Canterbury, Whitstable & the surrounding villages
The Canterbury constituency includes the city of Canterbury, the coastal town of Whitstable, and the rural area and villages .
It is in East Kent, part of a county known as ‘The Garden of England’ and home to almost 111,000.
It is known for its natural beauty and historical importance, but it is also the site of some of the poorest and most deprived areas in the South East of the UK.
The economy in the constituency varies hugely. The constituency is home to three universities and 40,000 students who contribute over £1.1bn to the local economy. Every year over 7 million people visit the city every year. Canterbury is the district’s largest shopping centre.
As the closest of the Kent coastal resorts to London, Whitstable’s independent shops and restaurants rely heavily on tourism; but the town also has a working harbour, with a small fishing industry and an asphalt plant on site.
Both Canterbury and Whitstable have a long history of light industry, mainly located on industrial estates.The constituency has a significant agriculture sector, mainly dedicated to fruit-growing and centered around the villages of Barham Downs, Barton, Blean Forest, Chartham and Stone Street.
In 2017 there were 26% more businesses registered in Kent than there were five years ago, as the number of people self employed and relocating within comuting distance of London rises.
Canterbury has historically had very high levels of employment and the percentage of people on job seekers allowance or incapacity benefit are substantially below national averages.
The University of Kent and Canterbury Christ Church University and their students generate 9,900 jobs in Canterbury – equivalent to 16% of all employment in Canterbury district. Just under 25% of the population are employed in low-wage sectors such as retail and tourism. This causes a brain-drain of graduate talent away from Canterbury, and limits the chance for those in low-paid employment to move into higher-status, better-paid positions.
Whitstable shares the problem of low-wage, mainly seasonal work, and many workers in the agricultural sector are recruited on insecure, short-term contracts.
In Canterbury there is not enough housing and what is available is too expensive for most people. The city council’s own Strategic Housing Market Assessment says that 77% of young households in the district can’t afford to buy or rent at current prices.
In Canterbury much of the housing stock is the hands of private landlords renting out to students. Students themselves say that high rents, not tuition fees, are their main concern.
Canterbury has the eighth highest proportion of people sleeping rough in the country; higher than many London boroughs.
In Whitstable, the housing crisis has been made worse by the number of second, buy-to-let or holiday homes, as well housing bought as an investment. House prices in the town have risen over 70% in the last ten years with many young families are forced to look elsewhere for homes they can afford.
Significantly lower numbers of people living in our clinical commissioning group report that they have bad or very bad health compared to the national average, however over 20,000 do provide unpaid care for family or friends per week.
The district’s local hospital is the Kent and Canterbury (K&C), which has recently had its emergency medical care for conditions like heart attack, stroke and pneumonia removed. This means patients with these conditions have to make long journeys by ambulance to Ashford or Margate, increasing the likelihood of poor outcomes or even death.
Despite our local area have significantly higher levels of emergency admissions than the national average, K&C now has no A&E Department, only a Minor Injuries Unit and minor illnesses service. There is also a Minor Injuries Unit in Whitstable at Estuary View.A list of GP surgeries across the area can be found here.
Canterbury and Kent have an ageing population that is outstripping the national average; many of the more rural parts of the constituency have well over 30% of the population over the age of 65.
The constituency comes under Kent County Council, which is one of the few that still operates a grammar school system, alongside other secondary schools and comprehensives. There are also several academies and independent schools in the district. 18% of the working age population work in the education sector and like many they are concerned about the proposed cuts to local schools.
The National Union of Teachers project that cuts to school funding agreed by this government will cost our schools over £5.5m in lost funding up until 2020 and the loss of almost 150 teachers from our schools .
Canterbury is in the middle of Kent, England’s most rural local authority. 70% of people in a 2010 survey said that they considered the nearby countryside very important to them and yet our natural environment is at risk. Over the last ten years Kent County Council has consistently failed to hit its own biodiversity targets and the constituency has seen a prelonged loss of habitats and species in the area. The county has the highest risk of local flooding of all local authorities in England with an estimated 4,000 homes in the constituency at risk of insurance difficulties from both costal and river flooding.
Canterbury is 56 miles from London on the M2/A2 and high-speed trains run regularly between Canterbury West and London St Pancras. Regular trains also run to and from London Victoria, Charing Cross, Waterloo East and London Bridge. The Eurostar to Paris or Brussels goes from nearby Ashford or Ebbsfleet.