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Alliance of Canterbury Residents' Associations deliver stinging verdict on public consultation

By Gerry Warren

The city council has been accused of “ignoring the public” over plans to build almost 16,000 new homes across the district.

An association representing 20 residents groups has delivered a stinging attack on the authority’s final draft Local Plan – a blueprint for development over the next 17 years.

The council wants to build 15,600 homes in Canterbury, Herne Bay and Whitstable, as well as roads through the city and on the coast.

A 4,000-home 'garden city' is earmarked for land in south Canterbury
A 4,000-home 'garden city' is earmarked for land in south Canterbury

The Alliance of Canterbury Residents Associations (Acra) has slammed the controversial housing and transport proposals in a detailed critique submitted to the authority.

It accuses the city council of largely ignoring public opinion, despite changes being made to the draft Local Plan following a consultation.

Members say that while it contains some positive proposals, it suffers from four significant problems. It claims the consultation was designed to manoeuvre people into approving what the council had already decided.

The group also said supporting papers and evidence, including the transport and open space strategies, had neither been agreed nor made public.

It questioned the case for building 15,600 new homes before 2031, claiming the number has not been reached through robust research and contains too many doubts about population predictions.

Questions were raised about transport provisions which the group said were both insufficient and not thought through and will cause bottlenecks.

Chairman of the Alliance of Canterbury Residents' Associations, Clive Church
Chairman of the Alliance of Canterbury Residents' Associations, Clive Church

Acra chairman Clive Church said: “The findings of a MORI poll were misinterpreted so as to suggest wider support for the council’s preferred option than was warranted by the evidence.

“Virtually no notice was taken of the 7,000 responses to the formal consultation, many of them constructive as well as critical. The views of many residents have been largely ignored.

“This does not constitute the kind of consultation required by the National Planning Policy Framework, so Acra is unable to endorse it.

“The absence of supporting documents also makes Acra uneasy and we are alarmed there is no formal statement about the council’s co-operation with other authorities and agencies, which is one of the requirements for the plan to be declared sound.

“While Acra fully accepts the need for more affordable and starter homes in Canterbury, we are unconvinced that sufficient of these will be delivered.

“The heavy infrastructure costs likely to be imposed on developers suggest to us that there will be more executive homes than affordable ones.”

Acra’s response to the consultation will now go forward with all other comments to a planning inspector, who is expected to hold a planning inquiry in spring next year.

Council spokesman Rob Davies said: “The council carried out extensive public consultation and the draft plan was amended in many places as a result. We believe we have a plan supported by a significant amount of evidence that sets the district up for a very strong social and economic future, providing the homes people need, the infrastructure to go with them and the employment opportunities.

“We look forward to presenting the plan and having it thoroughly, independently scrutinised at the forthcoming inquiry.”

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