Fears Tunbridge Wells to Tonbridge A26 cycle path plan will be compromised

The Mead School in Tunbridge Wells gave a professional level performance in the  ISA drama contests

By Adam Hignett

A Liberal Democrat councillor has accused his Conservative colleagues on Tunbridge Wells Borough Council of back peddling on key parts of the proposed A26 cycle route.

Cllr Peter Lidstone, of St John’s Ward, said the Tories ‘talk a good game’ when it comes to tackling congestion along the busy road but when it comes to it they are, ‘running from the big decisions’.

At the heart of the argument are plans by the Joint Transportation Board – a committee made up of Kent County Council and Tunbridge Wells Borough Council members – to ignore three ‘essential’ recommendations made within a report on how best to implement the route.

The planned cycle path will run from Brook Street in Tonbridge all the way to Grosvenor Road in Tunbridge Wells.

A public consultation on the project was undertaken at the end of 2016, in which 67 per cent of the 212 respondents backed the plan.

The report was published in February this year and has been going through various committee stages at the two councils, including the Joint Transportation Board, where Cllr Lidstone is the only non-Conservative member.

It is proposed the scheme is undertaken in three phases, with the first section between Grosvenor Road and Yew Tree Road, the second then heading to Bidborough Ridge before the final section finishes in Brook Street, Tonbridge.

A total of seven key concerns were raised during the consultation, including plans to scrap the bus lane adjacent to Southborough Common.

This proposal, criticised by drivers groups who told the Times in 2016 it was pandering to a ‘tiny vocal minority’, appears to have remain unchanged.

However, although no formal announcement has yet been made, Cllr Lidstone said the committee have ‘rejected’ recommendations for a 20mph speed limit through Southborough town centre, and the use of a shared path from Bidborough Ridge to Quarry Hill.

He said: ‘This means anyone cycling from Tunbridge Wells to Tonbridge on the A26 must cycle alongside 40mph traffic, and cut across a slip road. This will do nothing to attract less confident cyclists onto our roads.’

Cllr Lidstone believes there are also plans to retain five parking spaces between Beltring Road and Southfields Road in St John’s despite the report stating their removal is necessary for ‘safety’ and to ensure a continuous lane.

‘Five parking spaces are not going to solve Tunbridge Wells’ parking problems. We are missing an opportunity to tackle the chronic congestion and illegal air pollution levels on a road which runs next to seven schools.

‘It’s time for the Conservatives to stop talking, and take real action,’ Cllr Lidstone said.

Kent County Council has been approached for a response.

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