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Council works on fresh Westgate Towers road scheme for Canterbury

By Gazette reporter

A council is secretly working on a fresh road scheme for Canterbury... just over a year after they pulled the plug on a similar trial.

Already being called the “Little Brother” of the original Westgate Towers traffic trial, the plans mirror key elements of the controversial year-long scheme which died last year.

These include retaining the wide pavement in St Dunstan’s Street, closing one end of Pound Lane and removing the roundabouts at North Lane and Station Road West.

Traffic congestion around the Westgate Towers

A cycle route from the west station to city centre is also part of the vision.

The plans emerged less than six months after Kent County Council published a survey which showed that more than 80% of people wanted the road restored to the original lay-out before the year-long controversial Westgate Towers traffic trial.

In March 2012, Canterbury City Council created a new road system, which closed the archway to vehicles and regulated movement around the towers with traffic lights. Pound Lane was also shut and access to North Lane limited.

The scheme quickly became massively unpopular and was blamed for rising pollution levels and creating gridlock in nearby streets – prompting KCC to undo it in April last year.

Now it's been revealed new plans echo aspects of the trial, with vehicles discouraged from using North Lane in favour of Station Road West, which suffered horrendous gridlock when the trial was under way.

A KCC report seen by this paper states that where Station Road West and St Dunstan’s meet a “priority junction lay-out very much like what was in use during the experiment” should be introduced.

And the county council is being accused of trying to sneak another traffic management system in under the noses of voters.

Campaigner Brian Buggins said: “These new plans are potentially the traffic trial’s little brother. There seems to be a lot being talked about without proper consultation and a lot going on secretly behind the scenes.

“You would have thought that they had learned their lesson from last time and done things more openly and actually consult with people about what it is they want.”

Last year the county council offered voters five options – four of which proposed continuing the traffic trial system in one form or another while the fifth proposed returning to the pre-trial road lay-out.

More than 80% voted for the fifth option. It also asked voters if they had any suggestions for the Westgate area.

A report by KCC’s head of transportation Tim Read stated that people wanted to keep the widened pavement outside the Bishops Finger and Falstaff Hotel, which had been installed during the trial.

During the changed traffic system at Westgate Towers

But Mr Buggins says only 32% of respondents agree.

He added: “There is no mandate for keeping the widened pavements. What we really need is a decent break down of the results from the consultation last year. They still haven’t published them.”

KCC transport press officer John Todd said. “The aim of our work with the local community, interested groups and the city council is to reflect the support gathered during a three-month consultation for measures to boost the economic vitality of St Dunstan’s, delivering benefits to residents, local business, the wider community and visitors.

“In response to the consultation, the steering group overseeing the scheme agreed in January that the area would benefit from a 20 mph speed limit, retention of the widened footway, a crossing on Station Road West and a 7.5 tonne weight restriction that will extend to cover communities along Whitstable Road, including St Thomas’s Hill and Blean.”

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