(1) Mr Payne (Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport) paid tribute to the work being done by Kent Highways officers despite Covid-19. He said they had continued to work, throughout the pandemic, in a way that put many similar highways authorities in the shade. Their continued efforts were evidenced by the performance report being discussed later on the agenda but officers had also engaged in additional work at the behest of the Government and on behalf of the Department of Transport on matters including Active Travel and the design and build of the M20 Mojo site in Ashford in preparation for the ending of the transition arrangements with the European Union. Work on the Mojo site followed the successful delivery of the Manston site, in readiness for Brexit, last year.
(2) Mr Payne said he had embraced the opportunity created by the Government’s Emergency Active Travel Fund by encouraging a successful bid to the DfT for funding from the first tranche, and by making it clear that the schemes should not disadvantage other road users, including public transport, any more than they should encourage pedestrians and cyclists. Many of the schemes had been put in place quickly to meet the Government’s timelines and to capture the benefits of less congestion, reduced air pollution, and increased walking and cycling, seen during lockdown. This meant that schemes were implemented using the Government’s emergency Traffic Regulation Order process without the normal consultation with residents and businesses. He said all schemes would be reviewed, and had to stand on their own merits, however, they needed to be supported by the communities involved if they were to have any chance of success. He referred to town-wide trials of 20mph zones in Tonbridge and Faversham, and to other smaller 20mph schemes such as the one in Margate. He said they required a mindset change and a shift in thinking for them to work, and paid tribute to the Police who enforced traffic regulations.
(3) Mr Payne concluded his update by reporting that the restoration of the West Kingsdown windmill was nearly complete and included repairing and re-boarding the smock tower and cap roof and restoring the fan stage. He said the work had been carried out with great attention to detail and had included re-painting the rear wall of the cap white, as it had been during the mill’s working days.
(4) In response to comments, Mr Payne said that communication about new Active Travel schemes was key to their success and that prior to the implementation of the Margate 20 mph scheme, meetings had been held with the Leader of Thanet District Council, the divisional members and the local MP. He also said that all schemes were subjected to a road safety audit from the viewpoints of motorists, pedestrians, and other road users. If schemes did not achieve their objectives they would be removed.
(5) Miss Carey (Cabinet Member for Environment) said that despite the long agenda for the meeting it only covered a fraction of the activity in her portfolio. She had, therefore, provided briefings for all members on waste and on the environment last week. As much information had been shared in that way she said she would focus on just two items in her update. She continued to be impressed with the pace of work and the willingness of staff across the whole organisation to help deliver the Net Zero targets and thanked them for their efforts. She also said that the number of slots at the household waste recycling centres had been increased from 22,000 a week to 32,000 per week and households could book up to four slots each month instead of the previous maximum of two.
(6) Miss Carey said that members had already received notice of the Solar Together project aimed at making solar panels and battery storage more affordable. Social media had already resulted in 351 registrations and a targeted direct mail campaign to 100,000 Kent households was expected to boost that number before the registration period closed on 5 October. A reverse auction would take place on 6 October and it was only after that date that Kent householders would be asked to commit to the scheme. Miss Carey concluded by saying there was more good news on the way about an environment project, but that she was unable to say more at this time as there were still legal agreements to sign..
(7) RESOLVED that the verbal updates be noted.