Serious doubts remain over parking plans to be implemented when work starts on Warwick District Council’s controversial new headquarters in Leamington town centre.
Business Improvement District (BID) Leamington and Leamington Chamber of Trade organised a public meeting which took place in the studio at the Royal Spa Centre on Tuesday evening.
At the meeting, which was well attended, a panel made up of Duncan Elliott, the council’s senior projects co-ordinator; Robert Hoof, who is the council’s head of neighbourhood services; Bill Hunt, the council’s deputy chief executive; and Jane Williams of Warwickshire County Council’s parking management team, answered questions put to them by members of the chamber of trade, business owners and the public.
These were centred around the loss of 460 parking spaces while the Covent Garden Car Park is demolished and rebuilt with over 600 spaces over a period of about 18 months from the start of 2019.
The council has put together a parking displacement strategy to reduce the impact this will have on town centre shops and businesses, which involves allowing shoppers to park for free at its Riverside House headquarters car park at weekends and providing cheap long-stay parking for commuters at the existing sites at both ends of Victoria Park.
But at the end of the meeting, Stephanie Kerr, executive director of BID Leamington, said more needs to be discussed before the building work gets underway. She said: “I would like to get a commitment from the officers that we do this again in three months with businesses.
“I don’t feel that the commitment we’ve heard tonight is strong enough for the business community.
“The word transitional was used quite a lot but for a small business two years is anything but transitional - we are six months away from the proposed car park closure and I think we need to look at the displacement strategy more closely.”
After the meeting, Matt Western, MP for Warwick and Leamington, called for a follow-up meeting, saying: “It is clear that there was not enough time for the public to ask questions and the complete absence of any elected representatives from Warwick District Council was deeply disappointing. Elected councillors who are making these decisions should not hide behind council officers.
“ The community is already demanding another meeting where they can hold their elected representatives to account. The whole Riverside House project should be delayed until after the district council elections in May 2019, so that the public can have a real vote on this project.
“I met with the chairman of House of Fraser on Tuesday and it is clear that the future of retail will be difficult.
“The loss of key car parking space at Covent Garden will only exacerbate this and will undermine our town centre businesses.
"The complete lack of social, affordable and council housing in the council’s plans during the current housing crisis is irresponsible and inappropriate. Elected representatives must be held accountable on this issue and that is why we must have another open public meeting urgently.”
BID Leamington has highlighted the possible impact on Leamington town centre businesses with the loss of the Covent Garden Car Park for 18 months while Warwick District Council’s headquarters move project is set in motion.
At the public meeting (see the article left) set up by BID and The Leamington Chamber of Trade on Tuesday evening in order for concerned parties to discuss the parking issue with council officers, leaflets were handed out to those attending which outlined the effect the loss of the car park could have on footfall in the town.
On average the car park in Russell Street is used by 25,000 vehicles per month with lows of 21,000 and highs of up to 29,000.
About half of these short-stay users would typically want to park within 400 metres of the town centre.
Warwick District Council has put together a parking displacement plan to be put in place during the car park closure.
But BID and others are desperate for this plan to be agreed with town centre businesses for when the car park, which provides about 30 per cent of short-stay parking in the town centre, closes in January 2019.