Work to expand busy Maidstone road near M20 on hold because Kent County Council is 'broke'

Maidstone Cllr Denis Spooner at the A249, where work was due to take place to widen the road and expand the capacity of a roundabout to relieve congestion
-Credit: (Image: LDRS)

Works to expand a busy road near M20 have been put on hold because Kent County Council is "broke". The long-awaited scheme was designed to relieve congestion on the A249 in Maidstone.

It was due to see the road widened and roundabout capacity expanded near the M20 junction seven (J7) - and work had already started. However highways authority Kent County Council (KCC) says there is no longer enough financial certainty to continue.

The council has been forced to scale back all forms of spending as it attempts to stay afloat amid soaring bills and squeezed revenues. The site office has been shut down although the project does not appear to have been abandoned, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS).

Read next: Parents call police after boy is followed to the shop

Read next: Fury as vandals nick head of park statue

In a letter currently circulating in the public domain, Colin Shorter, project manager for the works at KCC, said “recent progress is tied into the current financial position facing the county council”. Mr Shorter said as the scheme is not receiving “significant” developer contributions, KCC risked shouldering the burden of any future hikes in costs.

He wrote: “As I’m sure you will appreciate, KCC must have financial approvals and certainty in place to award a construction contract, otherwise it will not come forward, which sadly has been evident with many other schemes across the country which have been stopped or abandoned due to increasing costs.

"The delivery programme for the main works on the highway is dictated by the award of the construction contract, which has been delayed, due to this funding uncertainty and a need to find a more cost-effective solution for the build. We are currently closing down the early works site which may see the current offices removed while we look to procure the main works in the next three months.”

The work affects the A249 between the KIMS Hospital roundabout through to the Chiltern Hundreds as well as the link to the M20 J7. Population expansion caused by house building and other factors has turned the section of road into a congestion hotspot, with lengthy delays for motorists.

Improvements 'desperately needed'

Local Maidstone Borough Councillor Cllr Denis Spooner said: “It is hardly a secret that KCC has got no money. It’s broke – that’s no secret.

“It is immensely frustrating because these improvements are desperately needed to ease the worsening congestion on the A249. We’ve been waiting years and years for this to happen and just when they’ve got it underway, they’ve been pulled. I guess we’ll just have to grin and bear it.”

Kent County Council Labour group transport spokesman Cllr Barry Lewis
Kent County Council Labour group transport spokesman Cllr Barry Lewis -Credit:LDRS

KCC Labour group transport spokesman Cllr Barry Lewis said: “If we get elected to run KCC next May, we’ll have a complete review of how major works like these are going to be funded.”

Get Kent's latest breaking news and top stories on WhatsApp