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Newspaper Columns

Times of Tonbridge - 25 April 2018 - Tonbridge High Street Regeneration

Tonbridge High Street has been changing for generations.  The photos from the First World War show a very different set of shops and pubs to those we see today. But some things are constant. Even then, trains dominated Tonbridge life, for some as commuters and and for some as railway workers. But our economy is more than just our transport links. The past five years have seen new independent coffee shops, bars and restaurants, and many more businesses moving in.

That’s why our High Street has been changing.  The biggest works were done only two years ago.  Many of us remember the disruption at the time that forced me to write to Kent County Council when after 8 months the work was still not complete, but even more of us thanked the council for the result. Our High Street is transformed.

Much wider pavements are better for pedestrians, particularly those with disabilities or young children, and the new speed limit of 20mph is safer, but unfortunately there are some problems still, as Kent County Council’s recent survey will have shown.

Though I haven’t seen the results, I’m sure many comments will be about the jams caused when traffic can’t get past the buses stopped outside Café Nero. Many of us wonder why the stop is there and not in the loading bay or removed altogether. I’ve written to KCC many times to ask and raise other problems like the crossing points and lack of disabled parking. Usually I am told that the pavements would need to be higher, and it would not be possible or would cost too much. After the consultation they’ve changed their tune. The latest answer I got said “it may well be that the layby is converted for bus use. This is by no means straight forward as often there are several buses arriving at a time and so the available space is limited”.

Although not yet a definite plan, it seems KCC finally acknowledge that something needs to be done to ensure traffic flows more smoothly. This could mean they will look again at how the High Street works for everyone – including cars.

But that’s not the only investment Kent County Council are making in our community.  As well as the High Street many of us have seen the scaffolding up around the library. That’s great news.  Tonbridge Library is important to many of us, and not only as a resource for learning; the offices round the back are where I registered the birth of my daughter. I’m looking forward to the reopening next Monday, 30 April.

Next there’s the station, which so many of us depend on.  There’s a plan for that to be improved too but we’re all still waiting to hear more.

Together we’re seeing major investment going into Tonbridge. From the station to the High Street we’re going to see our town improving and I’m looking forward to the result. Now it’s up to us to make the most of it and support the community that built it.

Georgie Welford