To give approval to:
Reason for the decision
Approval of highway improvement scheme proposals and authority to enter into funding agreements, progress with detailed design and award the construction contract.
M20 Junction 7 at Maidstone experiences significant congestion which without intervention will be exacerbated by the development of the Kent Medical Campus and housing developments in the area.
To the north of the junction, the A249 provides a strategic link to the M2 at Junction 5 and then into Swale. To the south, it provides access to Maidstone and the A20. Immediately south of the junction, the A249 connects to Bearsted Road, providing access to the Newnham Court Shopping Village, the developing Kent Medical Campus, and the Eclipse Park office, retail and hotel business park.
The proposed scheme will implement traffic signals at the M20 Junction 7 roundabout and improve the walking and cycling infrastructure through the junction, mitigating the current barrier from north-south between Maidstone and Swale Districts through providing 4 new toucan crossings and a re-aligned shared use pedestrian/cycle path to connect with the existing infrastructure.
The proposed M20 J7 improvements will complement and enhance the benefits of the £14.657m A249 Bearsted Road improvement scheme (Decision 22/00025). Together, the proposed M20 J7 improvement and the A249 Bearsted Road improvement form an integrated package of measures to reduce congestion and support new high-quality development. Both parts of the package were identified in the Kent Local Transport Plan (2016-2031) and will unlock the development of 100,000m2 of specialist medical facilities and related uses, including 25,000m2 of offices and research and development facilities and 3,000 highly skilled jobs at the Kent Medical Campus (KMC).
The benefits from improved capacity will be shorter, more reliable journey times and reduced queues for all road users. Reduction in queuing will also reduce the production of carbon emissions and health and well-being benefits will be provided by increasing active travel.
Following successful applications to the NPIF for funding towards the Bearsted Road improvement, an application was made to National Highways (NH) (formerly Highways England (HE)) for £4.7m from its Growth and Housing Fund to deliver the proposed M20 J7 improvement. Unfortunately, this fund was subsequently withdrawn, leaving that part of the package unfunded, although NH remains strongly supportive of the scheme.
Subsequent bids for Local Growth Funding and Levelling Up Fund (LUF) Round 1 were unsuccessful, but developer contributions of £1,062,429 have been secured and banked. Due to the importance of delivering this infrastructure improvement, two further funding bids have been submitted (please see financial section below for further detail):
- A bid was also submitted to LUF Round 2 in August 2022 because although the Round 1 bid for the M20J7 was unsuccessful, feedback received from the DfT suggested the bid was strong and could be resubmitted as a Round 2 bid.
- A bid was submitted in July 2022 to Maidstone Borough Council’s Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) fund for infrastructure.
If the LUF Round 2 bid is successful, a grant offer letter will be issued that needs to be signed and returned to accept the grant. The grant conditions will be reviewed by Invicta Law and KCC Finance prior to signing, and will only be signed and returned to DLUHC if the risk to KCC is deemed acceptable. A current condition of the funding is that an element of spend is achieved in the 2022/23 financial year. As the funding decision is now delayed until the end of 2022, this requirement may change. However, it is necessary to seek the authority to proceed with scheme delivery prior to the funding award to make it possible to proceed at pace if this remains a requirement following a positive funding decision.
If the bid(s) are not successful then delivery of the scheme will not proceed and no further costs will be incurred.
Options (other options considered but discarded)
Do Nothing (Not delivering Bearsted Road or M20 Junction 7) – Discarded - the current congestion and unreliable journey times through the junction would be exacerbated by planned development in Maidstone. This would not be in line with Framing Kent’s Future 2022-26.
Do Minimum (Deliver the Bearsted Road scheme only) – Not preferred - The Bearsted Road scheme and the M20 J7 scheme are both required to deliver the full benefits in terms of reduced journey times through the junction. The final 25% of the Kent Medical Campus (KMC) will only be unlocked with the delivery of both schemes. Due to current inflationary pressures; the longer the delivery of the full scheme is delayed, the higher the cost will be. However, if the most recent funding bids are not successful; this do minimum option will be delivered as a standalone scheme.
Do Optimum (Deliver both Bearsted Road and M20 Junction 7) – Preferred option - Modelling has shown this would dramatically reduce queueing on the A249 southbound approach. There would be some increase on the northbound and eastbound approaches, but queues here would remain short and the overall level of queuing at J7 would be acceptable and manageable. This option would cost an additional £8.3m, but this will be externally funded and is required to deliver the full benefits and unlock growth.
How the proposed decision supports Framing Kent’s Future 2022-2026 (https://www.kent.gov.uk/about-the-council/strategies-and-policies/corporate-policies/our-council-strategy)
Delivery of the M20 Junction 7 Capacity Improvements supports the first three priorities of Kent’s Future 2022-2026 as follows:
Levelling Up Kent - The scheme will improve travel conditions, reducing journey time delays and queues at a key road junction critical for the provision of an effective and efficient transport network in the Maidstone and Swale region. This will provide a catalyst for economic growth and housing development. In so doing, the M20 J7 Improvements will increase opportunities to access more skilled and better paid employment opportunities, and reduce unproductive time spent in traffic congestion. The scheme output of reduced congestion will make public transport trips more reliable.
Infrastructure for Communities – The scheme will enable the full build out of the KMC, providing the necessary infrastructure before the development is completed. By offering improved cycling and walking connectivity, a barrier to active mode travel will be removed and encourage more use of active travel engendering greater well-being and better health.
Environmental step change - Improvements to J7 aims to reduce queue lengths and waiting time for approaching traffic, thereby reducing NO2 emissions in this AQMA. The scheme will also provide new cycling and walking infrastructure which will connect with existing facilities complementing the cycling and walking improvements in the Bearsted Road scheme. This will encourage cycling and walking to the KMC and other sites, helping reduce congestion and improve air quality, health and well-being.
Data Protection implications
A DPIA is not required for the scheme.
Decision type: Key
Reason Key: Expenditure or savings of more than £1m;
Decision status: Recommendations Approved
Division affected: Maidstone North East; Maidstone Rural East; Maidstone Rural North; Maidstone South;
Notice of proposed decision first published: 20/12/2022
Decision due: Not before 18th Jan 2023 by Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport
Lead member: Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport
Department: Growth, Environment & Transport
A public consultation on the A249 Bearsted Road scheme, including details of the M20 J7 component, was presented on 23 October 2018 and 6 November 2018 with further business briefings held on 12 March 2019 and 9 April 2019 at the then Hilton Hotel, Maidstone.
If the funding bids are successful and scheme delivery can commence, the normal processes of engagement with local residents, businesses and parish councils will continue following the Committee meeting and the proposed Decision being taken by the Cabinet Member.
The proposed decision will be taken to Environment and Transport Cabinet Committee on 19 January 2023.
Financial implications: The M20 Junction 7 Capacity Improvements would expand the current Kent Medical Campus scheme included in the Budget Book for 22/23 – Appendix B – Capital Investment Plans by Directorate (GET - Highways & Transportation) Row 43 Kent Medical Campus (National Productivity Investment Fund – NPIF). There will be no KCC capital or revenue funding required to deliver the scheme. All KCC staff costs incurred in the delivery of the scheme will be capitalised and charged to the project. £1,062,429 in S106 Contributions has been banked for delivery of the scheme. The remaining £7,275,698 required will be met by external funds (either LUF, CIL or a combination of the two with S106 contributions bridging any short fall). The scheme will only proceed to delivery if this external funding is secured.
Legal implications: S106 for the banked developer contribution is signed and the contribution is banked. Invicta Law advice will be sought prior to entering in to the Funding Agreement should the LUF and/or CIL funding bid be successful.
Equalities implications: KCC commissioned WSP in 2018 to undertake an Equality Impact Assessment (EqIA) for the full Kent Medical Campus Scheme. This EQIA will be reviewed, updated and submitted with the decision report for consideration.