Canterbury City Council says it intends to fight any legal challenge to thwart its plans to build a multi-storey car park in Station Road West.
Last night the Conservative-controlled authority’s planning committee approved the £9.1 million project despite opposition from residents and Labour and Lib Dem councillors.
Prof Stephen Peckham, a clean air campaigner and University of Kent academic, led the campaign against the car park arguing that it would worsen pollution.
After the meeting, he said campaigners would consider launching a legal challenge potentially involving a judicial review of the decision.
But today, the council issued an unequivocal restatement of its position.
Spokesman Rob Davies told the Canterbury Journal: “The main decision on whether to build and fund the new car park had already been taken, so last night’s meeting was only to look at the planning issues.
“The two issues are very carefully separated and we have followed due process throughout.
“This application has been subject to rigorous examination and councillors had a very comprehensive report before them when making their decision.
“All relevant issues have been considered and the views of public speakers were heard with great interest before the vote was taken.
“The report specifically addressed the issue of the impact of the development on air quality and our expert on this subject spoke at the meeting to answer questions and provide more information.”
Last night’s planning meeting saw nearly 100 protesters pack the Guildhall. There were angry scenes after the 9-3 decision was announced with shouts of “shame” and “what a surprise”.
Planning chairman Cllr Jenny Samper repeatedly asked members of the public to quieten down and even threatened to suspend the meeting.
Mr Davies added: “It is inevitable that such a major project will provoke strong reactions, and views on both sides of the argument have been put forward with passion.
“We believe this to be the right development for the long term future of parking in the city and the sustainability of Canterbury West station, as well as supporting and promoting businesses in the St Dunstan’s area, which are predominantly smaller, independent traders.
“As such, we would robustly defend our position in any forthcoming legal action.”
Rosie Duffield, who is approaching the anniversary of her first year as Canterbury and Whitstable MP, was also critical of the decision.
She said: “Sad that Tory-dominated Canterbury City Council is unable to listen to community groups, environmental experts, local residents and other political parties.
“They are all concerned that simply building another incredibly expensive car park will not tackle any of our serious traffic or air pollution problems.”
The 374-space three-floor car park will be built on the site of the existing council-owned car park in Station Road West.
It will take around a year to build and would be ticketless with lengths of stays measured by an automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) system.
Supporters of the scheme, including Canterbury for Business, say additional car parking spaces are needed in the city.