Public protest over one-way road scheme proposal branded ‘a kick in the teeth’ by Westgate businesses

Westgate protest against the one-way proposal Photo Sarah Wyld

Photos by Sarah Wyld

Some 100 Westgate business owners and residents held a protest yesterday (August 26) over controversial plans to install a one-way system in the town from September.

The plans, put forward as an 18-month ‘experimental’ traffic order by Kent County Council, will mean the loss of a significant number of parking bays.

Shop owners say the loss, coupled with the new system, will drive customers out of the town and it is feared this will hit businesses and maybe even cause some to go under.

Abbie Evans, from J Prentis greengrocers in Station Road, organised yesterday’s show of opposition. She said the plans are a ‘kick in the teeth’ for all the businesses who worked hard to keep customers supplied during the Covid lockdown.

She said: “I believe that if the one way system and the reduction in parking is put into place then the town will struggle to survive. The one way system is essentially designed to take people away from the town.

“You’ll have to go down St Mildred’s Road into Westgate Bay Avenue before you can turn back into the town. If customers don’t find a space the first time they drive through the town the likelihood is they will carry on to Westwood Cross.

“We have been told that KCC want to remove the parking to help with social distancing and to encourage cyclists. So far, we have seen no plans that involve cycle lanes or anywhere to park the bikes.

“From a retailer’s point of view I feel very hurt that after we stayed open during lockdown the county council is essentially trying to close us down. Most of us independent shops in Westgate tried our very hardest in lockdown to keep the people of Westgate supplied with everything they needed and this is a real kick in the teeth.”

Fellow business owner Reg Bell, who runs three shops in Westgate an one in Birchington, has branded the plans ‘ludicrous,’ saying the system in “not needed and not wanted.”

He added: “There have been no serious call for a one way system in Westgate but KCC has money it has to spend on various projects and has decided it will do this in Westgate. Not only is it ridiculous but it is not needed. They are taking away the parking spaces on one side of the road and putting in flowers. Flowers are all very nice but people need parking. Westgate doesn’t have any car parks so taking the spaces away will have a detrimental effect on the town and just drive people to other places like Westwood Cross.”

The proposal for the one way system, from the top of Roxburgh Road, into Station Road and finishing at the end of Station Road, outside the off-licence, did not go out to public consultation because KCC had to have schemes implemented in an eight week time frame to be eligible for the rest of a government grant.

The aim is to widen the pedestrian area so people can pass each other while maintaining social distancing. There will be 20 planters installed and 20ft benches outside the barber shop and  the Co-op.

The scheme is one of several implemented across the county, including 20mph zones in Margate, as part of the government’s push for ‘active travel’ in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Kent County Council has provisionally been allocated just over £8 million by the Department for Transport to invest in walking and cycling.

The first round of funding that has been agreed by government is £1.6 million with the remainder dependent on this being spent within eight weeks.

District councillor for Westgate Bertie Braidwood told The Isle of Thanet News earlier this month that he thought the system was worth trialling but not with the loss of half of the car parking capacity and with no public consultation.

His view has been backed by county councillors Emma Dawson and Liz Hurst. North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale has also said the scheme should be withdrawn until consultation has been carried out.

He said: “On August 19, following emails from constituents, I wrote to Cllr Roger Gough, Leader of KCC, and Cllr Micheal Payne, KCC Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport.

“Within that email I said I strongly suggest that we withdraw the scheme, go back to first base and consult properly.”

Westgate on Sea Town Council is also opposed to the plans, saying in a statement: “Members of the Town Council strongly object in principle to any proposed plans that would reduce the number of parking spaces on Station Road in Westgate-on-Sea. Although the Town Council has not had details of the proposed plans shared from Kent County Council it would appear that the scheme is being rolled out under pressure, without proper consideration, presentation or consultation and flies in the face of localism and empowering communities.

“The scheme we are advised imposes serious measures, without considering the consequences for the Town and the local population. It is for these reasons the Town Council is unable to provide support for the KCC proposed scheme at this time.”

Westgate councillor Matthew Scott said although he initially supported plans for a one-way system to assist with traffic calming and to mitigate careless driving and inconsiderate parking, the loss of parking bays makes the plan unworkable.

He said: “This has sparked understandable fears of potential loss of footfall and business for the traders of Westgate-on-Sea. It has also been highlighted that future events will be severely impacted, such as the ever popular Christmas Fair  citing that the changes will make access difficult for all, decrease the amount of stalls that can be placed and limit the overall entertainment options

It is important to note that KCC hasn’t released any official public plans for the work they wish to undertake and hasn’t even consulted with the Town Council, residents or businesses.

I can no longer see the viability of this project and will not be supporting it. I feel the lack of consultation and how KCC has gone about pushing this project through is very underhanded and dismissive to both the residents and traders of Westgate-on-Sea.

If a proposal is made to make the scheme permanent, then a formal 12 week public consultation will take place.

Kent County Council says:

A Kent County Council spokesman said:“These trials form part of the government’s push for ‘active travel’ in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and the need for social distancing and encouraging more active forms of travel.

“We appreciate that some schemes will not satisfy everyone but the government has asked all local authorities to inspire more cycling and walking.

“In Westgate, a one-way system heading west between Roxburgh Road and St Mildred’s Road will be created, including changes to parking bays to encourage active travel whilst promoting social distancing in a shared space.

“The trials can run for up to 18 months, and if well received can be made permanent or removed if they do not have the desired effect. Amendments can be made to the scheme throughout the trial, for example some of the parking bays could returned in areas which are deemed most needed.

“Residents can contact KCC via the active travel fund email address [email protected] to provide comments.”

People can also comment on the changes at  https://www.kent.gov.uk/roads-and-travel/report-a-problem

36 Comments

  1. They should Trial it, but, definitely with consultation before.
    KCC has a bad habit of starting doing something ‘temporarily’… then forgetting to return to the original state, even if it doesn’t work!
    GET IT IN WRITING!

  2. What a silly idea. We often go to Westgate shops and have never had a problem with ‘Social Distancing’. Parking is more of a problem from time to time, so fewer places available will just cause frustration all round. This is another case of people with no focus on the real situations of today making decisions at adistance.

  3. Westgate dosent gave a titbit parking bays now its hard to park.I am partially disabled so uts even harder to find parking bays niw it will probet ly be near on impossible, do the council stop and think Westgate has above average elderly population who rely on wedtgate to shop

  4. These schemes are a complete farce.
    They do virtually nothing to facilitate cycling and walking; instead they upset lots of shopkeepers.

  5. KCC, are very good at wasting taxpayers money for no purpose or advantage to the taxpayers. They place islands in the middle of the road for reasons best known to themselves than anyone else making less road area for traffic and emergency vehicles. They built a fire station on land that was not theirs to build on. They put square dollops of tarmac across the roads and call them “traffic calming” they should be call “speed-humps” because they do not slow the vehicles down one bit. They put in one way systems without any consultations to local businesses and the effect is the one way systems actually make traffic faster and more dangerous.

  6. Active travel? Many who shop in Westgate come from other parts of Thanet or are unable to walk to the shops. Anything that this government comes up with is ill-conceived and generally ends up following public opinion. Arriving by public transport is fraught with COVID dangers too and infrequency of services. Make a big noise Westgate – you’ve already had your Bank stolen! See KCC and the Government off!

  7. Westgate is fortunate in having wonderful shops, reasonably good parking and I am sure a lot of people from other areas go and shop there as I do. I wonder if anyone at KCC who has come up with these ridiculous proposals has actually been to Westgate and seen how this will affect the town? And the same applies to the decision makers in Whitehall who come up with these proposals – from experience in other areas, many of them never step foot outside their office and are not people with any common sense!!

    Westgate has Westgate Bay Avenue running parallel to Cuthbert Road and all the streets connecting the two – surely there are plenty of options for cyclists. It is all very well wanting to encourage cyclists, but how many of them are there compared to those who use cars? And what happens when it rains and gets cold? Are they still going to be out cycling?

    KCC should listen to those who know the area better than themselves and be gracious enough to accept it was a poor decision and has been reviewed and cancelled. There must be many more causes on which this money would be far better spent.

    • Yes I agree. Plus we have many elderly residents, like myself, who certainly won’t be riding a bike into town!

  8. Personally, I’d compromise:

    (a) Make it one-way.

    (b) A 20 MPH speed limit, with speed bumps.

    (c) Keep all the parking bays.

    I know that several “proper” shops have gone in the past couple of years (delicatessen, carpet shop, blinds shop, underwear shop) and they’ve been largely replaced by eateries, but I still don’t think it really needs wider pavements for a so-called cafe culture.

  9. Little has been said about the potential effect that 2000 new houses on the farmland will have with just 1 access road into Westgate For that reason i support the one-way system or traffic will become gridlocked south of the main road traffic lights towards station road BUT I completely oppose the reduction of parking spaces. If anything these could be increased by making theccurrent north side of station road spaces at an angle to the pavement to take advantage of the extra road space a one way system would create.

  10. I’m sure cyclists will be flocking to Westgate in thousands, because of a one-way system.

    “Let’s all cycle to Westgate, it has a one-way system”

    Ridiculous, I don’t know of anyone who would be slightly interested.

    That’s the end of my shopping days in Westgate, will be much easier to park at Westwood.

      • Yes, that’s just what I mean, nowhere to park, and soon to be less shops, not worth attempting Westgate again, easier to go to Westwood.

  11. Maybe KCC can explain how taking away the parking bays and filling them with planters, flower beds and oversized benches will encourage ‘Active Travel’ ! Having said that it is nice to see KCC are employing out of work comidians cos surely no Planners backed this !!! 😊

  12. Oh, the Box has returned.

    Unfortunately, still hasn’t found anything new to write about.

    I suppose we will be hearing the same old tiresome comments, day after day; sleepy Barry Lewis this, sleepy Barry Lewis that, sleepy Barry here, sleepy Barry there. When are you going to find something knew.

      • The Box, please think about your comments. This isn’t a forum for making personal insults and libellous comments. If I have to keep removing comments I will have to stop you from posting which would be disappointing

  13. Bad enough for residents trying to find parking in the side streets when the town is busy so we won’t stand a chance if they take more spaces away

  14. I am not Barry Lewis’ “bit on the side” and if I were even an anonymous writer I would be very careful not to say that sort of thing.

  15. Selfish protestors no interest in anything but themselves. How about they start walking to work and free up some of the bays for visitors. That would be a good start. KCC is trying to help the environment like the government has asked by encouraging more walking and cycling and space for social distancing and all these people care about is where they are going to park their car while they work. Maybe KCC should charge for parking to stop these petrol guzzling freeloaders.

    • It’s the customers that won’t be able to park. Many are elderly and would find walking or cycling impossible. People would drive to Westwood Cross if they couldn’t park in Westgate. We will lose our independent shops if they have few customers.

  16. I understand why they are protesting but the majority aren’t wearing facemasks which to me is selfish.

  17. They tried this in St Alban’s and it lasted less than a year it caused confusion and chaos. I assume we the tax payers will be footing the bill for this. To do this without consulting the local business and residents is terrible. Perhaps use the council tax revenue for repairing the roads, more parking and crazy idea listen to people and see what is needed. Shameful.

  18. The problem is that the “planners” look at a map and decide from that how they are going to change things. They have no local knowledge as they are based in and around Maidstone. If this goes anything like other areas, such as Brighton, they’ll go ahead with it anyway and then have to change it all back in the light of local protests. A complete waste of money – but a “job well done”!!

  19. Social distancing will be the utility excuse for all kinds of ill conceived ideas.
    Local consultation prior to decision making would be a good idea.
    Then again good ideas don’t seem to be fashionable or desirable these days.

  20. Shop keepers have had a very tough time since Covid-19. Any changes to traffic and parking must be put to the shop keepers and residents; businesses cannot continue to sustain any further loss of revenue as they will go under. People who frequent Westgate need parking…..a lot of potential spaces were removed here already with the council’s creation of additional modern’boxes’ some years ago to make more shops……any further loss of PARKING WILL negatively impact businesses which is somebody’s livelihood.

  21. People go to Westgate because in general it is easy to park usually outside their desired shop . Less parking will kill the shops who struggle to survive as it is and folks will go to Westwood . Worked in the Butchers shop there years ago ( Greensteds ) and would hate to see the town suffer with this ridiculous scheme , and the road is plenty wide enough for 2 way travel . Love Westgate please keep it as it is .

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