Kent A21 widening scheme 'could create growth'

The scheme will expand the road between Tonbridge and Pembury from single lanes to a dual carriageway.

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Widening the A21 in Kent has been given preliminary approval because it could create growth in the local community, according to the roads minister.

Mike Penning said Kent County Council had convinced him it would create jobs and "free up the community".

The scheme would expand the road between Tonbridge and Pembury from single lanes to a dual carriageway.

The Kent Green Party, which opposes all road building, said the widening was "a complete waste of money".

In the case of the A21, Steve Dawe, from the Kent Green Party, said: "It will remove nine hectares of ancient woodland and in as a little of three or four years' time after the scheme is finished, the A21 will fill up again."

Mr Dawe added that only during its period of construction would the scheme create jobs.

'Lead project'

Mr Penning said: "It gives me huge confidence that they [Kent County Council] believe that the local community can get the growth it requires.

As far back as 2001 the then Labour Transport Secretary Stephen Byers accepted the need to upgrade the A21 between Tonbridge and Pembury.

This year's proposals will see the single carriageway between these towns dualled with a flyover at the North Farm roundabout.

However, they do not include the previously proposed bypass of Hurst Green in East Sussex further down the A21.

"Is this going to create jobs? Is this going to free up the community? That's what they've convinced me is going to happen."

He added widening the A21 was the lead project of the six road schemes he had announced because it would be the first of them to go to public consultation.

Leader of Conservative-run Kent County Council Paul Carter said: "Completion of the scheme will be an enormous boost to the local Kent economy and support growth along the A21 corridor to Hastings."

Jackie Matthias, from the West Kent Chamber of Commerce, said "all the businesses in the area and the majority of residents" wanted the scheme to go ahead.

The Department for Transport said it would jointly fund the public consultation into the scheme with Kent County Council.

The widening scheme would start in 2015, when national funding is made available.

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