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High speed Thanet Parkway station will benefit Discovery Park and Sandwich says boss Paul Barber

By Emily Stott

Plans for a new Thanet Parkway station have been hailed as "good for Sandwich" by the boss of Discovery Park.

Managing director Paul Barber admitted plans still have a long way to go with funding and support needed.

County councillors discussed how proposals for the £14 million station could benefit Discovery Park in Sandwich at a meeting last Wednesday.

Paul Barber, managing director of Discovery Park

Mr Barber said he heard a rumour that the station could be called Discovery Parkway, offering a direct link from London to the business hub.

He said: “We would look at starting a low carbon bus service that would connect Thanet Parkway with Sandwich town and not just Discovery Park because we’re interested in making it good for the town as well.

“We are very keen at Discovery Park to see better rail links, greater connection with fast and frequent trains throughout the day to London and I believe this is going to be a great thing...” - Discovery Park's Paul Barber

“I know people in Sandwich think that the Parkway might be at the expense of Sandwich train station.

“But even with the frequent services from Sandwich they can’t park there as there’s only a few spaces.”

Thanet Parkway would provide 300 spaces as well as the opportunity to expand in the future, which transport strategy delivery manager, Ann Carruthers said was a priority for KCC.

Mr Barber added: “We are very keen at Discovery Park to see better rail links, greater connection with fast and frequent trains throughout the day to London and I believe this is going to be a great thing.”

The proposed unmanned station would cost £150,000 a year to run and located just outside of Cliffsend - not between Minster and Ramsgate as previously believed.

It would mean a 26 minute journey from Thanet to Ashford and 59 minutes from Thanet to London Stratford.

KCC has received £10m of funding from the government and will be putting forward £2m - but that still leaves a funding gap of around £2.5m which it hopes businesses like Discovery Park could fill.

Ms Carruthers explained one of the obstacles it could come up against is land acquisition.

She said: “We will be having discussions with land owners next week, which will give us more of an idea.”

She explained that if they can’t come to an agreement with the owners the council will try an compulsory purchase order.

Further concerns were raised by tenants over the feasibility of the project as provisional funding could be pulled.

Ms Carruthers said: “If DFT weren’t supportive of it then it could mean that it’s not included in the next franchise.”

She explained this is why the project needs as much support as possible to show how the station can help develop east Kent.

To quash fears that the station would need Manston Airport to survive, Ms Carruthers said: “The profit assessment we did didn’t take into account any regeneration from Manston as there was uncertainty around the airport at that time and we didn’t want to build it on factors that we can’t rely on later on.”

The first public consultation will be held in January 2015 with construction due to start in December 2017 and completed by January 2019.

The Kent Messenger newspaper is calling on the Department for Transport to retain the much-valued high speed services from Maidstone West to London St Pancras.

The Thanet Parkway station proposal has already come up against opposition from campaign groups.

Campaign group Trains 4 Deal believes that it would threaten the existing station at Sandwich and would be a waste of money.

According to the group’s website, the latest announcement for all-day high speed services for Sandwich and Deal would improve prospects for Discovery Park more than a new station.

Speaking at the meeting, project manager Fayyaz Qadir explained that Thanet District Council had not given its official position but had raised concerns.

He said: “I think they are thinking improvements could be made on the existing stations rather than a new station and if there’s even a need for a new station – but its definitely more positive than last year.”

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