It is becoming increasingly clear that this deadly virus that is mercilessly taking so many lives too early, will leave our national and local economies changed for ever.

The high streets that were already in decline will never be the same again. Many retailers will never return. What online shopping started, the Coronavirus will finish.

The hospitality sector will need to adapt to on-going social distancing when some current restrictions are lifted. For many those adaptions will be impossible to make on a commercial basis.

We must look to repurpose our towns and cities. Much current commercial use will need to become residential and Canterbury City Council needs to model future plans around this.

The finances of Canterbury City Council are being hit much harder than other districts as it’s major income sources of car parking and commercial rents have reduced whilst loan repayments on property purchases like the £150m spent on Whitefriars still have to be met.

The City Council should immediately cancel the plans to build new council offices and instead look to utilise vacant commercial property space that it owns such as Whitefriars, to operate from. This would free up the current Military Road site and huge car parking areas for much needed social housing.

Investment in tourism in Canterbury, the coastal towns of Whitstable and Herne Bay, and the countryside will be the way that our district will thrive once the virus is under control and people are able to travel again. We must make bold decisions and not enter another period of austerity.

We must protect the AONB from development, keep our roads clean of litter and fly-tipping and our streets clear of graffiti.

We must value the Hambrook Marshes, as a place for wildlife not car parks, our beaches and clean air.

We must encourage cycling, walking and clean public transport.

We are very fortunate to have the Cathedral, centuries of heritages, culture, coast and countryside. These are the foundations on which we must build the “new normal.”

Posted by Mike Sole

Mike Sole is the councillor for Nailbourne Ward. He works as an accountant and lives with his wife just outside Canterbury near Bridge.

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