Traders celebrate victory as controversial new parking rules are scrapped in Folkestone

The parking protestors in Cheriton
-Credit: (Image: LDRS)

Folkestone and Hythe District Council (FHDC) has backed down over controversial new parking rules in Cheriton, Folkestone. Traders in the area have celebrated the climbdown over what they called “ridiculous” proposals for high street parking restrictions.

Business owners had argued it would “finish” their businesses – but the councillor responsible insists the plans were put forward in response to strong demand from residents. One trader has accused Folkestone and Hythe District Council’s (FHDC) Green leadership of seeing cars as “a tap to turn on for money”.

In March, the local authority sent out a letter saying it was consulting on bringing in a controlled parking zone (CPZ). If introduced, it would have meant people living in the affected area would need to apply for and purchase a parking permit.

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The proposed CPZ would have covered several residential streets where spaces are often at a premium, including Morehall Avenue, Phillip Road, Dunnett Road and Chart Road. It would have also covered all of Cheriton High Street, where there are currently free one-hour parking bays.

However, at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, May 29, the authority’s Green leadership is set to scrap the bid, papers show. David Barling, owner of DJB Furniture on Cheriton High Street, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) he was relieved.

“From a business point of view, if you can’t park, people aren’t going to come in,” the 40-year-old said.

“For me, obviously I’ve got to be able to park to load and unload, but customers pick up and drop things off. I rely on the parking really. At the time I thought it was ridiculous because there’s never really been an issue with parking here.”

But Mr Barling added: “I’d imagine they [FHDC] will look at it again, because they need the money don’t they.”

Helen Lawrence, coordinator of the Donation Station charity sho
Helen Lawrence, coordinator of the Donation Station charity sho -Credit:LDRS

Helen Lawrence, coordinator of the Donation Station charity shop, said she was “livid,” when she first heard about the proposals.

“We’re a struggling business anyway being a charity,” she said.

“They were going to put parking charges in when 90% of people need more than an hour’s parking.”

The store is owned by United Response – a charity which provides support for adults with mental and physical illnesses and learning difficulties.

“It would have had a huge effect on us,” Ms Lawrence added.

John Baker, owner of County Home Hardware, displayed a sign outside the front of his store which reads “Say no to permit parking”, now with an extra sticker over the top declaring “victory.”

“I thought it was a joke,” he said.

“It would have finished my business, of course it would. But then we’ve got a Green council in this area, who are in a totally different world.

"They’re idiotic. If you’ve got a car they think it’s a tap to turn on for money.

“Of course, I’m relieved for now, but I never trust them. Never trust a council.”

John Baker, owner of County Home Hardware
John Baker, owner of County Home Hardware -Credit:LDRS

Cllr Polly Blakemore (Green) both represents Cheriton on FHDC and is the cabinet member responsible for parking. She stressed that the proposal in Cheriton was put forward because it hit key criteria – being near public transport links and shops, and a significant call for it from locals.

The cabinet papers detail that a total of five applications were received for a CPZ in the area, showing the support of 200 residents in total.

“That was why the Cheriton one went to the top of the list – nothing to do with it being a majority Green administration at the moment,” she told the LDRS.

“The same would have happened two years ago. So I know there is that feeling about it being a Green Party initiative but we were very clear at the public meeting this was a council initiative, it wasn’t a Green Party initiative.

“The fact that we’re Green Party councillors is really neither here nor there.”

In FHDC’s informal consultation on the plans, 83% of residents and businesses within the affected area, and 92% of those outside it, were opposed to the CPZ.

Cllr Blakemore continued: “It could have gone one way or the other, and I think partly off the back of the active travel scheme from a few years ago, understandably businesses were concerned about it. I think there was some nervousness that it might just be imposed, but that was never going to be the case.

“It was a democratic process we went through to establish what interest there was.”

The “active travel scheme” refers to an attempt by Kent County Council to introduce new cycle lanes on the high street – which would have seen a 70% reduction in parking spaces. The plans were met with a petition of 2,500 signatures opposing the proposals and were ditched in 2022.

However, a plan to introduce a 20mph zone through the high street was given the green light last year. The £1.2 million scheme will also see a cycle path introduced between Cherry Garden Avenue and Cornwallis Avenue, near Folkestone Central Station, while there will be upgrades at the Cherry Garden Avenue and Cheriton Road junction with widened footpaths and revamped road layouts.

County council bosses say the revised plans will have “no impact on parking”.