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Concern over closure of Cambridge city centre car park

By Ben Comber

Park Street car park . Picture: Keith Heppell
Park Street car park . Picture: Keith Heppell

Traders and restaurateurs in the north of Cambridge city centre have expressed concerns at council plans to redevelop Park Street car park.

Plans for the redevelopment of Park Street car park could take two years.

They say that because it is one of only a few places in that area of the city for people to park, their businesses could be facing two tough years once work starts. They are also worried that customers won’t return once the replacement car park is complete.

The city council is considering rebuilding the multi-storey, potentially in February next year, with parking spaces underground below homes and shops.

The proposal is earmarked as a capital investment project in this year’s budget and is said to be required because of the age of the car park.

Retailers are already fearful about the impact of the redevelopment. It is envisaged that the work would cover only one Christmas period – but some have their doubts.

A Bridge Street restaurateur, who did not wish to be named, said: “We won’t like it.

“If Park Street car park is out of action for two years it’s going to have a negative effect on the area, unless they can open up a new place.

“There’s not enough parking in Cambridge as it is. As for more shops and a smarter car park, I’ve nothing against that. But some businesses might struggle for two years, especially smaller ones.”

Plans for alternative parking spaces have been put forward, alongside a potential shuttle bus to mitigate the closure of Round Church Street, which is used by buses, during the works.

The scheme is in its early stages, however, and planning permission has yet to be obtained.

Monika Stawierej, manager of Côte Brasserie, said: “I believe it’s going to affect us, but a lot of people who come use the park and ride, because parking in Cambridge is very expensive. There’s a lot of people who might disagree, but if it has to be done there’s nothing we can do about it.”

Cllr Richard Robertson, the city council’s executive councillor for finance and resources, said: “The proposals are still in gestation at the moment.

“The idea is that the car park is closed over only one Christmas, so it starts soon after Christmas next year and we have got it rebuilt in time for Christmas 2020.

“We’re hoping that in a few weeks there will be more information so we can make this deadline.

“There are plans to talk to the county council about using Shire Hall as one of those solutions for different places to park, but we want to make sure people are aware that The Grafton centre west car park is not far away.”

Some see a silver lining. Anne Bannell, owner of Jacks on Trinity, said the redevelopment – which as well as introducing new homes could potentially include new commercial units on the ground floor – may regenerate the area and make it a nicer place to go in the evening.

“My attitude is just do it,” she said.

“They’re trying to do it over one Christmas and it might revitalise the area. At the end of the day, I’m all for things moving on and getting better.

“I think it will affect some people and it’s bound to impact footfall in the area, but I understand that they are going to work around it so that it will alleviate as much as possible.

“It’s a bit early, but I personally think what they do will be a lot better than what we have got.”

In 2017-18, the council is expecting to take a £218,000 hit from lost income from the Park Street multi-storey.

Plans for redevelopment of the 1960s building are being pushed forward after some years of public consultation as a result of concerns about the structural condition of the car park.

The underground car park is now considered the preferred option, ahead of making repairs or a new, above-ground car park.

It is seen as an opportunity for a new development that is a better fit in the city’s historic core.


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