An ‘active travel’ scheme being put in place in Broadstairs will mean many disabled people will effectively be barred from using the lower end of the High Street, says resident Graham Cosby.
Mr Cosby, 66, says the loss of three disabled bays outside the Albion, to be replaced by a ‘cycle zone,’ will make it impossible for his 30-year-old son, who uses a wheelchair, and his wife, 71, who has had cancer and a stroke and suffers with Parkinson’s, to walk to facilities because all other disabled bays are too far away.
The ‘temporary’ 18 month scheme includes 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.
Because the scheme comes under an ‘experimental traffic order’ prior consultation was not carried out. It is funded from a government pot which stipulates Kent County Council had to have schemes in place within eight weeks to qualify for a second tranche of cash.
Mr Cosby said: “My son Jono has Cerebral Palsy and other issues, and is a wheelchair user, my wife Judith has had cancer, followed by a stroke and has now been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, and I have spinal stenosis.
“If these spaces are removed to be replaced by a cycle rack, we will not be able to access the lower end of the High Street – restaurants, butchers, bakers, Boots, Tesco and Nationwide- the only bank in town.
“I would like to continue supporting local businesses who were kind enough to deliver to us when we were in lockdown and when I was in the QEQM with Covid.”
Mr Cosby says the next nearest designated bays are more than 50m walk from the facilities – the maximum anyone with a Blue Badge is able to walk -and parking at Crofts Hill would mean an uphill struggle on the return walk.
Mr Cosby, who is currently self isolating due to a second run of Covid symptoms, said: “It was suggested that we use a normal car park space but it is not possible to park in a standard parking space as it is impossible to remove the wheelchair, or to enter/exit the vehicle. Disability vehicles, such as ours, are frequently larger than standard cars in order to accommodate a wheelchair and in many cases a lift and ramp. No consideration has been given to this.
“The issues created for my family and many others, by the removal of these allocated spaces, should be recognised.. It denies us access to the facilities and is clearly discriminatory for the entire disabled community, of which there are many in Broadstairs.”
The changes will have the greatest impact on Jono who cannot walk and has to crawl to move by himself. He suffers from Cerebral Palsy, Ataxia, Hyperplasia, Brainstem Atrophy and Retinopathy. He loves animals, being on the soft sand at the beach and meeting people but will be stuck without the parking in Albion Street.
Mr Cosby says he believes the traffic order changes will be detrimental to businesses in the town and that the cycle zones will not be used as cyclists already travel on the clifftop cycle trail.
Ward councillor Ruth Bailey said the plan has caused “concern” and she has been asking the county council for clarity.
She said: “Originally, at the end of June, outline plans were touted as a short-term measure which would be active over the busy summer season to allow for social distancing, cycling and pavement licences.
“Instead the busiest holiday period has been missed and we are now presented with a trial lasting up to 18 months. As the plans are designated as temporary, they do not require public consultation which I know people are generally unhappy about. KCC has been under pressure to execute such schemes all over Kent, within a very tight time frame, or risk losing the second much larger tranche of money.
“I have had online meetings with the KCC project manager where I represented the concerns of businesses and residents, including Mr Cosby’s concerns regarding disabled access.
“I was assured the scheme will be continually monitored and adapted if necessary. KCC say they will be consulting with businesses and if there is evidence of a negative economic impact it will be grounds for a rethink.
“The road safety concerns of the diversion via Crow Hill, Lindenthorpe Road and Carlton Avenue is another issue I raised. KCC are of the opinion that if they put in double yellow lines it would just widen the road increasing the potential for speeding. However, they say they will be monitoring these roads and will consider additional measures if they feel they are necessary.
“I have been in regular correspondence with Mr Cosby and he has my sympathies as I know how vital the disabled parking spaces are to him. I know that he is also speaking for the disabled community as a whole.
“I have asked whether at least one disabled space be retained outside of the Albion Hotel, alongside the proposed bicycle parking, or alternative provision made close by. The officer said that she would take this suggestion back for further consideration. It was also pointed out that there are disabled spaces in each of the car parks and on the edge of the promenade.”
South Thanet MP Craig Mackinlay says he wants works ‘stopped immediately.’
He said: “I am in horror at what is proposed. Whilst I could accept rational argument that a trial total closure during the peak of the Summer season may have had validity, particularly to facilitate tables, chairs, the scheme that KCC proposes as Autumn is with us allowing through buses, taxis, deliveries and access but disallowing a through route to the general public, achieves little to nothing.
“Nobody I have spoken to wants this. There has been no consultation, or any thought as to how this will impact on businesses. It would seem to me that the Albion Street project is a last minute overdue proposal to tick a funding box to enable other government funding (the larger Tranche 2) to be accessed. A better spending of these funds under CEATF would be to remit back to the Treasury. I want these works stopped immediately. Unfortunately, KCC will have the final say on this, but I have left senior Highways officers in no doubt of my views.”
Cllr Bailey says not all responses to the plan have been negative with some residents welcoming the plans while others have said they would bide their time before assessing the effects.
KCC has asked people to let the scheme bed in for a few weeks to see how it is working before emailing comments directly to firstname.lastname@example.org