The city council would not be facing legal challenges over air quality in Canterbury had it earlier decided to press ahead with building an eastern bypass, say Lib Dems.
On Thursday night, the Canterbury Journal broke the news that the city and county councils had jointly agreed to begin work planning a road linking the A28 at Sturry with the A2 at Bridge.
The road would divert large amounts of traffic away from the city, helping to ease congestion and improve air quality.
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Canterbury City Council’s Liberal Democrat group welcomed Conservative leader Simon Cook’s announcement, but warned that had the authority heeded earlier calls for the road, it could have averted legal challenges it is facing.
A year ago next month a judge granted environmental campaigners a judicial review of the 4,000-house Mountfield Park development approved for south Canterbury amid fears that additional vehicle movements to and from it would worsen air quality in the city.
In a statement following Thursday’s link road announcement, the Lib Dem group said: “We are delighted that the council has finally acceded to our demands for the bypass.
“But if the Conservative administration had listened when we first put the proposal to council who knows how much council taxpayers’ money might have been saved?
“The Mountfield Park development, named as the worst planning decision Canterbury has ever taken, is snarled up in legal challenges.
“A significant element of the objection is the damage it will do to traffic congestion and the detrimental impact on air pollution.”
Lib Dem group leader Michael Dixey added: “Although the decision has been taken too late to avoid needless legal costs, we encourage the council to prioritise work on the bypass. Building new roads presents its own set of hurdles to overcome. It may be some time before ground is broken.”
Making the bypass announcement, Cllr Cook said: “We work very closely with the county council on the road network in and around the city and the improvements that are needed in the future, connected to population growth and the needs of businesses.
“We know that the government sees Canterbury as being a centre for growth in Kent, and we are keen on increasing prosperity and job creation. This requires housing to support those extra jobs, as well as ensuring our own residents and their children have good, affordable homes to live in.
“Planning for this future never stops, and together, we have agreed that now is the time to get this ambitious scheme off the ground. It is very early days and there is much work to do, but we will be seeking to push this forward as a priority for Canterbury.”
The council may face similar legal challenges over air quality after it approved a 374-space multi-storey car park for Station Road West.