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MORE PEDAL POWER? Proposed extension of the cycle path

by Richard Williams | July 3, 2021

More than £ 600,000 in public funds earmarked for road improvements in Tunbridge Wells could be lost this week after a seven-year battle involving red tape.

Tunbridge Wells Borough Council [TWBC] has now made one last attempt to raise money for a new cycle lane initiative.

It all started when the government’s Local Growth Fund received over £ 1 billion to distribute to local authorities.

Part was donated to the South East Local Enterprise Partnership [SELEP] in 2014 and they examined funding requests from local authorities.

Kent County Council [KCC] was part of this process and was used to funnel £ 1.4million to Tunbridge Wells for a new roundabout at the junction of Speldhurst Road and Yew Tree Road.

But KCC later found the roundabout impractical and instead created an improved traffic light system, which meant there was £ 623,000 left.

This money, which can only be spent on transport initiatives, has been held by KCC ever since, with County Hall refusing to hand it over despite TWBC coming up with a number of transport initiatives in the borough for which it could be. spent.

These included a number of improved cycle paths, including a new road from Paddock Wood to Tunbridge Wells, and a road connecting Five Oak Green and the A26, which were rejected by KCC.

A final draft has now been submitted which, if approved, will see the current A26 cycle path extended from Southborough Common to Mabledon – just before the junction with the A21 at Tonbridge.

The proposed cycle path, which would be delivered in September, would mean that the A26 carriageway – which is a main artery from Tunbridge Wells to Tonbridge – would be narrowed.

Cyclists traveling in both directions would then use two designated lanes on the right side of the road when exiting town.

Tunbridge Wells advisers have now been told that if this final draft was rejected by KCC this week, that money would be forfeited and returned to SELEP.

David Candlin, head of economic development and real estate at TWBC, told this month’s wrap-up and review committee that the plan had been sent to KCC and a decision was expected on Friday, July 2.

The Lib Dem, whose party raised the issue before the committee, said KCC went against the national policy of supporting active travel programs.

“There appears to be a mismatch between TWBC, which backs national policy, and KCC, which after seven years is returning £ 632,000.”

Kent County Council was approached for comment but did not respond.

What is SELEP?

The Partnership for Local Businesses in the South East [SELEP] is one of 38 such groups in the country.

Created in 2011 by the Department of Enterprise, Innovation and Skills, these business partnerships are intended to help determine economic priorities as well as drive growth and job creation within the regions. .

Some central government funds are turned over to LEPs for distribution, including the annual £ 1.4 billion Local Growth Fund that councils can receive by making an offer.

SELEP is the largest Local Business Partnership (LEP) area in England outside of London, in terms of population and economic output, and covers an area encompassing the local authorities of East Sussex, Essek, Kent, Medway , Southend and Thurrock.

It is managed by a Strategic Council made up of President Christian Brodie, former head of the Student Loans Company. Other members include representatives of the board, including KCC chief Roger Gough, as well as business leaders such as Jo James, Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce chief.

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