The big question of whether Canterbury should have thousands of new homes to fund a much-needed eastern bypass – bringing with it major environmental benefits for the city centre – is set to go out to public consultation.
Canterbury City Council’s Policy Committee meets next Thursday (27 May) to discuss whether to put the options consultation for the review of its Local Plan out for public views.
And the ‘preferred growth scenario’ set out in the committee report is for between 14,000 and 17,000 new homes for the district up to the year 2040, with the majority of them in the city alongside some expansion on the coast and in villages to support the housing needs of those places and the continuing regeneration of Herne Bay.
The government’s minimum requirement for new homes in the district up to 2040 is 9,000, but following extensive research and having heard the views of residents in last year’s issues consultation, the council is taking the view that a much bolder approach might be the best way forward.
Up to 17,000 new homes would unlock the developer funding needed to build the bypass, which would stretch from the A28 at Sturry, across to the A257 and then on to a new junction at the A2 at Bridge.
This long-talked-about bypass would allow cars to be removed from the inner ring road, to be replaced by dedicated cycle lanes and public transport links. This would address the city’s congestion problems, improve air quality and public health, and enhance Canterbury’s historic environment.
As well as setting out the ‘preferred growth scenario’, the options consultation also puts forward the council’s vision for the district as a whole up to 2040 and asks for views.
It is aiming for a stronger and more resilient economy with highly-skilled jobs, a range of high quality, low-carbon homes to meet the needs of the district and improve affordability, investment in digital infrastructure, tackling the challenges of climate change and supporting the health and wellbeing of residents.
Views on the council’s draft visions for all three urban areas would also be sought if councillors agree to put this latest stage of the Local Plan process out to consultation.
Leader of the council, Cllr Ben Fitter-Harding, said: “It’s the issue that never goes away – build as few homes as possible but continue to overload our already-creaking infrastructure, or propose enough development to fund the infrastructure we actually need, now and in the future.
Canterbury is attempting to do the strategic planning heavy lifting that the County has failed to do for 20 years, well before structure plan were abolished. It always resisted new strategic locations for growth, mopping up for shortfalls in constrained West Kent and let the government do the heavy lifting on strategic transport links.
The previous local plan was also notorious for not really allocating any new land for housing at Canterbury. The southern/South Eastern expansion of Canterbury ended in the 1930s and Victorian conservation areas go top the City edge.
Canterbury suffers from a 1960s road solutions where traffic from West Kent passes right through the city centre and the A2 also acts as a southern bypass.
The obvious direction for growth would be to the South East where it could be served by a new train station and one existing. It avoids the North Downs, flood risk and heavily sloping and wooded areas. However here a bypass would funnel commuter traffic onto the A2, however it would anyway from existing connector road (old Dover Road) even without a bypass which does not have an all directions junction with the A2, It could become another of those schemes derided by Transport for New Homes, car orientated extensions funding a link road.
Is there an alternative? Yes. Much of the traffic has good alternatives to through paths through Canterbury, from Thanet through the trunk A28/A299 to the M2, from Sandwich and Deal. The A28 and A27 should be downgraded from strategic routes and Bekesbourne Lane upgraded to a more localised link road avoiding Canterbury. To avoid through traffic in Canterbury adopt the Grongingen solution, prevent through traffic on the ring road (especially next to the World Heritage Site) so it provides local access to the city centre only.
Develop a zero carbon community around Bekesbourne station and a new station to its West plus a BRT route to the CIty Centre on Old Dover Road, close off through traffic here west of the Park and Ride and dramtically extend the park and ride, which as an historic city makes sense here. P & R often dont make sense but in historic cities they often do as you have to throttle traffic passing to the city centre.
All of this would require a strategic plan for Kent driven by good high level masterplanning. Don’t hold your breath.