Published: 15:13, 07 September 2020
| Updated: 16:24, 07 September 2020
Traders warn a one-way system through their high street will signal the end for many businesses.
They also fear the controversial 18-month scheme in Station Road, Westgate, will leave plans for the Christmas fair dead in the water.
The street is set to be made one-way between Roxborough Road and St Mildred’s Road, with a number of parking bays suspended.
Kent County Council (KCC) is due to start work in a week on the project, which has been met with fierce opposition amid fears it will devastate the town.
But campaigners are still fighting, with paper and online petitions launched, pushing for 5,000 signatures so the matter can be debated at County Hall.
Objectors hope that even if the temporary scheme goes ahead, they can stop it being made permanent in the future.
Reg Bell, who runs three shops in Westgate, says some businesses are likely to shut because of the changes.
"After 45 years of trading, I can tell you the proposal to take away half of the parking spaces in Station Road and St Mildred's Road will have a devastating effect on our takings," he said.
"People literally won't be able to stop or park their cars..."
"People won't be able to park because there are no public or private car parks in Westgate - all parking is on-street and already we have a situation where it is difficult to find anywhere to stop.
"This experimental scheme will just exacerbate the problem.
"People literally won't be able to stop or park their cars within a reasonable distance of the shops, so they'll just go elsewhere."
KCC's plans mean instead of turning right once over the bridge, motorists will have to drive along to Westgate Bay Road and back down Roxborough Road to reach the high street.
Once there, the number of parking spaces - which are currently free for up to an hour - will be significantly reduced to allow for the pedestrian area to be widened.
The trial is part of the government's push for 'active travel' in the wake of the pandemic and the need for social distancing. KCC was allocated £1.6m towards several schemes from an £8m provisional pot of funding.
The aim in Westgate is to widen the pedestrian area to help keep people at a safe distance and will involve 20 planters being installed as well as benches.
Organisers behind the hugely popular Christmas fair, which last year attracted 5,000 people, say if the scheme goes ahead it will be the death of the event, due to loss of space caused by the pedestrian area being widened.
Karen May, who is on the committee and started the e-petition, says losing one side of the road will mean losing half of the stalls and revenue, making the fair unviable.
"We won't be able to have the fun fair either as if the pavement area is widened and the road is narrowed it will mean not enough room for the rides and won't leave space for an emergency vehicle to get through, which we have to have," she said.
"There was a question mark over this year's event because of Covid, but this 18-month scheme now means this year's and next year's fairs definitely won't happen."
She says the temporary project is unlikely to be stopped now, so the push is to stop it being made permanent.
"We're a community just trying to keep a thriving little seaside town alive," she added.
A KCC spokesman said the changes will help encourage active travel while promoting social distancing and shared space.
"We appreciate that some schemes will not satisfy everyone but the government has asked all local authorities to inspire more cycling and walking," he said.
"The trials can run for up to 18 months, and if well received can be made permanent or removed if they do not have the desired effect.
"Amendments can be made to the scheme throughout the trial, for example some of the parking bays could returned in areas which are deemed most needed."
To sign the epetition click here.