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Double bypass plan for Canterbury could prevent city suffering 'reputational harm' and save it from losing Unesco World Heritage status


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Canterbury could suffer “reputational harm” if it follows the mistakes of Liverpool and loses its Unesco World Heritage status, the city council has warned.

The authority fears there would also be a negative impact on investment and the ability to table successful bids for grant funding.

Canterbury Cathedral forms part of the city's triple-headed World Heritage status
Canterbury Cathedral forms part of the city's triple-headed World Heritage status

But the council believes its proposals for a ring-road revolution can become a potential factor in safeguarding the city’s protected standing.

Canterbury has held the Unesco status since 1988, with the Cathedral, St Augustine’s Abbey and St Martin’s Church forming a triple-headed heritage site.

But alarm bells have begun ringing at every World Heritage location after the United Nations’ historical body stripped Liverpool of its title due to the dockside undergoing too much development.

Council officers have collated a report on how the authority is managing its stewardship role across the district and what improvements could be made in the future.

This includes reducing the levels of traffic on the snarled-up ring-road by building two bypasses, and further encouraging sustainable transport methods with improved pedestrian and cycling routes.

Two bypasses are planned for Canterbury. A council report suggests the proposals can help safeguard the city's World Heritage status by diverting traffic from the ring-road
Two bypasses are planned for Canterbury. A council report suggests the proposals can help safeguard the city's World Heritage status by diverting traffic from the ring-road

The radical changes to the city’s road infrastructure is perceived to have “significant benefits in enhancing the historic environment including the setting of the World Heritage sites”.

Officers believe reduced reliance on the ring-road will provide better connectivity between the Cathedral, abbey and England’s oldest church.

The council’s regeneration committee will discuss the report at a meeting tonight (Thursday).

The authority is set to publish a new management plan for heritage sites next year - 20 years after the previous plan was implemented.

To become a Unesco heritage site, at least one of 10 criteria must be met.

St. Augustine's Abbey
St. Augustine's Abbey

They include having a ‘masterpiece of human creative genius’ and for a location ‘to bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition’.

As part of the protection, the landmarks must have a ‘buffer zone’ around them which prevents over-development near the sites.

The council report reads: “If Canterbury were ever to lose its World Heritage site status there is a risk that there could potentially be some negative impact on investment, as well as the ability to make successful grant bids and reputational harm.

“The district’s heritage is a strategic resource that contributes positively to the well-being, cohesion, economy and sustainable development of the community, beyond matters of simple conservation.

“Recently, it has faced, and will continue to face, a series of challenges.

St Martin's Church makes up part of the World Heritage site
St Martin's Church makes up part of the World Heritage site

“However, the multifaceted community role the council has has an important role in the coordination and stewardship of the historic environment.”

As it stands, Canterbury remains one of the 31 World Heritage locations in the UK.

Stonehenge is now under threat, while the Tower of London and Cornwall’s historic mining area are also at risk due to nearby development.

Read more: All the latest news from Canterbury

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