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Councils seek transport cash after South East homes boost

COUNCIL LEADERS are demanding major trunk road and public transport improvements for areas of the South East earmarked last week for 200,000 new homes over the next 10 years.

Attention has focused on a clutch of road and bus schemes needed in areas of Kent, Essex, Buckinghamshire and Cambridgeshire to cope with the increase in population.

Last week Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott dropped strong hints of future housing projects in the Thames Gateway region east of London, Ashford in Kent, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire and between Cambridge and Stansted.

Plans to build up to 50,000 homes in the Thames Gateway area south of London could lead to massive extra road congestion on the A2 out of the capital, said Kent County Council's transport operations manager Alastair Jefford.

Kent is already working with the Highways Agency to look at capacity on the A2 and particularly junctions between the M25 and Kent's Medway towns.

'It doesn't take a genius to work out we would need to look at capacity and we know the Agency is very worried about it, ' said Jefford.

'We hope the deputy prime minister's announcement will put some 'oomph' into these studies.'

Development of a third Thames road crossing at Dartford, is also expected to be accelerated.

Plans for thousands of new homes in Ashford, Kent, could require a new junction off the M20 Folkestone, as Junction 10 is already overloaded, said Jefford.

On public transport, a major mass transit network is being planned around the Thames Gateway to cater for very dense development on brownfield sites.

Kent County Council has approval and £15M funding to develop phase one of Fastrack, a segregated bus system linking Dartford with Gravesend.

It now plans to seek expressions of interest in a £70M privately funded network of segregated track linking the Ebbsfleet valley with surrounding areas.

'We can't accommodate this level of development without a mass transit system. We want to develop a special purpose vehicle to help deliver the whole system over a 30 to 40 year period, ' said Jefford.

In Essex, where 14 sites have been identified, county council leader Lord Hanningfield cited expansion of the A120 from Braintree to Harwich and widening of the A12 from London to Ipswich as 'a must' to cater for an estimated 50,000 new homes in the county.

Upgrades would also be needed on the A127 through Southend and Basildon, the A130 around Chelmsford and a road between the A120 and A12.

Around Cambridge, leaders are calling for swift delivery of a guided bus system, while in Milton Keynes, higher density development from 2,000 extra homes a year is expected to make a mass transit system in the city financially viable.

Prescott last week also pledged an extra £365M to speed planning procedures but stepped away from moves to approve major infrastructure projects in parliament rather via public inquiry.

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