A powerful committee of independent experts has called on the government and local councils to put measures in place to safeguard the Canterbury District’s economic future.
The Thames Estuary 2050 Growth Commission, chaired by Sir John Armitt, says significant investment is needed across the south east if it is to fulfil its potential over the next 30 years.
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Among its recommendations, the report:
- Says building extra homes will unlock cash to boost the district’s infrastructure
- Recommends better railway connections for the city
- Calls for Crossrail to be extended to Ebbsfleet allowing Canterbury’s high-speed trains access to a much wider network
- Suggests the creation of a £20 million fund by 2019 to help generate growth
The report also highlights creating the new medical in Canterbury by 2023 as a catalyst to regional plans for a health supercentre.
The report goes on to recommend a focus on improving skills in the Thames Estuary corridor which includes the Canterbury City Council area and says there is a need for town centres to be high quality while taking full advantage of world-class heritage sites and natural assets.
Canterbury City Council’s Chief Executive, Colin Carmichael, said: “This report recognises the district’s strengths – our proximity to London and the near Continent, strong and innovative universities and our heritage among many other things.
“It also gives a blueprint for building on these strengths and unlocking the potential for more growth, a better-skilled workforce and the creation of more local jobs, all of which coincide with our own ambitions.”
Leader of Canterbury City Council, Cllr Simon Cook, added: “This independent, in-depth and expert report will be a powerful lever in our discussions with the government as we lobby for it to invest in the district.”
Labour group leader Alan Baldock warned that current policy has created a “high-cost, low-wage economy”, but welcomed “this excellent report that opens many doors of opportunity for well paid jobs and affordable housing”.
The proposal recommends that a joint effort be led by the local authorities, including the Kent County Council, Canterbury City Council and other local organisations to produce a strategy for delivering and funding high-quality homes, employment, transport and other infrastructure.
In order to secure substantial additional investment the report recommends going above the minimum house building numbers set by government, however the number of houses built locally has fallen below target for a number of years.