Kent county councillor Emma Dawson has written to the leader and cabinet of KCC and North Thanet MP Sir Roger Gale to ask for the immediate removal of a new one way system installed in Westgate this week.
Kent County Council has introduced the system from the top of Roxburgh Road, into Station Road and finishing at the end of Station Road, outside the off-licence.
The aim is to widen the pedestrian area so people can pass each other while maintaining social distancing. Planters have been installed to mark out the pedestrian area.
The scheme is one of several implemented across the county as part of the government’s push for ‘active travel’ in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. This aims to encourage people to walk and cycle rather than use cars or public transport.
Yesterday (September 17) several issues arose as buses and lorries struggled to get around the junction to St Mildred’s from Station Road.
The bollards were altered this morning but problems continue.
Cllr Dawson posted to social media today saying: “At 11am, after the alterations, I witnessed a bus attempting to swing out, finding it extremely difficult to navigate. The bus was almost onto the opposite side of the road – front end almost on the opposite path. Oncoming vehicles also coming over the bridge and pedestrians were trying to cross.
“There are now extremely high chances of accidents as the roads are congested with buses passing each other, lorries trying to unload and other heavy vehicles also using the road. Many heavy vehicles cannot make the turn out of Station Road easily and have to turn right and then make a U turn and come back.
“I’ve spoken with many of the traders today too, they are very concerned about their businesses – normal footfall/sales have already noticeably reduced. It is early days but even a week of slow business can have a major effect – especially post covid. Businesses that have disabled customers are not able to accommodate close parking due to the new temporary infrastructure outside their shops. In the coming weeks or months this will have an impact on all of those businesses.
“We can ask residents to shop local but if they can’t, then they will go elsewhere. The majority of Westgate’s residents are elderly and this has to be taken into consideration when asking people to cycle into the town area.
“It’s only been a few days since the new system has been put in place, but residents have seen traffic going up Station Road the wrong way and delivery lorries blocking the roads. Elderly pedestrians are finding it hard to cross the road, especially St Mildred’s Road as this is now far busier, especially near the bridge.
“The uniqueness of Westgate has been significantly altered. The planters are heavy wooden boxes, bland and unsightly with surrounding bollards, completely changing the character of the lovely Victorian town. Westgate is a conservation area. Planning for additional changes has always been subject to strict criteria.
“The monstrosity of the design is not welcome by many Westgate residents.
“We have started to see the trial in action and I would imagine that highways will keep tweaking the design over time but I feel improvements will not actually prevent the issues that the one way system faces.
“I believe that a decision has to be made to remove it immediately. The overwhelming consensus from traders is to remove the scheme. We need to remove it before it is set in concrete as you will see more added features over time and then there will be no room to reject it.
“Today I have written to highways officials and KCC leader & cabinet member, our local MP Sir Roger Gale and requested the scheme is immediately removed.”
The 18 month trial scheme was enacted under an ‘experimental traffic order, meaning the authority did not have to carry out consultation.
If a proposal is made to make the scheme permanent, then a formal 12 week public consultation will take place
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