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Canterbury's Mountfield developer allays traffic and pollution fears

By Gerry Warren

The man behind Canterbury's biggest ever housing development says he wants the plan to have "zero effect" on the city's already congested roads.

Simon Wright, chief executive of Corinthian which has permission for 4,000 homes in South Canterbury, says there is no reason why it should increase traffic. That due to a new slip road on the A2 and efforts to mitigate vehicle movements.

In an exclusive interview, he said: “I can’t sit here and say the development is not going to affect Canterbury." But he said huge efforts were being made to mitigate the impact on roads and air quality.

The Mountfield Park development planned for South Canterbury
The Mountfield Park development planned for South Canterbury

“I have had the best consultants in the country working out what we are going to do with modal traffic shifting," he added.

“We actually have a travel plan, including a new junction onto the A2 that shows we want to add nothing further to Canterbury city centre.

“Our aim is for Mountfield Park to have a zero traffic effect, but I do understand that will take a hell of a lot of work.”

Although the Mountfield development has planning permission work is being held up due to a judicial challenge from environment campaigners.

The city council granted outline permission for the scheme in December last year and gave the green light for work to start on the first 140 homes, close to the Barton estate off New Dover Road.

After a recent two-day hearing, a High Court judge is deliberating on whether to order the Secretary of State to call in the plans for determination, potentially delaying construction for up to a year.

For now it’s a waiting game for Corinthian, albeit an expensive one.

Corinthian chief executive Simon Wright
Corinthian chief executive Simon Wright

Mr Wright said: “Every month we can’t start work is costing £200,000 out of my own pocket, which is money I would rather be spending on offering more benefits.”

Environmental campaigners leading the legal challenge claim the vast housing development, which is one of the biggest in the country, will create an extra 28,000 journeys a day on the city’s roads.

Mr Wright says he “does not recognise” this figure, adding "I don’t know where this number has been pulled from".

Mr Wright is also funding a cross-city air quality study to the tune of £500,000 with the University of Kent and is pledging a number of green initiatives in the bid to tackle pollution.

An artist's impression of Mountfield Park
An artist's impression of Mountfield Park

All new homeowners will be given an electric bike, with an electric shuttle bus service running around the new estates, taking residents in and out of the city centre.

A warehouse within Mountfield Park is also an ambition, collecting deliveries and sending them out across the city in electric vehicles to avoid fume-belching trucks coming into Canterbury.

Mr Wright, however, wants the city to go even further in the fight against traffic pollution.

“What’s to stop us building a raised wooden platform around the city for cyclists?” he asked.

Mr Wright says work on a two-entry primary school will begin as soon as building starts on the first 140-home phase, despite no conditions demanding it.

He added: “It is generally accepted that Canterbury needs a lot more homes and we believe south of the city close to the A2 is the best place.

“As the developer, I think we need to step up and do what we can. We have sat down with a lot of the residential groups and had a lot of positive conversations.

“What we have got to do is make sure it is sustainable and done as well as we possibly can.”

Green campaigner Emily Shirley
Green campaigner Emily Shirley

Despite these promises, he still has to overcome a well organised campaign from the environmental lobby. Emily Shirley, who is leading the legal action, said: “I’m not interested in the developer’s position who, let’s face it, is there to make lots of money,”

“They aren’t building homes for people who live in Canterbury, anyway, but for people in London who will sell their swanky houses, move to Canterbury and use the high-speed line.

“It’s for the city council and the government not to permit unhealthy communities to stay unhealthy and add to that. Why should existing residents have to breathe in poisonous toxic fumes, especially the young?"

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