THE fight to dual the gridlocked A21 between Tonbridge and Pembury is back on.
A public inquiry, which has to be carried out before work on the road can start, was due to be held in summer 2010 but the entire project was halted by the Government in October last year.
But Kent County Council and East Sussex County Council have now made a joint offer to underwrite the cost of the stalled public inquiry – between £2 million and £4 million – enabling it to go ahead without central government funds.
A letter to Transport Secretary Justine Greening, signed by MPs, council chiefs and the South East Local Enterprise Partnership chairman, outlines the offer, and states the cost to the Department for Transport could be reduced from £120 million to £70 million if Kent County Council took control of the project.
Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark said he hoped the inquiry would be up and running soon.
He told the Courier: "My hope is that it will be restarted quickly given that there isn't the question of finding funding for it. I would certainly hope it would be able to happen in months rather than longer."
The decision to restart the public inquiry now lies with central government, but Mr Clark said the A21 situation was unique, in that he was unaware of any other such inquiries across the country set to be funded locally.
"Given that it's now not government money but the county councils have proposed to pay for it I hope it will mean the government will restart the inquiry," he said.
Mr Clark said the A21 dualling was of huge importance for the entire area.
"The dualling of the A21 is absolutely vital, not just for Tunbridge Wells but for the whole of the South East," he said. "Everyone accepts this is the missing link and that action needs to be taken.
"We've had the new hospital that's opened in the last few months as well. The case for dualling it becomes greater and greater and my hope is that we can bring it as fast as possible."