Traffic ban debated at Council meeting

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

AN E-PETITION received by Kent County Council (KCC) regarding the Public Realm 2 restriction in the centre of Tunbridge Wells was discussed by Tunbridge Wells Borough Council (TWBC) on Monday January 15 at the Joint Transportation Board meeting.

Following the petition, which received 754 electronic signatures and 331 signatures on a paper petition, KCC and TWBC Officers laid out their recommendations to the Joint Transportation Board.

The petition, submitted by local resident Sally Atkinson to KCC, aimed to remove signage associated with the scheme and allow all traffic to flow freely along Mount Pleasant and to waive fines imposed to date.

She also outlined eight key areas including volume of traffic, buses and taxis preventing improved pedestrian outcomes, nearby residents forced to take longer routes and inadequate signage. The recommendation proposed by Officers, ‘Option B’, was to retain the Public Realm 2 scheme but incorporate some amendments to help raise further awareness of the restrictions. Option A, was to do nothing (no alterations to the layout in response to the petition).

Councillors voted to approve Option B.

The report also recommended that waiving fines imposed to date is not considered an option as ‘the restriction is legally enforceable and Penalty Charges have been lawfully issued, which is supported by the Traffic Penalty Tribunal in their decisions reached in rejecting appeals that they have considered’. They added: “No grounds have been established to justify refunding the Penalty Charges that have been paid by drivers who have contravened the Public Realm (PR2) bus gate/lane restriction.”

The Times has reported extensively on the issues surrounding Public Realm 2. Confusion among drivers around signage caused £210,000 worth of fines in 25 days between March 20 and April 13, 2023, with three thousand Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) issued.

The Times also uncovered via a Freedom of Information request that just 34 per cent of penalties issued by TWBC were to vehicles registered in the Borough, with the majority of PCNs issued to out-of-town visitors (June, 2023).

The officers’ recommendation of Option B promises to raise more awareness of the restrictions by adding red surfacing to each gateway feature, more traffic enforcement signs to warn of the restriction, adding two “SLOW” text markings approaching the granite raised table on Monson Road and adding an additional enforcement camera sign with a left turn arrow on Calverley Road.

KCC has not allocated any funding for further alterations to the existing arrangements. Instead, all costs incurred will need to be funded by TWBC. The report estimates that costs would be around £15,000, which will be funded from the Public Realm 2 enforcement income.

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