Published: 06:00, 17 January 2021
A heavily delayed project to transform a derelict former arcade and regenerate part of the seafront could be pushed back a further 12 months.
Canterbury City Council is proposing to postpone its multi-million-pound plans to demolish the former Tivoli arcade in Central Parade, Herne Bay, to April 2022 at the earliest.
Its proposals for the site, along with the car parks to the rear in Beach Street, include replacing the eyesore with studios, three shops and 31 homes, of which 10 will be social housing.
The delay is one of a number of cost-saving measures devised by the hard-up local authority to help it fill a £9 million black hole in its finances caused by the pandemic.
Council spokesman Leo Whitlock said: “Our investment in the Beach Street area of Herne Bay is on hold while we look again at the business case for the scheme.
“This is because the global Covid-19 pandemic left a large hole in our finances and we had to freeze spending on capital projects as a matter of urgency.
“It remains the case that we see the Beach Street development as key to Herne Bay’s regeneration and look forward to moving it forward as soon as our finances allow.”
Plans to delay the scheme, which had already been pushed back to this April, were revealed in the council’s draft budget for the next financial year.
Set to be voted on in March, the document also proposes parking charge hikes, the closure of three public toilets and increases to service fees.
The city council had already plugged an unexpected £12 million hole it in its 2020/21 finances with an emergency budget in May by drawing on £7.5 million from its reserves.
But forecasts show further savings are needed next year as the financial crisis deepens.
“Our draft budget for 2021/22, which has just been out to consultation with the public, suggests the Beach Street freeze could stay in place for another year,” Mr Whitlock added.
“Councillors will make those key budget decisions in the coming weeks and months.”
However, senior Herne Bay councillor and Conservative number two Rachel Carnac says she and her Tory colleagues in the town are hoping to curtail the delay.
The Reculver representative said: “I am optimistic that when we take a look at the tender for the site, which comes back in now, we could take another look at Beach Street and see what options are there for development.
“I am hopeful that there may be ways to develop Beach Street ahead of April 2022. We’re very keen to explore all the options to do that.
“Herne Bay councillors want to see something happen at Beach Street because if we’re to regenerate the town and help it recover, then we need to have our seafront looking tip-top.”
The city council bought the former arcade three years ago for £1.1m, with plans to develop it along with the car parks to the rear in Beach Street.
Its proposals for the prominent site were given the green light by councillors in May 2018.