Tunbridge Wells congestion fears if new pedestrian zone is extended beyond memorial

Pam Mills

Traffic could be restricted in another section of the town centre if a controversial proposal goes ahead.

Tunbridge Wells Borough Council is looking at stopping cars driving between Monson Road [just after Blacks shop] and Mount Pleasant traffic lights at Cote Brassiere, between 9am and 6pm.

A mixed response has met the plan, which would only allow through buses, cyclists and taxis, as well as some cars requiring access, in a bid to reduce congestion.

The plan is part of a scheme, costing a reported £1.3million, and follows the semi-pedestrianising of Fiveways past Royal Victoria Place.

Cllr Ben Chapelard, leader of the council’s opposition Liberal Democrat group, said the plan has ‘merit’ but would not tackle the ‘root problem of congestion’.

“Traffic is stopping people coming into town. Giving this part of Tunbridge Wells a facelift is the easy option. The council needs to tackle the root problem.

“This piecemeal solution will just shift bottlenecks to other places, such as Carrs Corner roundabout.”
Sue Luck, Owner of M. Saltmarsh Artists’ Materials on Monson Road, said: “It would have a massive impact. If traffic stopped coming down, how would I get to my shop by car? It would be terrible.

“What are we supposed to do? People do not walk down here and so many people see our shop because they drive past. Parking is diabolical and people say they come in here because they can stop outside.
“There is congestion, but it is a town, so is that not inevitable?”

Jeremy Waller, Co-Owner of Jeremy’s Home Store, added: “We are shocked at this idea.
“No one from the council has mentioned it to us. We have deliveries every day that are unloaded outside of our shop. If there is no access for lorries to get through then we cannot receive our stock.”

Since the council introduced the semi-pedestrianised stretch on upper Mount Pleasant, motorists on the adjoining residential Dudley Road have seen their movement restricted.

During the hours of 9am to 6pm, they have been forced to turn right from their one way street onto Mount Pleasant, for which they alone have access.

While the council is yet to finalise how this could affect the parallel York Road, it is thought the same system would apply.

James Gwinnutt, resident of York Road, said: “It could be a good thing if it means less noise from the traffic and a quieter area.”

If the authority’s Cabinet approves their ‘Public Realm Phase 2’ outline in a meeting on April 12, a design process and consultation will begin.

Council officer Gary Stevenson said: “Limiting through traffic in the area is a step towards encouraging more pedestrian, cyclist and public transport trips as part of the work to help reduce congestion.”

Paul Mason, of Tunbridge Wells Bicycle User Group, added: “This fits in with our view to encourage people to walk and cycle more. The pedestrianisation of the town centre has already been stunning.
“It is always a great success when town centres are pedestrianised.”

Public Realm Phase 2 also proposes narrowing Mount Pleasant Road by one quarter and creating a paved square area in front of the War Memorial, with steps installed.

It follows the awarding of a 2016 grant from the West Kent Local Sustainable Transport Fund. The council hinted at the time that they would seek to enhance the memorial.

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