Town traffic ban leads to fines of more than £200k in 30 days

CONFUSING: The town centre signage that is causing problems for drivers

FINES issued by Tunbridge Wells Borough Council (TWBC) to motorists travelling along the restricted bus lane on Mount Pleasant Road have totalled £210,000 in just 25 days. Despite this massive tally, confusion still reigns among drivers over the exact nature of the restrictions.

Three thousand Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) of £70 each were issued to drivers who used the stretch of road in front of the war memorial between March 20 and April 13.

The PCNs follow 11,000 warning letters that were issued by TWBC to vehicles contravening the restrictions between February 20 and March 20.

The traffic ban is part of a joint scheme by Tunbridge Wells Borough Council (TWBC) and Kent County Council (KCC) in which drivers are fined for using the bus lane between 9am and 6pm. Buses, taxis, and goods delivery vehicles are exempt from the ban.

When asked what the Borough Council will do with the money collected by the fines, TWBC told the Times: “Any surplus is ringfenced for transport-related projects.”

Walking and Cycling Champion Cllr Peter Lidstone (Lib Dem) told the Times: “The execution of the scheme has been poor. The pedestrian crossing at Monson Road is wider and less safe than before.

“There is still a significant volume of traffic on Mount Pleasant Road, and the space does not feel like a ‘public realm’.

“There has also been a lot of confusion around the signage and enforcement.”

Confusing signs covered in duct tape and held up with zip ties have been criticised online.

The large sign on York Road approaching Mount Pleasant Road has been partially obscured with grey tape, leaving drivers baffled as to which direction they are allowed to drive.

On Twitter, Cllr Nicholas Pope posted a picture of the taped-up sign and commented: “I am not impressed with the tape covering up part of this sign on York Road as you approach Mount Pleasant in Tunbridge Wells.

“Also, why are there two different signs being used for the traffic restrictions? What is going on?”

A spokesperson for TWBC told the Times: “The signage at and approaching the restriction complies with the Department for Transport guidance.

“One sign has been amended temporarily while we wait for a replacement, though this too remains compliant with the guidelines.”

KCC, who are responsible for the signage on the roads told the Times that they plan to change the York Road sign.

Furthermore, CCTV symbols have been fixed loosely to the poles with plastic zip ties, allowing them to be easily turned by passers-by or the weather.

This means that the signs on each end of the bus lane are facing in different directions, with some angled away from the view of the driver.

KCC confirmed that these signs were the responsibility of TWBC.

Cllr Victoria White (Conservative, Park Ward) told the Times: “I am aware of the concerns about the traffic restrictions and am not unsympathetic to the complications that seem to be raised by the scheme.

“In the first instance, I hope that we can work with KCC to make the scheme much clearer for residents, as currently it does seem extremely complicated. If that cannot be rectified, the council should perhaps consider these restrictions again.”

There has also been criticism of the road layout, where the main road is blocked off, with rat-runs such as York Road creating shortcuts for drivers and leading to more traffic along these streets.

Cllr Lidstone said: “Residents of York, Dudley and Newton Road have not seen a reduction in traffic, as drivers continue to use them to avoid the restrictions on Mount Pleasant.

“A lot of this has been taken out of the Borough’s hands as the County Council were responsible for design and implementation.

TWBC said that the traffic ban “supports sustainable transport and reduces air and noise pollution in the town centre” while making the streets “safer for pedestrians and more attractive to shoppers and other visitors”.

While the vehicle numbers on the street have dropped by half, the safety to pedestrians is still debated.

Cllr Lidstone continued: “[The scheme] was actually signed-off by the previous administration in 2018. The thinking behind it was to make the link between the bottom of town seamless and pleasant.

“We agree with the principle of making the centre of town more pleasant for shoppers and visitors.

“Manual traffic counts show that on average, pedestrians outnumber vehicles there by 6:1, and even before the restrictions there were greater numbers of pedestrians than vehicles.

“The road crossing by The Amelia Scott is less safe than it was before, so there is plenty left to do before it is seen as a pedestrian-friendly area.

“We feel that the best way forward from here is to allow time for the restrictions to bed in, and people to understand them (as is the case with the restriction up by the RVP). We will also work to fix the issues above, and make the space feel less like a road and more like a public realm.”

Share this article

Recommended articles


Please enter a search term below.

Subscribe To Our Newsletter