The Society is grateful to the City Council for its interesting New Plan and for an opportunity to comment. Our only caveat is that we wish we had been given more time in which to provide feedback, especially during holiday time when several of our members are not at home.
As the organisation responsible for the Bertha and Ethelbert statues that are such a striking feature of Lady Wootton’s Green, the impressive Chaucer statue in the High Street, and for the safe transfer of the Crab and Winkle Line’s winding engine to Whitstable Museum, we limit our observations to what are broadly described as ‘heritage’ aspects of the Plan.
We find the tone of the Plan impressive, if somewhat vague. We would very much like to see a commitment to productive cooperation and co-partnership with groups such as ours as, in our opinion, heritage policy is an organic matter arising from the roots of the community, not something imposed from above. Specifically, we would welcome warm endorsement (and material support, if available) for the projects with which we are currently directly or indirectly involved:
- The Aphra Behn statue, venue to be decided.
- The working model of Whitstable Harbour in its heyday, funded by the generous bequest from Brian Porter.
- An All (Tudor) Martyrs memorial, endorsing religious toleration and balancing the existing memorial to Protestant-only martyrs.
- A Christopher Marlowe statue, proposed for St George’s Square.
- The Canterbury Tales of England project, backed so eagerly by Stephen Allen of the Westgate Towers.
- The Canterbury Society’s Blue Plaque initiative.
We would also like to make the point – as strongly as possible – that heritage does not stand alone. It is integral to the very fabric of the city, its commercial as well as its aesthetic future. It is our belief that, at the moment, it is a sadly under-exploited resource. We hope that henceforward it will be a central feature of such matters as planning (what steps can we take to make our principal street worthy of one of England’s most fascinating tourist venues?) and transport (surely no other city of similar repute would still allow traffic anywhere near so precious a landmark as the Westgate Towers?).
As similar cities throughout Europe demonstrate, to boost heritage tourism is to boost the prosperity of the whole community. Uniquely situated near the Channel access points, Canterbury, with its rich religious, literary and political history, has the potential to be a top 10 jewel in Britain’s tourist crown. At present we feel it is more of an uncut and unpolished stone of hidden brilliance. As the City Council takes steps to rectify this, we are at their side to help in every way we can in accordance with the objects set out in our constitution:
(1) to advance public education in the events and people in Canterbury’s history; and
(2) to preserve, protect, develop and improve features of aesthetic, artistic or historical interest in Canterbury.
Stewart Ross (Chair) and Brian McHenry (secretary) on behalf of the Society’s trustee committee