With plans moving forward to build a 380-space car park at Canterbury’s West Station, commuter and business consultant Peter Styles looks in detail at the £9 million development.
Proposing a three-storey car park at Canterbury West, the city council appears convinced it can profit from the scheme and meet a growing demand for parking next to the train station.
The reality is, however, that the car park contradicts the authority’s own transport strategy, adopted in July as part of the district-wide Local Plan.
In particular, the proposed car park increases access for private vehicles on the south side at Station Road West.
It does so without any improvements for pedestrians, cyclists, bus passengers and taxis. That will tend to undermine the so-called “modal shift” which envisages the population switching to foot, bike or public transport in the years ahead.
Pedestrians will find access to the station impeded by the extra vehicle movements in and out of the station.
Moreover, cyclists, bus users and railway passengers wishing to reach the station by taxi would be better served by an additional station entrance off Roper Road.
I do not accept that it is beyond the wit or power of the city council, Network Rail and Southeastern to install a walkway over the tracks to create one.
But I am aware that council leaders are convinced that a new car park is crucial to their city development vision.
I quite understand they see both a future source of income and an opportunity to shrink the existing municipal car parks in the city centre.
However, I am convinced the land could be put to other uses.
Rather than a car park, destined to draw in more motorists to the St Dunstan’s area from outside the city, development could comprise high value mixed use residential and commercial premises with immediate access to the station.
In addition, I dispute the council leaders’ supposition, that building a multi-storey car park in a conservation area is necessary for cutting spaces elsewhere.
The council is free in legal terms to reduce spaces in any of the car parks it owns no matter what it may have said in the past.
Fewer spaces, furthermore, need not damage income. The difference could be made up by raising on-street parking charges and introducing an inner city road use charging scheme.
Peter Styles runs a business consultancy in the energy and financial sectors. He lives in south Canterbury with his wife and two sons and regularly commutes from the West Station.
The council’s planning application to itself for the car park will be decided later in the year.