New roads, new homes, new buildings: We are in times of unprecedented change

How the proposed redevelopment of Kingsmead will look

Tomorrow night will see one of the most important planning committee meetings Canterbury has seen in recent times.

I say one of the most because the city council’s Guildhall chamber has played host to a fair few other momentous occasions in the last few years.

There was the decision to approve the Local Plan which will see 15,600 new homes built across the district in the years up to 2013. Then there was the meeting to grant outline planning consent to the 4,000-unit Mountfield Park development on farmland to the south of the city.

At tomorrow’s meeting, planners will be asked to approve the construction of 700 new student flats at Military Road, Kingsmead and on the Ring Road.

Each is contentious – especially the proposal for Rhodaus Town which involves the controversial demolition of the old St Mary Bredin School.

The former St Mary Bredin School in Canterbury

Yet more flats are proposed for the Dairy Crest site in Military Road and at Kingsmead, as part of a wider development involving houses, shops, restaurants and a multi-screen cinema.

The city council’s planning committee will also be asked to approve an £8.8 million slip road off the coastbound A2 to link up to the A28 at Wincheap.

And then there was last Thursday’s announcement that the city and county councils intend to build an eastern bypass linking the A28 at Sturry with the A2 at Bridge.

Add to this all the other developments – large and small – which are either being built or planned for the city and we should make no mistake that we are in times of unprecedented change.

The astonishing and accelerating transformation we are seeing will affect us all: how we choose to lead our lives, where we live or spend our money or work or be educated or even how long our daily commute might take.

A new primary school will have to be built. The old Geoffrey Chaucer School will probably have to be rejuvenated in one form or another.

We already know that Canterbury is due to see the creation of a medical school. Does this mean that we will get a brand new hospital? Developer Mark Quinn, who wants to build it, thinks we will.

The universities, too, see no reason to abate their development and transformation plans. Elsewhere, the Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys has added a new research centre to its cluster of buildings off the Nackington Road with further plans in the pipeline as it seeks to grow closer to its sibling Girls school.

The King’s School, reputed to be the oldest school in the UK, continues to expand and build.

Tech experts such as entrepreneur and city councillor Ben Fitter-Harding believe Canterbury has the potential to become a smaller version of Silicon Valley.

With one elbow on the continent and one on London, more and more people will want to live, study or work here. The city will become bigger and busier.

The ancient heart of Canterbury will remain, but around it a new Canterbury will emerge.

Once most famous for its Cathedral and its Abbey and other historic buildings, it is no leap of imagination to foresee that as we push further into the 21st century Canterbury will become one of the most important urban centres in south-east England.

Should we be excited by this? Yes, we should.


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