By Councillor Alan Baldock / Environment / 0 Comments

Did Canterbury rise to our Labour Group Challenge? Did people actually think about using an alternative to their car and did some actually give that alternative a go?  We will of course never know how many people did, but what we do know is that the challenge we offered commuters to Canterbury on 21st September turned heads towards facing the huge issue of congestion and pollution, especially during the commuter hours in Canterbury.

Feedback from our Facebook posts and the Canterbury Journal has been brisk, and we made the Meridian TV News.  That’s a great result and vitally important because we will never get to solve this re-occurring problem if we don’t listen to those it affects every day.  It is long overdue that Canterbury City Council took the lead in finding a solution and stopped passing the buck to KCC to solve, it’s our shared City, our children’s health and our everyday lives that are blighted by the curse of Canterbury’s traffic chaos.

It does not have to be this way so let’s start with working through the opportunities opened up by a truly integrated transport hub, an idea already popular with Canterbury people and probably the basis to build a long term solution.  Canterbury City Council have just published a report proudly proclaiming that they already have just such a place, Canterbury West Station.  That may well sound unbelievable even comic as their view of an integrated transport hub is a bus stop outside the station a few taxi bays and a cycle rack.  Not the radical idea being discussed by Canterbury residents, there vision and one we can share, is of a terminus serving cross City buses, Park and Rides and services buses, interlinked cycle routes to all parts of the City and plenty of taxi bays all focused at Canterbury West Station not a £9M car park built on the perfect location of just such a hub.

The transport hub is a possible solution, there may well be others that have not shown up just yet.  For our City to thrive as a business centre and to always have a warm welcome for visitors and be a place where it is a great to live, we have to solve our transport issues.  That must surly include developing an integrated approach able to grow with the City that is so much part of all our lives, no longer can we leave this to the whim of a developer or the crumbs from KCC it is time for Canterbury City Council to take the lead.  If the current Conservative administration can’t do it, step aside and let a Labour Council sort it.

Labour campaigners braved the drizzle this afternoon outside Wincheap Primary School, to raise support for an issue close to locals’ hearts. In July 2017, Wincheap Park received a long-overdue re-vamp, transforming it into a venue that has become very popular with children and parents alike. Walk past it on a sunny day after school closing time and the numbers speak for themselves. Until, that is, a child requires a trip to the toilet. The former toilet block on the site served the main road for a number of years, until recent problems with drug use closed it permanently, resulting in the sale of the site. Currently, children either opt to return home, which is sometimes a considerable walk, or to go behind the bushes. Labour’s campaign, to encourage the Council to “spend a penny” was well-received by parents at the school gates, who recognise the need for the toilets’ return.

Campaign leader Paul Todd understands the difficulties facing parents due to the lack of facilities. “Being a father of four children,” said Mr Todd, “all of whom attended Wincheap Primary and made good use of the park over the years, the closure of the toilets means that this wonderful resource is being under-utilised. I’m passionate about putting it back on the Council’s agenda.”

While the site is currently in private hands, the building stands vacant, unkempt and over-grown. If the existing toilets could not be returned to Council ownership, space exists for an alternative block, or even a single toilet, within the park boundaries, subject to its opening hours. Unmanned toilets have been a success at Toddlers’ Cove and in the Dane John Gardens, where ultraviolet lights have addressed the issue of drug use. While the Council may consider Wincheap’s park to be on a smaller scale, of interest only to locals, the issue is a matter of quite some importance for parents, and the nature of the busy A28 means the park also attracts passers-by. Labour campaigners will be submitting their arguments, and the petition, to the Council in the coming weeks