Canterbury Cathedral Precincts Access Group
We understand that the 2002 Management Plan for the Canterbury World Heritage Site (WHS) is currently being reviewed. As you will be aware, the Dean and Chapter of the Cathedral together with King’s School have recently imposed restrictions on entry points for parts of the World Heritage Site. We are writing on behalf of the Canterbury Cathedral Precincts Access Group to draw attention to issues arising from these restrictions for Canterbury’s World Heritage Site.
According to the 2002 Management Plan, “Proposed developments should seek to protect or enhance the universal value of the site.” (3.2.8). However, a number of actual developments have restricted public access to the site and damaged the connections between different parts of the site, and in particular the long standing goal of creating a “Pilgrims’ Pathway” which would lead from the Cathedral, through Canterbury Christ Church University, up to St Martin’s Church.
The general public has been progressively excluded from large areas within the Precincts that used to be freely open to it.
The public is now denied access to the large green space within the area of the WHS in the Precincts known as Green Court (Figure 1). This is designated as a Protected Open Space in the World Heritage Site Management Plan of April 2002 (2.1.13). In Green Court, moreover, visitors are confronted with a notice that reads, “KEEP OFF THE GRASS. Dean and Chapter Property. For the use of King’s School ONLY” (Figure 2). Green Court occupies a large area on the North side of the Cathedral Precincts and contains numerous outstanding listed buildings. Restricting public access in this way contravenes the terms of the WHS designation of the Precincts as being “for the benefit of mankind”, and the 2002 Management Plan which has the objective of “improving the enjoyment of the Site for all who live, work or spend leisure time in the area’ (p. 6)
The public is also denied enjoyment of another large area on the South side of the Precincts known as The Oaks. In years past this area was grassed and part of the public open space of the Precincts. It was then converted into a car park. It is designated as a Protected Open Space in the 2002 Management Plan, which called for a landscape plan for this area (2.4.8). Unfortunately, this is has not been forthcoming and The Oaks is still being used as a car park. This is not a suitable use of such an important area in the WHS, where there is little public open space on the south side of Cathedral. It should be grassed and returned for the use and enjoyment of the public.
Since September 2022, passage through the Queningate and into the Precincts has been barred to the public and local Pass holders, and restricted to members of King’s School. An ugly spiked electronic gate has been erected just inside the Queningate which can be opened only by Members of King’s School (Figure 3).
Queningate is one of the four gates to the Precincts. It is of immense historical importance. It is promoted as part of the route that Queen Bertha took between the Cathedral and St Martin’s Church. It directly connects the Cathedral and its Precincts with the other parts of the WHS. Restricting passage through it in this way further severs the links between the Cathedral and other parts of the WHS. This is directly contrary to the recommendations in the 2002 Management Plan for “Measures to improve pedestrian circulation between parts of the Site” (3.2.12).
Improvements to Queen Bertha’s Walk are called for in the 2002 Management Plan and should play a crucial role in this. In particular, the 2002 proposal (2.10.10) to remove car parking spaces from the Queningate area and construct gardens around this part of the city wall would be major improvements. Regrettably, the proposals in the 2002 Plan to “Improve the setting and interpretation of Roman Queningate” (2.10.9) have not materialised.
However, Queen Bertha’s Walk and the link between the Cathedral and the other parts of the WHS would be completely transformed if the Queningate was opened to the public, as the Canterbury Cathedral Precincts Access Group and large numbers of local residents and other interested parties have been calling for (https://www.facebook.com/groups/ccpag). This would create a direct route between the Cathedral and the other parts of the WHS, and the lengthy, narrow and unattractive detour via Burgate and Broad Street (2.10.3) could be eliminated.
Prof. Sean Sayers
Cllr Linda Keen
Canterbury Cathedral Precincts Access Group
5 January 2023
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