Traders fear removing vital parking spaces from outside shops to make way for a new £1.5m bus lane could have a devastating impact on the town centre.
Kent County Council (KCC) has announced plans for a new contraflow in Pencester Road, Dover, which would allow buses and cycles to travel in both directions for the first time.
The proposals would require all the parking spaces outside a row of shops to be removed, and parts of the path made smaller.
Highways bosses say the changes will make public transport “a more attractive option” to residents.
But shop owners in Dover say they cannot understand why the changes are even needed.
Jason Clarke, who runs shoe shop Coulthard and Wilson in Pencester Road, fears it could stop people coming to town altogether.
“In Pencester, those parking spots are always taken, especially the disabled ones,” he told KentOnline.
“Removing them will make it extremely difficult for people to get to this part of the town, whether it’s for the dentist, the bank or the shops.
“People aren't going to bother coming.
“I don't think the road really needs to be changed at all. That money could be used on better things to develop the town centre
“It's not bad that they want to improve buses in Dover, but I don't think they are going about it the right way – so currently, it is not something I would support.
“Narrowing the pavement will also be a problem for buggies, wheelchair users and people on mobility scooters who will have hardly any room left.”
Currently, the road is for one-way traffic entering from Maison Dieu Road only.
But the contraflow would mean buses and cyclists would be able to enter the road from Worthington Street and Biggin Street too.
Cars will still be able to enter Pencester Road from Maison Dieu Road as normal, but will not be able to use the new bus lane.
Tom Buchanan, who owns Alternative Kitchens in Worthington Street with his father Ian, says the whole idea seems “ridiculous”.
“I can't work out what they are trying to gain from it – it seems like a lot of money for nothing,” he said.
“These are very old buildings and the street is historic. My concern is, is this road [Worthington Street] equipped to have more buses coming down it?
“I don't understand the point in it all.
“What are all these people who are supposedly going to get off the buses, going to come and visit?”
Mr Buchanan also says the St James development along the A20 has “robbed the town centre”.
He added: “Dover needs investment in the town itself, not in electric buses.”
The idea is that the route will support the planned Dover Fastrack zero emissions bus service, due to be complete in spring next year.
It is also hoped to improve the journey time reliability of the Fastrack service and provide direct access to the town centre by avoiding the A20 when it is congested.
Regular bus user Richard Pearce says while he supports the idea for extra room for buses, he fears losing the parking spaces could cause issues for drivers.
“We could do with a bit more room for buses so perhaps it could be good,” the 84-year-old said.
“But there are not a lot of places to park in this town as it is. My daughter drives me around sometimes.
“The road has been one-way for a long time. To change it would be confusing after all this time.”
Sue Birchenough from Dover's Launderette in Worthington Street told KentOnline she worries about the impact the changes could have on elderly residents.
“The older generations are used to one-way traffic and they might not be able to hear the new electric buses or push bikes,” she said.
“You can't get in the car park in Norman Street in the morning because it is full, so where are people supposed to park?
“I would like to see the road left as it is. I think it will cause complete chaos to open it up.”
The contraflow lane will also provide opportunities for bus operator Stagecoach to improve services within the town centre and provide bus connections between Dover Priory Station and the Port of Dover via Pencester Road.
The scheme is part of a package of new infrastructure improvements in the area, including a new bus, pedestrian and cycle bridge over the A2, that will link Whitfield and the new Richmond Park development north of the A2 to the town centre.
This is currently under construction and is set to be completed in the new year.
If approved, a contraflow bus and cycle lane would be installed along the western side of Pencester Road, between Biggin Street and Maison Dieu Road.
Two new stops would be added, one for the Dover Fastrack service and one for standard bus services.
Paths would also have to be reduced to make more space for the new road layout, including installing a central island to separate two lanes and to provide gateways for the bus lane.
New signalised junctions would have to be installed at the Worthington Street, Biggin Street and Pencester Road junction and the Pencester Road and Maison Dieu Road junction.
The changes would be paid for using part of the £18.9 million secured from the Department for Transport as part of KCC’s bus service improvement plan.
KCC’s cabinet member for highways and transport, Neil Baker (Con), said: “We are pleased to bring these plans forward as part of our bus service improvement plan.
“Our aim is to make using public transport in Kent a more attractive option so we can improve the environment and areas in which people live.
“I look forward to hearing and understanding the views put forward as part of this consultation.”
Matthew Arnold, commercial director for Stagecoach South East, also praised the plans.
"Having a two-way route for buses through the town centre means that a bus stop can be provided at the heart of the town centre for the Fastrack service,” he said.
“This will link the new housing at Whitfield and Connaught Barracks with the town centre and Dover Priory Station.
“It also allows for the reinstatement of a bus link between the station and the ferry terminal, something which the road layout has made difficult for some time and will give both port staff and ferry passengers more choice when making sustainable journey choices."
The consultation opened on November 17 and will close at midday on December 11.
Following the consultation, a report will be put together summarising the public’s response before any changes are made.
To take part in the consultation, visit the letstalk.kent.gov.uk/pencester-road website