The changes to the Wheatsheaf junction include:
- improvements to the A229 Loose Road with A274 Sutton Road junction, to a reconfigured signalised junction
- the demolishment of The Wheatsheaf public house, where the space will be used for improvements including a landscaped area
- the widening of approaches to the junction
- the closure of Cranbourne Avenue to create a child-friendly cul de sac.
Changes to the Loose Road corridor were consulted on as part of the Keep Maidstone Moving schemes, designed to reduce congestion, travel times and pollution in Maidstone.
The total cost of the A229 Loose Road corridor is £5.63 million (excluding the purchase of the Wheatsheaf public house). The corridor scheme will be let as a single construction contract with the LGF contribution being £3.7 million and the developer contributions being £1.93 million.
The improvements are funded through the Maidstone Integrated Transport Package (MITP). The MITP is a wider package of highway schemes expected to cost £13.9 million in total, of which £8.9 million has been secured from the Local Growth Fund obtained from the South East Local Enterprise Partnership.
The remaining costs will be funded by Section 106 Developer Contributions from nearby housing developments.
The Loose Road corridor has been identified as a transport priority for Maidstone in KCC’s Local Transport Plan 4. Maidstone’s Local Plan also identified the need for improvements to the Wheatsheaf junction, Boughton Lane junction and Loose Road.
The traffic problems were recognised in the examination of the Local Plan, with the Inspector recommending further investigation of potential transport improvements.
The entire urban area of Maidstone is covered by an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA). These improvements are crucial to reducing congestion, improving journey times and reducing air pollution.
The decision by the SELEP Accountability Board to grant Local Growth Funding for the Maidstone Integrated Transport Package (MITP) was made on 12 April 2019.
On 19 January 2021, our Environment and Transport Cabinet Committee endorsed the recommendations to give authority to take the next phase of the A229 Loose Road corridor improvements through to construction.
The scheme objectives are to:
- reduce travel time along A229 corridor
- improve the reliability of journey times
- stop the deterioration of and improve air quality
- enable planned housing and employment growth
- reduce the use of unsuitable routes as rat-runs (cut-throughs).
The first phase of this project began on 28 March 2022, with the implementation of the experimental Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) for the trial closure of Cranborne Avenue. The TRO will be in place for a minimum of 6 months and a maximum of 18 months. Objections and comments can be made in the first 6 months of the TRO. After 6 months, it will be possible to make the TRO permanent (subject to addressing any comments and objections that may be received).
The closure of this junction is key to the final design solution and will collect traffic data about how the junction will operate when the signals in the Cranborne Avenue phase are removed. It will allow refinements to the layout to be made based on real information, rather than modelling data. It is also expected that the closure itself will provide some capacity benefits in the short term ahead of the second phase of the scheme being implemented, which will include the demolition of the pub and construction of the new junction.
We plan to carry out at least two further surveys to assess traffic flows and to analyse how the displaced traffic from Cranborne Avenue will be redistributed. These will assess any additional intervention measures that may be required at other adjacent junctions (including Plains Avenue).
The phase 2 construction works are currently expected to be carried out between Spring 2023 and Spring 2024.
For additional information email Cranborneavenue@kent.gov.uk.
The government Growth Deal provides money to the South East Local Enterprise Partnership, funding projects which drive Kent’s economic and business growth.