Protesters will throng the Guildhall – just as they did over the Westgate Towers traffic trial

City council meetings are held in the Guildhall (left) next to Westgate Towers

Tonight protesters will gather outside the Guildhall to voice their opposition to city council plans to build a three-storey car park in Station Road West.

More than 130 people wrote in to oppose the £9 million scheme and the Guildhall where the planning meeting to determine the application takes place will likely be busy.

Most council meetings are not well attended – except when an issue galvanises the Canterbury public.

The city saw this with the largely unpopular Westgate Towers traffic trial, which officially died five years ago in March.

Then, for the previous year the council had endured massive criticism over the trial and witnessed protests at the Guildhall during meetings.

The scheme had irritated and annoyed. The closure of the archway to vehicles and a traffic light system around the carriageway next to the Westgate Gardens entrance brought widespread delays – even as far away as where the London Road meets the A205o.

The closure of North Lane to traffic, meanwhile, meant that Station Road West was gridlocked.

But not everyone objected. Certain St Dunstan’s businesses said they preferred the quieter road and green campaigners supported the idea since it was an attempt to reduce car use by prioritising buses.

Most people, however, simply hated it. Week after week, they complained and accused the council of not listening or of burying its head in the sand.

Senior councillors responded by saying it needed more time to “bed in” and would eventually work. It looked like the city would have to endure it.

And then with a KCC election on the horizon, the county council – the roads authority – stepped in.

It would scrap the scheme. Graham Gibbens, a KCC cabinet member and the Conservative county councillor for the area, said: “I’m very pleased it’s going to cease. We do have to look at how to encourage traffic to go away from this part of Canterbury and reduce congestion.

“We have been honest to say that there is a lot of traffic and we would like to alleviate it.”

Mr Gibbens spoke in 2013 of encouraging traffic “to go away from this part of Canterbury”.

Ironically, protesters against the multi-storey planned for Station Road West argue that the building will actively encourage more traffic to the area.

Clean air campaigners say the car park contradicts the council’s own commitment to improving the city’s atmosphere.

Canterbury will learn tonight just how strong the opposition to the car park is. It remains to be seen whether the council will be taking any lessons from events five years ago.


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