Call for one-way High Street as work finally begins on bus stop blockage

The work outside Caffé Nero will start on July 28 and carry on for four weeks, ending by the August Bank Holiday.

The changes were scheduled for February this year but the Leader of Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council [TMBC] Nicolas Heslop intervened so they would not clash with term time.

They will require a temporary one-way system to operate. It is understood that buses and taxis will still be allowed to use the southbound carriageway.

Now Green Party councillors have called for the move to be made permanent to help improve air quality in the pollution blackspot.

The bus stop has been a source of complaints since the completion of a £2.7million upgrade for the High Street three years ago.

Buses have to stop in the road, blocking traffic behind them, despite the fact that the pavements were widened.

New laybys were also introduced that act as loading bays for lorries delivering to shops – and one of these is adjacent to the bus stop.

The hold-ups consistently cause jams that back up over the Vale Road roundabout and past the railway station.

A new set of traffic lights outside the station has similarly caused consternation among residents, with queues also stretching back down to the High Street.

Both projects have been funded by the South East Local Entreprise Partnership’s Local Growth Fund.

Ironically, the relocated bus stop is scheduled to be placed where the old one was before the upgrade.

It will allow three-quarters of the bus to pull into the pavement area, allowing traffic to flow past more easily.

Kent County Council [KCC] said: “KCC undertook a post-scheme consultation in February 2018, which highlighted a number of concerns.

“One of which specifically relates to bus stop G and the congestion caused by the buses stopping on the carriageway rather than in a layby.

“Taking into account this feedback, KCC and TMBC agreed to alter the loading bay to a bus layby as well as extend the 20mph zone to various roads around the town centre which was advertised in December 2018.”

Cllr Heslop is insisting the work is completed in the four-week time slot.

He said: “I have no doubt there will be enormous approval by residents to see the ‘Caffé Nero’ bus stop relocated.

“As borough councillors, we have been campaigning hard with Michael Payne and Richard Long, our county councillors, to see this happen. 

“It is a very popular stop and so we won’t want to lose it. However, the frequency of services and often buses stopping there just results in unacceptable congestion.

“It is, though, important that the works are completed on time and before the schools return in early September.”

A temporary one-way system was implemented when the High Street was partially closed for nine months in 2015-16 for the improvements.

It will start at Vale Road roundabout, operating in a northerly direction as far as Medway Wharf Road. The diversion for southbound traffic will go via Bordyke to Cannon Lane and Vale Road.

Mark Hood, Green Party councillor for Judd ward, said: “We believe that a one-way scheme should be the permanent solution.

“Traffic other than buses and taxis should use Medway Wharf Road, Sovereign Way, Avenue du Puy and Vale Road.”

To help the increased traffic to flow, the Greens are calling for roundabouts to be installed where Medway Wharf Road meets Sovereign Way and Avenue du Puy turns into Vale Road.

They would also install a box junction where Vale Road meets Angel Lane to replace the roundabout and stop blockages on it.

The High Street is an Air Quality Management Area, the second worst zone in the borough.

Cllr Hood said: “Delivering a well thought-out one-way system will improve air quality on the High Street and make it a more inviting retail area.

“These should be huge incentives to deliver the changes that we propose. We propose trialling these changes to ascertain the effects on congestion and taking it from there.”

Cllr Heslop responded: “I am concerned that the rest of the road network would be unduly impacted because of reduced travel options.

“Increased congestion on Cannon Lane, particularly towards Hadlow Road, in the rush hour needs to be considered.

“And the loss of ‘passing’ trade on the High Street may well reduce retail activity.”

KCC Highways will also be extending the 20mph zone across a number of roads around the town.

It pledged to introduce the restrictions on more than 50 roads to protect pedestrians and road users in what it called a ‘public health scheme’.

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