Early in October I held a round table meeting with Highways England, The Department for Transport, Kent Police, Kent County Council and Dartford Borough Council. This was to discuss the ongoing problems with traffic congestion at the Dartford Crossing.
The purpose of the meeting was to examine ways of improving both the congestion on the approach to the crossing and also the traffic in and around Dartford. Whilst Highways England has responsibility for the crossing, Kent County Council has responsibility for the local roads in Dartford and I wanted to ensure there is a joined up approach to tackling the problems.
I have met with Highways England on several occasions in the last year to discuss this issue. They confirmed at the round table meeting they have already started to look at ways of improving many of the issues I raised with them about the crossing. Specifically, they will be looking at the signage on the approach to the crossing and exploring ways to encourage vehicles, particularly HGVs, to use lanes 3 and 4, rather than lanes 1 and 2. This would allow traffic joining at Junction 1A to do so more easily and without obstruction from HGVs moving into lane 1. This may help to improve the traffic in and around Bob Dunn Way. Highways England will also be seeking to identify ways of improving the general road layout in the area.
Tankers have always been escorted through the tunnels and this results in the closure of lanes 1 and 2 for several minutes. This ultimately has an impact on traffic as does the removal of over-height vehicles. Highways England has agreed to work further with haulage and tanker companies to identify ways of reducing the number of tankers using the tunnels at peak times. I hope this will, in due course, have a positive impact on the flow of traffic.
At the meeting there was also agreement that improvements to the management of traffic at the roundabouts at University Way (Junction 1A) and the Bluestar roundabout on Princes Road (Junction 1B), need to be made. There will be further discussions between the Department for Transport, Kent Police and Kent County Council about what can be done to help local traffic more freely across these roundabouts. I have also raised this specific issue again with the Roads Minister.
It is clear there are some changes that can be made. However, the long term solution has to be to build a further river crossing east of Gravesend. I have highlighted to the Roads Minister the necessity for this to happen and expressed my opposition to a further crossing in Dartford.
New grammar school annexe will help to ease pressure on Dartford’s grammar schools
The Government recently announced it has given the green light for the Weald of Kent Grammar School in Tonbridge to open a girls’ annexe in Sevenoaks.
This is good news for Kent and for the grammar school system. In Dartford and Wilmington we have two excellent girls’ grammar schools, but they are hugely oversubscribed and building this extra grammar school capacity in Sevenoaks will help to alleviate that situation.
No child who has passed their eleven plus should have to miss out on a grammar school place because of lack of capacity.
Any good school should be given the opportunity to expand. Grammar schools are no different and should be allowed to flourish.
Grammar Schools Attacked
During his speech at the Labour Party Conference, Jeremy Corbyn announced his opposition to selective schools.
This stance is worrying nationally and in particular here in Dartford because of the uncertainty it causes our grammar schools.
I have made no secret of my support for Dartford’s grammar schools. All children have different needs and skills and grammar schools provide part of the diverse system we need to ensure we avoid a ‘one size fits all’ education for our children. Grammar schools raise the standards of all schools in the area and this attack from Mr Corbyn is very unwelcome.
English votes for English issues
English votes for English laws will now apply in the House of Commons, following a recent vote. It was wrong that Scottish MPs could vote on some matters that only affect England, yet English MPs could not vote on some purely Scottish issues.
English MPs will now have a veto on any law that only affects us. This prevents England having laws imposed on it by MPs from other parts of the UK. SNP and Labour voted against, but I feel these changes are fairer for England.
Community Alcohol Partnership – Swanscombe
I recently met with the CAP who are leading the way in the fight against underage drinking in Swanscombe.
Swanscombe CAP has been running for nearly a year and provides support and training to local retailers as well as educating youngsters about the harms of underage drinking.
They work with the Police, Dartford Borough Council, Kent County Council, Trading Standards, retailers and pubs, Swanscombe and Greenhithe Town Council and the local community to tackle underage drinking.
Debate on legalising cannabis
Following an e-petition signed by more than 221,000 people (with 307 signatories from Dartford), this issue was debated in Parliament. Having worked in the criminal justice system for 20 years, I have witnessed the detrimental effect on people who use this drug, especially on their mental health.
I do, however, recognise there is a need to allow the police, in some circumstances, to issue cannabis warnings as an alternative to arrest or prosecution. I also recognise the potential medical benefits of some components of cannabis and I am supportive of more research in this area for those suffering from long-term medical conditions.
If a vote was called to legalise cannabis now, as the facts stand, I would not vote in favour of it.