Published: 09:09, 16 January 2019
| Updated: 09:56, 16 January 2019
Motorists could face up to nine months of traffic misery when two of a city’s biggest developments are built just 800 yards from each other.
Work to deliver the controversial £9.1 million car park at Station Road West will begin next month, while construction of the £20 million Canterbury Riverside scheme at Kingsmead is due to start before May.
With the car park set to take almost a year to complete, it is feared construction vehicles from both developments will cause added gridlock on the already congested roads north of the city.
Works traffic for the multi-storey project will use a route along Kingsmead Road - opposite the Riverside site - to access Station Road West.
Critics have hit out at the council’s scheduling for both of the projects and say the clash will cause further upset for already frustrated motorists.
Prof Stephen Peckham, who fears the car park works route past Sainsbury’s will be “extremely dangerous”, said: “We, as residents, will be subjected to substantial numbers of vehicles and the additional noise, pollution and congestion they will cause.
“There should be phasing of development in the city centre to minimise such inconvenience.”
Lorry drivers heading to Station Road West will follow ‘luminous’ signage around the city ring road, Military Road, Tourtel Road, Kingsmead Road and St Stephen’s Road.
The car park proposals next to Canterbury West station have proved unpopular
As the Canterbury Riverside project will be off Kingsmead Road, the works HGVs for both schemes will follow relatively the same route.
Canterbury resident and campaigner Sue Langdown said: “The roundabouts from Military Road onwards are often difficult for lorries, buses and coaches using the coach park, to negotiate.
“With constraints upon when works vehicles can access the site [Station Road West], it’s likely that up to 20 works vehicles will be on already heavily congested roads at some of the busiest times of day, competing with works vehicles from other developments, and heavy refuse lorries en-route to Broad Oak and the Vauxhall road tip.”
Terry Hudson, from the Alliance of British Drivers, added: “It’s not a good idea to do both projects at the same time.
“The road system in Canterbury never improves - it’s the usual really, more gridlock and hold-ups for motorists.”
Multi-storey works vehicles, which will include 18-wheeled vehicles and flat-bed lorries, will continue to the St Stephen’s roundabout before going down St Stephen’s Road and onto Station Road West. There will be up to 30 vehicle movements a day from the site.
Authority spokesman Rob Davies has played down talk of big disruption - and says the increase in vehicles should be seen as a positive.
“The plans for delivering materials to both construction sites formed part of the individual planning applications for these projects,” he said.
“It’s certainly the case that there will be a period of time when work is taking place at both locations, so people may notice an increase in construction vehicles on the ring road and some local roads, but this should be taken as a good sign of progress and investment in the city and its infrastructure.
“It’s a few years back now, so people have probably forgotten, but we managed to build the new Marlowe Theatre on a site that was far more restrictive, using some of the city’s narrowest roads. With the right planning and responsible project management, these issues can be resolved.”
Willmott Dixon, the construction firm tasked with delivering the 370-space car park, says it has an “excellent knowledge” of the local area and has carried out thorough assessments of the potential routes.
The firm says workmen will not be allowed radios on the construction site, and are banned from swearing.
An average of 25 workers, who are encouraged to use public transport, will be on site throughout the project - with the maximum number being 50 at any given time.
The perimeter of the site will be barricaded off with a temporary 2.4-metre high hoarding during construction. However, there will be viewing slots for passersby to look through. Information detailing the project with pictures and text will also be showcased.
The site is not large enough to allow for an on-site one-way system, so reversing vehicles will need to be directed out by traffic marshals.
Willmott Dixon says they will try to avoid vehicles coming off the site at peak hours.#
The multi-storey is set for a 49-week construction schedule across four phases. The length of time for the bigger, and more expensive leisure and entertainment complex at Kingsmead will take longer, yet the calender of dates is still to be confirmed.
“If Labour gain control of the city council we will stop the car park if it’s not too late to do so..." - Cllr Simon Warley
Labour has pledged to scrap the controversial multi-storey car park project if it gains control of the city council in May’s elections.
Cllr Simon Warley, a representative for the Westgate ward, believes the divisive scheme could still be stopped in its tracks - despite the fact engineers would be three months into its construction.
Council leader Simon Cook (Con) has branded the pledge an “empty gesture” and likened it to offering “the moon on a stick”.
He says it will be tough for the authority to pull out of the £9.1 million project, with likely penalties for breaching contracts.
Cllr Warley said: “If Labour gain control of the city council we will stop the car park if it’s not too late to do so - too much work may have been done by then and/or penalty clauses under the contract for its construction may be operational.
“The key words are ‘if we can stop it’. We’re not aware of the arrangements of the contract but virutally everyone in Canterbury doesn’t want this to happen.
“I have received more than 100 emails in opposition and only one in favour. It really is unacceptable for the ruling Conservatives to continue to ignore the views of Westgate and Canterbury residents.”
He says the millions of pounds borrowed for the car park project should be diverted to tackling the shortfall in social housing in the district.
Cllr Cook, however, believes Labour’s gesture has been poorly thought through.
“I think Labour would find it difficult to stop the car park’s construction,” he said.
“They’re offering the moon on a stick without anything to back it up. People expect their politicians to be reasonable and pragmatic - not wave promises which are more heat than light.
“This is a cheap gesture which is beneath Simon [Cllr Warley]. I thought he was better than that. I find it quite sad that Labour are waving around the idea without completely thinking it through. I’m disappointed.
“I’m not fond of empty gestures which lack substance; instead, I like to deliver what has been promised. I do appreciate there are people who are against it - I’m not insensitive to that - but as a council we have to do what we think is right.”
A petition which gained more than 660 signatures is set to be discussed at today’s (Thursday) full council meeting.
According to the council agenda, the petition will be heard at the Lord Mayor’s discretion on the “very unusual basis that, during the time that would be taken to refer the petition to a committee, and then potentially back to full council, the council may become contractually committed to the project”.
As it stands, the Tory-led city council has not signed off on the contract - so it could theoretically pull the plug on the project before construction work begins.