Council leader says ignore misinformation and have your say on the draft Local Plan

The leader of Canterbury City Council, Cllr Ben Fitter-Harding, says he wants people living, working and studying in the district and who have real-life experiences of the challenges they face to have their say on the draft local plan before the consultation closes next week.

His plea follows vile abuse sent to officers and councillors via email and on social media and the hijacking of a drop-in event for residents by protesters from outside the area.

The transport proposals within the plan have come under the most fire with incorrect claims people’s freedom of movement will be restricted so much they will never be able to leave the area they live in or would have to pay to do so, it would be Berlin without the walls and is a conspiracy to turn Canterbury into a communist dictatorship much like China.

No decisions have been made on what is known as the Canterbury Circulation Plan which is designed to make it easier to get around than it is today by ensuring it is much more pleasant to walk, get on your bike or use much-improved public transport while cutting the queues cars are forced to sit in.

Cllr Fitter-Harding said: “We’ve come up with a vision to tackle Canterbury’s gridlock, reduce the pollution that harms people’s health and to make our city centre with its World Heritage Sites a much nicer place to be.

“This will not happen tomorrow, it’s years in the making. It’s about making everyone’s journey better by making it easier to walk, to cycle and hop on public transport while radically reducing the queues private cars are stuck in – that’s giving people many more choices not fewer.

“This really is not about making money or restricting people’s freedom of movement by banning them from leaving their neighbourhood. They will still be able to and nobody has said they won’t.

“And this is not part of a worldwide conspiracy of the powerful to con people into believing in climate change and the start of climate change lockdowns, faking the Covid-19 virus, tricking people into having vaccines and pretending there is a war in Ukraine to drive up prices and keep the population under control.

“It’s because we live in a democracy, we want people who live, work and study here to tell us what they think about our proposals or how they would improve them in a constructive way.”

The idea of creating neighbourhood zones goes hand in hand with the building of a bypass to the east of the city, new junctions on the A2, relocated car parks and park and rides and better buses.

The local plan also looks to build two brand new secondary schools on the coast to end the need for hundreds of parents and carers to drop their children into the city in the mornings and pick them up again in the afternoons, which adds to the queues now and makes rush hour even longer.

Cllr Fitter-Harding said: “None of this will happen tomorrow. We are asking for your views on our plan now and it would take at least 15 years to be put into place.

“We think many journeys won’t change when accessing essential services, going to work, caring for someone, driving a taxi or making a delivery.

“And we want to know the types of journeys you think should be allowed across the city without using the new bypass when in a private car or even days and times when restrictions might not be needed at all.

“Some people’s journeys will change and they will need to use the new bypass or A2.

“The distance they travel might be a touch longer but they will save time.

“The bonus for everyone is they won’t have to fight through the traffic as they do now. We want to make people’s lives easier, not harder.

“We think the benefit for all residents is the transformation of the city centre environment by cutting the queues and air pollution so we make it a place people want to spend their time and, crucially, the ability for Canterbury and the surrounding area to have vastly improved public transport.”

The consultation closes at 5pm on Monday 16 January.

People can read the draft Local Plan and give their views on the council’s website.

Published: 9 January 2023

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