J5Slips and its impact on Wateringbury

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J5Slips and its impact on Wateringbury 

Many residents of Wateringbury may not be familiar with the acronym J5Slips but they will be aware of the high volume of traffic regularly passing through the village and the impact this has on safety to pedestrians and road users alike and the major but unseen problem of air quality particularly in the vicinity of the traffic lights at the centre of the village. These issues are inextricably linked but sadly are shared by many other West Kent towns and villages.

J5Slips is an independent lobbying group ably led by Tim Shaw of Borough Green Parish Council the objective of which is to achieve a significant improvement in the environmental conditions for the community in terms of health and safety and in particular air quality by, inter alia, building slip roads on the M25 at Junction 5. In essence the Group wishes to bring cleaner air to West Kent through growth but without gridlock and thereby enhance the quality of life in the surrounding areas which includes Wateringbury.

About twenty five years ago when the M26 was built it was assumed, but as it turned out, quite wrongly that all its traffic would be able to exit at junction 5 to pick up the A21 and vice versa. The appropriate slip roads were not included and the problems this omission created have worsened considerably. Currently all areas along the A25, A227, A26 and A228 suffer from ever increasing volumes of traffic due to the fact that vehicles are unable to exit onto the A21 at Junction 5 where the M26 meets the M25. Freight and other vehicular traffic wishing to join the A21 invariably leave the M20 early and travel through local villages to reach their destination. The only alternative available to them is to stay on the motorway and exit at Junction 6.  They are therefore "forced" to short-cut through populated areas past schools, shops and not least dwellings situated at the side of roads which are often narrow and inherently dangerous.

Air pollution, particularly from diesel-powered vehicles is a serious health issue and many areas in West Kent including Wateringbury have air quality levels which exceed both UK and EU safety targets. This problem could be ameliorated by building the slip roads at Junction 5 as these would attract traffic away from the villages and at the same time make the roads just that little bit safer. There are obvious dangers when juggernauts pass through our village inches away from narrow pavements and inevitably damage is or will be will be caused to our historic buildings and the infrastructure generally. The recent opening of the new hospital at Pembury has generated an increase in the level of emergency vehicles passing through Wateringbury and other villages on their way to or from Maidstone Hospital: a development which highlights the need for a first class road infrastructure to which the J5 Slip roads would form an integral part.

The J5Slips Group is endeavouring to persuade Government to contract the Highways Agency to carry out a detailed traffic survey of West Kent and, as mentioned, to construct the "missing" slip roads to facilitate full connectivity of the M26 and the A21 at Junction 5 of the M25. It is a very laudable objective that merits our unconditional support. The J5Slips Group is a participating member of the Joint Parish Councils Traffic Consultative Group (Parishes within the Borough of Tonbridge and Malling) of which the Wateringbury Parish Council is an active member. It therefore has a voice and will give unequivocal support to this venture.

Charles Stroud