Published: 06:00, 02 November 2020
Baristas, florists and barbers are among businesses being lined up to operate from new retail kiosks proposed for a busy street in Canterbury.
The city council is planning on opening up eight mini outlets along Station Road West, backing onto the recently-opened £9.1 million multi-storey car park.
The authority hopes it will add “vibrancy and economic benefit” to the area, and maximise the high commuter and visitor footfall between the Canterbury West railway station and St Dunstan’s Street.
The proposals for the timber-clad kiosks, which will transform the route into a new shopping street, have been lodged with the council’s planning team.
If approved, the huts will be installed between the avenue of trees lining the pavement.
Council spokesman Rob Davies said: “The original proposal at the pre-planning stage of the car park project was to have a commercial block fronting the car park, but this was dropped so that we could retain the trees in Station Road West.
“Smaller retail kiosks using some of the space created between the trees and the car park would create vibrancy in the street and bring an economic benefit to the St Dunstan’s area.
“Although Covid has hit use of rail services and footfall to the station is currently lower as a result, we know there is still keen interest from potential operators, for uses such as a flower shop, cafe or barbers.
“We would also look to let some of the units for start-up businesses.”
The kiosks will have a design life of at least 30 years.
But Westgate ward councillor Michael Dixey (Lib Dem) harbours two key reservations about the proposed scheme - the effect on existing businesses and narrowing the pathway.
“Businesses find themselves in a very tough situation at the moment,” he said.
“And creating new competition isn’t going to help them at all. They need support, not something which drains out income. We don’t want to have any more empty shops.
“The other worry is how it will work. I’ve measured the pavement and it really will be split in half.
“I don’t think that’s sensible - the route gets very busy at rush hour.
“Narrowing it is exactly the opposite to the Covid pavement widening they have just carried out in St Dunstan’s - so it doesn’t join up.”
Council spokesman Mr Davies added: “This kiosk project is still in its infancy. While the planning application has now been submitted, a decision on whether to go ahead with the scheme, and put in place the budget for it, is still required.”