Published: 00:00, 14 March 2019
A new tunnel linking Wincheap to the city ring road is among a raft of measures put forward to tackle Canterbury's "dire" traffic issues.
Along with reduced bus fares and more cycle routes, a relief road allowing cars to bypass the congested Wincheap roundabout is one of 13 transport-related recommendations in the Canterbury Society's newest vision for the city.
The report, based on a survey of residents, says traffic congestion and pollution have been named the worst aspects of living in Canterbury.
It calls for "serious investigations" into creating a tunnel through the rail embankment to the west of Canterbury East station, near Aldi supermarket just off Rheims Way, which could reduce the frequent gridlocks under the railway bridge.
It also says fully linked north to south and east to west cycle routes through the city centre should be completed by 2023, and asks the city council to work with bus operator Stagecoach to explore fare reductions as a way of encouraging more people to use public transport.
"There's a lot of concern about the level of traffic pollution, which we do seem to have a particular problem with in Canterbury, due to the amount of traffic trying in and out on roads which were built, basically, for horses and carriages," says John Walker, the deputy chair of the Canterbury Society, which campaigns to protect and enhance the city's heritage.
"We've got the level crossing at St Dunstan's, for example, which closes every 10 to 15 minutes and causes backlogs of traffic in that area, and you do actually taste the pollution in the air sometimes."
The group is also calling for a newly formed Sustainable Transport Forum, set up to encourage walking, cycling, car sharing and greater use of public transport, to be given more teeth by enlisting equal numbers of transport experts and councillors as members.
It says these measures are all the more needed in light of the 11,000 houses that, under the Local Plan, are likely to be built by 2031.
"We don't think enough is being done in that direction at the moment," Mr Walker continued.
"There's a lot that could be done if we could get together with the local authority and work out some sort of strategy."
The Society's vision, which considers a wide range of policy areas from housing to poverty, healthcare and anti-social behaviour between now and 2030, has also urged the city council to build 1,000 homes for social or genuinely affordable rent in the next ten years to tackle homelessness.
Citing figures showing the percentage of children living in poverty - defined as below 60% of the median household income - is as high as 40% in Northgate Ward, 33% in St Stephen's, 29% in Barton and 26% in Wincheap, it says low wages and tighter welfare rules are creating "major wealth divides".
"For the last 10 years, the local authority has been prevented from building council housing by central government. They have only just, about a year ago, been released from that," Mr Walker continued.
"Now is the time for the council to embark on a proper community house building programme.
"The latest information we have shows there were 2,700 households on the housing waiting list. That's a lot of families. That's a lot of suffering for people, that I think, as a society, we ought to be concerned about."
The report also calls for a new Eco-Forum to be set up with the aim of conserving energy, generating more renewable energy and promoting "aggressive recycling", and for the city's tourist attractions to be boosted with an improved visitor information centre.
The Society says it will use feedback from residents to lobby local and national policymakers to take their views into account.
Pick up next Thursday's Kentish Gazette for a full report.
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