Plans to build housing on Howe Barracks when it closes are “very limited” according to the city council leader.
Cllr John Gilbey said the authority “would be lucky to get 600 houses” out of the site – despite initial hopes the land could solve some of the city’s road and housing problems. Mr Gilbey was speaking at the Abode hotel on Friday when traffic expert Dr Lynn Sloman presented her blueprint for sustainable transport in Canterbury.
Responding to comments by Dr Sloman about the potential for the barracks to become “an extension of Canterbury” after it closes, Mr Gilbey said:
“Any development would be very limited. Canterbury golf course takes up a huge swathe of land on its eastern end. Then there’s a huge site of special scientific interest. If we get 600 houses we would be lucky, which is a great shame.”
He also said the army planned to retain some of the houses on the site, along with land for shooting and training. But the Ministry of Defence said that while it would be keeping a very small number of homes for soldiers in Ashford and Folkestone, it would be selling the rest of the site when the barracks closes next year.
At the event, which attracted councillors, business-people and traffic campaigners, Dr Sloman said the city’s medieval road layout was at odds with 21st century levels of traffic. She said promoting cycling, walking and bus use as an alternative to driving could have a big impact on the city’s gridlocked streets, and spoke of the importance of the forthcoming Local Plan. She said:
“There’s going to be a lot of changes in Canterbury. It’s important that it’s easier, more attractive and more natural for people to use sustainable transport.”
She suggested measures including building developments near shops and services, and locating big employers next to public transport hubs, to reduce people’s dependence on cars.