Is safe travel a pipe dream? asks June Bell.
‘SAFE TRAVEL to places that people want to go’ is the very latest health initiative launched by the government entitled Gear Change.
The challenge is how, when the glaring consequence of building more homes is the increase in traffic generated from new sites onto an already congested road network. How many times do you get in the car to just achieve the essentials to living: employment, shopping, child-care, school, or visiting family or friends?
People need to leave their homes and go places. Planners estimate 10 daily trips for a development of two three-bedroom dwellings at Hartley. Now multiply that by:
• 400 dwellings proposed for the Crane Valley (Brick Kiln Farm, Corn Hall, Turnden Phase 1 and 2)
• 90 for Hartley
• 417 dwellings plus a care home and a medical centre feeding onto the A229 from the proposed relief route traversing the Hawkhurst Golf Club.
Then add on all the construction traffic for developments of this scale.
Help or hazard?
In Cranbrook, proposals to improve road safety between the junction with the High Street and access to Turnden Phase 1 include reducing the speed limit to 30mph and adding nine new traffic/pedestrian control measures, including filter lanes, uncontrolled pedestrian crossings and refuge islands – all within less than 300m.
Hazard perception skills will indeed be tested and there’s little reassurance that drivers will observe speed limits – 2018 transport surveys recorded 115 vehicles travelling in excess of 70mph along this 40mph zone and residents along the A229 can testify the 2020 lockdown may have reduced numbers on the road but not the excessive speed of those using it.
What else can be done? Reducing the impact of development on road safety requires substantial investment into the public transport network serving the parish. Safe crossing from new sites to access the High Weald Academy is yet to be resolved. Inadequate cycling infrastructure direct from home to destination will deter adoption of this healthier alternative to the car.
Let Tunbridge Wells Borough Council know your own expectations for safer travel.
We are breaching an acceptable level of air pollution says Nancy Warne and June Bell.
SURELY NOT us, lucky enough to be living in the Garden of England surrounded by an outstanding landscape of natural beauty! But shockingly in 2018, Cranbrook Road in Hawkhurst was identified as one of England’s 1,360 Air Pollution Hotspots1.
Air pollution is responsible for an estimated 36,000 premature deaths each year and is one of the UK’s biggest killers and the predominant cause is road traffic.
These are frightening facts, as our parish faces an increase in excess of 800 new homes in the next 10 years, in addition to the large numbers proposed in Hawkhurst. Assuming one to two cars per household, due to our rural location, the consequence will be significantly more vehicles, adding to the pre-existing polluting congestion.
Research showed that air quality in the UK improved during the unprecedented lockdown and lives were spared. Sadly, the clean air recovery has been short lived and the queue of traffic at the Hawkhurst traffic lights has returned, as it has at the pinch point by the church in Goudhurst.
Now is the time to lobby our local councillors, both the policy makers (TWBC), and those responsible for our roads and public rights of way (KCC), as well as our MP, Helen Grant.
We need to invest and make non-vehicle travel a real and safe option in our parish before, rather than after, Goudhurst and Cranbrook are classified like Hawkhurst as air pollution hotspots.
There are opportunities for creative thinking around traffic says Cllr. Garry Pethurst, Liz Daley and Jeremy Boxall.
IT IS very clear that the amount of traffic, the speed of vehicles and parking are really major issues for Cranbrook and Sissinghurst. Much of what is possible to alleviate these issues is determined by Kent Highways and the laws surrounding road use and is therefore out of our hands. However, we can request and campaign for lower speed limits, safer crossing places and other measures to make roads safer.
However, there are also other things we can try to control as new developments take place around the parish. For example, it is important to make walking and cycling to local shops and services as safe, easy and pleasant as possible and these policies are written into the neighbourhood plan. You may have some other ideas we could adopt, so please do look and check that we have all bases covered in this respect.
Global warming and climate change are significant factors in our lives and will be for future generations. We need to remember this as we plan for the future of our parish. Many of us have taken the time during the past few months to walk and cycle. If we really can improve connectivity around the parish, we hope that residents will continue to enjoy walking or cycling rather than driving to local facilities.
Public transport is expensive and irregular services need to be improved and its use encouraged. Sometimes developers will provide an extra bus service as one of their Section 106 agreements. But, this is likely to be withdrawn after a period as being expensive and under-used. So should we be asking developers to subsidise the cost of public transport for the user?
Electric vehicle charging points need to be easily available and accessible to all and this is addressed in the neighbourhood plan.
In addition, importantly, there are exciting plans to connect Sissinghurst, Cranbrook and Bedgebury with a traffic-free bridleway to facilitate walking, cycling and horse riding away from busy roads. Do look at this and other potential projects in the neighbourhood plan.
We need you to get involved with these project ideas and help move them forward. Did you know that if projects have been costed, it is possible to get money from developers building in the parish through Section 106 agreements?
What do you Think? Have Your Say!
Consultation on the neighbourhood development plan runs from mid-October for eight weeks.
All your comments will be taken into account and will help to inform the final version. Your voice matters and can make a difference!
• View and respond at www.cranbrookandsissinghurstndp.co.uk
• Email at firstname.lastname@example.org
• Or see hard copies and leave your comments at the Parish Office, The Old Fire Station, Stone Street, Cranbrook TN17 3HF.