By Local Democracy Reporter Ciaran Duggan
Controversial plans to create a multi-million pound train station in Thanet have been approved by councillors today (September 2).
The £34million Thanet Parkway Station off Cliffsend had been recommended for approval by County Hall officers and was passed by a vote of 8 for and 5 against today.. The project has spiralled in cost from an initial £11.2 million.
There have been widespread objections from Thanet county councillors and dozens of residents in the area, who together claim that the two-platform station is not needed and would be a “waste of public money”.
KCC, which is the applicant, say the infrastructure project will provide more jobs for Cliffsend residents, reduce journey times from east Kent to London and improve the “attractiveness” of Thanet and Dover as places for investment.
Minster Parish Council, based near the Ramsgate site, had strongly objected to the scheme. A spokesman said: “The construction of Parkway is not justified in terms of economic or social need; and this ever-increasing sum of money would be better spent in addressing so many other needs in this deprived area.”
Ramsgate county councillor Paul Messenger says Thanet is already “oversupplied” with train stations, having seven in total. Margate county councillor Barry Lewis (Lab) said the recommendation was “undemocratic”.
He added: “It goes against the wishes of the majority of Thanet residents and county councillors.”
The long-standing dispute over building a new station in Thanet has rumbled on since 2010.
KCC first put forward a planning application in May 2018 but withdrew it 18 months later due to concerns over footbridge access. The latest plans have been altered and an existing Victoria underpass beneath the railway will be used to link the station’s two platforms instead.
The 9.27 hectare greenfield site will accommodate an unmanned station for up to six trains an hour, along with a 317-space car park and a new signalised junction to provide access for vehicles onto the A299 Hengist Way.
Last month, Parkway plans received a £12million boost from the government -reducing the amount Kent County Council now have to invest from £17.8 million to £5.8million – alongside £14m of investment from the South East Local Enterprise Partnership and around £2m pledged from Thanet council.
The aim is for the high-speed rail link to run on two main routes from Thanet to London Charing Cross via Tonbridge and to London St Pancras via Ashford. It is likely to take 69 minutes to travel from Cliffsend to Stratford International.
No permanent station staff will be hired while commercial bus operators have declined to send services to the site, according to the KCC dossier.
North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale said: “I am grateful to KCC Leader Roger Gough and to the committee for recognising the importance of the new station to the economy of not just Thanet but a large area of East Kent. The station will, when completed, facilitate connectivity between London, the towns of East Kent, Dover and Ramsgate Harbours, Discovery Park and, of course, Manston Airport.
“We are now literally “on track” for a new era of business and passenger prosperity in an area that has been crying out for investment in infrastructure.”
However, Cllr Lewis has branded it as a new burden for Thanet commuters to ‘suffer’ adding time to travel from the isle’s other seven stations and Ramsgate Councillor Karen Constantine expressed concerns about the need for many Ramsgate residents to drive to Parkway and the need to pay parking fees. She says there are also safety concerns due to it being an unstaffed station.
Cllr Rosalind Binks (Con), who represents Broadstairs at county level, said she has been “hot and cold” over her views on Parkway since the idea was first mooted under the administration of former KCC leader Paul Carter (Con) in 2010.