Monday, 25 February 2013

The Westgate Towers Traffic Trial

We support it.


We think it comprises part of a vision that will help to ensure the future prosperity of the city and a viable future for the High Street. How? By recognising the strategic importance of HS1 at Canterbury West, by making the most of heritage assets like the Westgate Towers,  by effectively extending the High Street into St Dunstan’s and by beginning the process of developing a more sustainable transport system for the city.

Is it perfect? Of course not. There has been displacement of traffic to London Road and Station Road West and people there (as in other parts of the city) have to put up with unacceptable levels of congestion and pollution. A range of other measures, such as are outlined in the Sustainable Transport Blueprint for Canterbury (view here), would need to be urgently introduced to deal with this.
However, preliminary results from the Trial suggest that traffic in St Dunstan’s overall is down by 15% and in the city overall by 2% and that a number of streets previously in Air Quality Management Areas could be removed from such status. The Great Stour Way has been extended into the city centre and a ‘Brompton Dock’ cycle hire scheme will open shortly at Canterbury West.
We recognise that some businesses feel that the scheme has had a negative impact on their trade. Others though, say that their trade has been boosted. As yet, we understand, no business has closed since the trial started and some new businesses have even started up. The increased footfall expected in the area as a result of anticipated increases in visitor numbers would seem to offer potential increased sales for many of the businesses.
Many residents complain about feeling disenfranchised by the way in which the Trial was introduced. Greater consultation, or a phased introduction, may have been preferable. They might also have led to paralysis. The arguments about the traffic have gone on for decades and little has been done.
So, where are we now? Briefly, the situation is as follows:
The County Council has said that when the Trial ends at the end of March things will revert to how they were before (i.e. traffic through the Towers, pedestrianised areas returned to traffic), while interested parties look at the data and decide what to do. This might cost up to £100,000. The City Council wants the scheme to remain in place while the evidence is looked at. We think that this is the right option and can see no sense in spending £100,000 (and a potential further £100,000) unnecessarily.

We will continue to lobby for the trial to be made permanent.