To consider the proposals set out in the report.
Mrs Pippa Collard had registered to speak and provided the following statement:
“Thank you for allowing me to speak.
At the JTB in January 2019 residents of York Road first expressed their concern over the impact of Public Realm Phase 2 on this narrow residential road due to the inevitable increase in traffic volume and rat running caused by cars wishing to access the town via Monson Road.
*On 20th December 2019 (pre Covid) in a half hour lunchtime period, residents, together with the Chair of the Town Forum, carried out a traffic count to gain an initial understanding of traffic flows down York Road. We counted a total of 45 cars using York Road, 27 cars going to Monson Road and 18 cars to Mount Pleasant.
*Precisely a year later, enforcement in place and despite Tier 3 Lockdown, another traffic count, same half hour period, showed a total of 57 cars using York Road and of them 39 going to Monson Road. So, a significant increase in cars accessing Monson Road at a time of normal traffic and subsequently at a time of supposedly reduced traffic due to the pandemic.
Hence proving the anticipated trend that York Road is a major trajectory and is bearing an increase in cars accessing Monson Road due to the new traffic enforcement.
I would now like to draw your attention to the fact that a meeting was held at the Town Hall on 20th November 2019 between residents of York and Dudley Roads and various council and KCC members, including David Scott, Jamie Watson and Gary Stevenson.
I read to you from the minutes taken by David Scott at that meeting and the recommendation therein: -
‘The preferred and concluded option was to introduce an experimental road closure of York Rd and Dudley Rd using road signs. A temporary barrier could be installed (say a plastic barrier) for a period to determine whether this improved traffic reduction or caused emergency, utility and delivery vehicle problems.’
‘The experimental phase would run concurrently with consultation.’
‘Proposals should be kept at minimum costs if possible, to ensure they can be implemented.’
It was agreed that Jamie Watson was to straightaway prepare a high-level document for the politicians to progress.
This temporary road closure did not happen, we are told due to the pandemic and we ask that now, rather than as an afterthought, you implement it without further delay.
This is a system effectively put into place in many other towns across the UK and which will have the following positive impacts:
a) Stop rat running down a small, unsuited residential street.
b) Reduce very real safety concerns for pedestrians crossing Monson Road.
c) Reduce parking issues for residents of York Road.
d) Reduce safety concerns for pedestrians crossing York Road at the town end.
e) York Road residents to thus access London Road at the west end, thereby stopping the need to drive the extra ¾ mile imposed by the PR phase 2.
Ultimately, this plan will improve the visual impact of the new ‘pedestrianised’ area and create more of a foot friendly, plaza type feel in the Town Centre as well as address the safety issue of the Monson Road crossing. Is that not what TWBC was trying to achieve?”
Mr Adrian Berendt Chair of RTW Town Forum had registered to speak and provided the following statement:
“The Town Forum supported the original aims of the scheme to improve the look and feel of the town centre and to make it more pedestrian friendly and generally approved the originally designed scheme. As the design developed, compromises were introduced which worsened the scheme. However, we are where we are and we now need to consider which further improvements are achievable in the short term and which need more time to consider and to resource.
You will have seen the results of the traffic and pedestrian counts carried out by the Town Forum before and after the scheme was implemented. COVID has meant that we need to treat them with caution, but they broadly support the KCC traffic surveys. Three important findings:
a) The number of pedestrians far exceeds the number of people in vehicles. We must not forget this when designing our streets for people
b) the share of vehicles using York, Dudley and Newton roads is significantly higher than from before the scheme
c) most vehicles from those roads ARE now exiting along Monson Road, although some continue to use Mount Pleasant
Having spoken to others, the Town Forum broadly supports the proposals in the report, with a couple of additions and with the important caveat that we need to think about what longer term improvements can be made to further reduce vehicle movements in the centre of town, including a bus strategy for the area. The immediate additions we recommend are:
1) Change the road markings and traffic lights on Crescent and Church roads to discourage turning into the Public Realm (I can supply details).
2) Re-introduce the York Road closure / 2-way operation that worked so well before and include Dudley, if feasible. Making the scheme 24/7 at the same time would help to remove confusion.
3) Narrow the effective carriageway width at the Monson Road junction by adding planters. Consider something similar along the centre of Mount Pleasant, to improve the ambience and to narrow the width of road that pedestrians have to cross.
4) Last and certainly not least, full public engagement about the scheme.”
Mr Donald McIntyre had registered to speak which included the following:
- A background and experience in highways and traffic management with a particular emphasis on the servicing of town centres by delivery vehicles in an efficient, economically and environmentally sound mode.
- The report did not include any reference to delivery vehicles.
- The rationale of discriminating between buses and delivery vehicles was not understood. Buses were delivery vehicles, delivering people to Tunbridge Wells Town Centre to shop for goods and services delivered by vans and lorries.
- Buses enjoyed unfettered access to and from the Town Centre via Mount Pleasant Road.
- Delivery vehicles were diverted by up to half a mile or more, either via York Road, Dudley Road or Calverley Road. This was imposing real economic, efficiency and environmental costs.
- PR2 imposed the ultimate nonsense on goods vehicles delivering west bound in Monson Road by having to conduct a U-turn to depart the way they came, rather than exiting Monson Road via Mount Pleasant Road.
- There was a solution to these issues, to allow the addition of goods vehicles to the existing exemptions for buses on Mount Pleasant Road. This would eliminate concerns around emissions, economic and the environment.
- The required signage modification would be relatively straightforward – adding the words ‘Goods Vehicles’ or using the sign as determined by the Traffic Signs Regulations. It would also require an amendment to the Traffic Regulation Order.
- The current PR2 scheme imposed economic, efficiency and environmental costs on the delivery of goods and services. These costs could be eliminated if a pragmatic view was taken.
- Goods vehicles serving the Town Centre should be afforded the same facility as buses.
Councillor Rands had registered to speak and provided the following statement.
“This matter was raised at Full Council on 17 Jul 2019 when Sue Luck of Saltmarsh asked a question. The then portfolio holder Dr Basu gave a reasonably long answer in which he stated that there would be a review after 12 months of operation of the scheme. That review was to consider the "views of local businesses and residents".
I am not at all convinced this review does consider the views of residents. It looks like passes by have been interviewed, but not actually residents. Residents have been quite vocal throughout this period that they are not happy. In Nov 2019 a meeting was held including many of us in this room and representatives of York and Dudley Rd. At that meeting there was a lot of wait and see suggested, but those present may
recall I laid out a large scale map and laid some pennies on it to represent cars and asked where they would go if they were headed towards Monson Rd. The KCC staff who had been saying we needed to see how traffic flow adjusted did acknowledge there were only two routes. We know where the traffic is going to go.
Do we have evidence to back up this hypothesis yet? Yes! We have the results from Dudley Rd which already show a rise in traffic use. Oddly the opposite appears to be true for York Rd. There is an issue here though the traffic survey commencing 12 Nov 2019 began the Tuesday after Remembrance Sunday. Members may recall there was a pressure to get the works done by Remembrance Sunday but it failed and digging equipment was stacked up at the Eastern end of the road thus achieving the closure residents had asked for. If those dates are correct they follow on immediately from the road having been closed and probably include a few days when it still was closed so I don't think that's a reasonable baseline for comparison.
The truth is we know that this layout turns those two roads into rat runs. We have discussed options. Closure at the Eastern ends of roads is the only suggestion put forward so far which is safe, achievable, reasonably priced and affords with the aims of the public realm. And though I am sure everyone is open to sensible alternative suggestions it has been two years now without any. I think we need to get on with addressing the issues which we know this scheme creates rather than kicking into it the long grass. I recall the first time I spoke to this board on that issue there was a general acceptance across the room that we TWBC and KCC had made a bit of a mess of this and really owed it to residents and businesses to acknowledge that and address it.”
Jamie Watson, Senior Programme Manager, Kent County Council introduced the report as set out in the agenda.
Discussion included the following comments:
- This was an ongoing situation that included a lot of disquiet among residents.
- A meeting that took place before the pandemic made some suggestions as to how the feel and look of the area would be made better (and safer).
- The suggested sign improvements were welcomed.
- It was suggested that a series of planters be installed in the middle of the road on the raised areas of the PR2 (e.g. in front of the war memorial, on Monson Road and Church Road). The installation of planters could be accompanied by cautionary signs. It had the potential to be an attractive solution to the problem.
- Officers were open to suggestions for planters including using them as a gateway feature. There would need to be a discussion about their maintenance and an assurance that vehicles could negotiate them safely (e.g. emergency services).
- Funding would also need to be addressed. Residents Associations might be interested. Tunbridge Wells in Bloom was also suggested.
- It was further suggested that a temporary blockage of York Road and possibly Dudley Road should be trialled.
- The report included some encouraging progressions - in terms of signage that needed further clarity and with enforcement, with the use of cameras.
- The message to the public that the money received from enforcement would be ring fenced for highways improvements was important.
- The proposed traffic survey mentioned in the report could be taken forward quite quickly, probably within the next month.
- There was concern that the traffic flows on narrow residential roads such as York and Dudley Road were not comparable to others in the County.
- The traffic survey would take in account both traffic flows and traffic speeds. The more data captured, the more informed recommendations and decisions could be given.
- One of the main concerns for officers related to York Road was the ability for vehicles to turn around.
- Pedestrianisation should be encouraged.
- Access for delivery vehicles delivering to Mount Pleasant Road was permitted, but not for HGV’s using Mount Pleasant Road as a through route.
- It was also permissible to use Newton Road to access both Mount Pleasant Road and Monson Road (eastbound).
- Delivery vehicles could also use the area outside the times of the restriction.
- If a decision was taken to make the restrictions 24/7 further discussion would be needed in respect of delivery vehicles.
- Although it may be an ambition at the moment, but could a smarter solution be the use of buses as a delivery vehicles?
- Making the centre of Tunbridge Wells more of a plaza should be something the Council should consider. Accepting that there would be an element of traffic displacement.
- Local businesses should be supported but a solution to the mix of pedestrians and HGV’s in the town centre was needed.
RESOLVED – That the report be noted.