Cambridge traders' fears of council 'rush' to revamp Park Street car park
Businesses in the historic core say the 20-month construction would hit them hard.
Businesses in the north of the historic city centre are again facing 20 months of trading without a nearby car park for customers as plans to turn the Park Street multi-storey into an aparthotel progress.
The city council, which owns and operates the car park, decided just four months ago that it would not be able to turn the structure into flats. But it is now planning to cut the number of car parking spaces by 60 per cent and build a hotel on the upper levels.
The council, which has to build 500 affordable homes under the Combined Authority devolution deal, says that it cannot deliver the homes “within the timescales required without additional land being provided and that will require financial support”.
It says the Park Street plan would deliver an upgraded car park and provide “capital for onward reinvestment into other sites for development of council homes”.
Council leader Cllr Lewis Herbert said the new building would provide a long-term economic boost to the area and create a solution for a site that is past its sell-by date.
However, nearby business owners say that the council is hurriedly trying to make money from the car park and is not doing enough to ensure the economy of the immediate area is looked after.
Will Davies, a director of the Varsity Hotel on Thompson’s Lane, said: “It’s very worrying that it seems to be some way down the line already. I think refurbishing the car park would be a great idea if the aims are to provide long-term parking and protect the economy of this area, but I think the council needs to make money.”
He said public transport, which is in the county council’s remit, is simply not good enough to get people into the historic core while construction takes place. The loss of footfall could be devastating to traders and would also impact on people who drive to work in the area and have no alternative options.
“The council seems to think that restricting parking is going to decrease car use but people still want to come by car, do their shopping and go home,” Mr Davies said. “It’s chicken before egg. Sort out the public transport and then look at what changes you can make.”
Cllr Herbert said a local liaison committee will be established to work with residents and businesses – who he had met with three times so far – to minimise disruption and to plan alternate car parking during the build.