Ambitious plans to bring Canterbury’s history to life, boost jobs and strengthen the city’s economic recovery could be at the centre of a bid for government cash.
Today, Thursday 27 May, councillors on Canterbury City Council’s Policy Committee will be asked to allow officers to use £125,000 from the Levelling Up Fund to help develop the Canterbury’s Tales of England project and prepare a bid for up to £20 million in 2022/23.
The government has identified Canterbury as a high priority for the fund. Eventually, the project could deliver:
- the creation of a pollinator park along the top of the city wall
- a tree planting programme
- improvements to Canterbury Castle including repairs, installing a roof and an internal structure and putting in special lighting to make it a feature
- improvements to Dane John Gardens including terraced steps/seats from the walls into the park and installing power for future events
- new signs and information boards to help visitors find their way around the city and uncover its hidden gems
- the creation of a Westgate Square close to the Westgate Towers by turning the area into a shared space for motorists and pedestrians, laying down a resin-bonded surface and installing power for future events
- the turning of the Guildhall into a visitor attraction, provided a suitable alternative site for the council chamber can be found
- further development of The Marlowe Kit, building on the success of the Marlowe and complementing potential lottery funding
Proposed plans for Canterbury Castle
Cllr Ben Fitter-Harding, Leader of Canterbury City Council and Chair of the Policy Committee said: “The Canterbury’s Tales of England idea springs from the fact we are not making enough of the history and heritage all around us.
“Canterbury’s story closely reflects England’s history and there are examples all around us – we’re just not tapping into them.
“A lot of work has gone into thinking of ways we can turn that situation around and we are extremely grateful to everyone involved, especially people like Stephen Allen from the Pound, the Canterbury BID and many others.
“The financial challenges faced by the council are well publicised but they should not dim our ambition especially where we can work closely together with others from all sectors in the city to spark change for the better.
“Working with our MP, businesses and the not-for-profit sector we can use this money to create something really special that will cement the city’s place on the map, boost our economy, create jobs for the long term, deliver parts of the council’s green agenda and bring benefits to people’s health and wellbeing.
“Handled in the right way, making this sort of investment in Canterbury will also increase prosperity in Herne Bay, Whitstable and our villages as they experience a boost in trade and visitor numbers.”
Proposed plans at the Westgate and Guildhall
The work taking place in the background has lead to a number of aspirations for the city, including:
- reinventing Canterbury as a world-class heritage and cultural destination to encourage longer visits, overnight stays and exploration of our rich heritage by visitors and residents
- maximising and celebrating the potential of our existing heritage sites while rescuing those at risk by providing them with a long-term commercial purpose
- creating a Canterbury Pass to make existing and new attractions available on a single ticket that could include travel and access to attractions in Whitstable, Herne Bay, the villages and even beyond the district
- linking our undervalued heritage assets, capital projects and organisations together under one umbrella to tell Tales of England, making it central to everything the city does
- creating a set of new world-class heritage experiences to allow Canterbury to compete on the world stage and maximise its UNESCO World Heritage Site status potential
- increasing the number of higher-spending visitors to the city centre to secure the future of one of Kent’s most important retail and commercial hubs by supporting our businesses which are the lifeblood of our city
- using this opportunity to further enhance Kent as a county people want to visit with Canterbury at its epicentre
- using this opportunity to encourage private investment in attractions, hotels and experiences
Cllr Fitter-Harding said: “If councillors agree to pursue this project, it would be a fantastic, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to turn those aspirations into reality.
“Of course, the money from the Levelling Up Fund won’t be enough to fulfill our ambitions but it would be a brilliant start and would encourage others to invest in Canterbury so the project takes on a natural life of its own.”