‘Temporary’ traffic changes which will be in place for 18 months have now been installed by Kent County Council.
The schemes have been implemented as part of the government’s push for ‘active travel’ in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Kent County Council was allocated just over £8 million by the Department for Transport to invest in walking and cycling.
The first round of funding was £1.6 million but the remainder was dependent on this being spent within eight weeks.
The schemes include 35 roads in Margate that have been turned into 20mph zones, a one way system in Westgate from the top of Roxburgh Road, into Station Road, which has resulted in the loss of numerous parking bays and changes in Broadstairs including 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) but means the loss of three disabled parking bays.
There is also 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.
The schemes have caused uproar with traders in Westgate and Broadstairs saying they will lose business. A protest was held in Westgate last month, a petition has been handed into Kent County Council and ward councillor Bertie Braidwood branded the loss of bays as “economic suicide” for the town.
In Broadstairs, resident Graham Cosby. says the loss of the disabled bays outside the Albion, 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.
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.”
Cllr Bailey had asked for at least one disabled space be retained outside of the Albion Hotel.
There are also a number of residents in the towns who are in favour of the scheme and its aims to increase walking and cycling.
KCC has asked people to let the schemes bed in for a few weeks to see how they are working before emailing comments directly to firstname.lastname@example.org