A21: The good news…
Cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders are set to benefit from improved links along the A21 with a designated route between Pembury Hospital and Tonbridge town centre.
There were already plans for a cycle path to run alongside the newly widened A21, but it was a ‘road to nowhere’ according to MP Greg Clark, as it failed to link up with the towns on either end.
The plans, announced on Friday, will involve adding a path between Longfield Road on North Farm Industrial Park and Pembury Hospital. When combined with existing cycle paths, there will now be a permanent route, of about four miles, between the town centres of Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge.
The specific plans for the Tonbridge end have not yet been announced, but it is believed to be linking Vauxhall Roundabout and the train station.
The announcement came on the back of an £830,000 grant being secured from Highways England, to build the additional links. Kent County Council (KCC) will also contribute around £50,000, money left over from the refurbishment of Tonbridge High Street.
The designs for the extra cycle links are expected to be finished by April 2017, with construction to be completed by the following April.
In the spring, the KCC and the Tunbridge Wells Borough Council applied for funding for the project but were turned down. A situation that Cabinet Minister and MP Greg Clark described as ‘crazy’, adding then fact he ‘made a bit of a fuss’ to ensure the project got central government backing.
He revealed this involved meeting with the then-Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin in June as well as with Highways England Chief Executive Jim O’Sullivan in July, to argue that it would be a ‘wasted opportunity’ to not put in the cycle links while the redevelopment work was going on.
“You have to take the opportunity with new constructions. It’s better to design cycle paths in than trying to fit them in later,” he said, commenting that he was ‘delighted’ the plans had finally received funding.
The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, described himself as ‘very pro-cycling’ and added that the new plans would mean ‘less cars on the road, meaning less congestion and that’s good for everyone’.
Tonbridge MP Tom Tugendhat also welcomed the funding but warned: “I have been clear that any new lanes in Tonbridge must form a part of the existing network that is here and not cause inconvenience for the residents who have to park on street.”
Councillor Alan McDermott, Cabinet member at the Tunbridge Wells Borough Council with responsibility for Planning and Transportation said: “The inclusion of these additional cycle links is excellent news and sees the borough council’s cycling strategy being put into action. These links are part of our proposed cycling network but also benefit pedestrians.”