This comment is submitted on behalf of the Canterbury Society, which campaigns to enhance the quality of the environment in the city. We aim to preserve and enhance Canterbury’s architecture and urban environment and its green spaces. Our principal grounds for objecting are the visual impact on a green heritage landscape site of great beauty and the environmental impact on the Stour River and its associated wildlife.
The extension of the Wincheap park and ride would interrupt an important green corridor and pose a threat to riparian wildlife. We therefore object to any extension of the carpark beyond the line marking the rear of the retail units.
The footpath from Toddler’s Cove to Hambrook Marshes provides one of the only public access paths to the countryside from the city. This green corridor should be protected and cherished as it is one of the truly beautiful natural areas within walking distance of the city and is a highly appreciated wild area for the people living in Wincheap in particular.
The proposed extension of the carpark down to the Stour riverside would result in the complete elimination of the riverside meadow and wet woodland along that stretch of the river, permanently changing the landscape character of the valley, including the loss of 127 trees. As one walks towards Canterbury along the Hambrook Marshes pathway the cathedral first comes into view at precisely the point that the carpark is proposed. Presently the view of the Cathedral in the valley is framed by the natural vegetation of the Wincheap meadows on one side and the marshes on the other. If the development were to be approved, those views would forever be negatively altered. This is an iconic view made famous in the paintings of Sidney Cooper and an example of a highlight of past life brought to life. The proposed development would therefore destroy a significant example of Canterbury’s green heritage and have a hugely detrimental effect on the setting of the Cathedral and the World Heritage site. The LVIA also did not include consideration of the view from the old railway embankment. This is a beautiful view of the Wincheap meadows and would be completely ruined by the construction of a carpark.
The planned extension is in direct conflict with the council’s own designation of the area as part of the Stour Valley Area of High Landscape Value, which provides a semi-wild green lung on the outskirts of Canterbury, which the Local Plan seeks to protect. The plan to cover the meadows with a carpark is also in complete contradiction to the Council’s own Green Infrastructure Strategy, 2018-2031: “The Great Stour River is undoubtedly one of the most significant green infrastructure assets of the City of Canterbury. Not only is it of outstanding nature conservation value, it forms an important linking corridor for recreation and wildlife… Improving the river corridor for wildlife and access has been a long-term ambition for the council with many improvements already implemented and others being taken forward through the riverside strategy and Local Plan.” In addition, the third strategic priority in the main report on Canterbury City Green Infrastructure strategy states that, “Canterbury district has outstanding biodiversity…needs to be protected and enhanced including ancient woodland, chalk streams and the internationally important coastal habitats, woodlands and wetlands.”
As one of only 200 chalk rivers in the world the River Stour is a Biodiversity Action Plan priority chalk river, therefore we have a duty of care to protect this rare and sensitive ecology. The Council’s Riverside strategy prioritises[BP1] , “A river and riverside environment managed to promote a rich diversity of wildlife,” however, the planned extension of the carpark will interrupt the connectivity of the green corridor, essential for wildlife to thrive – it will cause the fragmentation of habitat which threatens biodiversity. The Wincheap meadows are a valuable natural habitat because, unlike area on the Hambrook Marshes side of the river where there is a public pathway, it is totally undisturbed and ideal for riparian habitation. It is also wooded unlike the north bank, these trees on the south bank provide shade which is important in keeping the river waters cool. Water voles are thought to be present in nearby stretches of the river, and as noted by the Environment Agency, “otters are now using the Great Stour as a corridor to move to new areas further downstream.”
Proposed screening would be inadequate to hide the sight, sound and air pollution from the car park, or to prevent significant light pollution from spilling out at night from 10-metre tall lamp posts. This light pollution, as well as the loss of trees, will have a detrimental effect on wildlife, notably the various bat species which forage along this area of the river (even though no bat roost has been found on the site.)
Run off from the carpark potentially also has toxic consequences for the river water. This includes silt entering the river carrying heavy metals toxins from tyres and brake fluid, never mind the copious amounts of litter and fly tipping which always accompanies people and cars.
The proposed site, which is a flood plain, will have its ability to absorb water reduced by creating a carpark. As a result, excess water will enter the river at a greater speed, potentially resulting in more flood water downstream, closer to the city. The Environment Agency has already submitted a very strong objection to this plan which ought to be heeded by the Council.
If more car parking is required, the council should consider other sites or indeed build another level above the existing Wincheap Industrial carpark as this area is suitable for a multi-storey carpark.