On Friday the Canterbury Journal was the first to reveal that Canterbury City Council wants to up sticks and find somewhere better to live.
City councillors will discuss quitting Military Road, which has served as the authority’s home since the 1980s, at the policy and resources committee tonight (Wednesday).
Also on the agenda is the authority’s mammoth Canterbury Air Quality Action Plan.
Now, while these agenda items might seem wholly disparate, they are in fact connected.
The city council is the authority is charged with improving air quality by encouraging people on to bike, foot or public transport.
I’ve always thought it curious, therefore, that the selfsame authority enjoys the use of a gigantic car park bigger than a supermarket’s just behind its offices. Free and containing ample space, this has to be the best parking provision for any organisation in the whole of the Canterbury district.
The effect of this, then, is to create the impression that ditching the car in the name of a less polluted and less congested city is something other people should do.
It is view reinforced by officers’ and councillors’ actions.
I remember attending a meeting at Military Road about the council’s new transportation strategy of which getting people on to buses was a key component.
Around the table were the transportation manager, chief executive Colin Carmichael and then leader John Gilbey. On the table afore them, meanwhile, were bulky car key fobs for various high performance vehicles.
When I met two senior officers at a High Street coffee shop one morning, they both admitted they had driven the short distance into town.
On meeting nights in The Guildhall, the Tower House car park is well used by council staff and councillors who prefer the speed and convenience of their vehicles to public transport.
One prominent ex-councillor who lives in Canterbury used to park at Tower House to save a walk into town and a few pounds on a parking ticket.
And why not? Council people are human like the rest of us.
But that then ought to prompt us to ask why the authority is so fond of these so-called car-free accommodation schemes for students. It’s as if students are a variety of transient sub-species who don’t merit the benefit of car use afforded to the rest of humanity in Canterbury.
This got me thinking: instead of Barretts at the corner of Pound Lane and St Peter’s Street becoming yet more student flats, why doesn’t boss Paul Barrett sell the site to Canterbury City Council for its new HQ.
We would then have the trinity of council activity within a few hundred yards: the administration block across the road from the democratic chamber of the Guildhall with the civic building Tower House yonder.
There would be no car parking at the site as the council actually used its own actions rather than just words to demonstrate a commitment to reducing car use.
Any council people still determined to use their vehicles would have to pay for parking just like any other person who wants to drive into the city centre.
Better still, they could be asked to buy monthly or yearly permits for the new Station Road West multi-storey car park given that there are fears it will be underused.
Yes, yes, it’s all coming together in my mind.
Of course, the mind is the only place this plan exists. Barretts will still become student flats. The council will probably move to some out of town spot only accessible by road journey.
And councillors and council staff will all still be using their cars – just like everyone else.