About 900 objections were submitted to the council in total before the deadline for comments. However, more excellent letters have been published this month in the Gazette, and an event on 5th on Hambrook Marshes, opposite the proposed car park site, was highly successful, with around 50 people taking part, generating another article in our local paper. Large, colourful cutouts of Mr Toad, Ratty, Mole, Badger and Otter had been skilfully produced by a supporter, prompting the paper’s headline “Protestors getting Ratty over park and ride plans”. The council’s application may no longer be open for comment, but you can still sign the Facebook petition here. It has over 2300 names, but apparently the council doesn’t sit up and take notice until there are more than 3000 objectors, so there is still time to have an impact.

The council’s current thinking on alternatives to the present proposal is set out in a report by Richard Moore, Transport Officer. Following this, in the same document, is the original 2009 report on the options for the Wincheap park and ride. These are fairly lengthy documents, but a very brief summary of some of the main points, with apologies for any omissions, is as follows:

1. Conversion to a three-storey car park with 600 spaces, plus a further 200 on the allotments, would meet the council’s projected requirement for a total of 800 spaces. This option was rejected on the grounds of:
a) Cost – £15 million** as against £3.7 million for the proposed scheme b) Loss of £4.4 million grant due to delay entailed in building a multi-storey
c) Almost total loss of use of the present park and ride during construction

2. An alternative to a multi-storey would be to use the Serco depot to provide a further 227 or so parking spaces. Objections to this approach are that:
a) Existing park and ride and Serco depot combined would not meet the council’s 800 space requirement
b) A new site would have to be found for Serco
c) The land on the depot site is contaminated
d) Having two pick-up points for the buses would create difficulties
e) There would be no toilets and other facilities at the ancillary site

3. A second alternative would be to use the former Homebase plot, but:
a) The council is about to reach agreement with a new tenant, bringing in much-needed income to the council
b) The 800-space requirement would not be reached
c) Problems for bus access
d) Lack of facilities

4. The Serco and Homebase sites combined would meet the council’s 800 space requirement, but is not recommended, for the reasons stated for each alternative individually.

** It’s not clear if this price is taken from the 2009 report or from a more recent quotation. In the earlier report £14,440,000 is quoted as the cost of a three-deck car park providing 1,120 spaces, well in excess of the council’s target of 800, while a two-deck option would cost £10,080,000 and provide 850 spaces, just above the council’s target.

Other sites owned by the council might become available within the Wincheap retail estate but, in addition to the issues outlined above, there was a concern that this would bring the park and ride too close to the centre of Canterbury, destroying some of the benefits of the scheme. Also, the park and ride scheme is subsidised, so the income from it would not match income forgone if valuable retail sites were lost.

If none of the options above are deemed suitable, the fallback would be to return to the original Faulkners Lane proposal for a completely new site.

The 2009 report looked at the possibility of building a new Wincheap park and ride on two other sites:

1. One would have involved taking over the Thanington recreation ground, but this was ruled out as there is a presumption in the planning process that sports and recreation areas would not be developed unless the sites could be demonstrated to be redundant.

2. The second was for a potentially very large site on Cockering Farm, but this was rejected on the grounds that:
a) Access would be problematical and there were fears that the relevant agencies would not approve the road layout modifications that would be needed.
b) The present landowner was hoping to develop the site – which is now happening.

For fuller information, please read both reports in their entirety.