Council bosses are optimistic of their chances of securing £33 million of government funding to significantly develop Canterbury and Herne Bay.
A host of bold proposals have been drawn up by the authority ahead of a bid being submitted for a share of the Levelling Up Fund cash pot.
The area outside Westgate Towers could become a new public square under the council's bold plans
Turning the city wall into a green haven of wildflowers akin to Manhattan’s High Line park, transforming Canterbury’s crumbling castle into an events space and renovating the Dane John Gardens are among the aspirations of the city council.
Creating a new ‘shared space’ square at Westgate Towers, turning the Guildhall council chamber into a visitor attraction and installing wayfinding signage around the city are other aspects of the ambitious plan.
It is hoped the project – titled Canterbury’s Tales of England – will deliver a heritage offering that is “truly of a global appeal”.
In Herne Bay, there are hopes to enhance the seafront and boost the town’s music offering by breathing new life into the King’s Hall.
Council leader Ben Fitter-Harding said: “We’re putting together two separate bids – one to develop Canterbury and the other for Herne Bay – as they fall within different constituencies.
Cllr Fitter-Harding wants to reopen Canterbury Castle, creating an events space
“I don’t think a district has been awarded funding for two bids before, but I’m really optimistic.
“Putting together the Levelling Up plans has really spurred on the masterplan for the district.
“So even if both aren’t successful, it puts us in a really strong position for the future as it has acted as a catalyst for driving forward a vision over the next 10 years.
“Rather than just be focused on one specific area, we’ve covered a whole area. I’m confident we will have very strong entries.
“For Herne Bay it’s a very music-based plan. It’d be great to dramatically expand the use of King’s Hall, so it can become a place for music education and production, similar to how the Marlowe is for Canterbury.”
The council has hopes to develop the King's Hall in Herne Bay
“Sadly, as we only get one bid per parliamentary seat, the focus is contained within Canterbury and not Whitstable. It will still benefit indirectly from the funding as people will want to come to the area and head to the coast.
“Whitstable isn’t included just because of an anomaly in the way the funding works.”
Cllr Fitter-Harding says the fact Canterbury has been ranked by the government as a ‘high priority’ location means it stands a good chance of claiming the cash.
The £4.6 billion Levelling Up scheme is aimed at boosting often-overlooked places – giving them a chance to undergo key redevelopments.
It is hoped that if Canterbury is successful, it can begin evolving into one of Europe’s go-to destinations.
The council's plans for the Guildhall and the new shared space square outside Westgate Towers
The city bid is for £20 million of funding, while the Herne Bay bid is for a separate £13 million.
Council officers have so far worked with £125,000 allocated to formulate the proposals – engaging with experts, consultants and stakeholders to develop the bid, which must be submitted by July 6.
However, to “greatly improve the chances of success” and beef up the plans, the council says it requires more cash.
It is asking members of the policy committee to increase the budget delegation by a further £276,000.
The money will come from the authority’s Corporate Plan Priorities Reserve.
The city wall is set for a big makeover should the money be grantedThe plans for the city wall's 'pollinator park' take inspiration from the High Line in New York, a disused railway which has been converted into a green walkway. Picture: Dansnguyen/Creative Commons
On Wednesday night, councillors voted unanimously to allocate the extra funding to the scheme.
Should the bold plans come to fruition, the city wall will become a nature-led walkway and ‘pollinator park’ – a green haven with wildflowers and hub for biodiversity.
The Guildhall next to Westgate Towers will become the new welcome centre to the city, acting as the destination for tourists to start their journey learning about Canterbury.
A new pedestrian-friendly ‘shared space’ zone is also set to be created, while the Dane John will benefit from new staggered seating on the grassy banks which perimeter the gardens.
Steps are set to be installed on the bank along the perimeter of the Dane John
A report compiled ahead of the meeting reads: “In Herne Bay the focus is on enhancing and improving the seafront.
“Following engagement with residents and stakeholders a theme of music has come across strongly, tying the potential to revitalise the Kings Hall as a music development, production and performance space with significant investment in the central bandstand, as well as Memorial Park.”
Canterbury Herne Bay Human Interest Kent News Whitstable Joe Wright