The Canterbury Society believes strongly in the need for a thriving local economy that drives up standards of living, creates opportunities for people to fulfil their professional goals, and generates the prosperity necessary to renew and preserves the physical environment.
In this respect, Canterbury is a relative success story. The city’s economy is the strongest in East Kent, unemployment is low, the main pillars of the economy (tourism, higher education and retail) are thriving and new economic sectors, such as design and the creative arts are growing steadily. Moreover, the future looks promising. The new Business Improvement District has the potential to vitalize the city centre and the high-speed rail link is deepening Canterbury’s economic links with London and the continent. Together these can help Canterbury to make the best of its existing economic assets: its strong international brand, its well-educated population, its favourable geographical location and its attractive cityscapes and countryside.
However, there are important caveats to this otherwise positive picture.
– With the exception of higher education, high-value sectors are only thinly represented and there is a lack of opportunities for skilled workers seeking a well-paid, structured career. Instead, the majority of employment is in low-wage sectors such as retail and tourism. This causes a brain drain of graduate talent out of Canterbury; is a deterrent to people who would potentially move into the city; and limits opportunities for those in low-paid employment to move into higher positions.
– The success of some of Canterbury’s key sectors has had a detrimental effect on the community and urban environment. An increase in visitors has created overcrowding in the city centre and seen a proliferation of tacky souvenir shops around the cathedral, often with fronts. A massive expansion of the student population has put pressure on housing in the city centre, increased the number of houses in multiple occupation and a created a clash of lifestyles between students and local residents. And the success of the night-time economy has created problem of late-night noise, vandalism, fighting and littering.
– The benefits of economic growth have not been universally shared. While much of the city’s population is prospering on the back of rising salaries and house prices, some members of the community are failing to benefit from growth. Greater competition for unskilled work has depressed salaries, pressure on housing has raised rents, and parts of the local population are stuck in long-term unemployment.
The Canterbury Society is playing its role in the development of the local economy through its association with Canterbury City Partnership and the Business Improvement District, on whose board the Canterbury Society sits. We pay close heed to the importance of promoting the economy in our formal responses to planning and policy proposals by the Council. And we lobby the Council on the need to create an enabling environment for enterprise to flourish: taking enlightened planning decisions on housing and infrastructure, and creating an attractive living environment which draws entrepreneurs and professionals to the city.At the same time, we emphasize the importance of the environment and community in our discussions with business, and the importance of social inclusion when the Council is planning its fiscal policy.