Sunday, 28 October 2012

The Canterbury Society to hold an Open Meeting.

7:30pm Thursday 8th November 2012.

A Blueprint for Reducing Congestion in Canterbury.

The debate about Canterbury’s traffic congestion, poor air quality and high carbon footprint has been rumbling on for years. Large areas of the city are now ‘Air Quality Management Areas’ in which levels of pollutants, known to be harmful to health, exceed EU and DEFRA guidelines. (See articles under the Air Quality and Transport headings)


The continuing problems, together with the feeling that things were getting worse not better, prompted the formation of a group to campaign specifically on the issue of Canterbury’s air quality. That group is called Canterbury4CleanAir. At around the time the group was formed, I read a book called ‘Car Sick’ by Lynn Sloman. Her book put a finger right on the nature of our problems here and elsewhere. More importantly, it pointed the way to some solutions, citing examples of work done, and improvements made on the continent. I contacted Lynn to discover that, lo and behold, she went to school in Canterbury. Her Mum still lives in the area and she herself is a regular visitor here! Lynn then pointed us, (Canterbury 4 Clean Air) in the direction of work she had been doing for the government on the Sustainable Transport Towns and Cycling Demonstration Towns projects. This work demonstrated how congestion could be cut in British cities comparable to our own. The success of these projects led to the creation of the government’s Local Sustainable Transport Fund, from which KCC successfully bid for funds.

We discussed ways in which Lynn could help us here and finally came up with the idea of a Blueprint for reducing congestion in our city. After tireless applications for funding by Canterbury Green Party and C4CA member Emily Shirley finally bore fruit, the Blueprint was commissioned by the Canterbury Society. Lynn will be presenting the draft of it in person at an Open Meeting of the Society. This takes place on Thursday 8th November at 7.30pm in the Dominican Priory. (Tickets available on the door - £3 each)

We can’t wait to see what is in the draft, and we are delighted that a number of councillors, including the portfolio holder for transport, several council officers and officials from Stagecoach, as well as interested members of the public, have all said that they will be attending.

It is the culmination of a lot of time and work from many. We’ll have to see what is in the Blueprint and how it is received, particularly by the ruling group on the Council. However, we are greatly encouraged by their determination to deal with the problems here. To my knowledge, this will be the first time that a city or town will have been presented with such a blueprint (apart from those in the projects mentioned above). Perhaps it is not too na├»ve to hope that, rather than being the ‘sick man’ of the south east, identified as an egregious example of cities with poor air quality in EU reports, Canterbury might become a beacon of good practice for sustainable travel. A ‘Kentish Copenhagen’, an exemplar of the shift away from the carbon guzzling autocentrism blighting towns and cities across the country to a gentler, cleaner, healthier and more sustainable model of urban living. What a coup for the Council and the city that would be! A person can hope can’t they?