Final stage of bypass is shelved
16 Mar 2011Council rejects relief road plan
PROPOSALS for the final stage of Sittingbourne's Northern Relief Road have been rejected by a council committee until plans for a southern link to the motorway are put forward.
Swale Joint Transport Board, made up of Swale and Kent County Councillors, voted to shelve the project at a meeting on Monday.
KCC member for Swale West Keith Ferrin said: "It seems to me that the simple truth is this is a dead project. There is nothing more certain than it ain't going to happen."
The Northern Relief Road -stretching from the A249 at Grove-hurst to the Eurolink - is being developed to ease traffic pressure in Sittingbourne, particularly at the approaches to industrial estates north of the town and at Kemsley.
The next phase of the road, across Milton Creek, is due to be finished this autumn. The last stage, the subject of Monday's meeting, was a proposed link to the A2 to the east of Sitting-bourne, and three possible routes had been identified.
A £46.5 million northern route, which was included in Swale's current planning blueprint, has already been dismissed because it is too expensive.
A central route would have an enormous environmental impact while a western route would increase traffic in Bapchild by 20 per cent.
With no obvious best choice, a combined route could be preferred by KCC.
Public consultation was carried out by KCC last year and the need for the scheme in principle was supported by 65 per cent of those who responded.
The question of whether people agreed it should go ahead produced a 50-50 split.
The need to bypass Bapchild was asserted by 80 per cent of those consulted.
Bapchild Parish Council was strongly against all of the options. Chairman Andy Hudson said: "There is nowhere to put this road. I think this probably only leaves one option - you cannot complete it."
The Campaign to Protect Rural England's Protect Kent branch also came out strongly against extending the relief road, which would bisect swathes of countryside.
Its senior planner Brian Lloyd said: "We are extremely concerned that apparently no consideration has been given to alternative alignments, whether the link to the A2 is actually needed and will deliver additional traffic benefits for the town centre, and how the increase in traffic on the A2 to the east will be accommodated or mitigated."
KCC member for Faversham, Tom Gates said the increased traffic on the A2 would "crucify" the villages and towns along the road.
Swale Council leader and KCC member for Swale East Andrew Bowles agreed. "It does nothing but be detrimental to most of the villages nearby," he said.
Cllr Bowles said 50 per cent agreement with the scheme was insufficient and called for a link to be
made to the M2.
Some councillors, however, were in favour of extending the road -including Swale Councillors for Chalkwell, Labour's Roger Truelove and Ghlin Whelan.
CUr Truelove said: "Just as the road would be detrimental to Bapchild, the existing road structure is seriously detrimental to people who live in northern Sittingbourne.
"I cannot accept that it should be abandoned," he added.
After a lengthy debate the board decided that, because of detrimental affects to the community and a lack of clear support from residents, the project should go nowhere until KCC comes forward with proposals for a road to link with the M2, south of Sittingbourne.