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KCC changes to road in St Dunstan's Street, Canterbury, spark confusion and concern

A raft of changes introduced to a city centre road have left many people scratching their heads.

Pavements have been widened and a junction closed in St Dunstan's Street, Canterbury, to encourage walking and cycling.

Changes have been made to make social distancing easier in St Dunstan's, Canterbury
Changes have been made to make social distancing easier in St Dunstan's, Canterbury

But the move has been met with confusion and concern, with business owners unable to make drop-offs, and residents mistaking the widened section of pavement for a new cycling lane.

The changes aim to provide a “safer and friendlier shopping, eating and drinking experience for pedestrians” in the wake of the pandemic, and to encourage active travel - such as walking and cycling - between Canterbury West Station and the city centre.

On the Café des Amis side of St Dunstan’s, the pavement has been temporarily widened for pedestrians, in hope of making social distancing easier.

Meanwhile the exit from Kirby’s Lane - a rat run that lies parallel to Station Road West - to St Dunstan’s Street has also been closed off to traffic, to make the junction safer for those walking and cycling.

But some business owners say the changes are having a negative impact.

Westgate Dry Cleaners owner Sedat Ozdogan
Westgate Dry Cleaners owner Sedat Ozdogan

Andrea Hopwood, who owns Curtain Call in St Dunstan's Street, was shocked to arrive at work on Friday to find bollards outside her shop, where the pavement has been widened.

She previously parked outside her store briefly when dropping off heavy items.

"I admit I'm not supposed to as there were double yellow lines there, but it would be a very short period of time," she said.

"I quite often take stuff home - big heavy sets of curtains. I physically can't carry them from my car. I have an ongoing neck and back problem.

"I would normally just quickly stop there. Now I can't do that."

"It's spending money unnecessarily when it wasn't needed."

The county council introduced the new measures after it was awarded £1.6 million from the Department for Transport’s “emergency active travel fund”, to put active travel schemes in place across the county.

The authority was required to spend its initial grant within eight weeks, to gain access to full funding of more than £8 million for further schemes.

"It's spending money unnecessarily when it wasn't needed," added Ms Hopwood. "There's other things they could have done with it. The pavements are wide enough for people to social distance.

"It's made things very difficult."

Sedat Ozdogan, owner of nearby Westgate Dry Cleaners, shares Ms Hopwood's concerns.

Changes have been made to make social distancing easier in St Dunstan's, Canterbury
Changes have been made to make social distancing easier in St Dunstan's, Canterbury

"Nobody's happy about it," he said. "There's no space to stop.

"Business is quiet as it is. It's made it very difficult. They could have spent this money somewhere else."

Many residents have taken to Facebook to express concern about the alterations.

Harry Macdonald said: "These roads are the main access to a busy station. It will just take one delivery van and a bus and the whole area will be jammed."

Jim Titheridge added that the narrowed stretch of road could cause problems for cyclists, saying: "These works are forcing cyclists into even more restricted space."

But others have praised the changes.

Paul Prentice said: "These bollards are a great idea and will calm everything down along this stretch of road. It can only be a good thing that pedestrians have more space for social distancing."

All the new measures are temporary and will run as a trial for up to 18 months, but may be made permanent if well-received.

Responding to the concerns raised, a KCC spokesman said: “We appreciate that some schemes being put in across the county will not satisfy everyone, but the government has asked all local authorities to inspire more cycling and walking.

“At St Dunstan’s, we have widened the south western pavement between the zebra crossing and the North Lane mini roundabout to give pedestrians more space.

“We have also closed the end of Kirby’s Lane at the junction with St Dunstan’s Street to vehicles, effectively turning it into a cul-de-sac and removing the parking bays outside the new multi-storey car park in Station Road West to provide an additional bus stop.

“The loading bay will remain as this is important for local businesses."

To comment on the trial, contact KCC via the active travel fund email address activetravelfund@kent.gov.uk.

Read more: All the latest news from Canterbury

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