Driving down Willington Street you can’t help but notice it’s peppered with WILLact signs calling for a Leeds-Langley relief road. Every household I canvassed in South Maidstone and nearby villages during the election supported a new road too.
The relief road has been talked about for decades, but nothing has happened yet. Meanwhile new houses have been built and the traffic has got out of control – endless jams, pollution and noisy lorries are blighting people’s lives.
Kent County Council is planning to upgrade the junctions at both ends of Willington Street and the A229/A274 Wheatsheaf interchange. The works should start in late 2017 and be completed in Spring 2018. This is good start, but with thousands more houses in the pipeline, the time has come for major investment in Kent’s roads.
I appreciate that not everyone is happy about the scale of new house building in Maidstone – and I have concerns myself - but if we make sure roads can cope, that will go some way to addressing people’s fears. We have a housing crisis in the country, and it’s particularly acute in the South East. Infrastructure must keep pace with development if we are to solve it.
The Government has recognised this, and recently announced a £1 billion fund to tackle bottlenecks and jams, and end the misery of lorries thundering along inappropriate roads and through villages.
Now that there is funding available, I am pleased that County and Borough Councillors have agreed to work together on an analysis of the costs and benefits of a relief road. It’s essential that they do a full consultation with parish councils, residents, businesses and community groups as soon as possible.
If KCC and MBC can make a strong case and win the backing of local people, I will support a Leeds-Langley relief road. It’s come to a crunch point – and with £1 billion being spent, there’s a real opportunity to get Kent its fair share of investment and fix Maidstone’s traffic problems for good.