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The £1m plans to 'slow down traffic' and create Kent's first 'walking town'

Original source (on modern site) | Article images: [1]

Plans to build a £1 million cycle and walking route through the heart of a town have been unveiled.

Council bosses secured funding to improve the "cross-town walking route", reducing reliance on cars in Faversham with the aim of turning it into Kent's first "walking and cycling town".

Cllr Julian Saunders and Cllr Eddie Thomas at Gatefield Lane, part of the Cross Town Path

Stretches of pavement will be widened and roads narrowed to help make the town more friendly to pedestrians and cyclists and prioritise those modes of transport on motor vehicles.

But a leading councillor for the town says the move is not about making Faversham "car free".

It is hoped the scheme will reduce congestion in the area as more residents would be encouraged to walk and cycle for journeys instead of jumping in their cars - without banning them outright.

Traders say the money could be spent "a lot better" across the town to help cope with the number of homes which are being built.

Town councillor Julian Saunders says the scheme is to encourage walking instead of driving, reduce emissions and improve safety.

The route of a new cycle and pedestrian pathway in a bid to reduce reliance on car travel through Faversham

The changes will also see new crossings, improved lighting and signage along the route.

"The prime aim is to make it easier and more pleasant to walk, and slowing traffic is a way to do that," said Cllr Saunders.

"The measures to be put in place would be to slow traffic in some areas, by narrowing road junctions and widening pavements at particular junctions where pedestrians want to cross the road."

The works will focus on a central Faversham route running from Lower Road, down South Road, through Cross Lane and Gatefield Lane and through the recreation ground.

The Faversham Cross Town Path project is a joint initiative by Faversham Town Council, Swale Borough Council and Kent County Council (KCC).

The £955,000 required to plan and carry out the works will come from the national government's Active Travel England fund following a successful bid by KCC.

Preston Street in Faversham town centre

When asked if the alterations would increase congestion in the area, Cllr Saunders says they would actually improve traffic flow.

"I wouldn't say slowing traffic down is necessarily going to cause more congestion - often it makes it easier for drivers to pull into or out of traffic if it is moving more slowly," he said.

"Plus, the main cause of congestion is having too many cars on the road.

"The whole point of this project is to encourage people to make more journeys on foot and on bikes rather than in their cars so hopefully it will actually improve congestion in Faversham."

Construction work organised by KCC Highways would likely begin at the beginning of next year and continue into 2025.

During parts of the work road closures would be necessary, but Cllr Saunders says these would be timetabled carefully.

The project will connect Lower Road, pictured, to Faversham Recreation GroundPicture: Google

Faversham Traders' Association chairman Tim Brown believes the cash could be "spent a lot better across the town to help with the thousands of houses which are being built".

"If they have a load of money to spend, it should be there to help businesses across the town and infrastructure, which is pretty shocking," he said.

"There are two new estates which have been built along Whitstable Road into the main part of town.

"When you park up, it can take you five minutes to get across the road because there is so much traffic down there.

"It doesn't sound like this scheme is going to help the town's businesses or people from getting from A to B."

Cllr Saunders says he doesn't dispute Mr Brown's concerns about there being other needs in the town.

Tim Brown, chairman of the Faversham Traders' Association

But he said: "The application that KCC has made to get the funding to a very specific national government fund which is to encourage active travel, such as cycling and walking.

"The scheme which has been successful is one KCC thought had a good chance of success."

"I don't disagree with Tim Brown that there are other needs in the town, but the money that was available was very specific for encouraging walking."

Mr Brown also has concerns about the impact more people on bicycles in the town centre could have.

"There are always people moaning about cyclists in Preston Street going too fast or children doing wheelies," he added.

"If you encourage bikes into the town centre, there will be more problems with pedestrians.

'The prime aim is to make it easier and more pleasant to walk - slowing traffic is a way to do that...'

"People can see a car and don't hurtle up the road.

"Bikes can go quite a speed and you don't see them until it is too late."

But Cllr Saunders says the scheme is to encourage cyclists to use the road.

"That is why we've championed the 20mph scheme and we are keen to encourage responsible cycling and give priority to pedestrians in line with the new highway code," he said.

The project builds on the town-wide 20mph speed limit, which was imposed last February following an 18-month trial of the arrangement.

KCC's cabinet member for highways and transport, David Brazier, said: "We are delighted to have worked with Faversham Town Council and Swale Borough Council on securing this.

"The aim of this project is to encourage walking as a regular form of transport in the town and to make it safer for people to make that choice.

"We will continue to work with the community as we continue to listen to the views of local people."

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