PRESS RELEASE: STP launches Save our Vintage Bus Campaign
Published: 28 February 2019
Sevenoaks Town Partnership
Launches Save its Vintage Bus Campaign
At the Sevenoaks Town Partnership meeting held on 27th February 2019 members representing organisations from all sectors of the community voted unanimously to start a campaign to keep the iconic Vintage Bus operational to Knole in Sevenoaks during the summer months.
The decision was taken following a debate relating to the communication from Knole that the bus could no longer access its land for safety reasons and that it added to the car congestion. Knole states that it does not currently permit coaches at weekends, Bank Holidays and school holidays and therefore suggested that the Vintage Bus stop in the High Street and passengers walked to Knole House. It was generally agreed that this was unrealistic, as those needing to use the bus were unlikely to be able to walk the distance.
The Town Partnership believed that the Knole should review its management policies which appeared to be in favor of promoting car use rather than promoting use of sustainable public transport. The car park at Knole had recently been increased considerably to provide what was an ‘ugly blot’ on the heritage landscape, impractical and difficult to use and of concern relating to its impact on the deer inhabitants who were gradually moving to different areas of the park.
The Vintage Bus is a Sevenoaks Town Partnership project started in 2013 with seed funding from Portas and was one of the ‘community elements’ within Knole’s successful lottery bid. The aim of the Vintage Bus was to integrate Knole with the local community encouraging visitors from Knole to also visit the town centre and introducing public transport for those without cars or mobility needs to travel direct to the door of Knole. The Vintage Bus links to both stations and the bus station in the town. Unfortunately, the current Knole management do not recognize the Vintage Bus (which is registered under the Public Route No. 7) as public transport and will not therefore promote on its website, which would encourage more people to use it and help to reduce car movement.
Since 2013 The bus has been manned by an enthusiastic group of volunteer bus conductors.
In 2018 the Vintage Bus Service and the Sevenoaks Route 8 Bus Service were awarded top prize in the Transport Planning Society’s inaugural People’s Award for 2018. Judges praised schemes that put community engagement at the centre of local decision making and chose the two community transport initiatives in Sevenoaks as best reflecting what local people really want from transport schemes in the UK.
Lynda Addison OBE, Chair of the Transport Planning Society, said: “The People’s Award is a great platform for us to recognise that when good transport planning and strong community engagement combine, they deliver lasting benefit to society. These winners have made a genuine contribution to improving people’s accessibility, quality of life and wellbeing and have made such a huge difference to their local communities. “Fundamentally, it is community involvement that makes good transport planning. In fact, delivering exemplary community engagement will make a good scheme great.”
Stephen Joseph, former Chief Executive of the Campaign for Better Transport and Chair of the judges, said: “We received entries from communities across the country and reaching a decision on the final winner was very difficult. Each nomination demonstrated that schemes, such as the eventual winners in Sevenoaks, that had been developed with the community had made a positive impact both to the local economy and to residents’ quality of life. This is incredibly important at a time when we must encourage a move away from car dependency. We’re delighted to be able to recognise their vision and their hard work.”
The Sevenoaks Town Partnership also raised concerns that the decision in relation to the Vintage Bus was in part due to Knole management becoming isolated from the town. It was noted that Knole attendance figures had doubled which undoubtably helped its revenue budget for the House and car park, however believed Knole as did all major businesses have a social responsibility for the wider community of the town in which it operates. During the planning process for the National Trust’s recent expansion of Knole property and car park concerns were raised about the impact on the small market town and were reassured these would be managed. Unfortunately, that does not appear to be the case with the High Street regularly becoming gridlocked. On any sunny day, even in February, the car park is being closed as it cannot cope with the visitors, meaning some people that have travelled long distances are turned away, only adding further to the congestion. In the past they could have been guided to another car park and caught the Vintage Bus to Knole.
Knole management was previously an active key member of the Sevenoaks Town Partnership which enabled such problems and potential solutions to be openly discussed unfortunately this no longer happens. The annual Mayor’s fundraising event which raised funds for a different charity each year is no longer able to take place at Knole and it is understood other community activities are being reviewed.
For all the above reasons the Sevenoaks Town Partnership are encouraging local businesses and members of the public, particularly those who are National Trust members to write to the National Trust Chief Executive, Hilary McGrady, Hilary.firstname.lastname@example.org and ask them to reconsider their travel management policies to encourage and support sustainable transport and the continuation of the Sevenoaks Vintage Bus with a plan to reduce car numbers and the negative environmental impact this is having on Knole Park and the market town of Sevenoaks.
Linda Larter MBE
Executive Board Member
On behalf of Sevenoaks Town Partnership
28th February 2019