Annual Parish Meeting
26th April 2016
At the start of the Annual Parish Meeting held on 26 April 2016 there was a wide-ranging discussion of the traffic problems afflicting the Conservation Area heart of the village along Lower Road and High Street. The Chairman of the Parish Council, Mr Colin Smithen, vacated the Chair as he had a personal interest in the matter under discussion and the Vice-Chairman, Mr Glen Mousley, chaired the meeting.
At the outset, Mr Smithen outlined the problems with traffic along Lower Road and High Street, and stressed that, contrary to rumours circulating in the village and beyond, the aim of the Parish Council was not to do away with a bus service that was popular with residents of Temple Ewell as well as River and Lydden. Rather, the object was to achieve some relief from the traffic problems currently afflicting this route through the village. Mention was made of instances of traffic having to reverse in order to allow large vehicles to pass and of damage caused to property and the road surface as well as danger to pedestrians and especially school children. Over much of the length of the road there is no footway and it is the primary route for parents and children walking to school.
It was the view of the Parish Council that the current problems had been made far worse following the introduction of bus service 15B from River to Canterbury via Temple Ewell and Lydden. At the present time there are 52 scheduled bus movements daily through the village, 38 of which are by Service 15B and large buses (often double-deckers) are used. The Parish Council have had meetings with Stagecoach, the bus operators, in an effort to reduce the frequency of the service, to secure the use of smaller buses or to arrange timetable amendments so that buses do not meet head to head along the narrow stretch of the road through the village but all of these have come to nothing. The attitude of Stagecoach appears to be that Service 15B is legal and is profitable so will not be changed whatever its impact on the village. The Parish Council felt particularly aggrieved that the only people who were consulted about the introduction of the service were River Parish Council and the District Councillor for River. No reference was made to Temple Ewell representatives who could, perhaps, have foreseen the current problems and negotiated some improvements before the service was introduced.
We have also had meetings with representatives of the KCC who are very sympathetic about the volume and type of traffic using Lower Road/High Street but have no funds to implement any road improvements that would ease the problem. Basically, it was left to the village to come up with and fund a solution that is acceptable to all concerned. Double yellow lines had been proposed along the length of Lower Road in order to leave a clear route for traffic but this was opposed by the Parish Council as there is little on-street parking in the village for use by residents and visitors. Furthermore, the lines would be operative at all times when the
worst of the problem arises at the ends of the school day when parents are picking up and collecting children. The favoured solution of the Parish Council is a one-way traffic system in the length of Lower Road/High Street between the Alkham Valley Road and Mill Street with the traffic flowing from Mill Street towards Kearsney Abbey. This would have the additional advantage of preventing the current rat-run of traffic along the route at the end of the working day and would allow a free flow of traffic from the Alkham Valley Road onto
London Road near to the Railway Bell. This scheme had been proposed by the KCC 7 or 8 years ago but dropped on cost grounds.
Mr Smithen had come up with an alternative scheme which, with a spirit of compromise on all sides, would still allow service 15B to operate. This would involve the use of small buses running from River to Lydden and back to River via the Crabble junction. In this way, residents of Temple Ewell, River and Lydden would be able to travel to the doctors' surgery in Lydden and the pharmacy in River without too much inconvenience. The number of buses using Lower Road/High Street would be almost halved at a stroke as they would return to River via the Crabble junction and Stagecoach should still have a viable service. One downside of the proposal was the fact that those wishing to travel on to Canterbury would need to transfer to Service 15 in Temple Ewell or Lydden.
Having outlined the current situation and the feelings of the Parish Council the meeting was thrown open for public comment and discussion. It immediately became clear that although those present accepted that there was a problem, a number felt that this was due to use of the route by large vehicles other than buses and it was suggested that more heavy lorries used the route. The Parish Council was proposing to arrange a traffic census in order to clarify the volumes and type of traffic.
A number of points were raised by those present including:
wthe likely impact of the new development at Whitfield which could significantly increase traffic flows
wthe impact of Operation Dover Tap on the volume of traffic using the Alkham Valley Road and Temple Ewell rather than the A20 route into Dover
wthe introduction of traffic lights at the junction of the Alkham Valley Roiad with London Road in order to improve traffic flows and discourage use of the rat-run through the village
wthe introduction of a 20mph speed limit through the village with speed bumps
wthe introduction of a 'walking bus' to improve the safety of children walking to school and parents bringing children to school by car being asked to park considerately and for as little time as possible
wthe provision of a footway on one side over the entire length of Lower Road/High Street
A resident also voiced fears concerning the stability of the river bank in places along Lower Road where voids had appeared under the road surface.
Following a full discussion of all points of view the Chairman undertook to place all of the matters before the Parish Council at its next meeting which will be held on 31st May 2016, when the way forward would be considered. He also undertook to keep parishioners informed of progress in resolving the problem and to call further public meetings as necessary.