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A20 safety concerns

Recent A20 / Faversham Road junction History

Lenham Parish Council has long taken a detailed interest in the safety of Parishioners and users of the A20 (either pedestrians crossing it or drivers traveling along it).

Some 5 or 6 years ago we were in the situation where on average there was an incident at one junction every 6 weeks or so and along with County Councillor Shellina Prendergast, we contacted KCC Highways in an attempt to “get something done”.

On numerous occasions in recent years there have been concerted efforts to engage with Kent County Council (KCC) as the Highways Authority and Kent Police to address the (excess) speed on this road – particularly the section between Harrietsham and Old Ashford Road towards the Charing Parish boundary – specifically where Maidstone Road, Ham Lane, Faversham Road and Old Ashford Road connect to the A20 trunk road. KCC Highways was most reluctant to act especially since the data did not demonstrate a particular need. This is clearly because not all the incidents have either involved or been reported to the police – although obviously those involving the A20 being shut to allow the air ambulance to land on the road certainly were reported. It was not until we had a fatal accident that any action was undertaken.

The situation where many of the “minor” occurrences may not involve or do not get reported to the police skews the recorded data so that the area appears not to have the accident profile that local people understand it has.

Additionally, any alterations need to be mindful that the A20 is an ‘inter urban highway’ and as such there are specific criteria that they cannot agree to or adopt. This is because it is the only significant route that can substitute for incidents on the M20 when required.

After the fatal accident KCC did produce a design plan which the Parish deemed unacceptable. Their idea was to have a 50-mph limit between Ham Lane and somewhere near the Community Centre. We pushed for ‘joined up’ thinking and asked that the 50-mph limit was extended out to the Harrietsham Parish boundary and the end of the Old Ashford Road (otherwise drivers would enter a 60mph zone after Harrietsham only to be met half a mile or so later by a 50mph limit at Ham Lane.

There is now a 50mph speed limit between the end of the 40mph speed limit at the eastern end of Harrietsham and the Old Ashford Road where the road resumes the national speed limit (60mph for private vehicles and light commercial vehicles / 50mph for HGVs).

It is clear this is that it is regularly ignored – day and night. The interactive speed sign on the Maidstone approach to the Faversham crossroads was requested by LPC and is activated at over 57mph (+10% + 2mph). Most vehicles that do activate it immediately apply their brakes.

Recent accidents have again highlighted the issues where drivers are potentially flouting what is already a 50-mph limit.

It has to be noted that the ability to reduce the speed limit further, to say 40-mph, is one which is beyond the control of LPC. This is partly due to the lack of development north of the A20 (into the AONB) – meaning that the A20 is essentially a ‘by-pass’ for the village – unlike the adjacent example of Harrietsham which has significant development on both sides of the road.

LPC believes that the right solution to achieving the desired speed limit would be a reduction / enforcement of a lower speed limit. The emphasis is on effective enforcement. No-one wants points on their license.

After the last fatality, in September 2023, LPC sought a meeting with interested parties to establish what might be possible to review the situation. For a variety of reasons that meeting never happened. However, a further request to our MP to schedule a meeting did create a date when a discussion could start. This took place on the 18th February 2024, attended by the local Member of Parliament and Kent Police with all groups along the A20 from Bearsted to Lenham to Charing and beyond.

LPC maintain that the road in itself has issues which, due to topography (line of sight, natural dips etc) are entirely beyond the control of LPC and are unlikely to be altered as a result of our action/campaigning. The road profile cannot be changed.

There are some who have suggested a solution could be the introduction of traffic lights or a roundabout on one of the major junctions (such as the Faversham Road junction). When lights or other interventions have been suggested to the Highway Authorities, these have been rebuffed due to the need to maintain flow on this busy trunk road, particularly when the motorway is affected (accidents, STACK / BROCK etc., which affect its flow). Roundabouts are only used at the junction of A and B Roads and no (other than pedestrian) lights are allowed.

LPC maintains that a detailed study should be undertaken by KCC Highways to establish viable options for this stretch of road. One might have thought that MBC would have completed such a detailed study as part of its Local Plan documentation. However, this is not the case.

It can be argued that with adherence to the existing 50-mph limit and the relevant ghost islands and islands, there should be sufficient in place for the road to be safe to use while maintaining the potential for flow. Designating some junctions as ‘left-in’ or ‘left-out’ is also unlikely to be successful – or adhered to, people tend to ignore that sort of requirement if it is inconvenient to them.

LPC wholly supports measures to enforce drivers adhering to the designated speed limits which are so frequently flouted, especially considering the potential increase in people wanting to cross the road to access the walks and views from the downs (the Lenham Memorial Cross etc) with the increase stemming from the growth in housing as required by MBC and set out in the adopted Lenham Neighbourhood Plan.

LPC note that we are Parish Councillors not Highway Engineers, however we can all clearly see that this road and these junctions need review before yet more people are injured or killed navigating the various turns and crossing points. What the parish council, and others, are looking for are measures which keep the flow along the A20, in a safe and regulated way. The outcome of those discussions will emerge.

This is a very active item, but as with many things in government – it can take a serious amount of time. LPC are not sitting back, and we will keep working on your behalf for safety in these areas.