‘Misleading’ claim as row over £1.9m car park takes a further twist
- Credit: Icarus Consulting Ltd
Critics of controversial plans for a £1.9m car park have hit out at a council which said extra parking was needed for its staff - only to now say it is considering sub-letting part of its offices to other organisations.
Norfolk County Council’s planning committee recently voted eight to four to create an extra 128 spaces at its County Hall headquarters, through an extension to the car park and by adding a second deck to part of the current set-up.
Neighbours had objected to the scheme, saying the coronavirus pandemic had shown many staff could work effectively from home, so extra parking was not needed. Congestion, pollution and the impact of the added deck on nearby homes were also concerns.
But the council had said it was needed because council buildings elsewhere, including Carrow House in Norwich, would be closing, so staff would need to switch to County Hall and would need somewhere to park.
However, at a meeting of the council’s Conservative-controlled cabinet this week, it emerged councillors were considering whether to sub-let County Hall to other organisations.
In response to a question from Labour Lakenham county councillor Brenda Jones about the need for the car park given a backdrop of home working, Greg Peck, cabinet member for property, said: “If remote working continues and is successful, as I think it will be, we don’t intend leaving this building empty.
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“So, any space that is relieved, we will use to sub-let to make sure the building is utilised. I assume it’s not Labour’s policy to allow empty buildings to remain empty at a cost to the taxpayer.”
That led to opponents questioning why, then, the need for extra parking for staff had been used as justification for the car park at the planning meeting,
Keri Williams, from the Bracondale Residents Association, which objected to the car park, said: “The justification for the car park development in the planning committee report was to provide parking spaces for county council staff being relocated to County Hall. That was clearly misleading.
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“Whoever works at County Hall would have excellent opportunities to use public transport or to cycle or walk to work. The suggested commercialisation does not support spending £1.9m on developing additional car parking.”
Almost 250 people have now signed a petition at https://norfolkcc.cmis.uk.com/norfolkcc/ePetitions.aspx calling for the council not to proceed with the car park.
Planning permission has not yet been awarded, as the secretary of state had served a holding direction on the council.
That meant the committee could not award permission - just indicate it would want to award it. The government could yet call the scheme in.