There are times when it looks as if Canterbury City Council is engaged in a competition with itself for the most unimaginative response possible to a problem.
This week’s contribution features some boring metal bollards, to be placed around the city centre as a supposed anti-terrorism measure.
Even if there was some sort of elevated threat to the security of pedestrians in the city, the sheer mundanity of the response tells you an awful lot about our council.
By way of contrast, visitors to London’s Covent Garden might not even be aware of the anti-vehicle barriers, since they are in the form of four wheeled market porter’s barrows, planted with flowers.
That’s an idea far more in keeping with the nature of the area than a job lot of shiny metal pillars, which seems to be what we’re about to get. Why is it necessary for such a thoughtless, indeed witless, design to be foisted upon this ancient – and very touristy – set of streets?
Of course, you might come to think there are other things wrong with the idea, and to question its timing. To begin with, there’s no obvious reason to roll this initiative out now – unless, of course, you were a bunch of councillors facing a tough election in a couple of months who feel the need to be seen to be doing something.
If there really is a threat – which I’m prepared to accept there might be – then it didn’t come into being in the last few weeks. So why the sudden need to install barriers? If the threat existed previously, then this looks like a solution being deployed rather late in the day, to say the least. Or, if there has been no change in the threat level, why exactly are we having these things plonked in the middle of our streets?
In any case, given the vast number of delivery vehicles which clutter up the High Street and St Peter’s Street every day, it hardly seems likely to be an effective solution. There are, quite clearly, no meaningful controls on vehicle access to the main shopping areas and absolutely zero enforcement of the rules of the road currently in place, including the “no entry” signs by the Westgate Towers, the restricted access into Burgate, or the time restrictions on deliveries.
All of that makes a mockery of the idea that erecting new barriers is likely to either deter or prevent anyone with a serious desire to do harm. So, as is often the case with this council, we are being offered – or more precisely, having imposed upon us – an expensive response to a problem which may not even exist, which manages to combine ineffectiveness with a lack of sensitivity in design. To have such eyesores installed at key entrances to the historic city centre is a betrayal of Canterbury’s heritage. It is also, sadly, unsurprising. This is, after all, a council which fails to adequately protect our World Heritage City from poor building design, excess traffic, intrusive signage, or to keep it clean and in good condition.
Having abdicated responsibility for anything beyond the essential minimum to the Business Improvement District, the council’s lack of leadership and responsibility has been laid clear for us all to see. As stewards of this historic and often beautiful city, we really ought to be demanding more from the local authority.
And bollards to anyone who disagrees!