A survey of residents to gauge opinion on a Thanet Parkway railway station will involve just 300 people based in Thanet and Dover.
Kent County Council cabinet members agreed on December 2 to defer a decision on funding the proposed station until later in January and to carry out the survey following an Environment & Transport Cabinet Committee where members suggested further consultation be carried out.
Council leaders will examine results from the survey alongside the planning consultation which is open now and runs until January 20.
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 survey will take place in January.
A KCC spokesperson said: “The public opinion survey will be undertaken of a representative sample of 300 people in the catchment area of the station in the first few weeks of January after the Christmas holiday period.
“At the same time, the Statutory Planning Consultation on the planning application for the Thanet Parkway Railway Station is open until January 20 and the public can submit their views on the proposal.
“The planning consultation was publicised via a newsletter delivered to all households in Cliffsend (approximately 800), plus official planning notices have been displayed near the site and letters sent to the most significantly affected residents.
“The current planning consultation is the fourth on the proposed Thanet Parkway railway station. There were two pre-planning consultations – in 2015 and 2017, a Statutory Planning Consultation in 2018 which led to the application being withdrawn in November 2019, and the current Statutory Planning Consultation on the current application.”
However, KCC councillor Barry Lewis says the survey is not good enough and full consultation was the suggestion put forward by the transport committee.
He said: “I am furious, this is not what the committee asked for, we wanted a full consultation.
“This is £34.5million of tax payers money being spent on land which Network Rail will own the freehold of without the agreement of the people of Thanet. This poll is not in the spirit of our recommendation and I am urging Thanet residents to write to KCC cabinet member for transport Michael Payne, care of Sessions House at Maidstone, with their views.”
Fellow county councillor Paul Messenger added: “The Cabinet decided that to run a full consultation alongside the public consultation for the planning application was too much so they’ve opted for a scaled down consultation. I’m disappointed but would encourage all to exercise their rights to ( if they want to) place their objections on the KCC portal for the Thanet Parkway Station planning application consultation.”
The original estimated cost of the Parkway project was £11.2 million but that sum has now tripled.
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.
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.
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 4,500 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. Construction of the station is earmarked to start in 2020/21 with proposed completion in 2022.