A one-way system due to be installed in Westgate this month will result in ‘economic suicide’ for the town, says ward councillor Bertie Braidwood.
Kent County Council has issued an ‘experimental traffic order’ for a scheme to introduce a one-way system along Station Road between Roxborough Road and St Mildred’s Road. This will mean the loss of a number of parking bays on the northern side of Station Road and St Mildred’s Road.
KCC says the aim is to create extra room for pedestrians in line with social distancing guidelines.
The ‘temporary’ scheme will run for 18 months and 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. Schemes did not go out to public consultation because KCC had to have them implemented in an eight week time frame to be eligible for the second part of a government grant.
But the Westgate proposals have resulted in an outcry from traders and residents who say the parking bay losses, 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.
Cllr Braidwood says although a one-way proposal could bring benefits, the loss of parking is ‘economic suicide’ for the town.
He has also slammed the supposed ‘cycling’ element, pointing out that no provision is being made for cycle stands.
He said: “As I’ve said previously, the one way system is certainly worth exploring because I can see genuine benefits to this, such as better traffic flow, reduced intersection conflicts for pedestrians and it can simplify crossings for pedestrians who would only need to look for traffic in one direction.
“However, to lose half of the available parking is economic suicide in our high street. We’re told the trial period will last up to 18 months but a lot of businesses won’t be here in 18 months if footfall is significantly reduced.
“Businesses have been hit extremely hard with Covid 19, forcing closure over recent months, and this proposal could be the final nail in the coffin for them.
“KCC has stated they will monitor feedback to see if this is having a negative impact on Station Road, so that changes can be made throughout the duration of the trial and can even be removed. I’ll certainly be holding their feet to the fire over this statement.
“The biggest laugh of all is that these changes are to encourage members of the public to walk and cycle more yet there’s no plans to install either cycle stands or cycle racks for residents to secure their bikes whilst visiting the high street.
“Residents must make sure they are sending their feedback via the proper channels to make their feelings known.”
District councillor Matthew Scott has contacted county council leader Roger Gough with his concerns.
He questioned the motive for “forcing this first tranche of money on Westgate with a plan that will disrupt the high street whilst being installed.”
He has accused the authority of causing confusion, adding: “Businesses and residents are asking why KCC is planning to destroy the heart of their town. The high street was, and still is, the glue that has kept people sane during the height of the covid pandemic.
“Does KCC want to eradicate independent retailers who were there for the community when the big corporations failed the vulnerable and there was nothing in the way of help from the county at the time?”
Cllr Scott says ‘active travel’ should involve a cycle path, 20mph zones and keeping roads maintained.
He added: “There has been evidence already that such schemes haven’t worked, such as Sandwich where the council promptly shut off the centre of town. Within two weeks the scheme was clearly a disaster and the roads were reopened.”
A petition with more than 1,000 signatures protesting against the scheme has also been delivered to Kent County Council by business owner Reg Bell and wife Jeanette (pictured).
Reg said: “This will mean it will go for debate at the Joint Transportation Board. This is not the end of the battle.”
A traffic order published by KCC says work is due to start on September 7, although district councillor Matthew Scott says this includes a seven day notification period so physical work is expected to start on September 14, and take two weeks.
During works a temporary road closure will be required between Ethelbert Square (western access) and St Mildred’s Road, lasting up to 5 nights. The road closure will be lifted during the day.
KCC says: “These measures are initially planned to be temporary (for up to 18 months) and will continue to be monitored throughout the trial period before any final decisions as to their long-term implementation are made.
“There is also flexibility in the design to allow for further alterations to improve the effectiveness of the scheme if these are considered necessary.”
A ‘temporary’ scheme will also be installed in Broadstairs. Work is due to start next week on a pedestrian and cycle zone on Albion Street and Harbour Street between Albion Street car park and its junction with High Street. The zone will operate between the hours of 10am-10pm (except buses, taxis and for access).
There will also be a bus gate on Albion Street between the junctions of Alexandra Road and Harbour Street. This means that there will be no through traffic except for buses, taxis and cycles. The bus gate will be in force 24/7, seven days a week.
KCC says: “The measures will also help reduce congestion/pollution, in addition to improving cycle parking facilities.”
During the works a temporary road closure will be required between Alexandra Road and Harbour Street, lasting up to two days.
Residents can contact KCC via the active travel fund email address email@example.com to provide comments.
People can also comment on the changes at https://www.kent.gov.uk/roads-and-travel/report-a-problem