Published: 16:37, 27 January 2020
| Updated: 13:12, 28 January 2020
Kent County Council's cabinet has agreed to cough up almost £18 million towards a new controversial commuter railway station in Thanet.
Members decided today to provide up to £17.8 million for the proposed Thanet Parkway development in Cliffsend near Manston after plans were thrown into doubt when it emerged the estimated cost had spiralled to £34.5 million.
The KCC money will complete the funding package for the scheme at £34.51 million, with £14 million of local growth fund allocated by the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP).
The decisions comes following the results of a public survey in the station's catchment area of Thanet and north Dover that found 45% of those surveyed support it being built, with 12% neither for or against.
Responses showed that the main reason given in favour was that it would encourage employers to locate in east Kent.
Public consultations on the scheme have previously been held in 2015 and 2017, as well as a statutory consultation on the planning application in 2018, and also another when the planning application was resubmitted in November 2019.
Letters of support for the scheme were sent by local businesses including Pfizer and Discovery Park alongside Visit Kent, Canterbury Christ Church University, Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce and Locate in Kent.
The scheme is also supported by both Thanet District Council and Dover District Council.
KCC cabinet member for highways and transport, Michael Payne, said: "One of the reasons this scheme has been in the pipeline for so long is because of the amount of significant consultation that Kent County Council has done, allowing the considered decision to be made today.
"This is a project that is all about creating the infrastructure first, to provide support for economic development in the area and support the delivery of Thanet’s draft Local Plan.
"Accessibility in east Kent is a critical barrier that has limited the potential of the area to attract investment and regeneration, even more so since the loss of ferry operations from Ramsgate and the closure of Manston airport.
"Improving connectivity is a vital step in attracting investment and job opportunities and I believe the Thanet Parkway project will help those aspirations.
"The proposed station will address these issues by capitalising on High Speed 1 services, bringing Thanet to around one hour’s journey time of London, improving the perception of east Kent as a place for investment."
But the controversial new station on the Ramsgate to Ashford International line, aimed at bringing journey times to the capital down to an hour, has divided opinion - with some branding it a "waste of money".
Concerns about overcrowding on trains have also been raised due to the predicted increase in passengers.
Prolific campaigner Ian Driver previously branded the project "financially and logistically" out of control.
"So much so that a full business case is required to confirm that the project still presents value for money in light of the increase in costs and the threat of passenger overcrowding," he said.
"The answer to better transport to and from Thanet is not a £34.5 million, polluting and environmentally damaging station at Cliffsend, but investing money into improving our already existing stations.
"Plus the provision of safe walking and cycling routes and regular public transport to and from these stations."
"Improving connectivity is a vital step in attracting investment and job opportunities and I believe the Thanet Parkway project will help those aspirations"
Changes have been made to the design as a result of feedback to the previous planning application, including removing the proposed footbridge over the railway line and utilising the existing Petley’s Arch underpass instead.
Access into the station from Hengist Way will also now be a left-in, left-out arrangement allowing free-flow of traffic eastbound between the Sevenscore roundabout and the Lord of the Manor roundabout without the need to stop at traffic lights.
The business case for the scheme will now be discussed at the SELEP Accountability Board on February 14 before any local growth fund is released.
More by this authorKatie Davis