Darnley Arch : Wasted Opportunity, Wasted Money, Further Traffic Chaos

Report by Labour Councillors Stephen Hubbard and Isaac Igwe

 

The fiasco that was the long promised vehicle & pedestrian highway safety improvements at Darnley Arch is finally coming to an end.

And the result,  a cosmetic makeover of the original road & pavement layout, with one new pedestrian crossing.  One fine example of the Tory-led Medway Council failing to manage and deliver on a project that would have been of great benefit to Strood residents.

SN + N Darnley Arch 1

So what had been promised and not delivered.  Pedestrian level subway tunnels either side of the railway arch – which have separated pedestrians from traffic.  An alternative was to work with Network Rail to provide a wider arch when the bridge was replaced last year.  Both alternatives would have resulted in a wider carriageway – so it’s still the case that lorries cannot pass each other under the bridge.

Morrisons Supermarket, as a requirement of their planning permission, back in 2000 passed over to the council a large sum of money, which after 14 years of compounded interest was a pot of approximately £700,000.  The council spent well over £250,000 on consultants, fees, etc before any work started on site for real.  The money had to be spent in full or handed back in part to the supermarket.

S + N Darnley Arch 1

Conservative councillors had stated that they would be ‘happy for money to be returned unspent’.  Labour demanded that the council design and install highway improvement works that spent the money that was left in the pot.

What Labour did not request or suspect was the proposed 6 weeks of traffic chaos Tory-led Medway Council is to inflect upon Strood Residents and Strood Traders from the 1st September 2014.  The daytime closures of road under and adjacent to Darnley Arch will take place between 0730 and 2000 (Mondays to Fridays) and between 0800 and 1600 (Saturdays).  For details of the closures see the council’s letter to residents reproduced below.

Residents will recall the traffic chaos that Strood suffered during Xmas 2012 and into 2013 when the Council’s Conservative Administration decided (without consultation with residents or traders) to close Darnley Arch to traffic for an additional week.  When challenged Tory councillors failed to give a satisfactory explanation why they had taken the decision – a decision which inflicted maximum damage to Strood Town Centre’s local economy during the critical sales period.  That crass decision added to the maddening nonsense that the Conservative Council had failed to deliver on the pedestrian safety improvements during Network Rail’s two & half day replacement of the Arch’s bridge – late Christmas Eve to Boxing Day 2012.

So why not carry out the closure work overnight?  The minimum amount of time quoted by the council’s contactor was over 12 weeks, taking it past the Christmas period into the New Year.  That’s not a good enough reason not to do night time work.

The Government’s Highways Agency are to carry out overnight closures on M2 with effect from 13th October for 6 weeks.  Those closures will divert traffic off the motorway and into Strood.  Again that’s not a good enough reason not to do night time work.  Just reschedule night time work at Darnley Arch until after the M2 work is completed.

But here’s the problem.  As we mentioned before Morrisons Supermarket, as a requirement of their planning permission, passed over to the council a large sum of money for the sole use of providing pedestrian highway safety improvements at Darnley Arch.  The council has had to request several times now that Morrisons agree to an extension on when their money has to be spent by.  Until recently if the money was not spent by the 14 August it had to be paid back.

So it seems that council cannot continue to delay the project, because if it did so it would risk losing the money it needs to pay for the pedestrian highway safety improvements at Darnley Arch.

 

 

Medway Council’s letter to residents, dated 14 August 2014

 

RE: Darnley Arch Road Improvements

 

Medway Council will be making improvements to the Darnley Arch roundabout junction and approaches, and this notice is to advise you of the temporary traffic management arrangements that will be required to facilitate this.

The works will be divided into 3 phases and will commence with effect from Monday 1st September 2014 for a duration of 6 weeks. Advance signage will be placed on and around the roads affected and a diversion route for heavy goods vehicles will be placed on the M2/A2 to direct through traffic away from this area via the A289.

Phase 1 will affect Cuxton Road and Priory Road under the bridge requiring this route to Strood to be closed and Northcote Road to temporarily become a one way street in order to take traffic from the A228 to A2. Traffic at this point will be under traffic signal control.

Phase 2 will still affect Cuxton Road, but instead of remaining closed it will allow traffic to enter Strood, but not exit. Northcote Road will remain one way towards the A2 but not be traffic signal controlled. The lower section of Darnley Road will be closed and traffic diverted via Maple Road and Hawthorne Road. Temporary parking restrictions may be required in those roads

Phase 3 will require closure of the area around the entire junction, in order for carriageway resurfacing to can take place 

Works will take place between 0730 and 2000 (Mondays to Fridays) and between 0800 and 1600 (Saturdays).

To reduce the numbers of large goods vehicles using Northcote Road there will be signed diversion routes directing these types of vehicles away from this area. Access to properties will be maintained as far as possible.

Medway Council apologises for any inconvenience caused during these essential works.