A council’s plan to carve up a Canterbury city centre into zones are reminiscent of post-war Berlin, say residents.
Canterbury Council released plans last month to divide the city into five zones, with motorists facing a fine if they cross between them. In the complex plans, anyone wishing to travel across the city will need to drive to its perimeter and onto the A2, or a proposed eastern bypass before re-entering the city.
“It’s like the Hunger Games”
Some on social media have compared the plans to the districts reminiscent of the Hunger Games books and films.
Others, including Jim Somerfield, wrote on social media: “Great, so it’ll be like Cold War Berlin but without the wall.”
In a statement, the council said the proposal will close “rat runs” and ease congestion in the city.
The plans are in the council’s draft local plan for reducing emissions and congestion across the city by 2045. The council has said the traffic would be monitored with automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras.
However, councillors have insisted that people travelling for essential reasons would be able to cross the boundaries. It is unclear how the technology will apply to these various groups.
City Council rejects criticism
Conservative Council Leader, Ben Fitter-Harding rejected the criticism. Asked by The Times whether the city would resemble the German capital of 40 years ago, he said: “I find it hard to reconcile that perception with the closing off of the rat runs.”
Fitter-Harding told The Times: “A lot of people are asking how they are going to get the kids to school or get to the GP surgery or the supermarket. This is a plan that will be 20 years in the delivering, and so much would have changed by then. We’re building two new schools at the coast, so a lot of people will be travelling to different schools.
“This only affects private car travel. If you’re only going two streets away, you should be walking anyway or taking public transport.”
Other areas drawing up plans
Similar plans in Oxford, where “traffic filters” will ban private vehicles from six areas of the city at set times of the day have received similar criticism from local residents. According to the city council, the scheme will also use ANPR cameras to monitor traffic. Residents and businesses will be able to apply for day passes to travel through the filters without paying a penalty.
A spokesman for Oxfordshire County Council rejected claims that physical barriers would be installed: “Traffic filters are not designed to stop people from driving private vehicles. Everywhere in the city will still be accessible by car, although some private car drivers may need to use a different route during the operating hours of the traffic filters.
“When they are operating, private cars will not be allowed through without a permit. All other vehicles including buses, coaches, taxis, vans, mopeds, motorbikes and HGVs will be allowed at all times.”
Councils need to find ways to reduce emissions in their communities to meet international carbon reduction commitments. However, they need to bring their communities with them, by demonstrating the value that such programmes bring to not only air quality, but the future of our planet and our health.
Criticism by some on the right of some mad conspiracy to attack motorists is simply absurd. Most people recognise the need to reduce emissions.
However, Canterbury’s plans do seem a little too radical and perhaps should be thought through in terms of a long-term plan to cut travel. There seems little in the way of additional provision for walking and cycling, unlike Oxfordshire and therefore a ‘back to the drawing board’ approach seems like a sensible solution here.
But, they should act fast, more delay will only cost more lives.