The massive 14th-century Westgate Towers in Canterbury will no longer see cars passing through its gate, as city officials start a 12-month experimental project to make the roadway accessible only for pedestrians. The aim is to protect and preserve the towers, reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality.
The change will take place on March 27th. Local councillor Peter Vickery-Jones said, “Removing traffic from passing underneath one of our landmark, historic buildings has been an ambition for many years. We have had proposals in the past that have either not worked or not got off the ground. However, we now have a scheme that we believe can be successful and it is imperative we give this a real go.
“That is not to say that there will not be problems. We understand the concerns that have been raised about the impact of the project on people living in the area and on surrounding roads that are likely to see an increase in traffic, but we would ask them to give it time to settle and take full effect before dismissing it as not working.
“We will monitor the situation very closely and will be able to respond quickly to any major problems that occur, and make adjustments if necessary.
“We would also urge people to leave a lot of extra time for their journeys and give thought to alternative routes they will take, particularly in the first few weeks of these changes going live. It is going to cause considerable disruption and congestion and motorists need to be prepared for that.”
As a result of the closure, there will be a number of changes to the road layout in that area of the city. New traffic lights will be installed on the road that passes to the side of the towers. Only buses and taxis will be allowed to travel in the direction away from the St Dunstan’s/North Lane junction towards St Peter’s Place. All traffic will be able to travel the opposite way as at present.
Traffic coming into the city along St Dunstan’s Street will not be able to travel as far as the towers and will be directed into Station Road West instead. Access towards the towers will be maintained for buses, taxis and cycles, as well as local traffic into Linden Grove and Westgate Grove.
The access from Pound Lane into St Peter’s Place will be closed off, except for cycles. And in North Lane, only buses, taxis, cycles and vehicles requiring access will be allowed as far as the towers. Through traffic will be directed along Station Road West.
To prepare for the changes coming into operation, there will be a fortnight of construction work with night-time road closures at the towers on weeks commencing 12 and 19 March. Diversion routes will be signposted.
The trial is due to last 12 months to allow the effects of the changes to be assessed at different times of the year. There will be an extensive period of public consultation during the summer, once traffic patterns have settled, as well as monitoring of traffic levels and air quality.
Built around 1379, the Westgate Towers is the last survivor of Canterbury’s seven medieval gates. Standing over 60 feet hight, it is still well-preserved and is one of the city’s most distinctive landmarks.