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Gorrell Tank car park: wait goes on for traders

Businesses fear Southern Water plans will cost them dear

UNDER THREAT: Traders in Whitstable fear losing custom
UNDER THREAT: Traders in Whitstable fear losing custom

SOUTHERN Water bosses have revealed this week that half of the largest car park in Whitstable will remain out of use for months. The Gorrell Tank car park closed at the end of April last year after an investigation revealed that the supporting columns of the tank, situated beneath the car park, had corroded. The tank, on land owned by Southern Water in Westgate Terrace, protects homes in the area from flooding during storms.

Reopened

Repairs were made to the columns and half of the car park reopened to the public last July. But Southern Water bosses have said the columns under the other half of the car park require further repairs before it can fully reopen. The company is now looking at the possibility of improving and reconfiguring the tank and is not planning to carry out further repairs on the second half until that process is complete. This is likely to take several months. Mel Karam, Southern Water’s director of infrastructure, said:

“We will make every effort to ensure half of the car park remains open over the coming year. However, we need to look at the practicality of carrying out further repairs to the tank in its current state and investigate whether investing in an alternative set-up would be better. It would not be prudent for us to spend customers’ money on additional repairs if it could be spent on redesigning and improving the site. We are mindful of the need for car-parking spaces in Whitstable, especially in the popular summer months, and are working with the council to ensure that ample parking continues to be available.”

Traders in the town say they lost some £500,000 last slimmer, when the car park was completely closed. Although part of it will remain open, they fear further losses. The president of the Whitstable Chamber of Commerce, Brian Hitcham, who owns Oxford Street Books, has aired his concerns about the car park closure. He said:

“The update from Southern Water doesn’t really answer any of the questions, either about what’s happening with the Gorrell Tank this year or indeed long term. Having had nearly a year to plan, it’s disappointing that they are unable to be more decisive. The park-and-ride scheme has never been that successful in the past and has to be heavily subsidised. We had been led to believe that the work on the second half would be carried out this year, being open in time for the peak summer trade. So this is really disappointing. I know there are plans in place for alternative parking, including extending the charity car park. However, all of this only covers the school summer holidays. The parking problem occurs between Easter and October. Inevitably, trade will be hit again this year.”

Mr Hitcham said the chamber had asked to be directly involved in the discussions between CCC and Southern Water to ensure “a satisfactory solution”. Cllr Peter Vickery-Jones, executive member for transport at Canterbury City Council, said:

“We’re continuing to work closely with Southern Water and are pleased that half of the Gorrell Tank will be open throughout this summer. Parking in Whitstable is always under pressure in the summer and the council is working hard to provide a good number of spaces to offset the continuing loss of half of the tank. At this time, having heard the views of residents last year, we have no plans to use Westmeads recreation ground for parking.”

Extension

He said a park-and-ride service would run from Estuary View and the council would also fund an extension to the charity car park at Whitstable Junior School during the summer holidays for a second year. Scores of residents, meanwhile, have vented their anger through the Whitstable Times Facebook page. Times reader Mavis Nye said:

“Another summer of packed roads then. It should be a priority, as Whitstable is so popular with visitors.”

Sharon Smithers added:

“This is outrageous! We have so many tourists and holiday makers down here, where are they going to park? Pull your act together, Southern Water.”

Herne Bay Times, March 4th 2015

 

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