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Westgate Jam Fudged

Views on Canterbury’s controversial Westgate traffic trial ditched

Thousands of signatures and hundreds of letters about a
controversial traffic trial are being swept under the carpet by council
bosses. The official public consultation into the scheme to ban traffic
from the Westgate Towers in Canterbury started on Friday and all
previous comments will not count.

It means the 4,000 people who signed a petition calling for the
scheme to be scrapped, and the hundreds who wrote both in favour and
against the trial, will have to put pen to paper – or fingers to
keyboard – again.

Officials launched the consultation by delivering thousands of
leaflets to homes and businesses in the city centre and north
Canterbury, but say they want to hear from as many people as possible –
wherever they live. Canterbury City Council’s transport manager Richard
Moore said:

“We are expecting more than 2,000 responses but I am hoping for
4,000. That is how many people signed one of the petitions. But it is
easier to sign a name on a petition than to fill in a form. The letters
written in the past have all gone by the by. They related to
scrapping the scheme early. A decision has been made on that and the
scheme is to continue. A line has been drawn somewhere. We are now
starting afresh.”

Councillor Peter Vickery-Jones who is responsible for highways said it was impossible to predict what the responses would be.

“There was a lot of criticism at the start but now the debate is
being thrashed out it is becoming more balanced. North Lane, lower St
Dunstan’s Street and St Peter’s Place were very heavily polluted.
Something would have had to be done, even if this trial had been
abandoned.”

The consultation will run until October 15 with questionnaires
available online and on paper. The results are expected to be reported
to the council’s ruling executive committee in December, three months
before the trial is due to end. Councillors will also look at traffic
data, air quality and economic impact. Mr Moore said:

“The results of the consultation won’t determine the results of the
trial. They are part of the evidence. When the High Street was
pedestrianised, 80 per cent of people were against it in the
consultation. There are hard decisions to be made. The High Street
would never have been done if it was just based on the results of the
consultation.”

Officials are also calling for a high police presence to fine
motorists ignoring the bus and taxi lane around the towers. Last
Wednesday, a council enforcement officer counted 19 people using the
lane in just one hour, plus another six who turned around after seeing
him. Cllr Vickery-Jones said number-plate recognition cameras were
another option, adding:

“We are trying to persuade the county council to give us powers to
have the cameras installed but it has not agreed yet. There are lots of
drivers not following the Highway Code. We don’t want to be Big
Brother but if more people paid attention there would not be so many
problems.”

He said the city council was working on solutions to reported
problems with short-term parking bays already in place in Station Road
West. Zebra crossings will be introduced in North Lane, Station Road
West and St Peter’s Place. Consultants are also considering ways to
improve traffic in London Road and hope to have solutions in place by
October, although Cllr Vickery-Jones is pushing for it to be sooner.
The crossings should be finished by the end of August.

thisiskent 9th Aug 2012

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