Proposed multi-storey car park in Station Road West: Comments by the Canterbury Society
Any decision about the proposed multi-storey car park in Station Road West should take into account some key principles:
- Cultural principles Station Road West is the main entry point to a historic city which is also a World Heritage Site. As such, visitors should find themselves entering the city along a route which is spacious, attractive and in every way of high quality
- Economic principles The prosperity of the city depends on attracting, not only visitors and tourists, but also students from all over the world, for whom the fact that Canterbury is a heritage city is an important factor: Station Road West should express this welcome in its good design
- Design principles The design of the proposed car park should reflect its key location. The focus should be on design which is sympathetic to the historic buildings in St Dunstan’s Street, which are in view all the way along Station Road West. It will be important to use high quality building materials, and to take care in planning the space to be used by pedestrians and cyclists
- Environmental principles Station Road West is currently enhanced by the magnificent avenue of chestnut trees, which must go some way to mitigating the serious levels of air pollution in the area. We hope that any future proposals will include plans for maintaining or increasing the greening of the street
We recognise that the current proposals are an early draft and have not been fully worked up. However, there are some features which seemed regrettable. We hope that later plans will be able to take into account the following concerns:
- Unsuitable building materials Current plans are for a car park clad in lightweight steel. This does not seem to be a suitable material for a building in a historic street. We would prefer to see traditional materials, which in Canterbury means brick or plaster work, as along the other side of the street
- Ugly street frontage The frontage to the street is to be lined with eight ‘kiosks’ which will house tiny shops. This could end up looking just like the cheap and ugly rows of ‘shops’ which mar the approaches to many London tube stations. The aim should be to make Station Road West an attractive and high quality entry to the city
- Oversupply of shops The plan for shops/kiosks creates other problems. St Dunstan’s Street already has a good range of shops. At the same time the internet is reducing high street shopping. These extra shops could end up damaging existing trade or lying empty. We would like to see the plan for shops dropped
- Neglect of the pedestrian/cyclist The pavements along Station Road West are often really busy, with many people pulling suitcases, pushing pushchairs or wheeling bikes. So the pavements need to be spacious and to have room for different users. We do not think that what is currently proposed has enough room for all the users
- Disregard of the trees The current avenue of chestnut trees is much loved by local residents and much admired by visitors. We understand that the existing trees are not in good health and will need to be replaced. However, the proposed scheme seems to envisage only a few rather spindly trees. We would urge the planners to go for a tree-lined route that is at least as delightful as what is there now.
Do we need this car park at all?
Some members of the Canterbury Society have queried the need for the new car park, pointing out that there are usually spaces in the existing car park. Given current concerns about the impact on the city of all the new developments, and the need for modal shift, enlarging a car park in this way could be seen as a backward step. Providing new car parks has a tendency to encourage car use and we should be working to reduce car use.
So we hope that those responsible for this important decision will consider whether we need the new multi-storey at all.
If the decision is made to go ahead with the scheme, we hope that the City Council will abandon the current proposals and seek new proposals, perhaps from different architects.
We hope the new proposals will aim to:
- create an attractive street, worthy of the entrance to a historic city which is also a World Heritage Site, by concealing the multi-storey car park as much as possible
- create a street which will be respectful of the Grade II listed station and of the older buildings along the other side of the road and in St Dunstan’s Street
- use high quality building materials which are sympathetic to the materials used in nearby streets and buildings
- abandon any plans for cheap and tatty little kiosks or shops along a street which works much better as a residential area
- respect the needs of pedestrians and cyclists by providing adequate space for non-car traffic and for cycle hire, cycle racks and seating
- Create a green welcome to the city, by planting mature trees and considering green walls and other innovations
We are attaching some drawings of alternative approaches which we hope will help to inform future debates about the design of the proposed Multi-storey car park. We would be pleased to discuss the drawings or our comments with you if that would be helpful.
From the committee of the Canterbury Society 5 July 2017
Professor Jan Pahl CBE D.Litt,
Chair of the Canterbury Society
18 St Dunstan’s Terrace
Canterbury, Kent CT2 8AX
Tel: 01227 450140 and 07775 746144