Clean air campaigners will consider taking legal action against the building of a multi-storey car park in Station Road West.
Last night there were angry scenes as the city council’s planning committee granted the authority permission to build the £9.1 million three-floor structure.
Opponents shouted “shame” and “what a surprise” after the committee voted 9-3 in favour of the 374-space development.
After the meeting Prof Stephen Peckham, a clean air campaigner and University of Kent academic, said critics of the proposal would consider taking legal action.
“This would be on air quality issues,” Prof Peckham told the Canterbury Journal.
“We would consider going down the judicial review route. Of course, to do that we would have to raise the money ourselves.
“The council is already facing a judicial review over air quality relating to the increased traffic that the Mountfield Park development to the south of the city will create.
“And the fact is that I just do not believe that most of the committee properly listened to the evidence presented to them.”
Critics of the scheme fear it will worsen pollution and congestion in the area around the car park.
Allen Tullett, of the St Dunstan’s Residents Association, said: “This proposal would bring detrimental levels of traffic to an area already suffering from illegally high levels of pollution and would see our roads further choked and congested.
“At a time when cities around the world are seeking to find innovative ways to reduce car use, it seems crazy and backward to concentrate vehicles in one part of the city. Canterbury should not take this retrograde step by building a structure that will blight the community for decades to come.”
There is also concern about the building’s design.
Labour councillor Alan Baldock asked: “Is the country’s most expensive 3,000 square metre, three-storey wooded shed a wonderful building to welcome our visitors to a world heritage site and greet those returning from work?”
Council leaders say the car park will serve shoppers using St Dunstan’s Street and commuters travelling from the Canterbury West train station.
Cllr Ben Fitter-Harding is not on the planning committee, but chairs its regeneration and property committee. Last night he tweeted: “Thrilled and excited to hear that Station Road West multi-storey car park has been granted planning permission this evening!”
The car park 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.
Canterbury City Council has defended its position. Spokesman Rob Davies said: “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.
“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.”