Published: 00:00, 14 July 2016
| Updated: 10:03, 14 July 2016
A proposal to close Sandwich’s historic toll bridge to vehicles has outraged residents who claim it would spell disaster.
Architects Rummey Design, commissioned by Sandwich Town Council, has surveyed the town and is holding a consultation on the proposals called Which Way for Sandwich?
The aim is to streamline the street network, help people feel safer and allow trade and tourism to flourish.
But residents feel one suggestion – closing the town’s toll bridge – would do the opposite.
Paul Cantle, of Highway Marine Service Centre, said the closure would have an adverse effect on his business as it did recently.
He said: "When the Barbican was being repaired, we worked out we lost a week's worth of labour sat in traffic jams between Discovery Park and the White Mill roundabout. We can't afford to do this. We like to think we bring people into the area."
Empire Cinema owner Linton Culver said: “It would be a total disaster for the local economy and I strongly object.
“When the recent repair work was carried out at the Barbican, the toll bridge was closed for about four weeks. During this time our business dropped considerably and we suffered with poor attendances.
“If the toll bridge was to close permanently I would have to seriously review my continued operation of the cinema for the future.”
The bridge closure would cut off the two main hubs of employment from the town - Discovery Park and Sandwich Industrial Estate, according to some. It could also prevent emergency service access.
But the main gripe is that it would delay journeys - as proved during its temporary closure last month.
Melanie Cooper said: “I live a minute’s drive from the toll bridge and work in Margate. During the recent closure, it added an hour to my journey."
Rod Gilbert, from Ash, regards the concept ridiculous.
He said: “Traffic that crosses the bridge currently will be diverted to come down past the fire station and congestion will be increased."
Principal transport planner for Kent County Council, Tim Middleton, said: “Rummey Design have suggested two options. One is to leave the access through the Barbican as it is while enhancing the spaces to be more pedestrian friendly.
"The other suggests creating an Equal Priority Zone whereby pedestrians and vehicles are treated equally. This could involve closing the Barbican to vehicles.
“The closure of the toll bridge could be a flexible process with regards to timings and usage to allow access for residents, loading and emergency vehicles.
“At this stage no proposal has been selected and there have been responses in favour of each. We invite all residents to engage with the consultation to determine a way forward for Sandwich.”
Learn more about this at an exhibition today (Thursday) at the Guildhall from 10am until 2pm. Comments can be logged until Sunday, July 31 at kent.gov.uk/sandwichtownreview.
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