Published: 08:53, 26 August 2020
| Updated: 14:52, 26 August 2020
Controversial plans to create a multi-million pound train station in east Kent will be considered by councillors in a crunch meeting next week.
Thanet Parkway Station could finally get the nod from Kent County Council's (KCC) planning committee after the £34million railway scheme in Cliffsend, near Ramsgate , was recommended for approval by County Hall officers.
The guidance comes despite widespread objections from Thanet county councillors and dozens of residents in the area, who together claim that the two-platform station is not needed and would be a "waste of public money".
KCC, which is the applicant, says the infrastructure project will provide more jobs for Cliffsend residents, reduce journey times from east Kent to London and improve the "attractiveness" of Thanet and Dover as places for investment.
Cllr Nigel Collor (Con), portfolio holder for transport on Dover District Council, who supports the move, said: "This will facilitate improved accessibility for the future growth and development of the Discovery Park Enterprise Zone alongside other opportunities that may emerge in the locality."
But Minster Parish Council, based near the Ramsgate site, has strongly objected. A spokesman said: "The construction of Parkway is not justified in terms of economic or social need; and this ever-increasing sum of money would be better spent in addressing so many other needs in this deprived area.”
Ramsgate county councillor Paul Messenger (Ind) says Thanet is already "oversupplied" with train stations, having seven in total. Margate county councillor Barry Lewis (Lab) said the recommendation was "undemocratic".
He added: "It goes against the wishes of the majority of Thanet residents and county councillors."
The long-standing dispute over building a new station in Thanet has rumbled on since 2010, according to a KCC report.
KCC first put forward a planning application in May 2018 but withdrew it 18 months later due to concerns over footbridge access. The latest plans have been altered and an existing Victoria underpass beneath the railway will be used to link the station's two platforms instead.
If approved, the 9.27 hectare greenfield site will accommodate an unmanned station for up to six trains an hour, along with a 317-space car park and a new signalised junction to provide access for vehicles onto the A299 Hengist Way.
Earlier this month, Parkway plans received a £12million boost from the government , which will come alongside £14m of investment from the South East Local Enterprise Partnership and about £2m from Thanet council.
In a report published to the KCC planning members yesterday, officers say: "Funding should be a material consideration in the determination of this application."
If granted, the high-speed rail link would run on two main routes from Thanet to London Charing Cross via Tonbridge and to London St Pancras via Ashford. It is likely to take 69 minutes to travel from Cliffsend to Stratford International.
But no permanent station staff will be hired, while commercial bus operators have declined to send services to the site, according to the KCC dossier.
However, KCC officers say there is "strong" national and regional support. They add that parking will be cheap at around £3.50 a day and journey times cut by three minutes from east Thanet to London.
A final decision will be made by KCC's planning committee during a virtual public meeting on Wednesday, September 2, from 10am.