Joseph Ratcliffe (Transport Strategy Manager), Tom Marchant (Head of Strategic Planning and Policy) and Stewart Fowler (Principal Transport Planner) were in attendance for this item.
1. Mr Payne (Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport) introduced the report that set out the progress to date on the proposed Thanet Parkway Railway Station and explained that Kent County Council (KCC) would commit up to £17.81m to complete the funding package for the scheme (£34.51m) which would secure a significant contribution (£14m) of Local Growth Fund (LGF) money from the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) and it would enable the scheme to be delivered. Following completion of the outline design and submission of a revised planning application, the next stage of the project was to undertake detailed design, and subject to planning determination, to progress onto the delivery stage of the scheme. A decision to progress with the delivery of the scheme was required to ensure no further delay to the project programme and to allow for the spend of LGF money by the end of the Growth Deal Period (March 2021). The final decision to progress with the project would be taken to Cabinet on 2 December 2019.
2. Mrs Stewart (Director of Environment, Planning and Enforcement) informed the Committee that an Executive decision was required in order to deliver the project in the anticipated timescale. and avoid the risk of losing the £14m SELEP funding. Mrs Stewart advised Members that if this deadline was missed it was it was unlikely that the £14m investment would be available at a future date.
3. Mr Ratcliffe advised Members that the Thanet Parkway Railway Station had undergone a number of design iterations and two planning applications had been submitted. The first planning application submitted in 2018 had been withdrawn due to significant design changes to the scheme and a new Planning Application was submitted in the week commencing 11 November 2019. The newest application was in the process of validation as part of the Planning Applications Group remit; any emerging planning issues would then fall to the Planning Applications Group and Planning Applications Committee to determine.
4. Mr Ratcliffe informed The Committee that the Business Case had been through a vigorous assessment process by SELEP’s Independent Technical Evaluator. As a result of that process, officers had produced a revised Business Case which contained the new cost estimate; the details of which were reflected within the Committee report. Mr Ratcliffe confirmed that the revised Business Case and associated costs of the project were due to go through a final validation process, however, the feedback received from KCC’s Consultancy Team was that Thanet Parkway Railway Station represented very high value for money.
5. The Chairman welcomed Mrs Binks and Mr Messenger to address the Committee in their capacity as the local Members for Thanet.
6. Mrs Binks (Member for Broadstairs) raised the following points: -
(a) Schools were the primary cause of traffic concerns in Thanet
(b) Thanet had seven stations already in existence that needed significant upgrades, including the network rail upgrade of the HS1 which would significantly improve travel time, the Thanet Parkway Railway station would offer no further benefit
(c) Commuters from Birchington and Westgate would be encouraged to drive a further 10 minutes to Thanet Parkway Station in order to reduce their train travel time by 14 minutes. However, the train journey for those commuters using the existing town stations would remain the same
(d) There was concern in Thanet that the existing stations, which were better situated for commuter use, would become underused and eventually close. This would, mean that those who travelled by train would have to drive further, through a congested road infrastructure network, to access the Thanet Parkway Station. Should that happen, the closure of the existing town centre stations would have a detrimental impact on the visitor economy
(e) Thanet Parkway Station was ill-planned with two basic platforms, no toilets a lack of security and no staff to assist vulnerable or disabled passengers
(f) If the parking facility was not free, this would have a detrimental effect on the residential estate on the south side of the railway as commuters may leave their cars parked in the housing estate and use the subway to the station
(g) Commuters may have to drive to Thanet Parkway Station due to the reduced bus service from Cliffsend
(h) Thanet was amongst one of the highest built on areas within the county, Thanet Parkway Station would potentially encourage additional developments to be built on nearby agricultural land
Mrs Binks concluded that Thanet would welcome a quicker connection into London, however, this would only be achieved through an upgrade to the rail network. Whilst acknowledging that that investment should not be turned away from Thanet, she stated that public money needed to be spent in the correct way to benefit those living and working in Thanet.
7. Mr Messenger (Member for Ramsgate) raised the following points: -
(a) The variance and increase in the projected cost created uncertainty in the project’s long-term viability
(b) In 2017 KCC conducted a consultation on the Thanet Parkway Station asking residents whether they agreed or objected to the scheme, out of 355 responses only 34% said yes
(c) Mr Messenger had conducted an online survey which asked the residents of Thanet whether they wanted a further rail station; out of the 256 respondents, 226 were opposed to the station and 49 were in agreement.
(d) There would only be a reduction in travel time by 10 minutes. Thanet had seven stations already in existence that needed significant upgrades, including the network rail upgrade of the HS1 which would significantly improve travel time
(e) A carpark should not be the basis of encouragement for extra rail usage in a time when carbon reduction should be the primary concern
(f) With regard to aviation plans from Manston airport, the existing Ramsgate station was the perceived favourable option for both freight and passenger facilities for the airport
(g) Thanet was amongst one of the highest built on areas within the county, Thanet Parkway Station would potentially encourage additional developments to be built on nearby agricultural land.
Mr Messenger expressed the view that that prior to a decision at Cabinet, Kent County Council should conduct a further survey as to whether or not residents of Thanet supported the proposal of the additional Thanet Parkway Station.
8. Mr Rayner moved, and Mr Lewis seconded the motion as set out below:
‘the Environment and Transport Cabinet Committee recommend to Mr Payne, as Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport, that before further action to effect the printed recommendations on pages 119 and 126 , that Kent County Council undertake a further public survey and consultation with one of the questions on the survey being “do you want the Thanet parkway station” ?’
9. Officers to responded to comments and questions as follows:
(a) Mrs Cooper (Corporate Director of Growth, Environment and Transport) addressed the Committees concerns and motion to conduct a further consultation. She advised Members that the proposed decision in relation to Thanet Parkway Station had an impact on a series of other decisions and assured Members that the proposed decision was to agree that, should the project proceed, then KCC would underwrite the cost and this was to primarily protect its position with the LGF. As advised by Mr Ratcliffe, the progress of the Thanet Parkway Station project was subject to the approval of planning permission being granted and this was still due to go out to consultation. Mrs Cooper suggested Cabinet could agree to delay taking the decision until their meeting in January 2020 which would provide time for KCC to carry out the survey as proposed in the revised recommendation.
(b) In summary, the key concerns raised related to:
· The escalation and variance of cost
· Revised journey improvement time
· The exit strategy
· Queries around the newly generated income
· An updated catchment area and passenger modelling
· EV charging infrastructure within the parking vicinity
· Reconsideration of the key aims and objectives of the station which was initially to bring employment into the Thanet area, not to encourage people out of Thanet and into London
10. It was RESOLVED that the Environment and Transport Cabinet Committee recommend to Mr Payne, as Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport, that before further action to effect the recommendations on pages 119 and 126 of the report , that Kent County Council undertake a further public survey and consultation with one of the questions on the survey being “do you want the Thanet parkway station”