Roger Gough

Friday, 3 November 2017

A20 Button Street barrier to be abandoned

Kent Highways have announced this morning that the experimental traffic order blocking the turn in and out of Button Street at its junction with the A20 will be abandoned. The barrier to block the turn, which was installed in early October, will be removed next week. This will involve overnight works (between the hours of 9PM and 5AM) during the nights of 8-9 and 9-10 November and will require a full road closure at that time.

This follows a series of problems with the scheme. Many local residents were concerned about possible diversion of traffic up Button Street into Swanley Village, as well as the safety of traffic going down the hill to turn at Kings roundabout at the foot of Farningham Hill. While I recognised that the scheme was a serious attempt to deal with a genuine problem (there has been a pattern of serious accidents at the Button Street junction), I shared many of these concerns. To make matters worse, contractors installed unsuitable barriers, which resulted in the need for lane closures and 40mph speed limits on the section of the A20 near the junction. These would have been lifted when new, more appropriate barriers were installed; this will now happen when the experimental traffic order is terminated next week.

None of this makes for a happy story, and it is now back to the drawing board - the problem remains, though effective and affordable solutions are not easily available. I will meet Kent Highways officers shortly to examine the options.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Crown Road lining works to start today

Today should see the start of resolving the long-running saga of the yellow lines in Crown Road Shoreham. Back in 2012 (!), lines were painted at the end of an extensive debate over the need (or not, depending on your point of view) for yellow lines in various parts of the village. In itself, this was fine; however, in part because the debate had already gone on for some time, and Highways staff had changed, the yellow lines were not painted, as agreed, in conservation area style but in standard format.

Since that time I have been seeking to get the issue rectified and at various points it seemed likely to be resolved. Part of the problem has been the cost and possible impact on the carriageway of removing the current lines. Earlier in the summer, some very welcome works were carried out to resurface Crown Road - but at that point the existing lines were repainted. In the aftermath of this, I reached agreement with our local Highways operations team that the repainting to a conservation area  primrose would take place as soon as possible.

The road is set to be closed today for up to three days for carriageway patching and lining works. Hopefully this should mean a final and satisfactory resolution to this issue.

Friday, 29 September 2017

A20 Button Street junction

The junction of Button Street with the A20 has been the scene of several serious accidents, one of them fatal, in the last few years. Many if not all of these accidents have involved vehicles making a right turn that takes them across the fast-moving traffic coming from the direction of the Swanley interchange.

Kent Highways are consequently installing (on a trial basis) a barrier to close off the central crossover and prevent right hand turns. This will be done under an Experimental Traffic Regulation Order which will operate over a six month period. Installation will require a five day programme of road and lane closures, which will start this coming Monday.

Many residents of Farningham and of Swanley Village have major concerns about this initiative, and I share these worries. Under the new arrangements, vehicles coming out of Button Street (including lorries coming from Watts Farm) and wanting to get to the Swanley interchange will have to head down the hill to Kings roundabout and then come back up. Some may seek to avoid this by more dangerous manoeuvres, and there is also the prospect of vehicles choosing to go instead through Swanley Village, which has more than its share of HGV problems.

With an Experimental Traffic Regulation Order, consultation (over a six month period) starts when the Order comes into force, so this will provide the opportunity for residents to set out concerns and objections. I will monitor these closely in the coming weeks, and continue to express my own concerns.

Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Latest on the pothole blitz

As I have reported before, Kent County Council's Find and Fix programme (or 'pothole blitz') for tackling potholes across the County has been running since April. So far, KCC has spent £2.7 million, patching 66,800m2 and filling an equivalent of 133,600 individual potholes on a road network of over 5,000 miles.

However, the County Council is able to spend some £5.2 million in total and the programme is continuing - weather permitting - until Christmas. Much of the remaining work and expenditure is programmed in but it is still important if you are aware of a pothole to report it via the KCC website.

The Find and Fix programme is being delivered by six local firms, each covering two Districts (for Sevenoaks and Tunbridge Wells, it is SCG Kent Ltd), who have so far delivered good quality work for the County.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Well Hill: broadband latest

Well Hill has long suffered from severe problems with its broadband and (in some cases) telephone services. The area is served from a cabinet some distance away at Hewitt's roundabout; the copper wire connections from the cabinet to Well Hill properties are long and subject to interference from electrical supply sources (such as the National Grid) - what is known as Repetitive Electrical Impulse Noise (REIN). 

As a result, some telephone services (notably those in Pump Lane and parts of Well Hill) are very poor, and - even though the Hewitt's roundabout cabinet was fibre enabled by a private provider some time ago - broadband services are very variable, ranging from the minimal to the sub-superfast and with poor reliability.

KCC has long been seeking to tackle the problem as part of the overall BDUK project to raise superfast broadband coverage across the County, now in its second phase. In the spring of last year, there appeared to be a solution in sight. A new cabinet would be installed at the bottom of Rock Hill, supplanting that in Hewitt's roundabout, and it was anticipated that this would be installed this autumn. However, the scheme (along, I understand, with other similar schemes across the country) fell foul of an Ofcom objection on competition grounds (since the services installed by the private provider at Hewitt's roundabout would be supplanted by a state aided alternative, even though Well Hill residents do not receive superfast broadband from it and remain subject in many cases to an unacceptably poor telephone service).

This has naturally caused great concern among residents, and George Chandler (KCC's project manager leading the BDUK initiative) and I attended a public meeting in the Mission Church on Monday evening. Happily, however, we were able to tell residents that an alternative approach, relying on Fibre to the Premises technology from the new cabinet, has been agreed in principle. 

The aim is to roll this out as fast as possible, though even this will take many months. The new approach is still subject to risks; extensive tree works needed to accommodate the fibre cables could push up costs to an unacceptable level, and it is possible that there could be further regulatory problems, though the scheme is very different from its predecessor. Nonetheless, this looks to be a major step back on track, and George is taking the project forward vigorously. He and I will make sure that Well Hill residents are kept closely informed as to the next developments.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Crockenhill: extra rumble strips go in this week

One of the measures intended to reduce speeds and improve safety in the centre of Crockenhill, in particular in the approaches to the Main Road - Cray Road - Broadway junction, was the installation of granite sets. Their purpose was to highlight to drivers that they were coming in to the centre of the village, reinforcing the message of the 20mph zone and additional signage.

The sets were installed in the spring, but residents' reaction was to be distinctly underwhelmed; the sets are relatively small and unobtrusive. I therefore agreed at the time with Kent Highways and the Parish Council that the sets would be reinforced by rumble strips. These are already in place in the Green Court Road (leading in to Broadway) approach to the junction, having been placed as a trial alternative late last year. They are undoubtedly more visible, and the combined effect is a much stronger one; they will now be introduced at the other two approaches.

Kent Highways had promised that the installation would take place in the early part of the summer holidays, and have now announced that there will be a road closure in Eynsford Road/ Main Road tomorrow (Monday 31 July) to carry out the works. Those in Cray Road will be carried out under a partial closure using traffic lights, and should also be in place this week.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Works moving ahead in Gibsons Place

The works that I described in a February post to tackle the flooding problems around Gibsons Place have taken place in two parts. Proceeding to the second stage was very dependent on Kent Highways reaching agreement with the management company for the development, and those works - as shown in the picture - are now well under way.

The first stage of the works was to put a large containment area into the road, with pipes bringing water from the previous, flood-prone gullies and into this storage space. Even on its own, this first phase has had a significant effect, as can be seen from the significant reduction in flooding even in recent periods of heavy rain.

The current phase involves installing further pipework from the High Street to the existing head wall. This is proving to be tricky work, with a lot of utilities to be navigated, and has had a significant impact on residents' access to parts of the development. This should be eased once the works get to the archway towards the back of the development, which (with two crews working on it) should be achieved within a week, weather permitting.

Two pipes will run from the containment area to a catch pit (to remove much of the silt in the water), at which point a single pipe will take the water to discharge into the river. As previously reported, there will be a flap over the end of the pipe to prevent water flowing back into the system when river levels are high.

The works already carried out have had a significant effect, and hopefully the completion of the second stage of the project should see a lasting resolution to this long-standing problem