I’ve been sitting uncomfortably on the fence, trying to decide what I think about the proposed multi-storey car park in Station Road West.
Many people whose views and expertise I respect are adamantly opposed to it. They say, very plausibly, that it will attract more cars to what is already a very congested part of the city, especially in St Dunstan’s Street where cars waiting at the level crossing add appreciably to air pollution.
But I’m also conscious of the case made for the car park – that it will encourage people to use the trains from Canterbury West instead of travelling by car.
So, on balance, will it increase congestion by attracting more cars to the car park, or decrease congestion by getting more people to travel by train? And how can we tell?
In the circumstances I’m struck by the fact that two of the objections are from Network Rail and Southeastern Railway.
They have their own axe to grind, but if the aim is to encourage use of the train, you’d think they would support it.
Their particular beef is that the new development would cut off access to the station car park via the existing council car park.
Canterbury City Council’s response is that it haa no obligation to provide such access, and that “this is a civil matter for the council to resolve
with Southeastern Railway outside of this application”.
That sounds a bit cavalier. More tellingly, Southeastern says it would mean the loss of parking spaces from the station car park.
It advocates making the development “truly sustainable by limiting its use to those travelling by rail, [or] encouraging such use above others”.
It also suggest providing more cycle parking spaces in it. Then there is the point made by a number of taxi drivers, that the development would mean a further reduction in the already inadequate spaces for taxis.
And there is the point made in another comment, that it would detract from the space needed for much better bus services connecting the station to all parts of the city.
All in all, if the aim is to promote sustainable transport and alternatives to car travel, it doesn’t look good.
Council officers themselves acknowledge, in their report, that “the development would provide more car parking spaces than envisaged in the Canterbury District Transport Strategy.”
Southeastern’s suggestion that plans for the car park should prioritise the needs of rail travellers would also seem to be more in accord with the Transport Strategy.
With this in mind, I’d have thought there was a good case for reducing the proposed three-storey building to two storeys.
Wouldn’t that be enough to meet the predicted need, and at the same time go some way to meeting the concerns about the scale and massing of the building?
The reason I’ve heard given for building three storeys is that a third storey might be needed in the future so it’s easier to include it now rather than add it later.
But then we’re back to the difficulty of predicting whether there will be that many cars needing parking space further into the future – and whether that’s what we want.
So I’m veering towards agreeing with the campaigners who believe that the council needs to think again.
But it needs to be serious positive thinking, not just shelving the issues. I’d like to see revised plans more closely geared to the Canterbury District Transport Strategy, and to all forms of travel – cars, trains, buses, taxis, cycling, and walking.
And if we were to get revised plans, no doubt I’d be back on the fence!