I’m on the highway to hell

We have expected a weighty tome detailing the widening of the A21 in Kent for some time now. To be a little more precise I should probably say ‘waiting in trepidation’. Why? – because a single carriage way road flanked closely with ancient woodland is not going to mix well with a road widening scheme. 

Road works

Road works - at what cost? Photo: Photostack

The widening of the A21 between Tonbridge and Pembury has been on the cards for years – in fact ever since I started at the Woodland Trust four years ago it has been expected. One of the reasons it has taken so long to rear its ugly head is its hideously large environmental impact and the problems in justifying this. However with the downturn in the economy the Highways Agency has found a great way of ‘kick starting the economy’ by pumping 6 billion into England’s road network and pushing forward lots of nice and environmentally destructive  ‘road improvement schemes’. 

So when there was finally notification that the environmental impact assessment had finally been published I did a cursory check of the environmental impact assessment and was not surprised to see that there is expected to be around 9 hectares (22 acres) of ancient woodland loss some of which is part of the RSPB’s Tudeley Wood Reserve.  The next job is thoroughly go through the EIA and work out the exact impacts on the woodland and see what mitigation is being put forward by the Highways Agency (probably worth noting quickly that ancient woodland is irreplaceable so once it is gone not a right lot you can do).

The thing is that I know what a terrible stretch of road it is there – many times have I been stuck in a jam as the dual carriage way shrinks to one lane. I can almost guarantee that most that live locally are desperately waiting for this stretch of road improvements but at what cost? 

Highway to hell?

Highway to hell? Photo Kristian Callahan

So in some ways the words of AC/DC fit the situation quite well: 

I’m on the highway to hell
No stop signs, speed limit
Nobody’s gonna slow me down 

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About Alice Farr

Senior Campaigner - ancient woodland
This entry was posted in Climate Change, Planning, Roads, Woods Under Threat and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to I’m on the highway to hell

  1. Oliver Newham says:

    Thanks for your comment Wendy. I agree in that anyone who has driven along this stretch of the A21 will know that there are serious traffic issues and solutions need to be found. We have and we do understand and appreciate your concerns. We do not undertake our opposition to the current proposals lightly.

    As you are aware though our concern is that this scheme will have a substantial negative impact on the local environment and may well only be a short term fix for the problem.
    The proposed widening would cause the loss of 9 hectares of ancient woodland, something very significant if you take in to account that England has less than 3% ancient woodland coverage now. Additionally the environmental impact assessment (EIA) of the scheme notes that both Pembury Walks and Tudeley Woods are sites of special scientific interest quality and therefore of national quality. The EIA specifically recognises the value of the habitats under threat, stating that “most of the woodland adjacent to the A21 is designated for its nature conservation value.”

    Our hope is that a solution can be found, something that helps road users, but one that doesn’t have such a negative impact on the area’s precious woodlands. If the widening does get approval, we would like to see much better compensation for the loss of the woodland than the proposed scheme puts forward.

  2. Wendy Worrall says:

    I invariably want us to protect ancient woodland in this country, but as someone who lives not far from the A21and uses it regularly I believe this stretch of road MUST be widened I have been caught out many times when there has been an accident or there are roadworks and it is not uncommon to spend 30 minutes travelling one mile. I am always amazed at how many serious accidents there are on this stretch of road, and as there are bends and hills it is very dangerous. This must go ahead for the people in this area of Kent.

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  5. Martin Turner says:

    Concerning the A21 improvement between Tonbridge and Pembury. In my opinion it would be utterly incorrect for the Woodland Trust to post objection to this scheme. The present single carriageway effects hundreds of people every day creating costly commercial and individually frustrating delays and accidents.
    I would not have thought your facts are quite right either -“22 acres of ancient woodland and Tudely Woods”? The WT will receive little but derision for seriously objecting to the proposal.

  6. Kaye Brennan says:

    There’s a discussion on this and how the environment keeps losing out when it comes to priorities in development on facebook> http://bit.ly/553Ife
    Join in!

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