The report was introduced by a panel lead by Gary Stevenson, Head of Housing, Health and Environment, and included a visual presentation.
Karen Pengelly, for Royal Tunbridge Wells Together, had registered to speak and commented that businesses in Monson Road were concerned about access, particularly for delivery vehicles, and the displacement of traffic to other already busy areas. Town centres were undergoing significant change and the effect of any changes needed to be monitored and revisited if the expected benefits were not realised.
Jane Fenwick, for Royal Tunbridge Wells Town Forum, had registered to speak and supported efforts to reduce traffic and improving the environment for pedestrians in the town centre. Previous suggestions by the Town Forum had been taken into account but the plans did not fully achieve the ambition. York, Dudley and Newton Roads all fed onto Mount Pleasant Road and should be restricted to residents or deliveries only, similarly all traffic should only be allowed to exit via the southbound junction with Church Road to avoid creating rat runs and improve safety for pedestrians crossing Monson Road. 20mph limits should extend further and limits rather than zones would reduce signage. Taxis should not be allowed as they were not allowed at Fiveways. To further reduce traffic on Monson Road the entrance to the Town Hall Yard Car Park on Monson Way should be closed with access being provided via the Crescent Road Car Park.
Pippa Collard, a resident of Royal Tunbridge Wells, had registered to speak and was very concerned about a lack of consultation with residents. The proposals could transform York Road from a quiet residential road to a major rat-run. The road was narrow and larger vehicles already struggled to get through, any additional traffic would reduce safety and cause damage to its historical setting. The proposal to not allow right turns from York Road would unduly affect residents by increasing their journeys by three quarters of a mile through heavy traffic. If the works were to go ahead signage should be provided to direct non-resident traffic away from residential roads and residents should be allowed to turn right from York Road.
Caterina Plastow, a resident of Royal Tunbridge Wells, had registered to speak and whilst the aesthetic improvements to Mount Pleasant Road were welcomed parts of the plans that affected York Road needed mitigation. Single yellow lines and thus parking after 6pm should be retained on the wider sections of the road and additional spaces could be provided at the southern end of the road. These and residents only parking restrictions, if extended overnight and on Sundays, would provide an opportunity for resident’s to park near their homes. Residents should be allowed to turn right from York Road to avoid the need to complete long loops to find parking.
Councillor Scott, member for Culverden ward, had registered to speak, and endorsed many of the points raised by the previous speakers. There was a very strong likelihood of the changes creating a rat-run so something had to be done to mitigate the risk. One such idea would be to reverse the one-way direction of either Dudley Road or York Road to create a localised loop. Residents should be eligible for overnight parking in the Crescent Road Car Park and signage should clearly identify the area as residents only.
Councillor Moore, member for Park ward, had registered to speak, and commented that the purpose of the works was to provide a better environment for pedestrians. Improvements in phase one of the public realm work at Fiveways had had a positive transformative effect to the area and a higher quality finish for phase two would be achieved as the Council was taking the lead. Empty shops was a commonly expressed concern, to maintain town centres investment was needed to make areas attractive and to provide an experience that online shopping could not. These works were part of the Council 5-Year Plan to deliver growth and improve the quality of life. Studies showed that street improvements had substantial benefits to users, uplifts in rental values, declines in vacancy and increased footfall associated with a café culture. Roads needed to be more than just traffic corridors.
The discussion included consideration of the following matters:
· Deliveries to Monson Road during the restricted hours would need to either travel down Newton Road and up Monson Road or turn on Monson Road.
· A weight limit on York Road and Dudley Road would restrict larger vehicles from using those residential roads for access. Such a restriction would be subject to a separate Traffic Regulation Order.
· The purpose of the scheme was not congestion busting but rather amenity improvement. There would be some displacement of traffic to other areas which would be monitored.
· Whilst not a full town square, the raised section on Mount Pleasant Road would provide a focus for the war memorial and a space for civic functions.
· The scheme was constrained by the funding available.
· Monson Road was not suitable for a 20mph limit as the average speed was above the threshold and there was insufficient funds for additional traffic calming measures.
· A town-wide 20 mph zone could be considered in the future but not as part of this scheme.
· Additional parking restrictions on York Road would need to be looked into as a separate issue as there were a number of conflicting considerations.
· More and earlier consultation with residents was necessary.
· Allowing right turns from York Road would undermine one of the key purposes of the scheme, namely reducing as much traffic as possible.
· Works affecting York Road would be towards the end of the scheme so there would be several months to consider any further actions including consulting with residents.
RESOLVED – That the Board endorses the making of Orders A, B, C, D, E, F, G and H as set out in the report.