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Safer travel; Active travel for Dover District, say Greens

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A Manifesto for safer, more active travel in the Dover District from Kent County Council 2021 candidates of Dover and Deal Green Party.

Your Green Party Candidates in Dover District are Sarah Gleave, Mike Eddy , Beccy Sawbridge, Nick Shread and Abi Stroud. We are all signed up to South East Climate Alliance’s ABCD pledge. We all want to see the Kent Energy and Low Emissions Strategy implemented (in dialogue and cooperation with the communities that DDC and KCC serve) as soon as possible.   We want  a priority to be given to the creation of jobs in the climate-friendly recovery sectors with land allocations designated for  agri-forestry, market gardening, the construction of active travel infrastructure (engineered cyclepaths, kerbed pavements between bus-stops and villages,  foot bridges, pelican crossings with traffic light)s, and renewable energy project. More planning enforcement officers should be recruited too. The Local Government Association clearly point to the availability of very cheap loan facilities for councils (municipal bonds and PWLB) to build back fairer and healthier. We want to see KCC and DDC accessing this funding.  

Overview

We highly recommend addressing the extreme LACK of genuine, engineered, cycle-routes to connect with rail stations in East Kent.   Bus services should be better integrated with the rail service timetables on the line running from Sandwich and Deal through Dover to Ashford, and the line running from Dover to Canterbury and Faversham and Victoria.   New cycle routes should connect to the stations and hub bus stops on these lines. We deplore the lack of safe kerbed pavements and rural bus services in much of our district, and if elected would work to resolve these needs. We support CPRE campaign on rural transport.  See details below on our specific recommendations for engineered kerbed pavements and cycle paths.

Dover District is uniquely  vulnerable to road safety and air pollution problems due to the port. We include in this manifesto ways we would work to address these problems.  We believe that the compact and congested towns of Deal,  Walmer, Sandwich and some parts of residential Dover would benefit from having ’20 is plenty where people live’  and ‘Living Streets’ / low traffic neighbourhood policies brought in.  BUT we deplore the over-hasty, KCC cabinet- imposed, imposition of fake (sometimes dangerous) cycle routes and traffic calming schemes with ZERO dialogue, collaboration, consultation with local East Kent communities. To be effective, innovation MUST involve citizens and communities.

We have been campaigning for Dover to catch up with Ashford and Maistone as regards EV charging points since 2018 and welcome the partnership between KCC and DDC and parish councils so that the rollout of EV charging points is now happening at last in the Gateway to England.  We applaud the work of CPRE Kent and the Kent Cycle and Active Travel Campaign Group on these issues.

Transport and Infrastructure Plans in Dover District.

Strangely Dover District Council’s draft NewLocal Plan (consultation Jan – March 2021)  didn’t have ANY specific strategic policy on walking and cycling infrastructure, especially given that cycle routes 1, 2, 15, 16, and 17 run through Dover District and East Kent. It only had a vague promise on   “enhanced network of dedicated walking and cycling routes”.

We note that despite the statement in DDC nLP about ‘proposals generating levels and types of traffic movement resulting in severe cumulative residual impacts in terms of capacity and road safety will not be permitted’, DDC accepted the Dept For Transport’s imposition by SDO of the Dover IBF using non-dualled A2 route used by many retail shoppers at White cliffs Business park, and thus has permitted exactly the problem described. The real-world constraints of the EK road system (A258, A2, A256) mean little can be done to ameliorate the situation, without long term road closures needed to dual the A2 from Jubilee Way to Lydden Hill, which will stop the flow of freight to IBF. But road improvements to separate local traffic from through freight traffic must be done to save lives;  road improvements that central govt must pay for,(even though Kent CC  allowed Dept for Transport to off-load responsibility for Dover IBF on to KCC on 18 March 2021).  The Director of Kent Highways MUST ENSURE that the separation needed, includes flyovers, foot + cycle + bridlepath bridges and underpasses.

It should be noted that Dover has far too much experience of the gridlock and chaos caused by cross-channel delays, especially the community of Aycliffe, (and Guston may soon suffer similar blight). With more extreme weather events expected, and with ‘frictionless freight flow’ now a thing of the past, holding areas for freight OUTSIDE THIS DISTRICT, near the M25, are needed more now than they were before.

Our Green team, which included 2 councillors elected to Dover Town council in 2019, have put the following suggestions forward at DoverTC;

  • Port of Dover to be approached regarding more solar PV on their buildings and the installation of wind turbines on the harbour walls like the ports of Boulogne and Liverpool,
  • Eurotunnel to be approached about wind turbines on the Samphire Hoe breakwaters,
  • Network rail to be approached about solar PV on Dover priory station buildings,
  • similarly for Stagecoach and the planned new bus station at York street.
  • We also recommend high solar canopies over the marshalling yards of Port of Dover, to generate energy that fridge trucks (whose engine-idling contaminates Dover) could plug into while waiting to board ferries. Because the poor air quality due to freight has an appalling effect on air quality and walkers, cyclists and residents of Dover town are the victims of this air pollution.

In our response to DDC new Local Plan we noted  as regards Infrastructure and Developer contributions  a highlighting of the need  for infrastructure, particularly transport infrastructure, and point out the difficulties of establishing what infrastructure is required to support each potential new development. DDC planning dept concludes that infrastructure is best provided by Section 106 agreements rather than by a Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL). This underpins DDC’s Strategic Policy 13 which concludes by stating that “In determining the nature and scale of any provision, the Council will have regard to viability considerations and site-specific circumstances.” We advise(d) this statement, in effect and in practice, has allowed developers to reduce progressively the Section 106 payments and other conditions imposed on developments at the time of granting permission by suggesting that their potential developments are not financially viable once all the constraints have been factored in. A CIL would provide developers, planners and residents with the certainty of knowing what the community costs would be.  We said: It is not the Council’s role to have regard to any planning application’s financial viability. It is the responsibility of the applicant to have in place sufficient funding or access to sufficient funding in order to realise the project. It is the Council’s responsibility to determine the use of the land and the conditions which make that use appropriate. Paragraph 9.30 should be re-written to signal the Council’s intention to implement a CIL before the Plan has run a quarter of its projected course, and a further sentence should be added to SP13 stating that: “The Council intends to introduce a Community Infrastructure Levy as soon as possible but before 2025 so that the council, developers and residents can more clearly understand the financial requirements of any agreed planning permission.”

LINKS RAIL – CYCLING – BUSES – SAFE WALKING

We were shocked that DDC draft new Local plan made NO comment on the need to integrate active travel / cycling with rail stations across the district.

We recommend(ed)  adding  specific mention  of the rail stations in the district which are (HS1 Line Ashford – Ramsgate)   Dover Priory, Martin Mill, Walmer, Deal, Sandwich, and (Dover – Canterbury East  - Victoria line) Dover Priory, Kearsney, Shepherds Well, Snowdown, Aylesham. There is also a fast bus route No 12 Deal, Whitfield (south of A2, separated by A2 from Whitfield Urban Development), Canterbury. Enhancement of the network of walking and cycling routes promised must include installation of engineered, protected, dutch-style cycles paths, improvements of junctions in towns across the district especially near rail stations, and integration of cycle paths 1, 2, 15, 16 and 17 with all these 9 rail stations and 4 bus stations (Dover, Deal, Whitfield Sandwich). Trains and buses on these routes must agree to carry (electric + cargo) bikes, in trailers if necessary.

We recommend the protection of the safe Skylark Way cycle route  on the back B roads from Dover to Deal via Guston + Martin, (put in following the tragic death of an 18 year old cyclist) and urge that signage on this route be better maintained.

We note the ON /OFF status of the Dover or Whitfield fast-track this winter, as Dept for Transport plans for Dover IBF have fluctuated.  We welcome a  dedicated new road just for bus / cycle, and an electric, not diesel, bus service to transport Whitfield residents to Dover town and Dover Priory rail station and  to discourage reliance on private cars, on the condition that it does not reduce walking and cycling opportunities for residents of Rokesley ward, Dover and Guston, is something we welcome.  Thankfully,  cyclists on Fast Track  being encouraged to use  Dover IBF road used by HGV vehicles seems now to have been ruled out, and must continue to be so.  We urge council leaders to respect and discuss innovations  in this location with local parish councils and local residents to a MUCH greater extent.

We advised  that the Council’s ‘commitment to work with HE on long term improvements to A2’ must be more than pious lip-service reiterated to political colleagues in central government. It must result in the complete dualling of the A2 and Jubilee Way from Eastern Docks to Lydden Hill /Cox Hill by December 2022, at the latest. The imposition of the Dover IBF makes this imperative. The separation of local traffic, from through freight traffic, by means of flyovers and underpasses at the Duke of York, and Whitfield roundabouts must take place by December 31 2022, 2 years after the Dover IBF was announced.  We recommended Proposals which assist in the provision of alternative transport modes across a dualled A2 with foot and bridlepath bridges to be mandatory to protect current PROW (public rights of way) for which KCC is responsible.  We also recommend  The Council will work with Highways England and Kent County Council to improve accessibility elsewhere in Kent between the two principal access routes to the Port of Dover, the M20 and the A2. The Council will work with partners to improve access to the local and High Speed rail network.”

We hope that DDC Cabinet uphold  their own statements on  Highway Network and Highway Safety  in the future.

We proposed that the following wording replaces the final sentence in order to clarify levels of significance or severity of increased traffic: “A Travel Plan or Transport Assessment will be required for all residential developments of more than 15 units, the requirements of which will be secured by planning conditions, Section 106 agreement or through the Community Infrastructure Levy as is appropriate.”

Road improvements (especially on the A2, A20 and A256) to separate local traffic from through freight traffic must be done to save lives. These are road improvements that central govt must pay for , especially as regards the protection of areas of large housing development (cited in DDC Strategic policies 4 Whitfield, 5+6 Aylesham and 7 Elvington and Eythorne).  The separation needed must include flyovers and underpasses for local traffic.

Improvements to the highway network must also include underpasses for (electric) bikes and real dutch-style, protected cycle-paths so that cycling commuters from Whitfield can get safely to Kearsney rail station and Martin Mill Station. There should be a safe, engineered, dedicated cyclepath from Aylesham Station to Elvington, and another from Elvington to Shepherds Well rail station

Safe kerbed pavements must be provided running from bus stops on A roads to any new development of 8 homes or more in rural village settlements to prevent old and young being trapped by car dependence up unsafe B-roads, which costs KCC money for taxis from schools, (see Kent active travel strategy ). Applicants must demonstrate that their plan includes installing and cost of installation of the protected cycle-paths and kerbed pavements described above. Dept for Transport consultation Feb 2021 on trends in innovation in rural transport is relevant.

Development of green tourism, walking and cycling  in Dover District.

The Conservatives currently in power at Dover District and Kent County councils have recently talked up plans they have in this area.

HOWEVER; Tourists, residents cyclists and walkers have toilet needs. For a town with the iconic, historical importance of Dover NOT to have any coach park with lavatorial comfort facilities is a disgrace.  The ratio of toilet blocks to inhabitant in Dover town is treble the ratio in other urban areas in the District, 1 : 10,000 or higher.  The only coach park in Dover Town has, for 3 years, had 2 signs on Maison Dieu Road telling coach drivers and visiting car drivers that a toilet exists when in fact it doesn’t. At this location in Maison Dieu car park, behind the police station, visitors get out, pay to park and find nothing, merely a sign to a 15 minute walk to Pencester Gardens, difficult when legs are crossed. The DDC website misleads the public on this issue.   The lack of toilets is a public health problem,  and it discourages walking and cycling. It is a matter which we have referred to Kent Director of Public health. A Conservative triple hatter represents Dover town at parish, district and county level, and he appears to have done nothing to rectify this appalling problem.   The stalemate between DoverTC and DDC on this lack of toilets has to be overcome by installing a minimum of 3 modern self-cleaning toilet blocks, one at Maison Dieu,  in 2021; in the interests of Dover residents, local visitors from around East Kent and  tourists from further afield. We suggest that the Conservative majority at DDC might agree to install toilets if the Labour majority at DoverTC promised to pay for the maintenance of the new toilet blocks as DealTC, SandwichTC and WalmerTC do.

The cable car to the castle, and the cost to the public purse of both the feasibility study and the cable car itself are very unsustainable. It is unsustainable because the degree to which cruise ships will return to popularity post-covid has a question-mark over it and consequently the idea of wafting passengers from the cruise terminal to the castle so they don’t have the inconvenience of pottering through Dover town is also an expensive shot in the dark.  It would be much better to look at smaller zero-carbon transport activity projects within the town; harbour trips with zero carbon, solar-powered boats (like La Rochelle has had for 15 years), like electric hopper mini-buses (like the ones which have been coping with the 1 in 6 gradients of Aix-en-Provence for over 10 years).

Deal Town Centre.  The relative success of Deal Town Centre is threatened by the congestion caused by over-development on the outskirts of Deal / Walmer. With many developments still in the planning and building stage, this congestion should be anticipated from early 2023. Shoppers aged 50 – 90 will not want to sit in traffic queues to get to Deal Market on a Saturday, they will go elsewhere perhaps to Canterbury or to Thanet retail parks.

Deal Town Council’s report of June 2020 ‘Making Walking and Cycling irresistible’ is excellent, our Green cllrs on this council fully endorse it. It provides detailed  junction plans to make cycling safer and we fully endorse it and suggest Sandwich TC and Dover TC may wish to prepare plans for improving  junctions of a similar nature.  The plan for a ‘Park and Pedal’, scheme at Borrowpit Carpark, Walmer,  is excellent. It would offer opportunities to SMEs to provide small electric hopper bus(es), or pedal-buses (picture below) .

This should be provided by a local CIC in preference to Stagecoach, who, experience shows, are disinclined to innovate in a timely fashion, and it could allow Deal town centre to retain footfall on the High Street and cope with the developments which have already received planning permission, or are being built.  We support the pedestrianisation of Deal High street, which has been popular with many during lockdown (if not with a handful of oldschool shopkeepers) .

We fully endorse the application by DealTC for ‘Walkers are welcome’ status.  We note our Green Cllrs on Walmer Parish council are involved both with the roll-out of EV charging points and with the provision of high security cycle lockers at Walmer Station.

The Deal / Walmer road system will not cope if permission is given for any more developments. DDC dept of Planning, Regeneration and Development are in danger of killing a Dealite goose laying golden eggs, if they don’t put a brake on developments within 3 miles of the boundaries of Deal / Walmer.

cycle-bus

Betteshanger Park (was Fowlmead) has long been a Kent attraction for cycling and this should continue. The oldest cyclepath in Britain runs from the Betteshager Park back to Sholden and Deal. We are told it was built by Italian prisoners of war for the colliers working at Betteshanger to cycle back home to Mill Hill. This cycle route is currently under threat from 21/00402, a Greenfield development of 117 dwellings on Sholden Downs. We oppose this development and believe the valley bottom below the site should provide natural connectivity to Ham Fen and Ramsar areas to the north.

Parking Provision on new Developments : to comply with the Kent and Medway Energy and Low Emissions Strategy, applicants should limit off-street parking to space for a maximum of 2 cars per dwelling. Obviously  we fully support polies to provide Open Space,  Playing Pitch strategy, Protection of Open Space and Community Facilities on new developments so that walking around ones neighbourhood is pleasurable , We recommended the retention and protection of existing woodland as community amenity (buildings or land or woodland) .

Digital Technology  . All new out-of-town developments should include co-working spaces, with cycle parking and car club options.  (There are areas of the district where ‘superfast broadband’ connections must be improved . Currently they are so slow (especially during lockdown with added use of bandwidth) that residents have been preventing from accessing the consultation portal).

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