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TRANSPORT: Proposals for Leeds to Langley relief road by end of year

Saturday 25th February 2017

A PUBLIC consultation on options for a Leeds-Langley relief road will be held before the end of the year.

A Kent County Council-led scheme will come up with a series of proposals to first be considered by affected parish councils. 

Cllr Gary Cooke - who is leading the campaign to secure a relief road - said the cost of such a scheme is "north of £50m".

He said: "I will continue to bash my head off a brick wall because a relief road is the most important thing that we can do in terms of delivery."

KCC's head of transporation Tim Read said the authority must work hard in the next two years to make the case that a relief road will bring "significant benefits" to Willington Street, Wheatsheaf and the A274 Suttton Road to justify it being built.

KCC has set a timescale of delivering a proposal by 2019 so that it can be included in a reviewed Local Plan in 2021, after which funds could be sought.

Mr Read - pictured here addressing the meeting alongside Cllr Cooke and MP Helen Whately - refused to discuss possible routes for fear it will cause housing blight.

But topographical surveys are to be carried out in the coming months to assess the suitablibity of each route.

By going alone, Cllr Cooke and KCC have effectively side-stepped Maidstone Borough Council and the cross-party Joint Transportation Board. The JTB has been mulling over three options for a relief road for months.

Speaking at a public meeting at St Nicholas Church in Otham, Cllr Cooke was acting "without necessarily the support from other authorities", a clear reference to tensions between KCC and MBC over the effects of house-building on local roads.

Members of the public expressed their desire to have put the infrastructure into place before building houses.

MP Helen Whately said she was urging the local planning inspector to "think again" about Maidstone's housing policy.

Chairman of Leeds Parish Council John Govett said a £2,000 levy her home proposed by Maidstone Borough Council would help to raise a significant proportion of the road's price tag.

MBC transport chief David Burton, who also attended the meeting, said he "completely" supports a Leeds-Langley relief road and saw last night's announcement as "good news and more good news".

He added: "KCC is the one and the only highways authority and no one else can do it. If there is a tangible plan in place we can raise money through development or various government pots. It sounds like by the end of the year we might have some tangibles."

Current strict rules mean that levies can only be charged on developments for specific projects but once Maidstone's Local Plan is adopted, it can move to a more flexible arrangement which will make raising funds easier.

Ukip borough councillor John Barned said: "Gary is not saying anything new. It is an election stunt because the county council elections are coming up in May. Why didn't he bring this forward years ago? He's been a county councillor for eight years."