch of road is built. Therefore the majority of our elected officials including our MP have all jumped on the A2/M2 link road bandwagon as the solution without a single scrap of supporting evidence what-so-ever to justify their decision.

It must have been a huge embarrassment then when Cllr Kevin Lynes, KCC Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Economic Development dismissed the very idea that an A2/M2 would be considered the essential mitigation by KCC. Well apparently not, as most of those concerned have continued unabated including our MP with a speech in Parliament who in an act of defiance still implies that the A2/M2 link is indeed the solution.

However the embarrassment does stop there as the Highways Agency has stated that they would not expect the Northern Relief Road to be the answer to congestion problems within Sittingbourne and that a national policy objection to the new motorway junction required by the A2/M2 link road remains in place.

The real truth is that the existing M2 junction 5 remains the most significant obstacle for future of Swale’s development and our elected officials have constructed this elaborate smoke screen as a diversion away from the real problem which they propose to do precisely nothing about for at least the next 20 years.

It’s not as though dealing with Junction 5 is optional, as the Council has already signed an agreement to do exactly that. Yes this will be unpalatable in terms of cost, but potentially less expensive than an A2/M2 link road and new motorway junction which the Highways Agency has already dismissed as an alternative, even suggesting that it might make matters worse for Junction 5.

With mounting evidence gathering in favour of a wholesale review of the potential solutions to our transport problems Council officials and our elected members seem undeterred and unwilling to listen.

Andy Hudson

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