The Masterplan – Next Steps states ‘…this work is a vision aimed at inspiring and gathering stakeholders around a clear project’. The University state on their website that they are ‘committed to maintaining and developing the good relations we have with out local community’. The University’s efforts to engage with the community on this occasion have been extremely poor. If they are genuine in their desire to consult they need to extend the period for receiving comments and this should be at least 4 weeks after they have properly notified all residents. I certainly did not receive the leaflet and neither did every other person I have spoken to; Also, I understand that signs erected by a resident to help notify local residents were removed by the Council?
Car parking and access:
One of the principal objectives of the Masterplan is to change the character of the main campus by removing all car parking and traffic (other than servicing requirements and disability spaces). The intention of this appears to be to free up the existing car parks for development allowing an increase in student numbers and to drive revenues presumably.
Critically, they can not implement this part of their strategy without first providing replacement car parking. Effectively the car parking has to be an early part of Phase 1. My understanding from the report to Thursday’s meeting is that all the ‘park and ride’ (6500 spaces?) are shown to be off Tyler Hill Road and that when questioned on this the University stated that this was just an option and no definite decisions have been made (? I can’t recall the exact phrase ?). In my view this is the most controversial aspect of the entire proposal as the number of car journeys generated along Tyler Hill Road will completely change the character of Blean and Tyler Hill. Given that the replacement car parking sites unlock the entire Vision on the main campus site, the lack of attention given to this in the Masterplan makes me feel extremely uncomfortable.
Added to this, the inadvertent labelling of the replacement car parking as ‘Park and Ride’ throughout the Masterplan doesn’t promote huge confidence in the thought given to the whole exercise unless it is slightly more calculated…. Clearly the University need the City Council’s support for the re-zoning of the land uses and it is not a huge leap to see that an extension of Park and Ride could be very attractive to the Council in implementing its own Parking Strategy which states that ‘ The principle is not only to provide for future sustainable growth at Park and Ride sites, but at the same time reduce the amount of car parking available in the city centre. It is this shift in parking provision that produces the traffic reduction and congestion benefits.To meet that aim, the Canterbury District Local Plan (2006) has allocated a number of city centre car parks for mainly housing and/or employment use to 2011. An allocation does not necessarily mean the loss of all car parking, as options for building over and retaining all or some of the spaces will be considered. This policy meets two key objectives: To continue the shift in parking from the city centre to Park and Ride car parks situated at the edge of the city. To maximise housing development on land that has been previously developed within the urban areas’ See Page 19, here: https://www.canterbury.gov.uk/media/432338/CanterburyParkingStrategy.pdf.
The Masterplan recommendations include an aspiration to ‘…work with the City Council and Kent County to improve parking and transport linkages in the area’ and its hard to imagine that the architect would not be aware of this link and the relevance of a ‘Park and Ride’ labelling in engendering support from the City Council.
A proper consideration of alternative, more suitable, locations for the parking needs to be carried out. There must be more suitable alternatives nearer the campus (under-croft, underground or discreet multi level car parking?).
Admittedly the conceptual plan is not sufficiently detailed. However, it appears that Giles Lane will be truncated from both ends at a new square (where Giles Lane meets University Road) and it will not therefore be possible to drive from St Stephens Hill to Whitstable Road along Giles Lane. Whilst the Concept Plan on Page 7 of the Masterplan states that Giles Lane is to be adopted, this may only apply to part of the existing length. Having said that, and notwithstanding whether it is adopted or not, it is likely that vehicular rights of way have been established along the entire length of Giles Lane as a result of the number of years it has been in use. There are no signs at either end of Giles Lane stating that the road is private and that use is with the University’s permission only. In my view maintaining this east/west route is essential. If it is closed off the nearest alternatives are Tyler Hill Road/Calais Hill/Link Road or Forty Acres Road.
Crab and Winkle Way:
The Masterplan states that this will become a sustainable new route and will be made suitable for vehicles (from Tyler Hill road to the campus): It appears that the intention is to force as much traffic as possible onto Tyler hill Road and off Giles Lane?
The underlying changes to support the development of the main campus are to move the majority of traffic from Giles Lane to Tyler Hill Road, to limit use of Giles Lane, and to provide vehicular access from Tyler Hill Road to the campus via the Crab and Winkle Way – see extracts from the Masterplan:
Page 67 ‘The master plan concept starts by establishing a simple grid of streets, spaces and places based around a main east-west route along the ridge-line, which will connect between the Whitstable Road and St Stephen’s Hill. In addition, a main north-south route will also be established along the ‘Crab and Winkle Way’, which connects between the City Centre and Tyler Hill Road in the northern land holdings of the campus’ ;
Page 97 ‘In developing the Northern Land Holdings, this physical separation will necessitate the creation of a new link between Tyler Hill Road and the Campus Heart. Although public roads (Whitstable Road and St Stephens Hill) already enable connectivity with Tyler Hill Road, these options are circuitous and prone to congestion at peak times of the day. Three different ways to create a more convenient on-campus link are suggested below:-
1. The existing Crab & Winkle Way could be upgraded and widened from a pedestrian and cycle route to provide a route for vehicles,
2. The disused rail line which runs to the west of St Stephens Hill could be acquired and upgraded for reuse, and
3. A completely new and direct street could be created through the existing fields.
Of course, none of these need be considered as options, and all three routes might be constructed to enable good pedestrian, cycle and vehicular connectivity for University students, staff and visitors. Such links could form part of a new ‘Park and Ride’ scheme, utilising land in the ownership of the University on both sides of Tyler Hill Road for open car parks. Such a scheme would not only release space for development or for new squares and gardens, but it would also enable a more eco-friendly pedestrian dominant environment in the Heart of the Campus.’
Whilst development of the main campus would be very lucrative for the University, the current proposals need to be strongly resisted. A more practical alternative needs to be pursued which utilises existing access roads and landholdings where the fundamental character has been established. This is an ideological concept and needs to be strongly resisted if the character of Blean and Tyler Hill is to be preserved.