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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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