In a re-enactment of Henry II’s pilgrimage to mark the assassination of St Thomas Becket, 250 Canterbury citizens participated in a ‘Pilgrimage for Clean Air’ on Saturday, the 848th anniversary of the martyrdom.
The modern day pilgrims were told to remain hopeful and positive in their campaign to stop the building of the controversial multi-storey car park by Canterbury West station. The group started from St Dunstan’s Church where Henry II is said to have gone down on his knees for the final stage of his journey to the cathedral.
Three Canterbury residents told ‘Tales’ of their experiences to the processing group as it made its way to the cathedral, along the Marlowe Theatre and then round to the cite of the proposed £9.1 million development.
Telling the Air Quality Scientist’s Tale, Professor Stephen Peckham of the University of Kent told the protestors that Canterbury ranks with parts of London in terms of its poor air quality. He is particularly concerned that the car park will worsen conditions by drawing in over 370 vehicles to the city centre.
Standing by the Chaucer Statue, Professor Jan Pahl, chair of the Canterbury Society, recalled her experience as a mother pushing three small children along the polluted streets of Canterbury when the High Street was the main London-Dover road.
A leading proponent of a sustainable traffic hub at Canterbury West, she wants to see the multi-storey plans dropped and replaced with a scheme linking buses, trains and bicycles. Foremost among current ideas for a hub are another park-and-ride scheme for the north side of the city, the use of small hopper buses (as in Ashford) and a bus route which would continually encircle the city (like London’s Circle Line).
Telling her Scrivener’s Tale by Canterbury West, poet Victoria Ford encouraged the gathering to keep presenting positive ideas, to sign a petition (which will be handed in to the Council on 10 January) and to email councillors with their reservations.
The procession was accompanied by saxophonists and drummers. Organisers of the pilgrimage had hoped to attract 200 ‘pilgrims’ but marshals counted a total of 250 — including children in pushchairs, people walking with sticks and some asthmatics who recounted the effects of poor air on their lungs.