By Local Democracy Reporter Ciaran Duggan
Plans for three new walking and cycling schemes in Kent have been halted – including one in Thanet.
Kent County Council’s (KCC) transport committee were divided over the next steps forward for the Active Travel proposals which aim is to encourage more environmentally-friendly outdoor journeys and promote health and wellbeing.
Under KCC’s £6.1million cash plans, schemes for Thanet, Gravesham and Folkestone have been ditched due to opposition from residents over road safety and tourism fears.
Nikola Floodgate, KCC’s schemes delivery manager, said: “We will need to go back to the drawing board for some of these ideas.”
Her comments were made during an online debate involving a panel of county councillors earlier today (January 18).
The Department for Transport has provided two tranches of active travel funding from 2020 to 2022. The first phase has seen the installation of temporary projects amid the pandemic, followed by a series of long-term schemes for permanent infrastructure.
KCC has been allocated around £8million since August 2020, including £6m in December 2020.
In Thanet, around 59% of consultees objected to a proposed cycle route between Birchington and Margate, near the Viking Coastal Trail, with around 30% in support.
Most of the scheme was proposed to run along the A28 Canterbury Road, traveling from Birchington in the west, following the A28 past Westgate-on-Sea to join Westbrook Road in the east, connecting to the Viking Coastal Trail.
Margate county councillor Barry Lewis (Lab) said the 3.5mile stretch would have harmed the local tourism industry and created “rat runs” along roads across the district, such as Manston.
In today’s KCC online debate, he said: “Thank you for confirming the horrible scheme has been scrapped.”
He added: “I am proud to be part of the Thanet team that got this scheme defeated.”
Cllr Lewis, who says he is not opposed to cycle lanes but considered this route to be the wrong place, said the scheme would also have meant the loss of parking space and metering at those that remained.
In the future, elected members say the UK government must make changes to the way Active Travel is run, such as better communication and more time.
Cllr Mike Baldock, who sits on KCC’s transport committee, said: “There needs to be a better way of consulting councils before they go out with these funding opportunities.
“We have to make sure we are ready to respond and make sure they are relevant to what we are trying to do in the council areas.”
The Thanet scheme had been backed by Thanet’s Cycling Forum which said the aims were to provide better connections to key destinations such as schools, shopping and business areas, coastal attractions and railway stations as well as improved crossing facilities and wider footways for people walking, and areas of greenery and seating to provide places for people to rest, socialise and enjoy being outside.
Previous active travel schemes in Thanet included the Westgate one-way system and Broadstairs bus lane, both of which were scrapped after resident complaints. Neither of those schemes had been consulted on in advance.