By Local Democracy Reporter Ciaran Duggan
A frustrated councillor has challenged Kent County Council on Thanet Parkway Station and claimed the authority has failed to carry out the request of a KCC committee over a key public survey.
Cllr Barry Lewis (Lab) said the month-long survey, which asked Thanet residents if they wanted the station, did not cover the whole district, but only Cliffsend, where the station would be located, and North Dover.
He also said a further consultation was expected to take place, which was stipulated by KCC’s environment and transport in November, but has not.
Speaking at a council meeting, earlier today, Cllr Lewis said: “I’m querying why our recommendation has not been carried out by the officers.”
The planned commuter railway station remains controversial after the estimated cost spiralled to £34.5million. Several KCC members have fiercely opposed the move, which they say Thanet residents do not want.
However, supporters say it will improve connections to London by bring journey times to the capital down to an hour on the Ramsgate to Ashford International line. They also say it will bring more employment to the area.
KCC’s highways cabinet member, Cllr Michael Payne (Con) disputed Cllr Lewis’ claims and assured his colleagues that the requested action had been carried out.
He said the outcome of the public survey will be discussed at the next cabinet meeting in four days’ time.
The Tonbridge member added: “The results are not yet known and planning aspects are being undertaken at the same time.”
No further discussion was carried out during the public meeting because council bosses said there was no room for it on the committee’s agenda.
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 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 have 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.
Independent councillor Paul Messenger has also raised the issue of whether the consultation and decision date break election purdah rules. A by-election is due to be held in Cliffsend in February following the resignation of Cllr Davd Stevens.
KCC’s main opposition leader, Cllr Rob Bird (Lib Dem), suggested that Cllr Lewis be permitted to directly address the cabinet with his concerns next week.
Cllr Roger Gough (Con), the leader of Kent County Council, will lead the discussion with his nine cabinet members during a public meeting at Maidstone County Hall from 10am.