A229/A274 corridor Junction improvements: Junction improvement schemes in Loose Road move forward but congestion in Sutton Road to continue

Proposals for junction improvements, which make up Maidstone Integrated Transport Package, were reviewed last Wednesday at Maidstone’s Joint Transport Board, some four years after it was agreed which junctions would be considered.

An original scheme for the junction of the A274 with Willington Street / Wallis Avenue was rejected at the JTB in January 2018 and officers were asked to develop an alternative design. However the following two Joint Transport Boards were cancelled and the alternative has only now returned for review. This scaled down scheme will only mitigate traffic until 2021 whereas the original plan would have provided substantial improvements, with capacity benefit beyond 2031.

In response, Kent County Cllr Ian Chittenden made a proposal, seconded by Cllr Brian Clark, to return to officers’ original design, which mitigated the assessed longer term increase in traffic along the A274. While officers agreed that the old scheme better addressed existing and future need, Cllr Chittenden’s motion was defeated with strong opposition from many Conservatives leaving the “lesser” scheme to progress.

 Cllr Chittenden said,“I cannot accept that an estimated £2.5M, is good value for money for a scheme which will be at full capacity by 2021, around the same time as the works will have been completed. Officers were given a brief to find alternative designs at the site and this falls very far short of the original plan. The old scheme with minor amendments would clearly provide better use of public money ”

 Separately, South Ward Lib Dems have been campaigning for A229 corridor improvements to progress for many years now and finally designs are starting to emerge based on their local knowledge at the junctions. The Wheatsheaf Pub has now been purchased by KCC to allow a signalised roundabout scheme to allow safe use by pedestrians and cyclists, without the need to purchase third party land or garden space.

 The A229 Armstrong Road junction will finally receive an extra lane south-bound to allow right turns into Armstrong Road along with further capacity in Park Way. Further south, the Cripple Street junction, which now includes space for an extra lane on the A229, has yet to be fully developed and will be progressed with ward member involvement.

 Cllr Clark said,“Purchasing the Wheatsheaf pub and finally progressing the junction scheme without the need for further land purchase is very welcome. There are several detailed considerations to be ironed out, not least the junction with Cranborne Avenue and access to the Loose Road from the east, but I welcome officer’s openness to local member involvement with the scheme to date. 

 Cllr Clark continued, “While more work is required to develop a suitable design at the Swan junction, the Sheals Crescent and Armstrong Road junction changes were developed early on and will make a big difference to congestion along the A229