The fight to save Wincheap Water Meadows for development has taken a twist as the CPRE Kent charity plan to take it to court. In October 2019, Canterbury City Council approved a controversial planning application to extend its Wincheap Park & Ride car park on to a large stretch of floodplain next to the River Stour.
The area chosen by the council is a large area of functional fl oodplain outside the city’s urban boundary. Campaigners have questioned the logic of using a ‘floodplain’ to build a car park. They say that not only is it not the most suitable location, it will devastate a designated Green Corridor and a Local Wildlife Site.
The council’s planning report says that there will be no real landscape impact (how convenient!) and that views of the car park from the Great Stour Way on the opposite riverbank will only be “glimpsed”. The reality is that the landscape impact is likely to be substantial.
How much more of Kent’s green land is going to be turned into asphalt?
As the application was made by Canterbury City Council for its own land, many members of the public feel the council had a duty to present the facts of the application in an unbiased and comprehensive manner. Sadly, the same members of the public do not really understand how the council works or gets its own way.
The campaigners are calling for a judicial review of the planning committee’s decision and the way it was arrived at. The legal challenge has highlighted three main issues
• Failure to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment
• Legal errors in the Habitats Regulation Assessment
• Misleading claims that the site had been ‘allocated’ in the Local Plan and that it would not have a harmful effect on the landscape
Opponents to the application also say that Canterbury City Council owns most of the large industrial estate next to the park & ride and that it should be building car parks on brownfield land rather than greenfield land.
So far the council has refused to consider any alternative, claiming its Declaration of Climate Emergency means that reducing carbon emissions from cars takes precedence over protection of the natural environment – a claim many people found totally perverse. What is the point of reducing carbon emissions if there is no natural environment remaining?
In February, Canterbury Council announced the scheme was being put on hold for three months while Highways England assessed the safety of the new proposed A2 slip road.