A21 Dualling Project between Tonbridge & Pembury 2014 – 2017 Balfour Beatty
On Wednesday 19th March 2017 George Pargeter of Balfour Beatty gave an enlightening presentation to the members of The Pembury Society on the progress of the A21 dualling project. At the end of that meeting he was hijacked and asked if his company’s material could be begged, borrowed or stolen for inclusion on this web site. He agreed, and enabled contact with one of his project associates, Nicholas Taylor, to whom we owe a big thanks for his help in providing much of the data on this web page.
Dualling the A21 between Tonbridge and Pembury had been in the pipeline for over 30 years, with plans and proposals surfacing every few years only to be cancelled or shelved. Meanwhile traffic would crawl around Castle Hill on that old medieval track, the drivers ever wondering if improvements would happen in their lifetimes. On cold, dark winter nights, the prospect of driving from Tonbridge to Pembury on modern, fast roads seemed an impossible dream. But eventually somebody got the message, money was found, fairy dust was sprinkled over our corner of Kent, and the dreams of regular drivers were fulfilled.
Many of us locals imagined a fairly simple task of running a bulldozer or two in parallel with the existing road, dropping a few loads of asphalt and the job would be done. It was something of a shock when we saw vast swathes of woodland removed, hills flattened and enough land cleared to build a new airport. Apparently, building modern roads is a lot more complicated than the man in the street imagines. There are all sorts of guidelines, regulations and laws that have to be given due consideration. Not to mention nature and the wildlife – kill or upset an endangered newt and it’s a £5000 fine – for each newt!
The length of the new road is 2.5 miles with two flyover junctions, four balancing ponds for water drainage and a footpath/cycle path, known to the builders as ‘Non Motorised Users Route’. It will be possible to walk or cycle from Tonbridge station to Pembury Hospital in relative safety. Further down the A21 there is a new footbridge connecting the parts of Blackhurst Lane truncated in 1988 by the old Pembury Bypass. Folk on the west side of the A21 will now be able to walk to the hospital via the footbridge.
The cost of this golden 2.5 miles is somewhere around £67 million. Balfour Beatty had about 240 people working on the project. They moved over 400,00 tonnes of earth, including 35,000 tonnes of contaminated soils, much of which was industrial waste dumped after the second world war. The natural woodland was preserved as much as possible by transplanting trunks, stools and roots, along with their soil to fresh pastures. The movement of native soil was important to maintain the complex ecology of the woodland. Bats were provided with tall net corridors to enable them to navigate across the road. A lot was done to protect the wildlife and to re-house bewildered animals, birds and reptiles. A few ancient buildings had to be demolished, but a medieval barn was delicately dismantled for re-assembly at the Weald and Downland Living Museum, near Chichester in Sussex. Progress was delayed a few times because of a very wet winter and the unexpected discovery of Victorian brick kilns that needed archaeological inspection and recording.
Between 2014 and 2017 driving along this stretch of road was slow, sometimes very slow, giving us all ample time to admire the demolition, the equipment, the re-arrangement of the countryside and the construction. Overnight the routes would change and we would be traveling new stretches of asphalt in strange directions admiring it all from new angles. With the completion of the contract we will settle into a feeling of cosy familiarity. The unchanging landscape will soon look normal and we will forget how it used to be. The purpose of this web page and this web site is to record the past along with current changing events – creating a historic record for the future.
Many thanks to George Pargeter, Nicholas Taylor and Natalie O’Dwyer of Balfour Beatty for their help and time.
They way it was.
The archaeology – Victorian Brick Kilns.
Balfour Beatty time-lapse video of the Longfield Road bridge assembly March 2017
The following video content is not of Balfour Beatty origin. It does however highlight their engineering project.
Some of these videos were discovered online (YouTube) by Balfour Beatty and referred to this web site.
Further searching on the internet shows that these videos have been uploaded to many video hosting web sites and are not unique to You Tube or to similar hosting sites. Some have been made by amateur film makers using drones to obtain impressive aerial images. The makers of these films are not known and adopt pseudonyms along the lines of ‘Banksy’. The video files have been re-housed under ‘Pembury History’, not as an act of piracy or theft, but as a means of this web site saving them for the future. Internet content is very transient – here today, gone tomorrow. A link to a picture or a video can collapse at any time depending on the stability of the host web site or its owner. As a recorder of history this web site needs to secure historic content for the long term – against external instability. If any of the creators of these works would like to step forward I would be happy to credit them for their work on this page.
Video 1 Pre 2014 animation of the proposed A21 at Fairthorn Junction
Video 2 Pre 2014 animation of the proposed A21 Southbound
Video 3 Pre 2014 animation of the proposed A21 Northbound
Video 4 Drone over A21 and Longfield Road Junction
Video 5 Drone over Tonbridge end of A21
Video 6 Drone over Longfield Road bridge after laying of bridge segments
Video 7 Drone over early earthworks
Video 8 Drone over Fairthorne Bridge
Video 9 Drone on start of works
Video 10 Drone over A21 – 2017
Video 11 Drone along the A21
Video 12 Helicopter over A21 and Pembury
The other web page dealing with the A21 has plans of the various routes proposed over the years.
Page compiled by Tony Nicholls 2017