Stalemate over long-running Holt car parking proposal

Councillors looking at the Thornage Road car park plans with Graham Chapman. From left, Mike Baker,

Councillors looking at the Thornage Road car park plans with Graham Chapman. From left, Mike Baker, Philip High, Graham Chapman, John Perry Warnes, John Allison and Bryan Payne. - Credit: Colin Finch

A long-running saga over a car park for the popular shopping destination of Holt is continuing because of financial wranglings over a strip of land.

The plan for the 385-space car park off Thornage Road, Holt, put forward by businessman Graham Chapman, was granted permission in 2009 by North Norfolk District Council.

But confidential negotiations over the price of a public right of way over the Holt railway line on land owned by Norfolk County Council – valued at £120,000 – between Mr Chapman, the district council, Norfolk County Council and North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb have stalled.

Holt Town Council members have expressed their anger at not being involved in the meetings or being aware of what was discussed, but have said car parking in the town must be addressed.

Di Dann, Holt Town Council clerk, said: 'We have been waiting for a car park and Mr Chapman has said he is going to build one. It appears the reason why it has not appeared is a financial one.'

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She added the town council members had received 'scant information' from the private meetings which have been held for more than a year. Mrs Dann said the council was in 'complete shock' after being asked to agree to the £120,000 financial offer made to Mr Chapman by the county and district councils. The town council could receive £70,000 of that amount, or it could be waived.

The announcement was made at the August town council meeting by Liberal Democrat district councillor Philip High, who was involved in the private discussions.

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Mr High and Mr Chapman declined to comment further.

The matter was discussed in public at the town council meeting on September 9, in which it was decided not to write a response because its members 'were not party to any agreement with the district and county councils'.

After the meeting town councillor Maggie Prior said: 'It is outrageous that we have been kept in the dark for years. On every occasion I requested full and updated information about the car park. I was told that Mr Chapman's stipulation for confidentiality prevented any information being given. In all this time we were harangued for not doing anything to support what is actually a private business enterprise, about which the land owner insisted on his right to retain complete confidentiality.'

A county council spokesman said: 'Unfortunately, nothing has really changed since last summer when it appeared that an agreement had been reached that would have secured pedestrian access.

'Under the terms, Norfolk County Council would have received £50,000 and Holt Town Council £70,000, unless the town council decided to waive this element of the fee. However, after the terms were set out in a letter, Mr Chapman asked for time to reconsider the proposal and no further response has been received.'

District councillor and former county councillor Russell Wright was involved in the discussions from Christmas 2011 to early this year.

He said Mr Chapman requested the details from the meetings were not 'divulged' to the town council.

'We did our level best to try and make that happen, but we cannot give away public assets,' he added.

Mr Lamb, who became involved last year, said: 'Holt is a very popular town and the lack of parking drives local people crazy. Businesses are frustrated because there is a constraint on their growth because people cannot get to them.'

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