Fighting For a Sandgate 20mph Zone

8 Jul 2024
Tim Prater in Sandgate High Street

Sandgate and West Folkestone Councillor Tim Prater has got the support of the Folkestone & Hythe Joint Transportation Board to strongly support a 20mph zone though Sandgate.

The Joint Transportation Boazrd is a liaison committee between Folkestone & Hythe Disitrct Councillors and Kent County Councillors on local highways matters.

At the JTB meeting of 8th July 2024, the board asked KCC officers to reconsider their position on a 20mph scheme, which they are currently opposing.

It also asked them to either bring back proposals for a scheme funded by KCC for a 20mph zone and other safety measures along the length of the A259 through Sandgate Esplanade, High Street and Sandgate Hill, or accept as a locally funded scheme a presented proposal for a 20mph zone around Sandgate High Street and work positively with Sandgate Parish Council on its introduction and speed mitigation measures on Sandgate Esplanade approaching the zone.

A Kent Highways Officer had written to Tim last week rejecting plans for a 20mph zone, saying:

"Unfortunately the team do not support the scheme at this time. The reason is that there just isn’t enough evidence to support us stepping outside of the current norm regarding speed limits on A roads.

"The A259 runs through several towns and parishes that have similar environments to Sandgate.

"The crash records for the section of road we were looking at to reduce the limit through Sandgate have been reviewed, and none of which are related to speed or would be addressed by reducing the speed limit. Therefore, there is no recognised safety issue with the speed as it currently is. I know this is not what you were hoping to hear, but I hope you understand the reasons behind the decision."

Tim said:

"I'm not disappointed in KCC's response: I'm appalled. And no, I don't understand their reasons. What I sought to do this evening is set out why KCC are wrong, and the very clear differences between Sandgate and other places on the A259. I'm delighted to have secured the support of all members of the board to see proposals for a 20mph zone brought forward.

I really want a scheme that extends from Sandgate Hill to Sandgate Esplanade, as do Sandgate Parish Council. However Kent Highways continue to tell us its unaffordable and unacceptable. We've therefore put together a different plan that is smaller, will have some (but less impact) and we could deliver fast, and hopefully then extend. I'm massively pleased to get the Boards support that KCC should think again, and bring back a proposal that will make those roads safer, and traffic slower, that we can all support.

In seeking the support of the JTB, Tim said:

"Firstly, thank you to Dylan for agreeing, as former Chair, for this item to be taken onto this agenda. Despite 100's of signatures both on paper and the massively broken KCC petition website, we didn't have quite enough signatures to force a discussion on this proposal to JTB. However, it is at the Chair's discretion, and I'm really grateful to him for using it to allow it.

"Essentially Ihe issue that we have for bringing forward  proposal for the A259 through Sandgate is that Kent Officers are concerned it will cause a precedent along the A259. I've been asked to explain why Sandgate is different, and why creating a 20 mph zone wouldn't be causing a precedent for a 20mph zone right the way long the A259 through to the East Sussex border. Briefly, I'll try.

"Firstly I should say that Sandgate High Street has the issues it does because unlike others, it has not already been tackled. Centre of Folkestone: Sandgate Road was fully pedestrianised decades ago. They fixed that by removing the traffic, not slowing it. Hythe High Street: bypassed. There have been changes for road safety along the route for years. It's just that Sandgate didn't get them, and would be pretty hard to bypass, I'll admit.

"Looking to the reasons that make Sandgate different, you have to first look at the topography. Coming from the direction of Folkestone, you come down Sandgate Hill into the village, before taking a fairly sharp right turn. You've passed two concealed entrances to your left, and are now in a narrow part of the High Street. That's the first key point of difference: its literally the only part of the A259 Folkestone to Rye with a hill. Through Folkestone, Hythe, Romney Marsh: all flat. You have speeds building up and without care, you end up overspeed on both the hill and approach through the village.

"The A259 approach to Sandgate down the hill is unique to Sandgate.

"Coming along the High Street, you have a series of difficult to make left turns as the roads are narrow into Lachlan Way (for Castle Road Car Park), Granville Parade East and The Parade, tight left hand turns with narrow pavements and buildings by the junction. Granted the junction into Granville Parade West is a little wider, but aside from an access to flats, its also a dead end.

"You have close sea glimpses down each of the last three roads, the first you have from close range anywhere along the A259. They are unique to Sandgate.

"On the right you have a series of roads with steep down gradients joining the High Street. Military Road is first, with a wide junction profile difficult for pedestrians to cross (and yes, a crossing island is already on the Sandgate Highway Improvement Plan, but that would do nothing about the gradient therefore speed of approach). Gough Road has a flat access junction, but then you have a sequence of The Undercliffe, North Road, (I'll exclude The Crescent as its one way leaving the High Street rather than joining, but is another tight rurn and steep gradient going up), then you have Wilberforce Road joining the High Street at a really steep gradient with walls each sides and narrow pavements so really limited visibility, Wilberforce Road again, this time two way, still a gradient, and to get onto the High Street you emerge behind a bus-stop.

"There are no other sections of the A259 Folkestone to Rye with these approach gradients, as there are no other hills: they are unique to Sandgate.

"That length of the High Street is also narrow, with narrow pavements each side, and buildings really close to the road. The only comparable profile to that on the A259 is through central Dymchurch. I'd suggest Dymchurch also have a case to make for a limited stretch of 20mph zone, but I won't make that for them, and of course they do not have sea views at any point due to the seawall. I'd contend New Romney has a wider road, and for the majority wider pavements, and is also not on the seafront.

"The narrow pavements and buildings quite so close to the road, obscuring junction visibility, is unique to Sandgate.

"I'm also delighted to say that Sandgate has a busy high street: possibly one of the busiest in the area, and with no vacant units currently without an offer on them. We have had in the last year Docker bar open, 2 deli's (both with seating outside), a cycle cafe and more, adding to the already eclectic mix. Many of these businesses have pavement seating and the area is often buzzing, and full of people, especially evenings and weekends. I've lived in the village over 20 years:  it's never been so busy. That's great, but adds to the risk of 30mph traffic on the road they are situated on.

"We then move along Sandgate Esplanade, which is the ONLY seafront section of the road with sea views along the length of the A259: it is unique to Sandgate. It is also, to some drivers especially visitors, distracting. It has the Coastal Cycle Path directly by the road along this stretch on a shared pavement / cycleway until it comes away from the A259 towards Seabrook.

"From the right, we continue our sequence of roads with a steep gradient joining the Esplanade: Encombe, Prospect Road, Wellington Place, Sunnyside Road and Castle Bay. Many of these also have limited visibility with walls each sides and narrow pavements: to be able to see if you are clear to go, you are often pretty much in the running track of the A259.

"KCC talk about requiring an accident record to act. It is by the junction with Prospect Road that there was a fatality just over 6 months ago. A couple of weeks ago there was another serious accident involving a child nearer the junction with Castle Bay. I have no evidence that either were caused by vehicles exceeding the current speed limit. I have significant evidence to suggest if the speed limit was lower and being obeyed, both accidents may have had better outcomes. And at least one of those accidents involved the high gradient approach road, very limited visibility joining the A259 from those side roads, and narrow pavements.

"I'd also say that the KCC accident record is woefully incomplete. I have, personally, had to act as a witness in a court case where a car drove into the dropped tailgate of a lorry parked on Sandgate High Street, going through and smashing their windscreen. I've personally, just outside my Sandgate High Street home, come out of my flat, turned left and starting walking towards Folkestone only to hear a bang behind me, a second thud, and find a car had smashed into a parked car pushing that onto where I had been stood 3 seconds earlier. I personally hear and witness the loss of pretty much a rear view mirror a week, with cars moving too fast and misjudging the width of the road. There is an accident record. KCC just don’t seem know about it.

"KCC have also acknowledged over times that there is considerable cross A259 pedestrian traffic. There are three formalised crossings from Military Road to Brewers Hill, an exceptional number for that short distance. Think where there are that many formal crossings in such a short stretch. They would not have been installed without that volume of crossings being understood.

"And personally, I think the A259 Sandgate Hill, Sandgate High Street and Sandgate Esplanade merit a 20mph zone along the entire length. And if that doesn't meet current policy, change the policy or override the policy. Its a poor policy where it refuses to acknowledge and respond to a clear community need, and a clear accident record. Kent County Council need to change their policy, at least in regard to this scheme.

"However, pragmatically I understand that there is limited funding, and although I'd like a full scheme along that length right now, I'm unlikely to get a funded scheme. So instead I've worked with an expert road planner to devise a scheme that at least starts the process, brings Sandgate High Street under a 20mph zone, and should start to slow traffic on approaches from both sides too.

"Why just Sandgate High Street? Because on KCC's OWN speed figures, the average speed in that area is already under 24mph,  and on their own policy, where that is the case they CAN install a 20mph zone without additional, and expensive, speed mitigation measures.

"What expert? He used to design the schemes for Kent County Council - Grahame Wickenden, and I'm hugely grateful for his support.

"What's the scheme? Simply a 20mph zone on the Sandgate High Street between Lachlan Way and Sandgate Esplanade, with lines and signs to support. The speeds are already *almost* 20mph on average. With new signage and lines, they are likely to drop a little further, and the lower the speed, the better the outcomes in any accident. Speeds on the approach from both Folkestone and Hythe should drop a little too, and I'll make no secret that if we could get them a little lower, provably, I'd like the 20mph zone extended.

"A fair question from Rory Love when questioning the scheme was do we mean a 20mph road, or zone? We think it’s a zone, and would include Granville Parade East, Granville Parade, The Parade, Granville Road West, Gough Road, The Undercliffe, North Road, The Crescent, Wilberforce Road, and Hillside. You can't reasonably exceed 20mph in those roads anyway, and the impact will mainly be around reducing the need for signage in the zone rather than practical.

"With KCC goodwill, and support, we could implement a starting "basic" 20 mph scheme in Sandgate High Street for the cost of lines and signs and fees. If KCC could cover the cost of fees, I'll seek support in getting the plans drawn up, free of charge to KCC, and seek to find the funding for the lines and signs. I'd hope that over the months following that, we can introduce speed mitigation at the approach to each end of the zone: pedestrian build out as on the plans at the Hythe side, SID displays too, which can prompt and remind on speeds.

"The A259 through Sandgate has seen 2 bad accidents since November. One child is dead. One is seriously injured. Sandgate residents really insist we don't wait for a third or fourth before KCC decided to act.

"We're offering a low cost starter scheme that will help slow traffic (and we can evaluate that), and meets as many of KCC current policies as possible. And where it doesn't meet KCC policy, we want them to override that policy. Because Sandgate is unique, and we need a 20mph zone.

"I would like the minutes to show that members of this board strongly support a 20mph zone though Sandgate, and feel the case has been made that it has sufficient differences to other locations not to cause a precedent.

"And I should further like the minutes to show that this board asks Highways Officers and the Cabinet Member for Transport to reconsider and either bring back to this board a scheme funded by KCC for a 20mph zone and other safety measures along the length of the A259 through Sandgate Esplanade, High Street and Sandgate Hill, or accept as a locally funded scheme the proposal for a 20mph zone around Sandgate High Street and work positively with Sandgate Parish Council on its introduction and speed mitigation measures on Sandgate Esplanade approaching the zone."

Larry Ngan and Lib Dem Campaigners on The Leas, Folkestone

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