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Canterbury City Council's Herne Bay plaza plans branded 'ludicrous' by elderly residents

Worried pensioners fear “ludicrous” proposals to transform a seafront stretch into a pedestrian plaza would cause a "racket" outside their homes.

Under plans developed by Canterbury City Council, Central Parade in Herne Bay would be shut between Station Road and Pier Avenue to allow for an 18-month trial of the scheme to begin in the summer.

Residents of St Anne’s Court, which overlooks the stretch, fear they could be disturbed by activity on the plaza
Residents of St Anne’s Court, which overlooks the stretch, fear they could be disturbed by activity on the plaza

Officers from the authority say the £30,000 project would create a vibrant community space linking the pier to St Anne’s Gardens.

But concerned Beryl Bellgard, 80, says she and other elderly residents living in nearby St Anne’s Court and Chislet Court oppose the bid.

She said. “Residents don't want the plaza full stop. They're concerned about all the racket right outside.

"Why not put it beyond the Clock Tower where there is nothing?

“Spread the activities along the seafront – not all near the pier.

The seafront stretch between Station Road and Pier Avenue could be pedestrianised
The seafront stretch between Station Road and Pier Avenue could be pedestrianised

“[The plans are] ludicrous. They’ve just gone ahead without telling us the impact to the very elderly, and we have many who will be worrying.”

Ms Bellgard also fears that the proposals could have detrimental effect on St Anne’s Gardens, which she says the elderly residents enjoying looking at from inside their homes.

Reports prepared by council planners say the plaza would boost opportunities for nearby businesses and allow for a bike hire operator.

They also state that it would provide space for modern toilet facilities, art installtions, an eco-garden and “community activities such as yoga or tai chi”.

It is believed that the plans could allow for 27 more parking bays in Central Parade and reduce traffic in Station Road.

Cllr Peter Vickery-Jones believes a decision on whether to go ahead with the trial should be deferred until the end of the Covid-19 crisis
Cllr Peter Vickery-Jones believes a decision on whether to go ahead with the trial should be deferred until the end of the Covid-19 crisis

But the officers warn of a likely increase in congestion in Pier Avenue and Dolphin Street, as these roads link Central Parade to the High Street.

West Bay representative Peter Vickery-Jones is calling on the local authority to defer a decision on whether to go ahead with the trial until Covid-19’s grip on the country loosens.

“The coronavirus is having a marked effect on travel across the UK,” the Independent councillor explained.

“There’s also a marked reduction in footfall now, and it’s not going to be resolved for the next year or so.

“So it’s hardly reasonable to begin a traffic flow trial in those circumstances as there are factors that are going to skew the result.

“If we are going to have something that’s going to be good for the town, it has to be properly evaluated.”

The scheme was due to be discussed at last Tuesday night’s Herne Bay Forum before being referred to the Joint Transportation Board a week later.

But both meetings have since been cancelled by the city council – throwing the start date for the trial into doubt.

Authority spokesman Rob Davies says a decision on the scheme is "on hold" until the Herne Bay Forum can meet again.

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