THE BUILDING OF 464 STUDENT FLATS ON St. JOHN'S SURFACE CAR PARK. PERMISSION GRANTED 3/4/12.
There have been some very good decisions made in the town centre over the last number of years, but we have also suffered from some historical and monumental blunders eg: the demolitions of Notre Dame, The New Theatre and The Emporium Arcade. We put this development into the same league.
Building on surface car parks in the town centre shows a complete lack of vision when there is such a finite supply of alternatives. We say this bearing in mind that there are also ambitions to build on Albion Place car park, Angel Street car park and The Plough Hotel car park.
We think that history will judge harshly those individuals who were responsible for this irresponsible development.
Currently, town centre’s are under threat from “edge of town” and “out of town” shopping centre’s because they offer acres of free parking. This threat is greatly increased by internet shopping.
Essentially, motorists and shoppers are rewarded to shop out of town and are punished when they come into town.
We all seem to agree that town centre’s need help with regeneration and revitalization. We totally disagree however with Professor Nick Petford who claimed that building on our surface car parks will achieve this.
Our town is scheduled to increase in population from 200 up to 300-320 thousands . Surely, it would be a massive indictment of the town centre offer if this population increase did not require and need MORE town centre parking.
It has been a hugely positive contribution that the NBC has relocated into the town centre, and we are led to believe that the County Council intends to do the same. Parking could well be a problem in this event, without the building of 464 flats (without car parking facilities) on St John’s surface car park.
We feel that it was wrong of the NBC to sell off the family silver in order to fill a financial black hole. This is no way to regenerate and revitalise the town centre. It did however put the planning committee in an invidious position when they were asked to approve this asset stripping exercise, and to be responsible for the long-term consequences.
If the proposal had been to build a block of quality flats for university lecturers, and to provide a huge municipal underground car park underneath it all , the scheme would have been less criticized.
There was great concern expressed by local residents about the visual impact of this development on their homes, together with the impact of anti-social behavior by the students.
During the process of application, it had been revealed that the accommodation would have 24/7 staffing by security staff, and that this would be supplemented on Friday and Saturday nights , by bouncers (council words, not ours).
During the application that was passed by a staggering 8:1 by the planning committee, Professor Petford pledged that he would guarantee that student anti-social behavior would not be a problem.
We were told that a survey had revealed that some 1800 car parking spaces are unused at peak trading times. If this was truly the case, it merely revealed that the car parking offer and the retail offer that we have in the centre, is not good enough. Whilst proving that the centre needs regeneration and revitalizing , it in no way suggests that building on surface car parks is the way to achieve this. Whilst on this subject, it is amazing that when armed with this information, that cheap or free parking had not been offered to long serving( and suffering) low paid shop staff who work in the Town Centre.
We are currently not attracting the wealthy members of our county into the Town Centre. Assuming that we have the ambition to reverse this trend, and that we are successful in doing so, where will they then park--- or are they expected to use the bus station?
By all means let us regenerate and revitalize the town centre and prove that we have done so by filling the car parks. At the same time let’s give a boost to the university by building student accommodation on an alternative site such as Malt Shovel island which according to the CAAP is scheduled for demolition ( with the obvious exception of the Malt Shovel), the Royal Mail property on the Barrack Road , or on the site of The Chronicle and Echo.
It was disappointing to say the least, that the BID was in support of this development, although we think they came to that decision without any consultation with their members.
The personnel that were involved in this development included:
David Kennedy who was the chief executive of the NBC.
David Mackintosh who was the leader of the council.
Sue Bridge who was the head of planning.
Professor Nick Petford who was the applicant and represented the university.
The eight planning committee members that voted in favour or the development included:
- Nazim Choudary.
- Matthew Goldby.
- Mike Hallam.
- Stephen Hibbert.
- Matthew Lynch.
- Lee Mason.
- Brian Oldham.
- Mohammad Aziz Rahman.
Nick Petford pledged that he would ensure that antisocial behavior by the students would not be a problem to the local residents.
Time will tell !
THE CLOSURE OF THE HOUSE OF FRAZER.
I haven’t spoken yet to any ladies who don’t regard this closure as an absolute disaster as far as the Town Centre’s retail offer is concerned.
Most seem to have regarded it as their sole reason for coming into the centre.