Published: 06:00, 26 September 2020
Developers behind one of Canterbury city centre’s biggest regeneration projects say they are confident it will not become a magnet for crime.
Police have raised concerns over the proposed £30 million redevelopment of the old Nasons department store - suggesting it is “likely to attract criminality, anti-social behaviour and nuisance” due to it being a new focus in the high street.
The force has given suggestions on how to safeguard the site, including 24/7 security to protect the proposed retail arcade, market hall, offices, 33 flats and 32 apartments.
“This planned development includes a great deal of permeability in an area where crime figures represent the proximity to the night-time economy,” they say. “Failure to address and incorporate our concerns could easily lead to an escalation of existing crime problems that would detrimentally affect the city centre.
“This development is likely to attract criminality, anti-social behaviour and nuisance even if purely because it is a new development in a key location, therefore designing out the opportunity for crime from the fore is paramount.”
But property investment firm Setha Group, which is behind the Biggleston Yard project, says that once the scheme is up-and-running, it will actually help curb crime in the area.
Currently, the eyesore is attracting nuisance behaviour but they are confident the plans will reverse that trend.
“Despite having 24-hour security, our site has been subject to vandalism during the lockdown, resulting in arrests,” they say.
“We had a very positive meeting with Kent Police’s ‘designing out crime’ officer about the development and the benefits it will bring, particularly given the existing site, its condition and the anti-social behaviour it is currently attracting.
"Our plans include on-site security during construction, and security measures incorporating better lighting, CCTV cameras and restricted entry to certain areas after hours when completed.”
The proposed redevelopment of the site will see the introduction of new pedestrian routes, connecting the high street with the churchyard of St Margaret’s Church. The design also makes it possible to link Jewry Lane with St Margaret’s Street, converging in two courtyards.
Simon Child, from architects Child Graddon Lewis, said: “Improving the ability of the public to move through the site as a whole is one of its key economic attractions, and we have been encouraged to expand on for Biggleston Yard.
"We feel the design offers a good balance between maximum permeability and manageable security. Having consulted Kent Police on the design we are comfortable we can satisfy their concerns.”
Crime in the city centre is now creeping back up to pre-lockdown levels but the district’s chief inspector claims her officers are not being complacent.
Statistics show reports of crime are almost back to the levels of 2019 - reflecting the resurgence of life in the city as it begins to resume to a form of normality.
Figures had tumbled in April when the country was in peak lockdown but crimes - especially anti-social behaviour and shoplifting - are now back on the rise.
July resulted in 272 crimes being reported in the Westgate ward, just seven shy of the 279 logged with police in August 2019.
Ch Insp Elena Hall, district commander for Canterbury, said: “Kent Police is not complacent and we remain focused on continuing to work with partner agencies to keep the city safe.
“It is the people behind the data, the victims, the witnesses and our communities, that are at the heart of what we do and we know that every victim of crime is one too many.
“Officers from Canterbury’s Community Safety Unit and Local Policing Team are continuing to patrol areas where concerns have been raised, as well as responding to calls and taking proactive action to identify and arrest suspects.
“In relation to anti-social behaviour, I urge residents who witness incidents to report them straight away. We will then work with our partner agencies to ensure those people responsible are identified and dealt with in an appropriate way.”