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Demand for study into impact of car park demolition

By Paul Brackley & Ben Comber

MP Daniel Zeicher joins local business owners who are concerned at plans for Park Street Car Park. Pic - Richard Marsham
MP Daniel Zeicher joins local business owners who are concerned at plans for Park Street Car Park. Pic - Richard Marsham

Archaeological work will start next week at Park Street car park in Cambridge ahead of plans to demolish it and create an apart-hotel – but business owners say the city council has failed to consider the impact of the change.

They are demanding an independent study and point out that there has been no structural engineer’s report to assess the 1960s multi-storey, which the Labour-run council claims is “well past its sell-by date”.

The new apart-hotel would sit above a smaller 225-space car park, with electric car charging points and a cycle park, and could take up to four years to complete.

Traders fear the disruption – and the resulting loss of 165 car parking spaces – will signal the end for some of their businesses.

Vanessa Burkitt, managing director of Catherine Jones, the Bridge Street jewellers, told the Cambridge Independent: “It is clear that the council is going ahead with their plans to demolish the Park Street car park even though the strategy and resources scrutiny committee wants to see a more complete report before giving approval as procedure requires.

“The council confirms that plans are still in outline and that there are no worked-up designs or costings for the proposed apart-hotel, ultimately to take to the planning committee.

“The council has taken no account of the impact – on local businesses, adjacent businesses such as the Cambridge College of Visual and Performing Arts, the Curry King, the Maypole pub nor the Park Street Primary School – of the closure of the car park and four years of construction.

“We have requested that they commission an independent commercial impact assessment but their only plan is to look at mitigation.”

Papers released under the Freedom of Information Act and seen by the Cambridge Independent indicate that a full structural survey – as recommended for such car parks by the Institute of Civil Engineers – has not been carried out, although a number of inspections have taken place.

In 2017, consultants concluded that it was possible to extend the operational life of the car park providing a programme of three-yearly inspections and repairs was put in place.

A consultant’s report in 2012, when the Liberal Democrats were in charge of the council, noted the car park was “in a state of decline” and “in need of repair and upgrading”. To maintain it for three years at that stage was expected to cost about £150,000.

Cllr Lewis Herbert, leader of the city council, said: “Our plans for Park Street car park, with its upgraded council car and cycle park, will bring a long-term economic boost to the area north of the historic city core and replace a building that is well past its sell-by date.”

“While we understand that some local businesses are concerned, we are confident that our plans for an upgraded council car and cycle park will bring long-term economic benefits to the area north of the historic city core and benefit the whole city.”

Traders say there is a need for a substantial alternative car park in the area. But their calls come amid efforts to reduce the number of cars entering the city centre, and cut pollution.

Ian Sandison, CEO of Cambridge BID, which represents city centre businesses, said it is part of a working group with the council to mitigate the impact to businesses and consider alternative transport options.

He said: “Cambridge City Council tells us that the current timeline is for the main project work to commence in early 2020.

“As our April and May performance figures show, the current reduction in car park usage across the city is more than offset by an increase in the use of Park & Ride and the guided busway so this modal shift will be something to be encouraged once this project starts.”


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