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No build. Pre-billed.

Heart-warming, really. Our Councillors are falling over themselves to give this developer money and great deals. Latest wheeze: use the "people's project" label to coax a better price from Network Rail, so that Kitewood can build the Blacksole crossing for less.

We still don't have the bridge we've paid for. The councillor thinks that if we re-invent this shambles as a "people's project", Network Rail will offer a discount. And that we would be able to pass that discount on to Kitewood without Network Rail noticing or minding. So that Kitewood could build the bridge for less than they've been paid. And keep the change?

"Community" Bridge at Blacksole

A footbridge alongside narrow Blacksole bridge could be built within a year if a building project wins planning permission, a developer has suggested. Property firm Kitewood is legally obliged to build a separate pedestrian walkway once enough of its nearby Altira business park is in use. However take-up at the site has fallen short of the 17,000 sq m target to trigger construction of the much-needed footbridge.

Campaigners say the improvements are vital since the building of housing between the bridge and Thanet Way the opening of a pub and hotel and the relocation of the driving test centre, which has led to more pedestrians and traffic.

Kitewood bosses say if their proposals to build housing and industrial units in Hillborough wins support from the city council, they would spend £2 million on a walkway alongside the bridge and build a replacement overpass. This figure includes the £600,000 fee to Network Rail to build over the railway line.

Without the 40-acre Hillborough project, Kitewood claims there is no commercial reason to splash out on a new bridge until the threshold at the Altira site is met which could be five years away. Speaking at a meeting called by ward Cllr Peter Vickery-Jones last Wednesday, Kitewood director Mike Dolan said:

"If supported by planners, Kitewood will immediately undertake a legal obligation to build a new bridge within one year. It is the grant of this consent for this development that will create value to fund the bridge."

Cllr Peter Vickery-Jones wants to set up a community trust to make it a people's project:

"Kitewood can afford to wait until the market picks up, but the dangerous situation on the bridge cannot wait. The only alternative is to adopt the bridge as a community project and there are a lot of people committed to this.

I have already invited an independent bridge company who will come back with costings. Then we can approach Network Rail in the hope that we can get the wayleave figure of some £600,000 reduced as it is now a community project.

I am hopeful that the current indicated cost of the bridge of £1,350,000 will be reduced enough by the community approach to make it an attractive option for Kitewood to fund the bridge."

Herne Bay Times 15th July 2010

Caveat: it's not always clear when Cllr Vickery-Jones is speaking in his official capacity, and when he's just sharing his own private thoughts out loud. Even when the paper quotes him as "Cllr V-J... ", it can turn out that what he's saying is not official at all, just the musings of one man's mind. So he could just be flying a kite, or this might actually be the official policy. I would love to know which, but the last time I asked this particular councillor a straight question, he took 6 months to fail to answer it at all, so perhaps you, dear reader, would care to ask Cllr Vickery-Jones whether the "people's project" is now Council policy.

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