Kent Messenger Column - 09-11-17
My neighbouring colleague Helen Whately and I held a public meeting in early 2016 at the Maidstone Studios to facilitate an open discussion about the Maidstone local plan. The widely held view from the floor was that the borough was planning to build too many houses and this would wreak havoc on the already strained transport system and worsening air quality.
Last week Helen and I found ourselves on the panel of another public meeting convened to discuss the now legendary Leeds-Langley relief road. This has historically been cited as a possible source of congestion alleviation to the South of Maidstone.
With representatives from Kent County Council (KCC) and Maidstone Borough Council (MBC) also on the panel, sitting before an audience of around 350 people, the meeting was impassioned to say the least.
The Leeds-Langley scheme is controversial, being just one of a range of options, and one that doesn't suit everyone, by any means. Another problem is lack of money for such projects, although if an agreed scheme were to be identified, I for one would not shy away from seeking the funds from central government.
While considerable work on the various route options has already been carried out, the next steps include traffic surveys and scheme-specific traffic modelling to allow the experts to arrive at a consensus.
In order for that to happen there needs to be a good working relationship between MBC's planning department and KCC's Highways department. This has been a longstanding and critical missing element, which was abundantly clear from some of the frank exchanges between the two council leaders at the meeting.
I believe, however, that there is a genuine willingness to fix this from both camps. To that end Helen and I have resolved to work together with the leaders, to find commonality, and forge a way ahead for the best interests of the people of Maidstone. I'll keep you informed.
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