With the 4,000-home Mountfield Park development set to become a reality, Martin Vye offers sees disastrous consequences for the city’s roads and air quality
Canterbury City Council’s decision to approve the construction of 4,000 houses on agricultural land to the south of the city is the worst planning decision in the 40 years I have lived in the district.
It was taken in 2016 when I was a county councillor for a part of Canterbury that would be directly affected by the development.
As the highways authority, Kent County Council had to be consulted on the impact Mountfield Park would have on the road network.
I did my homework – and came to the conclusion it would be disastrous.
The arithmetic is simple. The figures accepted by both KCC and the developers are that Mountfield Park will generate an additional 1,876 car movements in the morning rush hour and 1,864 in the afternoon peak, mainly due to people driving to and from work.
This is even after allowing for a reduction in use of car because some will opt to walk or cycle or use the bus.
Now, Mountfield Park will have roughly the same number of residents as the existing Barton Ward, roughly the built-up area between Old Dover Road and the A257 Littlebourne Road and the ring road.
The latest figures show 1,800 Barton residents using their cars to get to work.
Even if we accept the developer’s measures to reduce car use, the combined volume of traffic is set to be double what it is now.
Almost all of it will travel along the Old and New Dover Roads and then most will head on to the already congested A28 city ring road, worsening Canterbury’s air quality.
In 2016 I was told by highways officers that KCC had commissioned a review of the ring road which I thought would examine the effect on the volume of traffic of all the housing developments in and around Canterbury which have now been agreed.
I expected it to be published in time for the planning committee meeting that would determine the Mountfield Park application.
Well, I was wrong. First, it has only just come out.
Second, it is not a judgment of what will happen in the future, only a study of what would happen if the roundabouts – with the present volume of traffic – were controlled by traffic signals.
Effectively, KCC is burying its head in the sand and pretending the future doesn’t exist.
At the end of the report on the ring-road infrastructure support provider Amey stresses it is reporting on levels of traffic at the present.
However, it does say that it did some quick and dirty modelling based on the actual increase in houses, admitting it had “resulted in significant congestion on the network”.
And there is one telling prediction we should fear: “In future years, the additional traffic expected between New Dover Road and Broad Street cannot be accommodated without further changes to the road network.
“For example, removal of the 240m bus lane east of St George’s roundabout”.
If they do that, what price the “modal shift”, the switch from car use to bus use the developer and councils are saying has to happen?
This is why I think it is the worst planning decision ever taken in Canterbury. This is why I opposed it. And this is why I am angry KCC did not.
Martin Vye is a retired King’s School teacher, a former Lib Dem city and county councillor and a onetime Lord Mayor of Canterbury. He lives in Bridge.