During our last members meeting Robin Townsend of the Crab and Winkle Trust gave a short presentation on recent progress regarding the long running saga surrounding the proposed extension of the cycle route route between Station Road and Clare Road.
The text of his speech follows :
We are delighted to speak to you tonight about the C & W and the great opportunity provided to us now that the land has been transferred to the Trust .
The aims for the Crab & Winkle Trust are similar to your own in some respects, heritage, transport so I feel we have much in common.
As you see we are promoting Public access and the heritage of the C & W. and this transfer of land and rights of way will be a huge increase in safe green access for Whitstable.
Firstly, Friends a little history, because as Confucious said 2,500 year ago. “Study the past if you would devine the future”
How appropriate then that we are here in the Castle to-night.
As I’m sure you know Charles Pearson who built this in the early 1800s was the main investor in the Crab & Winkle Railway. He owned land and was clearly the ‘big guy ’of his day..
One part of his story from the Castle’s website could be called, “The Train that missed the Station”! and I feel his experience 200 years ago says much to us today.:-
“….Charles Pearson now embarked on a new venture “The Canterbury and Whitstable Railway” to link Canterbury traders with the Harbour. A company was formed with Pearson as one of the owners and main investor together with notable pioneers of the railway age, including George Stephenson, the railway was planned to end on land Pearson owned to the east of the harbour where he built a station, but there was opposition to this and the line finished at the harbour instead. Pearson, always eager not to miss an opportunity turned his station into a hotel. This became the first “Pearson’s Arms”. The building of the railway ran into delays and financial difficulties”
This story of ‘the Train missing the Station’ would be typical of how many railways were built amidst much opposition and controversy, as indeed we still see today with HS2.
Yes, we must always expect some opposition but the Trust rather like Charles Pearson has been sorely tested to a degree that is sometimes hard to understand.
In 2007 we were delighted when Sustrans the national walking and cycling charity won a national lottery bid for £50 mill. The Whitstable Bridges and extension of the C&W to the Harbour was chosen as a ‘flagship project’ among 69 projects across the nation.
We were hopeful then, but a few objectors were to dash these hopes. Their crucial and successful tactic was to submit a planning application on the middle of the line, (on land they did not own!)
The Council initially refused to accept this application. However they eventually validated the application which was then subsequently refused by the planning Comm. The objectors then took this to appeal and sadly for us the funding ran out of time, due to the success of their tactic.
However our biggest consolation, indeed compliment was when Sustrans decided that we were a suitable community group to be entrusted as custodians of this land and to proceed with the project. This was a surprise because the Trust has never had an ambition to own anything.
Charity rules allowed a transfer between charities of similar aims so this was not a normal commercial transaction.
In accord with our constitution “to promote public access” the land is safeguarded and the 1km route with bridges to the Harbour is destined to become part of the public highway under KCC
State of the Land. In the past, as many of you know, this land has been targeted by developers; many times for housing and garages. In the early 60s a proposal was even planned for a road to go along the line to provide a bypass joining with the Thanet Way, so that Bretts & HGVs would avoid the High St.
Sad to say, this land today it is neglected and used by some as a tip! As custodians we are having a Clear-up on the land tomorrow starting at 10am, with help from the Community payback team and Chaucer Insurance.
Event. We will be holding a celebratory event to mark the new status of the land Sat. 7th. Sept. and will welcome any help in making this a success.
Costs and funding. Costs are related to benefits and risks. One example: In a recent case 16 year old Bethany Probert was walking on a grass verge. She was struck by a speeding car and suffered brain damage. Churchill Insurance appealed against a High Court ruling that she be compensated £5. mill, on the grounds that she was partly to blame and should have been wearing hi-vis clothing. Ref: ETA 14.2.13
(This case indicates the value of young lives, and how off-road routes, especially in towns are essential)
Many schemes to improve traffic have been proposed locally, but after surveys and consultations, the expenditure has so far shown a nil return.
With the land secured and planning permission in place much of the cost for C&W 1 km route is covered already. Our Project Manager is obtaining quotes now and a professional fundraiser is advising us.
After the massive disappointment of losing our core funding, we are now looking everywhere for support in all shapes and sizes.
Motor transport has brought great benefits but it is clearly no longer fit for purpose in many places. Problems are clearly worse in densely populated areas like towns centres and this is where the Crab & Winkle provides a unique alternative as part of the solution. Many parts of London and Countries like Holland would be unbearable now, were it not for leg-powered movement of walking and cycling.
The Mayor of London Boris Johnson announced today a 10 year investment £93mill in cycling to double the numbers of cyclists and described the proposals as ‘transformative’ for the City. (The Times 7.3.13)
Leg- locomotion The aim of the Trust, with the cooperation of the community, is to bring this land back into public ownership, to serve public transport, powered by leg power and not steam power as in the past.
The C&W provides an ideal environment to use those locomotive organs of the body known as legs!
We believe that such a ‘rolls Royce route’ will bring about a radical re-evaluation of how legs can once more be used to combat congestion and pollution and benefit individual and environmental health.
The C&W will be a direct, traffic-free, clean and safe for children, like Bethany Probert.
Politics and paradox. Politics has been both essential and useless. (thro’ no fault of the politicians!) We used to have Trustees from all parties as reps, but this failed when in Council meetings they had to declare their interest. Just when they were most needed they had to leave the room and we risked losing the vote. Our best support became the victim to unintended consequences. Also around election times when ‘purdah’ should prevail we tended to lose support when re-elections could take precedence.
On the other hand politicians are essential as our elected reps in making policy and setting budgets.
The Future. As inheritors of the C & W we can all influence what future generations will inherit.
It’s a universal idea to leave things better than we found them.
Once the C&W is seen as part of the ‘family silver’ it will not be squandered.
I sincerely hope that with the help of groups like yourselves, this precious asset will never again be squandered.
The Steam-powered C&W ran for.125 years and the Trust is confident that a new leg-powered C&W will also have a great future..
Our children deserve no less.