The big question of whether Canterbury should have thousands of new homes to fund a much-needed eastern bypass – bringing with it major environmental benefits for the city centre – is set to go out to public consultation.
Canterbury City Council’s Policy Committee meets next Thursday (27 May) to discuss whether to put the options consultation for the review of its Local Plan out for public views.
And the ‘preferred growth scenario’ set out in the committee report is for between 14,000 and 17,000 new homes for the district up to the year 2040, with the majority of them in the city alongside some expansion on the coast and in villages to support the housing needs of those places and the continuing regeneration of Herne Bay.
The government’s minimum requirement for new homes in the district up to 2040 is 9,000, but following extensive research and having heard the views of residents in last year’s issues consultation, the council is taking the view that a much bolder approach might be the best way forward.
This long-talked-about bypass would allow cars to be removed from the inner ring road, to be replaced by dedicated cycle lanes and public transport links. This would address the city’s congestion problems, improve air quality and public health, and enhance Canterbury’s historic environment.
As well as setting out the ‘preferred growth scenario’, the options consultation also puts forward the council’s vision for the district as a whole up to 2040 and asks for views.
It is aiming for a stronger and more resilient economy with highly-skilled jobs, a range of high quality, low-carbon homes to meet the needs of the district and improve affordability, investment in digital infrastructure, tackling the challenges of climate change and supporting the health and wellbeing of residents.
Views on the council’s draft visions for all three urban areas would also be sought if councillors agree to put this latest stage of the Local Plan process out to consultation.
Leader of the council, Cllr Ben Fitter-Harding, said: “It’s the issue that never goes away – build as few homes as possible but continue to overload our already-creaking infrastructure, or propose enough development to fund the infrastructure we actually need, now and in the future.
“Leveraging the latest technologies, we have the chance here to be visionary and radical, taking the steps to tackle the issues with traffic and congestion in the middle of Canterbury once and for all.
“But to get to that place, which many people have told us they want to get to, and with all the benefits it brings for the environment and our health, we’ll have to accept thousands of additional new houses so that the bypass can be paid for and built.
“If councillors agree to go out to consultation, we will be very keen to see where public opinion sits, both on this thorny issue and on our vision for the district for the next 20 years.”