THE decision to reject a Kent Science Park planning application on road safety grounds has been heralded as a victory for local knowledge.
Members of Swale Council's planning committee refused to accept Kent County Council's view that traffic calming measures were not necessary on Ruins Barn Road and said it was about time those who knew best were listened to.Rejected: Councillors refuse KSP's planning application on highway safety grounds.
The science park's plan to create about 100 jobs by building two more technology units was discussed at a meeting on Thursday. ` Cllr Angela Harrison said: "I don't want to be sat in this room talking about a horrible death on Ruins Barn Road, only for our highways officers to say that in hindsight they should have done something. There are times when local knowledge has got to count for something."
Woodstock ward councillor Alan Willicombe, who has long campaigned for traffic calming on the road, was also critical of Kent Highway Services' view on the subject.
He said: "With respect to our officers, you don't live here and you don't know the problems Ruins Barn Road has. We do live here and we know full well the problems."
The science park's application was deferred at the committee's previous meeting last month, so officers could look more closely at the potential effect on traffic.
They concluded that the proposed development could be safely accommodated, but suggested introducing a new, brighter 30mph speed limit sign and coloured road markings. Officers also said the science park planned to join the Kent car share scheme, to cut down on the number of vehicles travelling along Ruins Barn Road.
Cllr Willicombe said of the plans: "I am still very perturbed with Kent Highways for not realising the dangers of this stretch of road.
"While I welcome the introduction of the sign and the coloured tarmac, I still have problems with the hairpin bend and the crossroads at Cromers Corner that is very dangerous and hasn't been covered at all.
"I can honestly say there will be a death on Ruins Barn Road unless this is taken seriously by KCC."
Andrew Bull, of the science park's parent company LaSalle Investment Management, said the company would now have to reconsider the way forward, following a decision which, he claimed, threatened its ability to attract a further 100 new jobs to Swale.
He said: "We take the safety of residents, visitors and employees very seriously indeed and our consultants worked with the technical experts at Kent Highways to come up with a solution to meet the requests of those living in Ruins Barn Road.
"Obviously the council's decision is a major disappointment, because it contradicts the findings of the technical experts and the council's own stated policies which support the expansion of the park as a site for knowledge-based employment with-in the borough."