Kent County Council’s Cabinet has today (January 27) agreed to contribute up to £17.8 million for the proposed Thanet Parkway station – but one county councillor has branded it a ‘face saving’ exercise.
The decision comes following the results of a public survey in the station’s catchment area of Thanet and north Dover.
Kent County Council says the result shows 45% of those surveyed support the new station being built, with 12% neither for nor against. The main reason given in favour was that it would encourage employers to locate in East Kent.
The station is due to be built off the Hengist Way, on the existing Ashford to Ramsgate rail line near the Sevenscore roundabout.
However, councillors have previously raised 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 branded the decision a ‘face saving’ exercise aimed at ensuring the funding from SELEP.
He added: “This appears to also be predetermination of the case as it is yet to gain planning approval.”
Earlier this month fellow county councillor Barry Lewis slammed the latest consultation as not taking in views from a wide enough area. A sample 300 residents were contacted for views. He has called the station plan ‘a white elephant’ saying he was concerned for passenger safety at an unmanned station, highlighting the rising cost and questioning the need for an eighth station on the isle.
The KCC funding will be part of a £34.51million package for the scheme with £14 million of Local Growth Fund also allocated by the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP), £2m from Thanet District Council with a grant agreement currently being drafted and £700,000 from East Kent Spatial Development Company.
The original estimated cost of the Parkway project was £11.2 million but that sum has now tripled.
The costs comprise of:
£19.99m for the station and car park (at 80% probability and inclusive of 11% contingency);
£10.20m for the level crossing upgrades (at 10% probability and inclusive of 57% contingency – this level of contingency is standard industry practice with work at GRIP1 stage);
£4.14m for other costs including the highway junction works, archaeological mitigation works, land purchase, planning costs, legal costs and fees.
Public consultations on the scheme have previously been held in 2015 and 2017; a statutory consultation on the planning application in 2018, and another when the planning application was resubmitted in November 2019.
KCC Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport Michael Payne said: “One of the reasons this scheme has been in the pipeline for so long is because of the amount of significant consultation that Kent County Council has done, allowing the considered decision to be made today.
“This is a project that is all about creating the infrastructure first, to provide support for economic development in the area and support the delivery of Thanet’s draft Local Plan.
“Accessibility in East Kent is a critical barrier that has limited the potential of the area to attract investment and regeneration, even more so since the loss of ferry operations from Ramsgate and the closure of Manston airport.
“Improving connectivity is a vital step in attracting investment and job opportunities and I believe the Thanet Parkway project will help those aspirations.
“The proposed station will address these issues by capitalising on High Speed 1 services, bringing Thanet to around one hour’s journey time of London, improving the perception of East Kent as a place for investment.”
KCC says the scheme has the support of local businesses including Pfizer and Discovery Park alongside Visit Kent, Canterbury Christ Church University, Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce and Locate in Kent.
Changes have been made to the design including removing the proposed footbridge over the railway line and utilising the existing Petley’s Arch underpass instead.
Access into the station from Hengist Way will also 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.
It will be a two platform station with the entrance on the north side. There will be a 300 space car park, platforms accessible by stairs, lift and pedestrian bridge.
Waiting shelters, CCTV and passenger information points will be provided on each platform along with ticket machines and a help point to provide remote assistance by intercom.
There will be a car park for 299 cars, plus an additional 20 bays for pick-up/drop-off and taxi parking. The car park includes 16 disabled bays and 19 spaces for electric vehicles. Cycle parking and two bus stops will also be provided.
The business case for the scheme will now be discussed at the SELEP Accountability Board on February 14 before any Local Growth Fund is released.