Cabinet members at Kent County Council have agreed to a survey of residents to gauge opinion on a Thanet Parkway railway station.
Members agreed yesterday (December 2), to defer a decision on funding the proposed station until later in January.
Council leaders will examine results from the survey in the catchment areas of Thanet and parts of Dover, alongside the planning consultation.
The decision to carry out the survey follows last week’s Environment & Transport Cabinet Committee where members suggested further consultation be carried out.
The decision to again consult on the station, which has spiralled in cost to £34.51million, was despite a warning given to the transport committee by Katie Stewart that: “Without the decision by Cabinet to move forward on this project we will lose the £14million SELEP funding and the project will not be delivered in the current timescale and it is unlikely it will be delivered in the future.”
The original estimated cost of the Parkway project was £11.2 million but a meeting of the SE England Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) last month revealed that sum has now tripled.
The hike in costs means the project will now be reviewed by the SE England Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) – which administers Local Growth Fund cash – in February 2020 with a Full Business Case required to confirm that the project “still presents value for money.” If full funding is not in place SELEP may withdraw its contribution.
The project funding package includes £14million Local Growth Fund, £2m from Thanet District Council with a grant agreement currently being drafted, £700,000 from East Kent Spatial Development Company and the remaining funding of £17.81 million from Kent County Council.
Public consultations on the scheme have previously been held in 2015 and 2017 – the latter of which saw 34% of respondents saying they would use the station with 26% ‘did not know.’
A statutory planning consultation was held in 2018 following submission of the first planning application and further engagement has being carried out, including a public meeting with Cliffsend Parish Council, and the residents of Cliffsend in October.
KCC cabinet member for transport Michael Payne said: “One of the reasons this scheme has been in the pipeline for so long is because of the amount of consultation we have done, allowing us to make a considered decision.
“We have ensured we’ve listened to people’s views and made some changes where necessary.
“We have a long-term commitment to continued prosperity in Thanet and we, along with key stakeholders in the area, believe the parkway project will help those aspirations and unlock congestion experienced by residents.
“Moreover this is an infrastructure-first project meaning the benefits will be seen for years to come.”
However, concerns raised by councillors last month included questions over why Thanet needs an eighth railway station, passenger safety at an unmanned station and the danger of more building on agricultural land due to the expectation of the station creating demand for new homes.
Changes made to the planning application currently being considered include removing the proposed footbridge over the railway line and using the existing Petley’s Arch subway instead.
Access into the station from Hengist Way will now be a left-in, left-out arrangement allowing free-flow of traffic eastbound between the Sevenscore roundabout and the Lord of the Manor roundabout without the need to stop at traffic lights
In order to secure the SELEP money, KCC will need to agree to the project by the end of January 2020.