A Kent council has approved plans to reopen a disused Park and Ride site in the face of accusations it is “gambling with residents’ money”.
Canterbury City Council (CCC) has decided to relaunch the service in Sturry Road on the outskirts of the city on April 1 next year.
The site was mothballed last July by the previous Conservative administration, citing its cost and low usage.
However, the Labour-Lib Dem coalition council elected in May insists plans to reopen the facility are popular and needed for their “bus-first” transport strategy.
At a meeting of CCC’s cabinet last night, opposition leader Cllr Rachel Carnac (Con) attended to criticise the plans.
“It’s less expensive, more environmentally friendly and faster to travel by train from Thanet [to Canterbury], so why do you want to persuade people to get off the train and into their cars and drive through villages?” she asked members.
“As for the environment, this is a huge gamble and I don’t believe you should be gambling with either our residents’ money or the environment.
Reopening the site is expected to incur an extra cost to the council of £232,500.
However, cabinet member for transport Cllr Alex Ricketts (Lib Dem) backed the scheme, saying: “There are many good reasons I think for reopening the Park and Ride and it was a flawed decision I think to close it in the first place.
“As we look at a wider transport strategy in the round, Park and Ride is an extremely important part of that, not just as a revenue generator for the council, not just as a thing that’s nice to have, it’s an important part of a properly constructed environmentally responsible transport structure for the district.
“No money will be diverted from other services to pay for this.”
The plans could allow the council to reopen the Park and Ride before April 1 next year, if the authority’s parking revenue exceeds the expected budget.
However, Cllr Ricketts added: “The likelihood that we will exercise that option is very, very small indeed.
“I can't really see it opening before the first of April next year and I can't really see this being part of anything other than the budget discussions at the start of next year.”
After debate among members, that option was taken off the table.
Cabinet member for climate change Cllr Mel Dawkins (Lab) was supportive of the scheme, but raised concerns that without dedicated bus lanes the service “will be good, but not the jewel in the crown that we would like”.
CCC’s cabinet voted unanimously to reopen the Sturry Road Park & Ride from April 1 2024, subject to its budget consultation late this year.