In this week’s “Ask Sandy”, I decided to raise the traffic question. Let’s face it, Thanet traffic is awful and getting worse, it seems each month. What plans are there to deal with a problem which is causing misery in certain key “choke-points” across the island?
Q: “The rise in the number of cars on Thanet's roads is immediately obvious to local residents. Several areas of the island are very difficult to negotiate at peak times and the recent incident on the Monkton roundabout involving an overturned chemical lorry, demonstrated the vulnerability of our local roads system to any major obstruction which either cuts off any of the routes from the St Nicholas roundabout.”
“How are we going to manage the road traffic problem given the predicted rise in population density over the next decade?”
A:”One important thing to remember is that any rise in the number of cars on Thanet’s roads is actually good news for the area. As the area becomes more prosperous, so car ownership rises. Let’s not forget that, as that’s actually a positive sign for our area’s economy.
I think we also need to be realistic. Yes, being an island we have limited capacity here. Yes, there is congestion, but generally it only affects certain areas at certain times of the day. A major cause of this is the school run and we are working with Kent County Council to address this, by promoting School Travel Plans and Walking Buses.
All planning applications with the potential to generate additional traffic are carefully assessed to gauge their impact on both the local and wider area. For larger developments we require developers to submit and implement "green travel plans" showing how they propose to reduce car travel to and from their development and encourage walking, cycling and public transport.
As car owners, we all need to accept that if we want to continue driving, then journey times will inevitably be longer than they were five years ago and will continue to rise as car ownership increases. But let’s not forget that there are alternatives to using the car – and those alternatives have improved in Thanet dramatically in the last couple of years. The Thanet Loop and Thanet Stars bus services have helped to greatly increase bus usage and a recent study has shown that there is already a shift away from the car to the bus.
Our Thanet Cycling Plan and the Thanet Walking Strategy "Feet First" both aim to encourage cycling and walking as an alternative to the car and funding has been identified from the Local Transport Plan to start implementing the cycling and walking networks and we will also be looking for contributions to these initiatives from developers.
Let’s be clear that building new roads is not the only answer to the problem. It’s also about traffic management – that’s why this administration replaced the dreaded Clock tower lights in Margate with a roundabout.
That’s also why we are aiming to put new developments close to existing facilities, which is why the proposed Westwood housing development is being planned for a location that’s already close to shops and why we are looking for other community facilities to be located there. Those who are concerned about the development at Westwood can see that we are actively producing plans in conjunction with the private sector that involve new road schemes. “