Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Letter to the Canterbury Times:


8/10/2012

Dear Sir,

South East MEP Keith Taylor is right to draw attention to the poor air quality in Canterbury. (‘Politician says traffic needs to be reduced’, 4/10/2012). Levels of pollution in parts of the city exceed both Defra and EU guidelines. The long-term effects of exposure to such levels of pollution are becoming increasingly better recognised. The Council’s own corporate plan envisages no improvement in congestion or air quality until at least 2016.


Meanwhile, the debate about the Westgate Towers Traffic Trial continues. Whatever is ultimately decided with the Trial, Keith Taylor is right to say that Canterbury’s problem with traffic all comes down to the fact that there is too much of it. There was before the Westgate scheme and there will still be too much afterwards. Whilst we applaud the intentions and determination of the Council to get to grips with the issue (and I support the Westgate Towers trial), we fear that too many of their measures (more slip roads and another Park and Ride) are too autocentric. To find a lasting solution, we are going to have to think much more radically about how we all use our cars.

80% of all car journeys are under 10 miles and two-thirds of all journeys are less than 5 miles. 85% of commuter cars have one occupant. What we’re going to need is a range of measures to change a culture in which jumping into the car for any journey is the default means of travel. They have done it in other places. In Copenhagen one third of the population commute by car, one third by public transport and one third cycle. In this country, trials in other cities comparable to Canterbury have produced reductions in car use and increases in more sustainable forms of travelling. 

The good news is that a sustainable transport blueprint for the city is about to fall into councillors’ laps. Lynn Sloman is one of the country’s leading experts on sustainable transport. She has been working on this blueprint for a number of months and will reveal its findings at a public meeting at the Dominican Priory at 7:30pm on Thursday, 8th November. Her report comes free to the Council and we hope and trust that they will grab it gratefully with both hands and eagerly implement any recommendations. Council leader John Gilbey made a strong commitment to tackling the pollution and congestion when the Conservatives were re-elected to power last year and reiterated that resolve during the recent debates about the Westgate Traffic Trial. I have no idea what will be in the report, but, if I were him, I would be cancelling appointments for that evening and rubbing my hands in anticipation.
Naturally, we will be doing the same and lobbying tirelessly for any recommendations to be implemented as soon as possible.

Yours faithfully,

Russell Page

Chair, Canterbury Green Party