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Sturry Park and Ride reopening plans debated by Canterbury City Council

Canterbury City Council (CCC) has been warned against “gambling the house” on a scheme to reopen a park and ride site.

The Sturry Road base, in Canterbury, was mothballed by the previous Conservative administration, and closed in July last year.

The Sturry Road Park and Ride closed last July
The Sturry Road Park and Ride closed last July

However, Labour and the Liberal Democrats, who now run the council, both pledged to reopen it in their manifestos, with April 2024 now the proposed date, costed at £232,500 for a year.

Yesterday, opposition councillors blasted the plans at an Overview and Scrutiny committee, and questioned whether there is demand for the service.

Conservative group leader, Cllr Rachel Carnac, said: “There’s no point in driving to Sturry Road, parking and then having to go down and get the bus, you may as well just get the bus the whole way.

“I’m surprised that anyone in Sturry would want to use Sturry Road Park & Ride when they’ve got the brilliant triangle bus service,” she said.

Before it closed, the site was used on average by 90 vehicles per day, paying the tariff of £4 a day.

The Canterbury New Dover Road Park and Ride is still open
The Canterbury New Dover Road Park and Ride is still open

Two other park and rides for the city, at New Dover Road and Wincheap, remain open.

Cllr Dan Watkins (Con), suggested funds for the site could be better used elsewhere, referencing the on-going bin worker strikes.

He said: “If we’ve got 232,000 available and were choosing to spend it on a failed park and ride, which could reopen and get no more than 90 cars a day, that’s a choice – we could spend that on another current revenue item like paying the binmen more money.”

Cllr Watkins went on: “It’s a bit of a gamble isn’t it: we’re saying we’re going to be so much better at marketing, we’re not going to change the service, we’re not going to have a bus priority lane or the other things it needs, we’re just going to gamble the house on a big marketing plan for the same service and hope that suddenly patronage doubles or triples.”

Cllr James Flanagan (Lib Dem) backed the plans, arguing “it’s absolutely worth moving forward with the recommendation, with the safeguard that if these budget levels are not met or if there are any issues then we’ll take that back.”

Cllr Dan Watkins (Cons) has questioned reopening the Sturry Road facility
Cllr Dan Watkins (Cons) has questioned reopening the Sturry Road facility

Cllr Mike Bland (Lab) concurred, saying “it’s a nonsense to pretend that it is anything other than a modest proposal.”

“I do actually think with good marketing with good targeting we can encourage more people to use these services.”

During the meeting, a council officer said the service could reopen subject to a budget consultation.

If revenue this financial year is above current targets, and can cover the annual costs for the service, then the April date could be brought forward.

The views of the Overview and Scrutiny committee will be considered by Cabinet on Tuesday.

If Cabinet members agree to restart the service, notice will be given to bus company, Stagecoach.

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