We’ll block car park - if we can

Kentish Gazette Canterbury & District - - Letters And Opinion - Si­mon War­ley City coun­cil­lor (Lab), West­gate Ward

I joined the ‘Pil­grim­age for Clean Air’ in Can­ter­bury on Satur­day. Lo­cal res­i­dents and cam­paign­ers marched from St Dun­stan’s Church to the pro­posed site of the new car park in Sta­tion Road West and into the city cen­tre. This was a cross-po­lit­i­cal party ini­tia­tive or­gan­ised by The Can­ter­bury So­ci­ety.

The pur­pose was to show the strength of lo­cal feel­ing against the pro­posed car park and to high­light the se­ri­ous and in­creas­ing prob­lem of pol­lu­tion in the St. Dun­stan’s area and Can­ter­bury in gen­eral.

As a coun­cil­lor for West­gate, the ward where the car park will be built, I have re­ceived more than 100 emails in op­po­si­tion to the car park from con­cerned res­i­dents and only one in favour. It re­ally is un­ac­cept­able for the rul­ing Con­ser­va­tive group to con­tinue to ig­nore the views of West­gate and Can­ter­bury res­i­dents.

The pro­posed car park is mis­guided, not just be­cause of the ad­di­tional pol­lu­tion and con­ges­tion that it will bring to the St. Dun­stan’s area, but for a num­ber of other rea­sons too. At a cost of al­most £10 mil­lion it is a huge waste of pub­lic money; money that could be much bet­ter spent on other more im­por­tant mat­ters, such as start­ing to ad­dress the hous­ing cri­sis in Can­ter­bury where there are more than 2,500 fam­i­lies with­out a home and cur­rently on the coun­cil’s hous­ing needs regis­ter. Fur­ther­more, at the main en­try point to his­toric Can­ter­bury, home of Unesco world her­itage sites, do we re­ally want the first im­pres­sions of hun­dreds of thou­sands of vis­i­tors to be that of an ugly, mu­nic­i­pal car park? Fi­nally, the car park is not nec­es­sary as there are a num­ber of empty spa­ces in Sta­tion Road West ev­ery day.

The pro­posed car park will not con­tain a lift. There will be park­ing for blue badge hold­ers at ground floor level but many peo­ple who have “dis­abil­i­ties” as de­fined by The Equal­ity Act 2010 do not qual­ify for a blue badge. These peo­ple, plus older peo­ple and par­ents with young chil­dren, in­clud­ing those in prams, will have no op­tion but to use the stairs. In my opin­ion, this is un­ac­cept­able.

I have spo­ken and voted against the car park on a num­ber of dif­fer­ent oc­ca­sions, in­clud­ing at the plan­ning and full coun­cil meet­ings, where it was un­for­tu­nately passed. The Labour coun­cil­lors for North­gate, Alan Bal­dock and Jean Butcher, have done the same.

If Labour gain con­trol of Can­ter­bury City Coun­cil in the elec­tions on May 2 this year we will stop the car park if it’s not too late to do so (too much work may have been done by then and/or penalty clauses un­der the con­tract for its con­struc­tion may be op­er­a­tional).

In May, vot­ers in Can­ter­bury can chose what di­rec­tion they want the city to take over the next four years. The choice is be­tween pur­su­ing projects such as the car park, which is a waste of pub­lic money, un­der the Con­ser­va­tives, or spend­ing more money on much­needed so­cial hous­ing and other es­sen­tial ser­vices un­der Labour.

As I write, only pre­lim­i­nary work on di­vert­ing a sewer un­der Sta­tion Road West has taken place and ac­tual con­struc­tion of the car park is not due to com­mence un­til the end of Fe­bru­ary. It is still not too late for the coun­cil to lis­ten to the peo­ple of Can­ter­bury and aban­don this en­vi­ron­men­tally flawed and fi­nan­cially waste­ful scheme.

The ed­i­tor wel­comes let­ters on any top­i­cal sub­ject, but re­serves the right to edit them. Let­ters must in­clude your name and ad­dress even when emailed and a day­time tele­phone num­ber. Write to Room B119 Can­ter­bury Col­lege, New Dover Road, Can­ter­bury CT1 3AJ fax 01227 762415, email ken­[email protected]­m­group.co.uk

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