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Herne Bay pedestrianised plaza plan set for approval despite objections

Plans to transform a busy route into a seafront plaza are set to be given the green light – despite more than half of residents opposing the idea.

Kent County Council bosses believe banning traffic along part of Central Parade, Herne Bay, and installing a one-way system in the surrounding streets will “boost the local economy and encourage more trips to the town’s pier”.

The seafront stretch between Station Road and Pier Avenue is to be pedestrianised
The seafront stretch between Station Road and Pier Avenue is to be pedestrianised

But authority papers released towards the end of last month show more than one in two of those quizzed about the proposals – which are expected to cost £250,000 – objected to them.

And speaking during a meeting the KCC and Canterbury City Council-led joint transportation board last Tuesday, resident Richard Eburne threatened to take legal action in a bid to thwart the project.

“Council documents state closing Central Parade has no implications for the disabled or the elderly,” he said.

“But I dispute both points, so much so that if this vote is passed unamended, I will make a formal complaint under the Equalities Act.”

Drawings show barriers will be erected to prevent traffic travelling through Central Parade between the junctions with Pier Avenue and Station Road.

A graphic showing how the town centre’s road network could change
A graphic showing how the town centre’s road network could change

Motorists will also be prohibited from travelling westbound along part of the route running from the Lane End turning to Dolphin Street.

Meanwhile, stretches of St George’s Terrace, Station Road, Richmond Street and Pier Avenue will be among those made one-way.

The pedestrianisation will also trigger the removal of several parking spots in Central Parade, including three disabled bays.

Ninety-five of the 183 either “disagreed” or “strongly disagreed” with the plan as a whole.

Some of them argued the scheme was “not necessary and a waste of money” or noted they “do not believe there will be any benefits for residents and will cause traffic in the already congested High Street”.

Dick Eburne
Dick Eburne

Meanwhile, about 45% of those who took part in the consultation – which ran from the middle of September and into early October – “strongly agreed” or “agreed” with the proposals.

“I can’t cycle and I can’t walk as far as the pier, barely half a mile from my house, and I’m not alone in Herne Bay,” Mr Eburne continued.

“Herne Bay has a high proportion of elderly and disabled residents and visitors.

“The impact of closing Central Parade goes much further than removing three disabled bays.

“Where will the hundreds of vehicles that use Central Parade daily go? Into High Street via the complex one-way system?

“High Street already gets blocked solid several times a day, so much so that mostly vehicles use central parade instead, but they won’t be able to.”

The city council’s head of transport, Ruth Goudie, assured Mr Eburne the authority is “more than happy to look at additional disabled parking on either side of the pier”.

Cllr Joe Howes
Cllr Joe Howes

She stressed “it would be easy to integrate that within the scheme without any problems at all”.

As part of the plan – called the Kent Active Travel project – a new segregated cycle and walking path will also be created in Station Road and existing double yellow lines will be extended almost 90 metres.

A bike ban in Memorial Park will be lifted to allow riders to scoot along its northern path.

And KCC is also hoping to turn the centre of Herne Bay between Central Parade and the railway line into a 20mph zone.

Conservative councillor Joe Howes told the colleagues a pedestrianised Central Parade had already been a success when the road was closed due to gas works in the summer.

“That was closed for the best part of three weeks, and not one tourist moaned,” he added.

“It actually made it quite pleasant, as you could walk down the lovely seafront without the worry of cars speeding past you.

“I think access to parking is always going to be a problem."

Tankerton councillor Neil Baker
Tankerton councillor Neil Baker

Tankerton Tory Neil Baker also supported the project, but worried about accessibility for many residents.

“There is an increasingly large group of people – and it’s only going to get bigger as demographics go in the way they’re going – that won’t be able to walk or cycle,” he explained.

“They’ll need to use vehicles.”

KCC, however, insists there will be no loss of facilities for the disabled through the project.

A spokesperson for KCC Highways said: “We are looking to install disabled bays in close proximity to the existing disabled parking bays.

“There is to be no planned formal loss of disabled parking along Central Parade.

“We are also looking to expand the accessibility at each end of the pedestrianised section. These proposals are currently being worked into the scheme’s detailed design.”

Members of the joint transportation board voted to recommend KCC goes ahead with the scheme.

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