Much still to do for our heritage city
The snippet on Unesco Canterbury’s 30th birthday is a vital reminder of the city’s tourism/cultural/visitor/ pilgrim potential. The three main sites have all been up and running since 1997, when the Abbey visitor centre opened. What we need from our World Heritage City in this regard is “a thriving, integrated and easily navigable three-part Unesco domain that welcomes visitors and comprehensively provides the story of English Christianity from the time of St Augustine”.
Apart from the Cathedral, Abbey and St Martins, there are three other key partners, the King’s School, Christ Church University and the city council. The 2002 Management Plan was clear on the vision. There is still much to be done – a website, a clearly marked three-site trail, linked up city signage, and clear Unesco welcomes at bus and train stations and all car parks and park and rides. Maps in the city centre would be useful. Renewal and modernisation of our brown road heritage signage using Unesco logos next to the city’s colourful coat of arms. Not to mention bold, targeted marketing from all local interested parties in London, particularly at St Pancras International. Oxford and Cambridge, for example, are experiencing a growth in foreign visitors; Canterbury currently is not.
This is vital to the city’s commerce and future. Thus far this amazing international project after 30 years has had no co-ordinator to actually deliver the project. Unsurprisingly, much of the 2002 plan is still not yet completed. A new five-year plan is due. All parties must rise to the challenge and co-fund a co-ordinator. All successful international projects anywhere are resourced. In the introduction to the 2002 plan the then Archbishop George declared the “importance of having a properly coordinated and resourced plan”. Time to do some proper resourcing and show that the city means to optimise this rare and precious asset in a holistic fashion. Happy Birthday Unesco.